This is difficult for me to write. I feel I have already said so much of what needs to be said. Furthermore, the chances of my words being understood are close to nil. This very nearly seems futile.
What I have tried to do here is focus on those aspects of the story which are relevant to you, and combine them into a coherent and purposeful picture. I understand this might be an odd read because it sounds like the diary of a liberal, the opposite of a liberal, and something else entirely, all at once. As such, I recommend not trying to categorize this into any pre-defined political ideology.
This is not necessarily my best writing. I am trying to make it palatable for a relatively wide audience. I just need to take care not to lose the message in the process. I almost wish this sounded nicer, but I have to be honest about what has gone on.
I think the first part will be hardest to read, and then the rest will go more smoothly. So, try to bear with it.
When I attended your first race on June 25 2017, I was in a rather dark place mentally. This was four days before my 21st birthday. After the race, I did receive some praise for being the female winner, and a woman decided to talk to me. It turned out that we had both run cross country at the same college and for the same coach. At one point she said to me, “Your family must be proud of you.” That is when I let my pain show. I felt like a disgrace and a letdown to my family. If I remember correctly, I said very little in reply, though I did make it obvious that I did not agree with the statement. She ended up apologizing to me later for making me feel uncomfortable. I don't recall my reply, but hopefully I assured her that it was not her fault.
Why did I feel so unsettled? I have been conflicted over my sexuality for my entire life, and at that particular point in time, the conflict became dire. I grew up both feeling afraid to trust people, and I also played with toys and video games that glorified masculinity. Over time I found it increasingly ideal to be like the heroes I saw, rather than be with them. That development coincided, likely symbiotically, with an attraction to other girls. Through adolescence I oscillated between feeling like a freak, a pariah, a slave to my desires, justified in my desires, and virtuous for managing to not act on my desires. The only time I was not 100% single, I attempted to pursue a relationship at the age of 18, but did not really get it: instead, it was both a nightmare and a joke. So that is what I went through while running competitively year-round in junior high, high school, and, as of Summer 2017, three semesters of college.
I questioned myself periodically, because I always had the ambient feeling that I was fighting against something larger than myself. Nevertheless, I avoided taking that line of questioning too far until 2017. I finally became curious enough to seek out the viewpoints of those who regarded homosexuality as being “wrong.” The only arguments I was not open to were those which utilized religion, such as quotes from the Bible. I sought a more substantial challenge to myself than just being called an “abomination” by a book, or needing to be “saved.”
The result of my reading was not just a severe questioning of my sexuality, but also my entire womanhood. I read online forums where men talked about women anonymously and with almost no censorship. Their words made me very uncomfortable, but I knew they were true. Self-reflection, combined with paying attention to what I observed in others, confirmed this for me. I felt pleased to have seen the light of day, but also terribly lost. The most straightforward fact to accept was men's superior performance in a great many aspects of life, due to biological factors. What I struggled with more was the premise that, as a woman, I was doomed to always be a slave to my emotions. Not only that, but I felt unable to overcome the feelings I had for other women, and that made me concerned that I would never fulfill my proper role in life. I understood the basic argument being made along with the evidence presented for it, which is that different kinds of people are different from each other, and therefore have different roles to fulfill in order to keep human life orderly. Understanding this made it possible for me to decide to never pursue the abnormal desires I had, but I was not yet able to overcome those desires internally.
What had kept me going from 2013 (i.e. age 17) onward was the idea of personal growth: I always focused on what I needed to do in order to perfect my consciousness and my actions. The new information I found made me wonder whether there was any more room for me to grow. If I was doomed to be irrational, limited, and anti-natural, what more could there be for me in life? How could I truly add any more value to the world, and not merely kid myself about it?
I wished- as I had done to a minor extent throughout my life- that I could be a man. I was not turned off by the guarantee of being held to much higher standards than those I am held to as a woman. I figured that, for a man, there are more possibilities, more room to grow, more abilities, and a greater capacity to face and know the truth without having to distort facts. Plus, being a man would mean that I would not have to overaccentuate emotions in order for people to think I was “loving,” which seems to be the case for a woman. A man is expected to focus on the practical and the important- even if he does not receive many thanks for it-, while a woman is expected to focus on petty matters such as her physical appearance, social drama, and how aligned with current fashions she appears to be. I have found such matters to be, at the least, not the best use of life.
I wanted to escape the apparent vapidness of being a woman in exchange for something real and substantial-- something which women, due to their shallow emotionality, rarely seem to experience: brotherhood. And that is the title of this post.
