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Bob's Abs

If we could read minds, what, what indeed might we discover? We have those fantasies, as adolescents -- what if I could be invisible?! You'd be cold most of the time, is the answer. As for mind-reading, it would undoubtedly be a nightmare you couldn't wake up from.

Let's test it, with someone you might have met ... seems like a regular guy, pretty fit, into exercise. Call him, say, Bob, and let's listen in on one of those imaginary conversations, monologues he's having with himself, maybe in front of that mirror in the gym -- imaginary monologues the way someone might have, that don't have to make sense -- they are, after all, imaginary.


What Bob Thinks

Man. Sort of tired. Worked out every day last week, sometimes twice, really blasting the abs. Man oh man are the chicks gonna dig me. Zowie! Even my flaws are beautiful. In the miraculous mosaic that is Bob, any minor distortions serve as subtle accents of my overall beauty.

Speaking of which -- my beauty, which I really don't dwell on anywhere near often enough -- I was considering my fabulous abs? It's really getting out of hand. Off the hook. How is it possible? Even as hard as I work at it, it seems impossible. I've got muscles that nobody even knows the name of.


Just stunning.



I've got that third cut, below the navel. Maybe it's the fourth, if you count the one above, on the ribs. And there are weird little muscles off to the side -- between the obliques, of which I have an absolutely hypnotic array. It's like I'm the human epitome of some Art Deco Adonis, all striations and angled plains. Breath-taking.

And then on my belly, below the abs, there are these other muscles. What do they even hook up to? What do they do? I don't know. Nobody does. Physiologists haven't even named them. I am unique. I'm like a masterpiece -- some sort of divine device crafted by God to show humanity what it might have been. Crafted from granite and bronze. I must be what Adam looked like.

Nietzsche said -- I memorized it, cuz it's about abs -- "The belly is the reason man does not mistake himself for a god." Well? Where does that leave me?

Sometimes as I'm walking I'll put my palm flat across my abs just to feel the rolling -- sinuous beneath my hand like rows of estivating snakes. Sometimes I'll rub my fingers over the cords lying beneath the leather of my belly, like a master guitarist strumming out a passionate gypsy tune that wails as longingly as a lost soul and stirs you with a yearning to live forever.

Sometimes my hands grow heavy and stiff, and drag on the ground behind me, bending my back curved as old mountains. Sometimes I stare through a haze of pain out of a face like a stone mask. Sometimes darkness leaks from my lungs and puddles at my feet and rises like surf into a sinking vessel, and words cannot contain the cold I would feel, if I could feel. Sometimes I fall into the hollowness that displaces my organs and the receding cavern of my skull expands away in every direction so fast that even vacuum hasn't time to fill it.

Sometimes God is so far away he can hardly see me, and I can't see him at all.

I know there are miracles. I know that somewhere in the boundless universe there is a flawless mosaic of unspeakable beauty. I know that somewhere there is a balm that will soothe every ache, and a hand that will wipe away every tear, and that the wretchedness that suffuses some man's heart need not last forever. Somewhere weariness will end in fulfillment, and darkness will represent a time of peace and satisfaction. Someday I will settle into ease and happiness, the way a mountain slides into the sea.


Goodness. That took a turn. Bob turned out to be something of an existential poet. Surprising. And it seems there's more to fitness than appearance. Fitness isn't just a physical thing. The only reason there are mirrors in the world is so we might see ourselves as others see us. Other people matter, always, to everyone. The point? Well, let's be kind, and patient, and let's have empathy and sensitivity. We never know what hell hides behind a bland expression or a pleasant smile, or a somewhat unrealistic ego.

What does this have to do with fitness, with exercise? Balance. Bob's abs didn't bring him the fulfillment he had hoped. Do they matter? Uh, well, yeah, we'd have to suppose so. Without them, he'd be even more wretched.

Fitness is about sensible diet and sensible exercise. It's not about preaching, but we do have to find a balance. To strive to reach our genetic potential is laudable, but we understand that life, to be fulfilling, must be well-rounded. So the physical stuff matters. Call it one among equals. As for Bob, and the silent and unseen desolation of his soul, we trust that he can find peace, and that he will find comfort. What he really wants is for someone to love him, regardless of his abs.

But if you'd like abs just like Bob's, well, zowie! Give us a call!!! Cuz we do abs!!! Zowie!!!!!! FitWorks!!!!


Be excellent.


CrossFit Burbank


Monsieur le Docteur Joseph-Ignace Guillotin did not invent that instrument which bears his name. Such devices had been in use in Europe for two centuries. But the times being what they were, in the heady days of the French Revolution, some such mechanized expedient was called for. Or perhaps the contraption's excellence cried out for use -- a better mousetrap and all that.

