Who Are These People…?

Friend or Foe-getaboutit…

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

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OB Pier.  Friend Of The Devil…

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

Face Facts…

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

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Main Street, Bryan, TX

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

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

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

Living Alone With Hundreds…

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

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

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

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

Life Sentence…

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

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Kyle Field, Texas A&M Campus

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

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

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

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

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

The Wear, Tear And The Joy…

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

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Los Jilgueros Preserve, Fallbrook, CA

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

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

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

The Love We Take…

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

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Jonathan Livingston Miagi, OB Pier

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

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

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

A Hot Spoon And A Keyboard…

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

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

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

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

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

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Cra Cra Cra…

A Purpose Driven Mind…

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

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

At the core of it are two opposing perspectives…

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

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

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

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

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The Spies Within Me…

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

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

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

A Creative Outlet…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Junta In My Head Part II…

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

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

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

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Evolution or Vomit…?

Late Baby Boomers and early Generation Xers don’t have much in common in the things that define our social sensibilities.  In politics, arts, sports, faith and much more, late Boomers and early Gen Xers tend to have different priorities, which often happens as one generation morphs into the next.  One thing we share though, is that we will be the only generation of humans who will have lived a fair part of our adult lives both before and after the advent of digital technology.

Though it’s true there were people born in the early part of the 20th century, before cars and before airplanes, yet lived long enough to see a man walk on the moon, the technical evolution they experienced does not compare well to the adults who woke up one day, and had the internet happen.  The technical evolution of the mid-20th century, was just that, a technical evolution.   Digital technology though, did not evolve, it vomited.

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My daughter wears a t-shirt that reads…

“One day I woke up, and the internet happened”

That’s not true.  It happened just a few years before she was born.  By the time she was in the 1st grade (1996), the internet was part of her daily life.  All of her sensibilities were cultivated in an expanding digital age.

I’m 55 years old.  If I consider my adult life to have started at age 20, then roughly ½ of my adult life has had access to the internet.  In blogging and social media, I have been a participant for nearly 1/4th of my adult life.  Assuming the internet isn’t a passing trend (wink), then when I die, I will have interacted with, if not been dependent on the internet for most of my adult life.  However, my adult sensibilities were all cultivated before the advent of digital technology, and before the internet.

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I obsess on that – that my adult values and sensibilities were formed before the influence of the internet, yet digital technology has been, and will continue to challenge those sensibilities for the rest of my adult life.  Because of this, I continue to wrestle with one question that nobody born into an already digital world will never have to address…

How has technology influenced or changed the way that I think…?

Of course, there’s no way to truly know this.  Most of my social contemporaries probably don’t care.  It keeps me awake though, it regularly interrupts my thinking process, and it bubbles under the surface of most of my thoughts, most of the time.

Perhaps a better question – if I go back a decade or so, is this…

How has social media influenced the way I think, and the way I behave…?

I’m going to spend the next few weeks, or perhaps the next few months, exploring those questions here on this blog, and I’m going to be very open and honest about it.  I’ve taken leave of all my social media platforms except for this blog.  Whether I return to them, I can’t say.

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As I write this, I’m halfway through the book, Irresistible, by Adam Alter.  If what I have written thus far has captured your attention, even a little, then I highly recommend this book, despite that I haven’t completed it yet.  I can already tell it’s one of the more important books I’ll ever read.

In an inverse irony, what has fed this blog going back nearly a decade, is that I have promoted it largely via social media.  That has worked well for me.  If you’re reading this, then you are one of just a handful of people who willfully subscribed to it, or had it fed to them via my email data base.  In either case, thank you for taking the time.

If a crazy man blogs in the forest, does he make a sound…?  Jhciacb

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Digital Legacy…

Through the ages of man, we remember very few individuals. From the onset of the written word, to the current day, the people we remember, are most often kings, politicians, priests, and performers – anyone for whom there might have been a written record.
Though the occasional commoner might have etched the words
“Dear Diary…”
onto a stone tablet or piece of parchment, for most of the 100-billion people who have ever lived, we have no record of them as individuals.
Today that’s a different story. Anyone with a social media account, whether they realize it or not, is writing Dear Diary… with every post or entry.
Cyber-Archeologists 100, 500, or 10,000 years from now will (potentially) have an archived record, and at least some evidence of every individual who has ever logged onto a computer, made an entry, written a post, or published a blog.
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I find that fascinating – that after 15,000 years of being upright, organized, and looking beyond the moment, most humans have been long forgotten. However, anyone alive today, and savvy enough to chain a few words together, has the potential to be remembered through the balance of the ages.
Though I do keep a personal journal on my computer, it is my blog as well as my Facebook posts which capture my essence – digitally. So, whether I share something each morning or each week, I try to remember what I’m sharing is less a statement of the moment, and more a legacy of my thought – to be remembered for what might just be all eternity… Jhciacb

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What The Hell Is That…

I have a friend who is an administrator at a major university. She manages a department of a dozen or so people, most of them under the age of 25.

