Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 150
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 150
Fun news: Never Let Go is now available as an audio book! Here it is on Audible, clocking in at just under 11 hours, where you can get it for $14.95 if you’re an Audible member, $24.95 for purchase, or best yet, FREE as a trial if you haven’t previously done a free Audible trial.
I just got done with some chores. This weekend, I taught an RKC II down in Torrence, California, and Jason hosted a great event. The students were great…which makes my job very easy.
I spent LOOOOOOONG hours trying to streamline the teaching of the event. When teaching multiple movements, there is a tendency to teach “this” and “that” and “this” and “that.” I like things to build logically upon themselves. Every hour I spend planning, typing, editing and rethinking pays dividends in both time and energy during the certs.
And, yes, we all know this. I also like having standards all in one place. If you are this gender, this age and this weight, HERE is what we expect. That took HOURS to put together, but, again, it saved so much time and energy in the orientation.
It’s nothing new under the sun; we all know that every second in preparation saves hours in performance, but I enjoyed watching the extra work pay off.
I leave on a short trip this midweek, but I WILL be home this weekend.
The internet was interesting this week, again. I thought this list of 12 pieces of advice works for more than just writers.
Get rid of friends who don’t believe in you. Do they make fun of your writerly ambitions? He suggests calling them up to “fire them” without delay.
Live in the library. Don’t live in your “goddamn computers.” He may not have gone to college, but his insatiable reading habits allowed him to “graduate from the library” at age 28.
Fall in love with movies. Preferably old ones.
Write with joy. In his mind, “writing is not a serious business.” If a story starts to feel like work, scrap it and start one that doesn’t. “I want you to envy me my joy,” he tells his audience.
Don’t plan on making money. He and his wife, who “took a vow of poverty” to marry him, hit 37 before they could afford a car (and he still never got around to picking up a license).
List ten things you love, and ten things you hate. Then write about the former, and “kill” the later — also by writing about them. Do the same with your fears.
Just type any old thing that comes into your head. He recommends “word association” to break down any creative blockages, since “you don’t know what’s in you until you test it.”
Remember, with writing, what you’re looking for is just one person to come up and tell you, “I love you for what you do.” Or, failing that, you’re looking for someone to come up and tell you, “You’re not nuts like people say.”
This is exactly how I start each and every day. So, I agree.
First thing in the morning is when I’m at my mental best, and when I’m still most in control of my time, so I now use the first hour of my day to write. For me, it’s best done from home. I’ve developed something of a ritual: I wake up early, make an espresso, and write until I’m spent—or until distractions like email or the day’s deadlines and meetings start to intrude. This is usually about an hour, some days a little less and some days more. I’ve found that, like hitting a ball in golf, regular writing is easier if I tee it up. I plan my early morning writing the night before. It is in my calendar and on my to-do list, with details about which paper and section I will be working on.
This routine has transformed my work life. Instead of the frustration that frequently plagued me early in my career, now—no matter how work proceeds after I’ve completed my writing time—I go home at the end of the day with the satisfaction of having accomplished something.
I don’t how I found this article, but this is a good website. This article alone might change lives for the better.
• Make a smoothie each day and put spinach or kale in it. (You won’t taste it) Both are loaded with vitamins and minerals, and if you throw that in with some berries, almond or coconut milk, protein powder, and some coconut oil, you have a whole lot of good tasting, nutritious stuff to drink on the car ride to work. I tend to make it the night before and throw it in the fridge so I don’t have to hear a Ninja blender at 4:30 am.
• Pack a big salad for lunch. If you get a big bag of mixed greens, you’re going to get lettuce, spinach, kale, and swiss chard, then throw some cherry tomatoes (no need to cut them!), yellow, orange, and red peppers (you should cut these-cut one each on Sunday while the Pats are on). A little feta sprinkled in and some grilled chicken or ground turkey and you’re good to go for lunch for several days.
• Buy bags of vegetables that just need to go in the microwave so they are easily added to dinner. Get whatever veggies you like, they’re all good for you. Just don’t get ones with the added butter/sauce stuff. Add your own seasonings and save yourself from the chemical shit storm.
• Make a side salad for dinner if you didn’t have one for lunch. Make a giant one and serve out of it for a few nights.
