One Billion Friends…

Facebook claims to have over one billion users. Every so often I have this thought:

If I asked each of my 300+ Facebook friends to send and accept friend requests to one-another, and also asked if they would make the same request with all their friends and so-on, and if all users were compliant, eventually one billion people would be interconnected.

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Of course, if this did happen, scrolling through status updates over coffee each morning would take a bit longer.

When I think about this more seriously though, I can’t help but wonder if social media isn’t an evolutionary step toward that universal oneness – a global consciousness in process, which is the direction I believe we are all ultimately headed in anyway.

I don’t mean that in a trite way.

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Of course, I don’t truly expect to have a billion social media friends anytime soon, or to know what one billion people are thinking at any one time. I have a hard enough time coping with 300 opinions, let alone a billion.

I do think on some level though, that a digital imprint — a collection of all our thoughts is manifesting via social media, and is an actual step toward that universal oneness.

Global consciousness, coming to a server near you… Jchiacb

#siliconeternity

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More Quality Time…

It might sound strange to suggest, but I think I need more quality time – – with television.

Let me restate that…

I think I should be watching TV more, and in a better way.

When I was growing up in the 1960s and 70s, my father used every bargaining chip he could to curb my obsessive TV watching. He took it away from me at every opportunity — when I screwed up, talked back, or failed to make grades. He tried requiring me to spend one hour out of doors for every hour of television I watched. He even tried using a demerit system to correlate good behavior around the house with increased opportunities to watch my favorite shows. My father was constantly looking for ways to keep “the idiot box” from corroding my mind.

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In some ways, I think he was successful. Despite my relentless addiction to television, I did spend a great deal of the time outdoors in order to earn my TV time. I was also more receptive to household chores, and to saying please and thank you in order to purchase TV time.

Like many baby boomers, television has been both a positive in my life, and a negative. For better or for worse, TV has been an undeniable presence and influence in my life, regardless of which direction that needle was pointing at any one time — positive or negative.

In my post-divorce life, I had fallen more inline with my father’s opinion of television in his post-divorce. That is, I began to see television a legitimate social cancer, slowly dumbing down the human species, one episode of anything at a time. Always a walking contradiction, at the time I came to the conclusion that television was cancer, I owned 4 of them.

One morning in 2005, while getting ready for work and hustling from room to room with all my TVs going at once so I wouldn’t miss a moment of SportsCenter, I saw the ridiculousness of it all. I immediately stopped what I was doing and placed all 4 televisions on the sidewalk in front of my house. They were gone within an hour.

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In the 13 years since that morning, I have not owned a television, though I have lived in places or with people where TV was present. In those situations, I have watched them minimally, including my current situation where my mother has large TV in the living room we share.

I often click the TV on when I’m in the room, just to create some background noise, but I don’t pay too much attention to it. In instances of the occasional mass shooting or natural disaster, I might pay a little more attention, and watch for longer periods to ensure I’m ‘well informed’.

There’s no television program though, nor has there been for years, that I watch with any regularity, other than the Wheel Of Fortune and Jeopardy. Those, I watch alongside my mother each evening, as I keep her company and make small talk. I wouldn’t trade that TV watching experience for anything. I have no recent memory though, of watching any TV show or movie from beginning to end, without being otherwise interrupted or distracted by something seemingly more important at the time.

Let’s tell the truth: in this era, if you own a phone or laptop, you own a very small and portable TV. In that sense, for last 13 years, what has really changed is the size of my television, not the absence of one. And in the internet era, I have been able to manipulate and select my viewing choices, and have had more ownership with them.

However, the Internet has also provided something else; multiple rapidfire distractions in the form of smartphones and social media. Like many, most days the internet has me bouncing off the walls like a gibbon on crack. What little TV I do watch, on that 40-inch screen in my living room, is frequently interrupted by the 7-inch screen in my hand, or the 17-inch screen on my lap.

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In the pre-Internet days, it would not be unusual for me to spend three hours watching a movie – – One Eyed Jacks, for example, staring Marlon Brando. For all the nonsense and ridiculousness of the downside of television, the upside of TV has always been that it could take me to another place and another time, during which I would sit still and forget all things. TV was the beautiful distraction that kept me from other less beautiful distractions.

Now though, with the different ways we can watch TV due to the internet, and with all the distractions and interruptions that smartphones, laptops, and social media offer, the idea of spending three hours watching Dances With Wolves, uninterrupted seems prohibitive, if not impossible. In hindsight, gazing at a three hour movie almost seems like meditation compared to the chaotic media life I live today…

I can’t remember the last time I sat down and watched a movie which took me to another place and another time for several hours, where I was not distracted by notifications from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, while also watching short video clips via YouTube.

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Yes, I think I should be watching my television more, and in ways that take me to a different place in time. I long to sit still and to be transported, without my attention span being chopped to smithereens by the temptations of technology. In the same way I now look at the George W. Bush White House as ‘the good old days’, I now look at the idiot box and its dumbing down of the America psyche, as a more simple and more wholesome time.

