The Dark Satanic Mill – Recreation Gym, South Melbourne

A gym is like a gothic cathedral; everything from the architecture to the fittings to the music should conspire to project your energy upward. Training is a ritual experience. It’s a celebration of values though action.

I work at Goodlife Armadale – which has its challenges – but I never appreciated it properly until I had a look at a few other commercial gyms around the place. I will not even consider training in a gym if it doesn’t have natural light, windows and doors which open to allow actual air, a squat rack, and a rack of dumbbells that ascends to at least 50kgs.

Crossfit aficionados would dispute this, and rightly so; however, a rack of dumbbells of this nature denotes a serious, focused clientele. And in my opinion, regardless of what people do, they need to do it with intensity. You could say, with soul.

Recreation South Melbourne is dark. The weights area is cramped and congested, and while it is equipped with Olympic bars, there are no bumper plates. I was going to do some cleans, so I decided to warm up with some Turkish get ups.

I couldn’t find a patch of floor that was clear enough, so I ended up in the stretch area. At which point, one of the personal trainers damn-near blundered into the back of me while I had a 24kg kettlebell suspended over my face.

Now, these things aside, the most striking aspect of the whole experience was the darkness, punctuated by a preponderance of television screens blasting video clips of idiots like Flo-Rida and Snoop Dogg rabbiting on about the usual consumerist crap. Dripping with gold medallions and watches, driving around in cars and surrounded by anonymous bimbos. Boob jobs.

It makes me super fucking angry. You know what really bugs me about it? The gym is where you go to transcend your limits. Not to attach the lips of your psyche to the bilge pipe of culture and suck up big breaths of toxic ideology.

You train to free yourself of the heaviness of the flesh, not to burrow deeper into it, torturing yourself with ‘ideal images’ of the freak you’ll never be, without surgery and a serious eating disorder.

Here’s a fucking soundtrack for the gym.

CHORUS LEADER: Silence! and preserve respectful distance.

For I perceive approaching

The Rock. Who will perhaps answer our doubtings.

The Rock. The Watcher. The Stranger.

He who has seen what has happened.

And who sees what is to happen.

The Witness. The Critic. The Stranger.

The God-shaken, in whom is the truth inborn.

Enter the ROCK, led by a BOY:

THE ROCK: The lot of man is ceaseless labour,

Or ceaseless idleness, which is still harder,

Or irregular labour, which is not pleasant.

I have trodden the winepress alone, and I know

That it is hard to be really useful, resigning

The things that men count for happiness, seeking

The good deeds that lead to obscurity, accepting

With equal face those that bring ignominy,

The applause of all or the love of none.

All men are ready to invest their money

But most expect dividends.

I say to you: Make perfect your will.

I say: take no thought of the harvest,

But only of proper sowing.



The world turns and the world changes,

But one thing does not change.

In all of my years, one thing does not change.

However you disguise it, this thing does not change:

The perpetual struggle of Good and Evil.

Forgetful, you neglect your shrines and churches;

The men you are in these times deride

What has been done of good, you find explanations

To satisfy the rational and enlightened mind.

Second, you neglect and belittle the desert.

The desert is not remote in southern tropics,

The desert is not only around the corner,

The desert is squeezed in the tube-train next to you.

The desert is in the heart of your brother.

The good man is the builder, if he build what is good.

I will show you the things that are now being done,

And some of the things that were long ago done,

That you may take heart. Make perfect your will.

                  Let me show you the work of the humble. Listen.


Thank you, Mr. Eliot. How about a bit of Dylan Thomas?


Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rage at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.


Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.


Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


And you, my father, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And, of course, no nutfest is complete without a bit of Blake:

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright

In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?


In what distant deeps or skies

Burnt the fire of thine eyes?

On what wings dare he aspire?

What the hand dare seize the fire?


And what shoulder, and what art,

Could twist the sinews of thy heart?

And when thy heart began to beat,

What dread hand? and what dread feet?


What the hammer? what the chain?

In what furnace was thy brain?

What the anvil? what dread grasp

Dare its deadly terrors clasp?


When the stars threw down their spears,

And watered heaven with their tears,

Did he smile his work to see?

Did he who made the Lamb make thee?


Tyger! Tyger! burning bright

In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye,

Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?


(N.B. Upon my reading of Blake’s Proverbs of Hell’, Rodney Hall said that he thought Blake was right up my alley. “A third of it is brilliant; a third of it is mawkishly sentimental and a third of it is completely mad! ‘Tyger Tyger, burning bright / in the forests of the night…’ What does it mean? Who knows what it means! But woooooweeeee!”)

Remember, folks – when choosing your gym, “prisons are built with stones of law and brothels with bricks of religion”. And most gyms are built with bricks of psychological weakness, gleaned from consumerist instinct.

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