03.29.18

down here in the world of the dead

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:50 pm by Administrator

in the black, shapeless, and wordless but not silent space between sleep and awakening, I had a moment when I sensed death. death was with me, and I contemplated it, and what I felt in that moment was my identity—memories of my past, aspects of myself that others would recognize—adrift and somewhere behind me, like a bag tied around my body as I swam across a dark river. and I heard myself ask a single question. “how does it all cohere?” how do i bring this thing that i was into the new thing i have already become?

it strikes me when i think of the ghost of Samuel that he was not simply displeased to be brought out of his rest; he was also displeased to reassume an identity that he thought he had left behind—his past identity as God’s counselor to King Saul. there’s a moment of perspective that he shares with Saul that is beyond spooky, when he tells him as a matter of fact that on account of his failings Saul and his sons would soon be joining Samuel “down here in the world of the dead”. i don’t think Samuel had malicious intent, but i think that it was beyond Samuel at that point to empathize with the doomed king of the Israelites. Samuel, in other words, did not want to remember his past connection with Saul and all the passion and heartache inherent to that connection. Samuel was content to be free of that life; and Saul would soon be content to be free of that burden as well.

it reminds me of something that maya angelou shared at johns Hopkins the week that i began my fellowship there. as a child after a bad scolding, she’d told her grandmother that she would’ve been better off dead, to which her grandmother had told her that the dead would give up anything to reenter the world of the living just for one sweet moment. I’ve thought about that for many years, and i just don’t believe that. and when i think of Christ raising lazarus from the dead, i think i recognize that it was not for the blessing of lazarus that he was called back to mortal life; it was for the comfort of his sisters and for the demonstration of Christ’s power. we’ll never know how much his bodily resurrection really pained lazarus, but i am inclined to believe that he was probably never fully himself ever again.

when i think of death, i recognize that there is irony in my understanding of consciousness. i fear losing my consciousness. but the fact is that i lose consciousness every day; i wander into this space where i—the person that i define myself to be—completely disappear from the world of the living. it is true that there is a body that can be attributed to me in those hours of sleep; but the person that i am, the thinking and interacting person, has actually exited the world completely. does he disappear? where does he go? what happens to his consciousness? is it veritably extinguished, only to re-form around the shell of what it was the previous day? i assume a continuity of self, but the fact of it, as far as i can understand, is that i am changed every morning that i awaken. everything that i was the previous day was not fully carried over into the next. whether consciously or unconsciously, i had to choose the aspects of myself that would carry forward. some things are forgotten. other things just have no place to reside, and they exit my life. enough of me moves forward that my identity appears to cohere.

without the discontinuity of sleep, i don’t think I could change. my thoughts about things couldn’t turn in another direction; innovation would be impossible. it is only because i fall into unconsciousness, or into the absence of consciousness, that i can see myself and my world in dramatically different ways. if my life were one unbroken stream of consciousness, I’d not only submit to mental fatigue or boredom but also fall prey to a more fundamental fatigue of myself. i think that i can only live with myself, engage with what i am, and carry what i am forward because the experience of myself is continually new. every day, i wake up within a new self, a new alignment of memory, values, and suspicions. i leave something of myself behind. i choose what will cohere with what i have become.

when i come to face death at last, i hope i will take comfort in the fact that i have been well-practiced in it. over and over i lost what i am, and who knows where i went? but something returned to me, and though it was different, and though there was something lost, the new self was somehow sufficient. the tens of thousands of versions of myself that have expired over the years moved on into the ether, but they held to a collective memory, a sense of self that they pulled like a thread all the way through the continuum of our experiences, a thread to which i now hold. i too will pull it through to tomorrow, should i make it through this day, and the next man that is rendered in my mind will catch hold of it and assert himself my successor. on and on, we will continue this life through this earthly phase and into the next. down there in the world of the dead, a version of me will pinch that thread between his fingers, see the whole length of it, and wonder at it—its deceptive weight, its twists and turns and many tragedies. he will make a choice, as Samuel did, about what is still worth carrying forward and what really ought to be left behind. and a bit of me, the man i am today, will be there between his fingers, tested beneath his all-seeing eyes, known and felt across that exquisitely thin contour of the thread. i submit to it, knowing that i will hang in the balance. i submit to it, knowing that whatever is left in the end will be what we all believed to be best

