06.15.21

the irony of weekends

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:42 pm by Administrator

i found myself considering early on monday morning that my weekends are oddly more exhausting to me than my weekdays. obviously this is not because i am outwardly more active on my weekends. it’s because i’m mentally more active on my weekends, for reasons that are not intuitive but are nevertheless very clear upon some reflection.

during my average workday, whether i’m seeing patients or doing administrative work, i’m mentally active and often thinking very hard for most of the day. however, i would never call this sort of thinking obsessive in any way. the structure of meetings, interviews, and conversations naturally forces me to move from one subject to the next, to the degree that i’m rarely dwelling on a single fixation for more than a few minutes at a time. and as i move from one meeting to the next, or from one conversation to the next, i’m reacting to a whole new context, which forces me to abandon one train of thought for a new one. this kind of reactive, frequently disrupted, and continually adaptive thinking can be tiring but is rarely activating in a persistent way.

on weekends, by contrast, there are sometimes few barriers to continual, focused, and unbroken fixative thinking. in the absence of structured interactions or sustained conversations with others, i can easily fall into obsession, and i often do. whether it’s about money, sports, religion, or the future, it’s a pattern of thinking that takes me deeper and more intensely into analysis, computation, and calculation; it’s thought that propels more focused and more specific thought, until i come to the point of perseveration. in some situations, that kind of perseveration can trigger anxiety, panic, high blood pressure, or full body tension. and thus i can go through a solitary day without doing much of anything and yet can feel veritably exhausted and wound up by the time night falls. to counter this, i begin to rely on things that disrupt my train of thought—alcohol, naps, and exercise. it’s undistracted thinking that runs me into the ground. for whatever reason, i’m predisposed to obsession; and i’m neurologically wired to handle obsession very poorly.

this brings me back to a point i considered recently: that i miss church gatherings not because of the practice of theology or identification but rather because of the rituals they impose on my weekend life. prayer interrupts trains of thinking. listening to people interrupts trains of thinking. being compelled to reflect on what i’m thinking about disrupts my thinking. for me, as for many, it is easier to experience a disruption of thinking and a return to reactive thinking when one is intentionally engaged with others, and i think that effect is even more pronounced when the gathering itself is designed to interrupt thought and introduce reflection of a specific kind. in a sense, that is one of the uniquely therapeutic offerings of religion: a communal experience diametrically opposed to the activating, obsessional stimuli so ubiquitous in our society, including social media interactions, television programming, and other content consumption that triggers and accelerates the mental machine.

it would be an oversimplification to contend that thought itself is the enemy, but if i have learned something through meditation, it is this idea that conceptual identification of all kinds is work—intense, constant work that exhausts the mind and the soul. to believe in something is never effortless; it requires attention, reiteration, and reinforcement. real rest for the mind and soul requires more than a break from a routine or a chance to get away from others; it requires a sustained interruption of thought trains, a slowing of the mental process, a deep resistance to triggered and obsessive reflection that leads one inwards. rest is outward focus: the simple acknowledgement of what is immediately manifest. to come into that presence sometimes requires ritual, practice, and great skill. but more than anything, it requires a real awareness of the hunger of the mind, this addiction to deep and obsessive thinking that has no end and no object at all

06.09.21

talking to my dad; talking to myself

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:46 pm by Administrator

when my dad was at the age that i am at now, it was 1986, and he was entering a new chapter of his life. he’d just sold his home of ten years and moved to his dream house, a home he would later refer to as his “castle”. he was trying out a korean church for the first time, an experience that would initially intrigue him before eventually disgusting him. in some ways my dad was beginning to mellow out, though he still had moments when he would throw temper tantrums and break random things in the house. we watched top gun together in the theater; we played tennis on weekends; i was not yet beating him consistently at chess. my dad was living the life of a suburban family man.

it is hilarious and odd to think that i am as old as the man that he was back then. if we were to talk now, two middle-aged men with wives and children, what would we talk about? my dad was an avid conversationalist when he was in the right mood, though intense conversation invariably exhausted him and left him in a bad mood for days. i remember him talking to his friends about english grammar, american customs, and my achievements. he avoided talking much about religion and politics, and i think this is because perhaps he felt vulnerable or at a disadvantage when these were the topics of conversation. my dad talked at length about the things that he did know or found particularly peculiar; i was a subject that he knew well and found peculiar.

in brief, there’s no way i could imagine having a normal conversation with the middle-aged version of my father. i like to talk about current events, politics, and sports; i don’t particularly like talking about english grammar and american culture. the one interest we might have in common is our children; but even here, the conversation would be one-sided. he’d brag at length about the remarkable attributes of his son (myself), while i would barely have an opportunity to mention my observations about my children, whom i find delightful but also ordinary. i understand it better now, that my father’s obsession with me was unusual and unnecessary. the lives of middle-aged men do not have to revolve around their children, as i have personally discovered for myself.

i would feel so hard-pressed to offer advice to my dad, but i’m not sure he would listen. there were very few men he respected, and he required reasons to respect them. aside from the obvious advantages of hindsight and prescience, i’m not sure i’d have much to offer him as a mentor or guide. nevertheless, there’s so much advice i’d want to give that man, that proud new homeowner and father of a straight-A son.

