The current Happiness meme is bullshit.
The commentary is that you are on this earth to be happy. That you should only be doing what makes you happy.
“Follow your heart.”
This sounds nice and would be nice, if it were true. Truth is that humans are not the only inhabitants of this planet, and most inhabitants of this planet put forth massive amounts of effort to survive. To wake up the next morning.
Why then are we so special, that we should be put here for the sole purpose of being happy? What makes humans so unique in this respect?
Granted, for many of us, certainly most in the United States, life doesn’t require the amount of effort that it once did. However, that does not confer any special meaning in itself. No more than your pet dog’s life being super easy compared to a wild wolf’s, confers any special meaning.
Additionally, how does the current Happiness ethos inform people in this world dealing with real struggle and suffering? How does it impact the real injustices, even right here in the United States? What does it say to someone with real horrors in their life, to say that Happiness is the standard of success.
Similarly, it seems convenient that the people who control things in this world, seem to be in pursuit of other things, largely by selling us Happiness.
Happiness has been commoditized, packaged, branded, and marketed to us as some sort of special ethos. Something that, the pursuit of, places the pursuer on a higher spiritual, ethical. And, conversely, if you’re not happy, you fail.
I, myself, could care less about my personal happiness. Take it or leave it. I don’t want my life force, and my time in this life to be spent on self-gratification. That is not growth. That is not progress. Nothing grows without struggle and effort. Muscles don’t. Trees don’t. Babies don’t. Families don’t. Cultures don’t.
Additionally, the converse is also true, lack of effort leads to atrophy, decay and death. Civilizations die. Muscles die. Thus, Happiness, as it is popularly conceptualized is a fairly risky state.
I do believe in Goodness. I would want my struggle and suffering in this life to lend some measure of increase to the Goodness in this world.
That would make me Happy.
Today was/is Inauguration Day. For many it is the best day ever. For many others it is the worst day ever. What did I do today to celebrate/mourn?
I went to work.
I got out of bed at 5:36am. Made coffee. Sent out my remaining invoices. Talked to my daughter about her essay. Then I went to work.
I cut up a fallen tree.
I met a prospective customer for a bid.
Because the bottom line that as bad as this new administration is going to be, it was already baked in. In fact, to those mourning, it is really your fault. Hillary Clinton should have never be the “presumptive” candidate. The majority of Trump voters would only have voted for him, with the alternative of Clinton.
And given all that, my only real option is to continue to block and tackle. Put in the work. Everyday. Keep it basic. Trump is not on my side. Lord knows, Hillary is not. So much theater–These people are on the same team.
Who’s going to pay my mortgage? Who’s going to fix my truck?
Just another day. You know what I doing next?
Hitting the weights.
I have taken some planned, and some unplanned, time off since completing (read: finishing) Ironman Florida. In that time, I have had time to reflect on what I want to explore in this blog. My focus isn’t going to change so much as it is going to narrow. Heretofore, my focus has been on Warriorship, and in the past 12-18 months or so, specifically on the training aspect of Warriorship. However, it has occurred to me that all of that really begs the question.
The question seems to be more accurately–How do we actually make things happen? or What is the mechanism of Manifestation? These seem to be the questions that go the heart of Warriorship. The Warrior’s key role is to act. The question then is, What does it mean to Act? How does one actually Act? What is it to transform a Thought, Concept, Idea to an Action? and What is involved in Action impacting the larger Reality?
Training and Warriorship remain ideal forums for exploring these questions.
Join me on this new leg of exploration.
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.
Yesterday I was scouting out a new 60 mile bicycle route for the Crew. What was supposed to be a ride punctuated with map checks, became a mini Warrior-Up session. This weekend I finished installing a new wheelset, exchanged my 8-speed Hyperglide for a 9-speed, new chain, new rear shift cable, and adjusted my bar-end shifters for the new set-up. Saturday night all seemed well.
Everything started out well enough. The route starts out the first 10-15 miles or so sharing the same roads of other routes we ride. I had to conduct a couple of map checks, to verify intersections, etc., but all was well.
Before the halfway point, my front derailleur stopped shifting to the big chain ring. I made a pit stop in Rutledge, GA, made the field adjustments, and proceded. Then the front derailleur began dropping my chain to the outside. Several roadside adjustments later, and I had that under control.
By adding time to the ride, my water began to get low.
Then, in the second half I couldn’t shift to my lowest gear.
Later in the second half, I couldn’t hit the #8 sprocket.
Then the #7 sprocket.
I stopped the check it out. Clearly a couple turns on my cable nut would square it away. I succeeded in up-shifting to my 12 tooth #1 with a completely stretched out cable, and the one nut on the whole bike I couldn’t adjust with my new onboard multi-tool.
I had to ride it out like that, hills and all.
There were at least two hills I considered dismounting and walking.
Eventually, the school parking lot where my truck was parked was in sight.
It didn’t kill me.
I’m glad it happened–now. We don’t want to have to Warrior-Up every training session. Once in a while, we need a little extra suck–those sessions where one thing after the other, after the other, goes wrong to really test and stretch us mentally.
In the gym lifting yesterday, I had an epiphany. An article tweeted by @EastTriFitCrew drew the analogy of your body as a vehicle you train and prep for race day–a vehicle that it is then up to you the driver to drive for the race. I found this analogy striking at the moment, a great distinction between your body, training, and your self who must actually execute on race day, mechanical malfunctions, inadequacies and all. It is similar, but not exactly, like the guy with the $5000 bike, the bike alone won’t make him go fast. (I also appreciate the role of the self as the observer)
However, in the gym yesterday, it occurred that this analogy can be extended further, and more meaningfully to Practice and life in general. We practice for what purpose? It is not an end in itself. Nor is it for the purpose of the real side benefits–reduced heart rate, longevity, improved health, better focus–but to prepare ourselves to navigate this life, many of whom’s ultimate goal is to not rinse-and-repeat next life, but ultimate freedom from Samsara.
