Among the many meanings of the phrase “going soft,” all of them, AFAIK, come with negative connotations.
Letting yourself go physically, getting out of shape, going easy on other people, withholding judgment on them, showing a little too much forgiveness in a given situation. In a harsh Type A environment, whether a corporate office or the gym, “going soft” is not a highly valued trait these days, if ever it was.
From a purely physical standpoint, an easy comparison of the old vs. new versions of what it means to be “in shape” are what once represented Tarzan in a retro movie vs. the reboot. As fit as Johnny Weissmuller might’ve been in the 1930s or 1940s, it looks nothing like today’s standards, with or without help from performance enhancements (or CGI).
But consider advantages of going soft. It makes space for experiences you hadn’t paid attention to while forever seeking the next win. It changes perspectives. It quiets the noise, calms the mind, stills the heart. It lets other things in. It is the artist’s way.
While this isn’t a deep insight or an obvious one, it bears repeating.
Some people “go soft” one day a week, for instance those who practice a form of sabbath, where Saturdays or Sundays are a day of rest. Others choose certain times of each day. Many people find some balance between working hard, playing hard, and resting hard (if there is such a thing), while others lean heavily in one direction or the other every single day.
Like me, some sway between two poles depending on circumstance and momentum. During the COVID closures, many of us have been forced into “soft times.”
It is easy to wonder what great works of art, presence of mind and rebellion will emerge from this, as one friend calls it, “great calming of 2020,” which may even lead to a great rebirth nobody ever saw coming at the pace we were going.