• If you eat eggs in the morning, buy some pre-cut vegetables that you’d want in your omelet. Then make the omelet.
On the “Tight Tan Slacks of Denzo Ban” this month, a site that is the storehouse of proper and intelligent training information, we are gifted with a series of great articles from the past. I am amazed at how the 1960s articles shaped my career.
Breakfast – Ham or bacon: All you want. Eggs: As many as you like, boiled, fried, poached, scrambled, it doesn’t matter.
Lunch – Alaska black cod: Boiled. Pour melted butter over it and eat all you want. Black tea.
Supper – Steamed clams: Drink the nectar and eat as many as you like. Steak: The biggest one you can afford with a side order of spareribs. Bulk cheese. Black coffee.
Remember that condiments and sauces are classed here as carbohydrates.
Don’t eat between meals. Eat enough at mealtime and you won’t have to.
You don’t have to eat the most expensive cuts of meat. The cheaper cuts are just as good. Play around with various combinations of food. You should be able to come up with enough interesting meals to keep boredom from setting in.
Take protein, vitamin-mineral, some form of wheat germ oil, and supplements.
Do isometrics work? Well, they did for me. Somehow, pushing (pulling, squatting) for up to 12 seconds with all one’s might seems to make the nervous system leap.
Why? Dunno, but it makes sense to me. This video will help.
“On the other hand, you don’t get to be a respected intellectual by presenting truisms in monosyllables.”
This is a special series of articles, for me anyway, this week. I feel after reviewing them that I am looking inside my brain here.
Be careful if you try to do that without proper medical supervision. It was fun to see the influences of Bednarski’s training and McCallum’s dieting on my evolution as an athlete and coach. And…we always evolve.
Until next week, keep lifting and learning.
Never Let Go is finally available as an audio book! What would be better than listening to Never Let Go during your commute? (Not having a commute, I guess) If you don’t already have an Audible account, you can download Never Let Go as a free trial. If you already have an Audible account, you can use one of your prepaid credits, or pay $14.95. Heck, even outside of a membership or trial, paying $24.95 is still a good deal!
It’s FREE if you haven’t already used your free Audible trial membership.
Picking up with “The Sword in the Stone” (Part VIII)
Before we pick up on our journey through The Sword in The Stone, let me show you where you can read the full four books.
My one “issue,” of course, if you have been reading my journey, is that this is NOT the 1938-39 The Sword in the Stone. So…I will be spending a great deal of time in the upcoming discussions covering the differences (again!) in the versions. I think Terrence (T. H. White) would appreciate the love and care his fans continue to hold for his epic work.
Let’s pick up a few lines back…for some continuity:
He stopped talking and looked at the Wart in an anxious way.
“Have I told you this before?”
“No, we only met about half an hour ago.”
“So little time to pass?” said Merlyn, and a big tear ran down to the end of his nose. He wiped it off with his pyjamas and added anxiously, “Am I going to tell it you again?”
(Note from Dan: as we said last time…perhaps the saddest line in literature)
“I do not know,” said the Wart, “unless you have not finished telling me yet.”
“You see, one gets confused with Time, when it is like that. All one’s tenses get muddled, for one thing. If you know what is going to happen to people, and not what has happened to them, it makes it difficult to prevent it happening, if you don’t want it to have happened, if you see what I mean? Like drawing in a mirror.”
The Wart did not quite see, but was just going to say that he was sorry for Merlyn if these things made him unhappy, when he felt a curious sensation at his ear. “Don’t jump,” said the old man, just as he was going to do so, and the Wart sat still. Archimedes, who had been standing forgotten on his shoulder all this time, was gently touching himself against him. His beak was right against the lobe of the ear, which its bristles made to tickle, and suddenly a soft hoarse voice whispered, “How d’you do,” so that it sounded right inside his head.
“Oh, owl!” cried the Wart, forgetting about Merlyn’s troubles instantly. “Look, he has decided to talk to me!”
The Wart gently leaned his head against the smooth feathers, and the tawny owl, taking the rim of his ear in its beak, quickly nibbled right round it with the smallest nibbles.
“I shall call him Archie!”
