Who Are These People…?

Friend or Foe-getaboutit…

When I began my first fitness blog in 2001, I developed a small, but dedicated following.  These were like-minded people who found value in what I was suggesting about the direction of fitness culture.  As near as I could tell at the time, there were a mere thousands of fitness blogs worldwide posting regularly.  By the time I shut that blog down in 2008, my following was roughly the same size it was when I began.  In 2008 though, there were millions of fitness blogs posting with regularity, most of them run by fitness hobbyists, not fitness professionals.

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OB Pier.  Friend Of The Devil…

Wanting to break from the direction of fitness blogging, and feeling like I had something worthwhile to say about the state of nearly anything, I began a new blog in hopes I would attract more readers.  However, up against millions of other blogs, I would fare no better with the new incarnation.  Some readers from my previous blog stayed with me, but my audience of millions eluded me.  Those readers who stayed with me, were my first online friendships.

Face Facts…

Listening to PRI’s Marketplace program one afternoon in 2007, I heard a technology executive state that anyone with a small business or a small idea who wanted to grow it, would be wise to utilize the up and coming social media site, Facebook.  Facebook, he claimed, was going to be the future of marketing and the future of communications.  The man suggested there would be profound advantages to any businesses getting involved with Facebook early, that would not be as advantageous for the latecomers.   I immediately opened a Facebook account, and shortly thereafter created a page in support of my business and my blog.

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Main Street, Bryan, TX

I knew few people in my analog life who were on Facebook at this point, but many subscribers to my blog were, so I extended those connections from my blog to Facebook.  I was now writing on 2 platforms for the same people.  Because the Facebook platform made it easier to cultivate discussions, plus it added an element of individuality, I got to know my readers on a more personal level, though the quantity of subscribers to the blog increased negligibly.

Eventually, I began making more personal connections on Facebook than business connections – friends of friends who I have never met, friends I knew from days gone by, plus more people in my daily life were taking the plunge.  At the peak of my first Facebook account (I have now had 3), I had roughly 2,000 friends.  That’s when it all got a bit sketchy.  I began to question the term friend.

As time doing more important things gave way to online time with my friends, I began to question how I was prioritizing Facebook.  I knew I couldn’t keep up the pace of posting, of scrolling and liking, and checking notifications with every break in my daily action.  Notwithstanding, my presence on Facebook did little to expand my business or my blog, and that was my primary reason for creating a Facebook account.  To make it more manageable, I pared down my friends from 2,000 to just a few hundred, and began to accept that this was now my social life, and had little to do with my business.

Living Alone With Hundreds…

For most of my life I’ve had few friends, and those who I called friend were friends for life.  I have always been appreciative, if not jealous, of people who seem to have many good friends.  I’m also an introvert with a pretty serious case of social anxiety disorder.  With Facebook, I came to life socially, and took on a noticeable confidence that I had not previously experienced.  I began accepting my friends, even those who I have never met, as real friends and friends for life.

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39,700 feet over the line of demarcation.  El Paso/Juarez

Suddenly, I was spending time each day with people I like, people who I thought were cool, intelligent, interesting or just had some level of awesome.  Strangely, at least some of them found those qualities in me.

Coffee in the morning was now shared with friends in Omaha and Brisbane, as evenings by my fire pit were shared with friends from Boulder to India.  I was living alone, but rarely alone.  For the most part, I found these friendships inspiring.  I was exposed to new music, new ideas, new books, recipes, new conversations and within them all was no shortage of sophomoric humor.  I looked forward to being on Facebook.

Life Sentence…

With some online friends, there has been no doubt that a person is a true friend.  Like in real estate, sometimes you just know.  There are at least a couple of dozen people who I would gladly go into battle with or for, yet we have never met face-to-face.  I might not even know what they do for a living or if they have children, yet I know they would have my back and I, theirs.

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Kyle Field, Texas A&M Campus

Other friends, have been more questionable – on some level, doubt about their intentions or sincerity occasionally bubbles under the surface in a why am I connected with this person kind of way.  It’s not that I inherently distrust them, it might be that I just don’t know them well enough – yet.  But that’s on me, not them.

There are also those incidental friendships – cyber-acquaintances; people I connect with superficially due to a common friend, common interest or both, but don’t spend too much time hanging out with.  It’s as though we just wave to each other as we pass in the hallway.

Always churning beneath the surface of any of online friendship have been two questions…

  • What do I really know about this person…?
  • If we were neighbors, would we hang out…?

Every so often during my daily scrolling, I will ask myself this of one friend or another.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever answered these questions honestly, since I rarely blocked or unfriended anyone.  I might not always like, comment or agree on their posts, but my friend for life rule reminds me that if I accept somebody into my life as a friend, I do so for life.   On occasion, I might question that rule, but it’s woven into the fiber of who I am – accepting of others as I want them to be accepting of me.

The Wear, Tear And The Joy…

Even online friendships can require work and maintenance.  In dealing with the half-dozen or so analog friends I had before the internet, nurturing those friendships could be draining.  Dealing with dozens or hundreds of relationships online can be outright exhausting.  Still, protection of the relationship is necessary for them to be true friendships.  This desire to protect is no different than with any other relationship, be it with my kid, my neighbor or my dog.  Getting along with a few friends takes work.  Getting along with a few hundred…

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Los Jilgueros Preserve, Fallbrook, CA

When I suggested to my online Ohana that I would be stepping back from social media for a month or so, a few people teased me about it…

“Here we go again…”  came my way from a few.  Others were understanding and wished me luck or hoped that I find what I’m looking for.  Largely though, my departure was probably more unnoticed than noticed, and there’s a lot to be learned about online friendships from that statement.