Several months ago, some light construction took place in her office. This made it necessary for her employees to shuffle a half-dozen or so cubicles, and temporarily relocate their workspaces. Also involved in this, was the relocation of a storage cubicle – you know, the one nobody works in, but gets used for the storage of things deemed too good for the trash.

Fast forward…

The construction was completed, and the day arrived for everyone to un-shuffle, and return to their cubicles of origin. Toward the end of the process, a young employee, under 25, requested that my friend (her boss) meet her at one of the storage cubicles – she had seen an item that she didn’t know what to do with it, because she didn’t know what it was.

The two met at the cubicle, and the young woman pointed to the item, looked perplexed, and exclaimed to her boss, “I don’t know what this is, do you…?”

Her boss smiled a secret smile, kept her chuckle inaudible, and replied…

“It’s a typewriter. They were used before computers and word processors.”

Apparently the young woman had never seen a typewriter before. Even after the explanation, she looked perplexed, and failed to understand the straight forward concept of a typewriter. Her boss explained to her that she would take care of it, and directed her employee to return to work.

On one hand, it’s easy to think of the young woman as dim, or perhaps even clueless. Nope. Just young, and born into an age of profound technical innovation.

 

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As technical innovation approaches the rate of exponential, so too does the rate of obsolete. Don’t blame a young person for failing to understand the past. Just hope that they are competent enough to handle the present, and are prepared for a rapidly changing future… Jhciacb

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

 

Words can’t express…

Two month’s notice…

That day finally showed up last Thursday.  The day I knew had been coming for several months now, but hoped never would.  George, a client of many years, and a friend for precisely as long, explained that he would be leaving Fallbrook in mid-January, and relocating to a senior living community in Orange County.  George is 74, and lives with Parkinson’s disease.

On George…

George stepped into my studio for the first time years ago.  He was in his 60s, and was scarcely into his retirement from his career as an executive with an energy company.  George wanted to begin a fitness regimen to augment his twice per week golf schedule.  George also wanted to lose a few pounds around his waist, and improve his overall shape.  If functional strength training might help his golf game, peripheral weight loss would be a cherry on top.

George was focused with his workouts, and made progress quickly.  His balance improved.  His flexibility improved.  His endurance improved.  His strength improved – to a point where he could leg press several hundred pounds, and do so safely in proper form.  His golf even improved.  He even dropped a few pounds through the years here and there, occasionally joking that Nabisco wasn’t going to get anymore of his money.

Though our workouts have always been results focused, conversations of life, politics, family, and sports are always present within the fiber of our exercise sessions.  In fact, those conversations have been at the heart of this friendship.  My conversations with George, even when of a serious nature, always had a positive tone.  Nobody ever asked us to, but if challenged, George and I are prepared to save the world.

Witchcraft in the wind…

Maybe 5 years ago, George was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The pragmatic engineer in him accepted that affliction with no resistance. He approached it with a resolve to wake up each day, and address Parkinson’s in the best way he could; stoically, and with a strong faith in western medicine.  Though there is no cure for Parkinson’s at this time, his neurologist has excelled at helping George use medications to treat his symptoms.  George’s wife, Judy, has been a supreme support system.  He often refers to her as, The Project Manager.

In the years since his diagnosis, George’s physicality has suffered some, but not disappeared entirely.  This is partially due to the disease itself, and partially due to the medications he uses to offset Parkinson’s.  He still plays golf twice weekly, continues to exercise regularly, mows weeds, and periodically hunts for gophers, and squirrels on his property.   His attitude and acceptance of the cards life has dealt him have been exceptional.  We should all be so graceful under these circumstances.

A couple of years back he entered my studio one day, and I asked him how his golf outing went the day prior.  This was his response:

“It was great!”

He continued,

“I didn’t play too well, but the turkey sandwich was excellent, and my friends and I laughed a lot.”