i’d tell my dad to do therapy. do it, go deep with it, and really wrestle with the trauma and bitterness of your past. learn mindfulness. explore meditation and yoga. try new things and put yourself in new situations, to put some distance between you and the unloved child that you once were. i’d tell my dad that he wasn’t happy enough, and that happiness was imminently achievable, and moreover happiness was his personal responsibility. my dad believed he was a victim of his family of origin. i’d tell my dad that this belief, to a great extent, is a lie of his own making.

i’d tell my dad to make copies of that manuscript on english grammar that he authored (and that his friend in korea conveniently lost). i’d tell him to broaden its scope, to make it a book not only about the mechanics of language but also about the personal stories behind the various idioms he learned and struggled with over the years. my dad had an amazing story of immigration to tell, and it was a story that he wanted to tell.

and lastly, i’d tell my dad to find the right kind of community for him. he wasted too many years with religious people who absolutely confounded him with their magical thinking, irrational judgments, and passionate convictions about stupid things. nothing angered my father more than people who were absolutely convinced of their righteousness. if only my dad had found a couple good friends who enjoyed singing sad songs and hiking lonely trails, i think he would have suffered less.

what’s funny about this, when i think about it, is that i’d probably give the same three pieces of advice to myself. in fact, undoubtedly i’m projecting onto my father the very things i wish for myself. i am cynical of therapy, even though i know it would help me. i want to write a book of personal essays, but i lack the commitment or perseverance to do so. i can sense that i haven’t yet found a community of like-minded people, as i myself have wasted too much of my life with religious people. there’s another dimension to living that i haven’t explored because the context or foundation wasn’t created for that exploration. i am sure that my middle-aged son would tell my middle-aged self that i need to live a little more, instead of spending my years plugging away at a job i don’t love while relentlessly cleaning the house on evenings and weekends.

i so wanted my father to be happy, all the while knowing how unhappy he was. i am not as unhappy as he was, but neither am i a particularly happy person either. i don’t think i’ve made a lot of bad decisions in my life; but i’ve avoided making some important and good decisions, all the same. i wish my father’s life could have been much different, which draws attention to the fact that i really do wish my life were a lot different as well.

today, i think of my dad without sadness or regret, and i realize that when i look into his life, i see my own. that is how i know that he really is gone

06.01.21

church, loss, unity

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:42 pm by Administrator

last weekend, we met up with some old friends we used to go to church with. they asked me if i ever want to go back to the church. i told them that i was fairly certain i would return someday, and i miss it a lot. they asked me what i missed, and i told them that i miss the personal stories. i miss the moments when people talk about their pain and suffering and how they rely on the stories of the saints to hold that pain and suffering.

i can’t think of another religion that so intensely revolves around humanity’s most vulnerable moments. there was christ, who nearly starved to death in the wilderness, who lived his whole life knowing that he would be betrayed, tortured, and brutally put to death. there was paul, who gave up privilege and wealth to live among outlaws and to be imprisoned and executed for it. whether one makes of their cause, their struggle with weakness and suffering was compelling, and their ability to face death with courage was inspiring. i think that some of this courage came from the zeal of personal conviction; but i suspect that much of it came from being part of a community of people who shared sufferings and faced death together. this is what i miss about the church. i may never again believe in penal substitution, hell, or the ten commandments; but i believe in the power of shared vulnerability and personal disclosure. it is the principle of healing embedded in most every powerful community—whether AA, a sangha, the church, or a family. it is the essence of human spirituality.

a week or so ago, i was suddenly confronted with the idea of my daughter’s mortality. a scene came to me—a vision of her death. she was ageless in the vision, and as i reflected on this i realized that the sudden and intense feeling enveloping me did not care whether she was dying as a small child or as an old woman. through my feelings, i realized this belief that i have, which has no reason or justification: the belief that my daughter should never die. in my meditation, i held that belief, and even in my momentary grief i could see all the pieces of that belief. an idea of my daughter, a very specific idea of her. an idea of her as mine, as someone who ought to be with her family. an idea of her soul as something i spawned, something rooted in this place and time, something that will never ever exist again, once her life—this particular form—ceases to exist.

though i hold this belief, it doesn’t define me. and so when i hold it—this very strange and limited perspective on human consciousness and its mysterious journey—i see how this idea and the sadness it causes are very much the same, two forces relying on each other to propagate and endure.
in truth, a deeper intuition tells me that my daughter’s consciousness did not begin just a few years ago. no, her soul has journeyed across time and through lives, perhaps even through more than my own. her life does not end with this form, nor does it expire with our memories of her existence. her form will change, but this consciousness—this fire born of fire—is immutable and beyond time. because i am small, i will call her my daughter, my flesh, my life. but she was never mine. and to believe such a thing is to cause suffering to her and to myself. this childbirth thing is such a strangeness and a miracle, and truly it has little to do with us.

