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The Memory of Roses

George Will has written in achingly poignant prose about the long decline of his aged mother into the oblivion of dementia and the final release of death. He wrote as beautifully in prose as a great poet writes in verse, impelled by a theme that is rarely matched in its grip on our souls. It fills the heart with inexpressible sadness, having known something of grief, as we all have, or will.

We can love people -- opt to love them, volunteer -- who are not worthy of love, humanly speaking. No need for elaboration. It’s a provocative enough statement, for all that betrayal might seem almost commonplace. And we drag ourselves away from such and such a situation trailing most of our courage and all of our hope behind. And being human, imperfect in our capacity for tranquility, we might be infected with rage like a low-grade fever. Self-pity? Yes. It comes with an awareness of our flaws. But who even has a right to an opinion on the matter of the secret flaws in someone else's secret heart? All this is the negative.

And if the ones who work havoc were to fall into the hands of their victims? Best not to speak of it. But the one, the ones we have loved, despite their betrayals? Of course we're angry. Here’s what we must tell ourselves: "I did not love, that it might turn into hate. I did not sacrifice, that it should bring only loss." To love is an act of will as much as a sort of pit into which we fall. This is what it means when we are told that love does not fail. It’s not that the flame doesn’t scorch but that its light doesn’t fade. The outcome of love is not assured, but its reality should never be in doubt.

High-sounding sentiments however about the unfailing character of love have little merit if they have no effect in the real world. But we do need soft phrases sometimes, as we need soft touches -- they are comforting to us. It isn’t only monkeys that clutch onto each other when the skies grow dark. It’s a picture of ourselves. We are created to love. We were made that we might count ourselves less, that someone else might be more. There is no race that knows no expression of this truth.

It isn’t something that needs to be written in a holy book. It’s written in our hearts -- incised, rather, in deep and ragged gouges. This too might make us angry. What sane person wants more pain? But can it be helped? Honestly. We must, must love, and it hurts the way a little child cries when stung or struck. But we cannot escape our nature any more than we can change our destiny -- or rather, as fools and saints attempt, change the destiny of someone else.

George Will reminds us of the words of J.M. Barrie: God gave us memory that we might have roses in winter. How lovely a thought. Someone wisely said that pain comes to pass, not to stay. It calls to mind the fact that even in our wrath, we may forgo our demand for justice and discover almost out of vacuum a capacity for mercy, and forgiveness.

So, after a long and blessed life, an old woman may descend into the darkness and indignity of senility. Her character so carefully built-up over the decades might fall away as cities succumb to earthquakes. What is left remains only as a mockery. But it doesn’t remain forever, and when she finally passes from sight, that dimming light must flair up bright as garden sunshine. So might we hope.

In this same way, we can only hope ... if we can hope ... that those who have passed beyond our sight after having shed darkness upon our world like Satan in his fall, might with the passing of time enjoy a sort of dementia of an evil character -- where repentance works its transformation and nobility is found where only betrayal has been seen.

It cannot be that the world is destined only for decay. There must be some counterbalancing force, where the agony of watching those we love reduced almost to animals, is matched in some measure by the redemption of those who started life as animals, but who discover the very purpose of what humanity is. This would be grace, and a sort of justice too. For to be human is to be condemned to love.

You see the point. We speak here of health and of fitness. For what purpose? That we might be a more excellent sort of animal? It is an easy thing to hold out cliches of love and betrayal -- how wise we might seem. But honestly. What matters? We arrive at the answers we believe by traveling through our lives like fishermen dragging nets. Perhaps we come up with hope, and courage. But it takes strength. We grow strong by enduring trials. The trials of exercise and of diet are easy, then, and a good starting place. That's the point.

Be excellent.


CrossFit Burbank

More re Diet

Diet. It's so hard. It just always needs reinforcing. There are so many conflicting, contradictory ideas about it. Carbs? Fats? Proteins? The correct ratios? Their effects on health and performance? Well, the health aspect of being vegetarian, or at least of having a very high proportion of the diet as vegetables, is established and beyond debate. But what about athletic performance? There are anecdotal claims that vegetarian athletes who switch to animal foods increase performance. The methodology is nonexistent at this point, but the claims are made. Are they true?

It could be that performance is enhances by the metabolic byproducts of meat -- uric acid, say, acting as a toxifying stimulant. Or by hormones, both artificial, from commercial and factory-fed beef, and also natural hormones, left in the flesh from the terror of being butchered. Yes, all that adrenaline could act as a performance enhancer -- stimulants will do that. At the expense perhaps of long term health, but if it's only about short term performance, well there you go.

