Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Problem of Pain

The reality of pain is perhaps the hardest thing to overcome for those who are not religious and are looking for a reason to live. Even for the devout the problem of pain is a difficult one. They ask why would a just and loving God allow pain and are told that it is their fault due to freewill and God is completely blameless in the whole pain thing (no comment) or that it is all part of a great plan for which they will be rewarded in the next life. Some are okay with that explanation, some struggle with it. But what about those of us who do not believe in a next life? What about those of us who don't believe in an eternal reward that will make all of the pain and suffering of life worth while? How do we cope with it all? Why continue to live when there is so much pain and suffering in the world? For the devout the answer is simple. They believe that the pain serves some devine purpose. It is either preparing us for the next life after we are dead, a test to see if we are worthy for the next stage of enlightenment or it is a price we must pay for the rewards we will recieve once we are dead. For those of us who do not believe in such things the problem is more difficult.

If life is finite than all the worth and meaning to be derived from it must be within these finite boundaries of eighty-five years, give or take. Many existentialists have therefore argued that life is without meaning due to the fact that death exists at the end of life. Death is the period at the end of the sentence that not only concludes the sentence but erases it. It is the delete button that washes away all of your input as if it had never been. So many ask what is the point of spending so much time inputting data when at the end the plug gets pulled and it all gets erased? When for the vast majority of people in two or three generations everyone who ever knew us will be dead and our memories will have left this earth as completely as our bodies. Why do anything?

The existentialists then answers "Why not do everything?" If life is meaningless than nothing is worth doing but then nothing is worth not doing. The only inspiration to act or not act then becomes pleasure and pain and pain is an inescapable consequence of existence. The avoidance of pain and the pursuit of pleasure stirs us into action no matter how futile our intellects may tell us that action is in some grand cosmic scheme of things. The natural movement of every living organism is from pleasure and towards pain. So, despite what our intellects may tell us about ultimate meaning there is much joy to be had in things that may or may not be ultimately meaningless. There is also much pain. Pain, frustration, discomfort, and dissapointment are the price you pay for each breath that you take and if life is ultimately meaningless than this pain is too high and all pain is therefore an injustice. So what do we do about it? How do we live a life more pleasurable?

If pain was all that life had to offer my reccomendation would be to end your life as quickly as possible but life does possess its pleasures in equal number though we are perhaps less aware and less appreciative of the joys of life because the pain is often so overwhelming. What we have forgotten about in this judgement of pain is the possibility of pleasure. Pleasure is often the reward for our pain and the only injustice is therefore when there is an imbalance. When the agonies of existence outweigh the joys. Because pain is such a powerful all-consuming sensation it is often difficult to weigh the pleasures of life against the suffering since the pain almost always seems greater. The orgasm, and even the prickles of excitement leading up to it, is one of the few positive physical sensations that are great enough to overwhelm pain the way pain can so easily overwhelm pleaure. If life were on big orgasm there would be no need for this discussion. But it ain't and there are far more painful sensations of the magnitude of an orgasm as there are pleasurable ones. As Arthur Schopenhauer put it, "...all that opposes, frustrates and resists our will, that is to say all that is unpleasant and painful, impresses itself upon us intstantly and with great clarity. Just as we are conscious not of the healthiness of our whole body but only of the little spot where the shoe pinches, so we think not of the totality of our succesful activities but of some insignificant trifle or other which continues to vex us."

When it comes to the joys of life we are unappreciative. We take much for granted. We do not recognize our own good fortune until we are conffonted with those less fortunate. We whine about the Mercedes we don't have even while others take the bus. We whine about the bigger house we wish we could afford while others sleep in boxes beneath the freeway. We whine about the cottage cheese on our thighs while others are too obese to lift themselves from their beds unassisted. We complain about our jobs while others wait in the unemployment line. We whine to our lovers about not being as attractive as the actors and models in movies and magazines while others still struggle to find mates. So what exactly am I saying? Am I saying we should expect less and learn to accept and appreciate the meager table scraps that life throws us? Well, in a sense that is exactly what I am saying. I am saying reach for the stars but accept and appreciate the moon because there are many still stuck on Terra Firma.