nevertheless, when i am touched by the idea of her loss, i understand what the universe is telling me. because there ought to be no difference between her passing and the death of all life that comes in and out of this dimension every moment of the day. to feel the ebb and flow of her life is to understand the exquisite preciousness of all life; to grieve her pains is to understand, in small part, the grieving of all pains. we were meant to be interconnected in this way, not only as a species but as a living planet, within a living galaxy. it is impossible of course to know this unity of consciousness in this lifetime; after all, it was for separateness that we were birthed by the universe, so that we would know this unity from within and from without, as those who were called out of emptiness to test the limits of what we are. in the sorrow at her passing i sense the edge of my own consciousness, a delicate sphere of knowing and imagination, begging not the extension of her life but rather a deeper wonder at this attachment, which is a microcosm of all that it is to live a life, to marvel at it, and to give of it completely

05.28.21

remembering our past

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:55 pm by Administrator

yesterday in clinic, i spent time with two people who have struggled through quite a bit in their lives. one patient has had a severe speech impediment for all of his life, an utterly disabling stutter which turned a 10 minute conversation into a 30 minute visit. another patient, homeless and chronically injured, presented in a wheelchair with what looked like an ALS syndrome.

after the two hours i spent with them, i was reminded of the great human suffering i have been witness to throughout my career. i was reminded specifically of my intern year, nearly twenty years ago, when for the first time i saw death on a daily basis. mind you, this was not graceful dying. this was ugly death. people dying in agony. people dying under my hands, as i broke their ribs doing chest compressions. people coming off the ventilator and gasping for their last breaths, even with the opioids pumped into their bodies. over the three years that i took care of him, i saw one of my patients experience several amputations that progressively removed three of his limbs. i thought i would become inured to that suffering, as so many of my peers did. but i took a different path; i became angry, and that anger is still with me today.

no matter what evil and violence we humans impose on one another, these cannot compare with the pain and suffering that is innate to our mortal forms. even when we do not submit to addiction or to self-mutilation of various kinds, our own bodies fall apart as if by design, triggered by enzymes and cytokines and immortalized cells. there is no natural death. there is no painless path to the afterlife. there is this bare fact: the body is as imperfect as the mind, and it forces us through suffering. yes, our wars and our crimes and our innumerable prejudices add to the plight of mankind, but even in the absence of these things, people must carry the incredible burden of their own innate defects and disorders. among all inequalities faced by mankind, the greatest inequality we face resides in our genetic differences, which predispose us to disease, to pain, to mental illness. there is no activism that can address this, other than the genetic reengineering of our species.

humanity has done well in facing its greatest enemy, nature itself. we have sheltered ourselves from the elements. we have invented tools and technologies to produce food from unyielding soil. we have eradicated the mosquitoes that once infected us with malaria; we have created antibiotics to destroy the bacteria and viruses that once plagued us. the creatures that once preyed upon us now cannot match our weapons and our resolve. where we once struggled to survive, now we are steadfast and resilient. where we once fell prey to starvation and to communicable diseases, now we feed off our excesses and manipulate our immune systems to attack the germs in our midst. make no mistake: nature was our enemy, and we have gained many victories over it.

but this last battle remains—to address the flaws in ourselves. to tackle the genetic code that predisposes us to weakness and to pain. to reap from the genetic diversity that once saved us an answer to the troubles that continue to plague us. once upon a time, i directed my anger against god, who gave us lives full of trouble and suffering. now, my anger is only against our own weaknesses, which we are afraid to confront because of mythologies and religious stories that glorify our exquisite imperfections. nature always was the enemy. to impose our will upon it is to conquer our pain and to improve the lot of our progeny.

it is a unique era that we live in, that we now come to view ourselves as the oppressors of this planet, as the perpetrators of violence against our ecosystem. today, in light of much human suffering, i remember that it is in fact the world in its natural state that once posed such a threat to us, the naked and hairless and brittle beings of flesh that we were. we survived not by respecting nature but by conquering it—predators, the elements, and micro-organisms all. perhaps in one man’s story, we owe something to this world, as its caretakers and lords. i see it differently: we were the hunted, but we are preyed upon no more. still, the last of our great enemies lies within us: the genes that dictate our short, difficult, and painful lives, waiting to be conquered and transformed for all the generations yet to come

05.21.21

negotiating identity, losing things, and rejecting society

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:34 pm by Administrator

an old friend of mine told me recently that what sets me apart is the connection i have maintained with my inner child, throughout the years. this connection has enabled me to remain vulnerable, to the extent that i can be transparent about my suffering. while others find ways to compartmentalize or marginalize their sufferings as they age, i am in many ways still the person i once was: sensitive, innocent, unable to mask my feelings.

the conversation reminded me very much of philip pullman’s golden compass story. in that universe, people had animal daemons, animalistic self-representations that morph and evolve with the human’s growth, until eventually settling into a permanent shape. i wonder sometimes about my daemon. once ten years ago i felt god call me a “lion for his people”. now i know that i am anything but a lion. from one day to the next, i do not know what i want in life, and i am perpetually out of sorts with my circumstances. perhaps i am somedays a blind fish in the deep seas, wandering in the darkness. on other days, i am a migratory bird, moving across the continents purely out of programmed habit. and still on other days, i am like the predatory dogs of the savannah; all i know is my need to survive, which fuels my aggression.