Like coffee. Caffeine definitely increase the availability of fat to be used as an energy source with distance runners, and presumably other athletes. But we are reading more and more about adrenal fatigue -- the over-activity of stress hormones. It would be a counterpart to pre-diabetes, where the pancreas is forced to over-produce insulin, because of a dangerous lifestyle. It's imbalanced, it's damaging to long-term health, and it's unnatural. Stimulants, including meat, are or may be performance enhancers. Well? If that's okay, what's wrong with steroids? Extreme example. Draw the line back where you will.

It's just a theory, the stimulatory effect of meat, invented to answer the possibility, the anecdotal possibility that switching from vegetarian to meat-eating yield results. It needs to be investigated.

And let's look at protein. It is said that animal proteins are dangerous simply by being like those proteins we ourselves make. If you introduce a similar but alien protein into your bloodstream, your body produces antibodies to destroy it. All well and good. But if those alien proteins are too similar, your body learns how to attack itself. Auto-immune disease, thank you very much. It's a theory. But it makes sense.

Another problem is in the composition of the meat people eat. First, you cannot use protein. Nobody every used protein. It's useless. That why we digest it. We break it down into its constituent amino acids, and use them. Now here's the thing. If we eat meat, it's fair to suppose that the ratio of amino acids the meat yields is comparable to the meat, muscle, of our own bodies. So, yes, meat could go to make muscle. But there's a problem with the reasoning. The meat/amino acids that we might use does/do not go just to make muscle. Our bodies use amino acids for a host of other functions. Amino acids are used to build every hormone we have. They are used as peptides, as neurotransmitters, as the building blocks of bone and hair and fingernails and organs and, well, everything. Everything that gets done in your body is done by proteins. It's not about meat. Proteins are robots, that travel throughout the body and get things done. See? You are guaranteed to get exactly the WRONG ratio of amino acids, if you rely on meat.

What is the ideal proportion of essential amino acids? It's unlikely that anyone knows. But we can be sure it's not that of any meat. Milk, perhaps? Human milk? But you do not plan on doubling your weight in the next few months, do you? Because that's what milk is designed to do. So milk is the wrong ratio too, for adults. It must be, must be, some admixture of plant materials. What recipe? Who knows.

That's why we advocate eating as wide a variety of plant nutrients as is convenient. You don't know what you need, but your body needs it anyway. So give it a chance to choose. You don't need to have every nutrient at every meal. It's not about loading the stew up with absolutely everything. Indeed, that may be a bad idea. Digestion is a very very very complex thing. We know this because there are as many neurons in the gut as there are in the brain. From this we might conclude that digestion is as hard a thing to figure out as calculating the orbit of Neptune. No worries, our gut can do that. But let's not make it unnecessarily difficult.

So consider those dietary supplements, the powders that have every fruit ever heard of, all in a single tablespoon. Sounds pretty good, right? Maybe. But that's like 112 different plant families that your body has to figure out how to digest and absorb, all in one sitting. Sure, it can be done. But it seems like a strain. Like stimulants would be a strain. Like adrenal fatigue would be a strain. Like pre-diabetes would be a strain. Stress is okay. Distress is bad. How about getting all those nutrients over a few meals, or a week, or something like that. Rather than glut yourself, for all that the portions are small.

It's not about being perfect. It's about being sensible. Sensible diet, sensible exercise. Since you are made out of what you eat, it seems like starting with diet would be smart.

Be excellent.


CrossFit Burbank


Catch that show about “Hoarders”? Lots of anxiety and catastrophizing. “I feel like just leaving and never coming back.” Yeah, sure, you’re going to go kill yourself because people are exasperated with all your mess and crap. You’ll just disappear from the planet. It’s not the hoarding of course. It’s the mess. If it were organized it wouldn’t be hoarding. It would be collecting. It's more than just some reluctance to throw out anything that might possibly someday be somehow useful. Pathological.

But really, it’s not the stuff. It’s the mess. It’s really important to stay on top of it. Especially with boys. Two rules. First, have a place for everything. All the papers -- work, academic, finance -- all the books, dishes, jackets, shoes, toys, games -- they all have a place. Boxes, chests, closets, hampers, drawers, cupboards, shelves -- these are places, for things. Armoires. Credenzas. Highboys. Whatever. They don’t have to be neat in their place, but they have to be in their place, and out of sight. Their place is not on tabletops, chairs, beds, floors, floors under beds. Their place is not, ever, on a surface. Surfaces do not count as places. Things are either out of sight, or on display. It’s more a matter of judgment than of taste. And when they get messy in their place, out of sight, well, once a week, places get a going over. Sunday evening, after dinner and before family time. It's a part of family time.