03.26.18

discontinuity, positionality, and simplicity

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:26 pm by Administrator

sometimes I sit at my Monday morning meeting and notice right away a sharp and unavoidable difference between myself and others. for others, this Monday is clearly a continuation of all days preceding it; it is the beginning of a week that will build seamlessly upon the weeks past. but for me, every Monday represents an abrupt discontinuity in my life. it is a moment when I realize that this day, like every day, must be fashioned into something purposeful. if there was momentum that built over times past, it has long since faded. Monday carries no inertia for me, and it never does. I sit in my swiveling chair, and I turn myself around, and I think to myself that I have been here before but that does not make this moment predictable or effortless in any way. in a strange and unfamiliar place, I take a tentative step forward, and I peer ahead for the signs of a trail. I walk ahead, not knowing what awaits me. once upon a time, it was grueling or unpleasant to proceed in this way. now, I realize that it is simply alienation. it’s my burden to bear; but it is also the gift I was given. nothing and no one will ever own me.

yesterday at church, I shared with the congregation my struggle with unconscious bias and my deeply rooted and unhealthy experience of race. it was an emotional moment for me and for some others in attendance. afterwards, a woman of my ethnic group approached me and thanked me for what I shared, and then she asked me an interesting question. “why don’t the white people ever say what you just said up there?” she asked. “why is it always a person of color broaching the subject, inconveniently and with shame, apologizing for speaking the truth?”

the fact is that I shared what I did in order to challenge the white people in my community to do the same. I don’t know if they will. I know that some of them recognize the fact of their privilege—because they came up to me individually afterwards to confess to it. but I could tell from their reactions that this is a really uncomfortable issue for them, because they fear that admitting to unconscious bias against people of color will be interpreted as overt racism, an enduring mark against them. and because they maintain silence on their experience of privilege, they force people of color, particularly black and brown people, to bring up the issue, take responsibility for the tension that ensues, and then interpret the ambivalence and discomfort that white people express in response. it’s an inconvenient position for black and brown people to be put in; but it’s a position they have to take, because the ramifications of unconscious bias are inescapably pervasive and invariably create an unsafe place for them, particularly in spiritual community.

a few years ago, I wrote an entry that I entitled “the evasion conversation”. it was an entry about how the church’s collective silence on matters of LGBTQ rights is tantamount to overt aggression against members of that community. on matters of race as with matters of gender and sexual orientation, silence is not neutrality; silence serves the agenda of those with privilege, who have no interest in being displaced from their position of power. to be genuinely accepting and inclusive, one must articulate his or her position relative to the privilege that is assumed. this means that within a racially diverse community genuinely striving toward reconciliation, each and every white person in that assembly must clearly articulate in one way or another how he or she is owning, leveraging, or working counter to his inherent privilege.

people of color shouldn’t have to ask for that within church community; positionality should be laid out as clearly as the mission and values of the organization. but the fact is that most white people haven’t learned how to do that, even at a church as progressive and liberal as mine. I’ve seen only one white leader do that throughout my entire life, and it was a profoundly emotional moment for me and for everyone in attendance. the fact that this is so rare is not okay, but I’ve gotten used to it. I talk about racism, so that the white people can talk about their racism, so that ultimately we can be honest about the systematic offenses that we have contributed to, so that ultimately we can each be understood, loved, and really forgiven. reconciliation, whether it’s regarding race, gender, or sexual orientation, can’t happen any other way. every person, whether he or she likes it or not, is part of the problem and essential to the solution.

I recognize that I aspire to complexity when in fact I am best served by simplicity. for weeks my mind has been on many things: my evolving position in the company, how to time my reentrance into the stock market, travel arrangements for our next vacation, political developments, and the national debate on guns. my thoughts have been far-reaching and unsettled; sometimes I find myself in the midst of my preoccupations, very connected to what is going on in the world but somehow deeply unhappy as a result of that. as I was exercising this morning, I found myself thinking about when I am at my strongest. I am weakest, I realized, when I am angry about the things I cannot control. I am weak when I am trying to reshape my future. I am stronger when I am within my spiritual community, listening to others. and I am strongest when I come to the Lord and remember the story He has given me. I am strongest when I remember Her, the God who favors me, the God who takes the death out of my life, the God who goes ahead of me into battle, the God who calls me to be a lion for Her people.