in any case, i was once a student in the back of a university lecture hall, reading herbert marcuse’s one dimensional man. i had an identity back then: i had an ethnicity, a religion, and a political leaning. these were the things i thought that a man was supposed to acquire—a distinct perspective, no less. now i am solidly middle-aged and abandoning perspective. two weeks ago i had a debate with my wife about racial capitalism and ended up nowhere. i found myself in the midst of nothing. i had feelings and opinions to express, but the deeper the conversation went the more out of sorts i became. i couldn’t locate myself in a paradigm. i had no point of reference for my belief or conviction. i was not a marxist, a christian, or a democrat. i was just a man with a loose hold on ideas that were too complex for me to really understand. my wife had the upper hand and could not be dissuaded; and i was exposed for my lack of perspective. really, i am not a believer anymore.

one needs identity sometimes in order to engage in deep discourse, and one needs to be in the discourse in order to be relevant to the broader community. i understand for instance that i can’t simply opt out of believing in “black lives matter” or “defunding the police” if i want to express sympathy or agreement with those who are seeking justice through these positionalities. but simply entering that space of identification causes me such suffering; i can feel it now, like a falseness to self. once upon a time, i truly scorned people who expressed their ambivalence by refusing to vote. i hated their irresponsibility and disengagement. now, in a way, i understand that. i know that to be engaged, i cannot simply eschew identity; i have to negotiate it, actively, not as one who needs identity for personal fulfillment but rather as one who needs a footing in the conversation. identity is language. in some places, i cannot have even basic communication with others unless i position myself in some way.

there are identities that are occasionally useful or even necessary, much as i dislike them. i can claim that i am religiously agnostic, which accomplishes nothing for me and says nothing meaningful about who i am. i can say that i am liberal and progressive, but those strike me as laughable ideas that would be immediately irrelevant if i suddenly found myself in another country. i am anti-racist, but does that mean i ascribe to communism, socialism, or anti-capitalism? i don’t know. i know that not knowing is sometimes not an option, so i’ll veer as close as i can to an identity that will suffice for the circumstances, but really i don’t know what to make of it anymore. i want to be present in my moment, and i want to be true to my basic self. my basic self rejects these identities as superfluous and painful. knowing this, in a visceral, deeply personal way, i wear identity like leftover clothes; it’s uncouth to be naked, but these clothes don’t fit me anymore.

there’s one true thing in life. we will lose things and eventually everything. it’s like elizabeth bishop implies; this is the bare art of living. i believe that losing things is part of the path to enlightenment, even if it does not in and of itself yield wisdom. i dread losing things, and yet i cannot deny that losing things has been the only source of real spiritual truth for me in my lifetime. acquiring things comes with so much self-delusion and onerous aggrandizement, a reevaluation of self in all the socially prescribed ways. but losing things is always true. it always subtracts from self in a manner that illuminates what is human. if i were given extraordinary wealth and power, i know that the person that i am would love to use these against those that i despise, for revenge; i would use them on behalf of those i love, in a manner that would corrupt them. but the human thing to do would be to give it all away. i would give away the money and the power to get free. i trust that i, absent of ego, would do the right thing and refuse to let the world and its charms define what i am. this is a truth inherent to all the world religions, because losing things is universal, and because losing things bears truth.

i was not meant to work, to be generative, to make money, and to toil away for the profit of those that i do not know or trust. i may choose to do these things, regardless, but it is a form of insanity, much like the insanity that generally governs our societies. every day that i live, i want to try something different and new. like the young man who was exploring identity so many years ago, in the back of that dark lecture hall, i still want to know what it means to be undefined by my job, by the money that i make, by the things that i own. it’s meaningless but important at the same time. how can that be? all i have learned of life is its many contradictions, and while it’s frustrating, the contradictions are themselves profound and substantive, worth the rumination. i really should not be trapped in an office all day long thinking about the life i would rather be living. i should be out there, beyond the walls, not guarding the gates but slipping past them, past the watchful eyes of those who would have me be a slave for all my years. one day, i will have the courage and wisdom to abandon all that i have known and be useless to the world. then, when i have thoroughly rejected everything that once defined what i am, i will be nothing, utterly empty as i was meant to be. it will be awful. it will be terrible. i will die. but for some reason, i will continue to awaken, and thus will i live again, for no reason but for the living

05.18.21

Revised Projections for the 2021 Season

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:02 pm by Administrator

since my last entry on the eagles, there have been a few interesting developments for the team that are worth noting. we got ryan kerrigan on a 1-year deal. we traded with jacksonville for josiah scott. and pff just rated jalen hurts the 2nd worst starting quarterback in the NFL. what do these three developments have in common? they’re going to put some fight into these eagles.

i’ve already praised roseman for an excellent off-season, but even beyond the individual moves there is a compelling theme to what the eagles are doing as they prepare for the 2021 season. between our coaches who are young and hungry, our veterans who are the last of the old guard, an underrated and overlooked quarterback who is accustomed to fighting uphill, and our multiple free agent pick-ups on one-year deals, we’ve got an organization now that is focused on disproving the countless doubters out there. most people in the media are rating the eagles the very worst team in the NFC East, and why wouldn’t they? but for the underdawg eagles, this kind of attention brings out their best. i’m revising my predictions for the eagles this season because i feel the tide turning our way. no, we won’t be the favorite to win the division this year, but i think there’s a chance that we’ll be better than the 7-10 team i envisioned just last week.