In an increasingly complex and changing world, the meaning of friendship changes too, just as the meanings of Republican, Democrat, Scholar, Doctor, Uncle, Mechanic and thousands of other terms have changed.  It’s just where we’re at.

The Love We Take…

I wrote this essay, and a few others before it, to help myself explore how social media fits into my life and into my head in this changing world.  I also wrote it to help me better understand what it means to be, and to be accepted as a friend.  I’m certain will write more on the subject.

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Jonathan Livingston Miagi, OB Pier

I have come to few conclusions about any of this.  Social media confuses me.  It benefits me.  It sucks up my time.  It inspires me.  It’s a release for me.  It’s my creative muse, my mistress, my downfall and my happy place – all at once.  But that’s not about social media, is it…?  That’s about me, the chaos in my head and my discipline, or lack of…

At the end of the day, life is about two things; work and relationships.  Social media, for me, has been an escape from one, and an extension of the other.  For nearly a decade, before I step into my shop each morning to earn my keep, I share time with like-minded friends that I might find inspiration or laughter.  When I close up shop at the end of the day, I have headed into the cyber world to vent, find inspiration or check out some new music.

For my part, I use social media to share interesting pictures, ideas or thoughts expressed with my words.  Sometimes it’s an online diary, other times it’s a place of worship, but I try hard to stay out of the mosh-pit of bad ideas.  I attempt to keep it positive and productive.

A Hot Spoon And A Keyboard…

On the heels Adam Alter’s book, Irresistible (which I cannot recommend enough), I realize that I have spent too much time on social media, Facebook in particular.  The good news is that I still find time for other things; analog friendships, outdoor activities, work and exercise to name a few, so I really can’t say that I’ve had an addiction.  It’s more like a codependency, but that too is on me, not social media.

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Vegan nightmare.  Treating my family to dinner at The Salt Lick, Austin TX

What I have learned most from reading about and writing about social media, and the one lesson I would like to share from this experience is this…

It’s okay to be alone, unplugged, and with nothing to occupy my mind other the sights and sounds of whatever is taking place in the vicinity of my front yard.  I live so much of my life with gusto and enthusiasm, yet rarely do I get a Jones to sit and forget all things.  Going forward, this will be a greater priority to me.  I will turn off my off my phone more.  Seek to be stimulated, entertained and amused less.  I will remember it is important to do nothing at all, and I will build that into my day. 

On getting back to my original question – the title to this essay, Who Are These People…?  Well, they are my friends, and if you are reading this, you’re probably one of them.  As to whether I go back to Facebook or Instagram at the end of my 30-day break, I probably will – probably.  If I do, I hope to use it more intelligently, and less…  Jhciacb

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If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from La Buena Muerte.  Enjoy…

Cra Cra Cra…

A Purpose Driven Mind…

Life, death and meaning – they have been woven through my thoughts since I can remember.  It consumes me; the value of a life, the reasons for death and the meaning of all that happens in-between.  I scarcely look at anything; my daughter’s eyes, a neighbor’s dog, a faucet, a fence post or a Pop-Tart without contemplating the value and the meaning of it all.

The biggest struggle I contend with is my daily steering between the great magnificence of life, and the utter insignificance of it all.  Not just my life and my meaning, but all the lives and meaning that are interconnected with my own at a given moment.

At the core of it are two opposing perspectives…

  • That in the scope of a vast and far reaching universe, the life of any being, critter or circumstance here on earth, seems insignificant, if not outright meaningless.
  • That in the scope of any moment, all life and circumstance I am proximate to and interacting with, be it my neighbor or a sea cucumber, is profoundly important and most meaningful.

bbbbb

I think of light.  Of light being a wave or a particle, quantum physicist John Polkinghorne once wrote…

“Light can be a wave or a particle, but it can’t be both at the same time.  Ask light a wave question and it will give you a wave answer.  Ask it a particle question and it will give you a particle answer, but it can’t give you both answers at once…”

That’s how a feel about life most days; mine, yours or anyone else’s.  It’s either meaningless or important, but it can’t be both at the same time.

bfff

The Spies Within Me…

Also in my head from an early age, were those people who I envisioned judging me.  As a child, I felt in a near literal way, that there was always a half-dozen or so people who had their eyes on me, 24/7.  These were a rotating cast of real life characters in my life, usually my elders, that I imagined viewing me and judging me from an ethereal conference room somewhere in the distance.  In my mind, they were observing me, discussing and deliberating over all my actions, yet never sharing their conclusions with me.

This feeling that a half-dozen or so people were watching me, influenced many of my actions and behaviors in my younger days. Sometimes my actions aimed to impress this pantheon in my head.  Other times, I allowed my thoughts and actions to drift into murky waters, without much regard for their opinion.

Though I would grow to disbelieve the people in my head were literally watching me, the feeling that I am constantly being watched and judged by those I look up to, has never left me.  I’m certain that feeling is the closest we can ever get to knowing God.

A Creative Outlet…

As a creative outlet, digital technology has given me the tools to express myself and to live my life in ways the analog world never had.  Social media has given me something to go with that – an audience.  That has been the most dubious aspect of social media for me – that more people than ever are judging my thoughts and actions, just like the pantheon of elders in my head when I was young.  Of course, this has been the result of me inviting them in, and subsequently throwing it all out there to be seen.

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For over a decade now, I have made good use of the tools of technology.  The tools I have used the most are the word processor and the smartphone camera.  They have become a part of how I think and an extension of who I am.  The vehicle that I have used to deliver my product of being me has been social media platforms such Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even this WordPress blog.