I was as humbled by his attitude, as I was by the sincere smile on his face as he spoke.  George and I often talk about how fortunate we both are, to the point of silliness, both grateful that we each seem to have won the lottery of birth.

The inevitable…

George no longer leg presses several hundred pounds.  Most of George’s workouts take place with a broom stick for resistance, and some 3 and 5 pound weights in his weathered hands.  We work largely on balance, and with a secondary goal to minimize muscle wasting.  He still gets pissed off when he misses a step on one particular balance exercise we do.  He rests more during the sessions these days, and the conversation extends more as the exercise have been scaled back, but the time is still useful for us both – for us both.

There is no way to quantify how George’s functional strength workouts have helped offset his fight with Parkinson’s, or whether they have made a difference at all.  The exercises themselves are quantifiable, but there are many variables involved with determining success; aging, medications, sleep, nutrition, etc. We both just agree, as does his neurologist, that he just keep moving.  I have seen no data source which suggests people with Parkinson’s avoid exercise.

George, and I last week.  George is the one wearing eye glasses...

George, and I last week. George is the one wearing eye glasses…

Of functionality, and fulfillment…

At a time when I struggle walking the line between the utility of functional exercise and the personal fulfillment of more intense exercise, George’s presence in my life has been a grounding factor.  If I don’t hit a PR in the deadlift, I’m good with it.  If i have trouble walking up stairs, I take notice.

George has paid me well for my time and resources through the years.  As time has gone on, I ruminate more and more over all I have learned from George – about how to address aging, disease, and the perspective he applies to both.  I have wondered increasingly, who should have been paying who all these years.

Passing of the torch…

The community George will be living has an onsite exercise facility, and a trainer to help facilitate exercise for the residents.  He and I calculated that he would have roughly 20 training sessions left, and we both want to maximize them.  I offered to capture some of our upcoming workouts onto video to share with his new trainer, and George agreed this was a good idea. This will not be about instructing the new trainer on how to work with George.  Rather, this will be done so the trainer can more easily assess George’s limitations, and abilities.

I have great faith that the trainers there will help George continue on his path of most resistance.  I can only hope they will appreciate his good nature, intellect, and wit, and warmth.  I have worked with many clients of varying ages, and for varying reasons through the years – hundreds.  It is an honor that George is the first person I induct into the Contemplative Fitness hall of fame.

Footnote…

My own father lived with Parkinson’s disease.  He also died with it.  Thoughts of the physical deterioration associated with this affliction resonate with me daily.  Though the data is incomplete as to whether or not there is a genetic lineage, I somewhat expect it at some point.   We’re not much for curing great diseases in recent years.  Maybe we’re not supposed to.  Perhaps the best we can do is to take care of ourselves well enough that we avoid disease, in hopes research will help us treat the symptoms as best we can should we ever become afflicted.

I have been writing this blog for many years now.  I have done so strictly as a hobby.  I have never asked that it be supported by donations, nor have I sought sponsorship.  I ask today, one time only, if you have found value in reading this essay, please make even a small donation to the Davis Phinney Foundation, or a similar organization.  Thank you, and be well…  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this by The Kingston Trio.  Enjoy…

 

Modernity, Complexity, Conflicting Data, And Guruism…

Increasing complexity…

Every so often I sit down to write what I perceive will be my final essay for this blog.  To this point, I have been incorrect to have made those assumptions.  Today was one of those days, once again that feeling came over me that this was it.

In the 10 years or so since I began writing fitness related essays, the world has changed more than it had in the 30 years prior.  That’s not an exaggeration.  The complexities of culture have increased, and expanded in a seemingly exponential way.  It appears no part of culture is exempt from this.  Ideas, boundaries, rules, opportunities, and arguments have grown more complex in all aspects of culture.  The ideals of exercise and fitness are part of that cultural expansion. 

Complexity begets complexity...

Complexity begets complexity…

 

Conflicting data….

As there are many more ideas in what exercise and fitness should be then there once were, there are now many more resources, more information, and more people supporting these ideas, resources, and information.  Along with the increasing ideas, have come increasing platforms.  There are many outlets now for anyone who wants to share their fitness advice.   If a person has an idea, and a computer, they can establish a dedicated following in short order.  That said, there are now many more conflicts within the ideals of fitness and exercise.

