it was late june, 2007 - i had spent the night in the back of my pickup truck on some side street outside of an industrial district in Salt Lake City. the sun had just risen and i pulled into a small, fenced in parking lot behind a nondescript warehouse - and now i was waiting. somewhere in this little building was my destination, a bare bones training facility that called itself gym jones. it was about 6 months earlier that i first heard about it, saw a youtube clip of this old guy named Mark Twight talking about his training philosophy, about using the gym as a tool to expose and confront - to train your mind through training your body. something had resonated, i went online immediately, found the website - it was all black and white, punk rock meets fight club - self actualization through physical trials - all served up with bitter prose and a fuck-you attitude that i found strangely optimistic. i devoured it, was made hungrier by the hunt - i had to decode and decipher, to try and paint a picture out of glimpses - but it wasn't enough - i was trying to see the wind by watching leaves blow. i wanted to understand the current. so i chased down the source, wrote an email and asked if i could come by - drove the 6 hours, spent the night in the truck and finally ended up sitting on a tailgate at seven in the morning wondering what i got myself into.
i had convinced myself it was going to be terrible. drill sergeant style, yelling and the standard “extreme” ultra-masculine noise, but i knew that there was information here, and i was willing to pay the price. what i didn't expect was the level of humbleness, of openness and genuine care that i found inside those walls. sure, there were harsh truths and hard workouts, but there was always the sense of camaraderie, of community. hard work is just that, but it was the thought behind it that we focused on - instead of yelling and threats there were ideas. beautiful, simple ideas. words strung together in way that made scramble for my pen and then feel stupid for needing to write them down, for having needed to hear them in the first place. words that changed the way i thought, reframed how i saw the world. written down after the fact it seems silly, seems like i am overstating things - but there was a fundamental shift that occurred, an understanding. with this shift came the feeling of agency - of creation. like the relationship between a sculptor and her tools, this wasn't just exercise, it was communication. it was practice. it was the choice to live deliberately, to become exactly who and what i chose to be. it was only after being exposed to that action that i was able to see the currents, to be open to the message behind the movement, to realize the deeper motivations, the depth and the breadth of this tool.
so i went home. began to test and train and work with other people, to talk and share and to assemble the pieces i had into something cohesive. i continued to read Marks writing and we even exchanged some emails - he answered my questions with questions, encouraged me to explore, to learn, and to write. he never made anything easy - but managed to make everything worth it. to imbue small decisions with a significance, to help me see not just the consequences but to understand the strings, and how to pull them. Mark taught me the strength of story, of crafting an identity as a tool. a lever. that self-image can be a weapon, can be crafted and sharpened and built for a purpose. and then one evening i got the email that gymjones was following my little twitter feed - then mark asked if it was ok for him to repost an article i wrote. i had all the respect in the world for Mark, for his project. i had learned so much from him, owed him - and now he is going out on a limb, telling people that i knew what i was talking about. to be clear - i fucking didn't - i was just trying to figure things out, “testing the waters” but after that day i was no longer trading on my own name, and it was too late to turn anything down. i had to become a person worthy of that faith. there is an Abraham Lincoln quote that sums up a lot - “ i am a success today because a friend believed in me once, and i didn't have the heart to let him down” - no other action would have elicited that level of commitment. the confidence that he showed me still baffles me. i did not deserve it, and i will spend the rest of my life trying to prove that i am up to the task, that he made the right call. its beautiful really - an amazing gift, a debt that i can never repay - and the stubbornness to not let that stop me from trying.
- Chris "Burkey" Burkeybyle