I started slow, but my use/dependency on these tools and these platforms has increased over time, to the point where creating and sharing via digital technologies has become central to my life.  It has become my biggest active priority – perhaps too big.  I have come to view myself as a social media addict and artist; writer, photographer, moral philosopher and on occasion, even a comedian, who just can’t quit.

Somewhere along the way, the line between the analog Roy of yesterday, and the digital Roy of today has gotten blurry.  I often feel lost in the sense of who I really am.  Am I the guy who lived his life, for most of his life, keeping his thoughts and ideas mostly to himself, only to share them with a few close friends….?  Or, am I the guy who doesn’t think a single thought or make a single move without considering how my social media Ohana might react to it…?

I’m both, I suppose.  Like light being a wave or a particle, I just can’t be both at the same time.

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I’m now 10 days into a Facebook hiatus – again.  It has already become clear to me how significant the presence of social media has been in most of my thoughts and actions in recent years.  I’ve come to realize that under the surface in so much of what I do and what I think, I am constantly considering how my friends would view my thoughts and actions if I were to share them on social media.  I scarcely look at, do or think anything these days without wanting to share it, or at least consider how people might act if I were to share it.

With that said, my most challenging thought in stepping away from social media has been this:  What good is doing anything, if I’m not going to share it and have it be validated…?

The Junta In My Head Part II…

I’ve probably thought far too much about all of this, and if you’ve read this far, you probably agree.  I thank you for hanging in there with the crazy.

When I was 10 years old, I felt a half-dozen people or so, were watching my every move, and judging me.  I acted sparingly because of it, as I silently worked out the whys of life in my head.  Forty-five years later, thanks to the digital age, I now try to work out the whys of the world with my online performance art, and I’ve invited hundreds to view and judge my own personal Truman Show, you included.  I once thought the whole world was staged just for me, and mostly, I still do.  In the digital age, at least get to choose my audience.

As far as answering the all whys in the world, and searching for meaning, I’m certain life is meaningful and important.  I’m just as certain that all life is meaningless and unimportant.  And the only thing I think I truly know is that it can’t be both at once…   Jhciacb

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If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this gem from Voxtrot.  A bit tinny, but enjoy….

Pros, And Cons…

A Kick To The Gut…

The 2nd hit to the chin always seems to surprise me more than the 1st, though it’s usually not as painful. So earlier this week when I read that Adrian Peterson had been accused of child abuse only days after the NFL indefinitely suspended Ray Rice for punching his then fiancée in the face, I was stunned but not in any more pain.

Like many, my immediate reaction was, that’s it – no more supporting the NFL. In an era when crybaby millionaires dominate headlines ahead of more pressing social matters, it has often seemed to me ridiculous to support professional, and even high level collegiate athletics.

It's best not to judge, but if you're going to judge, please be consistent your judgment...

It’s best not to judge, but if you’re going to judge, please be consistent your judgment…

With so much going on in my own life; the more pressing matter of finance, family, community, and self, I have questioned for years why I have invested so much of my time and emotions into the actions of others, solely to satisfy my need to feel uplifted. Quite often, I am as let down by the play on the field, as I am by off the field behaviors.

And then I remember this, “It ain’t the 6 minutes, it’s what happens in the 6 minutes.”

This remains one of the most formative scenes from any movie I have ever watched. A good reminder that we have a very human need to be transported away from the daily articles of discomfort and disdain that bind to our psyches from living otherwise unstimulated lives at home and in the workplace.

A Walk Not To Remember…

When the baseball World Series was cancelled in 1994, I swore I would never watch another game. It took the Boston Red Sox contending for and winning a World Series nearly a decade later to bring me back, but even so, today I follow baseball from a distance.

When the NHL experienced a lockout in 2004-2005, I was beyond disappointed. Not that I was a huge hockey fan, but like a lot of people, I had believed the NHL was the last professional sports league not to be (excessively) distorted and corrupted by greed.

I could dedicate a year to researching criminal offenses by professional athletes, coaches, and administrators, and still not scratch the surface of what transgressions take place in the arena of professional sports. I could also say the same thing about the business world, Congress, and probably the local elementary school. The relative proportion of infractions might vary from institution to institution, but the truth remains that greed, violence, and corruption exist in all walks of life.

Upright Culture On The Skids…

Man has been playing sports competitively for millennia. Whether we’re talking about the ancient sports in Mesopotamia, Mesoamerica, or Rome, there have been two constants in sport; fans and corruption – and the tween have always met, and seem to have been necessary and compatible bedfellows.

I’ll suggest that there may have been as many cheaters and wife beaters in the Native American sport of Pasuckuakohowog, as there have been in Cricket, Football or 3-meter springboard diving. I sometimes have to work to remember that there are many more citizens of good intentions, who are graceful practitioners of their athletic craft seeking only to succeed and entertain, if not to be role-models.

There Will Be No Roycott…

I will continue to watch professional sports for their value to both entertain and transport me away from an otherwise unexciting life. I will simply appreciate the good they have to offer, and look beyond frailty of character which is in all of our collective DNA.

Whenever discussions of boycotts arise during times when violence or corruption are exposed in professional sports, I always try and take a step a thousand steps back and view the bigger picture. I ask myself, who gets effected in a boycott, and what are the unintended consequences. Again, I could dedicate a year to studying that and still not scratch the surface. I will simply suggest that there are unintended consequences to a boycott of any kind, and unintended consequences are the folly of man.

In Artistic Terms…

Many reading this are not sports fans and will scoff at the very idea of investing time, money or emotion into the sweaty jocks of others. They may feel all sport should be boycotted all the time for their lack of artistic merit in society.

