It is not necessary to be stupid to do stupid things. As a matter of fact, sometimes it takes a decent level of scientific wherewithal to be an idiot. What I mean to say is that it is possible to use a slightly warped scientific method to justify, at least to yourself, exhibiting a fair amount of half-witted behaviour. In other words, you can delude, or pretend to delude, yourself, or, at the very least choose to ignore the reality that exists right in front of you, by employing a smattering of pseudo-scientific reasoning.
I had a roommate in college, Lennie Marlowe (not his real name), who was masterful at applying this technique, preferring it to actual common-sense reasoning. Often, he would end up far worse off and more mentally fatigued attempting to justify his actions than he would have by simply doing things the correct, proven way in the first place. It is sort of the same notion as how you will often find that some people will work very hard just to remain gainfully unemployed (Lennie was quite adept at this as well, volunteering for all sorts of controversial, borderline dangerous and certainly very risky medical experiments which proved to be way more taxing than simply getting a job). To illustrate my point, I will limit myself to one example of Lennie’s skewed logic.
In his first year of college, Lennie was confronted with the very commonplace dilemma of insufficient financial wherewithal to cover all of his needs as well as desires. This is not to say that he had lavish tastes or whimsical desires. He was in no way remotely Kardashian in that sense, he simply could not afford to both eat AND do one of the things he most enjoyed at that time: DRINK BEER. In fact, whittling his problem down to a conundrum whereby he had to choose between the two was a weeks-long process whereby he relinquished the need for textbooks and school supplies. These were considered frivolous, non-essential items that he could definitely live without and were lumped in the same category as laundry, electricity, transportation, and hot water and were, thus deemed expendable. With all other ‘essentials’ eliminated from his daily concern, he was reduced to the decision between eating semi-properly and drinking beer. He knew that food contains nutrients, calories, and the building blocks of life, so the decision should have been quite easy, and for most people, it would have been. But, Lennie really, really loved beer and thus he fudged the scientific method just adequately to convince himself that he was correct to choose beer over food. His solution was, as you can imagine, very simple: he would no longer purchase any food whatsoever freeing up just enough cash to satisfy his love of beer. In addition to this simple equation, he went a step further: the only beer he would buy was Brador which, at 6.2% alcohol, packed a much greater punch than an average lager, thus he would need less of it to get the job done. He knew that of all the essential substances a human being ingests, water is by far the most important and he also knew that beer was nothing if not mostly water. He had also heard that beer was also chock full of carbohydrates and that these same carbohydrates were one of the three major macro nutrients essential for the proper functioning of the human body. It seemed that he was on his way to becoming a perfectly healthy young adult, he just needed a few added minor tweaks to his system to make everything perfect. Now, he knew that beer alone would not sustain life, so he needed to find a way to get nutrition from other sources that would cost him zero dollars. Real scientific methodology takes information from the real world and distills it to find values that prove or disprove certain theories, often bending values to suit a hypothesis. Lennie did the same. In the 1980s every commercial on television for food products (which, at that time were dominated by quick, easy, highly processed foodstuffs such as high-sugar cereals, various spreads made from largely artificial products, fast food and junk food) proudly boasted that these products were highly fortified with vitamins and minerals. If these companies, Lennie deduced, were actively promoting the fact that the addition of vitamins and minerals were making food that appeared to be devoid of usable nutrition, actually healthy, then why not just cut out the middleman? Buying groceries, storing them and combining them during the process of cooking and other means of preparation, were all activities that were unnecessarily time-consuming and expensive, and, therefore needed to be replaced by something else that could offer these magical vitamins and minerals. The answer was painfully obvious: multi-vitamins that could easily be shoplifted from the pharmacy or pilfered from the medicine cabinet of a roommate or other student. And there it was…Lennie’s diet was now reduced to beer and vitamin pills, supplemented on occasion with what little he could glean out of the bottom of a chip bag or scrounge for in an empty pizza box. It was all very logical, at least to Lennie…(A) WATER=ESSENTIAL, BEER CONTAINS WATER \ BEER=ESSENTIAL. (B) FOOD CONTAINS VITAMINS AND MINERALS, MULTIVITAMINS STOLEN FROM THE DRUGSTORE ALSO CONTAIN VITAMINS AND MINERALS \ FOOD IS UNNECESSARY.
