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.

111god1

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.

111god3

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.

111god4

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.

111god2

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

please take a moment to scroll up and rate this

________________________________________________________

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…

Sets-sual Healing…

Under the phrase, strength training, the opening paragraph of Wikipedia sites some of what strength training supports; bodybuilding, weightlifting, powerlifting, as well as several strength-related sports that we’re all familiar with.

What it doesn’t reference, at least until much later in the citations, is wellness. Even at that, it does so scarcely. ‘Sniff…

_______________________________________________________________

A conflict in the posse…

I recently received and email from a fellow trainer. She was seeking advice on how to deal with a client whose bodywork practitioner suggested that her strength training was too hard on her body, and counterproductive to his own work. The person in question had decided to give up on strength training altogether as a result of this practitioner’s influence. The trainer in question sought my advice as to how to retain this client. I suggested only that attempting to keep her was a losing cause for all involved.

Though I have respect for most aspects of wellness and healing arts, the term bodywork practitioner reeks of guruism. This term is most associated with therapeutic massage, but no massage therapist I know, from any genre, refers to his or herself as a bodywork practitioner. I could similarly pass myself of as a practitioner of skeletal-muscular engineering. Or not. Regarding this trainer’s concern, I’ve seen and dealt with this first hand on multiple occasions.

The issue here is layers deep, but at its core this is an issue of perception. To deal with and overcome this issue would require changing a person’s total belief system when it comes to wellness and physicality. No easy task. Though I will never quit trying, my success rate in changing a person’s entire belief system is quite low.

Peeling back the layer…

The first layer that needs to be peeled back is so thick that it obscures all others, and in fact may be the only layer which needs to be removed at all; that strength training is the red headed stepchild of the healing arts. In fact most people don’t associate strength training with the healing arts, or even as a form wellness. Too often, the wellness community views strength training as an endeavor for knuckle draggers, mirror gazers, and views it as mindless, harsh on the body, extreme or, all of the above. That reputation though, is well deserved. And guess what…? Overcoming that reputation lays solely the leaders of today’s strength training community.

Sometimes you can peel back the layers, other times they need to be whacked...

Sometimes you can peel back the layers.  Other times they need to be whacked…

In the 40 years since a strength training renaissance was inspired by the movie, Pumping Iron, weight rooms across the county have been used and seen largely as places where meatheads go to throw weights around, grunt, scream, buy steroids, and otherwise avoid meaningful employment. Again, that’s on us. Clichés become so and are perpetuated because too often they are true.

Science and common sense…

While gym rats from the 1970s through the current era have been doing their best to paint a curious, if not bizarre image of the weight room and all that goes with it, scientists at the university level have been working hard for decades to breakdown, examine, and demonstrate the value of strength when practiced correctly by the general population.

Gym Rats:  Spreading bad ideas like diseases since the early 70s...

Gym Rats: Spreading bad ideas like diseases since the early 70s…

The list of benefits associated with proper strength training is extensive, and real. I’m not going to site them here, but there is no shortage of data available to the curious. Physiologists by the thousands have demonstrated time and again that there is much utility associated with strength training as a form of wellness, and that it is beneficial to all age groups. Science notwithstanding, common sense shouldn’t be ignored either. There is no scenario I can envision, when strength training is practiced properly and under intelligent instruction, that it can have a negative impact on the human body. Who reading this would like to be a little less strong, or less capable of anything physical…? Suggesting strength training as a negative can be analogous to suggesting one not take care of their car’s engine.

The Pantheon Of Wellness…

For people who have the means to hire me, it’s not uncommon to have more than one me in their life. This can be part of the problem. I have had clients contract my services who have also had on their payroll, Rolfers, yoga masters, Tai Chi Sifus, Pilates instructors, pain management specialists, bio-cranial therapists, reflexologists, and more.

Not a guru.  Just trying to help people find, if not reach, they're goals...

Not a guru. Just trying to help people find, if not reach, they’re goals…

Though I have never had an issue being just one aspect of someone’s pantheon of wellness, the very idea of an expanded support system comes with inherent conflicts. I can say honestly that for my part, I have always been respectful and supportive of other wellness practitioners who also consult with my clients. I can also say though, that the same mutual respect is rare. The respect I have seen in the pantheon of wellness through the years seems to fall something like this:

  1. Yoga
  2. Pilates
  3. Massage Therapy
  4. Chiropractic
  5. Acupuncture
  6. Rolfing
  7. Reflexology
  8. Everything Else
  9. Strength Training
Ah, the true pantheon of wellness...