Excuse me now, Greystoke: The Legend Of Tarzan, Lord Of The Apes is calling me. I’m going to watch it, and I’m leaving my smartphone behind… Jhciacb

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The Ultimate Weight Loss, Loss…

Proceed With Caution…

As a fitness trainer, I’ve been associated with roughly 40 people who have lost 50 lbs. or more, and kept it off. On one level, I feel pride in being part of those experiences. To have aided in such life changes, is near justification for choosing a career path which has been too often maligned.

However, there’s a darker side to the weight loss experience, and one I struggle with, even now. Going back 17 years, and with the exception of just one man I worked with in 2005, each person I have worked with who lost 50 lbs. or more, and kept it off, has ended up out of their relationship.  Marriage, engagement, boyfriend, girlfriend, or domestic partner, all but one I have helped, would go on to become single.

The reasons for this phenomenon are many, and not just limited to the reckless abandon that one assumes might come with a new waistline.

Before I take this any further, I’ll state that this a singular set of experiences, that are exclusive to one fitness trainer, from a sample of roughly 40 people, and within a unique Southern California demographic.  I don’t mean to suggest that losing a lot of weight will doom a relationship.  However, the experiences I’ve seen unfold, might be a cautionary tale for some.

One: I’m Leaving…

“I’m planning to leave my husband/wife, and I want to be in the best possible shape when I start my new life…”

No sentence you ever hear, will sound as unsavory…

I have been approached with those words, or some similar, at least a half-dozen times since 2000.  My place is not to be judgmental, or even inquisitive, for they might be planning an escape from hell.  My place is only to determine whether I can help the individual with their weight loss objectives, or not.  If they are a viable candidate, I will accept them as a client.

Not too much to read between those lines though.  People who have approached me from this angle, are decisive, motivated, and usually successful in weight loss.  I do my job, wish them luck, and try hard not to get involved.
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Two:  Left Behind…

With most people though, the motivation isn’t abandonment.   The common motivations are usually wanting more energy, better health, increased longevity, more confidence, keeping up with the kids, etc.  If I’ve learned one thing about the psychology of approaching weight loss though, it’s that people can be dishonest when stating their motivations, and often aren’t aware of how dishonest they are being – even with themselves.

Give a middle-aged man or woman a new body, some opportunity (very often in the workplace), and it could be goodbye – if only for a while.  But it can be more complicated than that.  A person can lose a great deal of weight, change their life for the better, be the pillar of fidelity, and it can still go horribly wrong.

Often the other partner, if they are also overweight, but not motivated to lose weight, will feel left behind when their partner succeeds.  A division can form, and feelings of jealousy might manifest.  There can then be a withdrawal from, or even aggression toward the successful one.

The newly fit person might have a new life – the gym life, which will include gym behaviors, and may include gym functions and gym friends.  The couple now has less in common, and live more separated lives which, may go on to be separated lives.  I saw one woman eventually leave her husband, and partially blame me for her departure…

“I can’t stand who he has become…”

I don’t blame her.  I can’t stand who he became either, but my job was to help him lose weight, not carve out the new lifestyle he chose.

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Three:  Sabotage…

I have seen the left behind partner sabotage the successful one.  Repeated attempts are made to bate them into gaining the weight back, or derail the from their success – to keep that common ground.  This is also complex.

If going out for Italian, followed by ice cream, a couple nights per week is a standard practice and a time of enjoyment for a couple, then taking it away can be a legitimate loss for both parties.  For one party though, there is a good tradeoff for that loss – a new body is the reward.  For the other, the evening they looked forward to all week is suddenly gone.  That might be one evolutionary step toward separation of values, which might lead to a separation of other things, each other included.

I had one client tell me, as she was in the process of losing 80 lbs., that each time her husband came home from work, he would drop a King Size Snickers in her lap.  Why would a spouse do this…?

One possible reason is that his wife had begun turning heads wherever they went.  She was a grounded and devout wife – the embodiment of fidelity.  However, his insecurity had convinced him that her new abs were going to lead her astray.  This snowballed to the point of serious friction.  Never once did she stray, but he became jealous and even accusatory.  If nothing else, he no longer believed he was good enough to keep her – despite her assurances.  They are no longer married.

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Four: Separate Lives…

A scene I have been guilty of myself:  A dinner table is set.  The family sits down.  Dad is eating broccoli, brown rice, and skinless chicken breast.  Mom and the kids are eating lasagna with breadsticks.  After a while, the smell of the lasagna gets the better of dad.  He breaks down and finishes what his family leaves behind.  A few hours later, he’s mad at himself for cheating on his diet.  Out of frustration he becomes grumpy with his family.  They spend the evening separately.

