Ari Shaffir Skeptic Tank #277 with Henry Rollins: Iron and the Soul by Henry Rollins

I heard about Henry Rollins from Joe Rogan. Rollins is a world traveler and has plenty of insights into living a strenuous life. I’ve been listening to a lot of Ari Shaffir Skeptic Tank. Alongside Joe Rogan and Bill Burr I find Ari to be one of my favorite comedian podcasters. Ari really shines through as an interviewer in this episode. Included is Rollins essay on lifting weights. Iron and the Soul. A must read for lifters.

 

Iron and the Soul – By Henry Rollins

I believe that the definition of definition is reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself.

Completely.

When I was young I had no sense of myself. All I was, was a product of all the fear and humiliation I suffered. Fear of my parents. The humiliation of teachers calling me “garbage can” and telling me I’d be mowing lawns for a living. And the very real terror of my fellow students. I was threatened and beaten up for the color of my skin and my size. I was skinny and clumsy, and when others would tease me I didn’t run home crying, wondering why. I knew all too well. I was there to be antagonized. In sports I was laughed at. A spaz. I was pretty good at boxing but only because the rage that filled my every waking moment made me wild and unpredictable. I fought with some strange fury. The other boys thought I was crazy.

I hated myself all the time. As stupid at it seems now, I wanted to talk like them, dress like them, carry myself with the ease of knowing that I wasn’t going to get pounded in the hallway between classes. Years passed and I learned to keep it all inside. I only talked to a few boys in my grade. Other losers. Some of them are to this day the greatest people I have ever known. Hang out with a guy who has had his head flushed down a toilet a few times, treat him with respect, and you’ll find a faithful friend forever. But even with friends, school sucked. Teachers gave me hard time. I didn’t think much of them either.

Then came Mr. Pepperman, my advisor. He was a powerfully built Vietnam veteran, and he was scary. No one ever talked out of turn in his class. Once one kid did and Mr. P. lifted him off the ground and pinned him to the blackboard. Mr. P. could see that I was in bad shape, and one Friday in October he asked me if I had ever worked out with weights. I told him no. He told me that I was going to take some of the money that I had saved and buy a hundred-pound set of weights at Sears. As I left his office, I started to think of things I would say to him on Monday when he asked about the weights that I was not going to buy. Still, it made me feel special. My father never really got that close to caring. On Saturday I bought the weights, but I couldn’t even drag them to my mom’s car. An attendant laughed at me as he put them on a dolly.

Monday came and I was called into Mr. P.’s office after school. He said that he was going to show me how to work out. He was going to put me on a program and start hitting me in the solar plexus in the hallway when I wasn’t looking. When I could take the punch we would know that we were getting somewhere. At no time was I to look at myself in the mirror or tell anyone at school what I was doing. In the gym he showed me ten basic exercises. I paid more attention than I ever did in any of my classes. I didn’t want to blow it. I went home that night and started right in.

Weeks passed, and every once in a while Mr. P. would give me a shot and drop me in the hallway, sending my books flying. The other students didn’t know what to think. More weeks passed, and I was steadily adding new weights to the bar. I could sense the power inside my body growing. I could feel it.

Right before Christmas break I was walking to class, and from out of nowhere Mr. Pepperman appeared and gave me a shot in the chest. I laughed and kept going. He said I could look at myself now. I got home and ran to the bathroom and pulled off my shirt. I saw a body, not just the shell that housed my stomach and my heart. My biceps bulged. My chest had definition. I felt strong. It was the first time I can remember having a sense of myself. I had done something and no one could ever take it away. You couldn’t say shit to me.

It took me years to fully appreciate the value of the lessons I have learned from the Iron. I used to think that it was my adversary, that I was trying to lift that which does not want to be lifted. I was wrong. When the Iron doesn’t want to come off the mat, it’s the kindest thing it can do for you. If it flew up and went through the ceiling, it wouldn’t teach you anything. That’s the way the Iron talks to you. It tells you that the material you work with is that which you will come to resemble. That which you work against will always work against you.

It wasn’t until my late twenties that I learned that by working out I had given myself a great gift. I learned that nothing good comes without work and a certain amount of pain. When I finish a set that leaves me shaking, I know more about myself. When something gets bad, I know it can’t be as bad as that workout.

