Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

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Archive for May, 2014

Sunday musings May 25, 2014

Sunday musings (on time)…

1) Timing I. Musings is caught in the filter most Sunday mornings. I try to write and post on Saturday night, but I never have anything to say until morning.

Seems the “Sunday” part is as important as the “musings” part.

2) Timing II. Whether pessimist or optimist, grumpy or garrulous, we all seem to be more cognizant of the gloomy than the gleeful. In “A Man Without a Country” a Vonnegut character laments the fact that people fail to notice when they are happy. I think he’s on to something.

Just as there are moments of despair in the midst of a joyous occasion (think tiny slip in giving a toast at a wedding), so too are there tiny embers of joy in an otherwise stonecold firepit of despondence. To dwell on the slip in the middle of a party steals some or all of the happiness from the moment; one can revisit that tiny sorrow another time if need be.

Likewise, whether suffering or simply surfing the hours of a day, one should be ever mindful of even the tiniest moment of happiness right then and there, at the exact moment they occur. Catch them, each one, right when they happen. Feel them as deeply as possible. They, too, can be revisited at another time if need be, but they should be heralded and cherished on arrival.

3) Timing III. It’s Memorial Day weekend. We are prompted to recall the sacrifices of our fallen soldiers, Marines, sailors, and airmen, to be ever thankful for the lives they led and lost in the service of their fellow citizens. Men like SSgt. Povilaitis, age 47, today and Corporal Ryan McGhee, age 21, 2 days ago.  The loss of both men is tragic, but the timing of their loss speaks to a different kind of tragedy, one that is a particularly painful part of Memorial Day and all it stands for.

Our War dead are often buried by their parents.

This weekend Mrs. bingo and I are attending to my Dad so that my Mom can be at my nephew’s college graduation. All of the timing here seems to be pretty much standard fare: a much older parent with his son preparing for loss coming sooner than later, while a much younger nephew/grandson prepares for his life ahead, loss only theoretical for all involved. Alas, the losses we remember on Memorial Day are upside down, with parents and sometimes grandparents the ones in mourning. The loss is all the more stunning for its lack of warning, the inability to even perceive its possibility let alone prepare for its arrival. A part of me “pre-mourns” my Dad each time I see him, but the men and women we remember on Memorial Day were ripped from families that saw only the future when they gazed upon their sons and daughters.

Here then lays our focus today, to attend to the survivors. Remember the fallen to be sure, but do so in the context of remembering what their loss meant to those left behind, and attend to the survivors.

4) Timing IV. It’s graduation season. All manner of young people graduating from all manner of circumstances and headed toward all manner of “who knows what”. At this time of year all manner of invited speakers dust off their trusty graduation platitudes as they send the graduates off to “who knows where”.  Have you been to a graduation recently? If so, you’ve been to almost EVERY graduation recently. With the exception of the University of Texas (addressed by the Commander of U.S. Special Forces, a Navy SEAL), each and every graduation speech constitutes a kind of  simultaneous Groundhog Day, each graduate hearing some version of the same speech, all likely to be told some version of “Just Breathe”.

Throw the flag. Blow the whistle. Clock violation (get it? Timing?). It’s too soon to “Just Breathe”. It’s time to hold your breath and jump in! Sure, sure…I know…take your own pulse first in an emergency…remember to breath…I get all that. All well and good, and probably decent advice on its face, but that’s all the grads are ever told. Sure, do all that, but only after you’ve jumped right in to the deep end! You stand on the edge looking at the wide open vista of tomorrow and at some point you have trust that parachute on your back, to yell “GeroniMOOOOOH” and jump.

You can breathe when you land.

I’ll see you next week…

Stanley Kubrick on a Meaningful Life

“The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile, but that it is indifferent.” –Stanley Kubrick

Man is the only species, on Earth at least, that seeks meaning in life. Once food, clothing, and shelter are secured, Man then turns his attention both inward and outward, in the quest for some understanding of why we exist, a quest to make our existence meaningful. Alone among all creatures, we do not subsist (I eat, therefor I am) so much as insist (I think, therefore I am).

The great Religions of the Near East and Near West define a meaningful life in terms of fealty to a deity and His edicts. Further East and meaning is acquired by coming ever closer to enlightenment. New World religions assign meaning to the achievement of harmony among all life forms. But what of the emerging worlds in which the great Religions hold little sway?

Death itself is immutable, and it is death against which all meaning is measured. What came before can be ever and always dismissed as abstract, but what comes after is inextricably tied to what constitutes a meaningful life. Again, Kubrick: “If we can accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death–however mutable man may be able to make them–our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment.”

How is this necessarily so? Simply making the statement does not make this a reality, regardless of the fame or following of the author. Why would it be so? Is it because Man as a species can and does sit down to think? If the universe is indeed indifferent and it is Man who introduces meaning, must it not be that our effective universe is man-made? Whether through acts of omission or commission, consequences intended or unintended, it’s hard to escape this conclusion. Herein lies the essential challenge of seeking meaning in life: meaningful for whom?

