In Natural Born Heroes,* Christopher McDougall offers a fascinating narrative of the Cretan resistance in World War II, of the startling personalities involved and the even more surprising shapes their resistance took, while also crafting a convincing manifesto for “fat as fuel” and natural movement as a more excellent lifeway for physical health. Yes, really!
McDougall does make one snide remark about Christianity, which only serves to show he doesn’t know what Christianity is, more’s the pity. And the narrative rambles all over, from topic to topic to topic. However, that very rambling perfectly suits the lessons he is learning, and teaching us, here: about the “Cretan bounce,” and going with the contours of the land, and indeed living not just “off” but with the land and its natural gifts.
I expect that McDougall would be rather surprised, but in addition to a convincing case for the lifestyle choices for physical health he recommends,** I find a powerful lesson for overall sane and healthy—and therefore unmistakably Christian—living here. When the Nazis, and other Europeans and Americans, attempted to tackle the Cretan mountains with their accustomed, self-determined stride, they shredded their boots and broke their ankles (and sometimes their necks!). But when our heroes, “going native” and learning from the indigenes, “went with” the land rather than setting themselves against it, they not only saved their boots, they arguably saved the free world from the tyranny of fascism.***
To live rightly—to live a sane and healthy life—we must not only accept reality as God has given it to us, but “go with” it; gathering the gifts he freely offers, like the deeply nourishing wild greens of Crete, and bouncing off apparent obstacles, recognizing that, as G.K. Chesterton said, “An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.” To set ourselves against God’s created reality, to set ourselves against Nature, is to shred our spiritual boots and ultimately break our necks in the chasm of eternal death.
* I enjoyed the book on audio CD by Penguin Random House Audio
over a long drive. The reading by Nicholas Guy Smith, with his accomplished dialect work and spot-on sense of the author’s now-wry, now-wonderstruck, tone immeasurably contributed to my enjoyment of the work; I highly recommend it!
** Putting his recommendations for centering one’s dietary nourishment upon field greens and other vegetables and fresh meat (wild or naturally pasture-raised, pasture-finished, not tortured industrial meat), along with a mere awareness of more natural movement (at a time when “exercise,” per se, is not possible for me), I find I’m steadily losing, with no more effort than the effort of will in choice and awareness, some pesky pounds that had previously been persistently accumulating in the absence of focused exercise, despite what seemed to be reasonable food choices.
*** The resistance on Crete, Hitler’s staging area for both the Russian and African campaigns, turned out to be decisive in the ultimate victory over the Nazis. The Cretan habits of accepting God’s creation for what it is and living with, rather than against, it thus proved the power of sane living to defeat even overwhelming forces of evil.