“I might be wrong.”

What is it to “know” something? What is it to have “knowledge”? Does “knowing” imply having learned something? Are there feelings attached to “knowing” or is that reserved for the realm of “wisdom”? Concurrently then, what is “wisdom”? What about “intuition”? What about “experience”? There are so many strange concepts tied to these questions; the relationship to brain and mind, or spirit and soul, nature and nurture. What is this thing we call “life”?

So there are – of course – the bare bones, scientific “facts” of biological, physiological life. We are conceived, we are born, we persist for a time, moving about in physical space governed by the realities of biological function, then at some point those functions cease and we perish. Or so we are told. This is an ex-parrot. Many would have us accept that there is much more to life than this. But what is “life”; what is it to “live”?

I suppose I am flirting with disaster here in that I really do not like the idea of asking questions about the “search for meaning”, but then I guess that is what I am doing… in a sense.  I am just after a different sort of “meaning”. Funny thing though, in writing these questions one might be inclined to think that the questioning is more about the words themselves… or maybe not. Maybe it really is about the language; the “meanings” behind all the words… but that is a different thing than asking “Why are we here?” I am not even really sure what that question “means”.

I used to be a strong proponent (at least in mind and partly in word), that birthdays – and by association – the whole business of measuring the world with a calendar was a fallacious enterprise. I used to be fond of the phrase “we all must get older, but we need not get old”. I used to think it was terribly clever… I guess I still do in a sense, though maybe not terribly so. The basis for my argument was that saying a person is twenty-something or fifty-something is an empty statement based on an imagined reality; that being the western “calendar”. It is tied to my inability and outright refusal to accept that ANY human formulated institution is the “right” way to do something. Saying that I am 39 makes as much “real” sense to me as saying that at one time in my youth I was bleen (that little-known number that exists between six and seven). It is all nonsense. Words. Sounds that we have constructed to give “meaning” to abstract concepts which, given a bit too much time on our hands, we humans are marvelous at conceiving. I would often posit that, it is not calendrical age by which one ought to measure one’s life, but rather by experience. But then one might push this a bit further and suggest that there is no real point in “measuring” one’s age anyway.

So then it comes back around to where I started this; in begging the question of what is “knowledge” or “experience”. Can, or does one “experience” “knowing”? Must one “learn” “knowledge” or can one experience it? Both? Of course on the one hand this is just an exercise in semantics, but on the other hand if we persist in measuring our realities through the mechanism of human formulated conceptual structures then semantics=language=understanding… or something. So then in “saying” something, we are implying – or perhaps rather attempting to impart – a certain concept. In this case the right words are very important. Say what you mean and all that. This allows us to make silly statements such as “I know what you mean.” Do you? Do you really? Or did you just hear what I said? And beware of empathy here… one might suggest.

OK, so what is knowledge? Is it “understanding”? Is it “belief”? Is it “experience”? How do I know what I know… and what is it that I “know” really? Is knowledge merely the mechanism by which I explain (or perhaps rather understand) the structure of my experience? But then where fits wisdom, intuition, belief? A couple of other favorite quotes that would seem to be related to the question; “It is my firm belief that it is a bad idea to hold firm beliefs.” And “Anything that I could believe might be wrong.” Is “dark” a reality in and of itself or is it simply the absence of “light”? To paraphrase Morpheus, if our physical “senses” are merely physiological processes – electrical signals interpreted by the brain – then what is “real”?

morpheus

So, is knowledge implicitly tied to empiricism, the business of knowing what we know…or like to think and try to convince others that we know? Is knowledge strictly the realm of “science”, firmly grounded in the world of fact? What about the idea of “know thyself”, how does that fit into the mix? Looking up definitions of the word “know” (and variants thereof) one is presented with implications of some level of certainty or clarity, to perceive directly, to regard as true beyond doubt. That does not tell me much. What is clarity? How does one verify perception? What is “true”? Does this reasoning suggest that we base our “knowledge” on some standardized “truth” that is understood and verified by our senses? Now we are back to the question of how do we really know what we like to think we know?

So, what does all this matter? It doesn’t… don’t be ridiculous. This is all just nonsense, sort of like the rest of it all. Now, I am not intending to sound particularly nihilistic here, nor fatalistic for that matter. Rather, one might suggest that it is in the asking of these sorts of questions that life might become more interesting… or frustrating I suppose, depending on one’s perspective. One might even go a bit further to suggest that this sort of philosophical gerrymandering actually forces us to attempt to understand ourselves a bit more, especially in the sense of how one relates to the world and all of the rest. And there we get into one of the most interesting, and yet easily most complicated, realities of all of this… how it is that our understanding, perception, knowledge, experience – what have you – of the world around us (and existence within it) forms our ability to relate to others.