This of course still does not deal with the problem of pain. There is still so much pain in this world even if we except that there are many pleasures that we do not realize we are experiencing and that we are taking for granted. Even if I was to become suddenly aware of every minor joy of life, the smell of a rose would still not mask the stench of sewage and pollution. The sunrise would still not blind us to the thousands of roaches scurrying from the light, the love of a woman would still not take away the pain of a heartbreak. The taste of the finest pastry still does not dull the pain and shame of obesity or compensate for the memory of hunger. Even the joy of running does not often compensate for the pain of falling. Pain is such an overwhelming sensation that very few things in life can match it and the few that can often result in greater pain later. Sex, drugs, the thrill of victory, the joy of accomplishment, all things we experience far less frequently than pain, failure, and dissapointment and all have the potential to increase the pain in our lives much more than the pleasure they provide. There are many ways you can increase the ferquency of such things in your life yet for every effort spent in increasing your pleasure there is a neccessary amount of pain that may or may not be justified by the end result and there is the possibility of failure looming large in the background, the possibility that all your efforts, all your struggle and sacrfice will amount to nothing but yet another dissapointment. So what do we do about all of this pain? The answer lies in our perception of it. Let's take a look back at the existentialists.

When Jean-Paul Sartre told us that life was meaningless he also talked about what he termed "an absurd freedom", the notion that if life was meaningless all things would be possible. Experience, as shown above, rebutts that all things may be possible but not all are probable and the resultant pain may make none of it at all desirable. So how do we cope with this? I can only tell you how I have come to grips with it.

I maximize my pleasure and minimize my pain by first minimizing my desires to things that are absolutely neccessary and attainable. I take all the pleasure I can in things that, as Epicurus prescribes, would cause me discomfort and pain were they absent and limit the amount of pleasure that I seek from things that would cause me no great discomfort were they absent from my life. Pleasures that are not neccessary for our existence or mental or spiritual health should be shunned and when they are not they merely add to our wants and thereby add to our frustrations and dissapointments. Things like alcohol and drugs are not neccessities. They are manufactured wants. Manufactured in our minds. Not being high or drunk would not cause me any pain unless I had already manufactured that need within myself and therefore getting rid of that need could only increase my capacity for pleasure. I have never gotten high and I have never experienced any pain from this. Neither would not having a Mercedes Benz or not having a million dollar home or not having a woman who looked like a supermodel cause me a moment's pain had I not first convinced myself that I needed these things in order to make myself happy. Though they would all be nice, it would be foolish to link my happiness to any of them.

Lack of food has the painful and negative consequence of hunger. Lack of sex has the negative consequence of sexual frustration. Lack of shelter has hypothermia in the winter and heat stroke in the summer to vex us. Lack of clothing has shame and exposure to the elements. Lack of friends and family has loneliness and a decreased ability to acquire the commodities of existence that could even lead to death if and when you are ever in a position where you cannot acquire such things without assistance. Yet seeking any of these things in excess has the potential to lead to pain and frustration. All things in moderation is therefore wise though there are still ways to seek these things in abundance without experiencing an increase in pain as I will describe below. But cell phones, fast cars, video games, and millions of other useless trifles cause us pain only because they are unnatural manufactured desires that merely add to our already vast need. The things we own inevitably come to own us. Our possession become a weight around our necks. The man who could derive all the pleasure he needs from within would be the wisest and most content of all men. Most of us could never hope to acheive this. Still, it ain't a bad goal. Limit your desires is the first key to maximizing your pleasures in life and minimizing your pain.

"But that sounds like merely surviving not living? I want the highs of life. I want passion!"

I couldn't agree more. If your life is reduced to merely the avoidance of pain than again I'd say just end it. You must seek pleasure as well but seek it in a way that will not lead to more pain. Let me share with you a little trick of mine. It goes back to our perception of things. Enjoy life. That's it. Enjoy it. Experience every joy that you can and take nothing for granted and then when the pain comes ignore it.

"Ignore it? How do I do that? You already said that pain is a more intense experience than pleasure. How am I supposed to just ignore it?"