Adherents to the great Religions are set here. Meaning is parsed by some higher being. For the rest of us an epic societal tug-of-war exists externally. The furthest to one side posits that meaning ends at the tip of a nose, while the other extreme holds that it knows better and will tell you what you should find meaningful; this usually means you doing something for someone else at the behest of the “know-betters”. The truth, at least the actionable truth, lies as always somewhere in between.

Once more, to Kubrick: “However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.” Herein, I believe, lies the lesson. Meaning, writ small or large, can only be created within. The light of meaning is self-generated, but like all light it can be shared. Must be shared. It is in sharing whatever light we might have or create, however dim we might find it, that makes a meaningful life. What light we create is what separates us from all other life, for Man is alone in his ability to shine that light for others, then see and act upon that which is illuminated.

In the end, the Universe may very well be indifferent, but we need not be. Meaning, in life, may be as simple as the absence of indifference to the Universe.


Sunday musings: Mother’s Day

Sunday musings…

1) Illin’. This respiratory thing can go away any time now, thank you very much. Totally get what you’re feeling RW.

2) Breakable. We learn in our L1 seminars that CF is universally scalable. We talk about it here all the time. The good folks at Brand X give you 4 or 5 versions of each WOD published on .com every single day. And yet certain folks in all too predictable groups continue to get broken.

My brother-in-law was in town for about 14 hours to pick up my darling and altogether delightful niece at school. Great visit, but one that was tarnished by his tale of yet another injury which came from “too much” in his Box. It’s tragic, really, because Pete really loves CrossFit. He openly states that it’s the only thing in his 51 years that made him excited to exercise. Now despite his love for it he’s afraid to start up again.

Who’s to blame? Certainly Pete bears some responsibility because he admittedly can’t make himself throttle down during a WOD, and he has never insisted that he be slowly ramped up to having the ability to safely redline each WOD as Rx’d. Here’s where the coaches at his Box, especially the lead dogs, need to step in.

Lil’bingo has 3 or 4 guys just like Pete, mid-life men who are driven to perform, and a couple of them ended up “breaking”. The one who just crumbled under the intensity of the volume of even heavily scaled WOD’s was a pretty simple fix, especially since he realized his problem and brought it to his very young coaches. Scaling for him needed to include less volume, lengthening and flattening the steepness of his onramp to the highway of fitness.

The other client was just like Pete. He broke himself by redlining when he knew he shouldn’t/couldn’t. Here’s the difference, though. Lil’bingo’s client got smothered in coach attention after his injury because it was clear, and he admitted, that he was not to be trusted to protect himself. Injure yourself by not listening to or following advice? Shame on you. Do it twice though and at least some shame on your coach. That’s part of the beauty of a Box vs. just being on your own, the fact that a coach lives in the box.

The message here is to the coaches in the Box: the further away we are as athletes from the athletes you may be coaching to the Games the MORE attention we need. Job #1 is don’t break us. Job 1A is keep up from breaking ourselves.

3) Mom. It’s Mother’s Day in America. Mrs. bingo, mother to “The Heir”, “Lovely Daughter”, and “Lil’bingo” is astride her beloved Lyra, riding riding right in front of me as I type. They are a beautiful couple, all the more so because of the joy that springs from their mutual love and trust. Two very happy girls sharing their passion. Nothing in my life (except Mrs. bingo) makes me as happy as riding Lyra makes Beth happy.

A Mother’s Day gift was easy for me: make sure my girl got to ride her horse.

Other than that the gift that I will send to my Mom, and the one I’m hoping my kids will send to Mrs. bingo, is a simple expression of how wonderful it’s been to be her son. I’ll search my internal hard drive for a couple of happy memories and bring them up when I call her. I’ll make sure to let her know how lucky I am to still be the son of a Mom. In my case I’ll also gently tease her about how she can probably relax a bit on the need for ongoing parenting her son, but we’ll both know that dialing back on that is genetically impossible, another source I hope of happiness and smiles between us.

Unlike Father’s Day, a day that I’ve proposed should be spent in the active pursuit of fatherly stuff, Mother’s Day is quite reasonably a day to devote to whatever Mom might want just for Mom’s sake. Like an hour at the barn for Mrs. bingo, or an hour at the Box for anyone who shows up to the Open Gym I’ll run in a bit. And if Mom wants to do some Mom stuff today, well, we should all be as OK with that as we possibly can, at least for today.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you still fortunate enough to have a Mom to celebrate, like me, and the Clan bingo progeny. Tears and only the happiest of memories for those orphans of any age who must make do with only memories, again hopefully happy. Happy Mother’s Day to each and every Mom chez CrossFit, making the world a better place one MomWOD at a time, especially Shelly who will hover over “The Heir” for a couple of months. I hope you all get to do just exactly what you want all day!

Now, off to see what else will make Mrs. bingo smile! Happy Mother’s Day to my darling Beth.