“I trust you will do nothing of the sort,” exclaimed Merlyn instantly, in a stern and angry voice, and the owl withdrew to the farthest corner of his shoulder.
“Is it wrong?”
“You might as well call me Wol, or Olly,” said the owl sourly, “and have done with it.
“Or Bubbles,” it added in a bitter voice.
Merlyn took the Wart’s hand and said kindly, “You are young, and do not understand these things. But you will learn that owls are the most courteous, single-hearted and faithful creatures living. You must never be familiar, rude or vulgar with them, or make them look ridiculous. Their mother is Athene, the goddess of wisdom, and, although they are often ready to play the buffoon to amuse you, such conduct is the prerogative of the truly wise. No owl can possibly be called Archie.”
“I am sorry, owl,” said the Wart.
“And I am sorry, boy,” said the owl. “I can see that you spoke in ignorance, and I bitterly regret that I should have been so petty as to take offence where none was intended.”
The owl really did regret it, and looked so remorseful that Merlyn had to put on a cheerful manner and change the conversation.
(Note from Dan: this is why I love this story so much. The characters truly care about each other and the small “rubs” of life are noted, dismissed and forgiven. What a better world we would be if we all agreed to follow the example of this owl.)
“Well,” said he, “now that we have finished breakfast, I think it is high time that we should all three find our way back to Sir Ector.
“Excuse me a moment,” he added as an afterthought, and, turning round to the breakfast things, he pointed a knobbly finger at them and said in a stern voice, “Wash up.”
At this all the china and cutlery scrambled down off the table, the cloth emptied the crumbs out of the window, and the napkins folded themselves up. All ran off down the ladder, to where Merlyn had left the bucket, and there was such a noise and yelling as if a lot of children had been let out of school. Merlyn went to the door and shouted, “Mind, nobody is to get broken.” But his voice was entirely drowned in shrill squeals, splashes, and cries of “My, it is cold,” “I shan’t stay in long,” “Look out, you’ll break me,” or “Come on, let’s duck the teapot.”
“Are you really coming all the way home with me?” asked the Wart, who could hardly believe the good news.
“Why not? How else can I be your tutor?”
At this the Wart’s eyes grew rounder and rounder, until they were about as big as the owl’s who was sitting on his shoulder, and his face got redder and redder, and a breath seemed to gather itself beneath his heart.
“My!” exclaimed the Wart, while his eyes sparkled with excitement at the discovery. “I must have been on a Quest!”
“Quest for a Tutor.”
White has been playing name games with us since Sir Ector and Sir Grummore Grummursum discussed hiring a tutor back in the castle before the day of hay-making:
“”The only other way,” said Sir Grummore, “is to start a quest.” “You mean a quest for a tutor,” explained Sir Ector.””
Wart has succeeded in this/”his” quest. “Utor” as we discussed earlier means “to employ” and Grummore was playing with that word back in front of the fire (“Pass the port!”). Grummore problems with Latin were “attributed to this weakness the fact that he could never get beyond the Future Simple of Utor.” Merlyn finds employment as a tutor and now we shall return safely to the castle.
We have seen quest and quarry intertwined (literally, if you recall the leash and the trees) with King Pellinore, his beast and the journey of Arthur into the deep and dangerous woods. At their roots, quest and quarry are all about pursuit.
My career is “partially funded” by helping people achieve their goals. And, honestly, goals are lovely, wonderful and helpful. But as Cervantes reminded us in Don Quixote: “The road is better than the inn.”
And, I love quoting that. I do it constantly. But, it is cliché. Let’s unpack this insight using the Arthurian legends.
Your goal, and the journey towards your goal, is your Quest. “This is my Quest, to follow that star, no matter how hopeless, no matter how far” is a lovely line from “The Man of La Mancha.” Yet, there is a problem with attaining goals:
You might get them! And, then realize that … as I quote in my workshops:
“When you get to the top of the ladder you may find it is propped against the wrong wall.” (Attributed to Allen Raine)
And this is true. John T Reed’s book, Succeeding, does an admirable job discussing achieving a goal versus succeeding. Often, people set goals like a child hoping for a substantial visit from Santa Claus.
But, the Arthurian legends lend us a very subtle insight into the journey, the Quest:
Often what you seek on your Quest has always been “right there.”