what’s our path to 9-8 and a wild card berth? i see us beating atlanta in the season opener, an important victory that will set the tone for the rest of the season. while our secondary is no match for their receiving group, the eagles will win this one with relentless pressure on matt ryan. the falcons tried to address their weaknesses on the o-line in this draft, but mayfield and dalman won’t be day one contributors. that’s just fine for kerrigan and company, who will punish ryan on third downs throughout the game. i see the eagles running the ball very effectively against a bad falcon d-line. this win will demonstrate philadelphia’s formula for 2021: running the ball consistently, and refusing to give up any big plays on defense.

i see the eagles beating the falcons, san francisco, and kansas city in the early stretch, while losing to dallas, carolina, and tampa bay. over a tough 7-game middle stretch featuring 5 road games, the eagles will fall to 6-7 going into the bye week, beating detroit, the la chargers, and the jets but losing to the raiders, broncos, saints, and giants. where jalen hurts will prove himself is in the very final stretch, going 3-1 against our divisional opponents after the bye to give us 9 wins and a playoff berth. the nfc’s best might not be as good as they were even a year ago, with tampa bay, new orleans, green bay, and the rams encountering struggles this year for various reasons. the eagles—young and hungry now—have a chance to emerge from a grueling 17 game schedule with some gas left in the tank. i’m starting to like their chances of a winning a playoff game this year. and if jalen hurts wins a playoff game, maybe the talk about a deshaun watson trade goes away. maybe the talk of a qb pick in the 1st round of the 2022 draft goes away too. maybe, just maybe, people start to look at howie roseman as a genius for taking jalen hurts in the 2nd round back in 2020…

a man can dream. GO EAGLES

05.12.21

the 2021 off-season: a watershed moment for the eagles

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:52 pm by Administrator

while howie roseman and the eagles get a B minus from me for the draft, they get an A for their undrafted free agent rookie signings (awosika, newman, and grimes in particular), their signings of anthony harris and eric wilson, and their trade of carson wentz to the colts for significant draft capital. i’m really unable to grade the coaching hire of nick sirianni and have my doubts, as i really wanted duce staley as our “ceo” head coach, but i’ll give our bright-eyed and bushy-tailed new coach some benefit of the doubt. without a doubt, this was a successful off-season for howie roseman and a good start to 2021.

the off-season is not over for sure, and the eagles have a number of remaining questions to answer. first and foremost, what will we do to address the hole at outside cornerback, which we cannot realistically fill with michael jacquet or zach mcphearson? second, what are we going to do with zach ertz, whom we cannot realistically bring back to this team after publicly severing the cord with him? and lastly, what other options do we have to create financial flexibility, not only for this season but the next?

these questions cannot be addressed properly as one-off management issues, as they are interrelated and have plenty of repercussions for the future of the team. there’s only so much utility in plugging holes with one-year deals; at some point, we have to establish a personnel strategy that shifts our payroll from aging veterans to longer-term and more cost-effective talent. like i wrote in a prior entry, this requires a vision and a purpose beyond simply improving the team. this requires a specific strategy for a rebuild that can hopefully be accomplished within two seasons and that will give us a measurable ROI (i.e. playoff victories) in that time frame.

to me, here are the questions we have to answer before we can even discuss if and how we will fill the gaping hole at cornerback and best leverage zach ertz for our future plans.

1. which quarterback will take the eagles deep into the playoffs in the 2022 season?

do we think this is jalen hurts, who could develop this year and emerge in 2022 as a star? or do we think that we’ll be in a position next year to draft a top qb prospect who can win it all in year one? or is it a premiere veteran that we have to trade for or woo in free agency?

i believe that the time window has to be that immediate and that clear, because this rebuild cannot extend into 2023 without taking on entirely unpredictable dimensions. we will almost certainly be moving on from key guys like lane johnson, brandon brooks, fletcher cox, javon hargrave, and brandon graham before the 2023 season begins. these players are cornerstones of this eagle team, and replacing them with equivalent talent is an improbable proposition. if we don’t think we can be a winning team in the 2022 season, then we have no business sticking with any of these five guys, who are taking up too much of our salary cap for no clear purpose.

i’m going to stick with the presumption that the eagles are absolutely committed to winning the division and competing for the championship in 2022. this means that our most important question this season is what i’ve already articulated above: who is the quarterback that can take us deep into the playoffs in 2022?

i’m a fan of jalen hurts, and i think he’ll be fun to watch this year. but i think the odds are against him that he can be a star quarterback in the NFL. looking ahead to the 2022 draft class, i don’t see any quarterbacks that look remotely like trevor lawrence; there isn’t a guy in that class that is fully capable of taking us to the NFC conference championship in year one. so i’m going to go out on a limb and say that the answer to question #1 is pretty straightforward: we need to trade for a premiere veteran quarterback some time in the next 12 months. deshaun watson is a risk to the organization and not a particularly upstanding human being. but if jalen hurts doesn’t shock us with qualities that we absolutely didn’t foresee during this upcoming season, then i think that the eagles must be prepared to sell the farm (or our three 2022 1st round picks) to get watson next year.