You ignore it by embracing the absurdity of life, embracing its utter meaningless. You enjoy life the same way you enjoy a movie. You suspend your disbelief and allow yourself to believe in it, you absorb yourself in it so that you can enjoy all that it has to offer, then when the tragic parts come you let your suspension of disbelief come crashing down and you step back outside to your point of objectivity and calmly announce that it is only a movie. In other words you let the tragic parts roll off you by remembering that it is al meaningless in the end anyway. One day you will die and none of it will have meant anything. When the tragic parts have passed you let yourself slip right back into the illusion thereby maximizing your pleasure and minimizing your pain. This allows you to enjoy some manufactured desires without the immobilizing fear of failure. It's what allowed me to step into the ring in search of the thrill of victory without fear of defeat. It's what allows me to submit my writing in search of fame and acclaim without fear that I will be crushed by rejection. When my mother tells me that she has always been impressed by my unwavering tenacity, this is where I get it from. I hope for the best, strive for the most, but I am always prepared for the worst. In the back of my mind I always know that one day all of this will be reduced to dust and stench and none of it will have made a damned bit of difference. I know it sounds depressing but it's actually quite liberating. Try it. If that fails, there is still the blessed orgasm.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Basic Principles of Epicurean Philosophy

I have often referred to myself as an Epicurean Existentialist. This is usually met by questions of "What the hell is an Epicurean?" Epicurus was, in my opinion, the guy who almost got it right when it came to some of the most important questions in philosophy. I believe that had we picked up where this man left off two thousand years ago instead of retreating into superstition we'd have a philosophy right now with logical definitive answers to the two greatest questions man has ever asked: "Why are we here?" and "How should we live?" We would have answers with empirical evidence supported by science rather than answers supported by man's own hopes and fears manifested through faith. Epicurus was a hedonist in the strictest sense of the word. He believed that right and wrong only made sense in terms of individual pleasure and pain. Science shows us that the natural movement of any organism is from pain towards pleasure. The desire for pleasure is inherent in every living thing. As intelligent beings we have the ability to delineate between that which is most likely to cause the greatest long term pain and the least long term pain. Naturally, we cringe when we here the word hedonist because we think of its modern day implication of a pleasure seeker devoid of all morals or conscience or even the modern day bastardization of an Epicurean as a near glutton obsessed with fine foods. This is not true hedonism and definitely not true Epicureanism. An Epicurean would avoid physical excess whether it be sex, food, alcohol, or drugs, seeing the resultant pain and frustration caused by the struggle to acquire these commodities in such excessive quantities along with the health risks of addiction and physical and emotional disease significant enough to negate any pleasure these activities could provide. A true Epicurean would prefer the life of the mind since only in our fantasies and dreams can we indulge without consequence. In his actions he would appear as a stoic and live much as an ascetic monk while in his mind indulging in the most extreme gluttony and debauchery, but only in his mind. Epicurus would have also not condoned selfishness but would have promoted altruism as it would be in the long term best interest of society and therefore in the best interest of those individuals who compose that society. An Epicurean would be for all intents and purposes the most morally upright among us. Even more so than religious zealots because all of his beliefs are founded in logic and are therefore less likely to waver or pervert into something dangerous or absurd. I am obviously not a strict Epicurean though I do agree with much of what the man had to say. I think that Epicurus gave us a great start and it us up to us to take it further. What follows is a list of the basic moral principles of Epicurean Philosophy. There are forty in all. Give them a read. I think you'll find it interesting. It is amazing to think that these ideas are more then two millenniums old. It is amazing that such a great mind has almost been forgotten. "The Basic Principles of Epicurean Philosophy 1. A happy and eternal being has no trouble himself and brings no trouble upon any other being; hence he is exempt from movements of anger and partiality, for every such movement implies weakness 2. Death is nothing to us; for the body, when it has been resolved into its elements, has no feeling, and that which has no feeling is nothing to us. 3. The magnitude of pleasure reaches its limit in the removal of all pain. When pleasure is present, so long as it is uninterrupted, there is no pain either of body or of mind or of both together. 4. Continuous pain does not last long in the body; on the contrary, pain, if extreme, is present a short time, and even that degree of pain which barely outweighs pleasure in the body does not last for many days together. Illnesses of long duration even permit of an excess of pleasure over pain in the body. 5. It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living pleasantly. Whenever any one of these is lacking, when, for instance,the person is not able to live wisely, though he lives well and justly, it is impossible for him to live a pleasant life. 6. In order to obtain security from other people any means whatever of procuring this was a natural good. 7. Some people have sought to become famous and renowned, thinking that thus they would make themselves secure against their fellow-humans. If, then, the life of such persons really was secure, they attained natural good; if, however, it was insecure, they have not attained the end which by nature's own prompting they originally sought. 8. No pleasure is in itself evil, but the things which produce certain pleasures entail annoyances many times greater than the pleasures themselves. 9. If all pleasure had been capable of accumulation, --if this had gone on not only be recurrences in time, but all over the frame or, at any rate, over the principal parts of human nature, there would never have been any difference between one pleasure and another, as in fact there is. 10. If the objects which are productive of pleasures to profligate persons really freed them from fears of the mind,-- the fears, I mean, inspired by celestial and atmospheric phenomena, the fear of death, the fear of pain; if, further, they taught them to limit their desires, we should never have any fault to find with such persons, for they would then be filled with pleasures to overflowing on all sides and would be exempt from all pain, whether of body or mind, that is, from all evil. 11. If we had never been molested by alarms at celestial and atmospheric phenomena, nor by the misgiving that death somehow affects us, nor by neglect of the proper limits of pains and desires, we should have had no need to study natural science. 