Fundamentally Speaking…

You can’t spell fundamental without mental…

Disappointed, but not surprised. That is the feeling I got last week when the emails started to trickle in. That they showed up at all verifies something I have felt for a long time, though I have chosen to swallow those feelings rather than broadcast them. To have expressed them would have been to pick an argument not worth arguing, resulting in no conclusion. In politics, religion, or social subcultures I rarely criticize – not even those things I may disagree with. I believe the world works better in nonzero terms. Shut up. Coexist. Move on.

We’re all familiar with the idea of fundamentalism. In this era we often associate fundamentalism with religion, though there are other forms. At its base level, fundamentalism is the belief in, and the strict adherence to a cause or ideal. I think we can add to that cursory definition, the disapproval of any ideal counter to or not consistent with the core ideal. And by “disapproval” I mean, disrespect.

Disagreements between fundamentalists of a particular group, and those outside that group often evoke passion, raised voices, and increased friction. Fundamentalists often get defensive with regard to their core values, and ideals. Occasionally defense turns to offense, and the result can be violence, death, and even war. This week I was reminded that that the ideal of fundamentalism isn’t exclusive to religion; it even exists the community of fitness. And though I hope it does not result in war, I’m sure a few grenades will be launched my way for writing this.

Satire night live…

It was a simple action; I posted something to my Facebook page last week, and in doing so invited a new genre of fundamentalists into my life, opening the gates to fractured friendships, aggressive rhetoric, and outright hate mail lobbed my way. Here’s the back story:

The Duffle Blog is an online satirical publication similar to The Onion. The Duffle Blog focuses exclusively on the US Military, and the Department of Defense. I have regularly posted articles from the Duffle Blog to my Facebook page. These articles are usually irreverent, often crude, and always funny. In three years of posting them I have not experienced one person taking offense – not one. And then, with the posting of this Duffle Blog article last week, the subculture of CrossFit set in…

Here’s a quote from one email I received just minutes after posting the article: “I don’t get you Roy. You criticize CrossFit yet you don’t even do it. CrossFit has changed my life. Maybe saved my life. I’m disappointed in you as a trainer.”

An excerpt from another email:

“Those who can do. Those who can’t teach. You’re jealously is obvious. You wish you could.”

Those are just samples of how some people responded to my CrossFit bashing. Okay, this is a good place to interject this thought; I DID NO CROSSFIT BASHING! I simply posted a satirical article poking fun at the US military – not CrossFit. And that underscores my point; that the very nature of CrossFit has become a fundamentalist cause, to the point where people involved with it feel they are above satire or criticism, and seem to be too often on the defensive – or offensive.

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 You can’t spell warrior without war…

In recent years I have seen many diehard CrossFit warriors take their subculture too seriously, in a fundamentalist kind of way. In doing so, they often disrespect, and under appreciate the fitness values of nonparticipants. Anyone who exists in the immediate periphery of CrossFit has likely seen evidence of this in social media.

That’s where CrossFit ultimately breaks down in my opinion; not in the ABCs of the workouts so much, but in its own projection of itself. There seems to be an almost universal smugness, and lack of social decorum throughout the subculture. Often it seems practitioners talk about CrossFit as if it is the end-all for all things fitness, and that no fitness genre, fitness ideal, or practitioner outside of CrossFit are valid, or have anything to offer – unless of course they involve the Spartan Race or Paleo eating.

What resonates for me deepest though, is that those who often tout it the most, are relatively new to the subculture, and to the ideal of exercise itself. These are people in the group who could not explain the cross bridging principle of muscular action any more than they could explain protein synthesis, or even tell me what the eccentric phase of an exercise is. Sadly, there are many newbie CrossFit coaches who could not explain those things.

I see a haunting similarity between the religious fundamentalism of the Abrahamic traditions, and the exercise fundamentalism of the CrossFit subculture in the way it is both excessively proselytized, and defended. Or more succinctly, as religious fundamentalists each believe their tradition has the exclusive rights to being right, it now seems CrossFit thinks it resides highest in the pantheon above all things fitness.

 I’ll state clearly that I see value in all forms exercise being practiced safely, and mindfully. I also see utility in the communities like-minded exercise enthusiasts create. I have no doubt that thousands of CrossFit practitioners benefit from, appreciate, and respect their endeavor. As a collective though, it seems they have some growing up to do. Be well… rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this trippy little nugget from Bad Liquor Pond.  Enjoy!

Space trap…

Houses of relativity…

I never really bought into the dream. From an early age I was immersed in something which made little sense to me; a house with too many rooms, and a yard requiring relentless effort from my father who already worked like a dog to support this house that made no sense. The result of our family living in this home leant itself to more stress and frustrations, I believe, than to happiness. By the 3rd grade the fingerprints of minimal living were already being laid on me.

