The Courage to Suffer

I’d like to start by apologizing for the lack of posts this week. Things haven’t been running smoothly here, starting with the death of my computer on Tuesday. I’m using The Lady’s computer at the moment. It’s an inelegant solution. Not because its a bad machine, its actually a thousand times better than mine was, but I have an odd writing schedule and if I don’t get it done during her working hours then I don’t get it done.  Enough of that shit, I’ll get to the meat of it.

I’ve talked of Mr. Yukio Mishisma on these pages in the past. For the past year or so I’ve put him away, and haven’t really been paying much attention to what I pulled from the his book Sun and Steel. I read it, I dug it and I hadn’t thought much about it since. I first encountered Mishima in Mark Twight’s book Kiss or Kill the quote (read to Mark by Steve House) instantly hit home. Reading it for that first time, I knew I found something.

Pain, I came to feel, might well prove to be the sole proof of the persistence of consciousness within the flesh, the sole physical expression of consciousness. As my body acquired muscle, and in turn strength, there was gradually born within me the tendency toward positive acceptance of pain, and my interest in physical suffering deepened.

Bam! That’s heavy. Since Kiss or Kill was the first book that put voice to how I felt about physical suffering. Turning to the source only deepened that belief. That I could improve those things that I hated about myself by throwing myself into the fire as it were. I got off track. It’s easy to forget…no, its easy to convince yourself that you’re still following that ideal. That you’re actually using your pursuit to improve yourself, when you’re really just using it to keep yourself where you are really at. That’s the main reason I quit climbing. That hasn’t freed me from doing doing in my cycling life now.

Recently I’ve returned to Sun and Steel. I needed to reinvestigate some of what he was getting at, rather I needed a firm reminding of what I was actually after. A few months ago I first read an article on Adam Myerson’s cycle-smart page titled “Preparing for Pain: Metaphysics for Your Mental Game”, in which he speaks to the courage required to lay it down when you’re hurting the most. To quote directly:

To suffer, then, requires courage. To override your body’s instinct for self-preservation, according to Mishima, is the core of that courage. As an athlete, there’s a time to pay attention to pain, give it respect, and back off to prevent serious injury. At the same time, competition is the place we’re able to battle pain, and create tests and opportunities for acts of courage.

Lately I feel like I’m lacking that courage. There have been moments of it for sure. Times where I stepped up, said “fuck it” and launched into an ill time attack. I got what I really wanted in those moments. A chance to suffer for no other reason than because I like it, because there is growth in that space. I want to reach out from that momentary transcendence that comes laying yourself on the line. I’m all too conscious of when I’m not doing that. This last Tuesday I didn’t do that. I felt tired. My legs were trashed because I haven’t been sleeping well, I wasn’t taking care of my recovery. In other words I was being a coward — I was actively engaged in the process of holding myself back. My greatest character flaw.

For the entirety of my memory I’ve been drawn to pursuits that require courage. Whether it was climbing, bombing down single track on a store brand mountain bike, standing up to that asshole bully in school, or (more importantly) the courage needed to stand up and deal with what’s not working in your life. I’ve rarely shied away from starting the work, though I’ve often turned my back when the work is at its hardest. A therapist told me that about two percent of the people who come in for therapy are actually broken. The rest of us them are experiencing the pain of growing into different people. That pain causes them to think that something is wrong with them. In the face of that pain they pull away. They stop doing the work that required to get them through to the next level. It takes real courage. Something I’m hoping to cultivate in myself.

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