On social cancers, building walls, and establising legitimacy…

No real cancer answer…

I have believed for some time that the future of humanity depends largely on religious tolerance.  I believe that through my very core.  To say the same thing from a less optimistic direction, it is my opinion that religious intolerance is a social cancer metastasizing, and preparing to deliver a slow and excruciating and death to mankind.

Of course the conundrum in that scenario is that humanity’s cancer can’t be treated or cured by a select few practitioners such as priests, popes, or prime ministers.  For this cancer to be cured it will need to be an effort in which the entire congregation opens their minds and steps outside of their comfort zone.  Let the followers lead, and the leaders will follow.  Well, that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

Cancer: Real pretty from the outside...

We can see this pattern unfolding in other areas of life as well – everyday, and all around us.  Divisions in nations, politics, the sciences, and social issues in the media are increasing as time expands.  Chasms extend.  Harder and faster lines are being drawn as cultures and subcultures push further apart, and shore themselves into deeper isolation.  As these divisions become wider, the walls separating them become more important to those behind the walls.

Let’s face it, we just need somebody to fear – or somebody to hate…

Chasms in lesser places…

There is an increasing divisiveness in the fitness communities as well. We have clean eating vs. IIFYM, Yoga vs. Pilates, Paleo eating vs. Mediterranean eating, barefoot running vs. ultra-stabilizing shoes, P90x vs. Tai Chi, and CrossFit vs. the gym on the corner.  Of course, these are just light examples of such divisions.  Hard and fast lines are being drawn, walls are being built, and unwitting insurgents are being bread by way of the social media with each new week, and with each new trend.

Think about it: the ways that fitness factions use their constituencies, information, and the media to increasingly establish their legitimacy is not too different from the ways religions, nations, and causes use their constituencies, information, and the media to establish their legitimacy.  There is a blurry line though, between establishing legitimacy, and creating isolation.  Just look at around…

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall.”

Oh, and when you’re done, can we please recycle the materials so we can build a new wall in Gaza, or in Texas…?

We'll teach those barefoot runners who's in charge!"  And I wouldn't want my sister to marry one...

In fitness subcultures, unlike in national or religious identities, loose borders are first established by the followers of organic trends such as barefoot running.  As an organic trend catches on and increases, speculators identify the trends and see them as profit centers.  They then seek to take control of those borders, redraw them, and depend on those who initially carved them out organically, to take protect them.  The followers of the organic trend have then become followers of a corporate trend, and the organic subculture dissipates in favor of a for-profit trend. Then again, maybe that is how happens in states, nations, and faiths…

The leaders of fitness business trends don’t scare me as much as the foot-soldiers who guard these borders do.  The followers, or devotees, of many modern fitness movements are the militia of these fitness factions.  Like other militias, these people often don’t even understand the flexibility of the borders they strive to protect, yet they make the most noise, and throw the first gas cocktails when feeling threatened.  Many aren’t too willing to try and understand the other factions.  Hope fades in fitness, as it does in Gaza.

“For this cancer to be cured it will need to be an effort in which the entire congregation opens their minds and steps outside of their comfort zone.  Let the followers lead, and the leaders will follow.”

Getting good with groups…

There must be some reasons that life, in biological and in social terms, unfolds in groups rather than in singularities.  We have multiple languages, corporations, skin tones, species, radio stations, landscapes, faiths, and fitness pursuits.  Life varies.  There is simply no denying the divisions of life that we live among and between.

I teach a very specific style of strength training.  I see a great deal of utility in what I teach and I’m proud of how I teach it.  I don’t, however, see it as absolute.  Nor do I see what I do as a good fit for everyone.  It’s a good fit for those who see it as a good fit for them.  So too should be Judaism, Hinduism, and Catholicism.

An open mind is a dangerous thing, and must be stopped in our lifetime...

In this age of increasing divisiveness, I don’t find it surprising that people may not agree with one way of eating vs. another way, or of one way of exercise vs. another.  What does surprise me though, is how passionate people become about disagreeing with others.

Building walls and screaming through them is our new national identity.  It just seems to me that channeling all that passion into understanding others, even if we disagree with them, might be a better use of our energy.  I guess I would also like to see that applied to the way we view nations, faiths, and causes as well…  Be well.  rc


Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from the Replacements.  Enjoy…

28 responses

  1. This is all true! There’s a divisiveness among fitness groups that’s unnecessary and I think comparing it to religions is apt. I think you bring this home best by stating that your method of strength training is very specific to your beliefs and experience – which obviously can’t be “wrong.”

  2. I’m a clean eater who loves to get down with some very dirty foods. There is no group for that. I seldom fit in and I really feel it sometimes, but so be it. I’m also an observer. And I’ve observed one group be rude and critical of another group. It’s like high school cliques. I’m more about the person — getting to know who they are — and if I just happen to pick up something handy that their “group” believes in, if it happens to fit me, then so be it. But I’m still not joining their group. I too much love to wander. Great post, Roy.