in the old days, the men and women of faith experienced deliverance and blessing, and they built altars to make their sacrifices to God. the altars represented heartfelt worship; and the altars were meant to endure, as lasting testaments to the faithfulness of God. is this not such a simple model for all living? indeed, what is my life but the experience of God’s deliverance and blessing? for all that I do and strive to accomplish, at the end of my days is it not the providence of God that I experience? and what is it ultimately that I give God and His people in return, if not my offering? this life is my living sacrifice; it is the altar I construct out of words, feelings, actions, and relationships. I am called to do a great thing but a very simple thing as well. I am called to build my altar and my sacrifice to the Lord, to commemorate my savior and my beloved, who called me from nothing, who taught me to love myself, who carries me even now away from bigotry, violence, and cruelty toward forgiveness and real love. these words here are my worship, as are my Monday struggles, as are my many longings for the world that I live in. I wish I were better, as I wish that my world were better. but I come as I am, knowing that I am sufficient

03.23.18

on God’s mind

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:30 pm by Administrator

I keep coming back to the book of Jonah at different times in my life. it’s such a strange, funny, and true story for so many different reasons. for one thing, it absolutely disrupts the old testament narrative of Israel’s existential battle against all other nations. for another, it depicts a prophet who blatantly disobeys and argues with God. and lastly, it’s got that precious and unequaled fourth chapter: the depiction of God seeking the empathy of His obstinate and angry servant.

lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about race, and this subject has brought me to a new reflection about Jonah. throughout Jonah’s life, it was people like the ninevites that had made life dangerous and cruel for all enemies of the assyrians. it should have been a straightforward thing to indict them and to punish them at any opportunity. but God saves them, and moreover He tells Jonah an interesting thing. “you might have bad memories of these people, but in the end you’ll leave this place and go home, while they will still be very much on my mind.” God doesn’t try to convince Jonah that these people are good. in fact, the Ninevites are a problem; they are God’s problem, and thus they are His to deal with in His own manner.

indeed, there is also the implication that God’s mercy is to be honored. but at this time in my life, I’m seeing another side to the story: that whatever pain one might experience at the hands of another is even more grievous to God, the ever-present and ever-hoping lord of all who must live with and work through all the consequences of man’s many evils. when God says “it is my problem”—as He did when he died on the cross on account of all humanity—He is relieving us of the responsibility to adjudicate and to right the wrongs. He is freeing us to obey, simply and with faith in the outcome of God’s providence. it is not an easy command to those who crave the authority to enact justice and to repay the evildoer with vengeance; but for those who recognize the awesomeness and impossibility of that task, God’s benevolent sovereignty is true life, in the face of the deathly and futile alternatives.

so it is with race. for those of us like me who have been irreversibly programmed by our elders and our society to lay blame according to race, there is in the scripture a strong and persisting encouragement not to reverse our perspective but to relinquish responsibility. you cannot right the wrongs, and you cannot make it right. so spare yourself the pains of the age; you are passing through a broken world. forgive.

it has taken me time to recognize that I have been no less inflicted by the racial constructions of my society than any other of my contemporaries. I too have unconscious bias against other people of color, and how could I not? a boy hit me in the face out of malicious intent. another boy stole my clothes. a young man pistol-whipped the father of my friend; he fell into a coma and died. countless other young men showed me the ugliness of their drug addictions and their lives of violence. what did all these people have in common? their race. I was given the story of their kind, and all the things I suffered and observed served to reinforce that narrative. I’m an adult man with broader experience and an awareness of different societal narratives; but still, at the core of what I am, I am a boy who experienced harm and blamed my pains on the members of a particular tribe. that injured boy will always be within me, and I will not be able to cut him out of myself for as long as I live. this is unconscious bias; it is etched into my identity now.

for people like me, it is not good enough or sufficient enough to say that my biases, as hidden and subtle as they are now, are wrong or misguided. it is not good enough to pretend that I have outgrown them. but it is important nevertheless to contend with myself and to remind myself of the lesson of Jonah—that regardless of what I have seen and learned about justice in my time, it is not my responsibility to reverse the pattern, to right the wrong. it is my responsibility to act as I am directed, to serve both friend and enemy, and to forgive. I may never escape the biases that were written into my consciousness like a scar; but this is neither necessary nor possible. in fact, I am called to take hold of the death in myself, to recognize it as such, and to agitate against it, in the cause of love. were I to be freed of these biases and the memories beneath them, there would be no zeal for the justice of God. no, it is because I have been harmed that I see purpose and importance in the sovereignty of my God—and I lay that responsibility upon Him, the way my sin was pinned upon the person of Christ, that I may not have to bear that burden for as long as I live.

