05.27.17

nba draft: sixer time

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:33 am by Administrator

i may be one of the few sixer fans that view our team this way—but i believe that the process has been an unqualified failure. it began with the selection of joel embiid in 2014, whose history of foot fractures should have been an indication of his biomechanical untenability at the nba level. and the process has thus far culminated in a team with a glut of versatile big men whom we cannot play on the floor together. already we have unloaded nerlens noel at a discount, and we will soon be parting with the best long-term prospect on our roster (jahlil okafor) at nothing less than a bargain price. there is no doubt that the “process” has yielded us a series of high picks; but these picks ultimately have not added up to a well-balanced and winning team roster.

sensing that they are no longer in a position to simply take the best player available, the sixers are now looking to fill a distinct need at pick #3 in this year’s draft. they want a wing player who can gel with a ball-dominating ben simmons; and they want a guy who can shoot from outside, given that they project to have only one starter (covington) who can consistently hit a 3-point shot. the front office’s approach to pick #3 is framed with all kinds of assumptions buried in presumptions about whom we’ve got and what they’re going to become.

assumptions and presumptions… whether they’re right or wrong, they’re major bets based on limited data, and what concerns me most is that they’re funneling us toward prospects that we really have no right to be wasting our time on with the 3rd pick.

it should be exceedingly simple. at pick #3, we’re looking for a bona fide star—a game-breaking talent, a team leader, and someone who excels at every phase of the game. it’s a talented enough draft class that it would be self-defeating and pointless to assign any other purpose to our top pick. outside of markelle fultz, there are only three players in this draft that fit that profile: lonzo ball, josh jackson, and de’aaron fox. given that we’re stacked at forward and need a top talent in our backcourt, it’s got to be ball or fox. ball or fox. it’s that simple.

the conversation in sixer fan media unfortunately has gotten distractingly technical. while fultz and ball aren’t getting much attention because they’re projected to go 1 and 2, fox is getting overanalyzed and written off as a broken jump shooter. his one-trick pony teammate malik monk is actually being legitimately considered at pick 3, despite the fact that he doesn’t even remotely fit the bill as a two-way NBA star. dennis smith and jayson tatum are getting hype for their shooting stroke and 3-point percentages, even though there’s more than enough tape to suggest that these guys will have to seriously adjust their games at the nba level.

here’s the simple fact. de’aaron fox can do at the nba level what he did in college. he will abuse people with his lightning-quick first step. he will penetrate and dish at will. he will keep a defense on its heels. and he will find the right guy in the right place in transition. de’aaron fox isn’t simply a great guard in brett brown’s up-tempo offense. he’s a great guard on most any team in the NBA. he’s a legit star that has unrivaled physical tools and instincts, and he’s already built to succeed at the NBA level. no, he’s not going to park outside the arc and shoot 3’s at a 43% clip. but he’s going to be a damn good point guard, and that’s what the sixers need right now.

i don’t really give a fuck how he theoretically fits with ben simmons. as far as i’m concerned, ben simmons is a forward first and a point-forward second. ben’s got to prove that he can defend, pass, and score at the nba level, and until he proves that he can function with efficiency, he doesn’t get to run the offense from the get-go. i’d sure like to hand simmons the keys, but even then i’d like to see more than one guy on this team that can handle the ball, see the court, and push the pace. the question to me isn’t just whether the guy we pick 3rd can shoot the ball when simmons finds him; it’s whether pick #3 can do the right thing with the ball when he gets it. de’aaron fox is the guy with the instincts, the quicks, and the skills to make the sixers more effective on every possession.

take the standout athlete and #1 player at the team’s most important position. i don’t care what we think we’ve got in embiid and simmons. to me, it’s a rebuild gone wrong, and it’s got to get right starting right now. de’aaron fox or death. YOU HEARD?

