Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Gym regimen - July 2010

19 July 2010
88kg, BMI 25
A4 workout: Traps, Tris & Shoulders: 90+ mins

Warmup: 60 jumping jacks, calisthenics/stretching... lots of stretching

Barbell military press: 12x, 10x, 8x, 6x @ 35kg-50/45/40kg
[Much easier on the Smith machine! Awkward this time because I had to jerry-rig my own kind of bench-cage-spotter-rack-thingy. I also bowed my back way too much. Next time I will do this press standing in the squat rack and just keep the weight low, form high. Patience. Confidence. Humility.]

Dumbbell upright row: 12x, 10x, 10x, 8x @ 15kg-24kg (?)

Prone dumbbell reverse flye: 12x, 10x, 8x, 6x @ 12.5kg-20kg (?)

Shrug: 12x, 10x, 8x(+2x posterior), 6x(+2x posterior) @ 55kg-95kg
[I still felt like I was doing these wrong: such a short range of motion! I used a slightly narrower grip this time and will try a shoulder-width grip next time. My traps are sore today, so I know they got worked. Patience. Confidence. Humility.]

Cable pushdown: 12x, 10x, 8x, 6x @ 20kg–30kg

Supine triceps extension (EZ barbell): 12x, 10x, 8x, 6x @ 20kg-27.5kg (?)
[Much better form this time and they felt good, a good pump and just shy of fatigue the last couple sets.]

Rope triceps extension: 12x, 10x, 8x, 6x @ 20kg–30kg/25kg

Cooldown: Rear delt cable flye: 10x, 10x @ 18kg–13kg; Kneeling cable pulldowns: 30x @ 40kg–20kg, 20x @ 40kg–30kg
[I like the cable pulldowns: they work the upper abs and serrati anterior. The rear delt flye is also a nice pump, especially for a cooldown.]


My age was weighing on me this morning, or maybe it was late last night. One of those "liminal" experiences just on the edge of sleeping or waking. I am now 31 years old. I'm "thirty-something." Turning 30 was special because it was a new decade, and a triadic round number, to boot. The Jesus age. And yet in many ways my "Jesus year" was appallingly disparate from Jesus' ministerial "debut." Then again, maybe last year was my own time in the desert, complete with grandiose temptations from the Evil One and my own feeble but ongoing repetant refusals of them. I've been "dwelling" in J.P. de Caussade's Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence over the past year or so, and it's very apt for my spiritual condition these days. A phrase I've adopted after watching Croupier (great little film!), is, "Hold on tightly, let go lightly." Or as I spontaneously rephrased it last night, "When you have it, don't scorn it; when it's gone, don't mourn it." 'It' is anything you value at a certain point in time. Unfortunately, 'it' can all too easily become an idol, a sign of contingency onto which we latch as an illusory raft of permanence. A few months ago I wrote a brief post about the apparent folly of "having a plan":

What's my plan?

Why should I have a plan?

Even if I do (and I 'do'), what good does it do me if things change and I can't fulfill the plan?

Why is "having plans" a superior way to live?

Because it typically leads to frustration, resentment, and despair when those plans don't work out?

Because it clouds the mind with hypotheticals that blind you to the needs of others around you?

Or because it gives a person an air of confidence, a certain unnameable 'edge' over others, in a world of constant change and predictable unpredictability?

Did you really plan to be where you are right now? Did you plan to have the exact, concrete children you have, or the spouse you have, or the car you have? Or, conversely, did you plan not to have any of those things you lack?

This weekend I also had reason in conversation at dinner to cite one of my favorite passages of Scripture, James 4:13–16:

[13] Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and get gain"; [14] whereas you do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. [15] Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that." [16] As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

The verses came up because I was recounting to some friends how a few of my biggest plans were dashed to pieces last year and how I have had to "pick up the pieces," as they say, and keep going with a modicum of faith and dignity, a process, I'm happy to report, which is getting easier week by week. As I said at that dinner, "Where am I going next year and what am I doing? I think all I can safely say is that I will probably finish this dinner, get home, and go to sleep. Beyond that…? Who am I kidding?" I was then led to denounce in curmudgeonly fashion the vain attempts we all make to cling to little idols––our plans, our favorite projects, our talents and biases––and to assure my friends that God will shake your life as hard as He sees fit to shatter those idols in our very hands. Better by far, therefore, to be open on a continual basis to the frailty of our own lives and thus be open to the new blessings which God shakes into our lives. Mortality. Humility. Just as I sat down to a dinner after work last night, I heard an objector "in my head" (yes, I hear voices… doesn't everybody?!) tell me that my recent fixation on the erratic likelihood of my own demise is just neurotic, irrational. As Dr. Flicker sagely consoled Alvy:

Not that Dr. Flicker's consolation or his mother's haranguing seems to have done Alvy any good:

The point is that surely a "healthy individual" should never really worry he "might die at any moment," right? Wrong, actually. Despite the trappings of our civilization, we are still as vulnerable to sudden death as any other species in the biological world. Indeed, we may have made ourselves more vulnerable to sudden death by enmeshing ourselves in increasingly complex systems of competing mechanical, chemical, and ideological pressures. Hence, it is eminently rational to keep one's imminent mortality on the mind, which is why the Middle Ages were an eminently rational time, typified by the motto, "Memento mori." Or as I heard in one of my favorite films, Ghost Dog, as "Ghost Dog" reads from chapter 1 of Hagakure:

The Way of the Samurai is found in death. Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily. Every day, when one's body and mind are at peace, one should meditate upon being ripped apart by arrows, rifles, spears, and swords, being carried away by surging waves, being thrown into the midst of a great fire, being struck by lightning, being shaken to death by a great earthquake, falling from thousand-foot cliffs, dying of disease or committing seppuku at the death of one's master. And every day, without fail, one should consider himself as dead. This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai.

What does this have to do with my gym regimen and my age? Just some reflections on life as I become one more year enmeshed in the miasma of an entropic universe and a bleat of faith that entropy will not have the last word. Such is my faith. My muscles will shrink and wither, my bones will bend and splinter, my hair shall thin and my sight shall dim, but my will shall only toss itself that much more ardently to the final Good which illuminates my own own transparency in its ongoing decrepitude. We are born and thus begin dying. If perchance we practice dying, we shall live.

Along similar lines, I've been pondering and occasionally commenting on the Web lately about "the problem of evil" and it once more dawns on me that the 'problem' of evil is actually "user-dependent." Typically, an objector says something like, "All those poor Africans dying is proof God doesn't exist, at least no all-powerful and all-good God exists." If you think about it, this is a stupefyingly racist thing to say, for in effect it says, "Because poor Africans exist, the world is evil." Ergo, if no poor Africans exist, the world would be good! Chilling logic, indeed.

At a deeper level, we must wonder how well the problem of evil actually meshes with the Christian claims it is raised to defeat. As surprising as it may seem at first glance, the problem of evil is axiomatic to the Christian Gospel. For, if there were no evil––no need for rescue and healing––there would be no need for a Savior, and thus no Gospel at all. Hence, raising objections to the Gospel based on evil in the world is less than a non-starter, rather like objecting to the truth of the medical arts based on the presence of illness in the world. To cite evil as a proof against God's existence is in fact just to proclaim the Gospel without believing it. As far as its pastoral efficacy goes, the Gospel begins from the reality of evil––human evil and human frailty in the face of natural change––and argues to the goodness of God. Then again, as far as its theoretical coherence goes, the Gospel begins with the goodness of God and thus argues against evil in the world, or, more precisely, rails against human attachment to and propagation of evil. For without an appeal to the absolute goodness of God, there is no problem of evil at all. If the world just is, then the world just is: it is not good and it is not evil. So the argument from evil is an argument about the internal incoherence of the Christian worldview, but again, insofar as evil is axiomatic to the Gospel, it is vain to think you are catching the Christian worldview by surprise, or with its theological pants down, by allegedly ambushing it with the problem of evil. The reason Christianity cannot properly be ambushed by evil, is because the problems of evil have traditionally been the very grounds on which Christians appeal to God as their only hope and light. For, again, if God is not absolutely good, then nothing in the world is absolutely evil, and, as mentioned, there are no evil problems: just sensibly pleasant and unpleasant surprises.

Moreover, in the Augustinian spirit, it is precisely from the contingency, unreliability, illusoriness, treachery, and manifold evil-emptiness (privatio) of the world that Christians look to God as the One, Good Exception to the vanity here below. In recognizing the impermanence and treachery of the created world, we simultaneously recognize it as evil in the light of the good God and are spurred to cling to Him as the one relief from our lowly selves and lowly lives. It thus becomes an empirical question what, say, "the poor Africans" themselves actually think about their own woes. Do they view their sorrows as "proof" against God? Or, rather, do not those with a germ of faith see their sorrows as spurs to confirm their devotion to God as the One-ly True Good? It is because God is Good––wholly free from any lack or imperfection––that the world is "evil", i.e., rife with contingency, lacks (privationes), and infinite remove from God's fullness. The world is not therefore intrinsically evil, in a moral sense, but it is intrinsically 'evil' in a metaphysical sense: were it wholly good, it would be God, for God all-one is good. The world was never meant to be a "proof" of God in His whole being, for only the Divine Logos can perfectly 'reflect' the Divine Goodness, but the world's worldliness––its finitude, extrinsic finality, contingency, fragility, opaqueness, and so on––is meant to point to the Creator as the One Good Source which faith alone can attain, precisely by renouncing the idolatrous imperfections of the world as supposedly complete bases for knowing God.



Speaking of my mortality…

I just did a jumprope/abs workout. It's a hot, breezeless day here and while I was out of the sun, inside my dorm, the mugginess was just stifling.

3–4 mins of jumprope, 60 alternating rowing crunches, 3–4 mins of jumprope, 50 alternating leg drops, 2–3 mins of jumrope, 50 alternating crunches, 1 min of jumprope, 50 alternating rowing crunches

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