12. It would be impossible to banish fear on matters of the highest importance, if a person did not know the nature of the whole universe, but lived in dread of what the legends tell us. Hence without the study of nature there was no enjoyment of unmixed pleasures. 13. There would be no advantage in providing security against our fellow humans, so long as we were alarmed by occurrences over our heads or beneath the earth or in general by whatever happens in the boundless universe. 14. When tolerable security against our fellow humans is attained, then on a basis of power sufficient to afford supports and of material prosperity arises in most genuine form the security of a quiet private life withdrawn from the multitude. 15. Nature's wealth at once has its bounds and is easy to procure; but the wealth of vain fancies recedes to an infinite distance. 16. Fortune but seldom interferes with the wise person; his greatest and highest interests have been, are, and will be, directed by reason throughout the course of his life. 17. The just person enjoys the greatest peace of mind, while the unjust is full of the utmost disquietude. 18. Pleasure in the body admits no increase when once the pain of want has been removed; after that it only admits of variation. The limit of pleasure in the mind, however, is reached when we reflect on the things themselves and their congeners which cause the mind the greatest alarms. 19. Unlimited time and limited time afford an equal amount of pleasure, if we measure the limits of that pleasure by reason. 20. The body receives as unlimited the limits of pleasure; and to provide it requires unlimited time. But the mind, grasping in thought what the end and limit of the body is, and banishing the terrors of futurity, procures a complete and perfect life, and has no longer any need of unlimited time. Nevertheless it does not shun pleasure, and even in the hour of death, when ushered out of existence by circumstances, the mind does not lack enjoyment of the best life. 21. He who understands the limits of life knows how easy it is to procure enough to remove the pain of want and make the whole of life complete and perfect. Hence he has no longer any need of things which are not to be won save by labor and conflict. 22. We must take into account as the end all that really exists and all clear evidence of sense to which we refer our opinions; for otherwise everything will be full of uncertainty and confusion. 23. If you fight against all your sensations, you will have no standard to which to refer, and thus no means of judging even those judgments which you pronounce false. 24. If you reject absolutely any single sensation without stopping to discriminate with respect to that which awaits confirmation between matter of opinion and that which is already present, whether in sensation or in feelings or in any immediate perception of the mind, you will throw into confusion even the rest of your sensations by your groundless belief and so you will be rejecting the standard of truth altogether. If in your ideas based upon opinion you hastily affirm as true all that awaits confirmation as well as that which does not, you will not escape error, as you will be maintaining complete ambiguity whenever it is a case of judging between right and wrong opinion. 25. If you do not on every separate occasion refer each of your actions to the end prescribed by nature, but instead of this in the act of choice or avoidance swerve aside to some other end, your acts will not be consistent with your theories. 26. All such desires as lead to no pain when they remain ungratified are unnecessary, and the longing is easily got rid of, when the thing desired is difficult to procure or when the desires seem likely to produce harm. 27. Of all the means which are procured by wisdom to ensure happiness throughout the whole of life, by far the most important is the acquisition of friends. 28. The same conviction which inspires confidence that nothing we have to fear is eternal or even of long duration, also enables us to see that even in our limited conditions of life nothing enhances our security so much as friendship. 29. Of our desires some are natural and necessary others are natural, but not necessary; others, again, are neither natural nor necessary, but are due to illusory opinion. 30. Those natural desires which entail no pain when not gratified, though their objects are vehemently pursued, are also due to illusory opinion; and when they are not got rid of, it is not because of their own nature, but because of the person's illusory opinion. 31. Natural justice is a symbol or expression of usefulness, to prevent one person from harming or being harmed by another. 32. Those animals which are incapable of making covenants with one another, to the end that they may neither inflict nor suffer harm, are without either justice or injustice. And those tribes which either could not or would not form mutual covenants to the same end are in like case. 33. There never was an absolute justice, but only an agreement made in reciprocal association in whatever localities now and again from time to time, providing against the infliction or suffering of harm. 34. Injustice is not in itself an evil, but only in its consequence, viz. The terror which is excited by apprehension that those appointed to punish such offenses will discover the injustice. 35. It is impossible for the person who secretly violates any article of the social compact to feel confident that he will remain undiscovered, even if he has already escaped ten thousand times; for right on to the end of his life he is never sure he will not be detected. 36. Taken generally, justice is the same for all, to wit, something found useful in mutual association; but in its application to particular cases of locality or conditions of whatever kind, it varies under different circumstances. 37. Among the things accounted just by conventional aw, whatever in the needs of mutual association is attested to be useful, is thereby stamped as just, whether or not it be the same for all; and in case any law is made and does not prove suitable to the usefulness of mutual association, then this is no longer just. And should the usefulness which is expressed by the law vary and only for a time correspond with the prior conception, nevertheless for the time being it was just, so long as we do not trouble ourselves about empty words, but look simply at the facts. 38. Where without any change in circumstances the conventional laws, when judged by their consequences, were seen not to correspond with the notion of justice, such laws were not really just; but wherever the laws have ceased to be useful in consequence of a change in circumstances, in that case the laws were for the time being just when they were useful for the mutual association of the citizens, and subsequently ceased to be just when they ceased to be useful. 39. He who best knew how to meet fear of external foes made into one family all the creatures he could; and those he could not, he at any rate did not treat as aliens; and where he found even this impossible, he avoided all association, and, so far as was useful, kept them at a distance. 40. Those who were best able to provide themselves with the means of security against their neighbors, being thus in possession of the surest guarantee, passed the most agreeable life in each other's society; and their enjoyment of the fullest intimacy was such that, if one of them died before his time, the survivors did not mourn his death as if it called for sympathy."