I used to fight the pain, but recently this became clear to me: pain is not my enemy; it is my call to greatness. But when dealing with the Iron, one must be careful to interpret the pain correctly. Most injuries involving the Iron come from ego. I once spent a few weeks lifting weight that my body wasn’t ready for and spent a few months not picking up anything heavier than a fork. Try to lift what you’re not prepared to and the Iron will teach you a little lesson in restraint and self-control.

I have never met a truly strong person who didn’t have self-respect. I think a lot of inwardly and outwardly directed contempt passes itself off as self-respect: the idea of raising yourself by stepping on someone’s shoulders instead of doing it yourself. When I see guys working out for cosmetic reasons, I see vanity exposing them in the worst way, as cartoon characters, billboards for imbalance and insecurity. Strength reveals itself through character. It is the difference between bouncers who get off strong-arming people and Mr. Pepperman.

Muscle mass does not always equal strength. Strength is kindness and sensitivity. Strength is understanding that your power is both physical and emotional. That it comes from the body and the mind. And the heart.

Yukio Mishima said that he could not entertain the idea of romance if he was not strong. Romance is such a strong and overwhelming passion, a weakened body cannot sustain it for long. I have some of my most romantic thoughts when I am with the Iron. Once I was in love with a woman. I thought about her the most when the pain from a workout was racing through my body.

Everything in me wanted her. So much so that sex was only a fraction of my total desire. It was the single most intense love I have ever felt, but she lived far away and I didn’t see her very often. Working out was a healthy way of dealing with the loneliness. To this day, when I work out I usually listen to ballads.

I prefer to work out alone. It enables me to concentrate on the lessons that the Iron has for me. Learning about what you’re made of is always time well spent, and I have found no better teacher. The Iron had taught me how to live. Life is capable of driving you out of your mind. The way it all comes down these days, it’s some kind of miracle if you’re not insane. People have become separated from their bodies. They are no longer whole.

I see them move from their offices to their cars and on to their suburban homes. They stress out constantly, they lose sleep, they eat badly. And they behave badly. Their egos run wild; they become motivated by that which will eventually give them a massive stroke. They need the Iron Mind.

Through the years, I have combined meditation, action, and the Iron into a single strength. I believe that when the body is strong, the mind thinks strong thoughts. Time spent away from the Iron makes my mind degenerate. I wallow in a thick depression. My body shuts down my mind.

The Iron is the best antidepressant I have ever found. There is no better way to fight weakness than with strength. Once the mind and body have been awakened to their true potential, it’s impossible to turn back.

The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all kinds of talk, get told that you’re a god or a total bastard. The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds.

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Exploring the Basilica of Saint-Denis in Paris while reading “Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follet

I found Saint-Denis while stumbling through Paris on my off-day from oilfield training. I explored a-lot of the city but my favorite by far was the Basilica of Saint-Denis. This was largely due to a friend who gave me Pillars of the Earth to read. The book does a fine job of mixing a love story with royal intrigue and the incredible task of building a cathedral in the 12th century.

Saint-Denis was built early in the transition from Romanesque architecture to Gothic architecture. Saint-Denis was the first Bishop of Paris and was beheaded on Montmarte. The legend goes that he walked headless until he reached this spot and the church was built over him. In Pillars of the Earth the protaganist, Jack Jackson travels to find work at Saint-Denis and is marveled by the revolutionary new techniques in cathedral building, ie. flying buttresses, pointed arches, and ribbed vaulting.

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http://www.francethisway.com/paris/saint-denis-basilica.php

Pillars does a great job pitting the dark triad royalty against the pious Prior Philip, the leader of Kingsbridge Priory, who wants to bring prosperity to a decaying and insignificant monastery and township. Philips efforts are thwarted and resisted along the way by a machiavellian Bishop Waleran Bigod and psychotic Lord William Hamleigh.

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Philip is aided in his quest by the hero of the book, Jack Jackson, a skeptic of the church but intelligent, hard-working, and of high character.

He leaves England and makes his way to Paris while Abbot Suger is constructing the Basilica of Saint-Denis. The new design incorporates ribbed vaulting and point arches, replacing the Romanesque groin vaulting and rounded arches.

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One thing I took away from the book was an appreciation for cathedral architecture.