Eventually, and solely to avoid the temptation of lasagna, dad begins eating at a separate time of the evening than his family, and/or in a separate room.  This probably isn’t going to work out too well for family unity.  Either dad caves and forsakes the diet for the sake of peace in the family, or it becomes a bigger priority to him to avoid his family at dinner time.  That might be one more evolutionary step toward separate lives altogether.

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Those are just some of the scenarios and complications which might result from a successful weight loss.  I have seen all of those, and many more play out before me.  There are many more angles and possibilities when it comes to the effect of weight loss on relationships.  The point of this isn’t to disclose them all, as much as it is to illuminate to any reader that there can be more than weight lost in the course of weight loss.  There is a darker side, and few people care to talk about it.

Back To Honesty…

Ten years ago, I participated in online conversation, hosted by one of the premier weight loss bloggers in the country at that time.  There were roughly 30 participants.  As I described some of the scenarios above to this group, many participants, all of whom were successful at losing weight, were quick to tell me that they did not have those experiences, or any similar.  Rainbows rained.  Unicorns grazed.  And happy hubby loved the new bod!  Amen.  The problem is, it wasn’t true.

After the chat was over, I was met with a half-dozen emails, confessing that their relationships were in jeopardy, coming apart, or already ended – all due to their weight loss, but they didn’t wish to make that public.  That was the first time I had ever considered that my profession, along with my good intentions, had played a role in couples coming apart.  Though I don’t hold myself accountable for the separation or divorce of any client as a result of helping them lose weight, I now approach weight loss candidates with great apprehension.

Yesterday I interviewed a potential weight loss candidate – she wants to lose 75 lbs. When we spoke on the phone three nights ago, I didn’t ask if she was in a relationship.  I was concerned only with her objective, and with whether I might help her fulfill it.  She will begin working out with me next week.  I hope to have the good sense not to warn her if looks like she’s going to succeed.  I’ll just stand by quietly, and watch as she navigates the minefield of that comes with profound change, and I’ll hope she’s the exception to this pattern…  Jhciacb

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Occupational Hazard…

I make my living as a fitness trainer. I have worked a small town 17 years, Fallbrook, California.  Because of what I do, the size of the town, and my time in place, many people know me here – know who I am and what I do. Wherever I go, at least a few people always identify me as Roy, the trainer guy.

And then there’s the local market. Because I work from home, I go to the market daily. It’s a reason for me to leave the house – which is important when you work from home. Every day, whether I need something or not, I enter the market, pick up a handheld basket and stroll the isles, to justify leaving my home.

As a fitness trainer, I tend to be a conscientious eater. Still, there are times when I might breach from that, and enjoy a treat or five. I might also pick up something for my mother; Oreos, Betty Crocker frosting, Milano cookies, or Fritos. These are the daily rewards one is entitled to, should they make it into their late 80s.

If at a given time there are 40 people in the market, pushing carts, carrying baskets, and seeking out the best lambchops, strawberries, or baby wipes, at least 5 of those people will know who I am – and what I do for a living.

Without fail, when I run into somebody I know or who knows me, no matter how hard they try not to, their eyes always break contact with mine, immediately peering into my basket – to see what trainers eat. And just as quickly, as though they were a dog caught drinking from the toilet, their eyes break from my basket and rejoin mine, trying to look not guilty for their examination of my stuff.

Yesterday this happened several times. In my basket were Saltine crackers, some Progresso soups, and cough drops – my mom has been in bed sick. One client I ran into saw the cough drops, and I swear I’m not making this up, said to me…

“Oh, cough drops. A candy you can justify…”

Yes, I said. You caught me. Sugar and menthol – the two things I crave most when I’m i bodybuilding mode.

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If I’m going to cheat, I assured her, I would get the wild cherry cough drops, and have them with ice cream – lots of and lots of ice cream…  Jhciacb

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Eat The Fucking Ice Cream…

Last week a client in her 70s, prompted me about some changes she wished to make. She walks for an hour every morning before sunrise, works out with me 2 days per week, is a very good eater, but is concerned about the fat rolls over her hips.

I asked her bluntly what she needed to do to minimize her alleged fat rolls…

“Well, I should cut back on the wine, and maybe the ice cream” she said.

I asked her if she enjoyed the wine and ice cream…

“Of course, I do. The ice cream I can live without” she said, “but I’m not giving up the wine!”

We both chuckled. I reminded her that she’s teeny tiny, way ahead of the game for being in her mid-70s, and told her emphatically to eat the fucking ice cream, and to enjoy the wine.

I suggested that her alleged fat rolls were not visible to me, are not a health risk, and to make them go away would require a dietary sacrifice that isn’t consistent with enjoying her life.

And that’s where it ends for me these days, at least in my little world.

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Our food system has become increasingly complex, and outright sinister. It lures people in one direction, as asinine social expectations pull people in the opposite direction. This tearing apart of the human spirit has confused and corralled people into a pen of fear, frustration, and too often into a state of shame.

