June 09, 2016

Pushing through it

Readers of this blog will recall that El Cabrero, aside from being someone who would never refer to himself in third person, is into endurance sports and martial arts, even though he is not very good at either. But one thing they can teach is the importance of hanging on even in difficult situations. 

Like the one that prevails in WV these days...

Recently, I came across this quote by one of my favorite philosophers and psychologists, the great American pragmatist William James:

The existence of reservoirs of energy that habitually are not tapped is most familiar to us in the phenomenon of ‘second wind.’ Ordinarily we stop when we meet the first effective layer, so to call it, of fatigue. We have then walked, played, or worked ‘enough,’ and desist. That amount of fatigue is an efficacious obstruction, on this side of which our usual life is cast.
But if an unusual necessity forces us to press onward, a surprising thing occurs. The fatigue gets worse up to a certain critical point, when gradually or suddenly it passes away, and we are fresher than before. We have evidently tapped a level of new energy, masked until then by the fatigue-obstacle usually obeyed. There may be layer after layer of this experience. A third and a fourth ‘wind’ may supervene.
Mental activity shows the phenomenon as well as physical, and in exceptional cases we may find, beyond the very extremity of fatigue distress, amounts of ease and power that we never dreamed ourselves to own, sources of strength habitually not taxed at all, because habitually we never push through the obstruction, never pass those early critical points.
This reminds me of something Shorin Ryu karate master Minoru Higa said after an exhausting training session in Naha, Okinawa. During his session, we performed thousands of repetitions of basic techniques in a very short time. Then, through a translator, he explained that if one trains beyond the point of fatigue, extraneous thoughts and wasted motion fall away and correct technique is achieved.

In other words, just deal.

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