…Through the virtue of training, Enlighten both body and soul — Morihei Sensei

No Purpose

Zen calligraphic depiction of Mu

There is no purpose to my training.  There is no real end-goal to all of this.  People ask why I train.  Last night the question came up with one of our surrogate daughters (as I call them).  This time it was in the form of  “Why do you triathlons?” We were discussing Ironman.  The answer was “Because it was the next step”–Which doesn’t really answer her question.

The question of Purpose implies in part a practical purpose.  My training and competing does have some practical side benefits.  There are several very real real-world reasons I train.  However, these are not compelling enough in themselves to justify what I do.  Therefore, in honesty they are not Why I Train.

I have asked this question before.

Training has many practical benefits.  I have actually needed it in the real world.  Survival is a huge  one.  General health.  Improved mental functioning.  Ability to keep up with my kids.  Respect amongst my peers.  Social outlet.  Fun. Improvement in my other purposeless activities (rock climbing, camping, hiking, fishing).  It is a tool on my spiritual path.  But none of these, even surviving the coming apocolypse, is really compelling enough.

I’ve been reading the “E-Myth” Series of books, by Michael E. Gerber.  In E-Myth Mastery he tackles this question of Purpose, Passion, and Vision (his distinctions).  Gerber concludes that once something is reduced to purpose, practicality is attached, and the original vision is killed.  This is something experienced in business all the time.  Artists talk of how earning a living from their art, killed their art.  I am going through this in my business right now.  My artistic vision has been compromised by the practical needs of operating a business.  Consequently, I find my passion waning.

Walking back to the soccer fields last night, approaching from above, I was able to look out over the whole complex spread out under the lights.  I was struck by the sheer numbers of kids working hard at something, which, for most of them, will yield no practical results.  There will be no soccer scholarships for most.  Most will not play on the top state and national teams.  Even for those who play on top teams, or make their competitive high school squads, the real practicality of it all is hard to define.  There are much better ways to finance a college education than pouring all the time and money we do into sports.  We put a massive amount of effort and resources as a society into sports.  All of which only yields “practical” results for an improbably narrow slice.

Why do we do this?

I believe it is a primordial longing that compels us.  Our obsession for sports embodies a longing for a Human state lost thousands of years ago.  I’ve talked about how the Warrior class developed as human society became more organized.  How the Warrior class is an embodiment of some of our most powerful Human evolutions.  The Warrior is a link between Civilized man and Natural man.  We long for this connection.

There is no Purpose to my training.  I am compelled by a calling from time before Reason, a root deeper than Purpose.

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2 responses

  1. Steve D

    Perhaps your “reason” is the same that humans look to explore. We looked at space and said “lets go there”. Then the Moon, now Mars. We ask “What’s at the bottom of the Mariana Trench?”. Certainly the practical benefits you mentioned are the valid reasons to get in and stay in shape. I might add “because my wife is getting in shape because she doesn’t want to be a liability after the apocalypse.” However its clear you’ve moved past that. So I submit that while it is still primal, it may be a different reason. Curiosity. Just as we have those who think “what will happen if I mix these two things together (chocolate and peanut butter)?” or “What’s on the side of the Moon that we never get to see?”. You may be asking yourself, “What different techniques might I use to get better results?”, or “Exactly how far can I push my body?”

    Fri, 14 Sep 2012 at 1331

    • Interesting. Curiosity is definitely a major force. Simple desire to know what the limits are definitely in play, and irresistible for many. Curiosity is very cerebral, however. I’m not sure it explains the societal urge for physical exertion & competition (seen expressed in fascination with sports). Unless, of course, Curiosity is itself an expression of a far more primal compulsion.

      Mon, 17 Sep 2012 at 0917

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