“You can not enter any world for which you do not have the language.”
– Ludwig Wittgenstein
When we decide to use certain terms in CrossFit, we make an implicit agreement that we share an understanding of those terms’ meanings in the context of the physical world.
A snatch looks like this
A thruster means this
And when I tell you, without warning, that we are about to do the workout Fran, we all immediately feel like this
But a snatch might also look like this
Or even this
And sometimes when we hear we are doing Fran, we might actually feel more like this
In other words, the phenomenological reality of these terms presents in a variety of ways. However, at each instance, that presentation is measurable, observable, and repeatable. This consistency of experience creates a shared perception of the world and that shared perception means we don’t have to waste time arguing over a term’s meaning because we each have, at some point or another, experienced it as the same physical reality as others around us.
Understanding through shared suffering? Yeah, I like that.
In the context of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s contributions to the Philosophy of Language during the early to mid-20th century, it is this shared understanding of our suffering as manifested in our language that innately makes us a community. And because we see ourselves as a living, breathing community of malleable organic beings, it makes our language mutable in the service of our community’s ever changing needs.
It’s what also makes this conversation about Rx and Scaled so interesting because despite our willingness to accept changes to our language due to the varying experiences we have within the gym, when it comes to Rx and Scaled, most people see their relationship as uniquely finite and fixed.
Ironically, athletes willingly accept the infinite variations of movements and workout structures but will balk when coaches won’t offer definitively rigid answers in regards to what makes something Rx or Scaled. I fear that we have created a false duality in regards to Rx and Scaled and that athletes think that obtaining the artificial designation of Rx over Scaled will reveal some metaphysical enlightenment or Platonic truth in regards to their fitness.
Spoiler alert: there is no truth.
There is simply the unknown and unknowable of life and our ability to constantly improve our work capacity better prepares us to exist in a physical world that holds no regard for our desire to be identified as Rx or Scaled.
Bottom line, the terms Rx and Scaled mean absolutely nothing without first establishing their usefulness for YOU in understanding their importance to YOUR individual fitness goals.
For some, Rx and Scaled expresses a language game in the pursuit of social acceptance. For others, they express some artificial hierarchy of worth. And for even a larger majority, they are of no concern.
Whatever those words mean to any of us, a Wittgensteinian approach to the debate would begin by pointing out that Rx and Scaled are words that have different meanings in the context of different times of your fitness journey, for different workouts, at different locations, and in different ways, as long as they continue to serve your purposes at those times and places of those workouts.
We must remember that words have usefulness when placed in the appropriate context and only when in context and not due to some underlying referential ideal or universal truth. Rx and Scaled mean nothing if they fail to serve your purposes in obtaining an intended physical stimulus.
The more that we return to the original prescription of CrossFit – constantly varied, functional movements, done at high intensity, the more likely we are to disentangle ourselves from the artificial emotional angst we associate with these somewhat powerless terms.
Let go of the need for the arbitrary truth of Rx and Scaled and be willing to redefine what those mean to you. We will keep using them within our shared language, but let’s be a little bit more courageous in our willingness to expand our phenomenological experience of what that language actually means.
See you on the Creek and don’t forget your dictionaries.