SS/TBP: The Stoicism of Strength Training? SS/TBP: The Stoicism of Strength Training?

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Thread: SS/TBP: The Stoicism of Strength Training?

  1. #1
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    Default SS/TBP: The Stoicism of Strength Training?

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    I subscribe to a daily email that follows/focuses on the principles of Stoicism. Today I received the daily thought for contemplation and realized; Starting Strength and Barbell Prescription mirror so many of the stoic beliefs, and thought I'd share today's excerpt (if allowed by Mark and crew). I thought it poignant to what is so often spoken of today in SS, about perseverance and the need to keep ourselves healthy and strong.

    "King George IV was a notorious glutton. His breakfast supposedly consisted of two pigeons, three steaks, a near full bottle of wine, and a glass of brandy. In time, he grew so fat he could no longer sleep laying down, or the weight of his own chest might asphyxiate him. The gout in his hands made it difficult to sign documents — he eventually had his attendants make a stamp of his signature to use instead. Still, he managed to father several illegitimate children while generally neglecting the business of being a king.

    King George was the type of person who apparently believed that he was exempt from the rules of health and humankind. That his body could and would endure unlimited abuse without consequence. Indeed, his last words, when years of bad habits and lethargy finally caught up with him at 3:30am in 1860, were:

    “Good God, what is this?”

    Then he realized what it was.

    “My boy,” he said as he grasped the hand of a page, “this is death.”

    It was almost as if he was surprised to find out that he was mortal...and that treating his body like a garbage can for four decades had only hastened his fate.

    While the Stoics practiced the art of memento mori—and knew that death was something that could randomly visit anyone, at any time—they still took pains to maintain their health. Marcus Aurelius’s doctor was Galen, one of the most famous physicians of antiquity, and presumably Marcus didn’t keep him around to shorten his life. No, he wanted to survive and be as healthy and strong as possible while he was alive. Seneca, for his part, flirted with vegetarianism, and his letters are filled with mentions of various cures he was seeking for his health. The sports metaphors in Epictetus and Marcus’s work also hint at the idea of active, strenuous lives.

    Health is wealth. Taking care of yourself is important. What good can you do in this world if you feel like shit all the time? Or if you lack the physical and moral strength—or in George’s case, even the basic mobility—to be of good to anyone?

    We are on this planet for a short amount of time. But if we practice bad habits, if we let our urges run wild, we will surely shorten that time. That’s not Stoic, that’s stupid."

    Respectfully,
    MarinePMI

  2. #2
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    Wisdom. Heed it.

  3. #3
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    As I understand it, Stoicism is the practice of apathy. It is the attempt to break free from the need for values in this life, in order to be fulfilled in the next, so it's interesting to understand the context of health being part of the divine universal plan. Maintain health by hard physical effort as part of a requirement for passing succesfully into the after-life, not giving in to values which might distract one on that path. Later on it ended in Saints drinking laundry water, scarifying themselves and eating nothing but ash mixed with sheeps gall. It's a pretty harsh and miserable life.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nockian View Post
    As I understand it, Stoicism is the practice of apathy. It is the attempt to break free from the need for values in this life, in order to be fulfilled in the next, so it's interesting to understand the context of health being part of the divine universal plan. Maintain health by hard physical effort as part of a requirement for passing succesfully into the after-life, not giving in to values which might distract one on that path. Later on it ended in Saints drinking laundry water, scarifying themselves and eating nothing but ash mixed with sheeps gall. It's a pretty harsh and miserable life.
    Nockian,

    That is a largely misunderstood thing about Stoicism. It is not the practice/philosophy of apathy, rather the detachment from emotion (which is to say, NOT the absence of it) and understanding how it affects our judgement and decisions. It is not avoiding emotion, rather embracing it, and understanding it. Of not doubt, Stoicism is a philosophy of contradictions, but to the point, it is the study of the contradictions. Amor Fati for example; the ability to accept/embrace fate, is offset by the thought that obstacles should be tackled or overcome, not shied away from (Marcus Aurelius' famed "the obstacle becomes the way" mind set).

    If you listen to audibles, I'd recommend the "The Great Courses: The Greco-Roman Moralists" book. It's actually intended for a college course, as a collection of lectures on Greco-Roman philosophy, but makes for a good listen. A lot of points about the misconceptions of Stoicism, as well as their roots in Greek philosophy (Plato) as well as the intersection with modern judeo-christian philosophies. A lot of nuggets in the collection of lectures if you're a history buff as well.

    What you speak of (drinking laundry water, etc) is addressed in one lecture about the pseudo-Philosophers. Basically, the posers of their day; more interested in "looking" like a Stoic, rather than actually practicing it. There were a number of reasons why this occurred frequently, many of them financially motivated, but it is interesting part of the three (well four, if you included the, then considered heretical, Jews) main sects of religion/philosophy of the day.

    At any rate, I just found it ironic, that many of the stoic principles are expressed within the pursuit of SS as well. Perseverance, hard work, conquering/facing fear, temperance, logical planning (such as programming in our case) and the ability to course correct, calmly, and rationally. <Shrug> Food for thought.

  5. #5
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    First para is more or less 'emotions aren't tools of cognition' which I would agree with. They aren't good guides to our actions. However, properly understood, which I would take to be your word 'embraced' ? They turn out to be useful responses to the gain, or potential gain/loss of values. 'Obstacles' are then the actual physical, or emotional barriers that have to be overcome in order to achieve/keep those values. So far, so good.

    I might have a listen to that audio if it's available.

    If a philosophy is practical, then it's useful to anyone who wants to live a full, happy and fruitful life. Strikes me that the conscious activity of being physically strong and intellectually wise, are two ends of the same barbell.

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