Wikipedia: Méduse was a 40-gun Pallas-class frigate of the French Navy, launched in 1810. She took part in the Napoleonic Wars during the late stages of the Mauritius campaign of 1809–1811 and in raids in the Caribbean.
In 1816, following the Bourbon Restoration, Méduse was armed en flûte to ferry French officials to the port of Saint-Louis, in Senegal, to formally re-establish French occupation of the colony under the terms of the First Peace of Paris. Through inept navigation by her captain, an incompetent émigré naval officer who was given command for political reasons, Méduse struck the Bank of Arguin off the coast of present-day Mauritania and became a total loss.
Most of the 400 passengers on board evacuated, with 151 men forced to take refuge on an improvised raft towed by the frigate’s launches. The towing proved impractical, however, and the boats soon abandoned the raft and its passengers in the open ocean. Without any means of navigating to shore, the situation aboard the raft rapidly turned disastrous. Dozens were washed into the sea by a storm, while others, drunk from wine, rebelled and were killed by officers. When supplies ran low, several injured men were thrown into the sea, and some of the survivors resorted to cannibalism. After 13 days at sea, the raft was discovered with only 15 men still alive.
Last summer I read the full account of this horrible incident as written by the survivors. It is a vivid lesson on what can happen when we let our fear run amok and we turn on one another rather than working together for our mutual survival. Cast adrift with meager rations on a raft roughly 2000 square feet in size, 150 people facing a life or death struggle let panic for their desperate situation drive a wedge between them. Blame, accusations, disagreements and distrust erupted into violence only hours into their ill-fated journey. People were murdered and maimed by axe, pushed overboard to drown or committed suicide to avoid the violence. When a storm hit them violence broke out again as the stronger fought to reach the safety of the raft’s centre. The weakest were shoved to the raft’s edges where they were washed into the see by the waves. By day two the survivors turned to eating the flesh of the dead. Day two mind you! By day 12 friend turned upon friend as water rations ran low and the decision was made to execute the weakest and most badly injured who were least likely to survive in order to preserve the water supply for the healthiest few among them. Of the 15 “survivors” 7 more died after rescue of their wounds and illnesses.
Greg Glassman has often referred to CrossFit a life boat in a sea of chronic disease. And CrossFit Empower just happens to be the same size as the Medusa’s ill-fated raft. Supporting almost as many people. As “Never Split the Difference” author Chris Voss explains: “Neurologically, when faced with situations like this the fight-or-flight mechanism of the reptilian brain or the emotions in the limbic system overwhelm the rational part of our mind, the neocortex, leading us to overreact in an impulsive, instinctive way.” But I would like to believe that my companions on the Empower raft are too strong of spirit and character to let panic overwhelm their better judgment. I’d like to believe that the care we have for one another will lead us to band together in times of trouble to work toward the common good. As Arrow recently posted: “Good times build confidence. Bad times build character.” I’d say that bad times reveal character. Our character as individuals and the character of our community.
Thank you to members who have gone out of their way to express their support! Unwelcome as it is, COVID-19 offers us an opportunity to demonstrate our character. To prove who we will become and how we will treat each other in times of distress. These are difficult times and will only become more challenging in the coming weeks. Empower members who work with at-risk communities or for essential services are now required to stay away from the gym or other public places where they risk transmission. Other members with loved ones in the at-risk population have had to make the responsible decision to remove themselves from group classes for the time being. Those away on spring break in affected areas now face a 14-day quarantine period away from the gym upon their return. Personally, Sunghee’s film productions have all been shut down leaving our family without an income and creating a great deal of financial uncertainty for our family. In the short term, it is easy to feed into the fear and uncertainty and the feeling that our community has been forcibly fractured by Coronavirus. Will we give in to our fears or allow these circumstances to bring out our better natures? How we react to the threat is up to us.
While gyms like Ben Bergeron’s CrossFit New England have elected to close for weeks or a month, we at Empower have elected to stay open for as long as we can. We are committed to continuing our programming and sharing on Facebook and Instagram versions of the workout that our absent members can do outside the gym. When we have enough Empower members forced by quarantine or other circumstances to train away from the gym we hope to coordinate some outdoor WODs where we can train within sight and shouting distance of one another while maintaining appropriate social distance to avoid transmission. It might not be ideal but it could be fun. A lot of fun. Like a fitness field trip! Imagine the possibilities.
I know many of you would feel better if I told you the gym is a safe place to train without having to worry about transmission. But though we’re taking every measure we can to reduce transmission risk, to tell you it is safe would be a disservice. We sweat together, froth at the mouth side-by-side and are in close proximity every workout. And there are items like climbing ropes that can never be cleaned. Truth is that until a vaccine arrives or a significant percentage of the population has developed immunity to COVID-19 via exposure, no public space will be completely safe.
Yesterday we bought out Fitness Town’s supply of hand chalk so that we can provide you with your own block of chalk or your own roll of tape for $5 apiece. Limit 1 block and 1 roll of tape per person please! We also put together a very limited supply of COVID Kits for purchase for $20 which include a block of chalk, a roll of tape, a new dry erase marker and a soap-washed whiteboard on loan from Shades until we can purchase new ones, all in a convenient carrying case that you can personalize with stickers. Each kit cost about $25 to assemble (not including the whiteboards which are on temporary loan). There are 8 available kits but when they sell out you can make your own. No reason why we can’t have a little fun while taking precautions! Paul Tylla shared this at-home workout option:
It made me happy to see the great turn out to Saturday’s classes. As Whisper said, “You can’t avoid COVID.” The best we can do is slow it down. Your best defense is a strong immune system. Mr. Fantastic added that the serious cases reported in younger populations generally involved underlying health issues: high blood pressure, obesity, smoking or the use of NSAIDs (Advil, aspirin, ibuprofen, etc) so if you must use pain-relief medications please choose Tylenol. As much as I love seeing all of you, I’d be remiss if I didn’t warn you that because I spend long days in the gym working with lots of different people, whether or not I get sick, I am the most likely member of our community to be exposed to the virus. It is a risk I am willing to take to continue serving you but if you’re worried about transmission I am probably the person you most want to avoid! Crusher shared this great link that illustrates the effectiveness of social distancing versus enforced quarantine. It’s sobering and visually compelling.
The Stoic philosophers encourage us to expect the worst and celebrate the best. In this spirit we will keep classes running as long as you keep coming. If you feel the need to avoid the gym for the sake of a loved one, we fully understand and support you. Keep training from home and stay in contact just like Method Man doing his at-home Angie. Let us know how we can continue to serve you through this new adventure. As unwelcome as it is COVID offers us an opportunity to redefine ourselves as a community and to prove our love and commitment to one another.
Today’s At-Home WOD: SQT
200m Shuttle run (50m lengths)
This is a great one to do outdoors on a sunny day like today. For the ground to overhead you can use a back pack, a broomstick or a case of toilet paper (I know you’ve got one!)
If you’re doing this indoors beware of low ceilings and light fixtures. Substitute 10 burpees for the shuttle run. Enjoy!