Whether you want to lose small pockets of fat from your hips or 100 lbs. from your frame, I encourage everyone to eat a little better and move a little more – just a little better and a little more, you will feel and function better for your efforts, and so too will those who depend on you… Jhciacb

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Life, At Face Value..

Lives Which Matter…

Last winter, after a couple of young persons I know of lost their lives, I began an exploration in my head about the value of a life.  Shortly thereafter began the string of musician deaths which will partially define 2016.  This got me thinking even more.  Ultimately the dots connected further and I began to also consider animal lives.  As all of this was playing out in my head, I moved my aging mother in with me.  One more life to consider.

From teenage girls gone too soon, to older people hanging on.  From puppies loved, to Glenn Frey and David Bowie, to the would-be lamb chops on my plate, I cannot help that throughout each of my days, I spend some time contemplating the value of any of these.  Not that I am in pursuit of any hard answers or true knowledge on the value of lives.  I simply want to distinguish better, that blurry line which separates the lives that matter from those that don’t.

Little Balls Of Duality…

An unexpected day off landed me beach side today to take it all in.  On a quilt my mother stitched by hand, I lay staring into the distance, thinking about the past and taking sporadic inventory of the many lives which surrounded me.  Mom lives.  Seagull lives.  Kid lives.  Surfer lives.  Dolphin lives.  Some lives guarded by lifeguards, others only by fate.  I was surrounded by life, yet I could not pick out a single one which I could deem unworthy

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A mother with pale skin and chubby legs stood beneath her wide brimmed hat, slathering sunscreen on her two small boys and then on herself.  Oddly though, she struggled negotiating between the tube of sunscreen in her hands and the cigarette in her mouth.  That’s when I began thinking that, as a species, we’re just little balls of duality when it comes to this lives matter stuff.

A young mother, fending off cancer with one hand, and inviting it with the other.  I hearkened back to a client who was recently grieving the loss of his niece during one of our sessions.  Shortly thereafter he proclaimed that a would-be President Trump would wise carpet bomb the Middle East – Middle Eastern nieces notwithstanding, I guess…

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Little Balls Of Duality…

Staring into the horizon, and with the sun on my back, I continued to ponder.  On one hand, we go to enormous lengths to protect and preserve the lives which matter to us, our own included.  We medicate, radiate, negotiate, and we pray.  We exercise, wear seatbelts, have designated drivers, and enrich our junk food with extra vitamins – just in case.  We bow to caution.  We respect and avoid threatening forces.  We sacrifice, and we will go into insurmountable debt in the name of preserving a life, be it a toddler or a terrier.  The lives we love matter most –most of the time.

On the other hand, we can be careless and casual when it comes to any life with which we are not fully vested, also, our own life included.   We take risks.  We partake in that which we know might be harmful.  We overeat, but when we pass by the man on the corner with the cardboard sign asking for food, we take caution not to make eye contact.  We leave some out in the cold as we sit warm by the fire.  We apply a tangy sauce, add a little sea salt, and take another bite.  We change the channel when we are asked to help starving kids in Africa, or see dogs held in cages.  A truckload of dead Mexicans overheated in the desert while trying to cross over…?  Some call this a tragedy, while others consider it an evolutionary response to population control.

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And Further Complicating Things…

In the social media era, we are bombarded with suggestions that the universe is so large, so magnificent, and so potentially full of life, that we are selfish to give so much credence to our own tiny lives.  Yet, when I think of Clara, or when I see the lost look in my mother’s eyes when she momentarily forgets what she’s doing, I can’t help but believe that each life granted has far greater significance to its constituents than all the potential of all the stars combined.

I’m ashamed to say this, but sometimes my mind swings the other way.  Please forgive me for this next thought…

It’s not a popular question to raise, and I truly don’t mean to offend anyone, but I often wonder if we fulfill our quests to cure cancer, cure heart disease, cure diabetes, stop epidemics before they begin, and in our quest to end all wars, where are we going to house all the survivors, and whose jobs will they take…?  I’m ashamed that I think about this, but, I do think about this.  I dunno…

My own life…?  Well, I’m a little dichotomy too.  I bend, I stretch, I lift, and I step, that I have a better quality of life, and a longer one.  I also do dangerous things like ride my bike without a helmet.  I have taken my liver to the brink and brought it back to health with all the zeal of parent searching for a kidnapped child.  I have taken risks, overindulged, been outright reckless at times.  I can honestly say I have had a half-dozen self-imposed near death experiences.  But do I value my life, I guess…

By the way, this isn’t about Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter.  It’s simply been an exploration in my head about why so many lives matter to most of us, most of the time, but also why so many don’t.  I guess all I really know about the value of a life is that each one has infinite cascading effects on so many others.  That, and when one life goes out, it will rarely be at the right time, and just as rarely for the right reason.  We are little balls of duality, ongoing.  Be well…  rc

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Swimming In Systems…

Girthing Globally…

The so-called obesity epidemic has made headlines once again.  Another study released this week suggests that obesity on a global level is still on the rise.  In the days since this study was published, I have read a half-dozen feature articles and blogs about how we can reverse this generations-old trend.  Yet, for all the intellectual studies, discussion, and attention obesity gets, and despite all the good intentions behind solving the problem, obesity levels worldwide are still increasing.

