At some point during my turkey-induced lethargy over the past few days, the notorious Dirty Dozen took place in Pittsburgh, an event wherein cyclists seek out the most absurd climbs in the Pittsburgh area and ride their bicycles up them. Once upon a time, I sponsored a talented young man named Montana Miller, and this year he broke course records for running a 36×17 gear combination for the event. I’ll let you contemplate that for a while as you stare at this photo, taken by Jon Pratt, of Montana taking care of business.
Montana is a fine writer, and little bit like a real-life action figure, which makes following his adventures worthwhile.
Speaking of poets and super-men, if only Friedrich Nietzsche could have lived long enough to see his work help Kanye West side-step a lawsuit. For me, the most interesting part of the entire article is that another rapper rhymed “stronger” with “wronger” and referenced Kate Moss, but the Nietzsche assertion that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is also pretty fun to imagine as the meme du jour for corporate and wanna-be corporate pop stars.
And what is it that guys like Kanye and other corporate Movers and Shakers are made stronger by enduring? Why us, of course. Mediocrity.
And you know who else grows stronger just from having to tolerate our pathetic existence? Chip Wilson, the founder of yoga retail powerhouse Lululemon, whose company has begun printing the catchphrase from my girl, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged on the company’s shopping bags.
The funniest part of all of this is the dippy, new-age self-empowerment spin Lululemon’s trying to put on Rand’s decidedly un-zen-like philosophy of personal gain at all costs. The company’s blog page has this to say about the bags.
Our bags are visual reminders for ourselves to live a life we love and conquer the epidemic of mediocrity. We all have a John Galt inside of us, cheering us on. How are we going to live lives we love?
Yes, how? Surely not by thinking about others–or even acknowledging the existence of others–but rather, by being really fucking thankful we were born into enough privilege to afford $68 yoga mats and dime store philosophy, easily digestible by the Kardashianic masses.
Well, almost. I have to admit that, as positive self-affirmative aphorisms go, I don’t get this one–and yes, this is really something that’s actually written on one of their bags: “Children are the orgasm of life. Just like you did not know what an orgasm was before you had one, nature does not let you know how great children are until you actually have them.”
But as frankly tone-deaf and disturbing as whatever-the-fuck that was supposed to mean might be, Lulu’s recent evocation of the Great Capitalist Virgin/Whore Pin-up Girl, Rand, is just a touch more disturbing still, because it confuses Rand’s philosophy with innocent snake-oil self-empowerment nonsense. The almost beautiful irony here is that Chip Wilson’s philosophy for Lululemon is to “elevate the world from mediocrity to greatness.” Granted, that’s probably as much bullshit as his sea-weed powered fabric, but it does fit within the bounds of Rand’s philosophy. The part that nobody likes to talk about with Rand, though, is that there are losers. Lots of them. Probably about 99% of the world. And still more important: at the end of the day, Rand is writing a justification for spoils that went to a victor for, well, some reason–that’s where fiction can be really convenient. One guy is really good at copper mining, which is clearly a skill one is endowed with at birth, and like Galt’s magic engine that runs on virtually nothing, Rand doesn’t care to go into details about how these people came to acquire this knowledge.
Presumably, there were just born that way. Better. And preternaturally disgusted by the stink of mediocrity all around them.
See where this starts to build some friction against the idea of self-empowerment? Like enough friction to power a magic engine its own self? The joke is that it’s a caste system. It’s closed to most of us. Who is John Galt? Not you, pal. In order for Rand’s philosophy to work at all, the whole concept of self-improvement has to be eliminated as an option.
Me, I want to be a guy who finishes designing a suspension system for a bicycle, and I believe Malcolm Gladwell’s right about proficiency requiring about 10,000 hours of energy. Why? Because I believe whichever intellectual has better hair, and Malcolm’s mad genius thing absolutely smites Rand’s “the logical purpose for hair is to protect your head from the sun, even if you never go outside” vibe.
But the most amazing thing of all is that we live in a world where a guy who made his fortune selling overpriced yoga clothing can claim to be “elevating the world from mediocrity to greatness.” That such an idea can exist–even as marketing–suggests our whole scale is off. It suggests, ladies and gentlemen, that the people flying Rand’s flag are not, in fact, the doers and the makers of the world, but those looking to explain their absurd success to themselves.
People like Dean Kamen and Dick Proenneke can make and do things, and maybe there are even some Ayn Rand fans out there who can actually do something, too. Here’s how I can usually tell: someone capable of actually doing something may talk about him or herself, but seems to really be speaking about everyone; someone who’s never truly created anything–maybe not since sixth grade–tends to talk a lot about everyone, but always seems to really only be talking about himself.
Anyway, still working on shock rates. I’ll leave you with a photo of my other favorite Lulu, which pretty much exemplifies life inside your own privileged bullshit bubble.