Ah, the true pantheon of wellness…

I’m sincere when I say this; I don’t expect this to change in my lifetime. I can only hope that the practitioners and leaders of the strength training community of today will try hard to present themselves with increasing intelligence, and carry themselves with an improved decorum into the future so that, at the very least, my grandchildren can see strength training take its place above, “everything else”.  Be well… rc

please take a moment to scroll back up and rate this is you will.  thank you.

________________________________________________________________________

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 Morphine.   Enjoy!

An Open Letter To Leaders In The Fitness Community….

Dear Fitness Leaders,

Congratulations, you are a leader in the fitness industry – I bow down.  Whether you lead by the dozen, or lead by the millions, the eyes of your followers are on you.  Please keep in mind though, that the eyes that follow those who follow you, are also on you.

Whether you are new to fitness as a career, or you are one of the many established “experts” in the field, please allow me to share my thoughts with you, on how to better conduct yourself in an industry that isn’t just evolving, but one that is erupting vomiting its way into chaotic advancement. 

Don’t forsake the trust that got you where you are…

Understand that when people choose to follow you, right off the bat, they have given you something sacred, and something that should be most coveted by you – they have given you their trust.  Nurturing that trust may be the key to both longevity, and respect in your fitness career.  I’ll suggest that your career will be only as fulfilling as your respect for that trust goes.

You can use the trust of those who follow you to advance your career.  Or, you can use the trust of others as an opportunity to grow with them, to learn more on their behalf, and to advance the causes of fitness as a whole.  I think this is a good way to be.

People have chosen you.  Regardless of their reasons for that choice, they have placed their trust in you.  They hear the words you speak, they read the words you write, and they retain the actions they witness from you.  If you’re going to lead, lead with honest words, honest actions, and humility.

If you refer to your followers as disciples, I’m asking you right now to wear a tin foil hat so I know who you are.

Shut The Fuck Up Settle down Francis…

Making noise and rattling cages to prove yourself right is only slightly less savory than making noise and rattling cages to prove others wrong.  You may be wise.  You may be educated.  You may be experienced.  You may be all of the above, or some combination, and you may even be right.  You don’t however, always have to establish yourself as right. 

It’s actually not too hard to be right, and to be quiet – simultaneously.  This skill will serve you well in your career.

Don’t just lead, support…

Don’t lose sight that among our primary roles in this industry is the role of being a support system for those who follow us. 

To properly lead, it’s not enough to just point and say, go!  It’s of greater importance to understand the horizon from the vantage point of those furthest back.  Remember to stand beside those who follow you at the most critical times, maintaining awareness and respect of the differences between their view of what’s ahead, and your own view.

Ideally, the best support system a student or follower will have will be their friends and family.  Too often though, this proves not to be the case.  Though it’s not possible to be emotionally available to all of your students, all of the time, I’ll suggest you strive to be as available as you can be when needed – and you will be needed.  This will go a long way in helping them fulfill their goals.

Lead by example…

As a leader in my own community, I strive to ensure that I lead by example.  Some days that example is better than others, but I live with the knowledge that the eyes of my community are continually on me.  Whether I am in a grocery store, a restaurant, an athletic field, or a bar, my community is watching.

Though I often joke that at the end of the day it’s all about Roy, at the end of the day I know this is not really true.   

At the beginning of the day, fitness leadership is about sharing.  At the end of the day, it’s all about reflecting, to better share the following day what I have learned today.  In-between the beginning and the end of the day, fitness leadership is about many things, but above all else, it’s setting good examples.

You’re not that grand, and neither is your idea of fitness…

It’ pretty easy to believe, and subsequently suggest that being “fit” is the right way to be and to live.  Fit, at best, as a vague term which can mean many things. 

Too often leaders in the fitness community strive to pass off their own fitness values as an improvement to someone else’s life.  I have been guilty of this myself.  Often times what we pass off as fitness can be detrimental to longevity and physicality.  This is something I continually struggle in coming to terms with. 