To them, I ask only that there only be consistency in judgment. For every person that chose not to enter a Mel Gibson movie on the evidence that he’s a foul mouthed anti-Semite, there is someone else listening to and appreciating a song of John Lennon. Though Lennon sang of peace and love, he had a taste for heroin that is well documented. I can assure you the chain of producing and marketing that drug was appalling, and that Lennon probably knew the steps it might have taken before it reached him – and he used it anyway.

There have been as many creative artists through the span of culture as there have been athletes who have had issues with drugs, violence, and greed underlying their creative endeavors. Many have been forgiven or overlooked because they stood for peace and love, if not for touchdowns. I ask then, with whom do we draw the line…? Be well. rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I hit the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from The Allmans.  Enjoy…

Defective Personality…

“My greatness is the sum of all my personality defects.  Well, most of them anyway.”  Me

Personality defect #1:  Growing Up Cohen…

This I know:  My mother and father loved me very much.  My childhood was safe, and my opportunities were numerous.  I was never threatened, abused, or otherwise compromised as a child.  I was taught right from wrong, good from bad, truth from dishonesty, and to say please and thank you to everything that moved.  And for all of this I was loved, housed, fed well, and given 50 cents per week.

My childhood might not quite have been the Ozzie and Harriet show, but it more closely resembled the TV life of the 1950s than it did the Ozzie and Sharon show.  Still, from an early age I developed a strong desire to withdraw from my family, from my social peers, and spend a great deal of time in self-imposed isolation.

It wasn’t enough to be alone though, I had to be moving while I was alone.  I would ride my bike, skateboard, swim, dive in the pool, shoot baskets, or just walk for hours at a time, and could not be any happier for my introverted exertions.  At an early age, solitary exercise was my house of worship, and remains my sanctuary to this day.

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Still the best way I know to be alone…

The two go well together for me; solitary and exercise. Give me one without the other, and they will each be appreciated.  Give me both, and they become trans-formative medicine.

Personality defect #2: Mass Appeal…

I can’t remember the first time I really took notice of a person’s musculature.  Maybe I was 12 or so.  It might have been a football player on TV, a bodybuilder, a guy swinging a sledge hammer on a road crew, I’m not sure.  I do know this; that from a very early age, the sight of lean, well formed, larger than normal muscles on a person compelled me – male or female.

Not just on people either.  As a child I would stare for hours at pictures of Seattle Slew and other race horses of the era.  The lean musculature of racehorses had a gravity my eyes could not resist.  My mom couldn’t get me out of the primate exhibit at the zoo either – the width of a gorilla’s back, and the squareness of his chest was something I wanted too.  There has always been something about the ornamental quality of large muscles in motion which has captivated me.

Triceps are a little weak, but LOVE his chest....

Triceps are a little weak, but LOVE his chest….

At some point, maybe near middle school, I made this connection; that I possessed the ability to go from just looking at and admiring muscle, to becoming the muscle.  On this realization, the course of my life began to take shape.  Personality defects #1 and #2 were about merge into the pathway expressway on which I would haul through the rest of my life.

Personality defect #3:  Hardworking In All The Wrong Places…

As my desire to create muscle on myself increased, I required more and more time in isolation to work on the muscle project.  My requirement for solitary exercise would now consume me.

By the time high school came along, it had gotten in the way of my solitary exercise.  I was so involved, as both the sculptor, and the sculpture, that I released myself from high school on my own recognizance.

Drop out.  Chalk up.  Lift.

Too cool for school...

Too cool for school…

Solitary exercise, in the form of weightlifting, had become my single biggest priority.  Oh, and there were also the sprint workouts which I began to do 2-3 times per week, which I enjoyed much for the challenge, and the conditioning, but also for the solitude.

As my adult life would further unfold, solitary exercise would expand to include running, cycling, surfing, kayaking, and more.  The older I got, the more important my medicinal movement became. It also became my livelihood.

Personality defect #4:  The World Begins With Me…

It is this defect, #4, that enabled defects #1 and #2 to become defect #3.  I put myself first in most situations – for most of my life.  I think science may have it wrong.  From my vantage point, the universe is didn’t actually begin until the day I was born – and that’s how I have lived for most of my life.

I like to think that I’m no longer as selfish as I was for the first 5 decades of my life.  I now recognize that there are 7 billion persons on Earth not named Roy Cohen.  With this realization, I think it’s fair to say that I have become a pretty giving person of my time, of my money, of my heart, and of myself.

My solitary exercise is still the largest part of my life, though I now include others more frequently as I partake in the joy of wearing myself down – wanting to share the experience.  In running, hiking, lifting, and cycling with others, I have learned to be more malleable in my exercise ways, and am finding new life from my movements, and fostered new friendships that have enriched my life.

Personality defect #5:  Reconciling Utility vs. Fulfillment…

As I have written before, it’s my belief that the car with the most, and the hardest miles on it will likely go to the junkyard first.  Of course maintenance, quality of fuel, and quality of miles are factors, but using the body to excess is not necessarily a recipe for a ripe old age.  Still, I push hard, and I push daily.

I won’t know until much  later in life whether all my personality defects, and my lust for movement have served me well, or will have beaten me down.  It will probably be a little of each, but that’s how life is.

Going equine one more time.   Seattle Slew-perman...

Going equine one more time. Seattle Slew-perman…

Of course these are not all my personality defects, only the ones which serve this essay.  I’m not a bright man, but I’m guessing I have a personality defect or two that I’m not willing to advertise.  So for those who truly know me, PLEASE feel free this week to drop them into the comments section and help fuel the conversation.  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 is this from the Grande Roses, enjoy…

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.

porcha

 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!

