Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rest Day

As I look back on my weekend in Sicily, a few things stand out from the experience that pertain to this blog.
First, the scope of the physical human achievement throughout history is just simply inconceivable. Trying to compute the time, strength, will, and ingenuity it took to build the things I saw this weekend, to put it plainly, short-circuits my brain.
Then I tried to translate those qualities into the world of today... not so easy. Suffice it to say that it took a different kind of strength to build the Segesta Temple in 400 B.C. than it took to build more modern places of worship like Yankee Stadium. While both are impressive architectural achievements, the former certainly required a more robust physical presence than the latter.
I think this type of physicality is the ultimate example of what we now call "functional strength." It didn't exist in a gym with med-balls and thera-bands and single leg hops. It was all around, all the time. And everyone had it. In primitive societies, men and women were strong and fit because their lives demanded it. In order to build something like Segesta, EVERYONE had to be strong. In order to defend the city in battle, EVERYONE had to fight. At one point or another, they were all warriors, hunters, and architects. Today we're lucky if one in ten of us can get the wheel barrow up the damn hill.
Some will argue that ancient societies had masons and generals responsible for specific tasks the way contractors and soldiers are paid to be experts in their fields now. And I'll admit, some level of specialization probably existed in every era. But not the way it exists today. And those worlds certainly didn't encourage the physical de-conditioning of their non-specialized populations the way our life of room service, remote controls, and catalogue landscaping has surely done. Some take the fact that we can afford to hire someone else to fix our roofs, and pave our roads, and build our walls as a sign of civilization's progress and technological adaptation. I think it's laziness and ineptitude. In sheep's clothing, of course.
I ask this: Why not be able? This is a fundamental question. Whatever the physical challenge, why not meet it? In 400 B.C. Sicily, there was no choice. Society dictated the standards of fitness by what it required of its people. You were physically able, contributing, and valuable; or you were physically unable, detracting, and expendable. Today the standards are set by the individual, and they aren't very high. This is my reflection as I look at pictures I took of Segesta. Weathered and bleached, but unbroken by 2400 years of history, I think it's a penultimate reminder of where our standards should be.
From Sicily
From Sicily


  1. Blair,

    Good to see you are doing well. A buddy of mine sent me the link to your blog cause he thought I'd be interested. I took fifth at the MA Qualifiers and joined you out in Aromas. I didn't do as well as I wanted, but no worries.
    I like your decision to study abroad. I was a history and poly sci major while playing baseball at Penn. I'll probably end up getting my MA or working abroad in the very near future as well. I hope you are training hard, but not too hard. There are only so many spots next year.... Now that I think about it,have a big bowl of pasta on me. I usually write my WODs and other random things on my blog barbellsandbacon.com

  2. A thought provoking post.

    Today I took my 18 month old daughter to the park and had the opportunity to observe a group of kids from ages 2-10 playing, freely without any adult supervison other than myself. They began by racing each other, rought 20yard sprints at full intensity, taking turns racing in groups of 2. After doing that for 10-15 minutes, they attacked the jungle gym, climbing it, sliding down with abandon, bear crawling up slides - the little 2 1/2 year old even did a gnarly jump from about 7 feet up, only to land hard, cry holding his side, only to return to climbing at high speeds all over and through the structure within 5 minutes as if nothing had happened.

    In occured to me how with children, it is totally natural to live a physical existence. Somehow as adults we stray from this.

  3. Blair, do you mind if I ask what kind of camera you use? The picture quality looks great and the video quality isn't bad for a camera. Thanks!

  4. hey jade,

    the camera is a canon powershot elph. 12 megapixel.

  5. Blair i was moved by your information, rants and opinion on how we live. Totally agree on most of it and I would say maybe you should think with a green hat for a while and come up with a new vision that challenges the one you and me both criticize. Even if you - or me- come up with some crazy notion, which you think it couldnt be apllied, the time used to come up with a creative way to make people comfortable with uncertainty and satying out of the comfort zone will help you develop new and better ideas gradually!