Greetings from LA and Oahu!
First off, our mind is blown that 2/22/2022 fell on a TUEsday… What are the odds?
This week we’re talking about why pain isn’t real, why your ambition might be leading you in circles, and how short-term memory loss can help you become an ultra-marathon runner.
Pain isn’t Real
90% of the pain (99%?) isn’t real.
That’s not a silly statement that takes a guru to unpack… it’s just a simple fact.
Think about it.
Most of our suffering comes from two sources…
- Things that have happened in the past.
- Things we anticipate might happen in the future.
Very rarely do we suffer because we’re actually in pain right this very moment.
The key to eliminating our suffering is to live in the present moment, accept things as they are, and be grateful for what we have.
There’s very rarely pain in the present moment.
But it takes intentionality to spend more time there (meditation, for instance).
Oh — and if you do want a guru to unpack this, here you go.
Fishing For Fish
We love this parable where a fisherman and a businessman discuss their ambitions. It’s a wonderful reminder that the joy we’re looking for with ambition is already within reach.
One day a fisherman was lying on a beautiful beach, with his fishing pole propped up in the sand and his solitary line cast out into the sparkling blue surf. He was enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun and the prospect of catching a fish.
About that time, a businessman came walking down the beach, trying to relieve some of the stress of his workday. He noticed the fisherman sitting on the beach and decided to find out why this fisherman was fishing instead of working harder to make a living for himself and his family. “You aren’t going to catch many fish that way,” said the businessman to the fisherman.
“You should be working rather than lying on the beach!”
The fisherman looked up at the businessman, smiled and replied, “And what will my reward be?”
“Well, you can get bigger nets and catch more fish!” was the businessman’s answer. “And then what will my reward be?” asked the fisherman, still smiling. The businessman replied, “You will make money and you’ll be able to buy a boat, which will then result in larger catches of fish!”
“And then what will my reward be?” asked the fisherman again.
The businessman was beginning to get a little irritated with the fisherman’s questions. “You can buy a bigger boat, and hire some people to work for you!” he said.
“And then what will my reward be?” repeated the fisherman.
The businessman was getting angry. “Don’t you understand? You can build up a fleet of fishing boats, sail all over the world, and let all your employees catch fish for you!”
Once again the fisherman asked, “And then what will my reward be?”
The businessman was red with rage and shouted at the fisherman, “Don’t you understand that you can become so rich that you will never have to work for your living again! You can spend all the rest of your days sitting on this beach, looking at the sunset. You won’t have a care in the world!”
The fisherman, still smiling, looked up and said, “And what do you think I’m doing right now?”
Memory Loss For Running
How far do you think you could run… if you never had any idea how far you’d already run?
Diane Van Deren was diagnosed with epilepsy in her 30s, which ended her career as a professional tennis player. But after getting a piece of her brain surgically removed to end her struggle with epileptic seizures — which created new problems with short-term memory loss — she started running. And she did well… really well.
She’s won, as Men’s Journal reports, “the infamous Yukon Arctic Ultra, a 430-mile footrace pulling a 50-pound sled through temperatures below 50 degrees for eight days, and set a record for the 1,000-mile Mountains to Sea Trail, where she traversed the state of North Carolina in just over 22 days. She’s been a professional endurance athlete with The North Face for the past 16 years.”
Even more so considering her disability.
Except, Alex Hutchinson, the author of Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, posits that perhaps her disability has its blessings as it relates to long-distance running — in particular, her ability to forget how long she’s been running.
It’s hard to escape the sense that how Van Deren experiences a prolonged endurance challenge is inescapably different from how it is for most people. Unable to read maps or keep track of where she is on a course, she doesn’t focus on the challenge ahead of her. Hampered by poor short-term memory, she doesn’t dwell on the effort already expended, either. ‘I could be out running for two weeks, but if someone told me it was day one of a race,’ she once joked, ‘I’d be like, Great, let’s get started!’ Instead, she has no choice but to focus on the immediate task of forward motion, taking one more step, and then another. Semi-oblivious to the passage of time, she is also free of the cognitive challenge — the shackles, perhaps — of pacing herself. She is all hare and no tortoise — which, Aesopian morality aside, has its advantages.
Interesting, isn’t it?
It makes you wonder: if we could learn to live more in the present moment, how much more powerful would our own endurance become?
After all… the only pain exists in our perception of the past or our anticipation of the future.
Here is some other random stuff we found interesting this last week!
- The Great Game by LA Review of Books
- Why Are Letters Shaped the Way They Are? by Vice
- Life in the soil was thought to be silent. What if it isn’t? by Knowable Magazine
This Week’s Photo
“Firefighters watch as a helicopter drops water on a wildfire in Laguna Beach, California, on February 10, 2022. A wildfire fanned by gusty Santa Ana winds erupted in hills on the Southern California coast early Thursday but firefighters kept flames from damaging homes and after several hours officials were optimistic the blaze could be stopped.” via The Atlantic
This Week’s Riddle
Here’s this week’s riddle — the answer is at the bottom of the email!
What kind of band never plays music?
This Week’s Question
Answer this question — either privately or by replying to this email. If your answer inspires us, then we’ll ask for permission to include it in a future email!
What pain are you experiencing that isn’t in the present moment?
This Week’s Challenge
Take stock of the things that are bothering you. Maybe you’re scared of what the future holds. Or maybe you’re crippled by something in the past. Then take time this week to meditate and return to the present moment. That’s where you’ll find peace.
Until next week,
Mike & Alec
Riddle Answer: A rubber band.