I say often that we live in the age of conflicting data.  For every argument one can make in support of a cause or an idea, and back it up with some kind of data source, someone else can make an opposing argument supported by a different data source.  Few data sources, on either side of any argument, are without agenda.  Though such conflicts are as old as culture itself, in this technical age arguments come much faster – often faster than they can be processed or understood, and that’s a huge problem. 

Social media has become a platform, if not a battle ground, on which these conflicts are increasingly played out.  The utility, as well as the benefit of any good idea can be quickly obscured by the clouds of argument.  Information becomes chaotic. 

World War III might not a a terror based war.  It just might be a war over conflicting data...

World War III might not a a terror based war. It just might be a war over conflicting data…

As is usual in battle, truth seems to be the first casualty.  The internet is scattered with millions of peddlers selling products, ideas, and agendas with varying degrees of sincerity behind what they sell.  The internet is lined with millions of consumers, not all of whom are discriminating enough to avoid becoming the unwitting victims of those pushing a lesser agenda.  The intentions of those on both sides, of course, can range in reason and motivation. 

Information Merchant…

Personally, I fall into both categories.  I use the internet as a consumer of ideas, to gather fitness, and exercise related information.  I also use it as resource to promote my business; that I may share information.  In short, I am an information merchant.  I hope my intentions are on the reasonable side, and believe they are.

Through my social media platforms; my Facebook page, youtube channel, and this blog, I attempt to share information, and generate a peripheral income with my online training business.  I make my primary living though, teaching exercise in a one-on-one environment.  Be it in my studio, or via Skype, a student can look me in the eye, judge me, and even question my intent for his or her self.  He or she can walk away if they prefer to purchase the information elsewhere, or not at all. 

A trade route for modernity; the overland data trail...

A trade route for modernity; the overland data trail…

 

As it relates to my information, I have never sold my ideas, values, or techniques as absolute.  Rather, I have sold them as useful suggestions which may carry some level of utility based on how they are accepted, and applied.  I believe I have something to say, and I appreciate that I have had a clientele through the years willing to purchase my information.

Guruism; it’s the new hobby…

The relentless guruism touted by the self-appointed leaders in the fitness social media, and the concussions of the conflicts they create, have begun to wear me down.  Many of the so-called leaders in the online fitness community simply dress themselves up in low body fat, tanning solution, and a catchy logo only to regurgitate bad or stale information in exchange for cash.  At the end of the day many of these people are selling untested or second hand information, and don’t have a clue to stand on. 

Several years ago a reader of this blog, a 30-something fitness enthusiast, part-time professional writer, and mother suggested to me that she wanted to switch careers, and become a fitness trainer.  Through many emails, phone conversations, and even a personal visit on my part, I not only helped point her in the right direction and encouraged her, I was her biggest cheerleader. 

hello

In less than a year’s time, she began a training business, and grew her fitness blog to be one of the most popular online.  She has thousands of followers, and now makes a very good living at it.  All it took was a weekend fitness certification, a few steamy pictures of her torso on her website, and the platform of social media.  She is now free to give absolute and exclusive advice to anyone willing to pay for it.  There are thousands more out there too, just like her; supremely knowledgeable, absolute in their beliefs, and connected to PayPal.

Here are a few things (from a list of thousands in my head) that would-be fitness gurus of the social media era might want to consider as they strive to promote themselves, and their business:

1)      Leadership involves listening, and not being exclusive.
2)      Admitting gaps in one’s knowledge base, and subsequently filling them is always a good thing.
3)      Even that best ideas don’t always need to be shared with everyone, because they don’t always apply to everyone.
4)      You don’t always have to be right.
5)      The primary objective of your business endeavor should not be to keep score, to sell books, to hook up subscribers, or to count fans or web hits at the end of the day.  The primary objective of your endeavor should be to share information applicable to the audience, do so in a concise way, and be available to the end user should they have any questions regarding your messages or your intentions.  If there’s money in that at the end of the month, then count your blessings!

rag18

Snorting creatine, because that one guy on youtube told me I should…

 

This will not be the last fitness related essay I ever write – not by any means.  By way of my social media platforms, I will continue to share my ideas, values, and experiences in exercise and fitness, never making claims that my ideas, techniques, or experiences are exclusive, though I will suggest they are often unique.  I will though, become much more discriminating in the social media outlets I support, and champion.  I will encourage you to do the same – this platform included. 

