The Knighthood Challenge from a Mythical Nation

Hello everyone,
Knights LogoThis last Saturday I did something that most people consider a little crazy.  I decided to do the Sufferlandrian Knighthood challenge!  What is a Sufferlandrian Knighthood Challenge?  The Sufferfest makes some grueling indoor cycling videos.  These videos are the equivalent of a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) session except on your bicycle, set to music, with a compelling story line.  I took on 10 of these videos which took me roughly 10 and a half hours to complete, all in my basement, while trying to raise some money for www.pedalagainstptsd.org.  You are allowed 10 minute breaks in between each video for the bathroom, food, hydration, and kit changes.  The journey was long and grueling.  Strava said I rode the equivalent of 172 miles on my bicycle.  ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY TWO MILES!  I felt every bit of it.  Posted below is my written words I captured within 24 hours of my Knighthood.  It’s a bit melodramatic, but the endorphins were flowing and I wanted to write about this crazy experience.  Enjoy!

1006902780-the-stormIt’s a funny thing that we do when pursuing the limits of our capacities as humans. I think it is easy to understand when someone says, “Why climb Mt. Everest?” It is also just as easy to hear the words “Because it is there!” We all understand this conversation. We know the words, the ideas behind these thoughts, maybe even the drive that pushes those to the exterior realms of sanity; the purpose of the expedition to some extent. However, there is more to this challenge than those that DO challenge would like to admit. Some of us prefer to sail the board against its edge in a pursuit; an angle in the water of the sea of life.

The Sufferlandrian Knighthood challenge for me was a thought of mine for many years. Not a difficult pursuit in relative terms. No need for ships, mountains, or continents to seek. This is something that can be easily acquired in the relative peace of my own home. No journeys to far off lands and all of the logistics required for such pursuits. This was to be a journey within my own mind. A pursuit enslaved within the boundaries of expectation. This was to be a journey supported by visual, auditory, and kinesthetic enablers. This was to be a Sufferlandrian Knighthood challenge of 10 videos over 11 hours to push my body to its mental and physical limitations.

mount-everest-1Within the realm of limitations of the Human Body are birth and death. That is as simple as we can sum it up. Those that die can only experience death themselves, never to come back and explain what death is like. Those that climb Everest can only encapsulate their journey to the top of the Mountain in a story. Those that encounter combat can never summarize the true meaning of the event to the story “told”. Thus, within these pursuits, we find our limitations.

In the pursuit of our limitations we skirt the edge of life. We look for meanings, we struggle against our own demons, and we seek these life boundaries. The limitation is our edge. This edge dips itself down into the sea of life. Some may find solace in the fact that they can float along without ever taking the hard turn. Some may choose that path of calm seas and fair weather. Those that choose Sufferlandrian Knighthood take the harder turn. The turn of the ship that must dip its edge into the waters. We float from the comfortable heading and open waters, to the turbulent seas and sharp turns. Within the turbulence, turning, and the dipping of the boat’s edge is life itself.

I started my journey of Sufferlandrian Knighthood optimistic. I felt well prepared for a task I would not be prepared for. I had an idea that I would perform a certain way over the task required. I connected to others using technology like Skype and encouraged them at the end of their Knighthood journey. Yet, I was unprepared; unknowing of the path that lies ahead. In hindsight, my words seemed immature. The words of babes.

These challenges we address oneself to, are an affirmation of life itself. The works of “The Stages of Life” by Erik Erikson are simple enough to understand the journey we pursue. Simply put, we begin life with trust, and end life in despair. So is the challenge of Knighthood. A simple task of performing 10 videos. These 10 videos we execute take us on a journey of self-discovery. We trust in our abilities in the beginning, we find solace in our efforts in the middle, and we find despair before the ending. My despair was video six. I entered the graveyard and questioned my own existence.

storm-boatIt is a strange thing, to not go as hard as you can in a Sufferfest video. We all know it is an impossible task to do 10 videos at 100 percent. You begin to climb the mountain full of energy. Your course is true, your hands steady. The skies begin to darken, the visibility reduces on the sea, and the hard turn is coming. You realize that your enthusiasm was premature. You are not prepared. You are not ready.

Somewhere in the middle you begin to realize that you are angry. You are angry that you are not as strong as you thought. The body is fighting back. The mind wants more. In the middle you begin to bargain. Maybe if I just went down a little to recover, then you could push a little harder on the next video. The storm clouds are rising. The ocean is angry.

On video six or seven you begin to plead with yourself. You ask that the Gods will please make the storm pass. You do not want to continue. Everything is hurting. It is a battle of mind and body. You wonder why people take this path into these dangerous waters? Why do they take this journey of madness? Why must we turn into the storm?

trapped1Depression hits you at video eight or nine. The seas are overwhelming you. The winds are battering your body and your boat. You look back at the skies. You wonder. You wonder why you have chosen this path of destruction? Why do you do these things? What is it that is wrong with you? A normal person doesn’t take these kinds of risks. A normal person doesn’t pursue these kinds of unnecessary tasks. You are absolutely abnormal. You accept this. You look to the skies and see the thunderous clouds. You look right at the beast in the sky and turn your boat towards chaos. The edge of your boat reaches down and touches the waters, fully immersed in the sea of life.

And you survive. The story you tell can only be received by others that have endured the journey. How can anyone truly understand the story of Knighthood without ever pursuing and completing Knighthood? You can’t. Your boat has dipped into the sea of life, and anyone who hasn’t made that hard turn will ever understand.

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Aaron Johnson

Aaron Johnson

Aaron served in the military for 20 years. Multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He retired from the military after 20 years of service to take care of our three small children in 2013 as a Stay At Home Dad.

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