Weights of Wisdom - Pathei Mathos
Through suffering, knowledge.
The weights can teach us many things. There is much wisdom to be extracted in the solitary effort between one person and a barbell with several hundred pounds.
One of the most important pieces of wisdom, and one of my favourites, that can be imparted to us by the weights is pathei mathos, the Latin phrase meaning “through suffering, knowledge.”
Suffering and pain are inevitable. It’s a part of life. As Rocky said, “the world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place.”
The Hero’s Journey isn’t complete without descending into Hell. You’ve got to slay the dragon to get the gold.
These timeless, archetypal challenges are embodied in the weights and the pain that you endure in the gym to undergo a transformation.
We learn through the suffering. We discover something new about ourselves and the world because of, not in spite of, the pain.
When it comes to training, most often, if you’re lucky, the pain represents a hard workout and nothing more. You squat and so you suffer. Climbing the stairs and sitting on the toilet for a few days is performed with the tenderness of a frail and osteoporotic centenarian. You pushed yourself to the limit and given adequate recovery, you’ll be back to normal soon enough. Repeat the process and over time you’ll become stronger and build muscle. Given enough time this process will radically transform you in body and in mind.
Other times the suffering is greater. And that’s the price we pay for pushing our bodies to discover some greater meaning and accomplish more. You balance that fine line between achieving the ultimate challenge and getting injured and sometimes, unfortunately, injury prevails.
Those who are determined to face the challenge of the weights and in turn know they can handle any other suffering that life throws at them are willing to face the possible consequence of injury.
Jordan B. Peterson in his book 12 Rules For Life states this as Rule 11: “Do not bother children when they are skateboarding.” It might sound basic and straightforward but there’s a deeper meaning behind the simple chapter titles that Peterson uses as metaphors and mnemonics in his book. You might get a few bumps and bruises as you grow up and compete against yourself and your friends but the pain and suffering are necessary in order to know that you can take the risk and handle other bigger challenges that you will face, without question, throughout your life.
Just like children falling off of the playground equipment, the pulled hamstrings and risk of muscle tears is a necessary part of the lesson with lifting weights. It can’t be made easier or safer or else progress won’t be made. How many Globo Gym members look the same they did six months, a year, even ten years ago and are still lifting the same weight for the same reps on the 30-minute circuit?
Without challenge, you learn nothing.
Without suffering, you gain no knowledge.