About Face… Book

Not real in the real world…

Several years ago, during a dinner discussion that involved the topic of social media, a friend suggested to me that,

“Facebook isn’t the real world”.

Ironically, it was Facebook that had reconnected she and I, and placed us at dinner that evening – after a decade of not seeing one another.   She’s no longer living, though her Facebook page is still quite active.  People post to her memory regularly as though she is actually seeing those posts.  Perhaps she is.  Even if not, maybe this is a modern, more interactive twist on laying flowers at the graveside.

 Changes within…

Several years ago when I realized Facebook had become too large a distraction for my level of discipline, I told another friend I was going to delete my Facebook account.  I had every intention of doing it that night.  When I explained this to her, she responded with,

“Please don’t!  You spice up my feed”.

My ego got the better of me, and that lone comment kept me from deleting my account.  I look back at that decision with regret, and as a pivotal point in my recent life.

That friend and I bantered quite a bit on Facebook early on, but we eventually went our separate ways, and are no longer in communication with one another.  And here I am three years later having invested far too much time into something with far too little return.

It’s all about Roy…

Rather than focus on editing my book, walking my dog, reading, or asking my elderly neighbor to sit by my fire pit and chat, I spend countless hours with my eyes fixed to a 17” window to the world, all for the instant gratification of a like, a comment, or the mindless amusement of a cat playing a xylophone.

When I ask myself why I post things on Facebook, why I comment, or which friend’s posts I choose to comment on, the only honest answer I can give must be reduced to some combination of the following:

–          To impress others

–          To seek the respect of others

–          To be perceived as knowledgeable or intelligent relative to a subject

–          To please others

–          To experience instant gratification during an otherwise tedious moment in my life

–          To demonstrate my senses of humor

–          To share something I feel others might enjoy, or benefit from

There are probably a few more reasons which branch off of these, but I believe these to be primary.  That last one though, to share something I feel others might enjoy, or benefit from, is the only reason that has legitimized Facebook for me.

Friends with benefits…

There are positive reasons to use Facebook.  Among them are connecting with likeminded people I would not otherwise have access to at a given moment.  I love that I can have a conversation with friends around the world about music, philosophy, or whether or not there is such a thing as clutch hitting in professional baseball.  Facebook, in a sense, is a global campfire.

Facebook; like a global campfire..

Facebook; like a global campfire…

It’s hard though, to distill the good conversations, from the bad.  That is where I struggle the most – in facing the relentless political and religious thrusting of opinions and positions at my psyche which is not looking for such information.  I have come to despise those moments for their ability to ruin other moments.  I tend to increasingly begrudge those who force that negativity upon me.  Even the topic of fitness, which is both my passion, and my livelihood, has been bastardized and abused by social media to the point where I have come to hate the ideal of fitness.

Because of this I recently deactivated my Facebook page, with one possible outcome being that I would never return to it.

Where’s Jhciacb…?

When I deactivate my account, roughly 20 people out of the 300 or so friends I have reached out to me by email or by text to find out if I had unfriended them.  It had not occurred to them that maybe I was taking a break, or perhaps unfriending myself from a time bandit with a greater downside than upside.  One at a time, I assured those who were truly concerned that no unfriending was done in the course of my absence.  I simply needed a break.

I’m single, I live alone, and I don’t own a television.  Facebook had become a large part of my social and entertainment life.  Feeling like I was missing something, I thought about bringing Facebook back, but I vowed to disconnect for at least one month.  If you are reading this by way of Facebook, then you know I lasted exactly 3 weeks.  I’m good with that.

What I missed most…

Like any form of entertainment or any tool, what one gets out of something is relative to what one puts into it.  I have always struggled with the blurry lines in life.  I believe the medical term for that is, being Jewish.

Sunday mornings.  Waking up with hot coffee under the cool pacific marine layer.  Sitting on my back porch with my laptop on my lap top, and my dog at my feet.  With the slight electric sound of Cowboy Junkies framing the mood, and with my view to the creek and the egrets in the immediate foreground, I get to share that very scene, some level of fun, and some amusement with 300 or people, many whom I have come to truly appreciate.

Sunday morning on the porch the best part of my week...

Sunday morning on the porch; the best part of my week…

Those Sunday mornings are among the best, most calm moments of my week.  I look forward to them.  I enjoy trading jokes with my brother, and our friends in the Midwest.  I may get to discover some new music.  I see some interesting photographs which might make me smile, or fill me with awe.  For those reasons, and a few others, I won’t turn my back on Facebook – yet.  I will though, use it less, and manipulate out of the picture, anyone willing to spew hatred as a means of pleasuring their own narrow mind.  Be well…  rc

Canyon Lands, Utah.  Photo credit: Lance Jones

Canyon Lands, Utah. Photo credit: Lance Jones

citrus

Macadamias, and citrus. Photo credit, DL Heaton

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 David Lindley, and GE Smith.  Enjoy…

Building A Tighter Fence…

This is Part II of my 3-part series on the limits of power.  Please click here to read Part I.

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Being Busy Is A Good Problem To Have…

I’ve been chugging along pretty good of late.  As I wrote in Part I of this series, with the exception of just a couple of movements, my gym strength is at an all-time high, and my muscle mass is better than I had hoped for being in my 50s.  My overall level of conditioning, cycling, and trail times are excellent.  It’s been a good year with my physicality.  However, there can be limits to success, even when all is going well.  In this case, these limits are self-imposed.