it is like when I saw God at the bedside of my wife’s dying uncle, and I saw Him turn his face to me and ask me “were you there?” were you there when this man was born? were you there, when all suffering people in this world came into life and met their bitter ends? who are you to judge me as good or wicked, when I am the only one who has borne it all? to hear it from his lips was to recognize His grief and His passion for the world. we serve a God who calls us to simple obedience because He knows the incredible weight of justice and what it demands. it will be served in His way. but for us, there is freedom from the vendetta; there is life apart from that pain

03.18.18

Mock NFL Draft #4

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:32 am by Administrator

fourth mock, following the Jets trade. as always, i’m looking for a way to get the Eagles another 1st rounder. john dorsey and dave gettleman are the two guys that will absolutely control the shape of this draft.

1. Cleveland: Sam Darnold.
this is now a near no-brainer. they can’t wait til pick 4 to get their franchise QB.

2. New York Giants: Josh Rosen
Gettleman is the enigma of the 2018 draft. His staff have leaked nothing, and he’s remain tight-lipped with the media. the moves (solder, ogletree, and others) reflect aggression and perhaps even a win-now mentality. but i believe gettleman is not facing strong internal pressure to turn it around within one season and win with eli; and after five years with a good carolina team, he should be smart enough to know that the only real mistake he could make in this draft would be to pass on a star QB. the giants organization and the entire fan base for that matter know that eli manning is not only old and in decline but also the single most important reason for the Giants’ spectacular collapse over the past season. a talent like Josh Rosen is an extraordinarily rare opportunity at the top of any draft, and it’s the Giants’ turn to do the only logical thing in this situation. no, you don’t trade down. you don’t take a defensive player. you take the guy who could lead the team for the next fifteen years, and you don’t look back. Eli may play half the year (or not). Rosen—blazing talent, arm skills, and all—will be New York’s QB in 2018 and has to be dave gettleman’s choice here.

3. New York Jets: Josh Allen
the Jets did very well to trade up with the Colts, and the pick here will be either Rosen or Allen. ’nuff said.

4. Denver: Baker Mayfield
The two most important questions about this draft are 1) whether the Giants will take a QB (YES) and 2) whether Denver will go all-out for Cleveland’s #4 pick. It will not be an easy decision for Elway to move up one pick—and give up a 2nd rounder both this year and next to make it happen—but it will be a straightforward decision and one which Denver will make before April. Cleveland will weigh offers from Arizona and Buffalo but will ultimately do the deal with Denver, because for a Browns organization that must win games this year, dropping out of the top 10 is too considerable of an opportunity cost to risk. they’ve passed on too many premiere talents in recent drafts to afford playing the numbers game again. Denver will move up one pick and get Mayfield, who is short but long on talent and shows brilliantly on film. he’s much lower risk than some scouts would have us believe, and there’s a strong chance he will not be the worst of the 4 quarterbacks going 1-2-3-4 in this class.

5. Cleveland: Saquon Barkley
i’ve previously mocked Barkley lower down because of Cleveland’s more pressing needs and the Carlos Hyde signing. obviously, Cleveland has many options once they move down to 5, and doubling down at the RB position might seem the least intuitive of them. but there are four main reasons that will tilt them toward barkley at 4: 1) the identity transformation of the browns must happen on the offensive side of the ball, 2) the browns have to run the ball effectively for taylor (and later darnold) to have a chance at success, 3) all other imminent positional needs (left tackle, linebacker depth, and safety depth) can be properly addressed in the early 2nd round, but 4) barkley stands alone at his position and in this class, and there is no one (sony michel or otherwise) who can match his potential at pick 33. this is the selection that will not only excite the fan base but also signal a new era for the browns. it’s not a slam dunk choice here, but it’s the right one for Dorsey and the Browns.

6. Indianapolis: Quenton Nelson
self-explanatory. the colts now have plenty of picks, but none of them matter if andrew luck doesn’t bounce back this year.

7. Tampa: Minkah Fitzpatrick

8. Chicago: Bradley Chubb
this ends Chubb’s mini-slide, and it is a perfect pick for Chicago, who will field an intimidating defense in 2018.

9. San Francisco: Derwin James
I don’t know if SF goes with a corner (Ward) or safety (James) here, but i’m betting on safety given the void from eric reid’s departure. it’ll be an interesting secondary with sherman in the fold, but of course all the attention in santa clara will be on the offense, with garoppolo, speedy jerick mckinnon, and the solid/unspectacular pierre garcon and marquise goodwin.