When it comes to fighting obesity, as with many other consequences of our social and technical advancements, too often our thinking is narrow, poorly aimed, and most often searching for singular fixes in small areas which feel good to pursue, but are often demanding and fruitless.

What is largely ignored in all the conversations about solving obesity, is the entirety of the problem; the constant expansion of the many systems which have led to its existence.  Food systems.  Marketing systems.  Social systems.  Political systems.  Religious systems.  Educational systems.  Pharmaceutical systems.  On and on.

Any one of these systems could alone be considered a monster.  Together, they conspire to be a leviathan.  Like any good leviathan, obesity is going to go where it wants to go, and will only die when it runs out of the fuel on which feeds it.  I am reminded of two fleas attempting to steer the dog they sit upon.

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Complexity begets complexity…

On the surface, solving obesity may seem like it’s all about calories in vs. calories out, changing portion sizes, providing better school lunches, CrossFit, Yoga, using a treadmill, going low-carb, low-fat or paleo, standup desks in the workplace, and even the use of qualified fitness trainers.  These may hold some value for some people at some times, but alone these aren’t going to change a thing.  The fact remains that scientific advancement and social awareness relating to obesity are at all-time highs, and our collective girth is still girthing.

How’s The Water, Boys…?

While in mid-thought this morning, as I was pondering obesity, it finally occurred to me that systems – all systems, whether they apply to the obesity epidemic, politics, consumer culture, or anything else, is the water that David Foster Wallace spoke of during his now famous commencement speech at Kenyon College in 2005.  Whether this was his intention or not, it seems to me that systems, invisible and everywhere, are the water which surrounds us.

If you’re not familiar with the speech above, please bookmark it for when you have time.

 We live within millions of systems.  We navigate and transcend them, never really seeing their entirety, and always under the influence of delusion, believing we possess some level of control.   We live, breathe, act, choose, survive, delight, frown, frolic, and even get fat as a result of our systems.  We select our presidents, career paths, partners, and even our gods as influenced by an invisible ocean, and like the young fish who replies to the older fish, “What the hell is water”, we are oblivious to it as we swim.

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When I think about obesity in this context, or when I think about any disturbing social trend from air pollution, to engineered corn, campaign finance, political partisanship, landfills bursting at the seams, and even when I think about war, I tend to be more gracious these days in my judgement for both the victims as well as the perpetrators.  We are all born under water and begin swimming through our sea of systems immediately, most often with the best of intentions.  All the while though, we never really know we are swimming at all.  So, how’s the water today, Boys…?  Be well.  cc

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Catharsisaurus Rx…

The blender in my head…

I’ve live pretty deep inside my head.  I am continually haunted by the complexities of modern life, and how they may be impacting my reality, assuming there is a reality. That doubt, of my own reality, is the heart of the thing.

On the surface I train clients, check on my mother, text my daughter, and reassure my dog.  Underneath all of this, my mind is bombarded by tiny pellets of doubt, all day long, that are slowly deteriorating the shield which protects my rational side.  Among my greatest fears is that this shield will parish before I do, leaving the chaos in my head to play unbridled havoc with my mind as I age.

My inner Cartesian has come to appreciate those frantic moments in my life, like when my frozen vegetables fly out of the bag and land all over my floor because I pulled them too quickly from my freezer.  That things like this always happen at the worst possible time also serves me well.  Those moments snap me out of my doubt, if only for an instant, and halt the existential banter between all the Roys within.

The life within the life…

I regularly entertain the life within the life.  I imagine waking from a nap on a summer’s day, my right cheek stuck slightly to the warm concrete beside the swimming pool of my youth.  The distant chatter of Marco and Polo awakens me.  I am 12 years old, and the life that I have lived since will have been only a dream.  Reagan never won.  I never married so I never divorced, and the internet was all in my imagination.

Perhaps though, I’ll awaken in an asylum, and not by the pool.  My arms tied behind my back, and with a crayon between my toes I write my suicide note on a foam wall.  This life I write from right now will have been a peaceful dream, and what lay ahead, a nightmare.

And don’t get me started on my lifetime of chronic bad dreams.  Where do I go when I dream…?  Is what I do any less real than what I do when I’m awake…?  In an active mind, I often feel that the only thing separating my memories of life from my bad dreams  are the words memory and dream.

