Anecdotes about Milo's almost superhuman strength and lifestyle abound. His daily diet allegedly consisted of 20 lb of meat, 20 lb of bread, and eighteen pints of wine. Pliny the Elder and Solinus both attribute Milo's invincibility in competition to the wrestler's consumption of alectoriae, the gizzard stones of roosters. Legends say he carried his own bronze statue to its place at Olympia, and once carried a four-year-old bull on his shoulders before slaughtering, roasting, and devouring it in one day. He was said to have achieved the feat of lifting the bull by starting with a newborn ox, and carrying it every day.
One report says the wrestler was able to hold a pomegranate without damaging it while challengers tried to pry his fingers from it, and another report says he could burst a band fastened around his brow by inhaling air and causing the temple veins to swell. He was said to maintain his footing on an oiled discus while others tried to push him from it.
The date of Milo's death is unknown, but according to Strabo and Pausanias, Milo was walking in a forest when he came upon a tree-trunk split with wedges. In what was probably intended as a display of strength, Milo inserted his hands into the cleft to rend the tree. The wedges fell from the cleft, and the tree closed upon his hands, trapping him. Unable to free himself, the wrestler was devoured by wolves. - Wikipedia: Milo of Croton
There are times where I am just beaten down. Physically drained of energy. Mentally empty. The river of my will, a shallow pool. It seems that there is nothing left to do but go through the motions. Let the events of the day push my passive flesh around. Nothing is worth doing. Everything is oppressive. Existence itself a burden. Something to be endured. I am full of Sartrian nausea.
I try to muster up the forces within but it feels phony. I can hear myself sounding like an overenthusiastic coach of a losing team. Everyone knows that you are not going to win. Why play the game? But there is nothing else to do.
I am reminded of the actor, George Sanders, who left this note after his suicide:
"Dear World, I am leaving because I am bored. I feel I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool. Good luck."
When I am down, my sympathies are with Sanders, everything seems boring, and I begin to wonder if it is time to leave "this sweet cesspool." The "good luck" at the end is particularly rich with cynicism.
Colin Wilson writes about a robotic consciousness within us, centering in the cerebellum. It is effective for learning basic motor tasks. Once we have learned how to ride a bike, the robotic consciousness takes over and allows us to think about other things instead of being acutely aware of such things as balance, speed and stopping. In fact, once the basic motor task has been learned, focusing our consciousness upon it often becomes a liability. I type these words without being conscious of what keys my fingers are hitting. However, once I focus upon it, I can no longer type "unconsciously" and I start to make mistakes. So the robotic consciousness makes our existence much easier. The problem is that this robot will take over for any act that we repeat often: having sex with the wife, praying to a god, greeting the children in the morning. Without discipline, the robot will take over your life.
The only time that you are forced to "wake up" is in times of crisis where the robot does not know what to do. Even then, unfortunately, because we have become so unused over time to taking any authentic actions, to thinking for ourselves, we allow "what is expected of us" to dictate how we should behave. I am always irritated at the protocol of acceptable behavior, the social script, I am expected to adhere to during the most significant moments in my life. Since I have lived rather unconventionally, I most often encounter the default cliches for eccentrics: "Marches to the beat of a different drummer. Off the beaten path. Lives an alternative lifestyle. Avoids responsibility. Lacks ambition. Never amount to anything. Anti-social." The robotic consciousness always avoids the new, the strange, the different. It doesn't know anything else to say.
Self discipline is the attempt to gain control of the robot, to not allow it to take over your life. Rituals are routines that are charged with the sacred, with meaning. The performance of ritual requires a complete focusing of consciousness - being fully minded. To control the robot, you must ritualize your life. You must charge it with meaning. Your life must become "religious." Those states of consciousness in which the world is most meaningful can be defined as spiritual states. You must recognize these moments, learn to cultivate them, to resonate them so they do not degrade. These are core practices of many of the world's religions.