10. Oakland: Roquan Smith
in all of my mocks, the raiders have picked roquan, and i don’t think the tahir whitehead signing will change that. whitehead is a tackler with an edge and has been solid in red defense, but oakland needs an elite presence at the second level to stop the bleeding.

11. Miami: Denzel Ward
they will think about lamar jackson here, but ultimately they will pass on a qb because a few people still believe in ryan tannehill.

12. Buffalo: Calvin Ridley
Buffalo’s inability to trade into the top 5 will be a catastrophe for the organization and a major setback for the front office. after denver completes its trade with cleveland, buffalo will have no choice but to reassess. they didn’t stack picks in this draft to come away with some new pieces; they set out to effect a total rebuild, and picks 12 and 22 will be insufficient for the task. ultimately i believe this will drive them to trade pick 22 and a third-rounder to the Eagles for Nick Foles, with whom they will negotiate a 5-year extension. Calvin Ridley at pick 12 gives them a new-look offense to soften the blow of a thoroughly disappointing pre-draft process.

13. Washington: Vita Vea

14. Green Bay: Marcus Davenport

15. Arizona: Lamar Jackson
Arizona like Buffalo will not be able to muzzle their way into the top-5 and will be on the outside looking in when it comes to elite QBs. that being said, i believe that they will eventually be rewarded for taking lamar jackson here, who is the proper risk/reward selection in the mid 1st round.

16. Baltimore: Courtland Sutton

17. LA Chargers: Isaiah Wynn

18. Seattle: Mike McGlinchey

19. Dallas: Da’Ron Payne

20. Detroit: Tremaine Edmunds
Whitehead is leaving the linebacker group, and Ngata is moving on, which means run defense will be a priority. Additionally, Detroit just added a surplus of running backs, so it doesn’t look like guice or chubb will go off the board here. it’s a running back slide.

21. Cincinnati: James Daniels
Cordy Glenn & James Daniels will anchor a new-look o-line for a bengals team that needs to spring joe mixon in 2018.

22. Philadelphia: Derrius Guice
we get pick 22 and our old pick 96 back for foles, and we strike hard with derrius guice here. it’s a solid win-now move and gives us our running back of the future. we have needs at RB, tight end, and safety to address with picks 22, 32, and 96, and i like addressing those needs in that order.

23. LA Rams: Joshua Jackson

24. Carolina: Will Hernandez

25. Tennessee: Harold Landry

26. Atlanta: Taven Bryan

27. New Orleans: Mike Gesicki

28. Pittsburgh: Rashaan Evans

29. Jacksonville: DJ Clark
they really should be drafting mason rudolph here, but i don’t think it’ll shake out that way in the end for tom coughlin’s team.

30. Minnesota: Connor Williams

31. New England: Kolton Miller

32. Philadelphia: Hayden Hurst
here ends a brilliant first round for Howie Roseman, who addresses the team’s two biggest imminent needs with top-calibre players who can contribute in year one. Hurst may not have a lot of opportunities to flash his big-play ability in year one, but he’ll be more than a in-line blocker for us. Leighten Vander Esch should be a serious consideration here, but i think we’ll go with Hurst for his all-around skill-set and potential offensive contributions in year one.

03.16.18

Mock NFL Draft #3

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:13 am by Administrator

my third mock NFL draft, and some reflections on pick #32.

1. Cleveland: Sam Darnold.
They just signed Carlos Hyde to run the ball, and it seems likely that the Giants and Colts will trade down, so the Browns really don’t have a choice but to take their QB with pick one.

2. New York Jets: Josh Allen
The Jets will trade pick 6 and a 2nd rounder or a future 1st to get the Giants’ #2 pick.

3. Denver: Josh Rosen
There’s no way Denver will allow Cleveland to trade its 4th pick to a QB-needy team that steals Rosen. They will pay an even higher price than the Jets do, to get Indy’s pick: their 5th, their 2nd rounder, and a future 1st rounder as well.

4. Buffalo: Baker Mayfield
Yes, I’m increasingly convinced that the top 4 quarterbacks will go 1 through 4. Buffalo will give up picks 12 and 22 to make this happen, which means Cleveland will have three 1st rounders in this draft.