Second rule, no mess at bedtime. Never let it get out of control. You do that by having a procedure. Whose ever bedtime it is, there’s a few minutes before that, for spot check. You know what you’ve been doing. If it’s kids, they don’t know what they’ve been doing. So there’s a checklist, formal or informal. Of course kids want to do a sloppy job. It’s not bad, it’s human. But there’s accountability too.

Too much stuff? Not enough places? Really, that's not hard. Decide if you want to be a hoarder. Keep what you need, keep what you like, but don't keep what you might perhaps someday maybe have a use for possibly. It's like paint cans. When you repaint, many years from now, is it going to be the same color? Really? Liar. Buy less than you want. It's more than you need. One fellow had the rule, anything that wouldn't fit on the one shelf in his garage, had to go. Severe, but it worked. He had one big place, rather than a lot of more specific ones. It worked for him.

Too much mess? There's the Mount Vernon technique of housekeeping. It's such a big place, how do you clean it? Start in a corner, and work out. It's a system, and systems get things done. Doesn't have to be the best system ever, or the most efficient. Just effective. No search-and-rescue grids required. Overwhelmed? Schedule time. Do it in pieces. Make it a project. Ask for help. Hire someone. Just get it done.

It's important because people form judgments. Family overlooks it. Friends make allowances. Strangers don't care, or shouldn't. Social workers write reports. But everyone has opinions. And if there are kids, well, there it is. We want them to benefit from our excellence. Sadly, they have to deal with it all.

That’s it. Two rules. Have a place, and use it. But that's how it is with everything. A few rules, just common sense, and chaos becomes cosmos. This is how God created the universe. With a rule, a unified field. Light. Then a lot of separating.

Point? It's not about messy stuff. It's about being in charge. First, most, of yourself. Health and fitness. Because we are not our stuff, and we are not the place that our stuff is in. For purposes of this discussion, we are our bodies. Don't have a messy body. Don't be a hoarder of body stuff. You know, fat. Fungus. Yeast infections. Impacted fecal matter on the colon wall. You know, stuff. Don't do that. How? Two rules. Sensible diet, sensible exercise.

Be excellent.


CrossFit Burbank


Poignant isn't the right word. Compassion, pity, sympathy, empathy -- not it. What ever it is though, about futility, we feel it. We feel it about fatherless kids, sometimes even enough to try to do something about it. To a lesser degree, hopefully, we feel it about fat people.

Futility. A concrete noun that carries with it an abstract feeling, if you feel it. Let's avoid a detailed retelling of the insanity cycle of doing the same thing expecting different results. Broadly, calorie restriction slows metabolism up to 45%, stopping calories from being used as energy, storing it instead. Lethargy and cravings.

Of course there is some character issue involved. A little bit at least. It's the industrial carbs that gets the obesity cycle started. Everyone knows not to eat those sorts of things. Chips and cookies and things in bags and boxes, of whatever flavor. It's the stuff parents don't want kids to ruin their appetites on. A sort of folk wisdom. What, it doesn't apply to adults? But since we're answerable only to ourselves, in actuality, we eat what we want. Character, then.

But that's what's behind almost every problem. You married an unworthy spouse because you were attracted to unworthiness. You lost your home to foreclosure because you were adolescent with credit cards. You lost your job because et cetera. Not about blame, though. We have problems because we're human.

The fat problem is about what we eat. There are people who eat once a day, and spend no small part of it on the treadmills, and they don't lose the fat. It's the carbs. The industrial carbs. Refined, denatured, powdered, fried. Pre-digested. What are we, baby birds? Instant bloodsugar means instant hyperinsulinemia means excessive fat storage and consequent lack of energy. Industrial carbs means an excess of the raw materials that are essential in forming fat. Don't eat the industrial carbs and you will starve your fat instead of your immune system. Seems like a good deal.

But appetite is what it is. Even with the actual sure knowledge of what the problem and its cure are, some shocking number of people will continue as they are. Smoking through the hole in the neck. At which point, futility largely decouples itself from compassion. Perhaps not though. Judgment hardly does any good at all. It serves justice only, if anything. Justice is an abstract.

As for fatherless children, well, isolation is our natural state. If we fill the void with comforts, it cannot be a surprise. High on the list of first-learned-words, is "mine".

Even good boys need to be bad sometimes. Bad, in the sense of disobedience. Find a way you can get away with it. Because otherwise it's always about being good, and that's not possible. Not fully human. It's not healthy. It's about a safety valve. An assertion of individuality. Yes, we want them to be above criticism. We want them to receive the praise of strangers. But on the other hand, those are the children who get into windowless vans idling by the bushes in big parks. We have to practice being disobedient. Sometimes it's actually the responsible thing to do.

There it is. Responsibility. Adults must be responsible. Fitness, nutrition -- health -- these are duties. So.

Be excellent.


CrossFit Burbank
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