Saturday, April 1, 2017

ABSURDITY AND NIHILISM IN TRAINING


(Author’s note: this one kind of got away from me as I was writing it.  Real heavy on the philosophy, not so much on the lifting).
I’ve already addressed the topic of utilizing nihilism in competition to your advantage, but today we’re going to extrapolate even further and discuss how absurdity and nihilism apply when TRAINING for the very competition where we exercise nihilism.  As much as absurdity and nihilism tend to carry a negative connotation in everyday vernacular, the reality is that it is how we utilize these concepts that dictates their effects.  Absurdity and nihilism are not inherently negative and, if understood and used properly, will actually be incredibly liberating for your training and allow you to reach levels that were previously unobtainable.


Image result for squatting on a bosu ball
Gotta admit; pretty absurd
Let’s start with the basics; training IS absurd.  This is a point many don’t want to realize, but it is absolute, 100%, undeniable truth.  The sheer act of training to get bigger and stronger is completely absurd.  In training to get bigger and stronger, we are ignoring the reality that, one day, we will die and all that we worked for will mean nothing, and all this time invested in this activity will be worthless.  Those that train are investing in a body that will one day fail, break down, grow weak, decrepit, crippled and fundamentally worthless.  Ultimately, training is a waste of time.
However, simply because something is absurd does NOT mean that it is not worth pursuing.  Extending even further, LIFE is absurd.  We are the only species fully aware of the reality that, one day, we will die, and this puts us in such a unique situation.  Every action we take, we take knowing that, ultimately it will be meaningless.  When we EMBRACE this, we liberate ourselves.  The only way we harm ourselves in the presence of absurdity is through denial; attempting to convince ourselves that what we do matters and our actions are important, and therefore it is our moral imperative to perform the most significant actions to have the greatest contributions.  Instead, when we recognize the absurd for what it is and then choose to still go forth, THAT is true bravery.  Clinging onto meaning is cowardice; the brave walk into the abyss knowing that it holds no promise.


Image result for line to DMV
You can try this at home


We exercise our mastery over the absurd IN our training.  We train being at peace with the absurd, knowing that everything we do is meaningless, so why not have our ONE thing and make it the one thing we do well in a meaningless world?  We make our OWN meaning.  And in doing so, there is no need to worry about the end game of it all.  Train for NOW.  Train for immediacy.  Train so that you get the results you want, not so that you can keep training in your twilight years and eventually train on the day that you die. 
This is where nihilism and the absurd liberate you, because the people still clinging on to meaning in a meaningless world refuse to take the risks necessary in order to succeed.  When you still have hope that you’re going to be spry and energetic in your 90s, you don’t want to risk pushing too hard on a last set of squats and potentially blowing out a knee.  You don’t want to risk rupturing a disk on a set of deadlifts that was maybe a little too heavy.  You don’t want to put it all on the line in a contest and leave it out all there on the field, because what if you get hurt?  But when you’ve made your peace?  You do these things knowing that there are no “risks”.  Life has a 100% mortality rate, and ultimately nothing that you do, for good OR for ill, has any real consequence.  If you blow out your knee, it won’t matter in 500 years, because you won’t even be a memory.  That pain, agony and regret will be long gone.  BUT, in your one moment of greatness, in your one point in the present, where the stars lined up and everything worked out and you finally achieved one of your absurd goals, you will HAVE that moment AT that moment.


Image result for eddie hall 500kg
Only weak people find themselves asking "why"


We reverse the power of the absurd and nihilism; turn it on its head to OUR advantage.  There are no consequences to our actions; only rewards for the brave.  If we get hurt, sick, injured, it’s all immaterial, for one day we will pass on.  But if we achieved greatness in pursuit of OUR meaning; the meaning we decided to pursue in an absurd world?  THAT is victory, and we bask in it.  Because we are all inevitably heading to the same end, it becomes a question of simply who will spend their time pursuing their meaning while they embrace the absurd vs who will hide from the absurd through denial and refuse to even entertain the notion of finding their own meaning.  Will you choose your own meaning and pursue it as hard as you can, or will you only pay lip service to your meaning, in the hopes that you will somehow “save yourself” for the end?
Take the risks no one else is willing to take, because you understand that they AREN’T risk.  Train too hard, too long, too often.  Train with the goal of getting as big and strong as possible, NOT with the goal of being as safe as possible.  Throw caution to the wind, be ridiculous, get hurt, get rebuilt, and do it all over again.  Have YOUR goals, and pursue them irrespective of if anyone else likes them or agrees with them or supports them.  Choose YOUR meaning, knowing it is an absurd thing, and when anyone feels the need to point it out, AGREE with them, and then train anyway.  You need no other reason other than the fact that it is YOUR meaning.