After doing all this reading, I hit a low point. Sometime in late June 2017, I laid in bed for several days and wondered how I could possibly go on in integrity. I decided to tell my father about my predicament (I purposely chose him, since I knew from my reading that my mother could not handle the conversation with a clear head). He denied the idea that men are generally superior: I was not surprised by this deflection, so I decided not to dwell on that point for long. Shifting the focus to my feelings, he said that he could not relate to the problems I was going through. I made it clear that I would not try to become physically like a man, because that would only result in pretending and, at worst, ruining my well-functioning body. I did not want to die, but I was not sure how I would go on. He told me not to give up so easily. I don't know the exact date this conversation occurred, but I believe it was just a few days before Table Rock in June 2017.
Shortly thereafter, I decided that I should develop a masculine mind as much as possible. I didn't know how possible it was, but it seemed to be my only hope of not being either delusional, useless, or both.
I realize that my tone so far may sound a bit dark (to the uninitiated). I should clarify that I have valued living in service to the highest cause possible, and also not needing false reassurances. Those were the two ideas I had in mind when I decided to call my website, “Living a Real Life,” at the end of 2014.
Unfortunately, holding oneself to high standards can make a person appear callous and “crazy” to others. I think you and I both know a rather prominent example of this, which is the Fayetteville-Manlius (F-M) distance running program.
I first encountered the F-M cross country team at the Chittenango Invitational in September 2010, when I was a 14-year-old freshman in high school. My teammates and I watched the end of the F-M girls' race before we warmed up for our race. We saw Bill Aris holding a stick as he watched his athletes run into the finishing chute, and we reacted to this with alarm. When someone pointed out that he was F-M's coach, the feelings expressed became more critical. I believe I or one of my teammates remarked that he must beat his athletes if they don't perform well enough. That's where I was at the start of freshman year: not that great of a runner, surrounded by similar peers, and nevertheless projecting a smug attitude.
That smug attitude was reversed during the following year. I finally got the opportunity to actually race against F-M's runners, because I made it to the State Qualifier meet in both indoor and outdoor track in the 3000m run. I paid attention to F-M's runners, and as I watched them lap me multiple times, I considered it an honor to compete against them. I also became more curious about Bill Aris instead of being presumptuous towards him (sidenote: their top girl in those particular races was Christie Rutledge, who finished in 2nd at Nike's cross country national championship meet in 2010).
Not much more happened on that note until late 2019, when I read the new book about F-M titled Amazing Racers. I was excited to read that Bill instilled values of purity and community in his athletes through what he calls, “shared suffering.” In spite of how it sounds, “shared suffering” encourages the opposite of pity. The imperative of shared suffering is to push beyond discomfort in order to perform at your very best, because your teammate is doing the same for you. By imagining what this experience must be like, I could tell that the premise of shared suffering must be the key to F-M's overwhelming success.
To be clear, the sacrifices Bill asks of his athletes include certain dietary restrictions as well as avoidance of late-night social outings, such as school dances. It's worth pointing out that F-M's approach gets criticized as being “abusive.” Bill said so himself in this interview: “It's Stotan philosophy. Really what are we talking about? Old fashioned, common sense living. Eat right, get your rest, train properly and live a good, clean life. Now, you're right, that seems novel these days. It seems outlandish. It seems abusive, in fact, to some people. But you know what? So be it. If that's abusive, I guess 'guilty as charged.'”
That statement may very well encapsulate the present state of humanity: the non-hedonistic discipline involved in purity and selflessness is considered to be “harsh” and “mean.”
It seems I was always on track to eventually disagree with the idea that purity is too harsh or uncomfortable to be worthwhile. Even though I did not feel prepared to give up all of my selfish ways, I still questioned myself from time to time. I indeed made this clear between the first and second Table Rock (i.e. between June 2017 and June 2018). In Fall 2017, my fourth and final semester of college, I met a woman I fell in love with, as far as I was concerned. I took great care not to let her know that I was attracted to women at all. I even deleted every trace of the fact from my website, and mentioned its existence only once (and even then, vaguely). Early on, I just wanted to maintain the non-romantic closeness I had with her. I should mention that my attempts to become psychologically like a man did, in fact, result in me commanding much more respect and admiration than I ever had in the past. I was no longer a person who was whiny about wanting something she was too impotent to get, and got kicked around by others as a consequence. However, I ruined the happy medium we had developed by stepping outside my bounds regarding what I should desire. I thought that, somehow, I would get her to marry me. I am sorry, this is difficult for me to talk about because I know it sounds ridiculous. At least I did not ever do anything I should not do. I had too much of a conscience, apparently, and it ate away at me.
