The Iron- by Henry Rollins

Written by Henry Rollins, “The Iron” is my FAVORITE of all his short stories. I think all men should read it. This article appeared in Details Magazine in 94. But if you wanna be one of the cool kids you’ll read it as it appears in the book. Do yourself a favor and get “The Portable Henry Rollins”. The selections from “Black coffee blues” and “Solipsist” are gold. This post goes out to Bronan . Seriously, if you have testicles that have descended, you NEED to read this.
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I believe that the definition of definition is reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself.Completely.When I was young I had no sense of myself. All I was, was a product of all the fear and humiliation I suffered. Fear of my parents. The humiliation of teachers calling me “garbage can” and telling me I’d be mowing lawns for a living. And the very real terror of my fellow students. I was threatened and beaten up for the color of my skin and my size. I was skinny and clumsy, and when others would tease me I didn’t run home crying, wondering why.I knew all too well. I was there to be antagonized. In sports I was laughed at. A spaz. I was pretty good at boxing but only because the rage that filled my every waking moment made me wild and unpredictable. I fought with some strange fury. The other boys thought I was crazy.I hated myself all the time.

As stupid at it seems now, I wanted to talk like them, dress like them, carry myself with the ease of knowing that I wasn’t going to get pounded in the hallway between classes. Years passed and I learned to keep it all inside. I only talked to a few boys in my grade. Other losers. Some of them are to this day the greatest people I have ever known. Hang out with a guy who has had his head flushed down a toilet a few times, treat him with respect, and you’ll find a faithful friend forever. But even with friends, school sucked. Teachers gave me hard time. I didn’t think much of them either.

Then came Mr. Pepperman, my advisor. He was a powerfully built Vietnam veteran, and he was scary. No one ever talked out of turn in his class. Once one kid did and Mr. P. lifted him off the ground and pinned him to the blackboard. Mr. P. could see that I was in bad shape, and one Friday in October he asked me if I had ever worked out with weights. I told him no.

He told me that I was going to take some of the money that I had saved and buy a hundred-pound set of weights at Sears. As I left his office, I started to think of things I would say to him on Monday when he asked about the weights that I was not going to buy. Still, it made me feel special. My father never really got that close to caring. On Saturday I bought the weights, but I couldn’t even drag them to my mom’s car. An attendant laughed at me as he put them on a dolly.

Monday came and I was called into Mr. P.’s office after school. He said that he was going to show me how to work out. He was going to put me on a program and start hitting me in the solar plexus in the hallway when I wasn’t looking. When I could take the punch we would know that we were getting somewhere. At no time was I to look at myself in the mirror or tell anyone at school what I was doing. In the gym he showed me ten basic exercises. I paid more attention than I ever did in any of my classes. I didn’t want to blow it. I went home that night and started right in.

Weeks passed, and every once in a while Mr. P. would give me a shot and drop me in the hallway, sending my books flying. The other students didn’t know what to think. More weeks passed, and I was steadily adding new weights to the bar. I could sense the power inside my body growing. I could feel it.

Right before Christmas break I was walking to class, and from out of nowhere Mr. Pepperman appeared and gave me a shot in the chest. I laughed and kept going. He said I could look at myself now. I got home and ran to the bathroom and pulled off my shirt. I saw a body, not just the shell that housed my stomach and my heart. My biceps bulged. My chest had definition. I felt strong. It was the first time I can remember having a sense of myself. I had done something and no one could ever take it away. You couldn’t say s–t to me.

It took me years to fully appreciate the value of the lessons I have learned from the Iron. I used to think that it was my adversary, that I was trying to lift that which does not want to be lifted. I was wrong. When the Iron doesn’t want to come off the mat, it’s the kindest thing it can do for you. If it flew up and went through the ceiling, it wouldn’t teach you anything. That’s the way the Iron talks to you. It tells you that the material you work with is that which you will come to resemble. That which you work against will always work against you.

It wasn’t until my late twenties that I learned that by working out I had given myself a great gift. I learned that nothing good comes without work and a certain amount of pain. When I finish a set that leaves me shaking, I know more about myself. When something gets bad, I know it can’t be as bad as that workout.

I used to fight the pain, but recently this became clear to me: pain is not my enemy; it is my call to greatness. But when dealing with the Iron, one must be careful to interpret the pain correctly. Most injuries involving the Iron come from ego. I once spent a few weeks lifting weight that my body wasn’t ready for and spent a few months not picking up anything heavier than a fork. Try to lift what you’re not prepared to and the Iron will teach you a little lesson in restraint and self-control.

I have never met a truly strong person who didn’t have self-respect. I think a lot of inwardly and outwardly directed contempt passes itself off as self-respect: the idea of raising yourself by stepping on someone’s shoulders instead of doing it yourself. When I see guys working out for cosmetic reasons, I see vanity exposing them in the worst way, as cartoon characters, billboards for imbalance and insecurity. Strength reveals itself through character. It is the difference between bouncers who get off strong-arming people and Mr.Pepperman.

