applying the wisdom of the past to the contexts of the present and the future
As a general guideline, I choose not to worship the past, present, or future. Instead, as C.S. Lewis recommends, in his introduction to his holiness Pope Athanasius of Alexandria’s On the Incarnation, I try to daily combat the biases in me that are common to my time and place, by exposing myself to ideas (oft written) from yesteryear to the year that is to come.
Futurism in art, and as a movement writ large, has gems and pearls, but is incomplete without being in conversation with the Amish, Luddites, and Troglodytes. So far, this amalgamation seems to only have a European flavor. Afrofuturism pleasantly broadens the tent. But, the diasporic itself needs to be in conversation with the source. For me, that’s the Afroasiatic Horn of Africa, and the related cultural milieus of North Africa, the East Mediterranean, and the Middle East. My contribution to the world of ideas, is being inseminated by of all of these movements, and giving birth to Afroasiatic-Archeofuturism. Here are three Afroasiatic-Archeofuturistic ideas verified by the long-lasting trial-and-error of the past and the rigorous science of the present: cold showering, fasting, and barefoot walking.
Long-lasting practices in the Horn of Africa, the anecdotes of my father and godfather, and the rigorous science of longevity and anti-aging experts agree that cold showers are superior to hot showers and luke-warm showers. That’s incredible. How you respond to this fact is your prerogative. But, that it is a fact is apodeictic.
In the Horn of Africa, practical reality, Amharic aphorisms, and Ge’ez Rite holy water dictate the usage of cold water for healing. The Ge’ez Rite, like the rest of the Afroasiastic Orthodox communion and for that matter Greek Orthodox communion, uses archaic and organic remedies that also have spiritual significance. She uses oil, which in Greek rhymes with mercy, to seal the faithful at baptism and protect the sick during their last days. Both occasions are dovetailed with prayer. She uses cold water to exercise demons and soothe the sick. Amharic aphorisms tell us to take cold showers to fend against the flu and common cold. From 1994-2011 I visited Ethiopia roughly twelve times. In those visits, we would often have no hot water or electricity twice-a-week. On schedule. The rural situation, which is the majority of the country, had even less access hot water. When people shower or bathe, and they certainly did less so, their default was often cold water. Pre-COVID, a weekly habit of my father and godfather, two men of the Horn of Africa, has been to enter the cold plunge for 20-30 minutes after playing soccer.
The Iceman Wim Hof, Dr. Peter Attia, Dr. Rhonda Patrick, and strength specialist Pavel Tsatsouline all agree on the importance of the cold. They believe in the cold to differing degrees, but they all believe. I can add my cousin who ran division 1 track and cross country at UCLA. At his team’s experts’ behest, he used to ice his knees and ankles after every practice.
Wim Hof lights up skeptics’ bullshit detectors, but certain facts about him are undeniable. He holds the world record with direct-contact submergence in ice, and he has scaled mountains and traversed tundras and deserts whilst scantily-dressed. He says consistency, breathing, and cold exposure can make you happier, healthier, and stronger. There are many fancy gadgets, including high-priced cold plunges and cryotherapy, but he says anyone can take a dip in an icy lake or at least use only cold when they shower to improve their life.
Dr. Peter Attia is culturally Coptic Orthodox, and runs his own medicine practice in San Diego, CA and NY, NY. He was trained as a surgeon, but got fed up with the heavy-handed cut-first ask questions later approach of the field, so he began to seek proactive and preventative means of living long and living well for himself and his patients. He shares his wealth of knowledge on the internet with paying and nonpaying subscribers to his The Drive podcast and newsletter. Dr. Rhonda Patrick does similar work with Found My Fitness, and both have appeared on JRE and the Tim Ferris Show. Dr. Rhonda more often uses saunas, but believes extreme heat exposure and extreme cold exposure trigger biological responses that promote faster healing, heart health, weight loss, and reduced causes of mortality.
Pavel Tsatsouline is culturally Russian Orthodox, and introduced the kettlebell (cannonball with a handle) to the US. He is a strength specialist that started the Strongfirst schools of strength movement, and has trained Soviet and US special forces. He can teach you how to get strong using your own bodyweight, kettlebells, barbells or a combination of the three. He unequivocally recommends cold exposure in icy lakes or at home with cold showering.
Professor John Danaher, the most brilliant coach in MMA and Jiujitsu, who would otherwise be a professor in the philosophy of science at Columbia University, trusts the cold. I have had the opportunity to learn from him directly and face-to-face at two seminars, and follow his words and videos religiously on the internet. He wears a rashgaurd everywhere and in every season. He lives in NY, NY. He credits General Washington of Valley Forge as his teacher regarding the cold. Bonus points, some of the men then were barefoot.