At the end of that schoolyear (Spring 2018- I raced unattached to any team while she was still a student), the internal conflict I had been facing started to show. At a track meet in April, I visibly felt horrified and ill. Early in the day, she asked me if I was okay. At first I said, “No.” She asked, “What was that?” This time I said, “Yes.”
Later in the day she pointed out, “You look sick.” Probably the biggest mistake I had made was not just telling her why I felt ill. I was growing tired of keeping up the charade, of wanting to secure this woman's affection and thereby control her without her feeling misled-- while knowing this all was wrong. But I remained both too proud and too embarrassed to admit it. Two months later, after we had gotten into an argument and I had made my pain increasingly blatant without ever explaining the cause for it, she stopped talking to me.
She cut me off on June 18, just five days before Table Rock on June 23 2018. I felt reluctant to go because several weeks prior I had asked her to go with me, and now I felt some pointlessness in regards to repeating this race. As you know, I stuck it out and won the race again, significantly beating my mileage from the year prior. Indeed, I did experience a major increase in my athletic abilities after she stopped talking to me. The newfound freedom from my own control mechanisms lifted a burdensome weight from my shoulders.
I also had asked her to pace me at the Mighty Mosquito 100-mile race in August. While I had no physical problems, I became irritable and downtrodden in the second half of the race, to the point where I made no progress at all for about five hours in the middle of the night. I told the few people who asked that I had been, “broken up with,” and of course I pretended it was with a man. I did not want to disgust and lose the respect of the rather healthy people of the ultrarunning world. Furthermore, I did not want to be any more broken than I had to be.
You might wonder why I did not make any efforts to date any other women interested in women. For one thing, as I have said, I was always too reluctant to do this at all. For another thing, if I am being frank, I had never found wholesomeness and inner beauty in such women. I was also aware that I lacked these traits myself, but I did not feel able to change that significantly.
I continued to be inwardly conflicted over my sexuality for the next 2.5 years, which brings us to the present. There ended up being one more woman I felt attracted to: I met her several months after losing the previous one. I never did nor tried anything I should not have, but I struggled with feelings of wanting to secure her affection, admiration, and companionship. The difficult thing I finally had to admit to myself- which I did just prior to writing this and hence why this has taken a week- is that I was trying to control her. Even if I did not think that's what I was wanting, and even if I did not do anything to suggest just as much, the essential desire was for control. I wanted to become something I could not be, and have something I could not have. This struggle has been non-obvious enough that she would not necessarily want to stop talking to me if she found out, but it probably would feel sorrowful, as it does for me.
The conclusion I have come to is that any attempt to defy natural order is a selfish attempt at control, and all attempts at control end up doing damage. Everything has a practical purpose, and attempts at control very often are attempts to abuse or subvert that purpose. I should have learned that thoroughly the mere two times I got to share physical affection with “another consenting adult” (a woman, to be clear) and felt nothing but wrongly used. Why did I feel that way? We were just controlling each other for selfish ends-- and therefore were controlled by egoism.
My friend Brian Harner has helped me to heal. He has taught me about proper intention, purity, and control. He has made it clear to me that human control mechanisms for selfish ends are ubiquitous, and we are close to destroying ourselves thus.
I distinguish between artificial order and natural order. Artificial order is enforced through such means as money, laws, propaganda, and intimidation. It results in everyone involved being reduced to selfishness, trying to protect or gain for themselves. Natural order, on the other hand, is what takes place in the absence of such control mechanisms. Even though they have a coach, I believe a natural order prevails at F-M. The athletes understand that when they all make selfless sacrifices, they contribute to something bigger-- together. They get accused of being a “cult,” but they aren't. Their ways do not constitute a religion, because they achieve tangible results. It is fair to say that Bill has succeeded at applying the scientific method. On the contrary, modern western culture might be a cult. It is a cult of selfishness, especially hedonism. Much of what this culture produces is not conducive to long-term survival, though we are “supposed” to value it nevertheless. Hence, this culture is a cult, because its instructions are misleading.