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Kinda hopin’ Really hopin’ I don’t wake up here…

Occasionally I consider that all other people are just extras in an orchestrated game between the gods.  I am at the center of their illustrious amusement – just a silver ball in their game of pantheonic pinball.  At the end of the game, I wonder, will the gods rise in unison and offer me the ultimate thumbs up or thumbs down, based on how well I performed bouncing off the obstacles they set before me.  Ever-present is the feeling I am being watched and judged.

The illusion of conclusion…

Even if I am real, where and how am I real…?  Between parallel universes, infinite universes, or an eternal universe where anything that can happen will happen, I find myself right here, right now, and in this glorious life.  Although in the quantum world, I’m only probably here, and probably now.

Physicist Brian Greene tells me freewill is only an illusion and suggests that mathematics supports this.  The calculations of my future have already been laid out, he says, and that I have no say in my say.  However, I don’t steel tips off tabletops in restaurants when nobody is looking, and I don’t push people down the stairs – even when they deserve it.  Sounds like free will to me.

Some scientists suggest existence as I know it is some kind of holographic image created in an alternate reality, and is smaller than the tip of a pen.  Others say I am slave to the algorithms within a cellular automaton.  Just the thought of that has me pining to be a slave building a pyramid, for at least then I would exist in a simpler state.

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Holographic Youniverse…

The idea that some being in another dimension might be administering my every thought and every motion by way of a joystick bubbles under the surface of my daydreaming as I clean my studio.  On one hand this appeals to me inasmuch as if it is true, then I am exonerated from all indiscretion and responsibility.  However, if I’m not a Sea Monkey in a jar on some extraterrestrial kitchen counter, atonement and responsibility are not only my duty, they are my only hope.

Dog is one of us…

When my eyes lock with my dog I feel love and truth – simultaneously.  That emotion is a daily confirmation that I am real.  When our eyes break though, I can’t help wondering if my dog is actually an angel sending signals back to God, or an observer sending recommendations back to the mother ship.  I wonder the same thing with many of my human contacts too, you who is reading this included.

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“Stroolde calling Orson, come in Orson…”

I flash back to a time in school when I was taunting a special needs kid.  My friend Jeff stopped me and said…

“Roy!  Don’t tease Milton!  What if he’s God and he’s just testing you…?”

Jeff was joking, but I’ve never been able to get that thought out of my head; that anyone else might be God, or a designated representative of the Junta Grande.

The scratch ticket and the interwebs…

I feel guilty for having won the lottery of existence.  All my needs are met – exceedingly.  I’m able to enjoy and appreciate so much.  That I get to make a living doing what I love, and do so in such a beautiful place seems unjust to me, on behalf of those who can’t.  I wonder why I’m not a knobby-knee’d Ethiopian child with fly on one eye suckling his mother’s dry tit.  Yet I seem to be me, and this seems to be my time and my place – probably.

Living in the internet age has only thrown gasoline on the fire of my doubts.  I wonder if this increased connectivity with people and information around the world isn’t just an expanded test by my maker.  It makes no sense that I have instant access to most of the much of the knowledge ever attained and so much information, even if it isn’t always accurate.

Are my social media friends and my analog friends truly connections, or are they an audience watching me and trying to influence the way I bounce off the bumpers in the pinball game of my life…?  They might just be 7-billion lesser gods.

When I look the grocery clerk, the beggar, or the barista in the eyes, I often wonder if they’re thinking,

“He’s on to us…”

That people so seamlessly merge in and out of my digital and analog lives makes me feel increasingly uneasy.

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My maker…?

The known universe is precisely 54 years old…

Let’s assume I am real.  I see memes on social media daily that remind me how small and insignificant I am relative to the immensity of the universe.  This is bad internet juju in my opinion.  I am the only component in the universe that I have absolute dominion over.  If ultimate inter-connectivity is inevitable, then the universe can’t fulfill its own destiny if I fail to fulfill mine.

I was dead for nearly 14-billion years before I was born.  I’ll be dead again in a decade or two more.  I better get this thing right while I’m still here.  It’s all pretty overwhelming at times, this work of performance art which I call my life.

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At the end of the day, I suppose my reality is simply my choice – my decision to carry forward without worrying too much about any of this.  Whether or not I’m a spec in the universe, the center of it, or an organic shuttlecock in game of badminton between gods, so long as standing in nature stirs my heart, and my daughter returns my phone calls, I will choose to act and feel real.  I will though, always have my doubts.  Be well, and thank you for taking the time…  rc

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Enjoying God’s creation, in his creation, and where I feel most real..

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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 Psychic Ills.  Enjoy…

Fat Dogs, Niebuhr, and Tomorrow…

No Time For Obese Dogs…

I sat down this morning preparing to pose a question on social media about the responsibility humans have in stewarding obese dogs.  This after an exchange last week about who is responsible for canine obesity.  My stance is that, much like obesity in humans, pet owners bear only a portion of the responsibility for canine obesity.  That is, dogs like humans, are subject to increasingly complex food, pharmaceutical, medical, and social systems.