Just because I can do something, doesn’t mean I should do it – or that it’s going to help me live longer and better.  Notwithstanding, suggesting that others do it may be detrimental to their physicality, their longevity, and their health. 

Circles beyond our own…

There many people in the world who never formally exercise or eat “clean”.  There people who could care less about a lunge, a set of repetitions, a chicken salad, or a WOD.

Humility

There are many people who are content with who they are and have no desire to look like an action figure.  There are even people who are obese and okay with it, as there are people who are out of shape and okay with.  There are people who live to eat, and not eat to live as we always suggest.

That those people don’t play in our fitness circles makes them no less valid, no less worthy, and no less of a person.  I know of many great people doing amazing things in the world who eat Pop-Tarts, tater-tots, and other hyphenated non-foods.

I know of family leaders, business leaders, community leaders, and just plain salt of the earth folks who could give a frog’s fat ass about what we think is so important in the name of fitness.

I’ll finish by suggesting that each of you step back, take a good distant look at you consider fitness to mean.  Then, take a good distant look at the rest of the world and consider, for just a moment, what they might believe fitness to mean.

From this perspective, to truly quantify and establish how exercise may benefit someone’s life – how it may benefit society as a whole, is much harder than science has lead us to believe.  In fact, it’s not possible.  And you, you little fitness expert, are no more of a spec on the ass of humanity than I am, and please never forget that.

Go now.  Mount your high horse and charge on!

Sincerely,
Aggressively Humble Guy

PS: If you are a political, business, or spiritual leader, same shit goes for you.  rc

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Please check back in 2 weeks to see what  happens when I hit the “stop” button on the blender in my head. 

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.

photo(10)

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

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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…

Believe you me…

“Show me a man who has the same values, and beliefs at 50 that he had at 25, and I’ll show you a man who has wasted 25 years of his life.” Muhammad Ali

As Beliefs Grow Up…

Beliefs are the first children we ever have. Like real children, beliefs begin arriving long before we are prepared for, or qualified to have them. As they grow, they end up raising us in sense, as children raise their parents. Hopefully this allows us to evolve with them in an expanding, and symbiotic relationship. As time passes we become increasingly intimate with, and committed to our beliefs.

For many, their beliefs will be the only children they ever have. Who doesn’t want to show off their children…? For others, their beliefs will be children so well-crafted they’ll rarely be exposed. Beliefs define us, express us, and explain us. They are malleable, often in flux, and very sensitive to the fingerprints of others.

beleif3

Beliefs; the first children we ever have…

Like our real children, we can be guilty at times of not executing the most proper custodial care in the raising of our beliefs. Our beliefs grow as properly as we nurture them, and direct them to. And also like children, our beliefs can be at odds with each other – despite that they are our own. We’re all familiar with feuding siblings. In that context I’ll suggest we’re just familiar with feuding beliefs living in our heads.

Like protecting our children from harm, we seek to protect our beliefs from harm in hopes that they will grow, and serve the world well. As a culture, it increasingly seems that protecting our own beliefs more resembles projecting them. We shoot our beliefs like arrows at others before they can get to ours with theirs.

Essentially, on the playground of life, we’re pitting the children of our minds against one-another rather than encouraging them to play nicely.

No Means No…

In the tired, and unsolvable debate over god, God, or no God, something should be considered; to continually attempt to change somebody’s beliefs once they have said, No Thank You, is an not only an attempted rape of that person’s most precious asset, it is an attempted murder of their mind’s children.

A good friend attempted to witness Christ to me several weeks ago. He did so softly, and congenially, but was persistent in his approach. I know this was an act of love on his behalf, and an attempt to make a positive impact on my life. I respect that. I’m certain, however, that he never considered he was attempting to make many of my children – my own beliefs disappear by pitting his to hurt mine. Perhaps when he reads this, he’ll view things differently.

I do not begrudge him for the attempt. I remain hurt though, and feel somewhat violated that when I said “no”, as I explained the comfort I have with my own beliefs, that he didn’t take no for an answer, and wouldn’t let it go. At that point, it was an emotional rape attempt.

I have been witnessed to many times prior. Several ended in the destruction of friendships, and business relationships. Not only would they not take no for answer, they attacked my beliefs, and did so in very disparaging ways.

