Don’t Come ’round Here No More…

I should have kicked him out of my studio as soon as he said it, but I didn’t. Maybe I was afraid.

In my mind, I excused his ignorance before the completed thought ever left his mouth. We had been there before; he uttering racists nonsense, and me in the capacity of a fitness trainer, not a priest nor a moral philosopher.

“No invention” he said, “no technology, no great contribution to mankind, ever came from sub-Saharan Africa, and that’s a fact!”

The young man, 26, spoke these words as his father looked on, in presumable agreement, from the treadmill across my studio. That was in 2005, and I have never forgotten it.

The young man’s innuendo was obvious; that people with darker skin – Africans and those people who have descended from sub-Saharan Africans, are of a lesser intelligence, and have contributed little to society through the millennia.

I was gulpsmacked as he spoke, but I kept focused on the task. My job was to guide his exercise form, not his morals. I shrugged it off.

This was not an isolated incident. I live in a community with a deep history of racism. Fallbrook was the home of white supremacist, Tom Metzger, for many years. Metzger’s influence still manifests within this community.

During the Obama administration, I heard the term, nigger in the White House, far too often, yet I never spoke up, always recognizing that my livelihood was at stake.

I have no memory of ever influencing human behavior, asinine or otherwise, through the art of argument. When faced with ignorance, or hatred born of fear, I usually just ignore it, grateful that I am not that which makes me cringe.

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If he were in my presence today, the man who uttered those racist remarks 12 years ago, I still would not have argued with him. I would, though, have asked him to leave my studio – immediately, and I will do so to anyone feeling comfortable enough to test that.

When I reflect on the person I am today, versus the man I was 12 or 20 years ago, if there is a difference between the me of then and the me of now, it is that through each little adversity in my life, the me within has grown slightly more bold – more willing to stand on behalf of his beliefs.

I will never attempt to change the mind of a racist. I am though, much less willing to tolerate one… Jhciacb

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Tolerance, Tole-Rant, To All You I Rant…

I asked a friend recently about hostility on social media. He replied by saying, “What’s the use of having an opinion if you can’t cram it down somebody’s throat”. Of course he was joking, but many I know truly subscribe to that belief…

My Belief…

I don’t believe in god, not in the sense of a divine being – man on the throne kind of stuff. Nor do I believe in a singular intelligence or designer, however vague, ethereal or non-specific it might be. At best I believe in an accidental system, and that beneath this system exists an underlying current of higher purpose pulling society in a singular direction. I believe that as time carries forward the stream of that current narrows.

As human complexity increases and that stream narrows it appears to me that we may be headed for a social eruption of some kind. Whether that eruption takes place in the next few years or few hundred, I have no idea. When I step back though, and attempt to take a big picture view of society, complexity, and directionality, it appears this eruption is unavoidable, so I want to get this off my chest while I can.

No Fight In Me…

On the topics of religions, god, and higher purpose, I have two basic rules; I don’t argue on behalf of, nor do I proselytize my beliefs. I also choose never to argue against the beliefs of others. That is, as I hope my beliefs will be respected by others, I ensure that the beliefs of others are respected by me — unless those beliefs involve hatred.

As the futile debates over religions and god causes schisms, what I do seek are occasional discussions that might otherwise fill those gaps. I tend to think the wellness of culture is absolutely dependent on religious tolerance. If useful discussions can’t be had, I simply disengage from all conversation. To attempt to change a person’s beliefs, mine or yours, is a supreme violation of consciousness.

Probably All That Can Ever Be Known…

In the appendix to his book, The Evolution Of God, Robert Wright masterfully explains what I believe is all we can ever truly understand about god, higher purpose, or why we even think in those terms. Wright speaks of an early hunter-gatherer walking alone through the woods alone at dusk. Suddenly there is a noise. The noise stops the man in his tracks. For a split second he thought he saw something associated with that noise, but can’t be certain whether or not he did. He looks again and sees nothing. Rather than continuing in the same direction, the man adjusts his path. He does this as to exhibit caution in order live another day – to push his genes into the next generation.

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The idea though, that he thought he saw something served him much better than not thinking he saw something. That is, if that guard had not been put up, he may have well walked into danger, and not survived another day to spread his genes.

And that’s where the idea of god begins and ends for me; as an evolutionary presence to ensure we protect ourselves, both physiologically and culturally, from things that may hurt us.

