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Old 02-07-2014, 05:20 AM   #2005
Joined: Feb 2013
Oddometer: 12
Originally Posted by AntiHero View Post
Here goes. :)

The "Fuck it" attitude was literally learned--it came directly from studying rationalism (gotta love the irony). Specifically Cartesian rationalism. Exposure to Descartes’ Principles of Philosophy really fucked me up, so to speak, and completely changed the way I viewed my own thoughts, beliefs and the world. Most know Descartes for the “Cogito ergo sum” (I think therefore I exist) argument, but what led him to that conclusion (and what it really means in context) is rarely discussed outside of the ivory tower. In summary, the statement is the end result of Descartes' efforts to arrive at absolute certainty. His attempt to find truth required the eradication of all beliefs based on sensory experience (the senses can be deceived) and then he continues to cast aside intellectual beliefs before arriving at the only single idea that we can be certain of: I think, therefore I exist. (Because the act of thought demands we exist and even if we were being deceived in to thinking we’re thinking we exist.)

It wasn’t the conclusion that really got to me—it was the idea that just because we think something or have ideas or opinions (even from direct experience) doesn’t make them true. So I began to systematically examine and tear down all of my own ideas that I had about the world. I dispensed with opinions about things I knew nothing about ("it’s dangerous in that city," for instance), and the end result was my head emptied. If I had a thought or an idea, I’d quickly trace back the history—and found that about 90% of everything I thought I knew was based on conjecture or second-hand information or my own plain stupidity. In the span of about a week I went from ‘knowing’ something about everything to knowing nothing. (This is what I mean by ‘fucked me up’.)

As I ran these mental ‘inventories’ I began to see a pattern—I knew the least about things that scared me. So if it frightened me I went out and did it. This is where the first form of the physical ‘fuck-it’/adrenaline junkie started. Things like mountain biking were insane ascents (2000’ in 3 miles in the mud) or riding said mountain bike to SF and back after work (100 mile round trip). The more I did the more personal boundaries I pushed. I felt fucking alive! Even when I was had to sleep outside (lost and exhausted) or was doubled up with muscle cramps on some trail in the middle of nowhere, I’d never felt so alive. Happiness became finding an edge and pushing it. These types of situations gave me immediate and direct feedback about who I was, what I was capable of surviving and enduring--and provided me with an accurate mental landscape of what the world was really like.

The tests to 'get to know myself' continued with experiments that I called things that 'cultivated my will'. Exposure to cold, heat and various forms of deprivation taught me how far I can push myself into discomfort. In one particularly poignant exercise, after 3 days without sleep I stopped eating, just to see how long I could go with no nutrition. My intention was to run my body into the ground to get a baseline of my own limits and find out how long I can survive. On the 6th night my heart started ‘missing’, I felt like I was going to die and had to have my step mom drive me to the hospital. Got an IV for the dehydration, antibiotics for the strep throat and a warning from the ER Doc to knock it off. But since then whenever I get a little hungry or think of how tired I am I know it’s just a suggestion from my body, not a mandate. (Cross country on a Panigale seems easy in comparison, no?) Shootfighting and kickboxing, Ironman—all of these accomplishments were all a physical test of a philosophical idea and a desire to live in ‘truth’, to not deceive myself according to what is comfortable and what’s not. (While taking ice-cold showers I used to tell myself 'the rider is not responsible for the shivering of his horse' ;) .)

That ‘fuck-it’ attitude is a way (maybe the only?) of discovering what’s real and what’s possible. I pushed myself the same way mentally and academically, artistically and occupationally as I did physically. (Pic below, btw, demonstrates what you can accomplish over 5 nights of 'enforced insomnia'.)

It’s exceptionally uncomfortable to challenge yourself over and over and over. Your ego goes to shit as you test what you think you know and who you think you are. But after doing it over the period of years a sort of innocent fearlessness and a curious insensitivity to adversity develops; and the ability to engage the environment in uncomfortable--even abnormal--ways, produces a version of the world that very few feel, see or experience.

I have done a lot of things in my life both physical and mental and I couldn't agree more with your last statement. Desensitized to adversity and ability to engage absolutely are skills that grow from challenge, mentally and physically. I liked this post a lot, I spend a LOT of time explaining this to my peers, friends, colleagues, and people that ask me for advice, but somehow writing it and speaking it just doesn't ever get it explained properly, at least not like DOING does.
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