2. outside of quarterback, what are the key pieces we’ll need in 2022 to compete for a championship?

we’ll have young and talented wide receivers under contract in 2022, including smith and reagor. we’ll also have good talent and depth on the offensive line and on the interior of the defensive line.

defense wins championships, and specifically a strong pass rush and solid coverage are critical to winning in the playoffs. the eagles championship team is one of the few super bowl teams i can recall that was inept at generating a pass rush and making third down stops. this current eagle roster is mediocre on the edge and stunningly uninspired at the second and third levels. if i had to define the key pieces that the eagles must acquire in the next 12 months to compete for a championship, they are 1) an elite edge player, 2) a linebacker with plus coverage skills, and 3) at least one veteran cornerback with elite traits and proven success in the NFL. assuming brandon graham begins his expected decline, we have none of these right now.

if we’re lucky, we may be able to get our edge player and linebacker on fortuitous one-year deals in 2022, but i would not bank on stumbling across a playmaker at cornerback next year, nor would i count on a rookie (even a high draft pick) being that guy for us right away. at some point in the next twelve months, the eagles have to open up enough cap space to put $10-15 million into a cornerback in his prime. hopefully he’ll be better and more impactful than darius slay, whose future on this roster a year from now is dubious at best.

what that means for me is that cutting zach ertz after june 1 makes all the sense in the world. we’re not competing for playoffs in 2021. we need that cap space, either to land a premiere cornerback this year or roll cap space into next year when we can use it on next year’s free agents.

3. is there anyone on the current roster worth extending for a 2022 championship run?

there are three guys who aren’t under contract for next season and who are good enough to at least consider for an extension. that’s dallas goedert, jordan mailata, and josh sweat.

of the three, josh sweat is the toughest decision, and jordan mailata may be the most important decision. like i’ve indicated above, the eagles desperately need an elite pass rusher to make a championship run in 2022. derek barnett is very clearly not that guy, and i’m not sure he’ll be worth keeping around at any price. brandon graham will almost definitely be on the roster in 2022, and we’ll be hoping he can keep up his high level of play through the 2022 season. josh sweat will be a hard decision for us because he’s good enough to start but not elite enough to warrant the big bucks. almost certainly, another team will feel differently about him. my guess is that we will not re-sign him because he will price out of our range. i feel almost the same way about mailata, who is intriguing but even at this point not worth crowning as our left tackle of the future. dallas goedert may be the only of these three guys that is worth to us the price tag that he will command on the market. even as important as it is to free up cap space for an edge defender, a linebacker, and at least one cornerback next year, goedert may be worth the tag if we can’t get a reasonable long-term deal done.

05.11.21

capitalism, racism, and america

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:57 pm by Administrator

the Left’s critique of capitalism seems more mainstream to me now than ever before. whereas once it was strictly the realm of activists and academics, it is now the every day stuff of conversation among politicians in our government. bernie sanders for instance openly criticizes american capitalism, and his many acolytes in the democratic party are even seeking to outdo him, almost patently pushing for anti-bourgeois revolution. i never thought i’d see the day. my take on this is that the broadening willingness to consider alternatives to capitalism was made possible only by the spectacular and complete failure of communism throughout the world. now that america’s communist rivals have been thoroughly discredited, the talk of socialism is no longer considered a legitimate threat to america’s interests; and thus a real examination of the shortcomings of american capitalism can begin.

i see many strains in the conversation. i see capitalism being blamed for the emerging environmental catastrophe, which i find to be a very legitimate concern. i also see capitalism being blamed for the oppression of laborers both here and abroad, which is not hard to understand. increasingly, i see capitalism being blamed for most everything disorderly or unpalatable in america, including systematic racism. to me, this seems to be the leading edge of the conversation now: the conflation of racism and capitalism, as synergistic and inextricably tied forces of oppression that define america at this point in time. racial capitalism, coined and explicated by cedric robinson in the 1980s and onwards, builds upon a discourse developed by marxists like frantz fanon and posits a view of history within which capitalism and racism have consistently worked in concert to sustain the other.

i won’t deny that i find the idea of racial capitalism to be at once plausible and also conjectural at best. an important thing to understand is that robinson’s ideas represent a distinct off-shoot from conventional marxist theory, and among the critics of racial capitalism are more than a few marxists who cannot accept robinson’s ontological view of the slave trade in relationship to the global emergence of capitalism. conventional marxist theory posits that capitalism represents a rejection of the stark and fixed stratifications of feudal aristocratic society, within which institutions like serfdom and movements like settler colonialism took shape. nevertheless, i find marxism and anti-racism to be increasingly intertwined in the public consciousness, and the term “racial capitalism” seems to be common diction now. it’s a sign of our times: we are struggling across the globe with evident and expanding disparities in wealth, even as the extent of systematic racism is more and more thoroughly revealed.

i’ll tell you why i am uncomfortable with the idea of racial capitalism, even as i experience reservations about the future of capitalism and our history with racism. the idea of racial capitalism suggests that reversing racism requires the undoing of capitalism and the inequalities that it invariably capitalizes and exaggerates. to me, this only obscures the psychological complexity of bias and inadequately explains the historical phenomena we have experienced in the modern era. capitalism, for all of its macroscopic and microscopic effects on the relationships people have with one another and with capital, has certainly been responsible for a globalized economy and the juxtapositions, migrations, and even integrations that have resulted from that. has the era of capitalism witnessed a continuation of the interracial dominion and violence established by settler colonialism? for certain it has. but has capitalism, by virtue of its fostered interdependencies and integrations, also illuminated the historical problem of racism and encouraged pathways out of it? i would argue that it has had this effect as well.