Now that may be taken as anti-Christian statement, but I assure you it is not. It is a statement in favor of respecting the children I have raised in my mind – my beliefs. I know many atheists who are just as guilty, and just as evangelical in their approach to converting believers, and both sides should learn to end the conversation at the first, No Thank You.

The Playground Of Life…

Most parents spend a great deal of effort teaching their children to play well with others. Maybe it’s time we place just as much effort into teaching our own beliefs to play well with others. At the workplace, online, at social gatherings, and sporting events there are no recess monitors. We are self-policed – or not. I believe we can do a better job than we currently are.

Discussing beliefs around the campfire with friends...

Discussing beliefs around the campfire with friends…

We’ve all thought to ourselves, I should be more… I’ll suggest those thoughts most always arise from an internal fear we may have or develop. We don’t get angry with ourselves for questioning our own beliefs. However, when we are approached with, you should be more… we immediately take offense. There’s a disparity there that doesn’t work.

Too many people are having their beliefs attacked by the bullies of fear too often in these times. The term discourse is falling out of vogue again, as bipartisanship has. When somebody attacks our beliefs, or attempts to change them, maybe we shouldn’t get angry with them, and fight back by shooting our beliefs. Perhaps we should simply pity them, and offer them a hug, and seek the common points first. Be well… rc

__________________________________________________________________________

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’s this little gem from Australia’s Pat Capocci.  Enjoy…

Space trap…

Houses of relativity…

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

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

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

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

Family and flow…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hands solo…

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

The single best place I ever lived...

The single best place I ever lived…

 

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

 

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

My current shack...

My current shack…

Roll me away…

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

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

 Handprint of a legacy…

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

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

________________________________________________________________________

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

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…

The Blender In My Head, Part I…

 This is Part I of my ongoing series; The Blender In My Head.  I will continue posting these intermittently for the rest of my life, occasional intermingling fitness articles as I feel the need.  God help us…

____________________________________________________________

The Blender In My Head Part I: My Lifelong Existential Meltdown

Far From Amazing…

A friend recently described me as “amazing”.  That was a wonderful sentiment, though it was probably used to describe the shell I present to the outward world; the dating behavior of life as it were.  On the inside I’m more damaged, and confused than I let on.  Sure I’m a good guy, but pretty fractured and pretty flawed, though I strive daily to overcome, if not hide it.  Most times though, the me on the inside is much more conflicted than the good guy who I allow the outside world to know.  The inside is where my values do constant battle with the temptations perpetually attempting to invade my head.

Temptation in this case doesn’t necessarily mean a pretty girl or a drug. The temptations in my life can seem quite little when I break them down individually, but as a collective they can add up to enough that I more often consider myself a lesser person when I cater to even a minority of them.  And cater I do.

Temptations manifest in the most subtle of ways.  Things like taking shortcuts in business, in relationships, and in finances can be temptations.  Ignoring responsibilities, and sacrificing priorities for immediate gratification can also be temptations.  Amusement, entertainment, and indulgence can also be temptations.  Putting myself first though, is the temptation I pander to most often.  There are more of course, some too personal to share, but it seems I rarely go an hour without confronting, and giving in to some kind of temptation.

In the way I conduct myself many times in the course of a day, I find I’m pretty far from amazing.

Am I Really Real…

Many days I question my own reality.  Every waking moment of my life I question my own reality!  This has been my lot in life, for most of my life.  I’m unsure that anyone or anything else I interact with each day exists independently of my thoughts.  Though we all may consider this at times, it has been forward in my psyche for over a decade.  I often wonder if the reason I give in so easily to the temptations of the lesser me is simply because I often disbelieve that there’s even a me at all.  Of course philosophers far brighter than I have been grappling with this for millennia.

In these times of increasing complexity, the world and everything in it can seem unreal, or at least unlikely.  I don’t know if the helicopters I see each day flying overhead training as instruments of death are more or less real than the tufts of hair which sprout from my aging ears.  They both seem to exist with purpose, yet seem largely unnecessary.

My head.  Warning:  Those who enter may never leave...

My head. Warning: Those who enter may never leave…

I ask myself often, in a staged world, why would the candy wrapper I tossed in the morning trash have a crinkle in the corner…?  Would dust really gather so quickly on my desk…?  By answering these questions of myself, I somehow justify that the world is real.  Why on earth would there be a scrape on the frame of my bike if the world were staged…?  Imperfections, I surmise, could not be part of a staged world.