As a small business, I generally don’t say no to new business.  This autumn my work schedule increased. With the increased work load, my opportunity to exercise, has decreased proportionately.  I guess things got good at just the wrong time.  Since my strength, and my physique goals have been on the more aggressive side during the past 18 months, and my time to train has been minimized, I have had to reduce the boundaries of my workouts.  Hard as it is to admit, work should be my priority.

The time boundaries I have set for myself with regard to my exercise are rigid, otherwise there’s no point in establishing them.  This is a time when I have to choose quality over quantity with my all of my athletic training.  Within these limits, I am obligated to accept the results of the end product.  Even if the end product is not what I desire, it’s what I have time for.  I’m 7 weeks into this adjustment, and to this point, my strength and my physique have not suffered.

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Some days my work schedule is more packed than a train New Delhi. How ironic that there’s less time to train on this train…

Efficiency As A Foundation…

I have always trained with efficiency.  Through the years I have found a way to blend high-intensity strength training with volume work, and still come out on the near side of an hour.  My strength workouts are generally completed in less than 50 minutes.  Despite these short duration workouts, the volume of work has been relatively high since I rest little between sets.

On average for large profile muscle groups; back, quads, chest, I perform 12-15 sets, most of which are compound movements.  For the one dimensional muscles such as biceps, triceps, hamstrings, and deltoids, I have always performed 4-6 sets of an isolation movement each.

I have always fit in plyometric work when I can, often in-between sets of strength exercises.  Cardio, as a form of mental therapy, has taken place independent of my strength workouts, and is done almost daily.

Bringing In The Fence…

When being busy with work, and having a strong desire to stay fit intersect, a compromise is in order.  Since work is my livelihood, and being in shape is my hobby, the compromise lands solely on the shoulders of my hobby.

In recent weeks I have reduced the clock of my strength sessions to 40 minutes – period.  Wherever I am in the workout, the clock stops at 40 minutes.  This has had me at about 8-10 sets for the larger profile muscles, and 3-5 sets for the smaller ones.  As always, the heaviest possible weight is used, in the best possible form.  Only the volume has been reduced.

This reduction in time has a placed me into a simple mindset at the start of each workout; I have just 40 minutes to complete this workout, so I must maximize every single repetition, but that’s not really new.  Again, the heaviest possible weight, in the best possible form, with an absolute minimal rest.  Cardio, as a form of mental therapy, is now just 3-4 days per week, but has increased in intensity.

Getting more from, Les…?  No, getting more from less!!!

Getting more from, Les…? No, getting more from less!!!

Living within these boundaries has only served to raise my game.  Putting limits on the time I spend developing my power, has enabled me to reach new power.  Again, despite the reduced time, and reduced volume of training, my strength is at an overall high.  I’m even flirting with a clean 450 deadlift, and can hammer out 12 miles on my bike in 30 minutes.

The End Of The World, Not…

When you can look the devil in the eye, shake hands, and walk away without fear, you step into a new dimension.

I have never liked to admit this, but exercise has been a relentless seductress in my life.  She’s been good to me yes, but at times I’ve made her a much greater priority than she’s needed to be.  That’s on me though, not on exercise.  That’s about priorities.

For most of my life, when exercise has curled her index finger, pulled it back to draw me in with the promise of a good feeling, I have always jumped.  I’m strong enough these days, to walk away when faced with greater priorities such as making a living, or being there for my family, and my friends.

So I’m taking more days away from exercise due to my work schedule, but also due to an increased desire to stay connected with friends and family.  Take note, these are not intentional rest days.  There are just a couple of days per week when my workday extends up to 13 or 14 hours.  On those days, preparation for my next workday is the priority, not my own workout.  Or, and I may just want to watch a game with friends, or spend more time on the phone with my daughter.  Exercise can wait another day.

As I have imposed new limits on my exercise time, the world has not come to an end.  Shortening my workouts, and missing a few more of them per month has not made me obese, weak, or deconditioned.  This has simply set me up to be a better businessman, a better father, and a better friend.  And if lessening my gym time does cost me strength, add fat to my waist, or make me less conditioned, it still won’t be the end of the world.  Lessening my priorities though… Be well.  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks for Part III of my series on The Limits Of Power; what gets left behind.  Oh, and there’s this from Gary Clark Jr.   Enjoy…

Minimal-list…

There but for the grace…

I was homeless by choice.  Divorce and separation from my family set me into a state of unclear thinking.  I walked away from my priorities, and from my family with almost no money.  My Ford Windstar became my home.  I parked it at the outskirts of town most nights, and parked it by the beach on nights when there were a few extra cents in my ash tray for gas.  My future was uncertain, my mind clouded, and I faced each day cloaked in regret.

I never doubted that I would have a home again; an apartment, a room to rent – something.  I sensed though, that I would never be a homeowner again.  This was in part due to the circumstance, and in part because I never bought into the dream.  From an early age, home ownership seemed more a ball and chain than an American right.

Home homeless on the range....

Home homeless on the range….

Living in a minivan though, that was not in the dream either.  For six months though, it was my reality.

My income came partly from work, partly from savings, and partly from what help my mother could give me from week to week during this difficult time.  In my homelessness, there was at least some security if not prosperity.  I had enough income for essentials, and a few dollars left most weeks to share.  Maybe it was because I was homeless myself that I felt this need to share.  I have always felt a connection to the have-nots, and especially to the have-nothings.

Pier pressure…

On Friday or Saturday evenings, I would drive to parking lot at the Ocean Beach pier where many homeless of varying ages, and backgrounds would congregate.  If I had just few extra dollars, I would buy a few loaves of bread, and a couple jars of peanut butter.  From the back of my minivan I would offer sandwiches to anyone who would accept one – no documentation of homelessness required.