05.22.17

magnolia

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:18 pm by Administrator

i’ve spent all morning looking for my feelings,
which were not where they should have been,
like yesterday’s clothing draped over a chair,
left there as an afterthought, faintly smelling
of what i was and possibly still am.

they were not in the murk of what gathers
around the feet, nor in the haze of a fine fog
obscuring the glass of the shower. i saw
in the rearview mirror a corner of my head
and fixed a hair. it’s the last i saw of it

and if there was feeling in it or in my gesture
i did not sense it then. strange too,
for by the time i step into the elevator
and certainly by the time the doors enclose me
in the sound and smell of how things are,

i have ordinarily become myself—man, child,
father, son. something drenched the mat
by the door, and it was not the rain. something
scattered dust upon the dash of the car
when i was not there, and i have to consider it

simply because the sense of things, the logic
that dismisses these questions with the light
insouciance of one accustomed to mastery,
has somehow failed to assume itself,
and thus i am here strangely aware,

like the person i was just a few weeks ago
looking upon other men closing ranks
around my dad’s coffin. he went in through
the back, while i stood on the outside
peering in and finding it endless

or like the man i was just two days ago
hearing a child, my boy, play a song
upon the piano before an audience,
play too fast to sustain without fumbling,
too fast for his small fingers to control

and even when he finished and took his bow
my heart was beating so fast and the sweat
on my palms suggested a feeling, discordant
and out of proportion, that had traversed my being
brusquely and with unclear intentions.

outside the recital hall, through the tall windows
i could see magnolias waving in the sunlight.
their flowers reminded me to feel something—
and this is what i endeavor to wrap my mind around.
i am like a man who came out of sleep

unable to hear anything, seeing only an image
transfixed, the soundless flicker of petals,
a hint of something in the air, just a tickle
under my collar, and today i got caught up in it,
enough to forget where i stood between generations.

05.19.17

an old poem

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:41 am by Administrator

an old poem, from seven years ago during a difficult time in my life. i found it in a journal book at the bottom of a stack in my old clinic office.

Untitled

The mind is like fingers, and trauma
is like a naked body in the night.
Thoughts find new ways to explore the figure
of pain, starting with the familiar—
her face, with her lips, nose, and eyes.
One might be satisfied just with that,
but how persistent it is, like love.
In dreams, the mind descends upon her
from every direction, ruminating
her every contour, searching,
searching hungrily and without relief.
A thousand perspectives, each jarring,
as one beholds, caresses, and penetrates
the thing that broke him
until, one might imagine, there is satisfaction
or just the concession:
i understand

05.15.17

not about me

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:25 pm by Administrator

i’ve led my fair share of meetings and retreats over this past year, and i’ve had some speaking events outside my company as well. while the feedback has been strongly positive on my speaking and presentation skills, i’ve gotten constructive comments on two separate occasions that were remarkably similar—and given to me by supervisors who knew me very well. both times, i was asked to reflect on how much i had used the personal pronoun “I”. specifically, my self-referencing made it appear at times that i was working independently on things that were actually team endeavors.

on both occasions, i’ll admit that the feedback made me feel secretly defensive and more than a bit vulnerable. this was, after all, very similar to critical feedback i got ten years ago from a clinical preceptor, who’d felt personally insulted by my repeated lack of deference to her authority. perhaps i shouldn’t have been surprised to receive this kind of feedback again. but i was surprised, because i assumed that all the humiliations, failures, and struggles of the past decade had fundamentally changed me in this regard. what i had to recognize, after some reflection, is that i really have changed. i’m not as self-assured, self-absorbed, and ingenuous as i once was. but i still frequently act and speak like someone who keeps his own counsel, because deep down i still perceive myself to be a singular and special person. when i’m reminded that it’s not all about me, the truth still stings, because i still derive deep satisfaction from being both important and unique.