5. Indianapolis: Bradley Chubb
Nice haul in this draft. Indy gets pick 40, Denver’s 1st rounder next year, and this year’s highest-impact defensive player, in Chubb.

6. NY Giants: Quenton Nelson
They just signed Nate Solder to man left tackle, and Quenton Nelson will shore up a guard spot, turning the team’s main weakness into an immediate strength.

7. Tampa: Minkah Fitzpatrick

8. Washington: Saquon Barkley
Washington seizes the opportunity to get a franchise-defining running back and trade their 13th pick plus their 44th pick and a 3rd rounder in 2019 in order to move up 5 spots and stop Barkley’s mini-slide.

9. San Francisco: Derwin James

10. Oakland: Roquan Smith

11. Miami: Denzel Ward

12. Cleveland: Mike McGlinchey
Cleveland gets pick 12 from Buffalo and addresses the loss of Joe Thomas by taking the only guy that profiles as a future starter at left tackle.

13. Chicago: Connor Williams
Chicago to their chagrin will actually miss out on McGlinchey by moving down and will take Connor Williams to shore up their line. It may not end up being a downgrade, despite Williams’ short arms.

14. Green Bay: Marcus Davenport

15. Arizona: Mason Rudolph
they spent big money on backup-level quarterbacks and have almost no choice here but to take a guy who may (or may not) be their long-term signal-caller.

16. Baltimore: Calvin Ridley
they were so desperate yesterday for a wide receiver that they almost gave $7 mil a year to ryan grant. it is painfully obvious that they would not pass on calvin ridley if they saw him at 16.

17. LA Chargers: Isaiah Wynn

18. Seattle: Will Hernandez

19. Dallas: Vita Vea

20. Detroit: Tremaine Edmunds
Whitehead is leaving the linebacker group, and Ngata is moving on, which means run defense will be a priority. Additionally, Detroit just added a surplus of running backs, so it doesn’t look like guice or chubb will go off the board here. it’s a running back slide.

21. Cincinnati: James Daniels
it’s weird mocking a center in the 1st round most of the time, but it makes sense for the bengals. with cordy glenn on the left side and daniels moving into the middle, this could be an improved unit for mixon and dalton to work with.

22. Cleveland: Rashaan Evans
I considered the possibility that Cleveland would go all-offense with their 3 1st round picks, but they do need linebacker depth behind schobert that badly.

23. LA Rams: Joshua Jackson

24. Carolina: Courtland Sutton
they just signed breeland to big money, so they may veer from CB to WR.

25. Tennessee: Harold Landry

26. Atlanta: Da’Ron Payne

27. New Orleans: Mike Gesicki
I actually think there’s a strong chance the saints may pick up a coby fleener clone in mike gesicki, to give brees more weapons to work with in the red zone. it would be a signal that they’re all in on winning now.

28. Pittsburgh: Leighten Vander Esch

29. Jacksonville: DJ Clark

30. Minnesota: Maurice Hurst

31. New England: Kolton Miller
now that they’ve lost Solder, I think they’ll certainly have to address tackle in the 2018 draft. they might trade down, but if kolton miller is available at 31, I think they’ll pull the trigger.

32. Philadelphia: trade down
the way this mock has gone, the Eagles will have four legitimate options when pick 32 comes around. they can take derrius guice, the single player most likely to influence the eagles’ playoff chances in 2018. I like taking guice here—but I think our lack of a pick in the 2nd and 3rd rounds will ultimately swing roseman to trade down. the third and fourth options here would be to take a tight end (hayden hurst) or a defensive back (most likely jaire alexander, who many project to go much higher). if we trade down to get a late 2nd and a 3rd, then we can address o-line and tight end in those rounds and go fishing for backup safeties in the late rounds.

03.15.18

the greenhouse flower

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:59 pm by Administrator

the moment that I gave it to you, i knew it was not words like other words,
and it was not a gift like other gifts. i knew that it took years
for that thing to take shape in the palm of my hand,
a round and luscious shape, flush with color and promising sweetness
and tartness and a texture inviting not only separation by teeth
but a stretching and a discovery and a dissembling to a thousand sensations
upon the tip of the tongue, summoning an idea of something
delicate, unfamiliar, particular.

and where did this come from? indeed, this small thing I hold
took decades to form. and to think of that is to consider
that perhaps I was subjected to frustration, to all fruitless
and desperate seasons, just for this. for this, I was planted
in hard soil on the lee side of an arid hill, to suffer thirst.
I was not, as my father described me, a greenhouse flower,
unless his love, heavy with the salt of the land, was required
for this kind of a harvest.

after four decades in the earth, my heart is rugged, my roots a tenacious
and twisted network of memories and regrets that go deep and to nowhere,
and the outstretched fingers of my spirit aspire not to height but rather
curl around myself, like brambles. I’m nothing to look at
but now I feel differently about what came to me over the years.
it was a trickle of love, steady across the quiet and the growing,
and now I am full, and out of this fullness, there is this small thing.
is it not surprising to you?

