Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

Archive for November, 2013

Beauty and Camelot

“Beauty is an ecstasy; it is as simple as hunger.” –Somerset Maugham.

What do you think? Is this true? Is it as necessary to the human creature to be nourished by beauty as it is to be sated? Or is Maugham saying that one is as keenly aware of beauty when it is present as one is of hunger? Is that the same question?

Or is hunger a metaphor? Is Maugham really saying that beauty is like desire or longing? Layered and complex, a more personal thing. You know, the old “I can’t tell you what beauty is, but I know when I see something beautiful.”

Do you remember those old Canon Sureshot commercials with Andre Agassi? It was a long time ago–he might have even still had hair. Agassi would do all kinds of silly stuff with a tennis racket, snap a few pics, and then stare into the camera: “image (pause) is everything!” Remember?

This week the United States marked 50 years since the assassination of JFK. Of note is that the image of Kennedy and the Kennedy White House as Camelot came AFTER his death; no one spoke of him or his administration like this while he was alive. It was his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy, who gave birth to this imagery. “There will be great Presidents again, but there will never be another Camelot.” The image has endured.

Was this true? Was Kennedy a truly great President in his too brief 3 years in the White House? Was his America truly Camelot, Kennedy as Arthur, leading from a place so pure that all who followed would surely be the better for it? We know so much more about him now, 50 years later, than any but his closest friends did at the time. Does our awareness of the reality of the man, so at odds with the image, taint our feelings about “Camelot”?

The answer to that, my friends, is much like Beauty; you may not be able to put it in words, but you know where you stand on the question, whether Kennedy was truly Arthur, or simply an actor playing the role.

But Camelot, ah now, Camelot is something different altogether. Young or old, Americans look back on that time as something truly different. Better. Hopeful. Expectant I think is the right sense. It was a time when Americans expected tomorrow to be better. Born high or low, most sensed that each day dawned with the likelihood of better. At least it seems that’s our sense of it looking back some 50 years.

For some there is a sense that this has been lost, and this was certainly a recurring theme in the reportage seen everywhere this week. After all, the verse from which sprang Jackie’s “Brandstorm” quote was written in the past tense as well: “Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment, that was known as Camelot.” Is this true? Has Camelot come and gone, or is this, too, just an image?

Beauty and Camelot are much the same. Each can be considered an ecstasy, each as obvious as hunger or as inscrutable as desire. Indeed, each invoke a certain longing, something so personal as to be an irreducible part of who we are. We long for beauty, and we are nourished when we behold it. We long for Camelot, for ourselves and for most of us on behalf of our fellow travelers as well.

We must not let our longing blind us to the fact that, like beauty, in North America Camelot is now. Camelot did not die with Arthur; the “shining moment” was neither brief, nor did it recede into the myst like some modern “Brigadoon”. Look around you. See…really see what beauty has grown since November 23, 1963. Look in the middle where most of us live, not at the margins where lie the extreme. Arthur may have died, yes. He may or may not have been real, and we may or may not have seen one like him grace our round table since. No matter.

You live in a spot known as Camelot. Your shining moment is now.

Memories and Remembering

“I’m in the twilight of my beauty. In a decade I’m going to need a lot of proof.” –Sarah Nicole Prickett

“I’m taking notes, Dr. White. Honest. I’m not just texting.” –Random Sales Rep

The question arises with some frequency: where do I find the topics on which I muse? In truth, most of the time “musings” and “Random Thoughts” arise from something that is either on my mind or in front of me just before I sit down to type. Oh sure, I occasionally have the foresight to jot down an idea or thought during the week, but as often as not I misplace a note as reliably as I misplace the memory of a really good idea.

If memory only did serve.

Last night was spent mostly in the company of a friend, The Dude, with whom I also do business. Sitting across from one another in a quite lovely restaurant we did just enough business to count, but mostly we talked about our lives. I remember saying a couple of things that made me go:”Oh, that’ll make a great topic for ‘Random Thoughts'”; my friend made a point of identifying a couple of others for me. There’s this sense, this feeling, a kind of dim light in the mist of my morning mind that alerts me to the apparently fleeting existence of ideas I’m sure would have been brilliant once I’d committed them to the ¬†electrons here, were they to have survived the night.

