Shattering Paradigms

Shattering Paradigms

Aug 14, 2013

Shattering Paradigms

By Josh Hunt

I am not a “normal guy”, shit I’ve been called unique, strange, weird, out there, and a litany of other terms, but I kind of like eclectic. Eclectic – that sounds nice to the ear doesn’t it? It’s not grating like other words and it has this somewhat esoteric or prestigious sound to it. There is a lack of negative connotations with the word eclectic. It’s a funny thing to see how words and preconceived notions can build an idea, rightly or wrongly, in the mind of a person. A few weekends ago I was all over the place (not that being all over the place is unusual for me). On Friday I helped a buddy move a playhouse for his daughter to his back yard then I went to another friend’s house to play Talisman (think an 80’s version of Skyrim as a board game) and Magic the Gathering. The following day I trained with my partners (you are all sexy men) at Casa Del Stewart then went to NatsuCon, a Japanese Anime Convention, in the Metro East of St. Louis with a friend. The night was capped off with Indian food and deep philosophical and intellectual conversations about the concepts of home, goals, and maximizing one’s capacity for happiness. Sunday, I woke up at 5:30 AM to play 18 holes of golf with Brad “Beastman” Eastman and my coworker Rich. That was followed by cooking (made some serious Pico de Gallo, I am now using two habaneros), caught up with an old friend who lives in Florida as well as my parents, and took the old Harley Davidson out for a two hour ride. Now, to me all of this is normal, but taken out of context of who I am, these interests are all over the place and I could see how someone might think the person doing all these things might be “off their rocker”.

I lay out my weekend for you so that you might get the idea that I have many likes and complexities. I have always been into sports. Growing up I played football, baseball, soccer, basketball, track and field, among other physical activities. When I was in high school, one could have called me a jock, but the thing was, I wasn’t a meathead. I was a closet nerd that got good grades and was into art. I watched movies like Heavy Metal, Star Wars, and Army of Darkness (the greatest movie ever made!). I gave up collecting comic books when I got to high school, but still loved the characters and kept my collection in a safe area and held on to it with a death grip (when I was 25 I picked collecting comics back up again and now I have way too many long boxes in the storage area of my house, but I don’t see myself slowing down). I was really into my photography class and was addicted to video games like Final Fantasy (FFVI aka III in the USA is still the best), Castlevania, Chrono Trigger, Tekken, and Bushido Blade. There where a number of other aspects of my life that didn’t jive with the archetype of an “American high school football player.” Still to this day I don’t feel I fit into one paradigm or another. Maybe it’s because I think I’m special (lets be fair, we all think we are something out of the ordinary and in some cases we are right and in others we are very wrong). When I look at my interests and how they have played out in my life they are really all over the place; I travel, ride a Harley, listen to obscure music (hail metal!), love to cook, read comics, graphic novels, literature, and philosophy. I practice yoga, collect art, rejoice in visiting craft breweries and interesting places to eat, basically I have a large spectrum of interests. But, one of the major aspects and driving forces in my life is lifting heavy. How does being a powerlifter fit into the other dynamics of my life? As I see it, it does and it doesn’t; which, in turn creates conflicting paradigms of who I am. Because this may be the case, you know creating a weird internal conflict; one might ask “why I would ever approach something with an unwillingness to think about it differently?” The answer that comes to mind; is in the past I have been mired in a myopic thought process and so I have affected my ability to improvement myself. Thus, I am taking trying to look at things differently.

Hopefully, I have articulated this point well enough to be understood; but I do realize that sometimes my thoughts are not complete, so I will give you a few examples. For years I associated vegetarianism and veganism with weakness. There was something wrong to me about not eating meat. For a time I could only accept this style of diet for two reasons: one if it was religiously mandated (it’s hard to go against your God) or two, if you where so unhealthy this was the only style of diet you could live on. It was my belief that athletes, especially ones involved in strength sports needed to eat meat. I didn’t really know any successful athletes (or even people that I looked up to) that did not eat meat. I couldn’t figure out how a person could get enough protein without consuming animal flesh. There were a number of things that I couldn’t get my head around nutritionally. Aside from that I had other reservations about these diets. Anyone that has read an article that I have written or listened to me talk for more than five minutes knows that I hate hippies. There are things about them that bug me to the core. I don’t want to go on a rant, so I won’t get into it, but many of these misplaced-in-time, liberal do-gooders are vegetarian, and this vexes me. Aside from this, I have had friends and people in my family who became vegetarian for reasons I don’t agree with. One of which is because they didn’t want to hurt any animals. This concept, in my mind, has so many holes in it that I used to get pissed off. Now I am just perplexed by the flawed logic. In my eyes we are at the top of the food chain and so in my opinion by design we can eat what we want. I’ll talk to a vegetarian who won’t eat meat, but has no issue killing a bug in the house after telling me that all life is valuable. Some of these people have it in their head that this lifestyle doesn’t hurt any animals, but just in the harvesting of wheat alone thousands of insects, moles, rabbits, and other ground dwelling creatures are killed so that food can be made for humans. There are other issues I’d love to take up, but I am trying to stay on point, and this can be as difficult for me as a kid trying not to eat a piece of candy that has just fallen on the ground. My point is this, I had a thought in my mind that this style of eating was weak, sucked enjoyment out of life, and was wrong for a strength athlete.

Then I started to look at it in another perspective. I have been trying to drop a weight class for as long as I have been powerlifting. I have said it so many times that it became lip service. So one day it dawned on me, I need to do some research and figure out what I could do to lose weight. After reading a great deal and watching a few documentaries I decided to augment my current diet with one vegetarian day. I was doing this not because there was some ethical issue or because other people wanted me to do it, or any other social or cultural pressure. I was doing this because I felt I could clean my diet up, increase the delivery of micronutrients, while reducing my caloric intake, and I could use this experience to learn how to cook something different.