I’ll see you next week…

Posted by bingo at May 11, 2014 7:22 AM

Three Friends

Every couple or three years comes a slew of articles on friendship, specifically friendships in adults. Thus it is that I find myself returning to the topic for the first time in awhile, having been bombarded of late with articles, books, and movies on the subject (“Of Mice and Men” is being staged on Broadway, for example). That, and my brother’s rather humorous story of having bumped into a fellow Eph with whom I was friendly in college (more on that in a bit). Much has been written on the subject, almost all of it a re-hash except one little gem, a tiny bit of research that suggests that friendship in mid-life is the strongest predictor of longevity of all.

Weird, huh? And not too positive a finding either, what with my oft-told and hard-earned experiences with how difficult it is for men to create new friendships after the age of 30. The magic number is 3. Three close friends predicts a longer life, especially for men. Sadly this usually does NOT include your wife; the overwhelming percentage of wives drifted AWAY from the men in favor of younger women, usually daughters, as they moved through adulthood. As an aside I’m now desperately hoping that Beth will have some room left over from “Lovely Daughter” Megan. (Actually, getting Beth hooked on CrossFit might be my ace in the hole)

Interesting, huh? Three close friends and you live longer. Very few folks had more than 4 or 5, an incredibly tight range when you think about it.

It’s become a kind of psychological dogma that men and women make friends in very different ways. Women, it is said, make friends through the sharing of feelings. In person two women who are friends are said to be most often facing one another, talking. Maintaining this kind of friendship is structurally rather easy in our modern age of communication. Feelings can be shared in any number of ways that do not require the friends to actually be in the same room together. Phone, text, Facebook and Twitter are but a few of the tactical and mechanical advantages to a friendship built on an exchange of feelings, and the currency required for the ongoing investment is simply time.

Men on the other hand make friendship a much more arduous affair. Many women would opine that this could actually describe many, if not most things that men do, but that’s a topic for a different Sunday. The picture most often used to illustrate men in the company of friends has them standing shoulder to shoulder, in the act of sharing an experience but not necessarily sharing any internal reaction to that experience. It makes me chuckle to think that a video of the same scene would probably also look like a portrait, nothing moving, certainly not their lips. For men the basis of friendship is the experience and the fact that both were physically present for it. Whether sitting at a Bulls game in Row J seats 11 and 12 , or working up a sweat at the Loyola Prep gym playing pick-up hoops, the friendship blooms only from the seed of the experience which is fertilized by proximity. At some point the memories of those experiences, stories re-told dozens, hundreds of times, fail to prompt growth in the friendship without the Miracle-Gro of presence. Eventually even shared “experiences by proxy”, raising similar aged children for example, fails to prevent slack from growing in those friendship ties if you aren’t physically there to tighten them.

In my mind the universe is divided into a very few groups of varying sizes. Think of your life as kind of like a bulls-eye floating through a vast space. The center of that bulls-eye comprises that small group of true friends, men and women who would drop everything should you have need, and for whom you would do the same. Friends are people you miss if you haven’t had contact for a matter of days, people whose company you actively seek. These are people you go out of your way to see and never try to avoid. Man or woman, they know how you feel. Again, an aside, happy is the couple who have overlap in this innermost circle of the bulls-eye.

The next circle is filled with friendly acquaintances, people who make you smile. When you have an opportunity to be with them in person or in spirit it makes you happy. There’s no limit on these, and a reasonably friendly character could have dozens of friendly acquaintances scattered throughout a life. This is the group from which most friends are created, and if you are fortunate someone who is no longer really in that bulls-eye drifts no further out from center than this inner ring. Just outside the circle of friendly acquaintances is the ring containing acquaintances, people you’ve met and remember but either don’t ever really spend time with or never have the chance to explore a move toward the center. My brother met a someone who has always been here, the humor in wistful remembrance notwithstanding. Your circles of friends and acquaintances drifts through a vast space filled with folks yet unmet, a (hopefully) few enemies orbiting in there somewhere as well.

We float through the universe in our circles, people drifting in toward the center (perhaps my Brother’s encounter will drive my acquaintance inward) and sadly on occasion out and away. In CrossFit we know both a definition of fitness and a way to measure it. Indeed, Coach Glassman has opined that not only is fitness the most important part of health, but in his opinion it is a precise measurement of the same. He and I disagree around the margins of that position, at least in part because of friendship and what it does for us. We may not be able to define friendship in quite as absolute terms as those we use for fitness, but I’m reasonably sure we all know what it means to be and to have a real friend. Read or watch “Of Mice and Men” if you are unsure. It’s likely that friendship itself, unlike fitness, does not have a precise metric, a measurement of volume or degree. No “friendship across broad time and modal domains” if you will. Though I continue to hold this truth, that you can never have enough friends, there is apparently a number that does have some significance. Three. Three friends, real friends, lead to a longer life. Side by side or face to face, the tipping point is 3.

No amount of time spent or distance traveled is too much for them.





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