Friday, April 16, 2010

The Ability (Power) to Change

In some traditions and disciplines of physical conditioning, the focus is on one "state" of muscular action -- the teaching that relaxation is the achievement, and then the more modern notion, that the effort is everything -- whereas the real significance and value, is of the ability to easily move from one state to the other, as required and appropriate -- to effect change, in a meaningful and personal way, instead of again, in the "statist" vision of nonchange and permanence as an observation of the world.

This worldview was necessary for those who believed that categorization, or placing everything into its proper pigeonhole, was the essential task of understanding everything -- while the fringe voices at that time, insisted that the "process," or "movement," from one state to the other, was what was important -- and that understanding, has won the day.

In the old world view, if one was one thing, then there was no escape from that description or stereotype -- one had to remain an alcoholic or another genetic fixation because that's the only fate that life allowed. Thus, it was very important what and how one labeled themselves -- as black or white, liberal or conservative, schizophrenic, one thing exclusive of the other -- rather than being all, or as much of life as one wanted to be -- while discovering those limitations and possibilities.

This larger cultural context dominates and influences all aspects of our thinking and doing -- as the prevailing paradigm, of which at any time, there are those on the leading edge, many in the mainstream looking for that leadership, and those fiercely defending the old status quo, even though with every battle, their cause seems to grow more hopeless, until finally, there is the capitulation that everything in the world has changed and is different from how they thought it would always have to be, and they are now playing "catchup" because they only prepared for their one outcome that was not to be.

That is the important survival value of conditioning in which change is the most important adaptation to understand and facilitate -- and not steeling oneself ever more determinedly, for only one outcome. We need to be prepared for a range of challenges, situations, and responses, and optimize the effectiveness of whatever life will bring -- hardship at times, but not always, and hopefully, by preparing for the worst, being able to recognize and appreciate the good and better when it comes "unexpectedly," and embrace it rather than deny and suppress it so that the negative assuredly replaces it.

So this matter of conditioning has evolved in a very short time from one century to another, to value quite different capabilities, and to make the proper responses -- so that one no longer consumes all the food one can obtain because there is a ruinous abundance instead of traditional, anticipated scarcities. This is true of food, resources, and information -- that an advantage can be turned into a disadvantage, if one does not individuate their personal responses to the much larger generalizations. You don't want more water in a flood, but that is all one can think of in a drought -- and one has to at least recognize the reality of their actual situation over the generalized "average," which doesn't tell us anything meaningful, or advantageous to know.

This is probably the great shift in how we view, experience and understand the world of this time -- that the generalizations of old, have become less helpful than an actual assessment of the actual, that we can more usefully also know "more" about -- and not just simply more without end, as though somehow, that will always be useful. It can be a distraction and diversion from the attention one really needs to give to an actual situation -- which the learning for learning's sake advocates, will argue, is simply "anecdotal," rather than the preferred consensus as what is happening in the abstract -- while caring very little about what is actually going on around them.

We call such people lost in their own thought and ideologies -- having very little contact with what most others would agree is happening as a verifiable reality. They may insist that the world in their own heads, takes precedence over the reality everyone else is experiencing -- because theirs is a superior understanding passed down directly from the highest authority. The common term is cognitive dissonance -- that there is no corresponding reality with that going on inside their heads.

And so a very important tenet of any conditioning, should be integrating the world of thought with the world of action and verifiable, observable reality. When this connection breaks down, or is never established, then it becomes nearly impossible to effect improvement and change in any meaningful discussion. Yet, it is common in the instruction of exercise, that this very direct action of producing change of the muscle itself is never produced all the while one may ostensibly said to be exercising (changing) -- because that actual change of muscular states is barely detectable, as is obvious in anybody in any condition, actually effecting those differences.

It's much less important how much weight is lifted, or how far and fast it is lifted, and the effort sustained, than the actual degree that the muscle articulates from the greatest state of relaxation to its greatest state of contraction, which is such an obviously dramatic effect that the very word "muscle," was chosen to describe the appearance of a mouse moving under one's skin when observed in this range of its appearance and function -- a fact which has become lost to contemporary pseudo-academic discussions on conditioning activities, while expounding on everything else that doesn't matter.


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