The Miracles Of And Mercilessness Of Modernity

I can now use my phone to check the time, watch a movie, or video call a friend in Ireland.  I have instant access to the most of the music I enjoy.  I’m in great physical condition, I have many friends, and I want for nothing.  I have, arguably, the best life any man has ever lived.  I know love in my life and on multiple levels.  My computer spells for me, knows me well enough to suggest music and movies for me, cars will soon be driving for me, and social media has brought many wonderful people into my life that I would not otherwise have connected with.  It all seems too good to be true – so maybe it is.

Every week a shooting takes place in a school or in a workplace that didn’t need to.  Wars continue, borders change, politics, and religion seem to isolate more than ever, and people seem to have replaced fruitful discourse with relentless arguments that they be proven right rather than improved a situation.  The world’s chaos seems advancing at a fever pitch.  I look around at everything – anything, and most days nothing really makes sense.  My computer spells for me, suggests music and movies for me, cars will soon be driving for me, and social media has brought many assholes into my life that I would not otherwise have connected with.  It all seems too detrimental to be true – so maybe it is.

There are just those days when I pine to be whipped as I work 18 hours per day building a pyramid, believing that if my existence were reduced to that, at least I would be in a simpler state.  I long to be in a simpler state.

Ground Zero In My Head…

The only vantage point I will ever have to this life is the one from inside my own head.  I see, hear, think, and feel only as I can.  Still, there are seven billion people in this world not named, Roy Cohen.  Or are there…?  Unsure of what’s real, who’s real, and if anything really matters, these are the days when my veins course with insouciance.

It gets old sometimes, looking into a person’s eyes and wondering if they are showing me genuine emotion, or just gathering data to report back to the mother ship.  Is my dog looking in wonder at the fly orbiting my forehead, or is he observing me, taking notes, and planning the next occurrence he will facilitate on my behalf…?

Particle physics tells me nothing is as it seems, and everything I know is only probable.  String theory suggests that anything that can happen will happen.  Dimensions, universes, multiverses, space, time, space time, and of course, scripture.  Thoughts of these create doubt on every possible level, and conjure thoughts I don’t even understand, yet they are my very own thoughts.

Add in entertainment, media, social media, the influence of the peripheral relationships in my life, and it can all get very confusing.  It can’t be denied that the thinking of others has influenced the way that I think.  What I struggle to reconcile is if these influences have, and continue to change and influence the way I wish to think.

In those rare moments when I feel a momentary sense of relief, and come to believe that I actually do and should exist, and I no longer question whether or not I am, I soon turn to questioning whether or not I am the me I want to be, due to all the outside influences I allow to penetrate my thoughts.  I’m sure Dr. Suess or Shel Silverstein would have an answer for that, but I can’t seem to find one.  And so it goes…  rc

_____________________________________________________________

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 Bobby Weir & Company.  Enjoy…

Thus, I continue…

Deep thoughts in grade 3…

I can trace the start of my life-long existential meltdown to a single moment in the 3rd grade.  A friend had told me that if the radio next to my bathtub fell in while I was bathing, I would be electrocuted, and die.  That thought frightened me.  It also opened my mind up to possibilities, and options.  That is the first memory I have of contemplating death, and all that may come after.

That was also the first moment I realized that my own death could be in my charge.  That is, if I chose to push that radio into the tub, I would have control over my own existence.  That idea remains the most powerful thought I would ever have.  I have thought about my death, self-inflicted or otherwise, nearly every day of my life since that day.

To consider self-inflicted death or to actually contemplate it, are not necessarily synonymous.  I think about ending my own life intermittently throughout the course of most days.  Mostly as an instant way out of the otherwise tedious moments which comprise my days.  I imagine it, but I don’t do it.  I only contemplate taking my life when the confluence of external and internal forces narrow the stream of my thoughts into a space so tight with borders so rigid that I feel they will burst from the pressure.

In stressful situations, or when the heavy blanket of my own depression lowers itself upon me, I have craved to be excused from this world in favor of another.  Therein lies the good problem; there is no guarantee of another life.  Even if there is another life waiting, what guarantee is there that it would be better than this one…?

