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Choose your poison

I recently had a very interesting conversation with some close friends of mine, in which I detailed a shift in mindset that I've been having over the past couple of years. Most of my friends are highly intelligent, disciplined, good men, but they have never been too interested in pursuing deeper truths about the way that life is to be lived. In that regard, they tend to fall prey to the popular mottos of "trust the science" and such, which has led them to blindly follow whatever the doctor recommends them. Before any dense reader voluntarily tries to misunderstand me, let me explain something: sometimes it is wise to follow your doctor's advice, sometimes it is not. This post will further elaborate on what I mean by the previous statement. Back to the story: I told my friends my somewhat new mentality, which, in short, goes something like this: we are all going to be severely f*cked up when we are older, so trying to delay the inevitable by not taking any risks or using our bodies in any way is foolish.

A personal example

To better explain what I'm trying to say, let me tell you a little anecdote about an injury that I am now carrying. A couple of weeks ago, in the middle of a JiuJitsu roll, my knee popped. It hurt, but it wasn't bad enough to the point where I couldn't finish the training session. I kept going without too much trouble and went home after we were done training. When I cooled down, my knee started swelling up and hurting like hell. I was forced to spend the rest of the day liying down, as I couldn't put any weight on my right leg. The next morning, my leg was much better, but it was still swollen and hurting. I scheduled an appointment with a doctor, whose first recommendation was that I stopped any physical activity that could have an impact on my knees. That meant no lifting weights, and definitely no BJJ. I got an MRI, and even though it seems as if nothing is wrong with my knee, it still hurts and bothers me constantly. After reviewing the MRI, the doctor suggested that I stop completely until my knee stopped hurting. That's fine. He was looking after me. He was doing his job, trying to make sure that I didn't injure my knee further. But for me, stopping until it didn't hurt any longer would surely mean a couple of months of barely any physical activity, and that's a sacrifice that I'm not willing to make. It would be different if I had a serious injury, and please don't think that I am suggesting that you completely disregard your doctor's advice when you have a serious injury. Keep reading, and you'll understand what I mean.

But for me, stopping until it didn't hurt any longer would surely mean a couple of months of barely any physical activity, and that's a sacrifice that I'm not willing to make.

A different example

A friend of mine had a similar issue a couple of years ago. He was an avid football (soccer) player, and during a match, he injured his knee. The doctor told him that he should never, ever, play football again, because he would risk injuring his knee again. So he stopped. Completely. Religiously. He gave up one of his favorite activities, one that brought him joy and a number of other positive things because he wanted to make sure that he wouldn't get injured again.

You may think that's wise, but think of it this way: in 50 years, when we are 70 years old, my friend and I will both have f*ucked up bodies, we will be riddled with injuries and pain all over. Everyone will. The difference then will be, that he will have sacrificed 50 years of doing what he loves to avoid one particular injury, and I will have arthritis and a knee that's worse than his, but I'll have 50 years behind me of doing what I love, of using my body when it was useful. I will have a BJJ black belt, 50 years of wisdom derived from my time on the mats, and many friends from my BJJ gym. I will have none of that if I chose to listen to my doctor some weeks ago. You see my point?

The disclaimer

Have some common sense, please. Don't take this as a call to amass as many injuries as you can. Take this as a call to weigh the pros and cons of listening to your doctor, because only you know what's best for you. Maybe you are willing to risk damaging your body somehow in exchange for years of teachings, experience, and doing what you love. Maybe you're not. But that's for you to decide. Not for your doctor. Rest and recover if you have to, but do not blindly listen to medical advice. Have some criteria when making those decisions. Some injuries definitely justify you stopping completely and focusing on recovering. Most don't.

The bottom line

We will all be dead some day. Taking a step back, we will all be hurting and our bodies will be not too many years. We don't get to avoid that. But we do get to pick our poison. Will you be full of scars and injuries as a result of a life lived fully and dangerously, a life in which you have used your body, you have fought, ran, grown and suffered? Or will you be damaged and broken as a result of a life so boring and sedentary that your muscles and bones break down because you spent your whole life sitting on your ass trying to be safe from every single potentially harmful activity? I know what I would choose. Think about it. At the end of the day, even the Mona Lisa is falling apart. You just get to choose what you do while your body deteriorates.

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1 Comment

R. Frank Bass
R. Frank Bass
Jun 26, 2021

Carpe Diem et Memento Vivere. When seizing the day, we must remember that we will live. Most pains and aches of this world are merely momentary and passing. But to have these skills, memories, and entertaining activities will last longer and are much more meaningful than just cowering down everetime something gets hard. Reminds me of the Art of Manliness's recent podcast "How to Make Your Life More Effortless"

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