Musings | Daniel Oakes


Let’s think like true adults for a
minute about something that’s all over the news: Ukraine. most of us
reading this don’t live in Ukraine, so do any of us really know
what’s going on over there? When I took a minute to think earnestly,
I realized that I actually have no idea what’s happening in Ukraine.
I’ve merely been told about what’s happening in Ukraine by the media.
All I know, from videos on Reddit, is that people are shooting each
other’s heads off. But can I discern anything more from that? I’m not
too sure.

Each year, as I get older, it feels
like the narratives that I’ve grown up with have slowly dissolved and
been replaced by quantitative observation. In other words, I am
learning to try and see things as they are, not as they are
described. So all I see in Ukraine is people shooting lead into other
people’s heads.

But how can I be arrogant enough to
assume that what I observe is really the case, and not just what I
perceive to be the case? For example, when I say “All I see in
Ukraine is people shooting lead into other people’s heads,” my
frankness is also, paradoxically, suggestive of many things, like
“fighting is bad,” or “fighting is futile,” or “fighting is
fighting for its own sake.” It seems, ironically, that the most
honest and “quantitative” descriptions are also the ones that are
most loaded with meaning.

Being aware of how little I actually
know, and also being aware of how my seemingly “objective”
observations are riddled by subtext/narrative, I’ve learned to keep
my mouth shut – on most matters. Am I saying that it’s wrong to
have an opinion on something? Perhaps I am. I’m all too aware that
the word “opinion” infers an “opposite opinion.” So I’m very
careful when it comes to “opinions.”

The only thing I know to be the
cleanest of truths is the weight on my barbell.

The weight on my barbell is…the
weight on my barbell. Simple, straightforward, verifiable. I’m
trying to filter out everything and make the weight on my barbell
nothing more than just a number. I try to stop at the number and not
infer anything beyond the number. If something “good” happens
because of X number, so be it – if something “bad” happens
because of X number, so be it. But, in my own personal secular world
of growing nihilism and doubt, I have found a candle in the darkness:
I have found meaning in The Number On The Barbell.

It doesn’t really make much sense, I
know. The weight on the barbell must have meaning beyond the weight.
Can the number really have meaning in itself? I think it can. A 300 lb
squat has a “feel” to it. It feels different than a 200 lb squat.
Not in the obvious sense that it feels heavier, but in the sense that
300 lb is not 200 lb. This sounds pretty anal, but my goal is to
say “Today I deadlifted 450 lb as opposed to X number of pounds.”
What do you take from that occurrence? I try to take nothing from it,
but the fact that 450 lb was lifted.

Standing there, with 450 lb in your
hands, with absolutely no meaning attached to it whatsoever, is like
sipping on distilled water during a drought. The mind clears like
parting clouds and I can wildly laugh at the brick wall in front of
me. Because, why not? Because I can.

I don’t really take anything from this
article. What do you take from it?  

I know. You don’t have to tell me. You
feel dreadful. Genuinely awful. There’s an actual sensation of
heaviness that floods your body. That’s the best way you can describe
it. You can barely do anything except stare at the ceiling and wait
for sleep to come.

What should you do in this situation?

I have an idea: let’s make things
worse.

Yeah, that’s right. Why don’t we get
off our asses, together, and go and lift something heavy, just for
the hell of it. It’s the worst feeling in the world. The unnecessary
strain on your body. Ah, Lord, the pointlessness of it all… We’re
all gonna die some day. Why are we bothering to put ourselves through
this meaningless torment?

I’ll tell you why.

If you’re sitting in an ice bath you’re
gonna have to pour a hot kettle all over your face for you to
appreciate, no, adore the freeze. That’s right. It feels utterly
trash to lift heavy as hell, so when you rest afterward, it feels
good to have felt dreadful.

I tried it. It works. I’m now laying in
bed. I feel like crap, but it’s a good crap, because it’s better now.

It’s the contrast.

This is what the world’s come to. Most
of our ancestors were struggling to find a few sour berries. And
people died skinny. Now we’re whining about being fat and dying at
70. Our ancestors barely got to 25. It’s perverse.

We feel like rubbish because everything
is too good.

The best thing I ever ate was a plain
ol’ ham sandwich. Not because I consumed some of Rip’s finest ham,
but because I had spent the whole day laboring on a canal and I was
starving. Similarly, the nicest drink I ever had was a cold beer
after a busy shift in a pub. I don’t even like beer. But I drank the
thing like I’d drink cold lemonade in a drought.

Now? I could eat the nicest food and
feel nothing. I could drink the finest drink and feel nothing. To get
better, paradoxically, I need to make my life harder.

That’s why I’m lifting heavy weights.
It’s perverse, I know. You should try it too.  


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