13 comments:

  1. I've only read the opening line so far, but I know it's going to be one of your better pieces when you mention it's mostly philosophy.

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  2. I was right lol. Great piece. Especially this part:Have YOUR goals, and pursue them irrespective of if anyone else likes them or agrees with them or supports them. I agree completely. One doesn't train for others so their opinions on your goals/training don't really matter in the end.

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    1. Thanks for the feedback dude. I knew I could count on at least 1 fan, haha.

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  3. Great post man. I've been looking at life in general this way for a while now. Its amazing how free you are to pursue your interests when you accept the fact that you're not special and nothing you do or don't do will matter a hundred or so years after you're gone.

    Have you ever mentioned this fact to someone and seen their reaction, though? Its pretty funny.

    I recall having a conversation with my girlfriend's mom one day regarding her other daughter's high school hockey coach and how terrible he was. She was going on and on about it clearly very concerned he wasn't being fair and what not. My reply was a very abbreviated version of the point you made in this post and she was essentially speechless. The fact that none of the shit she was complaining about will matter in even a few years, much less a few hundred years seemed crazy to her.

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    1. Thanks man! Nihilism tends to be poorly received, haha. I will apply nihilism in many situations to maintain perspective, but most times it's masked with humor to de-escalate a situation. In general, I try to avoid debate with others, as I've rarely seen anyone change their opinion through debate.

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    2. As a coach, it's hard to communicate this message without sounding like a dick.

      WR

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    3. Yea, its kind of difficult to approach the subject without using humor as a vehicle in my experience. If you can make a legit point and also make the person laugh at the same time, it tends to become less awkward. :)

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    4. Will; in general it's a difficult message to convey, haha. Most people find nihilism more annoying than liberating. People think it's clever to say "if nothing matters why don't you just kill yourself?!" as though it's an original thought, not recognizing that an admission that life is inherently meaningless doesn't mean that it's not worth finding meaning in.

      Matthew; humor is a powerful tool. A lot of truth is said in jest, haha.

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  4. Awesome piece man. So many people ask why I train the way I do, what the purpose is, why I want to compete when there's no money, etc. Those same people never apply similar questions to the stuff that fills their time either interestingly. Why is it that my distraction is somehow inferior and pointless?

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    1. Graham, absolutely on point. It's weird how much lifting is the activity that receives this scrutiny. People will watch someone complete a speedrun in a video game, play the guitar with their feet, carve a sculpture out of cheese, etc, and never bat an eye. But these same people watch Eddie Hall deadlift 500kg and ask "What's the point of all that strength?" I want to say it's because they're threatened in the presence of such strength, but it's hard to know if that's my own bias playing or not.

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    2. I think for a lot of people its that they don't understand the desire to push oneself so hard physically or mentally. But yes, they also feel threatened by people who are willing to do so.

      I think if you look at how people tend to mock those who study really hard and for long hours to succeed in school its generally based in the insecurity that they don't have the discipline or work ethic to do it themselves. So you will see people trying to downplay the validity or even the point of doing so.

      The same can be said for physical activity as well. Somehow trying really hard and being dedicated to something is seen as, "uncool" by those who don't want to do it themselves. Its more about them not wanting to face their own weaknesses and be objectively honest with themselves than anything else in my opinion.

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  5. Great piece, I really liked this. Based on your line of reasoning I think you'd really like Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus. He takes the idea of the absurd one step further by saying that the act of 'creating your own meaning in the face of meaninglessness' is essentially philosophical suicide, that you're lying to yourself by shoehorning this new meaning in.

    To apply that to your article, I think it cuts out the middle man, because as you say, lifting itself is totally ridiculous. Camus (I think) would say to forget about it being meaningful and lift to celebrate just how ridiculous an activity it is in an equally ridiculous life. Same outcome, but slightly different thought process behind it. Kind of a middle finger to the universe as opposed to finding meaning in it.

    Keep up the writing, love the blog.

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    1. Thanks dude. I enjoyed the Myth of Sisyphus, and I think I've included a few parts of it in some of my other blog posts. It's a bit of a long build-up, but the pay off is so worth it.

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