Monday, November 24, 2014

Arbeit Macht Frei

Arbeit Macht Frei is a phrase that comes from a book written by a German Philologist in which he describes how gamblers and thieves, who go through life without regard to the real value of things, discover value (eventually) through having to work to create or earn the things they had previously taken for granted and received for free.  That thought, that the true value of things has to do more with the journey of obtaining them, than to the material they are made of, or the monetary significance culture assesses to them... is common in many religions and philosophical ideologies.

That phrase was eventually absorbed by the German Workers party and then later adopted by the Nazi party who placed it over the gates of many of the concentration camps.  In The Kingdom of Auschwitz, Otto Friedrich wrote about the man who had this done.
"He seems not to have intended it as a mockery, nor even to have intended it literally, as a false promise that those who worked to exhaustion would eventually be released, but rather as a kind of mystical declaration that self-sacrifice in the form of endless labour does in itself bring a kind of spiritual freedom"

In my current job I spend my days sitting in a cubicle staring at a computer screen.  I suppose I shouldn't tell much about all that here except to say that it's horribly unfulfilling to me.  At the end of the day my contribution is trivial and unmeasurable.  I get paid exceptionally well for this and it seems, as long as they're passing out money, I'd be a fool not to show up and take it from them. 

For fulfillment then, I have to look to other things to provide that.  In the past that has always been competition.  Although honestly only in my earliest years was my love the actual competing part, or rather the ego gains winning at competition garnered.  Once I was about 19yrs old I realized that most of my running had nothing to do with ego and more to do with the spiritual freedom Arbeit Macht Frei conveys.  The very freedom that those ancient philosophers and religions try to articulate.

Running was a form of work.  I've often said it is the journey that I enjoy, not the rewards.  At some point it comes down to loving the activity. Loving putting yourself into something.  Something that takes you away from the current pains and strains of daily life and replaces those the kinds of soreness you control.  After my running days whistled away and my cycling ran the same course from egocentric fervor to work induced pleasure I've been lost for a bit.  I needed something to put myself into, a work that I enjoyed but was more appropriate for the tough times I feel we'll face in the near future (my posts about Peak Oil).  Here is what I found.

1)  My old truck died :-(  I pulled the transmission, replaced the clutch, a few bearings, etc.  Turns out the transmission had some internal problems.  I didn't have the facilities to have another go a it.  RIP old buddy.


2) I taught my co-worker how to do tile and helped her do her own backsplash.

3)  Jeremiah's work was removing their carpet and putting in new.  We removed the best pieces and I hauled it to Ohio for my buildings.

4)  I had renters who had combined 2 apartments into one before I purchased it.  They were paying less than I could get for rent for 1 apartment.  Rather than raise their rent, I took back the 2nd apartment and am updating it.  That's still a work in progress.

That's your taste for now.  I've also....
5) rebuilt an apartment
6) tiled my aunts bathroom
7) insulated the 3rd floor ceiling of my building.
8) removed my aunts hot tub and moved her washer and dryer into that room from the basement.
9) built storage facility in my buildings basement.
10) gave my buildings basement walls a skim coat of concrete.
11) replaced the ceiling in my moms bedroom.
12) and much more.  I'll try to keep you posted. 

I gain a real feeling of fulfillment in building and repairing things.  I like to stand back at the end of the day and admire my creations.  Perhaps my hard work is simply an avenue towards current fulfillment, perhaps it improves the lives of others, perhaps I'll reap rewards of a different type later from my hard work now.  That brings up another sign that adorned the gates of concentration camps.

Jedem das Seine.  which literally means, "to each his own", but idiomatically "everyone gets what he deserves"  I toil on, for love of the activity, for love of others I work for, for love of the skills I attain and hone, and because I believe the things I've achieved through hard work in my life were earned.  There's satisfaction in earning something that isn't material, cannot be traded, or taken away.  Find your journey and live it!  :-)

Winter winds

I've been really missing blogging lately.  I've done a lot of interesting building I want to post but never get around to it.  I've also had some thoughts on Ebola, Fukashima, the elections, etc that I'm sure everyone is just sitting refreshing their browsers waiting for me to write about. 

