For the sake of context, I wrote and posted this through the night of January 3rd, 2016 in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris. The varied reactions visible on social media and in discussion provoked some thinking, and none of that produced a solution. It simply reinforced the idea that revolution starts within.

A little over six weeks ago events occurred that make working out or training feel indulgent and irrelevant. That we continue doing what we want and living as we do might feel defiant. A declaration that an act of terrorism across the ocean won’t change how we think and live.

In fact, I believe in physical training as an expression of, “controlling what you can control,” and that it is, ideally, a means of developing the physical and mental resilience to address what you can’t control. So, do it. And understand that you are doing it in a bubble. Insulated. Isolated. And that you should use the freedom you have to do this training to also think about the how and why of grievances that result in such extreme behavior.

I don’t have answers. Or claim to. I did have a lot of friends who died trying to implement other peoples’ answers. You don’t need to have an answer to have an opinion, or to express hope. But do try to be realistic. I know what I think. Prayer doesn’t do it for me. I prefer action.

I’m all for revolution. With conditions: first don’t target anyone who is not responsible for the conditions that compel you to revolt. Second, have a viable solution to put in place should your revolt succeed. I place emphasis on “viable” and not fantastic, idealistic, or anarchistic. Wrecking shit for the sake of it deserves resistance.

True revolution starts within the individual. That revolt is different from assuming the ideas of those around you and parroting their collective cry, while careening headlong toward a confrontation with … whatever target conveniently presents itself. If you aren’t strong enough to be your own engine, not independent enough to provide your own security and therefore freedom then of course you will be easily swayed by the apparent momentum and originality of the local, so-called revolution.

That ain’t autonomy. That’s just doing what is only slightly marginal, what appears “alternative” but leads back to the same thing: you are stuck following a recipe that you didn’t write. Abiding rules. Bound and limited by them. Anchored to an idea you are unwilling to destroy.

To me (personal) revolution is punk. And punk is DIY. Do It Yourself. DIY doesn't necessarily mean "executing" it all yourself, starting from zero, alone and marginalized. But you do have to investigate on your own, to inquire, even to find mentors. You can follow a recipe but DIY insists you add flavor, value, originality, and maybe even rewrite the formula. It’s hard though. And many who head for the frontier find themselves too weak to explore, to stay inquisitive, and to sustain the need for constant vigilance, so they drift back to the fold. The group welcomes them and praises the courage they showed by having ventured abroad in the first place, for their short-lived revolution.

The trick, apparently, is to appear just different and original enough to stand out but not so different or demanding that people reject you.

I happened to choose climbing as the recipe for my casserole. I did it like everyone else at first but soon realized the unbridled freedom available to someone who could and would think differently, who didn’t care what others thought or how they admonished the risk and apparent magnetism of death. That climbing was marginal and I could take it to the most extreme limits of human experience suited me: simple rebellion wasn’t enough. I needed to go far enough outside the norm that I wasn’t “recoverable”, that the straight and narrow offered no temptation.

Out on that edge, and other edges since, I realized that a proper revolution is not just destruction but the creativity that follows - or better yet the creativity that makes destruction unnecessary. We don’t need to fight but we should be able and happy to do so when fighting is the right solution. We must however imagine a different way of life - as individuals and perhaps a group - because if how we live now isn’t giving us the satisfaction or the opportunity we seek then something has to change.

And that circles back to, “controlling what you can control.” Treat it as a process that eventually produces the capacity to address more of what you can’t control. If all you can control is your body, or your desire, start with that. Slowly you’ll learn how little influence you have over the world around you but that taking the reins of your health and fitness reduces the effect of the currents trying to push and pull you off of your course. It’s a small thing. Enough small things become a big thing. The more you control your own self, the more control you wrest from those who would decide what is best for you. And that’s revolution enough to start.

Mark Twight
Mark Twight