Published in Blog Archive.
“the race for me had become an endless repetition,
as i made my way around my circuit of duties.
hour after hour i went thru the same unchanging tasks. […]
after it was all over
i went to the little house to start my update.
the update i had been putting together in my mind was,
of course, gone.” —Gary “Laz” Cantrell, Big’s Backyard Ultra Founder
“We’ve created society that mistakes the notion of hard work to mean not just dedicated work but difficult work. As if difficulty and struggle and torture somehow confer seriousness upon your chosen work. Doing great work simply because you love it, sounds, in our culture, somehow flimsy and that’s a failing of our culture not of the choice of work that artists make.” —Maria Popova, The Tim Ferriss Show
“One woman venture capitalist told us, after hearing my very nervous pitch, ‘I hate to say this because I hate that it’s true, but men who come in here pitch the company they’re going to build, while women pitch the company they’ve already built.’ The men could sound delusional, but they could also sound visionary; women felt the need to show their work, to prove themselves. This wasn’t a note just for my style of pitching (flat, part-Troll doll); she was encouraging us to dream bigger and start anew. What would Rookie look like if we saw everything up until that point as just research?” —Tavi Gevinson, (final) “Editor’s Letter,” Rookie Mag
“Inactivity, inaction is discredited. Silence is discredited. And fasting is discredited.” —Ulay, The Artist is Present
There’s a self-seriousness that irritates me about my approach to writing in public. Here I am, trying to pair three thoughts together—and they make sense to me as a whole, which is the crazy part—that revolve around values. The Public Writer in me says, “This is some serious shit, and I should write about it in a serious way.” Though opaque in their connection, the concepts of exertion, validation, and force all wind together in a braid…
“The real struggle isn’t in force,” a serious writer might write. “Force is easy. Real struggle is in Restraint.” I mean, that’s what I’m talking about. That’s what I want to internalize, that particular thought. And what I want to communicate is that the words here are targets I’m aiming for, even though I might only ever be able to take aim at them after telling an imagined audience that I’m doing so. Maybe that’s the delusion I’m faced with. Another? Continually starting a path before taking any time to consider the terrain. Before the first step, I’m outwardly committed to whatever may lie ahead, but after just two the entire process seems unsustainable.
“What about the assumed honor of struggle,” that serious writer might continue. “Or how about what a Next Step might look like if the previous had never existed? If one actually approached each new day as something New?” A serious writer might try to conclude their thought by writing something like, “The profound resides outside the shadows of yesterday’s ghosts.” It’s all just me trying to prove myself, in one way or another.
But I’m not good at that. In those moments, where I’m too serious, I’m serious because of fear. Fear that I won’t get credit for being something I’m not. Fear that I’ll be found out as a fraud, a phony, or maybe fear that I’ll be rightly judged for my lack of profundity. “Silence is discredited,” says the man with words coming out of his mouth.
“We really are some scorekeeping motherfuckers,” he said, motioning between the two of them while standing in line at the diner. “Aren’t we?” It was all about “the hit,” as they called it. They’ve talked about it before, that feeling of validation that comes with being publicly recognized for taking action in a way that can only be understood by someone who never changes a lightbulb in the dark. “Yeah, we sure are.”
“In the dead darkness of Tuesday morning, 67 hours and 279 miles after they’d started, two battered warriors shuffled to the start corral. Dauwalter said a few words to Steene. They shook hands, the starting bell clanged, and Steene tottered off into the blackness alone. In the uncompromising world of Big’s Backyard, Dauwalter quit, and was marked, like 68 others, DNF. […]
Typically, Dauwalter’s takeaway from the race had nothing to do with how much she had suffered and endured, nor about winning or losing or strides made for women, but about learning: “I feel pretty good about how it played out now that I’ve had night of sleep and a shower. Yeah, my legs hurt really bad and that’s probably going to get worse over the next couple days, but already I’m thinking about next year’s race, what we can do differently so we’re out there even longer. I want to come back and go into the 300s. Kevin and I have never done anything close to this. We learned so much—all the ways we can work more efficiently, gear and food that would have been helpful. To have this cool experience—I was lucky to be a part of this.” —Sarah Barker, “Ultrarunner Courtney Dauwalter Takes On The World’s Most Sadistic Endurance Race,” Deadspin
“Fuck ‘wellness.’ Wellness is capitalism trying to sell you back the sanity it stole from you.”