I can’t think of a better way to explain this that the Quest for the Holy Grail.
I don’t want to go into too much depth here, but in my “other life,” I often lecture on the Holy Grail, the Eucharist, the Shroud of Turin and other related “Arthurian” topics. (I include my handout from one of my lectures.)
The quest for the Holy Grail has as many “cycles;” basically the same story with different characters and different endings. Arthur’s death or “not death” was my first conference presentation (“Arturus Rex Superstar”) as I discovered 27 separate endings for the story. So, you may have heard the story before, but not THIS story.
To begin: there was a movie in 1991 which made me hate the Oscars forever.
How Robin Williams didn’t receive Best Actor for his portrayal of Parry in The Fisher King still stuns me. In this film, number one on My Top Ten List of Movies, William’s character is “not all there.” As you watch the film, there will be a moment that explains why perfectly…and makes it difficult to ever watch again.
Parry is short for Sir Parsifal (Parzifal, Percifal …they all mean “Innocent Fool”). In the stories of Parsifal, he is often fatherless and brotherless as they have been killed doing “knightly” things. Mom raises him, Parsifal, away from everything knightly, but he can’t escape destiny.
He sees knights on horseback and decides to follow them…right into the Round Table. When he first becomes a knight, usually portrayed as a fortunate win over the Red Knight, he is told by the other knights to go on a quest to discover what it means to be a knight.
In what may be the key scene of the movie, Parry tells Jack, and the linkage between Jack and Parry defines “destiny,” this version of the story making my point:
Parry: Jack–I may be going out on a limb here but you don’t seem like a happy camper. [pause] Did you ever hear the story of the Fisher King?
Parry: It begins with the King as a boy–having to spend a night alone in the forest to prove his courage so that he could become king. While he was alone, he’s visited by a sacred vision. Out of the fire appears the Holy Grail, the symbol of God’s divine grace. And a voice spoke to the boy, “You shall be the keeper of the Grail, that it may heal the hearts of men.” But the boy was blinded by greater visions, of a life filled with power and glory and beauty…And in this state of radical amazement, he felt for a brief moment not like a boy, but invincible…like God. And so he reached into the fire to take the Grail. And the Grail vanished. Leaving him with his hand in the fire, to be terribly wounded.
Now, as this boy grew older, his wound grew deeper, until one day, life for him lost its reason. He had no faith in any man, not even himself. He couldn’t love or feel love. He was sick with experience. He began to die.
One day, a fool wandered into the castle and found the king alone. Being a fool, he was simple-minded, he didn’t see a king, he saw a man alone and in pain. And he asked the king, “What ails you, friend?” The king replied, “I’m thirsty. I need a some water to cool my throat.” So the fool took a cup from beside the bed, filled it with water, handed it to the king. As the king began to drink he realized that his wound was healed. He looked at his hands, and there was the Holy Grail that which he sought all his life! And he turned to the fool and said in amazement, “How could you find that which what my brightest and bravest could not?” And the fool replied, “I don’t know. I only knew that you were thirsty.” Very beautiful, isn’t it? I think I heard it that a lecture once…I don’t know…a professor…at Hunter.
(For reference, “Parry,” before he watched his wife murdered in front of him, was a literature professor at Hunter College.)
Many of us would recognize “I thirst” from the Gospel of John 19:28. This is what Jesus says from the cross (and it ties in to the Wedding Feast at Cana) and a common response would be to get Him some water. I could go on for literally hours on all aspects of this story and implications for Christian celebration, but there is a point I need to make from this story from Parry:
Often, what you desire is “right there.”
In this story, a fool simply wanted to help someone alone and in pain, gave a thirsty man something to drink.
Giving drink to the thirsty…hmmm. Years ago, one of my college students complained when I used the following verse from the Gospel of Matthew (25: 31-46) as it portrayed the “wrong” view of Christianity. I struggled with her complaints…she reiterated them in the course evaluation…but, I often think/thought that Jesus of Nazareth would know SOMETHING about Christianity.