Monday, February 13, 2006

Fuckin' Las Vegas

I am sick of this town. It makes me, the nastiest, freakiest person I know, feel unclean. I am sick of its vice and corruption. There are vices that I love. I love sex for instance. I hate the sex industry. I am sick of the strip clubs and their endless stream of drugs and money and prostitution. I am sick of people I know and love working at these places and losing themselves in that inexorable tide of filth. As a visitor who neither knows nor cares about any of the people in these places they are fun. But I know the bouncers. Many of them are fighters. So, I get to hear about their steroid abuse, their addiction to pain pills, their alcoholism, how they take money and sexual favors to turn their backs while the girls at the club make extra money through prostitution. I get to know the few girls that are not drug addicted whores and watch as they too slowly get caught up in it and wind up sniffing drugs, or popping pills, or at the very least relying more and more on alcohol to get them through their shift. I watch them search for their future husband among their patrons who see them only as sex objects. I watch their lives turn to shit. I left San Francisco because it was too permissive. I didn't want my son growing up in a place where drug abuse was viewed so casually. After watching this city grow for the last eight years it is now worse than what I left behind. People at the gym talk about steroids as if it was just a normal part of working out. They buy and sell it right in front of me and then celebrate the physiques they cheated to acquire. Fighters talk about popping Loritab as if it was the thing to do and laugh at me like I'm just some kind of square when I yell at them about it and tell them how it is fucking up their lives and their careers. I am fucking sick of it. It sickens me that some of the same men who have the courage to step into the ring and fight some of the toughest men in the world don't have the courage to face life without drugs and alcohol. It sickens me that after all the stories everyone hears about top ranked fighters ruining their career by partying too hard or getting hooked on pain pills or cocaine that there are still idiots dumb enough to risk it. That they can't see themselves traveling down the same path. I am speechless when I hear them say things like, "I can stop anytime I want to. I'm strong enough to handle it. Only weak-minded people get addicted" as they pop pills and get drunk night after night. Newsflash: only weak-minded people take the shit in the first place. Pussies get high because that's the only way they can face life. Cowards get high to avoid coping with disappointment, failure, stress, pain, misery, even boredom. Drug addicts are idiots, cowards, and just straight up pussies and I'm sick of them all and this town is full of them. I am sick of lazy, stupid, weak people. I'm not going to go into some long explanation of how a real man should handle life. You all know and it isn't by crawling inside a bottle or popping a pill. I'm not going to go into how a real strong woman should cope with her problems. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that it ain't by getting high and selling pussy. This isn't some philosophical debate on how people should conduct themselves when times get hard. It should not need to be. When times get hard you fight with all that you are. You don't give in and you don't bow down. You don't belly up to the bar and start crying "Why me?" You don't try to hide from your problems in a narcotic fugue because every idiot knows that only makes it worse. It's not necessary for me to say these things because everyone knows them. The stripper who selling pussy on the side to support the drug habit she acquired to help her cope with her own disgrace over her lifestyle knows she's wrong. She knows she's fucking up her life. The bouncer who starts popping pills to help him stay up all night or to mask the pain in his body from fighting or training all day knows he's wrong no matter what he tells himself. It isn't necessary for me to tell them what they already know. If they won't listen to themselves they aren't going to listen to me. This is just a rant pure and simple. I just wanted to voice my utter disdain for this sick corrupt little town. No one reads hear. There is no art here. No theater. No dance. No symphony. Not even a fucking museum. No one seems to think here at all except about how best to fuck up their lives or the lives of others. Las Vegas is an intellectual wasteland. This town disgusts me. Fuck Las Vegas. Sometimes I wish the Christian extremists were right and Elohim would send his angel of death with his flaming sword to turn the entire city into a ball of fire or a pillar of salt or the four horsemen of the apocalypse would trample all the drunks, hookers, and drug addicts under their hooves or whatever the hell the great overseer in the sky is supposed to do to places like this. Maybe I'll just start hanging out with Mormons.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