Not quite as pretty when you see a homeless mother of 3 living out of Chevette at the business end of the pier...

Not quite as pretty when you see a homeless mother of 3 living out of Chevette at the business end of the pier…

If I had a little more money, I would buy a couple of large pizzas and put them on the hood of my van – a free slice for any takers.  Doing this always made me feel good.  In that sense, I guess it was a selfish act. I knew inside though, that there were stories behind the faces of those who gladly accepted my offerings.  I never felt like I needed to know those stories, but just knowing they existed was enough fuel my gestures.

I recall a disproportionately high number of homeless teens at the OB pier.  Fifteen and 16-year old runaways were not uncommon.  Those were the stories which guided me back each week.  I would hear tales of abusive stepfathers, overbearing mothers, and addictions.  I wasn’t so naïve as to believe all these stories were true.  Nor was I so hardened by life, that I discounted them.

At the end of the evenings, when all the food was gone, as the stories fizzled, and the kids filtered out to feed their addictions in abandoned buildings and dumpster bins, I would park my van in a safe place.  I would then lay down in back, count my blessings, and sip from a cup of rum to help me forget my non-blessings.

 Minimal-list…

Before long though, I was back to living a normal lifeI was living in an 1,800 square foot, 3-bedroom, home with a TV in every room – even the kitchen.  I was driving a Jeep, and collecting surfboards like they sports cards.  My days of homelessness were well behind me, yet I missed the simplicity of them more and more as my life expanded.

My Bonsall condo; a TV in every room, and 3 bedrooms for one man to choose from...

My Bonsall condo; a TV in every room, and 3 bedrooms for one man to choose from…

One morning, as I was transcending from one room into the others, in preparation for my impending day, and with ESPN going in all three rooms, I realized how ridiculous it all was – to me anyway.  Thirty minutes later I set all 4 of my televisions on the front sidewalk with a sign reading, “Please, take them away from me”.  An hour later they were gone.

Maybe a year later I gave away the Jeep in favor of a bike.  Not long after, I gave away my furniture and moved into a little guest house, furnished with just enough.  It was a far cry from living in a minivan, but the romance of minimal living was my increasing reality.  As my list of possessions grew smaller, my list of freedoms grew larger…

Actions speak louder than blogs…

As I have reflected more recently on the short-term homeless state of my middle life, I want to do one simple thing that can make a difference for the long-term homeless, and I want to do it regularly.  What kind of thing, what kind of action…?  I don’t know.  I will simply take it from week to week.

I’m a pedestrian living in a warm climate, and in a small town.  I cross the paths of homeless people multiple times every day of my life – even children.

I am Bill Gates by comparison to most...

I am Bill Gates by comparison to most…

This I commit to, with my social media audience as my overseers:

Through 2013, and hopefully far beyond, I commit to seek out and apply one simple action each week that will positively touch or impact the life a homeless person.   To keep me honest, I will document these actions every Friday on my Contemplative Fitness Facebook page.  Please stay tuned and see if I walk the walk.  Be well.   rc

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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 Jonathan Meiburg of Shearwater.   Enjoy…

Guilty, I am…

Now what…

So you did it.  You finally got there.  Congratulations!  You are lean – in the best aesthetic shape of your life.  You ate clean.   You worked out like a person possessed.  You sacrificed, you pushed, and it shows.  You have abs, you have obliques, and you now have the ass of 12-year old boy.  Now what…?

You might not have considered this on your way to the heart of Nude Jacked City, but getting lean means more than just being in the best aesthetic shape of your life.  As you stand down from your quest, add calories back into your diet, cut back on your exercise, and allow body fat to increase, take note that, “the best shape of your life” was then, not now. 

Less than your best…

At any given moment, unless you choose to be in peak form once again, you will forever more be in less than your best shape – aesthetically speaking.  How you will you be able to handle that, emotionally speaking…?   

Be warned: no longer being in your best shape may not be a comfortable place to dwell for the rest of your life, though different folks do handle this in different ways. 

Some I know have dealt with this extremely well – they are not driven nor motivated by the Madison Avenue body garbage we have been fed for so many years in TV and magazine ads. They don’t bow to ill-conceived social pressure.  They recognize that being that lean didn’t come naturally or easily for them, and thus they had no expectations of a long-term lean status.

Many realize their body, and brain function better with a few more calories added in, and a little more body fat evenly distributed about their frame – even if that translates to a size or two increase with their clothing.  Yes, they miss the definition, but they LOVE the energy.  They still workout, they still eat better than 99% of the nation, and they appreciate what they have, rather than long for what they don’t have.

For others though, for most I’ll suggest, not being in their all-time best condition is a hard pill to swallow, ongoing.  As their clothes become a bit snug, as their faces round out a bit, and as the compliments from others that often go with being lean minimize, their self-esteem gets cloudy if not stormy.  Guilty I am. 

Some will go as far as to alter their social settings for fear of judgment that they are not at their best any longer, despite that they are still ahead of the game.  They may avoid the beach, pool parties, or any place that might require one to wear minimal clothing.  They will wear larger, and baggier clothing to hide behind.  Guilty I am.

A fine line that ain't so easy to navigate...

A fine line that ain’t so easy to navigate…

 

Some modify the activities they choose to participate in, for similar reasons.  They change the patterns of their life; when they go to the gym, the grocery store, or they do errands at different times of the day so they’re not seen in such poor condition.  This is all due to a self-generated perception which most outsiders never notice or even are aware of.  Guilty I am.

All of this due to just a few extra pounds, when most of the world still sees them as being in excellent shape.  Guilty I am.