One of the first requirements is to be watchful, mindful. Set up a castle within yourself. Place a watchman upon the walls. Develop rituals to keep the watchmen alert and ready. And watch for the dark shadows of the enemy as it slides up the walls. Know that in this case, the enemy rarely ever approaches from a distance. He is always close at hand. The lesser aspects of yourself are the enemy.
I am constantly reminded of Colin Wilson's great allegorical novel, The Mind Parasites:
Tolstoy glimpsed this truth in War and Peace, when he declared that individuals play little part in history, that it moves mechanically. For all of the protagonists of that Napoleonic war were moving mechanically - mere chess men in the hands of the mind parasites. Scientists were encouraged to be dogmatic and materialistic. How? By giving them a deep feeling of psychological insecurity that made them grasp eagerly at the idea of science as 'purely objective' knowledge - just as the parasites had tried to divert Weismann's mind into mathematical problems and chess. The artists and writers were also cunningly undermined. The parasites probably looked with horror upon giants like Beethoven, Goethe, Shelley, realizing that a few dozen of these would set man firmly on the next stage of evolution. So Schumann and Holderlin were driven mad; Hoffmann was driven to drink, Coleridge and De Quincy to drugs. Men of genius were ruthlessly destroyed like flies. No wonder the great artists of the nineteenth century felt that the world was against them. No wonder Nietzsche's brave effort to sound a trumpet call of optimism was dealt with so swiftly - by a lightning-stroke of madness. I shall not go into this matter at length now - Lord Leicester's books on the subject documents it exhaustively.
Now, as I have said, the moment we recognized the existence of the mind parasites, we escaped their cunningly laid trap. For it was nothing less than a history trap. History itself was their chief weapon. They 'fixed' history. And in two centuries, human history became a parable of the weakness of human beings, the indifference of nature, the helplessness of man confronting Necessity. Well, the moment we knew that history had been 'fixed', it ceased to take us in. We looked back on Mozart and Beethoven and Goethe and Shelley, and thought: Yes, great men would have been two a penny if it hadn't been for the parasites. We saw that it is nonsense to talk about human weakness. Human beings have enormous strength when it is not being sucked away every night by these vampire bats of the soul.
You have to be able to detect the Lies of the Mind Parasites: those moments when you are on the verge of going beyond, realizing your deeper potentials, and suddenly it seems you would rather do anything else, put if off until tomorrow, write it down later, just don't have the energy to get into right now. Anytime you are distracted away from a higher purpose, anytime you want to go watch television, surf the net, call someone on the phone to chat or gossip, take a nap, go down to the bar, get high, get drunk, get wasted, anytime you want to be less than you are, these are the moments that you must watch for. These are the actions that reduce and weaken you. Set up the watchman within to recognize these moments and sound the alarm to not to wake yourself up but to keep yourself awake. Do not believe the Lies of the Mind Parasites. The longer you put off acting upon the enthused and inspired proddings of you innermost self, the more convinced you will become of your own insignificance.
McLuhan wrote about how there is a consistent fallacy of interpreting the new in terms of the old. The automobile is initially called a "horseless carriage," the radio, a "wireless." In this way, higher states of consciousness are often understood in terms of the lower. These new and higher ways of seeing the world are rich and strange. If you ever begin to believe that your mind is becoming tired or that your spirit is weak, ruthlessly examine the reasons that are leading you to believe this.
Milo of Croton is said to have carried a bull on his shoulders from the time it was very young until it was full grown. I firmly believe that by incrementally increasing the intensity of your life, physically, mentally and spiritually, you will attain a strength that seems impossible to imagine at this point. In every moment of every day, remain watchful and search for ways to increase the intensity of your life. Do not let the robot live your life for you. Do not allow the Mind Parasites to distract you from following "constant suggestions of [your] genius."
If one listens to the faintest but constant suggestions of his genius, which are certainly true, he sees not to what extremes, or even insanity, it may lead him; and yet that way, as he grows more resolute and faithful, his road lies. The faintest assured objection which one healthy man feels will at length prevail over the arguments and customs of mankind. No man ever followed his genius till it misled him. - Thoreau, Walden, Higher Laws