I have been a member of the same gym since the mid 90s. It bills itself as a Health Club and while I think that handle is a bit pretentious, it's not off the mark. People who come there swim, work out with weights, play tennis, sweat on the elliptical machine and other mechanical devices--with the result that the exercisers (as opposed to the full time shmoozers) become healthier.
I also think one of the health benefits of the gym is the social aspect--the chatter that takes place around the machines, in the locker room, and the area near the tennis courts which serves as a lounge.
It is interesting to me at least when I realize that I may have spoken to the same people for years and I often do not know their names. It is not even as if I knew the names once and forgot them. I have chatted with people about their work, politics, in some cases social lives, and the stock market. One fellow (whose first name I actually do know) and I share jokes. I will see him stretching on a mat and say to him, "You got one for me." Then in mid stretch he will start to relay a story that often has me chuckling genuinely when he is done. Another fellow and I talked at length one day about the nuances of the ipad and what to buy. I do not know his name and I am sure he does not know mine. Another fellow and I talked about his business at length recently. We couldn't even guess at our last names. Not unusual.
A couple of weeks ago I spotted a guy in the locker room who I have seen and had passing conversations with over the years. He had never been heavy, but now he looked lean. Guys in the gym are often talking about having to lose a few pounds. When I saw him I commented on this. "You look like you dropped a few pounds." He nodded and exhaled a "Yeah."
"About twenty?" I said.
"Done intentionally?" I said feeling relatively certain that the answer would be yes.
"No," was the response.
Now, I feel a little uncomfortable. There could be a number of causes for unintentional weight loss ranging from, "Just working out some more and it happened" to something health related. -"Everything alright?" I asked.
"No." came the response. Then after a pause, he said "Divorce sucks."
I said I was sorry. He thanked me the way you thank someone who has expressed condolences. He was not effusive afterwards but said that he had not seen it coming. And he was now living in a place he did not like without his wife and family,
If you want to understand the world and its problems I think you have to acknowledge that emotional needs and loss/success is the fuel that nourishes us. Remove it or substitute a specious variation of that fuel and we run on empty in a way that damages our own enterprise. My acquaintance will recover no doubt. He will regain weight in time. But whatever affects us all to lose our appetite for food and life when confronted with emotional loss, is what we need to acknowledge is at the foundation of our health, happiness, and interactions with others. Nearly every single person with whom we interact, either intimately or as a nameless acquaintance, is rooted, motivated, and undermined by the same fuel. Want to understand why your lover ignores you, your co worker is regularly ornery, a stranger is obese, your neighbor inexplicably does not say hello in a way that sounds more than a grunt--- check the fuel tank for the level and quality of the love therein. Bereft of love, we all lose our essence and our natural weight.