Why I don’t…

If you’ve read this far then you have probably determined that you’re going to contact my mother, state authorities, or avoid me altogether.  Please don’t.  Throughout this ongoing negotiation in my head, there has been a kill switch on that kill switch.  I believe to my core that suicide is just a reset button which can only return me back to Go, without collecting the $200, and forcing me to start this game all over again.  Perhaps in a another time, and in another body, but a do-over just the same.

In my life have done many wonderful things, and shared amazing times with beautiful people.  I have loved, laughed, and stood at the edge of nature with wide wonder.  I have seen beauty which has moved me to tears, and felt love even greater.  I have been thrilled to the point of ecstasy, and fulfilled to the point of absolute guilt.  I am grateful to have won the lottery of life.

IMG_2652

I have also cowered down though, many times beaten by fear, paralyzed by apprehension, overcome with rage, and stifled by depression.  I have cried without explanation, experienced loss, deprivation, and sorrow.  I have expressed hatred, caused hurt, and come to regret it.  I have even thwarted murderous feelings on more than one occasion, the murder of my own self included. Despite these, I have found the strength to carry on.

I have not exercised my option to take my own life, and I believe I never will, for the simple fact that as good as my life has been, I don’t wish to relive the bad stuff.

On the selfishness of suicide…

The act of suicide is often referred to as ‘selfish’.  Those who are left behind are often resentful of, and bitter toward the departed.  I don’t subscribe to that belief, and if you are one who does, I ask you to reconsider.

We who remain behind in the wake of suicide, have no idea what thoughts may have been colliding, nor how hard or how long those collisions might have been taking place inside the head of someone that desperate to end their life. We often know little of the external influences, and even less of the internal conflicts which may have led a person to that moment.  Assigning selfishness to the act is a judgment no living person is qualified to make.

There can be no way to understand that moment – that chaotic moment when a life, a future, a legacy, and the all the relationships that go with it, no longer hold any value.  It must feel, in that moment, like the universe has not yet begun, or has already ended, and therefore there is nothing to lose since there is pure solitude.

I have even come to actively question whether suicide is the ultimate act of bravery, and we who are left behind are the dumb and the weak ones.  I don’t genuinely believe this to be the case.  However, if I am capable of such a thought, then others might also have felt this.  In my quietest moments I wonder if some who have taken their own lives, have done so in the name of bravery, not looking just a little deeper into the outcome.

At the end of the day, despite all that isn’t yet known of causality, and existence, my dog still needs to be fed, my daughter requires shoes, the lettuce in the crisper still turns blue if I fail to eat it, and my mother deserves to know each week that she is loved, if only by telephone or text.  Thus, I continue…  Be well.  rc

Please take a moment to scroll back to the top and rate this essay honestly.  Thank you.

____________________________________________________________________________________

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 Dog Trumpet.  Enjoy…

Smooth Pavement…

This is Part III of my 3-part series on the limits of power.  It is also the final essay here for 2013.  I will be back in early January with a new focus, and a new direction for this platform.  Please check back…

_____________________________________________________________________________

Mego, Ego, And Wego…

I have spent in excess of 30 years establishing a system of health and fitness values that have forged who I am.  As the system of my life has changed and expanded, these values have evolved.  The term fitness to me, means the sum of balance, flexibility, strength, stamina, aesthetics, independence, and prevention.  As these values have evolved, one other term has framed them, sustainabilityI have attempted to live a life of sustainable physicality.

However, when I wasn’t looking, my designer placed an ego deep within me even though I did not request one during the design process.  I have lived with, and despised that ego for over 50 years.  But, I have also loved, and benefitted from it.  Last year, I allowed my ego to get the better of me, and pull me ever so slightly away from sustainability.

Pendulum Swing And I Wanna Go Home…

As a recreational bodybuilder, and fitness minded individual, it has been front in my psyche for decades to pursue progress.  My ego has suggested that I always strive for more, and not settle for good enough.  Right up to the point where I realize (again and again) the pursuit of more always has associated costs elsewhere in my life; money, relationships, sleep, and relaxation to name a few. Wisdom has a way of tempering things.  By my mid 40s I had come to accept that good enough is good enough – and I was happy with that, but my ego was not…

Here I am, stuck in the middle with me...