It’s funny, after reading this a time or two, I can’t help but feel this message could well be superimposed over similar conflicts in the areas of politics, and religion.  But you already read between those lines, yes….?  Be well…  rc

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

 

Into the mystic…

Into the mystic…

Yesterday I wrote on my Contemplative Fitness Facebook page about how I believe an extended calorie deficit is required to promote fat loss.  By and large what I wrote was accepted, but there were a few comments, and a few more private emails which suggested (reminded me) that at some point a calorie deficit may not be enough for fat loss to continue.  This is true, and at some point there does exists a gray area.

The ideal of fat loss is based on manipulating a system.  Like all systems, the metabolic system has varying components and influences.  Components and external forces work with or against each other to determine the result of that system.  Examples of these variations included quantity of caloric intakes, insulin resistance, hormone production/fluctuation, sleep, activity level, and food intolerances to name just a few.  These all can influence metabolism, and subsequently fat loss.

I’ll suggest that most people attempting fat loss, be it for aesthetic reasons or for reason of improved health, don’t have a clue where they stand with regard to many of these factors, with the exceptions of caloric intake, and activity level.  Thus, people focus on primarily on caloric intake, and activity level because these are within an individual’s mental grasp, and immediate control.  Ghrelin production?  Food allergies…?  Not so much.  Many people reading this will have to use The Google to find out what ghrelin even is.  Few people know of their food allergies, intolerances, or hormone discrepancies.

 mystic

When I talk about these intangibles in metabolism, the analogy I like to use is that of cardio activities.  Many people who attempt fat lost engage in a cardio activity to help accelerate the fat loss process.  It’s clear that burning calories is good, and that cardio burns calories.  With this in mind, people take to their cardio theater somewhat intelligently, yet somewhat blindly, and go 30, 45 or 60 minutes at a time – whatever.

Rarely (never) have I seen anyone calculate the precise cardio duration required on a given day to meet their goal based on these variables; BMR, BMI, age, blood sugar at inception of exercise, KCals of the current 24 hour span, and caloric intake of the current 24 hour span.

If someone were to calculate their required cardio duration for a given day based on these variables, it would probably not be the cookie cutter 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or 60 minute of cardio commonly done.  I don’t know of anyone who uses that kind of math to accurately calculate their daily cardio activity to the precise minute needed in order to maximize fat loss on a given day.  I don’t even do that myself. I just choose 30 minutes, or 45 without knowing the details of what I truly require on that day.  In short, I eyeball it.

Back to calories in vs. calories out.  The broad brush stroke that I painted yesterday is just that; a broad brush stroke.  By and large if one lives in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time, one will lose body fat – we just eyeball it as best we can, despite the many unknown intangibles involved.

Should someone live in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time, and not lose body fat, I will suggest the following things:

1.      Know your BMR.

2.      Accurately track your ingested calories daily to ensure there is a continued deficit.

3.      Accurately track your kinetic calorie expenditure to ensure you are promoting a deficit.

4.      Track your sleep patterns.

5.      Spread your calories out as evenly as possible through the course of a day.

The science of metabolism is getting better, but like all sciences in this era, there are at least as many unknowns that there are knowns.   If you follow the steps above, ensure their accuracy, remain true to them for an extended period of time, and still do not lose body fat, see an experienced endocrinologist to explore potential hormone imbalances, and food intolerances.

Your general practitioner or primary care physician may be a good person, and may have even coached your kid’s ball team, but he or she probably knows slightly less about the many variables in fat loss than the monkey-see-monkey-do editors of Shape magazine, or the Fitness Blogasaurus you put such blind trust in.

It’s a science, but not a science wholly understood just yet.  I will always suggest that when questions arise, you yourself should dawn the lab coat, be the note taker, collect the data of you, study that data as it applies to you, be the scientist, and hopefully master your system before you place it in the hands of professional amateurs.  Just my opinion…  rc

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

Downshift…

Preying for change…

I’ll begin this by stating in clear terms; I have no problem with the killing of, or the eating of animals.  So long as those animals have been raised humanely by organic methods, or have been caught in the wild by methods which will not significantly reduce populations or threaten the species, I’m good with it.  Man has been eating other animals almost from the beginning, as animals have also been eating other animals, including man.  All who are born, are born as a potential snack.

What I can no longer do, what I am no longer willing to accept, is to eat animals raised inhumanely, sustained callously, and slaughtered brutally.  Between the callousness of their surroundings, the hormones and antibiotics they are reared with, and within the filth they are raised in, high volume animal farming is something I can no longer support.