Fasting is biblical, canonical, and backed by longevity and anti-aging experts. Wim Hof, Jack Dorsey, and Lex Fridman subscribe to the OMAD (one meal a day) diet. Wim Hof is the more liberal in what he eats for his one meal (pasta and beer) than Dorsey and Fridman (meats and vegetables and berries), but all agree to OMAD. That means they fast daily.
Genesis 3:3, Esther 4:16, Psalm 68(69):11, Isaiah 58:1-11, Joel 1:13-20; 2:12, Jonah 3, Zechariah 7:5-10, Matthew 6:16-18, Mark 9:29, Luke 2:37; 4:2; 5:33-39, Acts 9:9; 13:2-3; 14:23, and 1 Corinthians 7:5 are biblical verses regarding fasting. Fasting is often tripled with prayer and almsgiving, but by itself simply means intentionally refraining from food and drink for a time. In the canon law of the Ge’ez Rite, clergy and faithful are prompted to fast from midnight to noon (till 3pm or 6pm for those who can) over two-hundred days a year. In addition to this, during their window of eating, they are prescribed a vegan diet. Popularly, some add fish through philosophical discourses about what constitutes being called meat/flesh. Monks, especially at the highest caliber monasteries, are typically OMAD. Grandmothers wait till 3pm. Regular faithful struggle to wait till noon, if they are not stuffing their faces at breakfast time with vegan food, mistakenly thinking they have fasted.
Dr. Peter Attia, Dr. Rhonda Patrick, Dr. Valter Longo, Dr. David Sinclair, and Dr. Jason Fung use modern rigorous science to promote fasting. Jocko Willink views fasting as a gift, and promotes it as well, especially as not eating and taking care of your gut and mind. They all have various diets they promote during their windows of eating, but Dr. Peter and Jocko regularly fast from 1-5 days. When they extend it, they are drinking liquids, and there are sundry stances that these experts have regarding water, coffee, and tea.
Being a barefoot beast is backed by my anecdotes, shared Ethiopian pride, and modern health experts. My anecdotes come from my time in the US and my time in Ethiopia. Our shared Ethiopian pride comes from our victory in Rome in 1960. Dr. Irene Davis, professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation and director of The Spaulding National Running Center, and Dr. Peter Attia both back barefoot and minimalist walking, running, and sprinting.
My time in jiujitsu, driving, and walking around at home dovetail what I saw with our security guard at my grandma’s house and stories I heard about my grandpa’s countryside kinfolk. Gracie jiujitsu is the science of defense, escape, and control that leads to submission or limb-breakage or unconsciousness. You are encouraged to use your whole body to control another person’s, and emphasis is put on leverage, framing, and balance. You roll (simulated fighting) barefoot to maximize these ideals. I have done this for three years. I often drive barefoot to feel the pedal and the brake more. I walk around barefoot to build up immunity, but now also to build-up long-neglected muscles. The security guard at my grandma’s home in Adees Abeba in the 90s walked around everywhere barefoot, and as a kid I could tell how agile, adroit, and strong he was though overall he looked thin. My grandpa was the first modernist in the family, and supported many of his kinfolk, driven by shame, they would pretend to wear shoes he bought them, but as soon as they left the city would go right back to walking around everywhere barefoot.
Shambel Abebe Bikila is a name most Ethiopians immediately recognize. He won the 1960 Olympics in Rome barefoot, and the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo with ‘regular’ (maximalist) shoes. Many European onlookers felt bad for him being barefoot in the beginning, thinking it a disadvantage and a sign of poverty. Little did they know, it was an advantage. Sometimes, I wish he had won that second marathon barefoot as well. His specter was in my imagination throughout my childhood, even though I didn’t apply the teaching till adulthood.
Just as the comfort of hot showers invented in 50 BC brought weakness to the human form, cushiony and comfy shoes have brought muscle atrophy to our feet and legs, says Dr. Irene Davis. If you seek hypertrophy in places you’ve never had it before, check out her interview on the Drive, practice walking around barefoot on the balls of your feet (forefoot rather than heel striking), find a pair of minimalist (barefoot simulating) shoes, and slowly progress from walking to running to sprinting. She told me on Twitter to really take it slowly. Right now, I’m just walking and slowly jogging. The air also sucks though. Can’t wait to start sprinting. I’m replacing my whole shoe rack.
There is value in the archaic. There is value in the futuristic. There is value in the Afroasiatic. Do not reinvent the wheel, rather adapt it to each ever-evolving context.