“I know what I know and that’s all that I know.” Or perhaps, “I am what I am and that’s all that I am.” I do not really like either of these statements for some reason. I think I prefer “All I know is that I know nothing.” If one’s vessel is full, one cannot accept anything more without losing something in the process. I think I would rather be the empty vessel, willing to “learn” more.

To call on Morpheus (although I suspect he got this from Buddhism somewhere) one last time, “There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path”, and to carry that one step further the important part is the journey… not the destination. But then, really, what do I know? I might be wrong after all. And whatever you do, DO NOT look to me for any answers… I am better at questions. And maybe not even very good at that.

“But then if we do not ever take time, how can we ever have time?”

I guess it has been awhile since I have written last. I have been rather a bit too busy to have thoughts interesting enough to share… or perhaps instead I have not had the capacity to formulate all of the random thoughts into a cohesive jumble. I expect this attempt will not be too spectacular. There have been a lot of changes in life around here and to be perfectly honest I think I may have to come up with a new name for the blog… for reasons that I may get into later. Suffice to say there have been changes.

So, yeah… CrossFit at least three – preferably four – times a week, curling once a week, Downton once a week, then trying to fit in skiing when feasible, walking the dog (not often enough), planning for spring/summer/future. Then there is that pesky work thing that eats up so much time and of course there are always chores (like cooking, eating, and cleaning…). Additionally, today is Ash Wednesday, which previously has not meant a thing to me… still doesn’t really. I gather it is the beginning of “Lent” and all I know about that is that some people choose to give something up for a month. Some sort of attempt to emulate, or at the very least give a nod to, the trials of that Jesus cat when he is said to have spent a month in the desert…vision questing or whatever. Again, never has meant much to me, not having been particularly exposed to it. That said, given some of the things I have been pondering of late I have decided to make an interesting choice. Well, it seems interesting to me anyway. I am not going to give anything up for Lent. Not really anyway. What I have decided to do is to go to church every Sunday during that time… all the way to Easter. I guess that is how it works… starting tonight. So yeah, there is that to add to the schedule. Ash on the forehead… or so I gather.

 

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The light is coming back around here, and the temperatures are warming. I was shoveling snow on the front deck this weekend in a t-shirt… first time I have felt warmth from the sun since last autumn sometime. It was a very nice feeling. Skiing is getting really good and we have great snow, so this needs to happen more often, but where is the time? Ah, but with more light we get more time… in a sense. The tricky thing now is scheduling. I find myself writing a lot more down lately lest I drop the ball somewhere. Like taxes… have to get taxes done. I really do not want to wait until last minute for that.

So, on top of the scheduled activities listed above there is the planning and gearing up for days to come. This, of course, is an open ended subject. Sky’s the limit and all that. But there are also things that have to be scheduled here. Garden planning; for some things the seeds need to be started well ahead of time here because of our short growing season. The first batch needs to get planted this weekend. This of course means having the seed starting set up in good working order… which at this point it is not… quite. Also have to plan (and of course carry out) the construction of a greenhouse… in place of some of the other building projects I have mentioned previously… Changes as I said. Then there is this idea of raising chickens. Never have done that before, but this is the year to start it seems. So this means preparing the coop, which is partially there. Well, there is a structure in a fenced yard that will become a coop. However there will also need to be brooder boxes, or at least one, built… and then the getting, raising, and harvesting of chickens. We got a book on it last night… so that is something anyway.

Then there is the moving; cleaning and fixing up the property, preparing a garage sale, getting the place ready to rent. Deciding what to do with the timbers and eventually dealing in some way with the remaining logs and all of the firewood. Sometimes, life seems to gallop right along whether you are settled comfortably in the saddle or not… but then I turned this wild thing loose, so I guess I have to ride it out. Now where did that come from? Horse references, WTH?

Anyway, there have been some changes… there are bound to be more. What I need to keep close through is the ability to stop and watch things roll by now and again. I like the changes. I had better, as I have set many of them in motion, but I also need to be able to stop, sit down with a nice cup of coffee, and stare into space now and again. That is taking time. That is having time. Without this ability it will not matter how many things I write down, I am likely to lose the whole list. Change is good, but I have never been much of a juggler.

“What is the point of all those push-ups if you can’t even lift a bloody log?”

I used to hate gym class. I mean really, I flat out loathed the whole idea…for nearly my entire school career. That is everything before college where I took a few “electives” that were of personal interest. I did not like sports (I have mentioned this previously), or locker rooms, or plain white t-shirts, or dodgeball, or calisthenics, or gymnastics, or tumbling, or wrestling, or whatever. Most of my growing up days I was fat and even though I likely needed this sort of activity, I wanted nothing to do with it. In those early days I was not even much for riding a bike… it took me awhile to master that skill as I recall and it was not until 7th grade or so that I had a decent one to ride anyway.