Shake up in the cabinet…

As I have cleared the last of my farmed meat from my freezer; beef, chicken, pork, and shrimp, and as I have used my last egg given by a caged chicken,  I now begin a process that will have me obtaining most of my protein from plant-based sources – even if those sources contain GMOs.  I would rather eat genetically modified soy curd, than an inhumanely raised chicken, or farmed or threatened fish. Or to put it more succinctly, I would rather have more GMOs in my diet, than OMGs.

As I can access and afford it, I will also include protein derived from un-caged chickens, unchained dairy cows, grass-fed and humanely slaughtered beef, bison, and whatever game and fish I catch, or my friends are willing to provide to me.

This is not a stand against eating Bambi.  If Bambi is in the right place at his wrong time, and ends up on my dinner table, I ‘m down.  This is a stand for how I believe we should conduct ourselves as a species, and as the stewards of this planet.  I am no longer willing to accept the way many corporations raise, slaughter, distribute, and market animal food sources.

BambiII

Guess who is coming to dinner…?

Sensationally speaking…

I understand the video below is social media sensationalism at its best.  I also understand that it’s real – nothing seen in it has been contrived.  These, and similar methods of animal processing are all around us, and have been for decades.  It is only social media that has many of us seeing red for the first time, over seeing red for the first time.  Seeing this video was simply the final push I needed to take this personal stand I have been on the verge of for more than a decade, but have selfishly resisted.

Judge Not, Roy Bean…

In this decision I am not passing judgment on anyone else, nor am I advocating similar actions by others.  The complexity of our food system – of our society has expanded to a point where answers and truths can no longer be established by outside sources.  In this era of increasing complexity, I truly believe that the best answers and the best truths we can depend on must come from within.

Sadly, people are certain to judge me on this decision.  There will be jokes cracked, social media friendships threatened, more than a few snickers.  That’s on them, not on me.  Though I don’t believe I will waiver on this, as I have not wavered on not owning a vehicle, I certainly won’t attempt to predict the future – I consistently suck at it.

 Restaurant not impossible…

Though I expect making these changes might offer some challenges in the beginning, I’m not too concerned about the adaptation process.  My weak link though, will be in restaurants. I eat out often, sometimes several times a day.  Most everything I eat in restaurants I have deemed acceptable until now.  That definition has changed.

Most of what I order in restaurants has been chicken or egg based.  My friends may roll their eyes as I add tofu or textured vegetable protein to a garden salad at the local diner.  Perhaps not as much if I just thrown a little ground bison that salad, and call it good.  We shall see.  Regardless, eating out will need to be modified.

Did somebody tell me that the restaurant chain, Chipotle, offers tofu...?

Did somebody tell me that the restaurant chain, Chipotle, offers tofu…?

The hustle to keep up the muscle…

Lastly, as a lifelong weightlifter, bodybuilder, and weekend athlete, I have raised myself to be the ultimate carnivore.  I have eaten red meat most every day of my adult life, often by the pound, with a belief that animal protein, beef in particular, is a requirement for strength, energy, and forging a tasty aesthetic.  This is going to be tested to be sure, since my bodybuilding aspirations remain intact.

If my strength, energy, and aesthetic suffer for a lack of feedlot beef, farmed fish, and caged eggs, my soul certainly will not suffer.  In these days, and in these times, my interest lies much more with soul-building than with bodybuilding.  Be well… rc

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Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this by The Alabama Shakes. Enjoy…

Gimmie back my playlists!!!

Home is where the lyrics are…

Listening to, and appreciating music has been at the front of my existence since I was young.  I bought my first record, Harry Chapin’s, Taxi, when I was in the 3rd grade.  I was captured by the movie in my head.  I have been buying and listening to music of all kinds ever since.  I have often thought of music as my home.

Through adolescence, well into my adult life, I have always apportioned some percentage of my weekly wages, and directed them to the local record shops.  This had been how I collected music over time; 1-2 albums, 1-2 times per month.  I would dream about having a collection so vast, I would have instant access to any music I wanted to hear.

We live in an amazing age… 

In this era, electronic media and music sharing services have evolved, and platforms like iTunes and Spotify exist.  My life-long dream of instant access to all things music has been fulfilled.  Unlike cataloging records, cassettes, and subsequently CDs, tracking electronic music has required more structure due to the high volume of music available.  Playlists were born. 

