Single most important thing I’ve learned as a personal trainer: Ain’t nobody gonna get strong if I can’t get in their mind. I’m less a coach and more a supremely underqualified psychoanalyst. The problem’s definitions: Folks are all ate up with the word virus and think they know what “strong” means when the strongest person they ever knew was that one roommate back in college that could carry all the grocery bags in one trip. What ever happened to people reading the Bible? At least the book of Judges should be required reading at least once a year, make people meditate on the idea that Samson--with 1100BC nutrition and exercise equipment and no wrist wraps or pre-workouts--killed a lion with his bare hands, slaughtered an army regiment with a donkey’s jawbone, then pulled down a temple.
Note the lack of squat shoes, belt, notebooks, and fucks given. Who ever said the Bible had nothing to offer?
“But ahhhh, no, that’s not scientific!” Sure. But you’re still subscribed to Nutritional Trends Monthly, which told you that saturated fat was Satan incarnate (and not in a fun way), rather than venerating it as the nigh-unmatched sex-and-muscle fuel it is.
Science, schmience. It’s just another epistemological system among many, and not even a particularly good one for our purposes.By nature, it deals only in generalities: Gotta have enough test subjects to allow for statistical significance. But nobody is in any sense a generality. We’re indisputably particular, so science doesn’t apply, at least not without a significant leap of faith. Science is the delusional acid-head that ran through your freshman dorm screaming that every thought he had was some final epiphany, that all humanity is One. “Eureka!”
A better epistemological framework for lifters: Spirituality. Jamie has talked about the usefulness of chaos magic on this blog before, but spiritual liftosophy could use some more elaboration:
In his thunderfuck banger of a dissertation, The Birth of Tragedy, Friedrich Nietzsche explained a basic duality by which to organize behaviors. Shit’s either Apollonian or Dionysian. The Apollonian is your average modern powerlifter. Numbers, thorough thoughtfulness and a clear head. Fairly self-explanatory, really. Apollo was the only god boring and routine-oriented enough for the other gods to trust him to pull the sun across the sky every day. He wore knee sleeves into battle and would only do three sets of javelin throws per day for fear of overtraining. (Read this in the Iliad somewhere, but I can’t for the life of me remember the page.)
The important half for us is the Dionysian. Dionysus was the half man, half goat god of orgies, metal, and getting smashed--basically the ancient Greek GG Allin. It was Dionysus that Benny Podda channeled as he “ran straight through a wall, Wile E. Coyote-style” to warm up for a lift.
Friedrich Nietzsche, ca. 1867. According to eminent scholar Dr. Rector T. Luge, in his prime Nietzsche could deadlift six average-sized tightrope walkers while simultaneously pleasuring an entire Prussian brothel and breaking a wild horse. Check out Dr. Luge’s book, Empathology, from German metal label and publishing house Bleeding Heart Nihilist, for more on this legendary badass. The book drops in early 2019.
The mental difference between channeling Apollo and Dionysus? Same difference as the one between Jehovah and Satan. You can guess which is which. The god of rules and the god of freedom: The god of artifice and the god of nature. There’s good, sound reason that Satan and Dionysus are generally depicted with the same horns.
Which brings us around to a somewhat more obscure philosopher. Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling. In his face melting opus Ages of the World, Friedrich, maybe unintentionally, lays down a description of the opposition between Apollonian and Dionysian (or Jehovah and Satanic) action. His idea is that the force that drives personal development--and even time itself--is the conflict, in each individual person, between “Being” and “what-is”--or, we could say, between verbiness and nouniness.
Schelling himself is clearly working from a Christian basis. But the way he describes “Being” is far closer to Satan than to the Jehovah with whom he identifies. The conflict, he says, between Being (or verbiness, unrestrained activity) and what-is (or nouniness, self-reflective identity) is that each person’s verbiness struggles toward development, fights to burst out of the restrictive embrace of nouniness.