after all, how can racism be properly confronted except in the context of a racially and ethnically diverse society? and how would we have had such racial diversification of nations across the globe, except by virtue of the forces and pressures introduced by capitalism? for sure, settler colonialism traumatized peoples, and capitalism fueled emigrations and immigrations that represented the extreme displacement of these victims of global oppression. these globalizing movements have forced white people and people of color to live together, as citizens of the same nations, competing for the same limited resources. naturally, the socioeconomic strata of these nations are defined by race, thus making the reality of systematic racism extraordinarily clear. in contrast to pre-capitalistic societies of five or six centuries ago, when nations were segregated by mountains and seas, and when racism was reflected in rare and momentous interactions between explorers and diplomats, our societies today experience racism in lurid immediacy; it is a reality we cannot escape or ignore, and it foments agitation and violence in this nation on an hourly basis. we have capitalism to thank for exaggerating the differences that add to the pain of racism; but we also have capitalism to thank for bringing together peoples of vastly different regional origins, the experience of which illuminates not only our historical plague of racism but also the imminent necessity of overcoming it, in the interests of peaceful coexistence.

i am not a capitalist or a neoliberal. but i hesitate to blame capitalism and the inequalities it fosters for all of the world’s troubles. this problem with race didn’t come about because of human greed or an obsession with accumulating capital. our racism has ancient origins, and it only required the forced convergence of the world’s various tribes to be properly understood. the question is not how to dismantle the very system that forced the tribes together, in this painful, sudden, historically unprecedented, and unequal manner. the question is how to accept our convergence and also to accept our responsibility—as individuals and as societies—to reckon with racism apart from every other human illness and malady, as its own unique, psychological, pervasive, and ultimately personal evil to be called out and erased from our way of life, one interaction at a time. the solution will require legal reform, the redistribution of wealth, and most importantly a neuropsychological definition of bias—something we can objectively diagnose, treat, and manage—among many other things. but the solution will not be as facile as disrupting free market economics and consigning people to a prescribed social station, for the enforcement of equality. anti-racism is harder work than that. let’s begin with that understanding, and proceed in the most expansive and transformational manner possible

05.09.21

a monster to myself

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:49 pm by Administrator

i woke up this morning and considered what i have become. i am a man in a fortress, an elaborate fortress. i am not the king of this fortress. no, he is walled in and inaccessible, the inscrutable commander. no, i am the warden of this fortress. i walk the walls, and i know every one of them. i know the people who draw the gates; i know the people who enter and leave; i know the people who live within. i see the sun rise on one side of the walls, and i see it set on the other. all the shadows that the light casts upon the grounds do not escape my eye. i know the seasons by their length and angles. i have such a routine of walking, of knowing, of observing, of feeling, that this fortress is all i know. i cannot remember what it is guarding or indeed what exists in the lands beyond. all i know is the walls and what is within them.

it was not like this when i was younger. i lived out there, where there were no walls. but like the rest of us, i have a duty now, to separate what is inside from what is outside. there are rules for these things, and there are only certain doorways between these worlds, and there are guards and there are passwords for these passages. one can make a whole life out of navigating these things, and most do. i certainly have.

there will come a point where the walls begin to crumble, and i will mindlessly begin pushing the stones and fragments into the places where they once were. i will repair walls that have no meaning, but the dust i push back into the divots and holes will only fall back out, and more of the stones and bricks will fall to pieces, of their own accord. someday, i will face it: that this intricate fortress, with all its passages and codes and hallways and dungeons, was for my mind. it was to give my mind something to do, for a whole lifetime.

what monsters life makes of us. we commit ourselves to occupations, obsessions, and orders of various kinds. we grow accustomed to them, and as the days pass we begin to lose our imagination and our sense of the unknown. we preoccupy ourselves with the things we can control, and we lose an aspect of our humanity. in the intricate order of things, we become automatons with fixations and anxieties. no one can find us within our walls. no one can reach us, nor can we reach them. we are monstrosities in the end, barely recognizable even to ourselves. what is poetry, but the hidden passageway we create when we are not looking, so that spies can bypass our defenses and render to the outside world the stagnating thing we had thought to keep for ourselves.

i do not understand why i think about money, or about responsibility, or about the way things ought to be. there is no way things ought to be. i never should have stopped learning, and i never should have stopped finding my footing in this strange, strange place. i have titles, and i take what i am entitled to, and i own, delegate, and control. the monster that i am eats and eats, but there is still within me a common man, a child like all children, who eats from the fields and goes where he pleases. he will be there, when i lose my mind. until then, he sits on the wall like he’s threatening to jump, and it is all i can do to look away and pretend that i do not notice how high, how high these walls really are

05.07.21

The 2021 NFL draft: my eagle picks, and overall thoughts

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:00 pm by Administrator

as per my last entry, i graded the eagles draft a B-minus, but i feel somewhat worse about it than the grade would imply. here’s what i would’ve done if i’d been in the driver’s seat for days 1, 2, and 3:

1.12: trade down

i would have sat tight, watched devonta smith go to the Giants, and done the deal with the chicago bears, which would undoubtedly have been there for us to make. i’d like to think that roseman could have gotten us 5.20 this year and chicago’s 1st and 3rd in 2022.

