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Competition, Community, Commodification, Oh My...

Updated: Dec 24, 2023

“Whether we know it or not, like it or not, honor it or not, we are embedded in community.” This opening line of a Parker Palmer essay poked me here on my CrossFit/Holy Wisdom pilgrimage. Palmer says “[C]ommunity is not a goal to be achieved, but a gift to be received. When we treat community as a product that we must manufacture, instead of a gift we have been given, it will elude us...”

Now, most y’all know CrossFit has been a primary web of belonging for me for the last several years: a woman returning to her body, versed in circle-way ethos and consistent practices of community, newly more-free of imposed shames and defeatist self-talk, encouraged by strong women (and others) intent upon living a full life. CrossFit has grounded and expanded my life in the predictably cohesive focal points for many emergent communities: personal & social transformation, creativity, accountability, purpose-finding (How We Gather - HDS report). When Annie Thorisdottir punched her ticket to The CrossFit Games, I knew I wanted to come see her in-person. It’s been amazing to see her, to see what she continues to accomplish AND how she holds herself while she does so. I love how she smiles when she works out. How does she do that?

Not surprisingly, I’ve also felt very much like a fish out of water at The Games, a perfect collision of elite competition with community ethos. The first day wasn’t unlike my first days of entering into CrossFit Dedication. Overwhelming, pushing all of my buttons, confronting me with my own internal voices of failure, not-belonging, and misfittedness.

Ironically, then, it was precisely the competitive-courageous edge CrossFit values, practiced in well-held, well-coached classes nearly daily for five years, that pushed me to return the next day. I loved it. [Well, not the Mayhem spectators wearing “Mayhem vs. Everybody” t-shirts as a white Christian man tries to commodify “community” to support his franchise]. But I loved the intensity of the sport, the athletes, the spectators.

Returning to Holy Wisdom Monastery, I collided inside, exhausted, ungrounded, unable to focus on my writing. So…to feel more myself, to return to the work I actually came to Holy Wisdom Monastery to do, I knew I needed more familiarity, more what I value: the local affiliate. I landed at CrossFit Madtown (shout-out to Skipp & Keysha Benzing) for a couple WODs this weekend, loving the coaching, the movement, the partner WOD today, the Madtown Mile “finisher.” This felt like community to me, even though I didn’t get many names, nor do I expect to meet them often/again. [Unless I retreat at Holy Wisdom more frequently, of course!].

So what’s one takeaway, before the Grand Games Finale tomorrow?

National brands and local communities rarely have an easy relationship, be they church, arts communities, or governments. There is no greener grass elsewhere, but there is opportunity to show up and learn right as you are.

I loved staying close to my own CF practice, seeking what I need, offering what I can, even amidst the glare of the Games.

Showing up. Being all of me, right there.

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