Freedom (The Irreducible Human) versus Cleverness

by Daniel Oakes | February 05, 2020

setting up for the deadlift

We are clever creatures. Too clever. We can build Hadron Colliders, fly to the moon, and perform heart surgery. But when it comes to applying our cleverness to our own Philosophically problematic psyches, everything goes downhill faster than you can say, “I am envious of my Dad's dick. Because Freud said so.” As if that's the only explanation necessary. 

The cleverest of clever people sometimes get over-excited and propose that we are close to developing human-like AI. But we are not systematically assembled like Hadron Colliders or space shuttles: we are filled with a host of irreducible passions which hence fail understandability and replicability – things we feel and do for reasons that neither can be nor need be explained, the things AI will never incorporate, for obvious reasons. (In comes Freud and friends to try and make a Hadron Collider out of the mind, or maybe to just mess with us.) 

The best solution, so far, to the “problem” of being irreducibly human (and hence susceptible to the dementedly clever ideas of totalitarians and charlatans) is America. The American Constitution is not a piece of social programming designed to cleverly direct supposed “understandable” behavior (apparently, in my country, teaching a Pug the “Nazi Salute” requires state intervention), but simply an attempt to manage irreducible unexplainable passions so that we don't kill ourselves or others. This is “freedom” – a ingenious idea, because it leaves the irreducible human untouched since it has been demonstrably obvious that it can't be touched safely. But, that's the obvious part (which, incidentally, I'm not very good at explaining because I'm not a Philosopher).  

As a child I lined up toy cars and stacked cans of beans. I wasn't making “normal” eye contact either. I screamed if I was taken into a busy shop. 

It was therefore time for human cleverness to step in and “make sense” of my irreducible unexplainable passions simply by pointing at my behaviors. I was taken to specialist pediatricians and at first I was labeled with the latest fashionable diagnosis (“ADHD”) and later “Asperger's Syndrome” because I didn't want to sit in the classroom learning about numbers – instead I wanted to look for insects in the playground bushes. I was given Ritalin to alter my brain chemistry and make me calmer. I suppose they alter external behavior because they think they have license to alter my mind (which, as we have recently determined, nobody does but me). But really, they should have just let me be, unless I was hurting myself or others – the way we accommodate “trans-activists” (imagine the horror if we forced trans-activists to take Ritalin?). 

When I got a bit older I started thriving – in your teens you can run around screaming and throwing fruit at teachers and nobody cares, I think, because adolescence is understood to be a time of irreducible unexplainable passions. So nobody notices if you are a bit “strange.” 

But University is where things got very dicey. Behavior was extremely regulated – students were almost too nervous to speak lest they might “offend” someone; hell, it felt like if your heart rate was below 60 bpm or over 100bpm, Student Services would quickly offer you support. And by God, many of us did need support after we capitulated under the weight of behavioral regulation. 

I slowly bought into the idea that I was different, but I had doubts sometimes, which psychotherapists wanted me to “overcome” so I could accept my predicament and “move on.” Many of the other people around me in my situation bought into the diagnosis narrative (instead of just allowing themselves to be irreducibly human), and would even introduce themselves as X who suffers from Y diagnosis. I didn't go that far down the rabbit hole, thankfully, but diagnosis did heavily feature in my identity, and those of us who lapped up the milk that diagnosis offers (oh God, did I love lapping up the milk) found ourselves shrinking away from the “normality” that pills and “support” was supposed to help us cope with. The Irony! 

After university, I was a shell of my teen self. I couldn't go outside. I had a caregiver who would go shopping for me because people were too “stimulating.” But, having the irreducible unexplainable passions that I did, I wanted a dog. So I got a dog. People would ask why I got a dog, but I reserve my right to be irreducibly human, okay? 

Anyway, at first I would walk my dog at night to avoid people, but one day he got sick with food poisoning, and because I cared about him I climbed out of my introverted self-diagnostic ass and took him to the vet. I cared about my dog so much that I didn't care about myself, and I was forcibly exposed to what my SS Coach Noah called “social stress” – I slowly adapted to the demands and expectations of social interaction, a bit like LP. 

Yes, that's right: one day I had an irreducible unexplainable passion and wanted to do LP after reading Starting Strength and used my ridiculous “welfare” money (or milk, let's say) to get a coach. Maybe, if we try to apply our cleverness, might we determine that I'm a psychopathic parasite who is feeding off the state to advance himself? Maybe. But don't worry, you guys, at least the victim's blood is flowing across the Atlantic. 

At first I could barely go into the gym. It made me feel sick. I also wore a hoodie because I was ashamed of my corpse-like physique which would make even the bubble-esque Rip look anorexic. But then, slowly but surely, I started not giving a fuck about what I looked like – I cared about the weight on the bar, not the weight of my body in relation to everyone else. I started caring about me, not what was “normal.” My cleverness wasn't being applied to the pointless analysis of irreducible human passions; it was being applied to my training (and to my dog, of course). 

And guess what? That's where I am now. Maybe I'm writing this all too early, because there's more to come on the road to becoming irreducibly human. But regardless, I am excited to find out if strength is truly the only thing that matters in the final analysis: let's see what clever brains have to say about the significance of my lack of eye contact when I'm strong.

Discuss in Forums

Starting Strength Weekly Report

Highlights from the StartingStrength Community. Browse archives.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.