Capricorn (December 22nd-January 19th)
It’s the introspection season, Capricorn. I encourage you to write copiously in a journal. Here are several themes it would be fruitful to explore:

  1. Your most amazing qualities and your worst qualities.
  2. The hundred things you want to accomplish in the next 30 years.
  3. Your bitter complaints, horrendous pain, and lost dreams.
  4. Everything you love and everything that’s beautiful and everything that works.

In addition to writing your heart out and your ass off, paste in cut out pictures from magazines, draw pictures, and ask friends to write messages to you.

-Rob Brezsney, Free Will Astrology

Astrology seems as silly to me as numerology: Yet if a horoscope can help someone live a thoughtful life, then how bad can it be? But horoscopes often seem as targeted “to you” as a wal-mart ad. Every horoscope fits everyone! However this particular eccentric horoscope felt like it was written aimed right at me.

So in the spirit of question #1, I have a confession to make.

I am a MasoHedonist.

I very recently learned this term, and love it. This amalagam of Hedonist and Sadomasochist describes individuals who find great pleasure and even personal meaning while focusing on activities that many would find difficult & painful, and often NUTS. As Lance says: “Pleasure? naw… I do this for the PAIN!”

Today is a perfect example of this syndrome in action: I am supposed to be resting, not working out. The independent web design business has been THRIVING recently, and I could easily be spending 12 hours a day plinking away on my laptop.

I had gotten a brief & boring morning workout in, and took the dog for a walk. But there was something gnawing at me, something undone about the day. I was restless & in a mood as I shuffled HTML around. I had not challenged myself athletically for weeks. It was roughly 4:15pm, it was chilly outside, spits of rain coming down. Then this idea avalanches into my head,


I fought this idea for about 5 minutes. I really did, but it was useless to resist such an appealing invitation to MasoHedonism. Many athletes know the irresistible appeal of crazy ideas like this.

Now 25 miles is not too far for an experienced cyclist. But add in a steady cold pouring rain, dense rush hour traffic, the need to keep the speed very high, and psycho Utah drivers, that adds to the difficulty factor.

Oh yeah, I also rode my track bike too, so I only had one gear to mash or spin the whole way (I do have a front brake on my fixie, I am nuts, but not crazy).

The interesting part is, I was completely content with every moment of the ride, even when the rain got quite heavy & the temperature dropped 20 degrees. I was at peace skipping like a stone through lanes of growling traffic, being hyper vigilant for rain-filled potholes, gravel, & ice slick manhole covers.

My hands turned from 5 digit precision instruments into frozen handlebar claws, my arms & calves began to cramp in the cold, I could feel the difference between my cold skin and molten core, it was wonderful.

The complete roadmap of my muscle fibers was illuminated like a Christmas tree, pain made me happier and aware of every joint & piston of this body I live in. It made me more determined to ride as hard as I could, to make each moment of speed perfect. And it was.

My glasses were fogged & rain spattered, but I saw & felt my life as clearly as the SUV’s I danced through traffic with.

If I could bottle and sell these feelings, I would be a rich man, not merely wealthy in sensation & experience. Determination mixed with extreme sensation is fulfilling and addicting. When I rolled into the parking lot of Jessica’s work, I was practically singing with joy, singing through a face covered in road grit.

I think this is my most amazing quality and my worst quality.

Worst quality? On sober reflection this ride was dangerous, and I am not sure if I can ever stop challenging myself like this (the activity is just the medium for this impulse, it’s incidental that I bike and skate). Sacrificing other aspects of life for MasoHedonism is also questionable in some social circles, and it is something I have consistently done my whole life. It makes sense when you can point at something, like Olympic trials, but I do this for fundamentally other reasons.

Maybe I should have kept at my laptop all day, kept working till my eyeballs popped out of my head, but I dove outdoors, towards that which completes me in a fundamental way.

Am I crazy? or is the world full of closet MasoHedonists? does this little online journal have a high percentage of MasoHedonist readers? I suspect it might….. Any other moments out there worth sharing?

9 Responses to “MasoHedonisim”

  1. The worm cans will be busting open now you crazy fool!!!! Hahahaha!

    Never, ever question the “zest” for life…it’s a reality check that everyone should have. Better to have frozen eyeballs from exertion than them falling out of your head from exhaustion!

    I checked out that horoscope web site…I myself am a deep reflecting Scorpio…and if this wasn’t written for me I don’t know who!!!

