Saturday, February 4, 2017

3. Chop wood, carry water

We are forever fighting our nature.  We like to think that we were totally in control of something – if nothing else, than at least in total control of ourselves.  We made those decisions – they weren’t made for us.  The sleeping moments of our lives are 33%, the waking moments are 66%.  But our conscious moments aren’t the same as our waking moments.  Not by a mile.  Our waking moments are 66% but are conscious moments are probably less than 25% of our days.

Most of our conscious moments are dedicated to the pursuit and refinement of routines that we can do unconsciously.  Most of our lucidity is devoted to creating paradigms for not thinking.  We think hard about getting an income so that we don’t have to think about it.  We just get out of bed and take a pre-planned route to work.  We eat at familiar places and talk about predictable things. We are creatures of habit but by and large deny it to ourselves – and deny the power of that truth.

Do we inhabit our dreams, the same way we inhabit our other routines?  Or do we just visit them for a moment, the way that a glimpse at a photograph reminds you of a place from the past?  Dreams must be dragged into the present.  They have to be made real today – broken down, digested, disassembled.  And then they have to be inhabited – the same way that you inhabit your commute to work, your choice of television to watch, the foods you like to eat.

Chopping wood and carrying water.  Everything that we do is labour of a kind.  Every form of labour to one person is a labour of love to another.  Some people inhabit the pleasure that comes from sitting in front of a television for hours on end.  To others, the mere idea of such sedentary recreation is the same as drudgery.  Whatever your dreams or desires, the only way to get better at something, to inhabit a behaviour or routine or way of being is to make a habit out of it.  To make that shift from something that you choose consciously now to something that you chose for yourself long ago and merely delude yourself into thinking that you have some discretion over it now.

For the next 6 weeks, I’m just going to chop wood and carry water.  The choice was already made, all that’s left is to delight in the choice.


There is a difference between a good workout and a great workout that didn’t really exist before the age of 28.  Before 28, a good or great workout was anything that you did, hard or repeatedly, for anywhere between 1 to 2 hours.  Chances are that your body got stronger and your skill level improved, no matter what it was that you were doing.  Here at 35, that just isn’t true.  A good workout is exhaustive, draining you of the ability to perform at all.  But this almost always has some consequence the next day that on balance decreases your quality of life.  A great workout at 35 is about balancing the enthusiasm to push your limits today with being smart enough to operate at a reasonable capacity even as you recover and recouperate.  Before 28, this was not a consideration.

I could shoot balls in the morning for an hour and a half.  And I can convince myself that it will make me a better shooter.  But closing in on shin splints or cramps or the like, this isn’t success.  This is failure.  This is the worst failure of all, because it misleads people to thinking that it is success.  You leave exhausted saying that you pushed your limits.  When in reality you crossed the line from stress to strain.  Stress can make something stronger after recuperation.  Strain is warping something a little more each time until that something breaks.

Don’t satisfy yourself with good workouts.  Don’t settle for less than a great workout – the workout that leaves you feeling refreshed for today and optimistic that you’ll be more tomorrow.


Have I gone all this time not knowing how to relax?  In the pool, on a court?  The amount of effort and tension necessary to deadlift a weight is considerable.  The amount of effort and tension necessary to shoot a basketball or swim a length of a pool is very, very small.  A ball is very light.  The water buoys your body.  Relax.  Follow through with the stroke.  Drain the tension from your neck.  Like karate, keep the shoulders loose.

The guide hand should pop off aggressively.  The shooting elbow should push up like a handstand.  Consider handstand work to improve the release.  And the guide hand should secure the ball almost backwards towards you.  Hold the ball lightly, like tofu.

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