My first gym memories are from Clissold, the institution I attended from Kindergarten through 6th grade. There was a large open gymnasium there with ropes hanging from the ceiling and chin up bars attached to the walls. There was a secondary section with rings and mats and vaulting horses and parallel bars and uneven bars. All seemed like devious torture devices to me. I remember having to be silent while doing our calisthenics routines, the overhead lights buzzing maddeningly and the militaristic gym teacher – I want to say his name was Mr. Brady, but I cannot truly recall – white t-shirt and flat top buzz cut clad guy, stalking about with a whistle.

gym class1

So then there was middle school; Kerr to be specific. I actually have a hard time recalling gym there, so we will go ahead and jump to high school. There was a swimming pool and we had to wear the school trunks which were tight and gross and the whole place smelled like ass and chlorine. Unwashed bodies and chemicals… a party I wanted NOTHING to do with. There was outside ultimate Frisbee, which I should have liked. I actually enjoy playing Frisbee, but not as a sport… I mean, come on, what a way to ruin a perfectly good, fun, and unstructured activity. Like organized team sports with a hacky sack… completely the wrong direction. I did enjoy the section when we went bowling… early shades of my Dudeist inclination perhaps. Oh yeah, the archery section was cool as well.

So then one day I was visiting my sister in California and we went for a day hike at a place called Pinnacles and while there saw some folks rock climbing… now THAT I wanted to do. Unfortunately bike riding and Hot Pockets in the Midwest did not really prepare me for said activity. Either way, years later I would do some climbing; Rock, mountain, and steep snow and I loved every minute of it. Never did get to ice climbing, but that is beside the point. Then college came around and as mentioned I took some extra-curricular classes; Intro to Ski Mountaineering, Beginning Tae Kwon Do, Beginning Aikido. Perhaps you can see a pattern here. As mentioned I am not much of a team player.

OK, so besides just rambling here I do intend to bring this around to a point. I have mentioned a few times that I got this silly idea in my damn fool head to undertake a large and relatively complex building project involving trees and timbers and not many other people besides myself. Stupid. So while I am not Bruce Wayne lying under a burning ceiling beam…clearly… the title of this post has some relevance. After spending a certain amount of time trying to move trees around by myself I thought it would be a good idea to get in better shape. So this summer I took a yoga class. HAHAHAHAHA! What was I planning to do, meditate them there trees into place? Good Grief. Honestly though it was a step in the right direction, especially since the leader was crazy for core workouts. I did get stronger and it got me into a routine.

So fast forward to late summer. The trees need milling and I started working with a guy who was putting me to shame moving the timbers around by himself. I realized I needed to build some serious strength if I was going to continue with this madness. Then a doctor told me to watch my cholesterol. So I sign up at a local gym. Funny how things come around. So I go to this gym, where new and strange torture devices abound… and I realize I have no idea what I am doing. What I need is a guide…of some sort.

So then I meet this woman. She is tough. She does this thing called CrossFit. In talking with her about what that is I realize I need a trainer, so I investigate the possibility at the gym. HOW MUCH A MONTH? Forget that. But CrossFit seemed expensive too, on the order of three times my current gym cost. I finally decided to try it out…first month is half price. I was hooked after the first day. It is an incredibly intense, but real world oriented work out. The idea is to learn to have a greater command of your physical (and of course mental) person in physical space. If that seems too esoteric an explanation how about this, the motto is “Move Fast. Lift Heavy.”

So… CrossFit. This is so far from anything I would ever have envisioned myself doing…voluntarily. Likewise, I would never have envisioned enjoying it so much, so genuinely, so intensely. It is addicting. I am obsessed. I have changed my diet, my behavior, my mindset, and my outlook on life. I have dropped two pant sizes. Two weeks ago I deadlifted 295 pounds. Last night I squatted 170 and bench pressed 130… 15 times each, and that was just the warm up. I have done 50 pull-ups during a workout… in less than 30 minutes. I have flipped tractor tires… repeatedly, sprinted 1200 meters, rowed 5 kilometers… and always look forward to more.  And these things are common there…even paltry to some of the people that go. BUT, there is no negativity, no interpersonal animosity. There is friendly competition to be sure, but most of that is individually directed. The owners, Kane and Laci, are awesome people. They seem to know everyone’s name and are in there with us all, both training us and training with us. Everyone is encouraging. Everyone is working hard, sweating and cussing, moving fast and lifting heavy.

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The most amazing thing though is that while, yes it is really hard and I am sore most every day, I want to go back… can hardly wait to learn something new or set a new personal record. And… AND… it is meant for everyone. There are people there half my age and people half again my age. The woman that trained me (every beginner has a two week into period) is pregnant, is due tomorrow, and can and does put me to shame in any given workout. Check out a recent picture of her here… http://www.crossfitfairbanks.com/5089/friday-february-1-2013

There is likely a CrossFit near you. I highly recommend it… and if you are in Fairbanks, tell Kane or Laci that Shannon sent you. One day I hope to catch up to her… but she is pretty tough.