Everyone knows my ongoing struggle with running and how I often just throw in the towel and end up on the bike.  That happened again this weekend.  Each time it seems I get tantalizingly closer to figuring out my issues.  The most helpful advice so far I received in Ukraine from a Chiropractor there.   It seems here everyone is intent on treating symptoms instead of the root cause. problem is that my right leg pronates which over time has tilted my hips and locked my spine into a bit of a scoliatic curve.   I get treatments but the muscles pull it straight back.  I have specific exercises that relieve it.  I'm supposed to reach a level of flexibility and then slowly introduce single leg exercises to regain strength, all the while maintaining the flexibility.  Inevitably I do to many exercises and my hips lock themselves into the titled position and I have to back up steps and get flexible again.    I can just skip some steps and put in a lift on my right leg, that totally relieves the knee pain when I run, but then my back gets all out of sorts because it just can't handle the change and my feet just get weaker (which is the problem in the first place).

Anyway, it's been pretty trying.  Inna and I have been going to the gym, to yoga, and i've been putting my energies into my building projects.  I'm finding though, that one weekend every 3 weeks getting to work on them is just not fulfilling enough.  So I either need to live where I can work those hobbies more often, or run, or ride, or something to keep me going.  So then I'm back to my feeling to just scrap all this stuff and ride my bike.  With a cleat lift on my right leg I pedal just fine without pain.  Once I get out on the bike I really miss cycling.  But then there's the simplicity of running, and a lot of unfinished goals lying around. 

This week, having only ran 2 or 3 times since running with Tom and Ernie out in Vegas, I got on the treadmill to try out my knees/hips.  I didn't know at the time that this would probably be my last run of the year.  I ran 5:50 pace for 3 miles.  I felt really good, no knee pain.  I was sweating a good deal because they keep it too hot at Golds Gym.  That one run was awesome.  18:10 for 5k.  Nothing special, but still pretty nice to be able run that sort of time with zero training and have it be 80% effort at nearly 40yrs old.  I certainly have a good engine.  I know it's still in there.... and it's killing me that I can't use it.

I'm holding off until January to go for any more physical therapy because of insurance.  Going to the gym just doesn't do it for me.  I need to get out and do something.  This weekend I taped up my cycling shoes and got them in winter mode.  Then headed out the door.  I did a 3hr high cadence workout.  As I rode I contemplated what I wanted to do.  Maybe I should just ride a lot and do some mountain bike races.  Maybe I should try racing Masters.  I haven't raced a bicycle in 4 years. Maybe I should downgrade to cat 4 and start all over.   I don't know.

When it comes down to it, I know I get a little crazy on the bike.  I don't want a premature death.  But honestly if I get my running going I'll end up doing some crazy ultra races where I'm traversing switchbacks and ridges and descending mountains at breakneck speed.  Or i'll find another hobby where I tempt fate.  So maybe it just comes down to time.  Maybe cycling is just too time consuming for me.  I feel guilty I should be something more with my time.   Then again....maybe honing talents and chasing dreams is EXACTLY what I should be doing with my time.  who's to say....

For the next 6 weeks I'll be wearing lycra and a funny helmet.  We'll see what 2015 brings.

Other than running vs biking, I can tell you exactly what else will be happing in 2015.

1) Politicians (on both sides) will continue to pretend to care what voters want and instead do what people with money want. 

2) More countries around the world will privatize regional assets, selling them to foreign investers pumping the last little bit of wealth they can until people in those countries revolt and the nation becomes ungovernable.

3) More ungovernable places will find charismatic leaders who represent them better, do more for their quality of life, etc.. than their former governments did.  They'll follow these charismatic warband leaders happily at a price to the lives of their neighbors, equality, women's rights, etc.

4) More places will be hit by climate induced natural disasters.   Money that normally would be used for quality of life or survival will instead go to repairing and recovering from those disasters.  Many will be financially crushed and forever enjoy 3rd world status or worse.

5)  With gas prices low more Americans will adopt habits, revert to living arrangments, increase consumption....instead of realizing this is a temporary respite.  They will do nothing to prepare for the simpler and less energy intensive lives the laws of physics and ecology will soon force upon them.

6)  All of the above mentioned will be blamed on corporations, politicians, that damn other party, ethnicities, spouses, or bad luck....instead of personal behaviors and a dependence on an economy that requires exponentially increasing energy use to create exponentially increasing growth.