Though humans do have some say in the obesity of their dogs, these systems are probably also influencing canine obesity, though not to the level that the same systems are influencing human obesity.  To a lesser degree, canines are also susceptible to the economic and media systems which influence humans, though the freewill thing which humans relentlessly pander to, probably doesn’t distract dogs too much.

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I’m thinking, too much bread in his diet….

I chose not to post my original question on social media though, because I realized it would have done nothing more than set anchor to a line of convoluted and irrational arguments that would chain me to my laptop for hours.  At the end of the day I thought, we’re all caught up in an endless web of systems anyway…

Three Wise Men…

In his book, The Religions of the World (formerly The Religions of Man), Huston Smith suggests,

We need to remember that in their own day, prophets are not seen as prophets.  To most, they appear to be fringe thinkers, not to be trusted, and often irrational.  It is only those few who follow them, and with the posthumous spreading of their ideas over time, that elevates them to prophet status.

As they walked and spoke in their own communities, men like Jesus, Confucius, and Muhammad did not command the attention of too many, though they did make some noise.  It was only after death, and by those few who valued their ideas who worked to spread those ideas, did they become elevated to prophet status.

I have been reading (some of) the works of Reinhold Niebuhr recently.  Niebuhr is hard to classify.  He was a Christian theologian and educator.  He was a prolific author, a public intellectual, a sounding board for other intellectuals, and an occasional advisor to heavyweight political figures during his time.  Though he considered himself a socialist Christian, and since both of those terms today have been hijacked and mutated, I will argue that Niebuhr was the ultimate conservative by the real meaning of that word.

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A portrait of the American Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892 – 1971), United States, mid-20th century. (Photo by Bachrach/Getty Images)

I came to Niebuhr by way of Chalmers Johnson and Andrew Bacevich, both of whom draw on Niebuhr’s moral and diplomatic sensibilities in their own works.  In his book The Limits of Power, Bacevich refers to Niebuhr as a prophet at least a dozen times.  Chalmers Johnson suggests that if every nation had a Niebuhr whispering in the ear of its leader, there would be no need for NATO, The United Nations, or military bases beyond domestic borders.

All Systems Go (Where They Want To)…

Among other things, what the works of Bacevich, Johnson, and Niebuhr reinforce to me is that principled ideals, however impactful their potential might be, are not going to immediately override systems which are already in place and aimed in a forward direction.  The best we can hope is that reasonable ideas take root, and are cultivated over time to gradually steer the trajectory of a system.  The civil rights movement, still in progress, is a good example of this.  If we take an honest big picture view, it’s clear that prophets make good helmsmen on the initial watch, but communities need to keep steering once the prophet is no longer around.

Americans are caught up in all the systems of modernity; technical systems, political systems, cultural systems, economic systems, and many others.  Whether we are talking about obese canines, the military industrial complex or international diplomacy, and whether we consider ourselves passengers, components, or victims of the systems which carry us, I am reminded as our presidential election draws near, of the two flies believing they control the horse who’s ears they stand upon.  We are driven, and we are bound by systems.

Vote The System To A Slight Turn…

Like many, I often think voting doesn’t matter and I don’t trust any of the candidates.  I do though, believe that voting is a responsibility and it’s one I take very seriously.  Perhaps my vote this year, which will go to the most Niebuhrian candidate on election day, will help steer the modern political system just enough toward a new direction that we can pass it off to a more reasonable generation, who might spread the word of Niebuhr’s prophecy and steer us better still.  Of course I’ll need the help of 100,000,000 or so like-minded friends to make this happen.

Before you vote this November – before you decide on a candidate, a platform, or donate any more money or your own sensibility to a cause, please consider reading The Irony of American History by Niebuhr, The Limits of Power by Bacevich, or Blowback by Chalmers Johnson – all 3 if you have the time.  It’s time we steer away from America’s imperial ambitions abroad, and that we take a good look in the mirror.

I gasp at what is taking place with the current presidential race, but realize the idiocy of it all is a reflection of our culture at large – of the systems we have set into motion and make no attempt to steer.  It seems clear to me that we could benefit from a new prophet to help lead us out of our Idiocracy.  As Bacevich calls for a Niebuhrian revolution, I stand alongside him in hopes that someone – anyone will listen, learn more, and help spread the word.  If not Niebuhr, perhaps David Brooks.  Be well…  rc

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We are just one or two elections away from President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Comacho…

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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 Dave Alvin.  Prettiness and such like that.  Enjoy…

Service With A Smile…

This week I sat down with the intention of writing a manifesto of sorts, on how new fitness trainers should conduct themselves.  Seems I got offtrack and ended up writing this.  Perhaps some of these can be superimposed on other career paths -or life paths…

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Pride And Circumstance…

I take pride in a handful of things in my life. Of them, I am most proud that as a trainer – as a businessman, I have kept a full schedule since the first week I opened here in Fallbrook in 2000. In 16 years, I have done almost no marketing or advertising. I drove into a small town, looked around, decided I wanted to stay, set up shop, and within days my business course was primarily set

A good part of that is accidentally landing in a great demographic. A fair portion of the population here have discretionary time and money. That doesn’t represent all of my clients though, as I have a more than few working people who have become puzzle masters to fit me into their budgets and schedules.