  3. LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!!! You know I am with you Roy. I write it in my blog – do what is right for you. I see so much of this following a trend as you wrote – the Paleo is the in thing nos & the barefoot running & the Crossfit & on & on. I really don’t care what a person chooses for themselves as long as it works for them, they like it, they will be consistent with it, that they are healthy with it.

    I so agree – what is with the you have to do it my way. I am like you – I have a specific way I work out, I like it, it works for me, it keeps me coming back… I know there can be other ways & maybe ways that will shorten my workout BUT they may not get me the look I want….

    The intolerance of other ways people work out needs to stop. I provide support to anyone that is succeeding on whatever program they do (if it is healthy & by this I mean none of that 500 calorie a day stuff & other crazy stuff that you know what I am talking about).

    I just can’t tell you how much I love this post – I want to hug you!!!!!! 🙂

    • Well said Jody, all. Like you, I’m also not down with all that crazy shit; 500 calories per day, the 100-miler in Death Valley. Crazy stuff on either end of the spectrum, including the woman who planned to eat herself to 1,000 pounds. Wonder how she’s dong…?

    • Thanks Heidi! Actually, pardon the expression, but I definitely felt like I blew m load on this one Truly was exhausting to write — totally spent. Not sure I’ll have anything of substance to say for a while. Time for a cigarette, to roll over, and sleep for a while… #onlyjokingaboutthecigarette

  4. Ah, the wonders of religion! Usually I feel that religion is the worst delusion that humanity has created, then I wonder if without it humanity would really be out of control!

    There certainly is way too much us versus them in the world for peace to have a chance. I hope that some of us can find some peace in our lives, some of the time, somewhere…somehow…someday…

    • some some some…. Exactly!

      Religion, in my opinion, is the single most important aspect of being human. All government began through sacred government. All art began with sacred art All structure began with sacred structure.

      Now abuse of religion, manipulation of religion, that’s were it all goes to hell. So to say…

  5. Roy,
    You certainly have a way with words. I am currently writing a 2 part post and the second part talks about something similar. The distance….the distance from our food and taking it further the distance from our bodies then other people our relationships. The *cancer* as you put it is, is the continual distance with the illusion of being part of and fitting in with whomever is preaching the loudest at the moment.
    For me, slowing down, lessening the distance, learning about myself and how it all works together has taken a long, long time but I would rather have that…then the fads and the distance.

    Tearing down walls takes longer than putting them up…and I’m finally okay with that.

  6. My experience has shown me that this is all based on fear, which our media and our “leaders” foment. I think the best way to lead is to ask ourselves, “what would love do?” and then follow our hearts and model what we most want to see in the world. (says the 50-year-old kettlebell-loving, kickboxer who drinks wine, eats a lot of fruits and veggies, fish, and local, grass-fed beef and chicken, and sometimes bread and sometimes a little cheese…a potato chip here and there)…

  7. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I am so glad you did so that I could find yours. What a thoughtful post. It is so true that some folks treat their exercise choices like a cult and bark at anyone who does not see things their way. I like to keep and open mind and try all different things. I am good with both P90X and Thai Chi. 🙂

  8. Wow – you made me really think. I do believe we are being pitted one against another in so many different ways. Lot of hate out there. I believe our society will fall into the hands of evil rulers like a piece of overripe fruit at a very slow pace.

  9. Potent thought-words. Philosophical differences of every persuasion have always created so much dissent. It seems we live in a world of increasing division & polarity of opinion, where all is either black or white.

    Every incipient trend is immediately co-opted & codified as a for-profit “system” & touted as “the one true way.” Facebook-land is a fascinating study as the depth & breadth of examples of this are so wide-ranging.

    I confess…I enjoy trends. I’m fascinated by exploring new stuff. I also recognize the value of traditional & “tried & true.” When one becomes older & hopefully wiser, it’s accepted that there are many ways to achieve a goal & that everyone may get there in some different fashion at some different pace.

    I like “minimalist footwear.” It doesn’t work well for my husband. I love the “Paleo” eating style, but two of my dear friends have been vegan ever since I’ve known them & high raw foodists for the last couple of years. It works for them & they’re very fit & active & healthy. We’re still great friends & it does make for some interesting philosophical discussion. Maybe because I used to be vegan as well 20 years ago. Dietary choices don’t DEFINE us.

    The “cult of CrossFit”….LOL. I love my CF classes, but also love my weekly Pilates reformer class & weekly personal trainer sessions at the “traditional” gym. CF tries to get me to consider switching to one of their personal trainers, and my personal trainers try to get me to consider leaving CF. My answer: I get something different from all of it & it all has value to me.

    Religion, politics, animal welfare, fitness aficionados, nutrition experts, artists of all persuasions, and on & on…..can’t we all just get along????? Alas, it seems not to be in the DNA.

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