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Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Archive for February, 2014

The Offensitive

Should be a word. Offensitive: adj. One who is easily offended. Highly sensitive to perceived offense.

Have you seen the sculpture at Wellesley College in Massachusetts that’s been causing such a stir? “Sleepwalker” is a lifelike depiction of a rather–OK, very–unappealing male sleepwalking in nothing but a pair of “tighty whities”. The appearance of the sculpture has created a spasm of outrage among the offensitive, those especially prone to being offended. It’s gone as far as a petition demanding the removal of the statue because its very presence is a kind of assault, a violation of the civil rights of the offended.

Think about that for a minute: art that offends, or even art that only provokes a bit of discomfort, is a violation of some sort of civil right.

What have we become when a statue that should be met with ridicule and contempt because it is actually quite banal is rather invoking reactions that imply some sort of assault on the collective population of Wellesley? Is it the topic, the subject, a nearly naked man, skinny fat with a paunch and a frog butt that fails to fill his skivvies? It does make one wonder, what with the venomous attacks on those who were offended some years ago by sculptures of a Crucifix covered with excrement, or years before that by various desecrations of the American flag. Have we succumbed to some sort of spiraling weakness of spirit or character in the ensuing years, a collective fragility driven by the growing population of the offensitive, ¬†or is there some qualitative difference in the “art”, who it offends, and how they are offended that is at issue?

That last part is a question that is probably above my pay grade, the relative effect of art on different audiences. There are a couple of things I do understand, though. Art, in all of its forms, is meant to provoke some sort of response in those who consume it. It’s my considered opinion that BETTER art makes you work a bit harder in its appreciation in order that you arrive at your own response; being bludgeoned by the artist’s intent markedly reduces my appreciation of any particular work. Some art makes some people uncomfortable, sometimes on purpose. I’m quite sure there’s a line beyond which it stops being art and truly does become an assault–free speech, after all, famously does not include the right to yell “FIRE” in a crowded theatre”–but “Sleepwalker” is as benign in this respect as it is banal.

The other question, that of our thin-skinned tendency to declare anything that makes us feel bad as some sort of assault, is something I also understand. We are trending as a society, at least at a certain educato-economic strata, to a level of offensitivity that threatens the fabric of our collective. Not only is there a greater tendency to be offended by ever tinier actions, but there is also a corresponding ratcheting up of the response to any offense. Call it the “offendedness arms race” if you will. Something that produces discomfort or offends is now something so much more. I mean, seriously, “Sleepwalker” violates civil rights laws? Other, even more trivial pieces of art have spawned lawsuits and public condemnation of any who have the audacity to question the fortitude of the offended. It’s all so silly. Have we in Western society so little to contend with in the prosecution of our daily survival that we have both the time and the energy to be offended by “Sleepwalker” and its ilk?

I dunno. Maybe it would have been different if “Sleepwalker” had been a CrossFitter.

 

Open Season 2014

It’s Open Season both in and on CrossFit. We are now as “In Season” as we ever get as athletes as we prepare to begin the CrossFit Open, the largest, most inclusive athletic event in the world. This is the time of year when more of us extend our competition beyond “you vs. you” and put our numbers out there, up against anyone and everyone else. The CrossFit Open is when we spend a little bit of time pursuing the “Sport of Fitness”, even if, like me, one is principally concerned with Fitness as a pursuit worthy of a singular focus all its own.

Since this is competition we will necessarily push ourselves in the same manner that all other competitive athletes do. During “Open Season” we will behave like runners, powerlifters, weightlifters, and all manner of people who train for a specific event or season. There will be evidence of overreaching, of overextending, and we will undoubtedly hear of injuries in the process. Hence my opening: it will be “Open Season” on CrossFitters and CrossFit. The CrossFit Open is gonna place a big ‘ol target in the middle of your back, as well as one right smack on the front door of CrossFit HQ.

Should you care? Not surprisingly the answer is “yes and no”. There’s no question you should care enough to sign up and then care about your own CrossFit Open. The cyber-gym opens up to the world and for 5 weeks includes everyone who belongs to an Affiliate gym, too. We’re all together as one. Yes, you care about that. You are part of a community now, and this is our annual family reunion, so to speak.

Your own Open is all about caring. You need to care enough to look objectively at your level of fitness, your collection of strengths and weaknesses, and plan on how you will address the tasks we are given. Will you taper into 14.1-5 or will you do them as simply the next WOD to come out of the Hopper? How about test driving the WODs, doing them to “get a feel” rather than just going for it? What if you don’t do as well as you expected? What kind of schedule will you create if you plan on doing each one more than once? Yes, indeed, you should care about your own CrossFit Open.

Everyone else is in the Open, too! All over the world we’ll be doing the same thing at the same time. Every Thursday for 5 weeks it’s all you’ll be thinking about. That, and where are you going to be at 5:00 PDT and how will you see the announcement of 14-point-whatever that week. Oh yeah, you care about everyone’s Open because you are just as much a part of the Open as everyone else. Yup, just like Rich and Sam, Jason and Annie. Heck, you might luck out and get to watch the announcement of the Open WOD with one of the Games athletes. It may surprise you to learn, but they react to each announcement just like you do! Yes, you should care about everyone else’s Open because their Open is your Open.

Now, about that target on your back. Once we go “live” on February 27th there will be all sorts of folks out there aiming at you, at us, at CrossFit. In a world filled with regular people who day in and day out push themselves in the gym harder than all but the tiniest percentage of competitive athletes, for 5 weeks we will likely push just a little bit harder, and there will be just a few more of us who end up “off the rails” as it were. There will be a barrage, a deluge of all manner of invective spewed at our world. “CrossFit is dangerous.” “High rep [you-name-it] should not be done.” “CrossFit programming is this-or-that,” where both this and that are bad.

Should you care?

For the most part I’m going with “no”. If your Mom is concerned, or perhaps your POOSSLQ, then maybe you need to pay a little attention to the haters, the attention grabbers, and the sensationalists so that you can reassure your loved ones that you are OK. Otherwise I’m going with “no”, there’s no reason you should care about the various and sundry sticks and stones being hurled at you and CrossFit. Seriously, why bother? Why help someone make a non-story (there are injuries in competitions) into a big story? Why worry that something you KNOW to be false (eg. “CrossFit is dangerous”) might be true just because it’s posted on the internet by someone who has no idea what CrossFit is, let alone the Open? Why provide credibility by caring to commentators who have none to start with?

What matters is this: it’s Open Season here IN the CrossFit world. What we have is measurable, observable, and repeatable, and we’re going to do just that over 5 weeks. You and I will push just a little harder, even if you, like me, have exactly zero chance of moving on to Regionals. There will be more precision, more perspicacity, more virtuosity. We will be drawn even closer to one another, with or without any targeting from those outside our community. For 5 weeks we will demonstrate that what we do and what we have is both very real and very good.

Yes, you care about that.

 

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