Most of the time I try not to notice, but when I actually stop think about it, I find myself making elaborate conversions. A 50lb bag of flour or sugar or rice is something you move with a certain degree of deliberateness. You do your best not to carry it for any longer than you need to get it from one resting-place to another. There is a grunt, a heave over a shoulder, and then a release as it falls into its new place, whether it be in your shopping cart or in its designated place as reservoir of consumables.
A 60lb pack for hiking will contain everything you need for a week-long trek in the mountains. In it, you will find a sleeping bag and pad, a tent, a camp stove, a pot, utensils, a few pounds of food, a couple more pounds of emergency rations, and a water filter. There will be thermal underwear (top and bottom), two pairs of socks, fleece pants and jacket, a hat, gloves, rain shell (top and bottom), camp shoes, and quite possibly your favorite cotton shirt. You will most likely also carry sun-block, a first aide kit, a map and compass, a knife, some cord, a candle, matches, a toothbrush, and quite possibly sunglasses, a small pair of binoculars, a camera and some film. I’m forgetting things, but you get the idea. As you’re going up hills, it’s large enough for you to notice a distinct pull backwards, and you will lean forward to compensate for the extra drag that places an additional 600lbs of pressure on your poor knees for every 10 steps you take.
Because of the nature of body fat, though, liquid conversions serve best here. Envision how cumbersome ten 1-gallon jugs filled with milk are. Somehow, I manage to live with strapping on this unlikely load and lugging them around day after day. I lumber, my unlikely load sloshing about in its containers until I find a place to sit or recline. Even then, I am not free of it. Some unseen assistance piles the load atop me so I can’t forget that the weight of the world is, in effect, too much with me.
I’m not sure where it all came from. I know that it wasn’t too long ago that bicycling twenty miles was an amusing diversion, or that bounding up stairs was barely noticeable as movement. I had clothes that fit well and never took note of the uncomfortable sensation of my inner thighs rubbing together. I was 40lbs lighter, which means that I was never fully fit. Of course, I also wasn’t out of shape. There’s an amusing term: out of shape. A body distorted, rearranged by an image in a funhouse mirror and made into reality.
Why don’t I notice this?
The fact is that I have an incredibly distorted sense of my size. In my head, I’m much smaller that I really am. I notice that I am a large man, even when I am in shape randomly. I’ll be sitting next to my housemate at the counter of the Paul Revere Diner and, catching our reflections in the mirror on the opposite wall, I notice just how broad my shoulders are in comparison to his. I will meet a friend on the street and realize that his hand disappears in my grasp when I shake it.
Sifu Wu chuckled at me when I suggested that I wanted to learn the spear. The spear is a weapon for a much smaller man, he said, When the time comes, we’ll teach you the kwan dao.
Incidentally, the kwan dao of legend was a weapon crafted entirely of iron that is said to have weighed in the realm of 60-70lbs (according to one source... I've seen references to 100 and 200lb weapons as well). This is certainly reflective of a tendency towards superlative that's found in the stories about the legendary warriors of the Three Kingdoms, but it is a curious coincidence.