Social Circles And Demographics…

I say often of doing business in a small town, that if you do a good job for 1 person, 5 more people will know about in a week. If you do a bad job for someone, 10 more will know about in a day. That ideal is as much responsible for my consistent schedule as any.

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Gonna die in a small town, and that’s probably where they’ll bury me…

Though we don’t all live in small towns, most of us do live in small circles.  In the information and social media era, where business reviews can be published online in seconds, treating the customer right matters more than ever.  It may sound a bit simplistic, but doing a good job for the client is the most important part of my job.

Meet & Greet…

I do my best to greet every client at the door. This isn’t always possible on days when I have back-to-back sessions, or when sessions run late. I do though, attempt to greet every client before they enter the studio. Meeting a client at the door gives them a feeling of immediate security in what is too often an intimidating environment – the gym.

Meeting someone at the door shows them you are there for them, as much as you want them to be there for you.

Dings, Pings, And Echo Location…

Clients come with inherent aches and pains, some more severe than others. Through a written medical evaluation, I take inventory of any medical or physical issues prior to my first session with all client, and then I am sure to remember them.

Each time I meet a client at the door I ask them for a quick rundown of how they came off of our last workout in the form of soreness, stiffness, or aching. If I have done my job well, the answer should not influence the workout ahead. If they speak of any dings or pings, I adjust the workout accordingly.

Throughout the course of the workout I will ask frequently how they are feeling – if I am pushing too hard or not hard enough. Most often I don’t even listen to their answers. I learn all I need by looking into their eyes as they hear the question. This is like echolocation with dolphins; I send I signal to them, they send one back to me, and I know where we are in the course of a workout.

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When echolocation goes bad…

Before starting a session, I also ask them the last food they ate and how long ago they ate it. This information can also influence the direction and the result of a workout.

Don’t Eat In Front Of Clients…

If one’s job is to instruct and motivate, it’s hard to accept that this can be done with a mouthful of cold oatmeal or sipping from a shaker cup as many trainers do. Eating and talking lacks professionalism.

I can’t say I have been perfect here. There are those days when sessions run back-to-back and I have said excuse me to the client, and then asked permission to grab a bite as we begin the session. I can honestly say that in 16 years in Fallbrook, I have done this less than 16 times.

I also keep my phoned turned off during sessions. That hour belongs to my clients, not to me.
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Business Cards…

Former Levis Strauss executive and Bit-by-Bit Computer Rentals founder, Tim Cling once told me,

“Business cards aren’t what you give to people, they are what you take from people! You take the card, you call the number on the card, you introduce yourself, and explain concisely how and why you can help them.”

That is the best business advice ever extended to me. Too many fitness trainers put enormous stock on designing and handing out business cards – cards which get tucked away, thrown away, or otherwise used to stabilize the lose air conditioning vent in their car.

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Great for helping balance uneven table legs.  As a form of marketing…?  Not so much…

In the year 2000 I had 1,000 business cards printed up. In 2015 I still had 950 of them. What few I handed out were used as appointment reminders, or scratch paper for my personal notes.

On Form, Focus, And Conversation…

Overstating the obvious; a trainer should never turn his back on their client. A trainer’s eyes should always be fixed to the client’s exercise form – period.

Only when I am sure a client’s form is correct, does any conversation take place. I have no issues with a client talking during the course of their exercise, so long as they are moving and breathing properly.image76-e1422567572804

One of the better aspects of life as a fitness trainer is the conversations which have taken place in my studio through the years. In a sense, those conversations have given me a master’s degree in life. My older clients offer me wisdom. My younger ones offer me context from which I can better appreciate that wisdom.

There is much to learn from listening to the experiences of others. I get to do this all day long. I won’t hear the wisdom though, if I’m not listening, so my ears and my mind remain open at all times.

Relationships And Progress…

Making my living as a fitness trainer is about progress, of course, but it is also about relationships. It took me far too long to learn this. Cultivating and nurturing those relationships is paramount to any level of progress a client might experience, progress being a relative term.  Only if there is trust with the client, can I add a little more, push a little harder, and ask a little more of them over time – always in small doses. That is where progress comes from. They progress as the student. I progress as the teacher.

From this I am also reminded, living on this earth is also about relationships. Cultivating and nurturing those relationships is paramount to any level of progress we might experience as a species. If there is trust with one another, only then can we ask a little more of each other, and push a little more over time – always in small doses. Be well…

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from The Ozark Mountain Daredevils. Enjoy…