 “To someone standing in the nave, looking down the length of the church toward the east, the round window would seem like a huge sun exploding into innumerable shards of gorgeous color.”
-Ken Follet

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“I’ve worked with volunteers before,” he began. “It’s important not to… not to treat them like servants. We may feel that they are laboring to obtain a heavenly reward, and should therefore work harder than they would for money; but they don’t necessarily take that attitude. They feel they’re working for nothing, and doing a great kindness to us thereby; and if we seem ungrateful they will work slowly and make mistakes. It will be best to rule them with a light touch.”
― Ken Follet

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https://traveltoeat.com/saint-denis-basilica-paris/

Saint-Denis is also the final resting place of 800 years of French Royalty. One of the more interesting memorials include the remains of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. I am currently reading about Alexander Hamilton and the Reign of Terror. Hamilton is loathe to intervene in European wars even though they are bound to France. Hamilton argues that the US should remain neutral because the Treaty of Alliance signed in 1778 with King XVI was voided when he was beheaded in 1793.

“The cathedral is God’s shadow over history, Father. We… we live in a world that is striving for order, which is art, which is learning, which is people creating something that will bring God’s heart into their community, that will survive wars and famine, that will survive history.” -Ken Follet

How I paid for my vacation to San Miguel de Tucuman, Argentina

Studying abroad in Tucuman, Argentina was a turning point in my life. Now at 23 I want to return to see friends I made when I was 16. When I got my job in the Oil Field I made sure that my first vacation would be back to Red Clay Courts of Tucuman.

I come from a middle class family who believed in hard work and the promise of education. Through college I worked odd jobs and saved money.

In sophomore year I listened to a podcast from Ramit Sethi, and promptly bought his book, I Will Teach You to Be Rich. A crazy title I know, but that ostentatiously titled book laid out the basics of money management.

All together the 18 day trip cost me $2400. When I got back my bank account wasn’t empty and there was no money hangover in the form of payments to credit card companies. This journey taught me how to save and be frugal; habits that will stick with me for the rest of my life.

Argentine Asado.
Argentine Asado.

1) The biggest strategy was Automatic bank withdrawal into a high yield online savings account with Capital One 360. $50 to $150 withdrawn without me having to move a muscle. Slowly building up money for 24 months, this was how I bought my ticket straight up.

Open an account now
2) Bring stuff to sell there. This was something I researched before going down. In Argentina Iphones are highly prized due to import restrictions and high tariffs. Labtops, ipads, and anything Mac related will sell for high prices. I took down skateboards to sell to my friends for a steep discount and in exchange for staying at his place.

The Country where an Iphone cost $3,500
3) Learn how to cook. I began with Mexican food. Its a lot of cleanup so I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners. I would recommend grilling a whole chicken.

 

4) Got on Mint and started tracking all my spending. I used to spend irrationally at the grocery store. I used to have a full refrigerator. Now I buy for 1 week, and use up everything. I have cans of soup for when food gets low, but I enjoy being creative with meals.
5) Buy a bike. I use it all the time being close to the grocery store, and gym. I save money on gas and repairs for my car.
6) Follow Personal Finance Bloggers. Ramit Sethi helped me negotiate my rent down 15% using his scripts in my emails. I ended up saving $800 from 1 email.
7) Take care of the stuff I own, I like to keep the stuff I have equal. If I buy something like a new shirt I have to either give a dress shirt away or throw it out. I clean the shoes I own and now they last 50% longer than before. Learn how to wash certain things. Jeans don’t need to be washed that much, and when you do, make sure to flip them out. When my phone screen cracked, I learned how to repair it online and bought a kit to do it. Now I have repaired it twice.

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8) Bring cash. The official rate is 9 pesos. Dollar Blue is 13 pesos. Bring $100 bills only. Go to where the banks are and people outside will trade with you. Listen to the word, “Cambio”. It means change in Spanish.

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9) Get a Skymiles credit card. Got into the lounge area for $30. I had food, drinks, Wifi, and a shower. Yeah it was worth $30 to pass 5 hours in the Atlanta airport. If I could do it over again I would have opened up the card 2 years ago. You can ask for a limit increase every 6 months. Right now my limit is only $1000. And tickets to Argentina are between 1,300-2,000 roundtrip. This is to save up miles for my next trip to Tucuman.