Did it work, you ask? No, it did not. Lennie lost 15 pounds in a week and ended up getting quite sick. He was brought back to life with three boxes of highly fortified Pop-Tarts.
Recently I have been exercising a fair amount of Lennie logic as it pertains to my running. Allow me to begin with a little indisputable scientific data that comes to the generally accepted conclusion that running is good for you. According to http://www.podiumrunner.com 1. Running adds years to your life and life to your years, (which is what I call a ‘no shit’ statement because when someone utters it, the only adequate response is, “No shit”). 2. Running helps you sleep better (…also ‘no shit’.) 3. Running can improve your knees and back (I might need a little more convincing with this one, but I will certainly take it and use it the next time someone tells me I run too much). 4. Running helps you lose weight and keep it off (…NS). 5. Running improves your immunity. 6. Running improves cognitive function and reduces cognitive decline (clearly not intended to mean right after a marathon because I am certain that my IQ weighs in at least 30-40 points lower at the end of 42km, but, again, I will take it). 7. Running reduces the risk of many cancers (I wish my mom ran; she might still be here…fucking cancer). 8. Running improves mental health and reduces depression (absofuckinglutely…at least it does while I am out running. As for the rest of the time, I’m not so sure). 9. Running lowers the risk of diabetes (dad, are you reading this? Then again, your knees are shot because you didn’t run enough…see #3). 10. Running lowers your blood pressure.
All of this is to say that running=good for you, which is great because it is my absolute favourite thing to do and if all of the above stuff is true, and running is that good for you, then lots of running must do all of the above exponentially better. In all of the above statements the word ‘running’ is followed by some sort of verb. It stands to reason (at least my personal warped sense of reason) that you could squeeze the words ‘a shitload’ in somewhere around the verb to make the effects of running even better. For instance, “Running adds a shitload of years to your life”, “Running helps you lose a shitload of weight”, “Running reduces the risk of a shitload of cancers”. Jesus, if I double or triple my mileage every week, I’ll live forever…and have bionic knees!
I love running and it does so much more for me than the list above describes. In fact, I don’t really give much of a shit about the list because it describes strictly empirically measurable, and somewhat antiseptic feeling, scientific stuff. For me, it comes down to the fact that it simply makes me feel…well…good. It literally allows me to escape almost all aspects of regular life and it is where and when I feel the most alive, free, and happy. That said, I do use the ‘list’ on occasion in an attempt to get people (particularly non-runners) to understand why I run. Truth be told, I embellish the list and take it further than is probably necessary. Like Lennie, I entirely bastardize a semi-scientific method to justify how much I run by distilling it all to a simple theorem: RUNNING=GOOD FOR YOU, ERGO x(RUNNING) WITH x=A SHITLOAD > NO RUNNING. Simply put, the more running I can jam into 24 hours, the healthier I will be AND the better physical condition I will be in which will, of course, allow me to run even harder and farther which will, again, improve my physical condition permitting me to go farther and…well you get the point. Unfortunately, though the list is correct and provable, the ‘shitload’ addendum, it turns out, is proving to be counterintuitive. More is supposed to be better, but, evidently, when it comes to an impact activity like running, there is a limit, and that limit gets shorter with age. Until two weeks ago, I was on a running tear whereby I took all of three days off since the end of September. Many days I woke up stiff and sore but still wanting to get out the door so I could run. Like a drug, I needed it. I am not religious. I do not have any idols or heroes that I look to for guidance. No favourite writer, artist, musician whose works fill my soul with what I need to get on with the minutiae of life. Sunrises, sunsets, rainbows, cool breezes are all nice, but they will not get me through a Monday afternoon staff meeting. What I turn to is so much more powerful. I have running. Unfortunately, because I have done too much of it, it will have to do without me for a little while. For the last two weeks, whenever I take a stride, my hips feel like they have a toothache that is so painful I simply cannot go faster than a walk…and I DO NOT WALK. I am almost at a complete loss as to what I should do about it. I have heard, however, that a case of Molson and a bottle and a half of Flintstones might just do the trick.
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