There would be much to recommend such a device. Avoid a reprise of the Mary, Queen of Scots debacle, whose neck took three great whacks and still she didn't lose her head -- the discomfited headsman had to saw through the last bits of integument with his hip knife before the job was quite done. How embarrassing for him. During the interim between the first and the second chops, the poor former queen loosed such a wrenching and protracted groan that the crowd, usually intoxicated in such festive circumstances with blood lust, gaped in horrified silence. So, then -- live and learn, eh?

But what about these heads? Does consciousness survive for some brief moments within the disembodied -- or would it be disbodied -- head? Anecdotal evidence abounds. The heads of two rival French functionaries of the National Assembly were placed into a sack -- when later removed, one had bitten into the cheek of the other so deeply it could not be pried off. The executioner of Charlotte Corday -- who murdered Jean-Paul Marat -- held up her severed head and slapped its cheek; witnesses claimed the face blushed and looked indignant. A soldier who witnessed the decapitation of a friend in a 1989 auto accident relates how the head opened and closed its mouth several times, taking on an expression of shock or confusion, then of terror or grief; its eyes moved from the soldier, to its separated body, then back to the soldier -- direct eye contact, then hazy, then absent and dead.

Which brings to mind the report of Dr. Beaurieux, who, staid man of science that he was, resolved one early summer morning in 1905 to settle once and for all the question of whether a severed head retains for any appreciable time some measure of consciousness, and if so, for how long.

Observe, then, condemned murderer Henri Languille, who mounts with notable sangfroid the scaffold to kneel beneath the blade. Next, consider his severed head, which fortuitously lands stump-down on the neck, thus perfectly oriented for observation. The doctor notes the eyelids working in irregular contractions for five seconds or so, then they are still and half-closed, the face relaxed. The doctor calls out sharply, "Languille!" The eyelids lift slowly and smoothly, as an awakening, and the eyes focus very definitely upon the doctor's -- clearly, undeniably living. A pause of several seconds, and then the eyes close again. One might almost hear a sigh. Again the doctor cries out, "Languille!" -- and again, smoothly, slowly, the eyelids lift and the eyes fix on the doctor's, with perhaps even more intelligence than the first time. Then a drooping of lids, a fading, a third calling of the name, Languille! but there is no response, and the glint of intelligence is glazed, empty, gone. Thirty seconds have passed.

The issue is murky, though. No fewer than three physicians attended the 1879 beheading of one Theotime Prunier, amenable to their end if not his own. The triumverate of medicos immediately snatched up the head and shouted in the face, stuck it with pins, placed ammonia under the nose and candle flames in the eyeballs. No response but a look of astonishment on Prunier's visage, which need have no special significance -- slack jaw and gawking eyes would be expected.

All of it need mean nothing. Two severed heads in a bag need not have been snarling and snapping at each other; one might have been placed sometime after the other, but immediately after its own severing -- and the bite a mere spasmodic reflex. A severed head's cheek might well blush, because blushing is certainly dependent upon capillary blood, but not necessarily upon vascular bloodflow: slaps cause redness. Expressions of shock or of horror are instinctive and universal to the human condition -- perhaps they have no more meaning than the galvanic twitching of frog legs. Eyes widen at a loud sound -- as it happens in this case, the loud calling of a name. Yes. It may all be true, and at the same time meaningless.

The very idea is absurd, that a severed head should be alive. It takes eight seconds to choke a man into unconsciousness -- as any practitioner of the more subtle martial arts will know. A severed head can have no blood pressure whatsoever, so one might think that unconsciousness, if not death, must be instantaneous.

But upon deeper reflection, the oxygen that is present, remains present -- it doesn't just remove itself along with the body. Capillaries do not drain themselves in a great Niagara of gore. So we might expect something like eight seconds of consciousness. Further, what effect does having one's entire body mass instantly reduced to some 10 pounds have on the metabolic rate of oxygen usage? Perhaps when the brain doesn't have to think about running the body, it uses less oxygen. And it may be that the concept of consciousness and unconsciousness -- lucidity and dreaming -- takes on an almost incomprehensible meaning, upon the shocking loss of one's bodily appendage. We know the spirit lingers -- heart stoppage isn't death, anymore.

Ah well. It's all speculation. That is, the speculation is speculation. The observations are what they are: phenomena translated into neural impulses within the brain, to manifest eventually as expressions of opinion.

So? Is there a point to such discursive considerations, showing up here in this particular forum dedicated as it is to health and fitness? There is a social relevance of course, relating to current events and various civilizations past and present that did or do practice beheading as a form of cultural expression. There are ethical considerations regarding the nature of life -- its legal definition as it applies to important issues of the day. It could be taken as a metaphor for loss and mourning. We could try to blame God or the universe or randomness for it all. It could just be a sort of chatting, a kind of sharing of the odd things that collect in our respective brains. Because we do have voices. We can communicate with each other, in complex ways, with more than just blinking. So that we can know for sure that we're alive.