Muscle mass does not always equal strength. Strength is kindness and sensitivity. Strength is understanding that your power is both physical and emotional. That it comes from the body and the mind. And the heart.

Yukio Mishima said that he could not entertain the idea of romance if he was not strong. Romance is such a strong and overwhelming passion, a weakened body cannot sustain it for long. I have some of my most romantic thoughts when I am with the Iron. Once I was in love with a woman. I thought about her the most when the pain from a workout was racing through my body.

Everything in me wanted her. So much so that sex was only a fraction of my total desire. It was the single most intense love I have ever felt, but she lived far away and I didn’t see her very often. Working out was a healthy way of dealing with the loneliness. To this day, when I work out I usually listen to ballads.

I prefer to work out alone.

It enables me to concentrate on the lessons that the Iron has for me. Learning about what you’re made of is always time well spent, and I have found no better teacher. The Iron had taught me how to live. Life is capable of driving you out of your mind. The way it all comes down these days, it’s some kind of miracle if you’re not insane. People have become separated from their bodies. They are no longer whole.

I see them move from their offices to their cars and on to their suburban homes. They stress out constantly, they lose sleep, they eat badly. And they behave badly. Their egos run wild; they become motivated by that which will eventually give them a massive stroke. They need the Iron Mind.

Through the years, I have combined meditation, action, and the Iron into a single strength. I believe that when the body is strong, the mind thinks strong thoughts. Time spent away from the Iron makes my mind degenerate. I wallow in a thick depression. My body shuts down my mind.

The Iron is the best antidepressant I have ever found. There is no better way to fight weakness than with strength. Once the mind and body have been awakened to their true potential, it’s impossible to turn back.

The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all kinds of talk, get told that you’re a god or a total bastard. The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds.

now….how about a little mood music. Rollins is singing in all these videos. the interview is him early in the black flag days.

Rollins OWNS this little shit-head. oh and the bass player at the begining is Rollins’ gf. watch how Rollins owns this kid. you want to watch a wolf in action….watch Henry posture on this kid. and look….this kid was being a DICK. most of you have no clue what kind of hell BF caught after they released “my war”. what Henry did here is what he always does- you push him, he pushed back.

for the manosphere-


33 Comments on “The Iron- by Henry Rollins”

  1. Love it. Rollins is pure gold.

  2. A teacher these days would get sent to jail for punching a kid in the chest. Great story.

  3. Songirl says:

    Inspirational story about becoming an integrated person with health that mirrors inner strength.
    J

  4. Bill says:

    Thanks, Danny. It’s always good to be reminded of The Truth now and then.

    I just forwarded your post to my nerdy daughter, who started college yesterday.

  5. Stingray says:

    Every boy needs a Mr. Pepperman. Someone who won’t give false praise and only expects the best. A man that boys want to work for and will give everything they’ve got just to receive that punch in the chest and walk away from it with their head held high. THAT is how confidence is built, not all this false praise kids get today where they ALL get a trophy from being on the team. Kids aren’t stupid and they need people who treat them like Mr. Pepperman. Fantastic story.

  6. Sis says:

    Great story, I love the politically incorrectness of the teacher, we need more male role models like him around today.
    Rollins has a crazy stage presence, it would be fun to watch his concerts, I don’t think I’d ever buy a CD though.
    Been checking out your blog, you are a fascinating person! 🙂

  7. Gnosis says:

    RE: “Rollins OWNS this little shit-head.”

    No questions about him owning the kid, however go back and watch the interview again. The kid was insecure, nervous and had no clue on where to start. Not only that, Rollins picked up immediately that he was suffering an identity crisis.

    Watch carefully and you’ll see that he wasn’t picking on the kid for the sake of bullying him into submission. Rollings didn’t use the interview to promote the band. IMHO, by asking the kid to define himself, to stand up for what he believed in. He was encouraging the boy to gather his gonads. He turned that interview into a self-help therapy session for the “reporter.”

    I hope the kid learned something that day.

  8. The Navy Corpsman says:

    Rollins never cared much about ‘the scene’, it was about the music and a message he was shoving down your throat, if you ever paid attention to it. It wasn’t about purity rings and self-masturbatory congratulations, it was honesty to oneself, it wasn’t about ego, it was about honesty to others, it wasn’t about fashionable fads or being different, it was about honesty to the world.

    Instead of ‘take me as I am’, punk is about ‘take me or leave me, I don’t give a damn’. Yeah, it’s standing for what you believe in, but more at the root, believe in yourself. There is a world of difference between ego driven arrogance and simple confidence in your own skin.

