“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, contrary to popular belief, does NOT find its origins in terrible pop music, but instead is a thought that originates once again from the work of Nietzsche. This thought has been adopted, adapted and bastardized in millions upon millions of permutations, serving as fuel for plucky bumper stickers and slogans on size small t-shirts worn with high socks, knee wraps, Chuck Taylors, short shorts, a 18mm belt, and no achievements. Nietzsche’s intent, however, was not to establish how “hardcore” he was for his belief that the endurance of misery, pain, hardship, toil and injury was the road to self improvement, but instead a lamentation on the current trend of society to MINIMIZE these stimuli. In seeking security, we doomed the species.
You know what would go good with this shirt? Muscles.
Recall my earlier discussions on Hobbes, who defined the state of nature (as in man’s natural state) as a constant state of war over resources, wherein life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. With this understanding, it seemed only natural to want to escape the state of nature and establish some sort of means of security in order to ensure the survival of the species, hence the formation of government via the social contract. By promising to not engage in war with our brothers, we promote the safety of us all. However, Nietzsche questions if such a species is even worth saving, for by existing in this state of safety, we grow soft, weak, and worthless. Yes, life in the state of nature is terrible: for the weak. For the strong, the state of nature is a tool meant to keep one sharp, well honed, able and strong. It is the stimulus necessary to challenge, make stronger, and make better. Those who thrive in the state of nature are the zenith of all that is human, achieving their full potential, while those who perish benefit humanity by no longer polluting the species with their weakness.
We can once again witness how easily these lessons apply to those of us who seek to grow bigger and stronger. So many in the realm of training seek to minimize toil in all capacities, desiring only to pursue the path of least resistance in all instances. We observe those who switch out squats with leg presses because they are easier, abandon deadlifts for trap bar lifts because they hurt less, avoid conditioning because it is unenjoyable, etc etc. In contrast, we also recognize that, despite the myriad of training approaches and protocols employed by all successful athletes, the one variable that all seem to hold in common is their ability to endure gut wrenching, blood vessel bursting, skull cracking brutality, pushing well beyond the pain tolerances of most mortals and returning to training time and time again.
However, the avoidance of toil is not simply to be witnessed in the gym, but within the mind as well. Trainees refuse to endure the torture of not KNOWING how to train. Rather than fiery death and endless torture, Christianity originally defined Hell as simply the absence of God’s presence, believing that nothing could be more miserable than knowing that one is truly alone. For the trainee, not being able to attach one’s self to a paradigm, guru, group, community, etc that validates one’s beliefs is in turn their own personal Hell. There could be nothing more terrible than to not know if what you are doing is right, to have no idea if you are actually progressing the way you need to, if your plan is effective, etc etc. However, those who are unwilling to endure this Hell in turn are the ones who achieve mediocrity at best, aligning themselves with some sort of lifting cult wherein they can constantly pat each other on the back for following the “one true way” while throwing heretics off of cliff sides for daring to speak out against the unity of the whole. They choose security over improvement.
Maybe a little scarier than just being abandoned by God
Those that become stronger do so by subjecting themselves to the hell of the unknown, pushing forward with no resources, studies, or support from the current community. Yes, they sweat and bleed and cry in training, but they also do all this while plunging further and further into darkness, not knowing if it is light that awaits them at the end or simply more darkness. They know that God is dead, and this liberates them.
But why is it that the lessons learned from these pioneers do not eventually get passed down to the awaiting ears of those who refuse to endure torment? Why does the cult of lifting personality not eventually adopt the methods that DO work, and lead to prosperity? This is what we will discuss next time, regarding slave morality, perpetuation of mediocrity, and the short lifespans of those who achieve greatness.