No Respect

This past weekend I sat outside an octagon cage watching a man that I have trained for the past three years, a man who has eaten at my table, and whose table I have eaten at, who's held my child in his arms and whose children I have held, get bloodied and beaten. It was perhaps the hardest thing I have ever had to witness. What's worse is that now after the beating and public humiliation he must endure the speculation from everyone about his future, the doubts running through his own head, and the passing of blame from himself to others and from others to him. He's being blamed for not pushing himself hard enough. He's blaming others for not pushing him hard enough. And we are all sitting around wondering what the hell happened to our once invincible prodigy. It will be interesting to see what type of fighter he becomes after this lost. If it will make him stronger or destroy him utterly. It is a hard rode ahead and one that only other fighters understand. Some people are asking why he didn't get right back into the gym after losing the fight. Obviously he has things he needs to work on. Why is he taking a week off? The why is simple. People are vicious self-centered leeches and going back amongst that voracious pool of sharks (forgive the mixed metaphor) after such a tragic loss is difficult. The spirit and the ego need time to heal before he can face the "I told you so"s and those humiliating looks of pity and the even more humiliating looks of disgust on the faces of those who believed in him. A fighter knows when he has failed to realize his potential and it is a hard reality to face. It will take him some time to make his peace with the man in the mirror and only then will he find the strength to face the idiots without. I know because I have gone through this myself. Almost ten years ago I stood on a similar stage in front of 55,000 people, fighting with every ounce of my waning strength to hold onto my dream of being a world champion. As I took knee after knee to my gut before finally dropping to the canvas, unable to rise, with one round left to go in a world title fight in Japan, all I could think about were the people I was letting down. As I sat in my hotel room after the fight all I could think about were all the other fighters training at my camp who looked up to me and who had faith in me and how dissapointed they would all be. The last thing I wanted was to face them again and see thier hurt faces. I didn't want anyone to pat me on the back and tell me how I did my best and how everything was going to be alright. I didn't want to think about what happened in the fight. I wanted to pretend it never happened. I wanted to pretend I wasn't a fighter. I wanted to go back and erase that lost as if it never happened, to go back and do all the things that would have turned that loss into a victory. Last Saturday night felt just like that. Only this time I felt even more helpless.