At first this was difficult because not only do I love meat, I was so used to eating it that it was strange not to. But, after I got over the idea that I had to have meat everyday and the negative connotations I had with eating this way, learning how to appreciate new and different flavors, and getting use to a new style of cooking, I began to enjoy my non-meat days. I started to see my waistline shrink (as well as my food bill) and I began to feel better. I have since increased my vegetarian days to at least three per week, and I have found out that some vegan dishes are pretty tasty (I’ve actually had a few totally vegan days by choice). I do want to point out that I still eat meat, and love every bit of that wonderful animal that died for my pleasure. But, I have cut back significantly. I have received a number of positive outcomes while only loosing a bit of my strength. Because of this, I have embraced this new style of diet, which my friend Paul has referred to as Flexitarian.

One of the big drivers behind my reconsideration of this style of diet was dealing with a friend’s illness. For those of you that have been following my writings or Berserker Strength Radio, know that my friend Brad is living with brain cancer (to be honest he isn’t just living he’s thriving, and really making me think about how I live my life as well as my attitude in general). Brad had always eaten cleaner than I, is an Iron Man, and made pretty solid life choices, yet he has had to deal with this shit. Because of that (as well as other things, or maybe I am finally getting mature) I have been re-evaluating things in my life. Thus, I am looking into which paradigms I fit into, and which ones that I do not. A good example of this is yoga. A few months back I went to do a yoga nidra class. This was a weird thing for me to do, the studio was airy and colored in a way to promote calmness, it was clean and quiet and the people there were warm and inviting. In other words, this place made my skin crawl. I am a metal head that loves dive bars, cheap beer, and a certain atmosphere that can be described as “yucky” by many folks. I was out of my element. We did some chants, which I hated, and some ohms, which I also hated. Then we got all touchy feely and made a circle and told everyone what we wanted to let go of, and what we brought to the table. When I was up to talk I said “I want to let go of my feelings about this; this is uncomfortable for me and isn’t really my thing.” Then the teacher responded that “we’ve all been there and we love you” which bugged me to no end (I dislike when folks throw around the word love, she didn’t even know me).

Anyway, we then proceed to the yoga nidra part. For those of you who don’t know yoga nidra translates loosely to yoga sleep, and it is basically guided meditation for an extended period of time. I actually liked this part. It calmed me (if you are wondering why I was in this class, it was not to impress a girl, I have been trying to remove some of the stress in my life. I figure it can only help my lifting, my professional life, and well every other aspect of my life). When we finished I looked around the room and it dawned on me that I was going to see Napalm Death and Cannibal Corpse that night. Not only that, but I was probably the only person in that room that not only was going to this show, but knew who these bands were. On the other side, when I got to the show, I was pretty sure I was the only person that did a yoga nidra class that day. Other things have cropped up in my head; when I was at the Kemper Museum of Art, I was thinking that I am probably the only guy walking through there that lost a pint of blood from getting hit in the face at a Born of Osiris concert. Or, as I discuss comic books at the comic store I am probably one of the few people buying comics that day that has been to over twenty countries

All these things to me shatter the paradigm that I see myself living in. It’s possible for me to have a ton of interests that seem conflicting, but they make me happy. And, really isn’t happiness the end goal? As a lifter I am starting to realize that there is no archetypal lifter, and there is has no one-way of doing something. I have been able to drop weight by changing my diet in a way that I used to think was stupid. But, at the end of the day, my wilks coefficient is going up (fingers crossed, we’ll see how I do at Bench Press Nationals), which means I am pound for pound a better lifter. I am embracing other things too like meditation and yoga, which feels strange to me because, I never thought a guy with tattoos and a motorcycle would be gleaning as much out of these things as I am. I feel I am becoming a better person, and a lot of it is due to the fact that I am willing to step out of my comfort zone and I’m willing to break some paradigms that have held me back for so long. What I am saying is oft times our perceptions hold us back. This is stupid. We should try new things and be willing to think in different ways. Simply put, we should question things and try to make them our own. If something doesn’t work for us, it doesn’t mean the whole thing is bad; we can take bits and pieces from it and make it work for us. Case in point, I have augmented my diet with vegetarian days, but I am unwilling and unable to give up meat. This means I got something from a new way of thinking, but was still able to hold on to some of my old ways of thinking.

We should be willing to make ourselves better and maximize our capacity for happiness. And, in my mind the only way to do this is to take old perceptions and challenge them. Sometimes they are going to stand up against things you throw at them. Which means they work for you and your lifestyle. Other times you’re going to throw something at them and find out how fragile and weak they really were. I hope in all of this you take way the fact that even if we think we are right we need to check, challenge, inspect and test our methods of thought, training techniques and plans, and question who we are as people. Take risks and experiment with everything. Augment things that work to see if they will work better. Make things that make you feel better a part of your day, even if they come from a surprising source. I have a blast not fitting into a neat little package. It gives me a thrill to discuss the attributes of certain mutant abilities and superpowers at an intermission of a cello concert. The only way to grow is to introduce new stimuli, and with that I hope you go out test yourself and do great things, sometimes there is no real right or wrong way of doing something. And, there is really no wrong way to be who you are. I think we can all learn something by shattering a few paradigms.

-There was a crack of electric light, coming down from a darkened sky
My dreams flashed before my eyes, as they were erased from my life. – Woods of Ypers

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