Matrix: Reloaded Explained
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Selected reader comments

Matrix: Revolutions Explained
The essay
Selected reader comments

Tragic Mesomorph of the Soul

13 Dec, 2008 | Brian

It is tempting to think my own experience can be reliably generalized onto the rest of the world. A sample size of one is good enough because it's me. What I succeed at, others ought to succeed at also; what vexes me should vex them. Secure in my arrogant, narcissistic assessment of the universe, I can then pronounce judgments on the rest of humanity. Bill over there does not lose weight because he is lazy. Jacqueline fails at business because of a dearth of people skills.

When I was about 19 years old, I was sitting one morning in a restaurant sipping nasty, burnt coffee and writing nasty, burnt stories. An elderly chap came in and picked up a coffee to go. He might have been 90. He moved very slowly. Each step was a trembling question. I was disgusted. Instead of the escalating weakness of limb that comes naturally with great age, I perceived only weakness of will. Why, if this fellow would but try to control his shaking he would have a better time of it. Summon up some inner resources, man! Make your body obey! I crushed out my cigarette and returned to my prose.

I resolved that when I grew old, I would never behave in such a shameful way.

It may be that few now recognize the name Jack LaLanne. Jack pioneered the idea that achieving a lean, fit body demanded naught more than a smidge of self-discipline. Twenty minutes a day, three times a week, right? Just a bit of willpower, that's all it takes. I eventually quit smoking, which taught me something about what can be achieved through willpower. Less than I thought, it turns out. A lot less.

I added thirty pounds, foremost because of the warehouses full of chocolate I consumed to keep the nicotine craving pushed into the background. I didn't want to eat all that chocolate, but I was dealing with powers beyond my control. Later, when the addiction had subsided, I had to lose the weight - that's where Jack comes in. I discovered that 20:3 is not a formula that produces results in me. People have different body types, I realized, and 20:3 only works if you have Jack's type. The ratio for my type is more like 60:5, which yields (provided strict dietary purity) a stately 1 pound per week deficit.

Jack says: "It's easy to be fit!" I'm sure it is, if you're Jack LaLanne. It's easy to not smoke too, if you've never smoked. It's easy to walk if you've never felt the grip of infirmity.

Judgment is an expression of ignorance.