Father Andrew's Hot Body Gym

July 1, 2009

Awake to the World

Filed under: random, real talk — Tags: , , — joshuaeller @ 4:31 am

Tonight after closing at the coffee shop, I went by Finnegan’s Wake to talk with a couple of good friends. We had a very interesting and eye-opening discussion about fundamentalism in religious groups. Part of this touched on my own experience as a previous member of a very small, isolated, and insular protestant denomination. I’ve since moved out of this group, but my friends offered a very useful way to think about cultish behavior among religious folk, and that is theological constructivism. In essence, religious groups can become cultish (among many other ways) when they either 1) remove themselves from the context of a larger and more robust tradition, and 2) when they isolate themselves from dialogue and interaction from the larger world – when they begin to speak their own language so as to preclude any meaningful criticism/interplay with other faiths or groups. Whether or not this idea interests you on a religious level, it got me thinking about Crossfit on the way home. After all, Crossfit is the second (or fifth, Father Andrew?) gospel.

What struck me as similar is the idea of a group constructivism – in this case fitness constructivism. Let’s face it. Crossfit is counter fitness culture and proud of it. We glory in our buck against the mainstream, and not without good reason. But I can’t help wondering when (and if) we’ll cross that line. Clearly, it seems to me, our dietary recommendations are far better than the mainstream of the American Dietetic Association. Clearly, our prescription for general physical preparedness actually prepares people for physical challenges, but it also increases insulin sensitivity, accelerates the loss of body fat, increases bone density, etc etc etc. But when do we cross the line into cult status? When (if ever) do/will be begin to construct our own narrative that precludes by definition meaningful interaction with the outside world.

On a practical level, Coach Glassman has clearly avoided this. With heavy hitters like Rippetoe and Burgener, we have talent and expertise from the highest levels of the sporting and fitness world. But I wonder if this carries over into the daily practice of the more than 1,000 crossfit affiliates world wide. Clearly that many affiliates is enough to suggest that we are doing something right, and that something which we are doing is resonating with many people.

Unfortunately, despite these assurances, I can’t help but feel like a culty when I talk to people about crossfit. I am constantly telling people that they need to rethink everything that they have learned, and in the process, I feel like I am brainwashing them. Maybe I am. Maybe they need it. But why must it seem so contrary? Why must it seem so against the grain? Is the world really that backwards? Has greed and political nonsense so turned the world upside down that I must retrain everyone to whom I talk in order to show them the truth? Or am I just the crazy one? Being in the best shape of my life would suggest otherwise. On a religious level, Christ himself warned that He would be a stumbling block. Perhaps counter cultural paradox is actually a hint that truth is lurking somewhere around the corner. There is something very non commonsensical about many true things – or perhaps I’ve drunk too much cool-aide. I suppose it’s too late an hour to come to a decision on that.

But I will say this. One of my friends suggested that the habit of critical thinking ought to lead one against the grain of the main stream. It ought to inspire one to take the road less traveled in order to truly understand for one’s self. That makes sense to me. So until I’m given good evidence to the contrary, I’m going to keeping searching, keep moving, and stay ‘awake to the world,’ as one friend put it, and hopefully I’ll stay close to the trail of the truth. (Of course, according to Eagleton, ‘Power knows the truth already.’ Perhaps he’ll have patience with me.)

1 Comment »

  1. Awesome post! I've often wondered when I try to explain Crossfit to new people if I sound a little cultish. I would say you could label Crossfit a cult if it begins to ask things of you that is outside the scope of logical reason (and no doing 100 squats, 50 burpees, and 50 pull-ups isn't that crazy). Cults become bad when you begin to behave in a way that is both self and socially destructive. I tend to do the opposite of what mainstream society tells me because mainstream is created by people with agendas, usually a money agenda. For example, the music industry is made of of artist just trying to make a lot of money whereas the underground music scene just wants to make really good music. Same goes with the food industry. Point being, I think anything that has an agenda that doesn't have your best interest at heart is wrong and anything that has you stepping out of the bounds of reason is dangerous.

    Comment by Abby — July 1, 2009 @ 11:28 am

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