What helped me to realize (on a very thorough level) that my feelings for women were just attempts to control them, is male feminists trying to control me. That might sound like the strangest sentence you have encountered all week. I will explain. In essence, feminism is the overprioritization and exploitation of emotional plight. All it really has done is control women-- specifically, by turning their own emotions and desires against themselves. Each generation of women, as a whole, becomes more practically useless than the last, because the exploitation which results in selfishness increases over time. When women are told they need to be strong, the common result is that they try to control things. One of the first battles fought by feminists in the 1920s was to make it socially acceptable for women to smoke cigarettes. In recent years, there has been a similar battle to make promiscuity “equally acceptable” for both sexes. What self-destructive hills to die on. Anyway, a male feminist is a man who has succumbed to feminism to some extent. He too has made emotions dominant over logic, practicality, long-term thinking, and impartial observation. The great irony is that, since most male feminists are naturally attracted to women, they end up using appeals to emotion in order to try to control women-- without necessarily acknowledging that they are doing so. If a woman steps out of line and wants to put logic, purity, and practicality first, she gets told that she is not “loving” enough. But I thought I was supposed to become strong like a man, instead of a weakling who is swayed by short-sighted emotions and social pressure? My annoyance with male feminists trying to control me helped me to realize that I was just imposing the very same control mechanisms on women I felt attracted to (even if I did so only subtly), and I felt sorry about it. What I also realized is that by trying to control things, a person becomes controlled by his own control mechanisms. In other words, he becomes a slave to his desires, and therefore subjugates the soul to the schemes of the brain.
The end-result of feminism is to do the opposite of what it claims to do: instead of liberating women, it enslaves them to egoism. Moreover, feminism has no room for innocence. In a feminist paradigm, every thing is approved of according to how much it is “problematic,” and sought out according to how much gain it provides for the self. The interesting thing I have noticed is that a man who does not succumb at all to feminism does the finest job of preserving innocence, while the male feminist only subverts it and exudes a false version of it. Likewise, by trying to secure and control what I found attractive, I trampled innocence for the sake of selfishness.
So, I do not want relationships that are based on control to any extent. I do not want anyone to be a soulless puppet, nor do I want anyone to want me to be one. I want natural order, and not the forced will of some greedy human. I would like to see the prevalence of true brotherhood-- the sort which leaves the soul intact. In such a brotherhood, every decision made is for the sake of practicality, because that is what benefits the whole. As Bill Aris said, on page 50 of Amazing Racers, “Cookie bakes and sleepovers don't build team unity. Suffering together does.”
That “suffering” includes not at all denying any details of life, however inconvenient they may be. I've unlocked more potential by accepting all details of life, including what I am. Likewise, by choosing to live in service to the highest interest of the universe, I have realized more of my individual potential than I ever did by trying to be a "great individual" first and foremost. In my personal experience, saying that anything “doesn't matter” just lowers my spiritual purity, and therefore my clarity, abilities, righteous intent, and consciousness. In fact, nihilistic ideas or expressions basically make me feel dead inside, as if all I have is an intellect and emotions with no soul, no sense of timing, and no sense of learning significant personal lessons. To say that certain details don't matter is to be at odds with precision and natural order. Instead, those details need to be impartially accepted and placed in the context of a bigger picture of life.
To be clear, the relinquishing of control goes in both directions, meaning that neither men nor women are trying to control each other, for example. Instead, they ought to be bound by selflessness whose goal is the prevailing of a higher order, which is what F-M achieves in the limited context of a running team.
A few relevant quotes:
1. From Brian:
“Remaining pure means you don't care about yourself. You care about the one who made you. That's the opposite of pride-- that's selfless. There's no reason to have pride in being a human, especially to another human. There's no reason for it at all.”
2. From page 9 of Amazing Racers:
“The Fayetteville requirement of squelching the teenage ego, seemingly a denial of human nature, was put to a test at every Nike Cross Nationals event. ...The runners in Portland were bathed in glory and self-absorption. Each year, the F-M athletes tried to remain below the celebratory radar. Their pre-race posture, diffident and gallant, was in contrast with many of their opponents' selfie seducement and entranced consumption of cool Nike gear.”
3. Paraphrase from Amazing Racers: Aris was proud after team victories when his athletes were happy but contained it. In so doing, they demonstrated humility.
4. Page 48 of Amazing Racers:
48: "To execute beyond pain, you always knew it was shared with your teammates."
Brian would say, “To execute beyond pain, you always knew it was in service to your maker.”
I have gotten a taste of pure brotherhood through ultrarunning. I first took up the sport in Summer 2014, almost immediately after graduating from high school. I have found this sport to be a refuge of purity, community, and idealism in a world which undermines those things relentlessly and ubiquitously.