Fast Talkin’ Dawkins…

The primary tenet of biological evolution is that traits which serve getting genes into the next generation survive, and traits that don’t serve that purpose get weeded out in time. If cultural evolution parallels biological evolution, which Richard Dawkins himself stated early on in his career, than religion must be a trait that is serving the advancement of culture. After all, religions have not been weeded out over time, only transmogrified, misused and abused.

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At its very core religion is where all culture began. All art began as sacred art. All governance began as sacred governance. Albeit art and government are now (mostly) secularized in the modern era and in the western world, we have early religions to thank for providing us this framework that today keeps chaos in check – despite what we see on the evening news.

Did You Read Anything Up To This Point…?

I know there are people who have read this far, and ready to take me to task. Don’t bother – that’s kind of my point. However asinine my beliefs may seem to you, they are my beliefs and I value them as I value my child. Try and talk me out of loving my child or my beliefs, and you have lost the argument so there is no need for me to speak.

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I have a great reverence and appreciation for religions, though I subscribe to none. I actually believe that rituals are the most important aspect of the human experience, and like art and government, all ritual began as sacred ritual. Whether we believe in a higher power or not, to me, is not as important as behaving as though there is one.

Where religions go in the future can’t be predicted, though billions will try to chart their path, as billions more try to extinguish them. History though, makes a great case that religions may change over time, and may evolve, but for those who would like to see them disappear, I’ll suggest their very presence is the most vital part of culture, and a necessary trait for cultural survival.

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I believe that a successful outcome for humanity is absolutely dependent on religious tolerance. If one steps back and takes a big picture look at the evolution of culture, I’ll suggest it will be hard to disagree with that. Be well. rc

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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 Mountain Goats.  Enjoy…

I Hate Fat People (not my words)…

Warning:  This one is lengthy.  If you are not willing to read every word, from beginning to end, go ahead and delete it now – please. 

Black, White, God, Darwin

It seems, relative to the turmoil of recent decades, that racial prejudice in America might be on the decline, and that racial tolerance could be on the rise. Though absolute racial harmony may never happen, I am grateful for recent progress – and despite the current political rhetoric involving race, there is no denying that there has been much progress in my lifetime.

I won’t get too happy though — just over the hatred horizon there is an age-old prejudice on the rise once again; one involving god, God, or the belief in gods.   I recently watched a TED lecture by Richard Dawkins, calling for an outright war against the belief in God – what he calls, “militant atheism.”

Conversely, many modern Christians look down on atheists and agnostics more than ever, as the scum of the Earth, and wouldn’t dare allow their daughter to marry one.  It seems that as we have become more accepting of the variance in human skin colors, we are less accepting of contrary opinions on just who made and dyed the skin.  Let’s face it, we just need somebody to hate.

"Uhm ehr, ah.. I forget, did you make me or did I make you...?"

I Hate Fat People (not my words)

I camped recently with a dozen or so friends along the Niobrara River in North Central Nebraska.  We had arrived on a Wednesday, spent our first two days in camping solitude, enjoyed some good alone time on the river and at the campfire – and then Friday happened.  Setting up camp behind us on Friday afternoon were some real-McCoy hillbillies from Georgia, and they looked and acted every bit the part.

As Cooter and the Biscuit family unpacked the Chevy Lumina 60 yards to our north, my friends and I gathered round the campfire, consumed some (more) alcohol, pushed our collective intellects to the brink, and began poking fun and making jokes about our new neighbors – me taking my share as lead heckler.

"Dear makers of Patron, Thank you so much for making me such a nice guy. Sincerely, The Idiot By The River...

I could have poked fun at the way they were dressed.  I could have commented on the cars they drove, or even the way they spoke.  I did not.  I simply spied that they were very easy to spy, and I began to pile on.  One fella in particular looked to be pushing the 350 lb. mark, and I threw most of my ignorant darts directly at him.  As the Patron bottle became depleted, jokes increased, and for an hour or so, humor at the expense of obesity was my mission.  Then I heard a fellow camper utter this retched phrase,

“I hate fat people.”

I sensed he was sincere.  I might have been the instigator here, but I cringed to hear my friend say this.  I immediately shifted gears and began poking fun at the way the obese man was dressed – because that was easy, and jokes still needed to be made.