Alas, they have perished.

I’m told that this need not be the case. Even as I hurtle through middle age, careening between the crevasses that keep cropping up in what was once so solid (memory, muscle, et al), I’m told that I can remember everything if I want! Ms. Prickett would counsel judicious (one would hope) use of the “selfie”, the ubiquitous cellphone portrait or landscape that forever marks a visual memory. From there it would find it’s way to any number of memory banks. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, wherever. Evidence freely shared that, alas, the twilight of my beauty has long since passed. If, that is, the sun ever shined there at all.

Random Sales Rep would show me his Evernote app, or some other portal to a virtual urn that I could fill with ideas that heretofore required either a more effective neural network or a more easily located notepad to ensure their survival. Once there I need only curate my little corner of the cloud. Just think of what Random Thoughts could be if the Restless Mind could retain every memory.

Hmmm. About that.

You see, what I DO remember of last night is how I felt. How often and how easily both The Dude and I smiled. The mist that is so effectively hiding the more granular memories is actually emitting a rather warm glow. It’s much like the memories evoked as Beth and I have unearthed the Kodachromes of our personal antiquity. They’ve faded, both the photos on paper and the finer details of that time the photo has frozen. But they, too, seem to evoke a glow within that is warmer for their lack of detail.

I think this is better. At least for me. What I might gain from the “selfie” or the endless shelf space of the cloud I fear I might lose in the feeling. You see, for all of the cracks that have appeared over time in my memory, it seems that I have retained a rather amazing capacity to remember my feelings. Indeed, it almost seems as if my ability to recall emotion is enhanced by relying solely on what memory may lie only between my ears. What I remember of last night, without the aid of Evernote or Instagram, is that The Dude and I were really quite happy.

Give it a try; feel your memories.

Sunday musings 11/10/13

Sunday musings …

1) Chew toy. What “The Heir’s” dog apparently thinks when she sees a Pekinese.

2) Wind. Lake Erie is a’boil, and the flag stands at attention. NOW I understand.

3) Airs. As in “taking on”. I have before me an ad for “Single Estate” Vodka. What does that even mean? “Single Estate” like wine? Am I to somehow equate a “Single Estate” vodka, potatoes presumably harvested from a single farm on which the still resides with, say, Chateau Margaux?

That’s just silliness.

4) Marines. Happy Birthday to the U.S. Marine Corps. There’s a quote floating around about savages with clean bodies and dirty minds, attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, I think. Pretty much fits the crew I’ve come to know, though YMMV.

There are too many Marines hereabouts to send a shout-out to you all–I’d surely miss someone important. Happy Birthday to you all, but especially my “extra” son Alex, recently promoted to E5 and off to EOD school very shortly.

Semper Fi to you all.

5) Community. We speak of the CrossFit Community as if it is a single whole. Omnibus. All of a type, all rowing in the same direction, a single coxswain at the helm. Non-CrossFitters, especially external critics, always talk of the CF Community in this way. More so, when CrossFit is spoken of in the plural, it is done so with an “understanding” that everyone is having the same experience in the same way in the same kind of place, and that we all have the same singular point of view regarding fitness.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Once upon a time, back in the days of the Giants, the real OG’s, this was a little closer to reality. Everyone could track themselves back to CF Santa Cruz, and the only people who did NOT have a common CF experience were actually the people who worked out at CFSC–all the rest of us did the WODs as posted here on CrossFit.com. We kinda did all act the same back then. We had that alternative rocker, first to plant the flag swagger of Discoverers, and we fought tooth and nail to defend our tiny fiefdom. Fitness evangelicals with bared teeth and low body fat–that was us, almost to a person.

It ain’t like that anymore. How could it be? ~8,000 Affiliates and –what–1.5MM people CrossFitting? All defined in a single way and labeled the CrossFit Community? Everyone’s CrossFit the same? That’s silly. Maybe not “Single Estate Vodka” silly, but silly nonetheless. There is an ethic, a style, a culture that has its roots in those early days of CrossFit Santa Cruz and a CrossFit.com with 800 posts per day, but that culture includes a very important version of CrossFit and CrossFitters that harkens back to the earliest days of CF and some of the single-digit issues of the CFJ–the solo CrossFitter.