one of my mentors who offered me this observation advised me to simply substitute “we” for “I”. but when i discussed this suggestion with the first person who gave me this feedback, we agreed that the issue perhaps goes deeper than simply semantics. there’s a part of me—whether because i’m an only child, or because i’m my father’s child—that finds it difficult to take responsibility for others or to represent their viewpoints. being self-referential, in that regard, seems safer, more accurate, and more credible in the moment, particularly when i’m being challenged or questioned in the context of a group forum. when we explored these factors, my mentor encouraged me to consider that slowing down my responses, actively seeking stakeholder input, and deflecting the pressure to exude certainty might all be good skills to build. more fundamentally, i think i began to realize that leading a meeting doesn’t have to be a performance for me; being organized and structured does not mean that i need to drive the group toward a preconceived destination (one of my principal learnings from years of leading bible studies and small groups).

this morning, i considered the example of God, who (among all biblical characters) perhaps has the most reason to be self-referential. after all, the truth of the Gospel resides in His identity; if there were ever a person in the history of the world that had just cause to make it all about Him, then it was the Lord Himself. and yet, God authored the biblical story in such a way that self-reference is extraordinarily rare. yes, there are those moments when He asserts Himself; “I am who I am”, He declares to the Israelites through Moses, and “who are you to question me?” He challenges Job, in the aftermath of Job’s trials. but overwhelmingly, God chooses to be described through the lives of the people He touches. He is content to be called the God of Abraham, Moses, and Isaac. He is delighted to be understood as just one man among many, born to a woman, capable of love, and mortal to the point of death. when i look at the totality of the scriptural narrative, what i see is a God who is not overly fixated with His own glory; rather, He is a God consumed with the welfare and the glorification of His people. the truth in this, for me, is quite simple: even for a perfect being like God, it is better to be part of “us” than to just be “you”.

God made me a very particular way. He made me with my idiosyncrasies, my childhood memories, my difficult personality, and my unique emotional struggles, all because He wanted me to discover Him in a very specific context. and among the many lessons i am learning, i am learning that one thing the Lord desires for me is that i might learn to enjoy covenantal identity—the experience of being one of God’s people. and God’s ambition for me is that i might share His love for His people, to the extent that i might be willing to lay down my life for them. i am the kind of person that might (on an extraordinary day) be willing to inconvenience myself for God’s people in order to demonstrate my nobility or to fulfill my design. but God wants me to be the kind of man that lays down his life for his people because, deep down, the heart of me is “us”.

i know God has chosen me and favored me because He wishes me to be a blessing to my people. it is a simple truth, but it is one that is difficult for me to grasp from day to day. because i fail to grasp this truth, i experience a hole in my life, one that is impossible to fill. it is a perpetual reminder to me that i am insufficient even for myself. joy is mine when i learn to submit myself to the people and become part of something greater than what i am. it’s not about me. it never was, and it never will be. that’s the hard truth of following God. and that is the utter joy of being in relationship with Him

05.08.17

the house

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:35 pm by Administrator

the rooms look much different when sunlight
crosses through bare branches and straight through
the white curtains.

i remember many such afternoons.
it made the den a place of contemplation
and my room, the one that used to be mine,

seem unlived in, even then.
the lady in a brilliant red dress who will sell the house
has now moved to the foyer

where she can see many things
we might apologize for—a creep of the vernacular
across a mid-century aesthetic,

the bare presentation of an ironing board
upon the dais of an otherwise stately entryway
of dark wood and classical paintings.

i remind myself that she is not seeing
what’s there, only what could be—a home
for those that will follow,

walls and halls through which traverses
a canvas of imaginings, of distant conversations.
the woman who weaves these visions

goes up the stairs, as we follow.
she points out the fixtures of the lights,
the cracks in the paint, a dusty skylight

as if we had not considered these
ever before. “it’s a wonderful house,”
she says, breathless with speculation

and we wonder at that, and agree.
it was, was it not? i would tell them, the ones
that follow, that the rooms

look even different in summer,
when the light wanders through the heavy clouds
and plays upon the many leaves,

falling through like the dancing of dust
or like a fine cool drizzle through the languorous haze
of an august eve.