Here I am, stuck in the middle with me…

These past two years as the pendulum of my Gemini psyche has swung back and forth between too much, and not enough, it has spent little time in the land of just right.  I hope to set that straight this year.  I seek to finally find, and remain in that sustainable path with my physicality.

Lines in the sand…

Strength:  After an 18 month onslaught of relentlessly progressive workouts, I have come to accept once again, a primary tenet of my philosophy of physicality; that the human body will, and should only get so strong.  As much as I want to believe the arc of strength I have cultivated during the past couple of years will continue, I accept that it’s not sustainable, and therefore not consistent with my value set in strength training.  Where I am today is good enough.

Going forward I will continue to train as I have trained for many years, with the primary emphasis of my strength workouts being on form, and functionality. This is not to suggest that I won’t pursue increased strength.  If my body tells me I can increase my capacity safely, then I will.  I won’t, however, force an increased capacity any longer.  I will accept what comes my way through consistency.

Nutrition:  This year has seen several changes in how I deliver nutrition to my body.  In August I made an ethical choice to remove factory meat, and factory dairy from my diet.  I was successful for nearly three months before I allowed the convenience of restaurant meals to trump my changing value set.  I felt uneasy adding my own tofu to a chickenless salad as waitresses and onlookers peered over my shoulder in disbelief.  Also, I really like chicken.  Oh, and candy.  I like bean burritos from Taco Bell too.  So I shall have, on occasion, chicken, candy, and bean burritos, though I will aim to eat within my value set most of the time.

My first definition of sin is that of a value compromised.  My second definition of sin is when adhering to a value inhibits the reasonable fulfillment of social living.  I will attempt to remain committed to those values I hold most dear, but forgive myself in advance for those days when I do not – regardless of what effect there is on my physicality.

My first definition of sin is that of a value compromised.  My second definition of sin is when adhering to a value inhibits the reasonable fulfillment of social living.

My first definition of sin is that of a value compromised. My second definition of sin is when adhering to a value inhibits the reasonable fulfillment of social living.

Endurance:  I have enjoyed cardio vascular activities for the aesthetic benefit, as well as for the mental therapy derived.  I have also unenjoyed them.  When it comes to my trail hiking, sprinting, cycling, and even my indoor cardio, my ego has often pushed me past the point of enjoyment, believing that giving any less than my all would not be acceptable. As of this day I will no longer be in pursuit of faster times in any of these endeavors.  I will seek to challenge myself in an achievable, and enjoyable fashion, with liberty, and utility for all.

Aesthetics: This is the hard one.  Despite all my crap about functionality, sustainability, and ethics in a fitness based lifestyle, I still want to look fucking great.  As I preach daily though, I accept that I will not look at 70 as I look today, as I do not look today as I looked at 41.

How I look will be how I look.  I’m down.

As a philosophy, this believe…

A rule for the modern fitness enthusiasts could be this: Those push have more fitness.  Those who push a little less, may have more everywhere else their life.

In living within the boundaries drawn above, I accept wherever it is my physicality, and my aesthetics will fall, believing full well that if I meet those boundaries consistently, I will look and function well until I die.  I know that I will compromise my values on occasion, but I will strive not to abandon them.  As always though, in the land of Jhciacb, there’s an ebb, and flow to it all.  Be well.  rc

A couple of years back my next door neighbor discarded this poinsettia after Christmas. She set it beside her trash cans on the patch of dirt which separates our houses. It never went out with the trash.  The roots soon breached the pot it was in, and it took up residence in the ground. Eventually, the plastic pot broke away, and for two years the plant has flourished, and grown.  Seeing this, this morning, was a strong reminder for me that there is value in most everything we throw away, from our relationships, to our material goods, to our animals, our babies, and even our physicality.  Something to consider this holiday season...

A couple of years back my next door neighbor discarded this poinsettia after Christmas. She set it beside her trash cans on the patch of dirt which separates our houses. It never went out with the trash.
The roots soon breached the pot it was in, and it took up residence in the ground. Eventually, the plastic pot broke away, and for two years the plant has flourished, and grown.
Seeing this, this morning, was a strong reminder for me that there is value in most everything we throw away, from our relationships, to our material goods, to our animals, our babies, and even our physicality.
Something to consider this holiday season…

_____________________________________________________________________________

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 Greyboy Allstars.  Enjoy…