Face it, we seek our flaws first.  When one has spent months seeing those “flaws” minimize, and ultimately disappear, seeing them return, and getting good with them is no easy experience.  Guilty I am.

Sustainability in condition…

Make the distinction between getting lean, and staying lean.  I will argue that most people have it in them to get lean.  However, being in peak condition with single digit body fat, for most, is not sustainable in the long-term.  Those you know, or know of, who are that lean year round, are fortunate, but I’ll suggest they are also rare.  People who are that lean year round are likely the product of a superior genetic predisposition, though this not to suggest they don’t work at it also. 

The guilt of failure…

It isn’t really failure though, it’s realism.  I have been unlean much more than I have been lean in my life, but again, this is a relative term.  Unlean doesn’t mean unfit.  It means balanced.  Dieting to get extremely lean is the Siberia of living; it’s a cold, bleak place, and there little joy there.

I will close this with a quote from an online friend who is also a fitness professional.  This was her response to a question I posed to her regarding being lean:

“As a fitness professional I’ll be honest with you. When I was at 12% body fat my cardiologist was so proud of me for being in shape, but I was crying out to her for help. I had not had my cycle in over 6 months. I told her this and she only advised me to take a pregnancy test. I knew that was NOT the issue! Shredded for women is just not a healthy, sustainable look for the woman who wants to be a vibrant member of the community, an active mother, a loving wife etc.

I don’t know how you can get to that stage and keep the energy levels adequate for living life. I want to be strong, vibrant, energetic, and healthy. I like my muscle “tone” ugh, hate that word! But I have decided that I’m not ready at this point to drain all my energy into a temporary look.”

My advice…

I have spent years telling people who truly desire to be lean, and who are willing to put in the work that they have a responsibility to get there at least once, just to experience the feeling of being there.  These days I’m more cautious about that suggestion.  For some, it may do more long-term damage than good.  Guilty I am…  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 is little piece of ambient love from Yo  La Tengo.  Enjoy!

A slow turning…

Much is discussed and argued in the media and online communities these days, about the state and the future of the food system.  Many take note that our national eating behaviors are worse than ever.  Others suggest that there are better ways to feed the nation.  Most just sit back, observe, and continue to accept the status quo.  Pass the hydrogenated, sodium laden, 20-year shelf life butter substitute please.

There is no shortage of opinions on the subjects of fast food, GMOs, obesity, diabetes, local farming, corporate monocultures, high fructose corn syrup, and the varied eating styles and dieting fads which fall in and out of vogue these days. These conversations are ubiquitous, but are they productive…?

It’s obvious something is wrong.  It’s obvious there are potential solutions.  It’s obvious that there are as many people who care about improving the food system, as there are people willing to exploit it, or settle for it in its current state.

I’ll suggest that the following statements are true:

– We would all like to see a more mindful food system.

– We would all like to see more intelligent uses of the food system; one which promote healthier lives, and healthier lifestyles for everyone.

– The food system, in its current state, is not set up to promote health as a first priority.  Rather, it exists to promote profit as a first priority – acknowledging though, that there are some considerations for health by some components within the food system.

– There is an increasing awareness among many segments of the population that the food system is faltering, but can be improved upon with corporate and individual diligence.

– To improve the food system, there will be required a spreading of awareness by way of activism, networking, volunteering, and use of the social media.

So where am I going with all of this…?

Changes of this magnitude don’t take place overnight.  Being Americans though, we do look for those changes overnight.  That’s not how social change works.  I’ll suggest if we just take simple actions daily, and encourage our children to take simple actions daily, we can look to the future for change in hopes that our children’s children will reap the benefits of the sacrifice we make today.

I have begun to think about the changes in our food system, and our use of the food system, as being analogous to the American civil rights movement during the middle part of our last century.  Change comes slowly. We often don’t see change as it manifests around us. That doesn’t mean that change isn’t taking place – just ask Darwin.

social_change_is_good1

We can look back at a history of widespread hatred; lynchings, church burnings, and acts of racial prejudice in the early and mid-20th century America.  Today, we can look around us to see black head coaches, generals, CEOs, and even a president.

Are there still hatred, prejudice, and acts of violence against non-whites…?  Of course there are.  However, these instances are fewer, and further between, by far, than they were 40 years ago.  Looking back, it took decades of consistent grassroots efforts, volunteering, activism, spreading social awareness, and sacrifice for those changes to slowly manifest.  To this day, those changes must be guarded.

racism

I look back at the progress though, that has been made with civil rights during the past 6 decades, and I do have some hope – if not for the food system of today, for the food system of tomorrow, through the work being done today.

A lynching today would not be acceptable.  Perhaps people 60 years from now will feel the same way about giving a 1,500 calorie milk shake with 225 grams of sugar to a child after school.  We still lynch, but it’s just a drive through kind of lynching.  The #3 Value Meal has enough calories to support a human life for 2 days AND, it costs less than $4.  We lynch ourselves, and we lynch our children – it’s just a slow lynching.

The noose that goes inside the neck, not around it...

The noose that goes inside the neck, not around it…

I understand there is a large difference between racially based hate crimes, and the offering of junk food to a loved one.  In that sense, perhaps we should refer to the ritual of sharing unhealthy foods as, love crimes.  Think about that; love crimes.

Take note:  My comparison of racism in America to the faltering food system is not about the severity or intentions of either.  There is no comparison.  Prejudice is an evil that far exceeds the dangers of Pop-Tarts, and aspartame.  My comparison is about the time required to see tangible results in changing social trends of any kind.

Take action today.  Teach your children today.  Have hope for the next generation, if not for tomorrow.  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 is this from, The Men.  Enjoy…