    I once read somewhere that emos and goths have the punk movement to thank for their existence. If I thought for one moment that this was true, I’d burn about 4000 vinyl records and CDs. Punk was, and is, unique in the history of music. While the rest of America and the UK were dancing to disco, snorting cocaine and living off daddy’s money, punks were pointing out war, famine and disease that still exists in the world. Rock music had degenerated into glamor seeking ego maniacal 20 minute guitar solos in a football stadium of 20,000 humans who often had no idea what band they were watching, nor the lyrics of their favorite song.

    “It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.” Most younger people now do not recall American Bandstand, but this was a common phrase used to rate-a-record back in the 60s and 70s on that show. In other words, the rater could care less about the message in the music, as long as it tingled the private parts into display on the dance floor.

    You can sit somewhere and self-analyze yourself into oblivion, and all that gets you is a prescription of anti-depressants. You can sit somewhere and decide the whole world hates you, and therefore you hate the whole world, and all that gets you is a prescription for tranks, or ten years in prison for assault. Or you can decide that all you have control over is your own thoughts, your own body, your own self, and decide that is all you really need to live. Everything else follows from that.

    “My War” was savaged by a lot of fans and critics, but I happened to be a pretty big fan of Tony Iommi, so I was completely at ease with the change of pace, particularly since it was four years after “Damaged”. A lot had happened in the years 1981-84, and while Black Flag was still playing gigs, there had been no new albums due to the legal disputes with their old label. But nothing stands still, least of all, music. The kid in the video was probably 12 when “Damaged” came out, and 15-16 in that interview, barely able to conceal his disappointment in the changes the band had made. Rollins might be trying to teach, but he also was not real tolerant of posers trying to ‘act punk’. Henry once said he had a lot of rage built up by the time he was 17, and a lot of that rage was at people who treated others like shit.

    And so we come full circle (jerk) to the place where honesty is now demanded from everyone else. I just don’t care much if you don’t like me, and I will feel free to let you know I don’t like you. At least I know I’m being honest, and if I sense your honesty, well, at least I can respect that.

    The Navy Corpsman

  9. The Navy Corpsman says:

    Like Henry, I got beat up a lot for the color of my skin (not white).

    The Navy Corpsman

  10. Marellus says:

    … a great post … a truly great post …

  11. Jacquie says:

    Thank you, Danny.

  12. […] Danny From 504 – Cajun Lobster Rolls, Lessons Learned, Yet Another Reason To Hate. . ., Flirting, You’re Doing It Right, Nuking A Princess In Japan, Closing A Ten. . ., A Young Man Needs A Hand, The Iron […]

  13. The Navy Corpsman says:

    Ki-tu’-wa, officially Keetoowah.

    In Tsalagi ᎠᏂᎩᏚᏩᎩ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ

    The Navy Corpsman

  14. That video where the Black Flag asshole is messing with Rollins as a young kid is hard to watch. Makes me want to go through the video to punch him. Is this guy still alive or did he OD?

    And Henry Rollins with his shirt off one word: YES!

  15. The Navy Corpsman says:

    Actually, it’s not funny at all, Danny. Your Grandfather most likely spoke a variant of Choctaw, which is one of the Five Civilized Tribes. I’d actually have to look it up, are the Houma federally recognized? Not that it matters a whole lot, but I seem to recall Louisiana recognizes your band as part of the Choctaw.

    Anyway, back to the languages. According to those linguists considered experts, Tsalagi and Muscogean (of which Choctaw is one) are completely different, yet they cannot explain why the sounds are all nearly the same. Sure the meanings are different, but the actual pronunciation is so similar, there has to be some ancient common source.

    I just now read that the Houma merged their tongue with French, which makes sense since that’s where the Acadian/Cajun settled, west of the Mississippi.

    I was taught by my Grandfather also, my father and mother having died when I was seven. I still recall those lessons taught in the back woods of Oklahoma as being the best time of my life, except for the birth of my sons. Not a care in the world, learning all the good plants and bad, how to read tracks, how to make a bow and arrows and hunt with them, and how to shoot a rifle, and hunt with it.

    I still have my Grandfathers’ bow, made by him just before he went to France in 1917.

    It’s a small world, that is certain!

    The Navy Corpsman

    • dannyfrom504 says:

      i was never taught the language, i don’t think he knew it. but he taught me to survive in the wild. how to hunt, to honor the kill. or to never kill an animal that wasn’t attacking you to that you didn’t plan on eating. and when i do make a kill, i must honor that brother or sister’s strength…..their sacrifice.

      and yes, i can’t explain how happy i am when i’m in the woods. i’m completely at ease. it’s funny how Natives are so instinctively aware in the forest. i notice EVERYTHING. my nose get’s 1000x’s more active in the forest.

      be well Brother.

      • The Navy Corpsman says:

        Heh… everything gets more active in the woods. It’s in the genes.

        Be well, always, and live well. I’m hoping all will be well especially for your people, with that damned storm bearing down on them.

        The Navy Corpsman


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