    “From the powers-that-be, you have been authorized to basically just sit around and do nothing this week. Are you ready to enjoy the pleasures of laziness & dissapation, Scorpio? Do you feel overdue for an extended phase of vegging out? You can do so without incurring even a pinch of karmic debt. APRIL FOOL! The truth is that you now have so much physical energy and emotional stamina that you can be three times as intense as you’ve ever been before. That’s a good thing,since the universe will be working you three times as hard as usual.”

    Yes, I’m ready to take some leisure time off..enjoy a beer or two and eat some cheese and popcorn! OUCH! I just felt that pinch to pay up! Damn those cosmic gods! I heard you before you had to pinch me…I only took 3 days off…I’ve been running hard mileage on my treadmill, since my bike is being tuned up. I did weights last night…I needed to feel the pain. So…nnaah-nnaah *sticking tongue out*.
    But that last part? Crap…I thought last year’s diet of brussell sprouts was hard to swallow…now I have to eat three times as many?

    Yes, I’m a closet MasoHedonist. Where do I pick up my plate and spoon? It’s chow time!!!

  2. So here’s the 25,000 dollar question to me: Did you call Jess before you left?

  3. nope, I did not call…

    jess works crazy hard, especially at the end of the day, and is always shuffling fast between rooms with clients & sick annimals, so she is not reachable..

    I can get a note to her if I call the receptionist, or if there was an emergency, I could talk to her, but I rode really fast, and made it there on time…

  4. I just watched an episode of Boston Legal tonight where a case was made that a particular video game caused a massive rise in dopamine which they argued was addictive in the same way that crystal meth is. Young boy had a heart attack because he played the game for 36 straight hours without food or water or sleep. David Kelly the writer of the show tends to base his stories on real events.

    Could it be that those of you who do a sport with a large pain/exercise component have a similar addiction?

    However as your mother and a former long distance touring cyclist who knows the various routes between your house and Jesse’s practice, I shudder at the description of your ride. Couldn’t you just circle the oval on ice? Love mom

  5. I am NOT a masohedonist - and yet I look back at times that were severe physical challenges, often seriously unpleasant while they were happening, and feel a deep satisfaction for having done/survived whatever they were. There’s a trememdous reassurance, a kind of survival glee, to having the universe accept that your effort was enough, your strength acceptable; your endurance was rewarded with the gift of more days and years to live in.

    If I were Jess and had missed you, I’d have been mightily worried and pissed. Even without the missing part, it asks a lot to love a daredevil. At the same time, what better feeds into our drive to select the alpha male?

  6. Thank you Andrew for taking over the mantle of over training during a rest period that I left at the end of my racing days in Lake Placid. I now can rest assured that somewhere, somehow, you are carrying on the great legacy I was credited with in our little area! ( Actually I know you fight hard to rest when needed against your natural feeling and needs for training - your successes show it! ). But like any enabler, I must urge you….go ahead, go for a ride….it’s just active rest!

    Cheers Andrew! Good luck with the increasing business and the rest!


  7. I am honored by the comment from one of the GREAT Zen masters of MasoHedonism EVER!!!

    I know some INSANE stories about John Dimon!!

    I think he won the Placid-Roubaix mountain bike race like 6 times, and FYI, that is like a 10 hour off road race over several HUGE mountains, often in several feet of snow on truck carved logging trails crisscrossed 2 foot deep frozen tire ruts!!! (make a tiny mistake=faceplant)!!

    and this is AFTER he retired from serious training for his shot at the Olympics!!!

    John!! you are my hero!!

  8. What a wonderful description of your ride and what you think.

    But now we all have to tell our moms we don’t do this sort of thing on a regular basis!

    Really, though, I don’t think I’m a masohedonist. I like to go fast and put a lot of effort into it, but I usually don’t even think about pain (my legs don’t burn while they’re moving) and generally avoid danger. It’s an interesting question because where should I draw a line between a “hard” workout and actually suffering? I definitely like to get tired doing workouts, and the “good” workouts are the ones just about everyone else thinks are miserable. But…for example, if I skate 500s with 700 rest, I usually get a headache (from standing up too much), feel too cold, and get frustrated with my lack of acceleration, so I don’t enjoy it. If I do 500s with 300 rest instead, that might seem harder because there’s less rest, but those are fun. I could do those for hours…I could also do low walks for hours…and I don’t like resting on weekends, mondays, tuesdays, wednesdays…

    And there was that GREAT ride in Ann Arbor with falling tree branches…. (My mom already knows about that.)

    But there’s no pain involved. Hmm. Good question.

  9. hi andrew,
    It’s not something special, I bought myself a pair of rollers from JD last Sunday and since I raced 3 times in 3 diferent days a marathon.
    So keep the good work!!!

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