on those days, the walls took on a mirthful glow.
there were happy times, when we were together
and my father leafed through his books

spent of conversation, in a good way,
in a way that lent a pleasant softness to the sound
of pages turning, time passing.

the lady tells us that all the photographs
must come down. the bare walls must not betray
what came to pass here.

the house, after all, has had no other owner
and its soul must be disguised; it can be emptied,
just as it was full.

i try to imagine it that way,
the way it was when we first entered with our things.
my father was as old as i am now,

and i was ten, and the rooms
were so very large, and i could not have dreamed
that one day every one of them would be filled.

later, i try to imagine the house without us
and pry a framed photograph from the wall.
the paint behind peels, leaves a scar.

05.04.17

Random memories of my dad

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:41 am by Administrator

in no particular order, and for no particular reason, here are some of the moments i remember… just so that i won’t forget.

i got in trouble at the start of freshman year in high school for squirting ketchup out of the bus window at passing cars. when the sentence was handed down from administration (three days of suspension from school), my dad went with the fathers of the two other kids who got in trouble to meet with the principal. after the parents met with the principal (nicknamed Heinous Gainous by one of my friends, for his spartan style), he called the three of us students into his office and informed us that our punishment had been mitigated to five days of cafeteria clean-up work.

at the time, i had been sick with anxiety and quite scared of what a suspension would look like on my school record. i remember that my dad wasn’t tough on me at all through the whole ordeal, as he could see how distressed i was. he didn’t lecture me on the potential harm i might have inflicted on passing drivers. he didn’t express shame about my behavior. what he did (as i later learned) was go into the principal’s office with the other two fathers, literally get down on his hands and knees in front of the principal’s desk, lift his hands in supplication, and beg the principal for mercy. he narrated the story of his immigration, his sacrifices for his only child, and his hope that his son might have a chance at success at his new school. the principal listened to all this and then asked the other two parents if they agreed with my father’s sentiments. one parent emphatically agreed. the other father said that he thought the original suspension was a fair punishment. in the end, my principal told my dad that he’d think it over. a couple hours later, he rescinded the suspension.

there wasn’t a day that went by in high school when i didn’t remember that act by my father, at my most delicate moment. he had no shame; he humbled himself without hesitation, as determined as he was to promote my success. i graduated at the top of my class out of 532 students and got into every college i applied to. even then, i knew that this was the fruit of my father’s labor, as much as it was of mine.

my dad spent hours on the floor by the kitchen table, poring through his dictionary and grammar books. inevitably on saturday mornings, we would discuss the use of prepositions in various scenarios. is it “to that point” or “on that point”? is it “blessings from God” or “blessings of God”? he had notebooks filled with ruminations on articles, the bane of every korean immigrant’s experience with English. he had books on idioms that he would rehearse ad nauseum and in his slow, deliberate rhythm of speech.

he would ask me to critique his pronunciation. i never knew exactly how to respond. i could see that it wounded him a little when i picked at the nuances; so more often i told him that he sounded like a native speaker. but there were those nuances. he pronounced “grammar” as “grammuh”. he pronounced “so” as “soh”. they were subtle nuances, but he trained me to hear them. even to the end of his life, he was working on the English language. i saw it, in the spiral notebook that he kept by his armchair in the den. interspersed with his reflections on imminent death, there were those immaculately written word definitions and examples of usage, bracketed and punctuated as if to convey a lesson to his future reader. i leafed through these notebooks and saw the structure in his dying thoughts. there will be no other pupils, i decided. it hurt, in a way, to throw those notebooks into the trash; but once it was done, the house was cleaner for it.