Why do we, as athletes, do what we do? Is it merely to blow off steam, or to strive for perfection while in community? I know that I do it to build myself through what is provided by nature. I do it to enjoy, for a day, literally sharing a path and a goal with others. To be, for once, more than a rootless individual, and to be valued for something other than financial status and clever words. To be aligned with something superior to pain-avoidance and hedonism. To be among those whom are trustworthy for likewise having chosen this idealistic path, and to enjoy the honor of both competing against them and helping each other along the way. At least under the current circumstances of life, rarely does a person's soul show- and even get a chance to show- more than it does under the intensity which we define as a race. That is why I have run nearly 400 races in the last 12 years.
This is the most that I have gotten to experience a sense of community (at least, with more than one other person). Now, I will add that this experience is not limited to what is physically observed. I have had the privilege of being able to see through the eyes of others, both the living and those who have passed on; to understand their attitudes firsthand; and to feel a strong connection to them. Always, this has occurred most frequently and profoundly when I race. The people I “see” (in my mind's eye) are generally those who have shared the goal of the soul's transcendence. So, when I race I get to experience that, alongside of admiration for those whom I am racing with. The point is that, in this community- both that which is seen on the surface and that which is felt within- I believe we each become capable of more than we can and would do as mere individuals. This has certainly been the case for me.
I have found that brotherhood does not require equal abilities, but a shared purpose. Abilities do not have to be identical in everyone, because it is not possible to do everything by yourself. What matters is that each person takes the role they are best suited to.
Brotherhood cannot be mandated through laws, money, intimidation, nor distortions of the truth. I think it is safe to say that the sense of community which prevails at many ultramarathons is not at all forced, even in spite of the fact that we pay to be there.
Regarding control, I should mention that almost every fall I've taken while running (and there have been quite a few) resulted from me trying too hard to control things. I was either trying to force a better performance, or I was thinking about something frustrating or otherwise-detracting just before falling. That's why I was in a knee brace at the Meat Grinder in 2019. During that incident, just like in my personal life, I so badly wanted to be something that I was not.
I should clarify: I am not concluding that women cannot experience brotherhood nor anything like it. The problem is that women tend to value social approval and conformity, above long-term practical considerations. In the feminist society we have now, this value system is taken for granted, and is expected of men as well as women. This value system produces a herd of humans as opposed to packs. A pack of wolves has brotherhood in a manner which a herd of cattle never will. A herd has too much individualism and fear: instead of banding together to stop a threat, a herd under attack fragments into, “Every man for himself.”
Individualism is doomed to fail. It involves people focusing on fleeting emotions (pity is a big one), and consequently trying to control and dominate things, instead of fulfilling their rightful place in the universe. Their rightful place in the universe ought to be based on their most efficient and effective natural capacity, as opposed to what they think they want to have or be.
In the pack analogy, I am not necessarily denying a cow's capacity for idealism or higher intelligence, by the way. I am just pointing out the way things generally seem to be. On that note, if things take a turn for the better, I think humans will likely want to organize into tight-knit packs (size pending) which altogether form a healthy species.
I continually look to renew and deepen my relinquishment of control, in order to become more graceful instead. One reason it is hard is that it seems all people understand is force-- specifically, force used to forward selfish (and often, hidden) agendas. Maybe the lesson for me is that I need to be pure, and not at all bitter, no matter what. If I had to designate "1" essential, personal goal, that might be it. I'm not certain just yet... but it might be necessary to the attainment of brotherhood.
I hope it is clear that this is not an appeal for why I should be on your team. Rather, I have appreciated this opportunity to finally be honest and thorough about things, as well as this challenge to distill the real point as much as possible. Thank you for the work you have done over the last four years, of facilitating a community around a series of challenging and engaging trail races.
I want to clarify that I have never spoken to Bill Aris, and I realize that his scope is limited to just his own team, as opposed to, say, the entire Earth.
If I must provide you with any kind of reassurance on the way out, here is one thing I have experienced consistently. Taking an impartial stance towards everything, including seemingly “dark” things which I might prefer to avoid or emotionally react to, actually allows me to be more lighthearted. Every experience in life provides an opportunity to learn and to grow.
Thank you for listening.
January 12, 2021
https://archive.fo/GYCeh - A snapshot of my race results on Ultrasignup, taken on January 6 2021.
Welcome to the Void (just Part One will suffice)
Message to Brian: #11/#23
Similar Content (e.g. about control, purity):
The Stotan Creed – Major source of inspiration for the F-M cross country team
The Forbidden Fruit