I had no place whatsoever making fat jokes, but I did so in the spirit of laughter, not hatred or prejudice.  On my return home from the trip, I was ashamed when a good friend and fellow camper sent me an email calling me out on my behavior.  My friend suggested that me, of all the people in our group, by virtue of how I make my living, should have been much more sensitive to a heavy person.

There is no excuse for what I said.  I am not prejudiced of any persons; Jews, Muslims, Christians, Blacks, Whites, nor heavy people.  I have championed many heavy people over the years and gained more wisdom from their struggles as I have from their successes.  I had become heavy at one point in my own life and gained a new perspective from my own struggle.  For one moment by the river, I chose to behave like an idiot and I am sorry for that. 

Where Are We?

I will go out on a limb and suggest that the 350-pounder from Georgia was neither a fitness enthusiast nor a discriminating eater – but that doesn’t make him bad, or worthy of hatred. 

In subsequent weeks those words spoken by another, “I hate fat people” continued to resonate.  I have begun to reflect on, and attempt to observe what level of prejudice exists toward heavier people.  I have explored news periodicals, fitness & weight-loss blogs, had discussions with clients, friends, and people in my community, in an attempt to increase my awareness of how others truly view obese people. From this limited stream of information, it seems more people I know truly are prejudice towards obese people than I would have thought – most of whom would be considered obese themselves by the BMI.

The NAAFP ain't gonna tolerate that....

Who Are We?

We are a nation whose obesity population is on the increase, with an increasing number of those obese people becoming increasingly prejudiced… toward other obese people?  That math does not add up.  I can see a day when obese people might take up arms against the morbidly obese, as heavy people put up fences to keep the regular obese people out.  For millennia, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, and Jews have all found reason to hate, as have persons of different skin colors found reasons to hate.  And I can’t help but wonder; in the future will obese people also become a passionately hated portion of society…?  If so, there is little doubt that justification for that hatred will simply be because, as it has been said through the ages, “Because they’re different, from me – that’s why!” 

 
 
 
 

 

And history might declare that Ireland and Northenr Ireland were finally brought together for their mutual distrust over people with excess belly fat...

 

Help Is Not On The Way

If a person does not wake up and go straight to the gym and does not eat steamed rice and broccoli at dinner, he is not a bad person.  If a person never gets off his ass and chooses to live off peanut butter and M&M sandwiches nine times per day, that person is no less a person that anyone reading this.

I can make many (successful) arguments why obese people, and society as a whole, would be better served if the weight were taken off.  But our society is not set up for obese people to succeed in weight loss.  The potential for success in weight-loss exists mostly in the fringes and isolated pockets of like-minded people – places where most obese people tend not to hang out due to internal fears.

The only food pyramid that seems to matter...

Take a look around – with your eyes open this time.  Though there are many resources and tools available for heavy and obese people to use that they gain control and make positive changes, those helpful tools are kept at the edge of social boundaries and held there by the many bad ideas, big profits, deadly agendas, and an almost universal acceptance of gluttony in the modern age.  Think about it – please.  And the men who hold high places…

Be well.  rc

Black or White, My Way Or Yahweh, Fitly Or Fatly…

This week there is less a tease for my Friday column – and more of a setup.

As societies, we keep reinventing ourselves – to a point where we are bursting at the memes.  Each time we reinvent ourselves in the name of human progress, some important things fall into the cracks and crevices which form between our so-called advancements. I often think tolerance, respect, and mindfulness need be kept on short leashes, that we ensure they make it from one generation into the next.

Here is a excerpt from this Friday’s column on prejudice:

“It seems, relative to the turmoil of recent decades, that racial prejudice in America might be on the decline, and that racial tolerance could be on the rise. Though absolute racial harmony may never happen, I am grateful for recent progress.

I won’t get too happy though — just over the hatred horizon there is an age-old prejudice on the rise once again; one involving god, God, or the belief in gods.   I recently watched a TED lecture by Richard Dawkins, calling for an outright war against the belief in God — what he calls, “militant atheism.”

Conversely, many Christians look down on atheists and agnostics more than ever, as the scum of the Earth, and would’t want their daughter to marry one.  It seems that as we have become more accepting of the variance in human skin colors, we are less accepting of contrary opinions on just who made and who dyed the skin — or not.  Let’s face it, we just need somebody to hate.”

Please check back this Friday, July 30th, and to see how this might relate to the concept of fitness. Thank you. rc

Oh, and there is this very important lesson on bigotry from Shakes The Clown (warning — some bad language):