In less technical terms, we each struggle internally between being active and being defined--or between being frenetically free and being restricted by definitions and planning.
It’s easy to see which of these categories correspond to and oppose each other. Frenetic freedom-Satanism-Dionysian vs. Restraint-Jehovism-Apollonian.
Dionysus. Look like anyone we know?
So, there’s a whole metric shitload and a half of philosophical jargon. What’s the point? Point is from the corpsefucking beginnings of Western Civilization in Greece and all through its development and into the present day roughly the same duality has dominated philosophical discourse and individual lives. And that same duality is what separates really fucking great athletes and really fucking mediocre athletes right fucking now. Which grouping of characteristics fit to which group of athletes should be abundantly clear at this point. If I were to ask, “Which divine force caused the Irish warrior Cú Chulainn’s calves to twist to the fronts of his shins before he ran off into battle to slaughter armies and fuck bitches?”, nobody should answer, “Jehovah, obviously.”
The question, then, becomes, “How do we fill ourselves with the celestial goaty light of Dionysus?”
The answer: Don’t try so fucking hard. The process is one of letting go, not of doing one more anal-retentive thing to move one step further. Fuck that Kantian progressive noise. Kant was a cunt, and that’s the end of that.
We’ve come, now, through a multidirectional philosophical framework, to the reason drinking is generally way better than people expect for lifters. Getting smashed off your ass, in one way or the other, is the sacrament of the cult of Dionysus, the cult of the verbs rather than the nouns, the cult of the berserkers, those who can, by their indomitable Spirits, progress by more than 0.87% RPE per week, and who will then go and fuck enough men/women/donkeys to make Lars von Trier and a coast full of Colombian men blush, then pour Karo syrup in the gas tanks of every piece of industrial equipment they can lay their eyes on, until they finally exhaust what’s reasonable for any demigod in a single day and return home to sleep, caring not whether they hit eight hours or whether they awaken at the dead end of a sleep cycle or whatever bullshit is trending right now.
The point is not technique. There comes a point in a lifter’s life where they can perform a perfect squat while sleeping and solving a Rubik’s cube. The point is not planning. There likewise comes a point in a lifter’s life where they know exactly what they should do and when, simply by feeling what it’s like to inhabit their body. And the point is not calculations. It is not empirical verification. And it is certainly not double-blind whatever-the-fuck or optimal peri-workout vitamin L ratios or electrolytes or foam rollers or squat shoes or X-brand straps or Y-brand sleeves or Z-brand belt or ß-brand chalk or monohydrate/malate or monolift vs. walkout or conventional vs. sumo or wide vs. narrow or natty vs. cousin fucking juiced or macromesomicro molotov-cycles or any of that overanalytical horseshit.
The point is that if you’re living any type of life that any self-preserving psychologist would call “pro-social” or “well-adjusted,” lifting may well be the only chance you have in your day-to-day to praise fucking Satan, to metaphorically whip your dick out and swirl like a bloody calloused dervish into a maenad-and-satyr orgy. To leave the strait-jacket embrace of self-conscious “stability” required by virtually every profession and vocation--to forget where your body’s and mind’s boundaries are and flood the whole earth with exuberance.
Basically what we’re going for is a sense of self that looks something like this painting.
And if you value it as such, it can be transcendent. And if it’s transcendent, your performance in it will be exactly as transcendent. Congregation, flip your Bibles to Arnold Ch. 69 verse 666: “When I am weightlifting it is feeling like having sex, and when I am having sex it is feeling like weightlifting.” Sure, genetic anomaly, blech, whatever--fuck all that spiritually diseased slave morality crab shit. Again, not the point. Point is he did exactly what this whole article has been talking about. There are very few moments of full-force release offered by the sick caricature that is modern society. So, it is in every decent person’s mental and physical best interest to embrace such moments when they’re available.
That is, the point is not even performance. The point is to go fucking berserk because it’s a great time. The rest will follow.