Barbells and Books?

August 16, 2020

by Karl Schudt

My tag line on Instagram is Barbells and Books. On the surface, these seem to be unconnected concepts. But I don't think they are unconnected at all. 

What do barbells do? They are tools for improving your physical well-being. By applying loads to the body in a sensible fashion, we make the body respond in a certain way. We're actually putting information into the body and activating certain signalling pathways that cause muscle protein synthesis, that make your osteoblasts deposit calcium in your bones, that fine-tune your nervous system, and that, in a word, get you Gainzzz. 

Why should you care about this? I always think of things in terms of Aristotle's four causes: material (what it's made of), efficient (what made it), formal (what's the structure of it), and final (what's it made for?). The final cause is the most important. Why lift weights in the first place? For me there's two main reasons. 

  • It's fun
  • It's useful

It's fun! Lifting weights is a joy, especially when you lift more weight than you've ever done before. I've made a video about the glory involved, and why you should care. There are spiritual reasons why you should lift. 

It's useful! Being able to apply force against external resistance makes you a more useful person. I have a client who is an older gentleman, very strong, and his family has been making many demands on him recently. He said to me that he wished he could be a little less useful to them. But the fact is that other people need us, and we need to be able to respond to those needs. 

This is why we lift. Why do we read? 

Books are similarly fun and useful. They are fun because thinking is fun. The moment when you achieve an insight which you didn't have before is a great moment. I live for such moments. To bring myself to such a point is a highlight of my day, and to help other people do it is even better. Think about what is a more enjoyable use of your time: passively watching another video from Netflix, or figuring out what Aristotle means by 'substance'? You may think it's the Netflix video, but you're wrong. You're having more fun when you are thinking.

Books are useful in that they promote your skill in thinking. The mind is like anything else in the human person. If you don't use it, it atrophies. The ability to think is what will allow you to see around corners, to understand what's really going on in the changing stream of current events. Have you ever heard the story of the frog in the pot who won't jump out if only you raise the temperature slowly? That's what people do who don't regularly think about the good, true, and beautiful. They won't notice that the pot is getting hot. You who read will feel it. "Hey, it's getting hot in here!" You might even be able to jump before you are cooked. 

If you want to work on your lifting, find me at Barbell Logic and ask for me. If you want to work on your mind, find me at Online Great Books, where we read and talk about the Great Books. You can also hear me at the Online Great Books podcast or also at the Music and Ideas podcast.