I’m not a Crossfitter, but I am a huge fan of Kelly Starrett (founder of San Francisco Crossfit and Mobility WOD
and author of Becoming a Supple Leopard
(which, along with Teach Like A Champion,
should win an award for having one of the worst possible titles for an otherwise amazing book)) and it’s from him that I’ve been considering both the overall belief that all humans should be able to move well and perform basic maintenance on themselves as well as the concept of the “Goat” as we head into 2018.
In the mobility world, a “Goat” is an area of personal physical restriction (e.g. restricted hips, tight ankles) that prevents you from being able to perform basic physical movements (e.g. squatting all the way down) and restricts your ability to move freely and without pain.
Of course, as Urban Dictionary tells us
, G.O.A.T. is also an acronym for the “Greatest Of All Time.” And it’s the weird confluence of these two concepts that is central to how I began approaching some of my reading this year.
Proclaiming myself to be an “omnivorous” reader is, I think, moderately fair, but it doesn’t mean that I read everything. In fact, as a reader, I’ve been considering the fact that I have some literary goats of my own…and many of these personal goats are also considered by some people to be, well, literary G.O.A.T.s.
Each of these are books I’ve tried and failed to finish. I’ve read the first few chapters of Moby Dick over fifty times. I own copies of each of these titles, and while I hit up the “New Releases” section of the library, there they sit on my bookshelves, silently scoffing at the notion that I read widely and voraciously.
Every time that I’ve muscled my way through one of my personal literary goats (e.g. Mrs. Dalloway, Great Expectations, As I Lay Dying) I’ve appreciated having done so–and I’ve recognized why others consider those books G.O.A.T.s, even if they’d never make it into my Top 10, even if there was nothing but a sense of guilt impelling me to turn the pages.
I’m sure a part of my own sense of guilt at not having finished some of these classics is that, on some level as an English major and former English teacher, I’m sort of supposed
to have read these things already. But there’s something larger than that at stake for me, personally. In the end, I keep coming back to a quote from an essay by Mark Edmundson in his wonderful book Why Teach:
“The reason to read Blake and Dickinson and Freud and Dickens is not to become more cultivated or more articulate or to be someone who, at a cocktail party is never embarrassed (or can embarrass others). The best reason to read them is to see if they know you better than you know yourself.”
This is all to say that I’m hereby declaring 2018 my own personal “Year of the GOAT” and will be spending each month reading (or at least attempting to read) one title from my own personal stable. I’ll let you all know ahead of time which title I’m choosing in case you’d like to weigh in on why you consider that book a G.O.A.T. or in case you’d like to join me because that work is one of your own personal Goats.