my dad found my virginity before marriage to be puzzling. how did i manage my sexual appetites, he wanted to know. i could not admit to him that i masturbated; and yet it seems perplexing to me now that he could not assume that i was doing so. he found my romantic relationships fascinating as well, though of course no woman was quite right for me in his estimation. after i brought home a girl, he bluntly informed me after her departure that she was “lacking in secondary sexual features”. another girl came to the house to drop off a gift for me one time i was not home, and my father subsequently declared that she was clearly troubled and incapable of love, based on their brief interaction at the doorway. my dad liked both of my first girlfriends; he liked my first girlfriend because she wasn’t korean, and he liked my second girlfriend because she was “a classic Korean beauty”. he did not consider it a violation of privacy to pore through my journals and even quote some of my entries back to me. it was not infrequently mortifying; but sitting across the table from him, i understood that these were the rules of the game.

when i was in the ninth grade, we joined a korean church, and for a while my dad came with my mom and me. he was very impressed with the pastor there—an admiration that persisted for the rest of his life. indeed, that pastor presided over my dad’s funeral. in any case, the church had a certain charismatic bent to it, and my father was sometimes deeply affected by the emotional experience of prolonged prayer. there was a family retreat we attended once, and at the very end of the retreat, people were invited to join hands with one other person and sing “I love you with the love of the lord” together. in the midst of this, my dad sought me out, and i was shocked to find him visibly emotional. as we looked each other in the eyes and sang the words (”I can see you in you the glory of my king, and I love you with the love of the Lord”) we cried openly and together, and it immediately became the most intense experience i would ever share with him.

i won’t forget the moment that my parents left me on the sidewalk in front of my freshman dorm, at the end of orientation week. we hugged goodbye, and my parents got in the car, and i could see my father wiping the tears that had just started streaming down his face. i too was crying, though i remember only his tears, not mine. weeks later, my father was talking to me on the phone and trying to describe what it had felt like to listen to classical radio on his way home from work. “i heard violin music on the radio,” he said. “it was something you had played once. and while i was listening to the song, i became very emotional, because i remembered all the hard work that you and your mother had put into all of those violin lessons, all of those violin recitals, all of those violin competitions. i remembered your pain and all of your work, and it made me feel pain for those years, because i miss them now.”

during our years together, we played many competitive games. i learned chess in the 4th grade by watching him play against one of his friends. within three years, i was beating him routinely, and we stopped playing after that. with tennis too, i remember our matches. he had a choppy one-handed backhand stroke and a fairly flat and strong forehand. i remember one time we played in the Fall. my ragweed allergies were severe that day, and i was feeling physically horrible. my mother was running all over the court trying to collect balls, and my father was playing with a feverish intensity. he beat me that day, but he was unsatisfied, because i was complaining about my allergies. days or weeks later, i played with a calm precision and left nothing to chance. i beat him roundly and without saying a word, and afterwards my dad expressed pleasure at my skill. i don’t think we ever played again after that.

he wanted so much to be american. he hated korea. it was the place where his siblings had become moonies, where his parents had refused to buy him a suit for his residency training in america, where his neighbors had tried to have his family executed by the North Koreans. he took great pride in the shape of my eyes, in the fairness of my skin, and in the curvature of my head in profile. for all these features, i was frequently mistaken for being half-white in my childhood, a perception that absolutely delighted my father. he never spoke korean to me, and he never permitted me to speak ungrammatical english to him. to the end, i was under his scrutiny, because my mastery of the language was a sign of his success.

ten years ago, he admitted to me that though he had raised me to be american, he had not successfully become one himself. he knew that because he was aggrieved by my inability to show respect to him in the korean sense—deferential, submissive, and self-effacing. “you are a good man and a good husband, and you will be a good father. but you are not a good son.” they were the most wounding words he had ever told me. but i realize now that they were not meant to hurt me. they were true; they were as much a reflection of his failures as they were of mine.