One of the earliest issue of the CFJ was filled with a “how to” instruction guide for constructing a garage gym. Many’s the athlete who did her WOD in a commercial gym–my first 6.5 years as a CrossFitter took place in a fancy Globo. The earliest manifestation of the CrossFit community was the coaching and support that took place on CrossFit.com and the Message Board because there simply weren’t any Boxes available. While most of us have emigrated to a local Affiliate, there are still thousands among us who work out solo, many by choice and many of them in the shadow of a Box. They are part of the CrossFit Community at large, though they eschew working out in a communal setting.

Why is this so? For sure there is a financial aspect for some, but it appears that this is actually a very minor consideration for most. Fitness for the solo CrossFitter is sometimes simply best pursued alone. For still others the growth of CrossFit, and the concomitant growth of members in any single gym, has changed the local atmosphere enough that on balance they’d rather CrossFit alone than in an Affiliate. This should surprise no one. There are very few Boxes that have been open for more than 5 years that are the same size with the same feel as they were on Opening Day, and for many an OG this feel doesn’t fit.

And that’s OK.

The solo CrossFitter is part of our culture, maybe the linchpin of our culture, at least historically. The majority of CrossFit has evolved such that most WODs take place in a group setting. For many (most?) this is part of the attraction of CrossFit, that you share your efforts and your discomfort right there with another CrossFitter in the neighboring rack. The CrossFit Community has room for both, the solo CrossFitter who craves the solace of solitude and the gym member who can’t imagine making the effort without the energy of the entire class. Everyone, both those inside the Community and those outside, are at their own peril should they fail to realize this.

Because we are, in fact, all the same because we are different in the same very important way: we each, in our own way, on our own or in our group, have used CrossFit to take ownership of ourselves.

I’ll see you next week…

Posted by bingo at November 10, 2013 6:48 AM

You Can’t Live at the Crossroad

You stand at a crossroad. You’ve come upon an obstacle. Progress has slowed, maybe ceased. There is now an adversary where once there was none. Whatever. Now you must choose.

It’s much harder than that, though. It always is. You never get to make these existential choices in a vacuum, the effect of your choice felt only, or even mostly, by you. No, there will be a number of others who will be profoundly affected not only by the endpoint but also by the process. You don’t even get to choose if you are an endpoint-driven guy or a process-driven gal. Either or both will affect the riders on your storm.

Yet there you sit, literally occupying the only square yard of turf on which you cannot stay: where you are right now. The crossroad.

Some decisions, problems, or fights can simply be left behind. Leave the ground and simply re-boot. Perform a tactical retreat, re-arm, and then re-engage. Heck, maybe the only proper call is a full-on capitulation. Declare defeat and get the heck out of Dodge. You had the wrong idea, the wrong location, or you just didn’t execute as well as you needed to . It happens, even to really smart people who tried exceptionally hard to do the right thing.

Or not. You survey the ground and discover that there is no reason to retreat for any reason, tactical or survival. What you need to do is re-commit, double down on the commitment even. Kind of your own little “surge” in an attempt to move whatever it is forward. Is the outcome on the other end of the crossroad just so necessary that you simply need to find a way to get there? Is there something about the fight that simply compels you to win, compels you to force whatever opponent you might have to confront their own cost of continuing? Perhaps you choose to fight harder.

Listen, I have not a single answer for any of this. I don’t know what the answer is for you. Indeed, we all do this in little ways every hour of every day though the issues are mostly stuff that borders on trivial; you don’t even think of it as needing deciding, let alone consider the process. But those big ones, the ones that feel like life and death, those that you can’t escape are the ones that deserve the equivalent of a Star Chamber-level process. In the end you can’t delegate, and you’ll have to man up and own the outcome. The only thing I do know, for you, for me, for anyone, is that you’re gonna have to choose.

No one can stand forever at the crossroad.

You are currently browsing the Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind blog archives for November, 2013.