And while all of that can no doubt be made to be the truth, the truth here is that the body is a complex and astounding thing -- a machine that is intelligent or a vessel by which spirit may act. Who knows. We know it is astounding, though. It may be that we actually can live for a very brief time, physically yet without an actual, technical body. How very odd.

We can only surmise the truth. But while we may concern ourselves with oddities and theories, the one incontestable fact, pace Descartes, is that we are, therefore we think. We know that we are because we take up space in time. You know, with a body. So. There's more to life than bodies. But bodies are, uh, how shall we say ... important? Let us not be afraid of obvious truths.

So, one last, obvious and repeatable truth. We stay healthy, as much as is in our control, by sensible exercise and sensible diet. Training, for health and appearance and something deeper ... zest? -- joy? Whatever it is that comes when you turn back the clock, repulse the tides of decay that would otherwise sweep you away. 

Because reclaimed health is a sort of redemption, and that's good for the spirit. That's not a promise. You knew it already. And with or without help, you know perfectly well that it's something that must be done. Otherwise, well, you're just a snapping head associated somehow with a bag. And that's no way to live.

Be excellent.


CrossFit Burbank

Time's Arrow

It is not possible to reach back through the years and take hold of the child we once were, distraught over a skinned knee or a broken toy or an absent loved one. We cannot project the wisdom that the ensuing years have taught, to help those little ones  find a solid place to stand, in the uncertain or empty world they sometimes perceived around them. There is no reaching back. The arrow of time points forward.

There is a sort of time travel we can do, though. We can't rewrite the past, but we write the future, and we do so with mutterings and glances and nudges, subtle things that we don't even notice, mere puffings, but great winds to the children of the next generation, with which we send them this way or that, like toy ships in a pond. So it is. They unmoor themselves and drift away, and it is on us to stand in a firm place with a rope, to draw them back if they will have it.

For ponds overflow their banks and join the sea, and someone must be vigilant or the wild winds may rise and tear the still waters into chaos. The oceans are thick with the bodies of those who have been swept away by some wayward wave -- lost, unnoticed until too late, and no circling as an afterthought will wrest tragedy back from the implacable black waters. That's why it's so important to be observant. It reminds us of the importance of compassion.

Well? It's that way with all of us, if we look deep enough. Inside these adult bodies are babies and children and adolescents. They don't leave us, they just step into the shadows. With teenagers, we show them our love by respecting their loneliness, and listening to them when they've had enough of it. There has to be someone there, to listen. The night needs to have somewhere in it a sheltered dry place with a bright warm fire, where sad and funny stories affirm the bond between past and future, and where silence falls because everything that should be said, has been. And with the smaller ones, the calm presence of adults is what the world is, when it's a good world. And with ourselves, we must have equal measures of the stern and the merry.

All this is a metaphor of course. It's fine to be kind to others. It's not fine to be selfish within ourselves. But we too must be nurtured, both by the alchemical presence of others, and by ourselves, to ourselves. Just as we hear the nastiness in the phony excuse, "But I'm even harder on myself" -- we must be wise enough to be gentle with others and with ourselves as well. It's a fine balance, between responsibility and self-indulgence. But that's what wisdom is -- like justice, it's a fine balance.

We have to take care of ourselves, and that doesn't mean being a slave to appetite. Sensible exercise, sensible diet. If we neglect these most basic of hygienes, shall we be surprised that something festers? Aches and obesity and exhaustion are not the natural state of a properly functioning body. Decay should occur only after one's demise.

The good news is that, while Time's Arrow flies only in one direction, we ourselves are boomerangs. We can change our course. Change your habits and you change your destiny. No, it's not utterly simple, but it's simple.

We are indeed time travelers. We are God's archers. We are castaways who put poems in bottles with the assurance that the one for whom they were meant will find them. Right now, that must be you. We walk our separate beaches, washed ashore, or pulled in by a long rope as the case may be, and we are divided by time and some unknown distance, but we share the same sun, the same tides, and the same desire for fellowship, however indirect. This is how we know that we are all children. The sand between our toes reminds us of it. And we are time travelers.

Let us then take pleasure from each other. Let us comfort each other. Let's play and laugh and be foolish until we are giddy with sunlight and birdsong, and the water and the trees are both so full of light that we can't tell one from the other. Then we'll come home, and fall asleep sprawled on blankets on the floor, and if we dream, we will laugh in our sleep.

You see? Reality is both what it is, and what we think it is. And mostly what we think is thought through the filter of our emotions. What we do is a choice. What we feel is a choice as well, because it depends so much on what we do. Power? We are the lords of that vast universe within our minds. It may be fantasy. We make it real, insofar as it can be, by our actions.

How fine a thing, to change your lifestyle in the most direct ways possible. Changing the very composition of your flesh, from fat to muscle, by how you exercise and what you eat, and after that, by how you feel. No one else can do it for you. We come alongside, and offer whatever help you can use. But you do it. We just help. It's not about big promises. It's about little ones that are kept.

Be excellent.


CrossFit Burbank
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