The Somewhat Dubious Value of Eccentricity
The father of modern bodybuilding culture, promoter of the first bodybuilding contest in modern history (with a cash prize bigger than any contest for the next 75 years), and the guy Jack LaLanne ripped off for just about everything. You likely have never heard of him, because MacFadden was a full-blown weirdo who loved porn and sex, did insane physical stunts even into old age, and thought (very rightly at the time) medical doctors were goddamned monsters.
America is a nation founded upon a belief in individualism above all, if the propaganda rammed down our throats on a daily basis is to be believed. Certainly, the eccentric has played a massive role in American society- from the flamboyant antics of Little Richard, lady Gage, and Prince in pop music to the oddly accessible masculinity and hyperfitness of Bernarr McFadden to the drug-addled, artistic intellectualism of Ken Kesey and Hunter S. Thompson to the bizarre mad scientist brilliance of Nikola Tesla to the utterly insane engineering genius of Howard Hughes and R. Buckminster Fuller, Americas global dominance for the last century is seemingly built upon rampant, brazen individualism. Breaks with convention put man on the moon, into the air, under the sea, and gave us everything we wantonly take for granted today, from electrical power to the zipper. Americans seem drawn to eccentrics like white trash to Oxycontin, though they secretly judge and condemn their oddball idols even as they explain away their behavior as somehow relatable. At the same time, people who have shamelessly blazed their own path, choosing to do whatever the hell they wanted, do whatever they would, and believe whatever they liked, now cower behind labels, bleating their fear of judgment like sheep rather than snarling their defiance like an enraged hyena, destroying the psychic underpinnings of their uniqueness in a pathetic, limp-wristed plea for acceptance that is an stomach-turning in its delivery as it is in its message.
“Are you unaware that murder was honored in China, rape in New Zealand, theft in Sparta? That man you watch being drawn and quartered in the market place, what has he done? He ventured to acquit himself in Paris of some Japanese virtue.” -Marquis de Sade
A wise man once said, “Strangeness is the energy of our imagination,” though society generally tends to adhere to a policy wherein “the nail that sticks out gets hammered down.” Wildly eccentric and prolific geniuses like Tesla and Hughes usually die alone and impoverished in spite of the fact that the modern world could not exist without their work. Modern horror fiction would likely not exist without the influence of Edgar Allen Poe and HP Lovecraft, yet both men died tragically bereft of both friends and material comfort. Unmatched strength luminary Arthur Saxon died penniless in a gutter (much like Poe), badass boxer Joe Louis diedowing virtually everyone, and the lifelong outsider who was the father of modern pop music, Stephen Foster, died alone with 38 cents in his pocket. Yet without these people, our modern world simply would not exist. They should be celebrated as the gods of modernity, yet men like Henry Ford, who turned men into mindless automatons regulated by dickheads with stopwatches and accountants, and the psychotic sneak-thief Thomas Edison, who did far more to destroy normal human sleep habits than any other human in history and stole everything from the rights to hundreds of other people’s films to the life’s breath out of elephants, are the men behind the curtain credited with tending the machines of progress.
Why is this? Is it because the fine line between genius and insanity is also a line between self-improvement and self-destruction? Is it because a society in which the majority worships an allegedly faultless god and demands the same of its mortal heroes? Is it because the bland shadows of true innovators, labelled as “tireless hard workers” rather than “inexplicable geniuses” are the tasteless pap fed to babes for ease of digestion rather than the deliciously habanero-laden street tacos that might have one crapping their pants in a couple of hours?
“Of course, we call the changes ‘compassion,’ ‘reasonableness,’ and ‘progress,’ but they are actually ‘enfeeblement,’ ‘stupidity,’ and ‘degeneration.'”-Mark Mirabello
Perhaps it’s a bit of both. Perhaps it is neither. Perhaps it is the formlessness of the true individualist- following their whims through life, their path is erratic, their movements unpredictable, their motivations too obscure and byzantine. Lacking easily identifiable form, wedded to atavistic notions of self, intrinsically motivated and truly apart from society in every way, the true individualist is both a vaunted goal and something completely inaccessible to people who are members of a society that rewards collective thought and shuns the unusual and the unconventional.
“It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.” -Frederick Douglass
We live in a time where, more than ever, people wish to seem a part of the collective and whose every thought and action are scrutinized and criticized when they deviate from the norm. Where children make their parents pay for coaches to learn Fortnight rather than playing the goddamned game and figuring it out for themselves. When individual thought and action is as shocking and reviled as it is for lemmings or citizens under a totalitarian regime. When dogma and partisanship reign supreme and possession of opposing views makes one the enemy rather than an object of intrigue and progenitor of intelligent debate.
“A conclusion is simply where you stopped thinking.”
– Black Iron Prison
As society fractures into smaller and smaller segments, people hold even more sacrosanct the precepts held forth by their given group. Christian Republicans justify inhumane treatment to impoverished people fleeing collapsing societies with their holy book, in spite of the obvious hypocrisy in doing so. Allegedly pacifist leftists justify pointless violence by pointing at the distasteful social opinions of the right. Natty lifters screech endlessly about their purity and superiority relative to people doing what humans have always done, which is to utilize any means necessary to win. Geared lifters and raw lifters hate each other. Oly lifters and powerlifters band together to hate on Crossfitters. And then there are vegans, who hate and are hated by everyone. And all the while, individual thought is shunned more and more as idiots herd together for security against the looming “threat” of the other.
If you take nothing else from this, know that there is no mystery to lifting. There is no need for specialization- there is no need to hire coaches and trainers. There is no need to obsess over it- the mystification of weight lifting is one of the most odious trends in strength sports, and one that should quite frankly be met with violence. The people mystifying strength sports- promulgating meaninglessly complex terminology the obfuscates the simplicity of battling gravity- are not your friends. They are the enemy. An enemy hiding in plain sight, pretending to be sorcerers when most of them fail to accomplish even basic strength feats. They’re thieves and charlatans, dickheads and assholes, and generally terrible goddamned people.
“Doubt everything. Find your own light!” – The Buddha
In the end, eccentricity holds little appeal. Some might call me an edgelord, thinking my writing style is schtick and a gimmick, and that I’m at least partly satirizing myself.
This just in: I’m not.
The stuff I write is me- exhaustive research, expansive vocabulary, hardcore and metal and porn and gore and vulgarity, all rolled into a big ball and then swallowed and vomited onto the internet. Clearly, I’m not advocating anyone to follow in my footsteps, because as any have pointed out, I haven’t parleyed my dubious internet fame and strength into much in the way of material wealth- though I am a libertarian with MBAs, I’m a pretty terrible capitalist. I write the stuff I write to inspire myself, and I figure I might as well try to inspire and educate others while I’m at it. In the end, however, going the path already trodden rather than forging your own is the far easier path. I’m just not built to walk that way- I just forge off into the wild because walking along a beaten path is too goddamned boring to contemplate…
and I know I’ll likely get eaten by a metaphorical wild animal while doing it.