he died so slowly, over nineteen years of progressive decline and social isolation. but in a way, he died so quickly. he had some diarrhea and a fever the night before he passed; he became abruptly delirious the next morning and fell into a brief coma before dying. my mother called me and cried out, “HE’S GONE”. and in that very moment, something so tensile and thin as to be invisible, something so deeply intertwined with the core of my soul, just snapped. i broke open. years of deep feeling, sadness, anger, and also confusion at the strange life that was my father’s just broke open and came out of my body and out of my face, a surge of human feeling like nothing i’ve ever felt before. i remembered the terribly awkward moment when he grabbed my hands in the middle of the room and sang to me “I love you with the love of the Lord”. i remembered the moment when he dropped me off in front of Pennypacker dormitory. i remembered the moments when we fought, when we competed, and when we celebrated big moments at our favorite chinese restaurant. i remembered when i was on the phone with him in the dingy basement of my baltimore rowhome hearing him tell me how bare life had become for him but how precious it still was because of how afraid he was of dying. i remembered all of this and more.

how fondly i remember you, Dad. there won’t be a moment in my life ahead when i won’t wish you were still alive and able to share it with me in some way. we may sell your house; we may discard your precious books and writings; but there is always a place in my heart that you will live in, with your idioms, your articles, your prepositions, and your Wyeth paintings. when i see you again in the next life, you may not recognize me because i will be with God, but i will know you. your life will be inestimably better then; and my life will be immeasurably fuller for it

05.01.17

within and without

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:15 pm by Administrator

yesterday was such a gorgeous day. we decided to skip church and enjoy a leisurely brunch outdoors, followed by a trip to a rock-climbing gym to entertain the kids. after a relaxing afternoon (and a nice long nap) we opened up a lambrusco and enjoyed a nice home-cooked meal. i got one hundred pages into my new book, and my son got to enjoy his new Rogue One DVD.

it is partly because of how nice the day was that i recognized so clearly what was missing from it. a big piece of my heart was missing in action. i knew it from the moment i woke up. it felt like an emptiness, a darkness, a dead weight. there was no reason for it, and there was no escaping it. it was like a semi-permeable membrane drawn over my body and my head, insulating me and blocking out the touch of the outside world. things were still pleasant, in a vague kind of way; but my sensations were dull and my thoughts lacked vigor. there was, everywhere, a slow and fatalistic gravitation toward the meaningless.

today, i still feel it, but it is not as dense. it is not an unfamiliar feeling; i have had it many times before. i recognize its rhythm. it often comes after excitement or a crisis. it slows me to an almost phlegmatic pace. it draws on for two or three days and leaves me emotionally bare, submitting me to a life that feels like an hour-to-hour grind.

because i know its rhythm, i try to anticipate its passing. in a couple of days, i will suddenly awaken feeling sharp and keenly aware. it will come off of me like a patina of slime; i’ll shed it as cleanly as a molting of my outer self. i’ll be able to look at myself from without—and see that the feeling was just a fog that fell upon me, a thing that i had to walk through.

but from within, it feels not like a circumstance but rather a true projection of my inner self. the feeling is not what i experience, in other words; it is the substance of what i am. and when i am within the feeling, i really do not know how to understand it. it is not depression. it is not anxiety. it is somehow a response to what i have recently been through, and it is a delayed one at that. it is a signal that i have somehow crossed a boundary, overextended myself beyond my proper limits, and now i must recede within myself, fall within my constraints, die a little in order to extinguish an unsustainable passion.

was this the result of my father’s death? with cold and deliberate fingers, i press apart the folds of my soul and peer within. what do i find there? i look into his eyes, my eyes, as he looks into me, and i see neither recognition nor surprise. he peers into my depths, then closes up my flesh, and then sits with me to tell me what he has found. in that clean and sterile language of the diagnostician, he says something technical, about the connections between my present and my past, between myself and my surrounding world. i don’t see it, nor do i understand. i only know that this happens from time to time, and it is miserable every time, and the doctor in me knows what it is, but not i.