My Spotify playlists were several years in the making, and ongoing creations.  They involved thousands of songs from many genres of music.  They represented the musical genres I have been most fond of including the Paisley Underground, Alternative Country, Blues, Traditional Country, Punk, Classic Rock, Bluegrass, and more. 

Of them all, my favorite playlist was titled, Old, Odd, And New.  It was an amalgam of alternative country, paisley underground, some Scandinavian hard rock, and a lot American garage rock from the mid-west and the east coast.  The primary theme of this playlist was that it contained songs with filthy guitar sounds, raspy voices, and consisted of songs created largely by artists who never had much success.  This playlist was the soundtrack of my recent life – it felt like home.

 Technical difficulties…

It may sound trite to compare the loss of music playlists from an electronic medium to the death of a loved one, but I’m about to do that.  Several weeks ago I woke one morning, turned on my Spotify browser, and attempted to queue up the playlist I named, Morning Start.  It was 800 songs or so, and was the music which lured me through my morning rituals of showering, making coffee, letting the dog out, checking email, and prepping for the day ahead. 

As I attempted to navigate my browser, it looked noticeably different – all my playlists were gone.  My Spotify browser had the look of an application just downloaded; a factory reset kind of look.  Morning Start was no longer there.  My stomach sank.

It felt like I was looking into my child’s bedroom, only to see the child missing from the bed – as though he had been kidnapped. ..

Gibson

Trying not to let my emotions get the best of me, I followed a progression of logical steps required when dealing with technical snafus.  I restarted my computer.  That didn’t help.  I uninstalled the Spotify program, and subsequently reinstalled it.  That didn’t help.  I began searching youtube and internet message boards to see if others had suffered similar afflictions, and to learn how they resolved the issue.  I had no luck there. 

Finally, I contacted Spotify for help.  I received only this simple statement several hours later:

“We are not able to explain why your playlists disappeared.   Short of the steps you have already taken, we have no suggestions for you.  We are sorry for your difficulties.”

Spotify 

My loved ones were gone.  I was sad, depressed, and very emotional for days after my loss. 

Humpty Dumpty, three chords, and the truth…

My playlists were art in continuum.  They were sculpted by me, malleable and always changing.  They were organic, and well represented the changes in my recent life.  Several days after they disappeared, I came to accept there would be no ransom payment, no search party, and no beautiful conclusion – they would never be seen again.  Closure. 

Each day, after I accepted said closure, and as spare time would permit, I attempted to begin the process of reconstructing those playlists.  With each attempt though, came an increasing realization that my playlists could never be reconstructed – no more than a lost loved one could be brought back to life.  It was time to let go and move on.

Home where the heart is… 

Two-thousand miles and several weeks removed from the playlist crime scene, I found myself in Chicago for the event of a lifetime.

photo(52)

My daughter’s mother and I had just attended our child’s college graduation.  It was early on a Sunday, and before most people walked into church that day, her mother and I had watched our daughter walk, along with 3,000 other students, into the next phase of their lives.  By 10:00am commencement was completed, and the three of us were in a taxi headed back to our riverfront hotel. 

I was on one side of the bench seat in back of the taxi, my daughter on the other side, with her mother in-between us.  Shortly after we entered the cab, I looked over to see my exhausted daughter laying her head on her mother’s shoulder.  In that sweet moment, I knew at that my daughter was home.  She was at peace, in her happy place, resting comfortably on the one shoulder she knew would always be there for her.  It was music to my eyes. 

Playlists be damned, nothing else will matter to me more than that sight so long as I live.  In that pure, perfect moment, I realized how insignificant any material object is.  I also realized just how very significant family love is.  The love of a momma, the love of a daughter, and the man who sees them both with awe and with great appreciation; we were captured by the music of the moment, and we were all home.

The living versus the idea…

A child too, is art in continuum.  She was sculpted by me, by her mother, by her circumstances and environment, and by her own free will.  Malleable and always changing, she is organic, and well represents that which helped sculpt her.   

She is a playlist of another kind.  Unlike my silly music playlists, my daughter is the product of love, not of a need to fill a void of entertainment.  She represents the genres of joy, intelligence, happiness, love, humor, and many others.  Seeing the look on her face, as her cheek rest on her mother’s shoulder is all the music I will ever need.  Sometimes music is to be seen, and not heard…  Be well.  rc

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Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Townes Van Zandt.  Enjoy….