Giving drink to the thirsty seems like a very important thing to the members of the Christian community:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.” (Full text at the bottom)
The king who is helped by Sir Parsifal is often referred to as “the Fisher King.” In another cycle, he burns his hand reaching into a fire to pull a piece of flesh from an enchanted “roasting” salmon that he caught fishing. It’s always the same basic theme: we reach too soon into the fire and we get burned.
It’s true with so many things in adulthood; the Arthurian legends are often prudish about sex, but in my experience as a teacher (since 1979), my students’ early forays into sexuality rarely prove to be a good idea in the long-term. It’s also true in booze, drugs, fast driving and so many other things Mom warned you about in life.
Yep: listen to mom. She’s probably right. My mom once told me: “If it doesn’t happen by 10 p.m., it probably ain’t going to happen.” I still hope she meant something else than what I think she meant.
So, yes, the Fisher King is about growing up, too, but let’s get back to my point: those things we strive for are all too often “right there.”
The Great Philosopher, Yoda, tried to teach this, too:
Luke Skywalker: Yoda? I am ready! I— Ben, I can be a Jedi! Ben tell him I’m rea— [bangs his head on the low ceiling] Ow!
Yoda: Ready are you? What know you of ready? For 800 years have I trained Jedi. My own counsel will I keep on who is to be trained! A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. This one, a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away to the future, the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Adventure. Heh! Excitement. A Jedi craves not these things. You are reckless!
“This one, a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away to the future, the horizon. Never his mind on where he was.”
Sadly, when I admit it, I couldn’t wait for my daughters to fall asleep, learn to take care of the basics of life, drive themselves around, and show some independence. Yet, it is a rare day now that I don’t wish I could have one more hour of those blonde mop heads wrangling me around the living room as a horse, dinosaur or construction vehicle.
So often in life, happiness, beauty, love and joy are “right there” and we can’t see them. The Fisher King needed merely to ask for water to ease his thirst to find the Holy Grail.
Where is the Holy Grail? It’s right there waiting for you to pick it up and give drink to the thirsty.
“My!” exclaimed the Wart, while his eyes sparkled with excitement at the discovery. “I must have been on a Quest!”
Wart must have been very close to Merlyn’s cottage when he fell asleep. It was literally “right there.”
Merlyn’s home makes for a great visual. The Disney movie, The Sword in the Stone, is often panned, but, in its defense, a movie coming out about King Arthur right after the assassination of President John Kennedy, and his court of Camelot, probably isn’t going to do well. The best part of the film is the scenery: the cottage is perfect and the castle, especially Merlyn’s “keep,” is what I still see in my mind’s eye when I read the book.
The Watchmen, the great graphic novel and good movie (in the Director’s cut), nods to our feathered friend, Archimedes, naming the airship “Archie.” When you watch, or better READ! the graphic novel, the characters live in time a bit like Merlyn so it’s nice to have our friend Archimedes there to keep us straight on events. The rough beginning between Wart and Archimedes has a wonderful resolution and models proper behavior for all of us.
“You are young, and do not understand these things. But you will learn that owls are the most courteous, single-hearted and faithful creatures living. You must never be familiar, rude or vulgar with them, or make them look ridiculous. Their mother is Athene, the goddess of wisdom, and, although they are often ready to play the buffoon to amuse you, such conduct is the prerogative of the truly wise. No owl can possibly be called Archie.”
It’s okay to call an airship “Archie,” but not an owl. Now, in the version I will share with you, we meet Athene in what I consider the most beautiful stories in the whole tome: the story of the Trees and the story of the Stone.
I first read the “Trees” in 1984. I was studying Intensive Turkish, the History of Yemen and a couple of other topics at Portland State University. It was NOT a good time in my life and this isn’t the time or place to share those stories. I found a cheap bookstore near campus and found a version of The Sword in the Stone that had these chapters. Oddly, the story of the trees…considering I had never seen it…stopped me in my tracks.
I kept that version with me as I traveled the Middle East the next summer. As I battled a liver parasite, I found myself deeply reading this book again and again as I suffered alone.
It seems, oddly, as I reflect upon my own Dark Night of the Soul, that this wonderful book had always been…and always will be…”right there.”
Matthew 25: 31-46
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
In case you couldn’t spare a click earlier (since WW requires you to use a lot of those), here’s that link to Never Let Go on Audible again.
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