The night before the fight another friend of mine, who is also a fighter, called me up to get the inside scoop on how my fighter looked in training because he was a 300 to 1 favorite and he wanted to know if he should bet on the other guy and make some quick money. He called me up at eleven o'clock at night because he'd heard that my guy hadn't fully recovered from his injuries and that he was out of shape. He was trying to get me to give up inside information on my fighter so that he could make a fast buck. I didn't tell him anything and I hung up the phone wondering what the hell kind of people I had associated myself with. The next night I came home after seeing my fighter off to the hospital and reassuring his wife that everything would be okay to find a post on a messageboard about the fight in which the poster took glee in the fact that my fighter had gotten bloodied and beaten. Not because he knew my fighter or particularly disliked him, but just because it was a bloody fight and my guy had lost. I know that it's that type of sport and the whole reason people watch it is to see two guys pummel each other senseless. But knowing the fighter who is on the receiving end of that beating, having been the fighter on the receiving end of a few beatings, I am shocked at the complete lack of respect and compassion shown towards these brave athletes who risk their lives for your amusement. In Japan the fans celebrate both the winner and the loser equally. They recognize the rare courage it takes to walk into the ring and face someone of equal size, strength, and ability who has been training for months to beat you within an inch of your life. They understand that even the loser in these contests is a hero. Anyone who has never taken that long walk to the ring, fighting the doubts in his head, the butterflies in his stomach, and the fear in his heart to get in there and throwdown with some of the toughest fighters in the world has no right to denigrate those who have shown such bravery even when they come up short. I remember how disappointed I was after I turned pro and realized that the sport I loved was now my job. Now, I was a financial investment. I was a piece of meat that the promoters, managers, fans, and even my own trainer, friends, and family fed off of. I was a meal ticket now. Now my friends weren't there to see me because they supported me and loved to watch me fight but because they had money riding on me or just so that they could say they were friends with a real fighter. Even I was no longer fighting for the love of the sport but to pay bills and win more fans and even more women. It was a miserable feeling and after a while I began to hate what I was doing. So I retired. I had that same feeling again as I watched my fighter fall Saturday night. I watched my cut of his purse which would have increased with a win decrease in an instant. I watched future big money fights slip from our grasp and for a moment I started to think about how I was going to pay for my new house or my trip to San Francisco to attend the WHC or my trip back to Philadelphia to visit my family and I almost forgot that the man whose baby daughter I was bouncing on my knee the night before was being brutalized in front of thousands of viewers. I almost forgot and I was ashamed for that moment. I guess I shouldn't expect the casual fan to feel any shame for cheering the destruction of a man. That is, after all, what the sport is about. The problem is of course that I am a fighter myself and so I know what it feels like when the spotlight is no longer on you and all those people who were chanting your name one minute are now laughing about your loss over a cold beer. I know what it feels like when all those people who wanted you to wear their t-shirts and sponsor their products are gone. When no one is asking you for your autograph anymore and all the other fighters you once called your friend no longer return your calls. When even your trainers and coaches turn their back on you and start looking towards other fighters in your camp to fill the void your failure has left in their championship stable. I know what this feels like and so I am perhaps a little sensitive. I am also this man's friend and I know that he has bills to pay and children to feed and people who look up to him that he perhaps feels he has let down. I know that he thinks he has let his fans down and disgraced himself or me or his other coaches or his gym. But I also know that it is just a loss and unlike the idiots who sit on their couches cheering or jeering as he sweats and bleeds for them, he will step into the ring again and he will taste victory again. Still I have to ask, what kind of people are we that we so callously ridicule those warriors we once called our heroes, that we should judge those who take the risks others fear to take, that we fail to see ourselves in our fellow humans once they step into an octagon and start throwing leather? What are we that we only think of our own disappointments and perhaps how his loss will reflect on us as a man lay broken before us reaching out for our help? What are we that we can so easily forget our own humanity and the humanity of others, reducing them in our minds to trained animals fighting for our amusement and economic gain? I love the fight game despite all its faults, its lack of compassion, its violence, egotism, corruption and greed. Still, at times I wonder if the whole thing should just be abolished. Not because of the violence. Not because people get physically hurt or killed and not even for the mental stress that is put on the fighters and their friends and families. Not because of pugilistic dementia or the economic ruin that seems to proceed every successful fight career with scant few exceptions. I sometimes think it should be abolished because of what it does to the fans. I think it should be abolished because the fans don't appreciate it enough. Because they don't deserve our blood, sweat, and tears no matter how much they paid for it on Pay-per-view or how much they plunked down for front row seats at the arena. Because no matter how hard I have struck an opponent in the ring I have never done as much damage as those who once supported that fighter who then turned their backs on him after his head hit the canvas and his championship belt was placed around my waist. I at least respected him.