1.20: jeremiah owusu-koramoah

even with the rumors of a medical issue, i would have leaped at this opportunity to take j-ok, my favorite defensive player in this class.

2.5: rondale moore

it will be interesting to compare rondale moore to devonta smith as they progress in the NFL. rondale would have been a terrific pick here at 2.5, and he was definitely a steal later in the second for the cardinals.

3.6: paulson adebo

in the week before the draft, i decided that adebo’s superior athleticism, vision, and ball skills were worth a bet, and i certainly would have taken him here at the top of the 3rd. the saints moved up to get him at pick 76, and i believe that their aggression will be rewarded. adebo has the traits required to be a top outside corner in this league.

3.20: quinn meinerz

here’s where i would have taken our center of the future. in the mid-3rd, i would have targeted meinerz, kendrick green, and josh myers, in that order.

4.18: rashad weaver

the post-draft legal issues are certainly concerning, but i can’t deny that on day 3 i would have pulled the trigger here on rashad weaver, the last 4-3 defensive end on the board with compelling potential.

5.6: shaun wade

it absolutely boggles my mind that the eagles passed on shaun wade here early in the 5th, opting instead to take yet another inside defensive lineman in marlon tuipoluto. wade has all the potential in the world and certainly profiles as an above-average slot corner at the next level. we will regret passing on him.

5.20: jamar johnson

jamar actually went off the board at this very pick. had we gotten this pick courtesy of the trade-down with the bears, i would not have hesitated to take him, as he would immediately be our most talented safety on the roster. denver got several steals in this draft, and johnson was one of them.

6.5: marvin wilson

marvin wilson saw his draft stock tank after a lackluster 2020 season, but there’s no doubt that i would rushed to the podium for this pick. the 6th round was the earliest that i would have taken an interior defensive tackle, which shows you the contrast between my approach and that of the philadelphia front office.

6.40: trey smith

yet another guy who saw a slide thanks to a dubious medical evaluation. trey smith is way too talented to have fallen this low in the draft, and he’s a starting guard in the NFL by my projection. this would have been another very easy pick for me.

6.41: patrick johnson

this is the only pick i might have had in common with the eagles. patrick johnson is talented enough to take a flier on, and i’m surprised he wasn’t taken earlier in the draft. i wouldn’t fool around with repurposing him as a linebacker. patrick johnson is a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme, and he should do two things in the NFL: set the edge and rush the passer. i have some hope that the eagles will deploy him properly.

7.6: jermar jefferson

i personally believe that we didn’t need to spend a 5th round draft pick on a back-up running back. as i demonstrated above, the 5th round really should have been devoted to the secondary, as many talented corners and safeties were still on the board at 5.6. i’m assuming that miles sanders still has the potential to be a three-down back for us, and until it’s clear that our former 2nd rounder is not meeting those expectations, i don’t see much draft value at the position. kenny gainwell is a good player, but jermar jefferson is actually an easier projection as an all-purpose back and would have been a perfectly adequate back-up to take in the 7th round.

overall, i thought it was an interesting and fairly undramatic draft, with no majorly controversial picks (i.e. jordan love and jalen hurts last year). i don’t see any teams that obviously bombed this draft, though some teams definitely drafted worse than others. i was surprised for example to see chris ballard draft so poorly for the colts; kwity paye was an uninspired pick in the 1st round, and dayo odeyingbo is a developmental prospect that was taken 2 rounds too early, in my opinion. there were definitely teams that drafted exceptionally well, and those include the lions, the bears, the browns, the titans, and the jets. as with most draft years, it’s the quality of the guys taken in the top 2-3 rounds that matters this year, and all four of those teams took exceptional players that should make an immediate impact for them. with zach wilson, alijah vera-tucker, and elijah moore (all of whom were high value picks), the jets will have a new-look and very dynamic offense that could put them ahead of the dolphins and pats in the afc east; the browns took two of the best defenders in this class in rounds 1 and 2; the lions had the second best pick of the first round, in penei sewell; and the bears had the best overall draft class by a country mile, outsmarting every team that passed on justin fields and following that up with teven jenkins, khalil herbert, dazz newsome, and thomas graham—four underrated talents that will make the bears better right away.

it is extremely difficult for me to imagine the eagles’ draft class of 2021 looking particularly good three years from now. unless javon hargrave and fletcher cox flame out spectacularly or get traded next year, there’s virtually no way for milt williams and marlon tuipoluto to develop in a manner that can justify their draft positions, and while terron jackson and patrick johnson could be thrown into the fire as early as next year, i don’t that the eagles will trust them enough to give them a chance to earn full-time starting roles. a year from now, i wouldn’t be surprised at all if the eagles spend one of their first round picks on a pass rusher. what will that say about all the mid and late round picks they put into the defensive line this year? these were opportunity costs. they were luxury picks when what we needed was high upside talent in the secondary.

i’m more disappointed with our draft now than i was at the start of the entry, so i’ll stop here. the bears are going to win the NFC north as early as 2022 and i think they’ll be competing for a super bowl within the next three seasons, thanks to this draft class. that could have been us. shrug

« Previous entries