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November 2022

Post image for One Reason the World Seems So Troubled

The shrewd parts of my brain can’t help but admire Planet Fitness’s business model. It’s a gym made for people who don’t like gyms and don’t want to go to them, which must be a huge slice of the market for gym memberships.

More specifically, they market to people who are afraid of the gym — people who dreaded gym class and dread commercial gyms, but still want to be fitter and healthier.

Helping this segment of the population get fit, if that’s their intent, is a noble and honest goal. I remember how intimidating it was to go at first. I pictured muscle dudes and fitness models rolling their eyes as I huffed and puffed after ninety seconds on the NordicTrack, and struggled to unrack a fifteen-pound dumbbell. I assumed I’d have to bear the pitying gaze of gym regulars for a good six months before I was fit enough to be accepted, or at least ignored.

That’s not what it was like, of course. By the third time you go to a gym, you’ve surely noticed that nobody cares what you do unless you’re about to hurt someone, and that most people there are fellow amateurs. There are a few bodybuilder dudes and career fitness people, and they’re just there to do their routines and go home. Everyone is listening to earbuds and looking at their phones anyway.

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Post image for How to Stop Thinking Too Much

I appreciate Sam Harris’s apt analogy about inner monologues — being caught up in your own thinking is like having been kidnapped and held hostage by the most boring person on earth. You’re forced to listen, as though at gunpoint, to an internal commentator who insists on telling you its impressions of everything it notices or thinks about.

Nothing is too petty, too repetitive, or too obvious for the boring kidnapper’s ongoing monologue: Susan was wrong to criticize people who wear Crocs to the grocery store; a certain politician is the worst person alive and here’s why; your ex-partner was definitely out of line when he accused you of wasting dish detergent that time; the two halves of this Oreo don’t line up, but it would be so much nicer if they did.

If you’re ever able to step back from your own mental chatter, and listen to it with some critical distance, perhaps after a long meditation, or in one of those tired but insightful moments near the end of the day, you might find it indeed exhibits many of the characteristics of an extremely boring and self-absorbed person. It’s not that you yourself are this way — surely you don’t say everything that comes to mind. But the mind does.

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