Monday, July 23, 2012

Lessons from DUNE (Part I)

"Dune" is one of those science fiction novels that the nerdy kid next to you in 8th grade English class was reading for fun, while you considered yourself a literary genius for slogging through "The Outsiders". Years later, you finally decide to pick up a copy and it blows your mind. The religious, political, and ecological messages, flowing through a fantastic world of adventure and science fiction, overwhelm the senses, and you wonder how that nerdy kid, at 13, could have possibly appreciated this masterpiece. What he realized (10 years ago) is that "Dune" is a novel to be examined, and re-examined and, like any masterpiece, literary or otherwise, is composed of many layers. It's not something that can be digested in just one sitting.
There are so many quotable lines within Dune - many "lessons" that could be applied to life. Leadership, community, religion, cross-cultural communication, agriculture, economics - you'l find them all here. Frank Herbert did his homework and it is evident on almost every page. I've chosen a few poignant passages to apply to our little strength-and-conditioning-happy niche.

Lesson #1 - The Law of the Minimum
Kynes looked at Jessica, said: "The newcomer to Arrakis frequently underestimates the importance of water here. You are dealing, you see, with the Law of the Minimum."
She heard the testing quality in his voice, said, "Growth is limited by that necessity which is present in the least amount. And, naturally, the least favorable condition controls the growth rate."
"It's rare to find members of a Great House aware of planetological problems," Kynes said. "Water is the least favorable condition for life on Arrakis. And remember that growth itself can produce unfavorable conditions unless treated with extreme care."
The Law of the Minimum isn't original to Dune - it is also known as Liebig's Law of the Minimum. It's easy to see how this would apply in a strength and conditioning setting; if mobility is your weakest link, it WILL hinder your progress until it is addressed. Likewise, if your strength and mobility is solid, but you get winded going up a short flight of stairs, your lack of conditioning will place an artificial ceiling on your strength and mobility gains. Simply ignoring the issue will not make it disappear and, if you continue to pound away, eventually, the system will crack under the imposed pressure.

"I guess I'm not in the mood for it today," Paul said.
"Mood?" Halleck's voice betrayed his outrage even though the shield's filtering. "What has mood to do with it? You fight when the necessity arises - no matter the mood! Mood's a thing for cattle or making love or playing the baliset. It's not for fighting."
"I'm sorry, Gurney."
"You're not sorry enough!"
Halleck activated his own shield, crouched with kindjal outthrust in left hand, the rapier poised high in his right. "Now I say guard yourself for true!" He leaped high to one side, then forward, pressing a furious attack.
Paul fell back, parrying. He felt the field crackling as shield edges touched and repelled each other, sensed the electric tingling of the contact along his skin. What's gotten into Gurney? he asked himself. He's not faking this! Paul moved his left hand, dropped his bodkin into his palm from its wrist sheath.
"You see a need for an extra blade, eh?" Halleck grunted.
Is this betrayal? Paul wondered. Surely not Gurney!
Around the room they fought - thrust and parry, feint and counter-feint. The air within their shield bubbles grew stale from the demands on it that the slow interchange along the barrier edges could not replenish. With each new shield contact, the smell of ozone grew stronger.
Paul continued to back, but now he directed his retreat toward the exercise table. If I can turn him beside the table, I'll show him a trick, Paul thought. One more step, Gurney.
Halleck took the step.
Paul directed a parry downward, turne, saw Halleck's rapier catch against the table's edge. Paul flung himself aside, thrust high with rapier and came in across Halleck's neckline with the bodkin. He stopped the blade an inch from the jugular.
"Is this what you seek?" Paul whispered.
"Look down lad," Gurney panted.
Paul obeyed, saw Halleck's kindjal thrust under the table's edge, the tip almost touching Paul's groin.
We'd have joined each other in death," Halleck said. "But I'll admit you fought some better when pressed to it. You seemed to get the mood." And he grinned wolfishly, the inkvine scar rippling along his jaw.
I seem to write this in just about every other post here at Squat Rx - there's really no "trick" to discipline and consistency. Friends who are hard-workers but do no exercise often ask me how I can train so often and my response never varies. Do you find it difficult to shower everyday? Do you find it a drag to brush your teeth? It's a serious question! But, training, as I see it, is like that. It is just something that I do. Sometimes it is A LOT of fun. Sometimes it is no fun at all. Sometimes it's easy; other times it's gut-bustingly hard. The act of discipline is simply the act of doing - again and again and again. We all might need a nudge here and there and until momentum is established, it will be doubly hard but, creating the habit is paramount. Waiting for the mood to strike will get you nowhere.
Don't judge a book by its movie. Please.
Lesson #3 Sustainable Growth
Beyond a critical point within a finite space, freedom diminishes as numbers increase. This is as true of humans in the finite space of a planetary ecosystem as it is of gas molecules in a sealed flask. The human question is not how many can possibly survive within the system, but what kind of existence is possible for those who do survive.
- Pardot Kynes, First Planetologist of Arrakis
Our health, strength, and fitness industry is, for the most part, populated by people with good intentions. There are hucksters to be sure and people who rush to put out an inferior product because being first is a key to cornering a market, but many grassroots organizations are established to fill a genuine need with a good product. However, when an organization achieves a measure of success; once it has met the needs of its constituents, does it then refine what it already does well, or does it expand its offerings? In some cases, expansion has created monsters whose primary objective is to make money and feed itself - adding features, tiers, levels of exclusivity, manufactured scarcity; all in an effort to keep on biggering and BIGGERING, so to speak. 
Right now, our fitness-strength-conditioning niche is flooded with certifications, gurus, systems, movements, approaches, methods, tools, and templates. Flooded. Quality control and customer service is suffering. As Kynes said to Jessica "...remember that growth itself can produce unfavorable conditions unless treated with extreme care." We are at a critical point within a finite space and, without wise people at the helm who can exercise leadership and say enough is enough, we risk losing the trust of an increasingly physically-unfit public that needs our help.

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Petr said...

Great book Dune is :). I need to read it again.

Boris said...

It is a great book. I think it's worth a re-read!

Boris Terzic said...

Wow, I haven't heard that name in a whole. I need to get myself a copy and do a re-read.

Boris said...

Absolutely - let me know how you find it the second time around.

Paul / Edgewater said...

What if Frank Herbert was actually L. Ron Hubbard, and this blog entry was a Scientology screed?

Boris said...

If Frank Herbert was actually L. Ron Hubbard, then I've read exactly one book by L. Ron Hubbard.

I'm too big a Katie Holmes fan to be into Scientology.

Christine said...

Excellent post.