“In one way or another, all of these new services generally boil down to elaborate, expensive instructions to eat more of one thing and less of another, or to make a dietary addition or replacement that will unlock your body’s true potential. Convincing consumers that this new wave of diets is somehow distinct from the diet industry’s long, pseudoscientific history is a big task, but a potentially profitable one. According to the market-research firm Marketdata, the U.S. diet industry was worth an estimated $66 billion in 2017, but the number of active dieters in the country was down 10 percent. The firm found that that was due to two things: the growing popularity of the size-acceptance movement, and dieter fatigue. For new companies, laundering what are often fairly conventional diet practices through the language of technology provides the imprimatur of newness in the eyes of seasoned dieters, as well as a Trojan horse to reach consumers who, for whatever reason, were never interested in dieting qua dieting.” —Amanda Mull, “The Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger Language of Dieting,” The Atlantic
“That meditation and mindfulness have entered the repertoire of global capitalism isn’t surprising: In the face of stagnant wages and an ever-deteriorating boundary between work and whatever we do outside it, why not shift the responsibility of finding peace to the individual? Put another way: Next time work makes you feel less than human, should you gently speak truth to power, or should you use mindfulness to self-regulate and maintain function in an oppressive system? And should you choose to self-regulate, are you tacitly thanking the oppressive system for giving you the tools of self-regulation to begin with? Furthermore, how much of this experience—this process of spelunking into my mind—should be comfortable and brightly colored? How much should feel good?” —Mike Powell, “Meditation in the Time of Disruption,” The Ringer
“Perhaps most wearying are the invasive yet distant commands from media, state institutions, advertisements, friends or employers to self-maximise, persevere, grab your slice of the diminishing pie, ‘because you are worth it’ – although you must constantly prove it, every day.” —Ruth Cain, “How neoliberalism is damaging your mental health,” The Conversation
“You know what’s actually therapeutic—more therapeutic than staring at the ceiling desperately inventing a string of ‘free’ associations, more therapeutic than reading a book with a vested interest in establishing your insufficiency so that you will have to purchase its string of accoutrements and sequels? Screaming where people can hear you. Weeping on the train. Indulging in the intimacy of jointly cultivated resentment. Seeing your suspicions that you aren’t a self-pitying maniac confirmed.” —Becca Rothfeld, “The Promise of Misery,” The Baffler
I love sharing this phrase with people, “Those who manufacture umbrellas need it to rain.” It sounds really smart—and hell, it even makes sense—but it’s kind of like cracking a knuckle and thinking “That feels great!” Does it, really? I mean, does it actually feel anything truly positive, or is it just audibly satisfying in a way that only a generally benign release of gas can be? Another article. Pop. More fast-acting “wisdom.” Maybe it’s not about umbrellas, but how much of my own “self care” is a measure of buying in to someone else’s idea of what’s supposed to protect me from the elements? The lines between being informed and being distracted aren’t always clear.
Inaction is discredited, but sometimes action is discredited, too.
“If there had been a predestined finish line at Big’s Backyard my money would have been on Courtney to win, she would beat me at any such race and distance. But at the Backyard you draw your own lines. As long we are at least two remaining there is a feeling of purpose, that this painful game has a meaning. That illusion disappears in a blink when only one remains. The actual winning needs to be the sole focus if that is what you’re after. That focus was feeding me and let me put all other things aside. At the moment when Courtney congratulated me and remained in the coral as I jogged away alone into the Tennessee night I didn’t feel joy. I felt empty and without purpose. You can not carry the illusion by yourself. It takes at least two to play. Thanks Courtney Dauwalter for taking us this far. We are good at playing this game.” —Johan Steene, 2018 Big’s Backyard Ultra “Finisher”