The Ties That Bind

camping CrossFit integrity personal development profood roadtrips webs

Additionally, there is a willingness to take responsibility for one's own life that you don't see in a  lot of people, a trend towards ind pendant thinking and self-sufficiency that I also see in many of my camp friends. People in these groups like to make judgement for themselves, but they are also keenly aware of the importance of community support. I think in my camp community, this perspective arises from their experience in the wilderness. When camping, you are required to be both self-sufficient and part of a team. You also come to appreciate the value of functional fitness and real food, both of which appeal to the sense of pragmatism and environmental responsibility campers tend to internalize.

My point is that I can have a conversation about ancestral eating habits with the Farm to Table community, and have the same conversation with my CrossFit community. Both groups understand the basic assumptions, and even accept them. Both groups allow claims based on empirical evidence, but don't put much faith in 'the scientific community' as normally understood. I suppose this kind of mentality is shared by a lot of close-knit, progressive-minded communities, but I'm impressed by the amount of overlap.

Certainly there are things that they don't agree on. There are a lot more individuals with an inclination to run off and build a homestead in the middle of nowhere among the food community than the fitness community. Even there though, there are a lot of CrossFitters who wouldn't mind doing all their training with logs, rocks, and trees. It's all about going back to the roots.

Maintaining Wholeness

Really this ties into a developing awareness that breaking things down into their component parts was a mistake. This is touched in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, in which the author discusses the tendency of rationalist modes of thought to compartmentalize everything and take it all apart. This is contrasted with a more holistic, romantic worldview that views things as wholes. Modern nutritional science is the result of taking food apart. We thought that food was nothing more than its nutritional components, and that we should be able to mix and match nutrients as we saw fit, and still derive the same benefit. Hence, protein bars should be better than real meat because protein is protein, after all.  We are just isolating it. Fitness is the same way. Most people practice isolation exercises. They will work on their arms one day, legs the next, and select exercises based on the muscles worked, rather than the movement undertaken. Instead of saying, I have strong legs so I can squat, they say I will squat so I have strong legs (or actually, I will do leg extensions so I have strong legs, which makes even less sense).

Real food advocates want us to return to a conception of food as holistic, rather than nutritional. Real foodies might harp on the vitamins and nutrients contained in in-season carrots, but only to sell others who still think in terms of nutrition. Most real foodies I know do not concern themselves with the mineral content of their food, or the number of calories, or precisely how much protein or fat is in something. By not breaking food down, they can trust in the integrity of the whole package.

Real fitness movements are similar in that you can trust the movement to be safe and to strengthen your body in the order it needs to be strengthened. For example, you may have really strong legs, but no back stability, and so your squat weight will be limited. You will have to do less weight until your back strengthens. If instead you simply use isolation exercises, you can easily unbalance your body, developing powerful legs with not back stability, which can cause chronic problems, to say nothing of the injury you will incur should you actually try to use your legs in the real world. A barbell backsquat will never permit that kind of imbalance, so CrossFitters (and other followers of similar methodologies) rarely care much about the size or aesthetics of specific muscles, in the same way real foodies rarely care about exact nutritional content of their food.

I am convinced that there are a lot of areas in life in which breaking things down has been a mistake. The connections in fitness and food are very powerful indicators that success is not found in separation, but in holistic unity. I know enough about life to understand that the physical is a reflection of the intellectual/emotional and spiritual, so it makes sense that categorizing other aspects of life probably has similarly detrimental effects (actually, the concept that 'life' can be separated into 'areas' and 'aspects' is itself probably part of the problem). Work and play, study and relaxation, social and personal, public and private, friends and strangers. How many of these categories are just created limitations that lead to imbalances?

Seeking Integrity

Part of the Path of the Warrior is understanding that all things are part of a greater whole, and seeking to integrate rather than disintegrate life. Actually, I would say that is my central mission in life: integrating my life into one seamless fabric. Things can get pretty metaphysical here, but from a practice standpoint, having an integrated life is part of living with integrity. If all of life is holistic, then all of my values and behaviors translate through all my activities, allowing me to uphold my values in all situations. That is the definition of integrity, after all, and it makes sense form a semantic standpoint that integration enables integrity (or vice versa).

Right now, my life is very dis-integrated. My communities are connected by the frailest of webs: the internet. I haven't seen many of my closest friends in many, many months if not years. My connection to my camp friends remains largely in the realm of online interactions, built on shared summer experiences. My connection to the profood community is almost wholly online, except where it overlaps with two friends from camp who largely introduced me to the community in the first place. I have the distinct sense that large chunks of my life are scattered across the country and need to be connected again, almost as if I absentmindedly left pieces of myself everywhere my friends are. Some of those pieces have been carried elsewhere by friends who are acting as unknowing caretakers. That is why I have lately felt a powerful urge to travel a lot and connect all the dots to figure out just what kind of picture my life has been sketching out. I need to go out and pick up the pieces, pick up the lines of conversation, and the shared experiences.

Of course, roadtrips are expensive, so for now, I'm stuck in CT trying to earn the money to move. There must be a better way to do that...

Image Source: ViaMoi on Flickr