During my 5th grade year I visited the home of a friend, Alex. I was awestruck when I entered his family’s mansion, and the luxuries it contained. Despite my awe, the vastness of the house made less sense to me than the house I lived in. I wondered why anyone would need an entire room dedicated to games, books, and casino gaming tables. A full kitchen on the 2nd floor – just in case, I guess. One of the bedrooms belonged to the cook, another to the groundskeeper, several more were not even spoken for. I was touched by the fingerprints of, too much.

Later on my mother invited Alex to visit our house. I was embarrassed. My house which once felt too big, now seemed like a corrugated tin shack in comparison to my friend’s house. I made every excuse to justify not having a par 3 golf hole out back, or a gallery of mounted bears in the study.   After his departure Alex seemed to distance himself from me. Perhaps this was a construct in my head, but we didn’t hang out too much after his visit to the slums of the middle class. These were the fingerprints of insecurity.

I would go on to live my life torn between two desires; the desire to have more – that I might better fit in, and the desire for less – that I might feel liberated. If it seems like pandering to both desires would keep me centered, and in a life of middleclass moderation, it did not. It kept me confused through much of my life about how much is enough, how much is too much, and whether we need any of it at all.

Family and flow…

I would grow up to marry, and start a family. We began living in apartments like many young couples, and furnishing them with cinderblock shelves, and futon sofas. I never wanted more than that. Apartment living, and cheap furniture agreed with me. Eventually parenthood called, salaries increased, and we transitioned from renting apartments to buying homes, and furnishing them with real sofas, and shelves made from substances heartier than particle board.

As we went through this process, I always lobbied to buy the smallest house, with the smallest yard. To her credit, my wife was accommodating about my need for less. We lived in modest homes with modest things, and our happiness came more from moments, than from possessions. I enjoyed decorating with old grape crates, spray paint, and dumpster diving for adornments as my wife rolled her eyes in partial amusement. Those were the fingerprints of making more from less.

Cohen house '98.  0.0 Front yard.  I liked my odds...

Cohen house ’98. 0.0 Front yard. I liked my odds…

Two cans of paint, some tile squares from Pic&Save, and kitchen was born for under $100...

Two cans of paint, some tile squares from Pic&Save, and kitchen was born for under $100…

Hands solo…

Eventually we would divorce, and I would move into a smaller home – a Ford Windstar minivan. It was a little tight, but I could sleep in the back, shower at the gym, and eat on the fly. After 6 months of parking lot camping I took a one-room guesthouse with no heat, and no air. It was the perfect home for my needs. However, there was no place for my daughter when she visited.

The single best place I ever lived...

The single best place I ever lived…

 

After 6 months in the guesthouse, I rented a 3 bedroom home so my daughter could stay over when she chose. However my daughter was rarely there, and the place seemed far too big. Through my 11 years there, I occupied only a single room. Once my daughter was in college, I would return to guest house living for a few more years.

 

Today I live in a 1,600 square foot house, though most of it is my fitness studio. Again I occupy only a single room in back of the studio, and spend a majority of my nonworking time in a small office in the entryway, or seated by the fire pit in my front yard. This suits me well. All the while, any happiness I experience has little to do with where I live, and more to do with who I’m with, or what I am doing.

My current shack...

My current shack…

Roll me away…

I seem to distance myself from the trappings of things, and space a little more each year. Long ago I gave away my car, later my furniture, and I’m continually downsizing my accommodations. Aside from my minimal wardrobe, and my computer, I own a bed, a chair, a couple of surfboards, and a bicycle. These days, I spend much of my evenings seeking out what the best next living option for me might be – probably a small motorhome.

I recognize that living wholly off the grid isn’t realistic, and it is certainly not the goal of most people. I’m just messed up that way. I also still have to earn a living. Being grid accessible, with nothing anchoring me to it is the real goal. Perhaps parked on a tributary which provides easy entrée in and out of the modern scene as needed.   The fingerprints of Dorian Paskowitz, and Christopher McCandless have left their mark.

 Handprint of a legacy…

We wear outwardly the finger prints of the moments, the places, and the people who have touched us throughout our lives. Inwardly we may feel the push or the pull of the hands from which those fingerprints were placed. Though we may not directly associate each of our actions with these finger prints, they are ever present in all of our actions.

It is our necessary interconnectivity which limits minimalists like me in what we perceive as the free will required in attempting to live off or adjacent to the grid. What we likely seek is not free will, but individual autonomy as part of a greater collective. Perhaps I’m just seeking a little more autonomy than most. The finger prints which have touched me most have lead me wanting less. It is my sincere hope that the fingerprints of my own life will lay gently on the lives of those who I have touched. Be well… rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from  Joe Ely.   Enjoy!