Practice that only aims for the side benefits, falls far short. Yoga, zazen, tai chi–whatever your practice, there are many side benefits (so readily marketed to us now), but what is the point if you don’t then use that improved vehicle to navigate this life.
You are the driver. Your body is a shell. You will eventually shed your body, your mind even. Until then, to what use will you put them?
Training is my Practice. It is what actually keeps me functional in this life. For me the vehicle and driver analogy is perfect. My truck with 316,000 miles on it–I do the maintenance so it will remain functional, and continue to help me navigate around town. I don’t do the maintenance just so it will look nice, or people will think it is cool (though some actually do think it’s cool). I practice so my mind and body will remain functional (sometimes even at peak performance), and I can use them to help me navigate this universe.
I just put my first triathlon of the season in the bag (I have a few more races scheduled)–it was the Spring Fling at West Point Lake, on the border of Georgia and Alabama. (West Point, Georgia, near LaGrange). This event actually consists of two races–the West Point Triathlon, an olympic distance, and the Spring Fling Sprint.
My selection of this race was that it was the first sprint distance scheduled on a Sunday. My Saturdays are impossibilities until after soccer season. In fact my next race will be the Turtle Crawl Olympic at Jekyll, the first Saturday after soccer season!
Down and Dirty
This is a fun race. The weather was great, the water temp was a tad cool, but I always feel the lake temps are cool. The people are fun, and the volunteers super helpful.
Distances: 600 yard swim, 15 mile bike, 5k run. With relay team option, also
Course: Out and back 600 yard swim in West Point Lake;
15 mile out and back (essentially) bike, no aid stations; 5k out and back run, water at start and 1.5 mile mark.
Registration: $65, early mail-in, USAT member. I hate online registration through those thieves at Active.com .
Host: Georgia Multisport
Weather: Weather was beautiful and warm. The water was still a tad cool–Wetsuit legal. I was able to test my new Xterra john suit. Weather stayed sunny and rain-free all day. I didn’t notice the heat until after the race.
- Swim–Start and end on a boat ramp, which is always slightly tricky in terms of toe scrapes. A simple out for 250-300 yards, hang a left for 50 or so, and back.
- Bike–Rolling hills. Somewhere this course was called flat and fast. It is not flat. No killer climbs, but don’t look for the flats. A Pit/Staffordshire mix came charging out on one uphill. Thank you to the sheriff who chased him off.
- Run–Again, not flat. Rolling hills, no killer climbs. I’m sure I negative split on the way back.
Competition: Mixed bag of super fast guys, and first-timers. The first olympic distance guy was out of the water in 17 minutes. The last olympic people were behind me.
My results: Back of the pack swim, mid-pack bike, front pack run. Mid-pack overall, back of the pack for my age group. My biggest opportunity still lies in the swim, but I feel that getting better with every training session. My next opportunity is in the bike, getting stronger and smarter there all the time.
General Impression: Fun race. Close enough to home to get up early and drive to, race, and drive home. Well supported during all legs, with nice post race recovery food (I did not try, and cannot vouch for, the pizza though)
Room for improvement: Swag period. We got our numbers before hand, and the t-shirt. No swag at all though 😐
I woke up at 3:30am to get ready and leave for the race. I had done minimal preparation the night before (which I regret). My aim was to be on the road at 4:30. I finally got going pushing 5am. From my house it was right at 2 hours to get there. Definitely load up all your stuff once your parked, and head down to transition in one shot. the closest parking is 1/4 mile. Where I ended up parking is 1/2 mile easy. You don’t want to make that round trip unnecessarily.
Once I got parked, unloaded and down to transition, transition was technically closed. (One reason I recommend you stay the night if this is your first race.) I set up transition fairly quickly, copped a squat in someone’s chair, and squeezed into my wetsuit.
With a little time to kill, I hit the bathroom (no, not the port-a-potty). By the time that was over, the Olympic distance had already started. I slipped into my start wave and waited.
The swim was uneventful, except I need to work on my wetsuit adjustments. I had not hoisted the crotch enough, and it ended up pulling on my shoulders, chest and legs. I think this is an adjustment issue, not a sizing one. Although, I’m finding the triathlon sizing charts are made for skinner guys than I, and I’m not a bulky guy.
Bike transition went smooth. Slightly slow, as I carefully eased the wetsuit past my ankles. The bike ride was also uneventful, one Lincoln buzzed me and pushed my bike number into my wheel spokes and I had the annoyance of that flapping sound for the last six or seven miles. I passed some folks and lost them on the hills. The pit/Staffordshire mix came charging out right before the 7.5 mile marker. He had his sights set on a cyclist in front of me, but a deputy ran him off. I tested out one of my homemade Lara bars. The bar worked great, but my wrapping, and deployment needs some help. Definitely not as simple as ripping open a gel. No sports drink for this race, only water.
Run transition was super fast. Rack my bike. Take off my helmet. Slip on my running shoes. Zing my elastic laces. and I’m gone. Nothing else to it. I hit an espresso gel at the .5 mile or so. After the 1.5 mile turn around, the gel hit, I kicked it in a bit, and finished with some fast guys, making me look a lot better than I am. The finish line sneaks up on you a bit, and is in a slightly different spot than the transition area.
Muscle Milk, cookies, bananas, water and a Coke for my post recovery stuff. There was a ton of other stuff. I wasn’t really craving anything else, and those hit the spot. Talked to some local racers for a bit, and headed home.
Got home in time to help my buddy with his hot water heater, and my son with his AP Statistics homework!
It was a good day.