Football

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:05 am by Administrator

I’m going to have to draft up a new mock. NFL free agency has not started off as predicted, and I was frankly stunned by some of the quarterback signings of day one. how is it that certified backup quarterbacks with no track record of success can rake in $10-15 million per year in today’s league? in any case, as a result of all of these moves, I see little potential now for trading nick foles. the only real candidate left is buffalo. I actually think that the bills should seriously consider offering us pick 22 for foles even if they are able to leverage pick 12 and a second-rounder to move up a few spots with a team like tampa or Chicago to grab baker mayfield. nick foles is better than a “bridge” quarterback; he ought to be viewed as a bona fide starter in his prime. but all things considered, I think it’s less likely now that the eagles will get a deal done; and in the end, that’s fine with me. for a win-now team like the eagles, retaining nick foles gives us a better chance of repeating a Super Bowl.

it’s been interesting and even thought-provoking to embark again (vicariously) on this cycle of the NFL calendar, which begins the day after the super bowl and culminates in the NFL draft at the end of april. it’s a feeding frenzy for sports reporters, who capitalize on raw feelings, rumors, and a flurry of personnel moves in mid-march to paint a picture—however impressionistic—of where each of the league’s thirty-two franchises are headed in the coming season. the combine in particular, with its odd array of activities and metrics, is dissected in any number of ways by scouts, reporters, and fans alike, all of whom are interested in distilling plentiful raw data into a single clear idea of a player’s potential at the pro level. there are analytics; there are pro player comparisons; there are expert opinions; there are projected ceilings and floors. there are interviews with players designed to assess their intelligence, composure, and emotional triggers. and there is underneath it all an insidious commodification of these young men. the question each scout and GM is asking aloud is how long and how hard these twenty-one year old men will be able to give and take physical punishment before they mentally break down, age out, or succumb to the physical destruction of the game. every team wants the guy who will, as al pacino puts it in “any given sunday”, tear himself and everyone around him to pieces for that inch.

here’s the thing. if I were a young man blessed enough to be 6′3″ with 240 pounds of muscle, a 4.6 second 40 yard dash, and game tape showing I can wrestle with 300 pound linemen, I’d still have just two things on my mind: playing well enough to get that second contract, and planning for a safer career after an early retirement from football. it’s a business after all. it’s a business that cuts you when you get injured; it’s a business that generates profits from the pain and punishment inflicted on your body. I wouldn’t be out there trying to win a super bowl or extend my career. I’d be out there to cash in and then get out. best case scenario: I’m good enough to get a sizable chunk of guaranteed money on my second contract, and then I quit the league at twenty-six years old without any lingering injuries or obvious brain damage. if I have to ride the bench for lackluster play the year after I cash in, so be it. I’m not trying to win fans; I’m trying to cash in and get out.

I’ve thought a lot about chronic traumatic encephalopathy over the past three years, and all the deliberations have subtracted from my previous passion for the game. i’ll admit, with some shame, that I celebrated malcolm jenkins’ hard hit on brandin cooks in the super bowl game, because I knew from the moment cooks was flattened on the field that he’d be out for the game. it was a rare moment for me, compared to what I used to experience when I watched football, which was frankly bloodlust. the one thing that’s allowed me to stay engaged with the game despite my trepidations about CTE is the conclusion I’ve come to that trading brain health for wealth and fame might very well be a rational transaction for a lot of people. in fact, I think that it might be the veritable probability of chronic pain and disability that makes the game compelling to the young men who take the field. in an ideal world, this is not a sacrifice that I would make or that I would want any other person to make. but this is not an ideal world—and people willingly make sacrifices like this every day, because of systematic injustice, extreme poverty, ignorance, or just straightforward ambition.

so in the end, as a fan of the eagles, I’m not going to feel great about any guy on the team that doesn’t give one hundred percent on the field, play out his entire contract without complaint, or work his ass off to stay in shape during the off-season. but frankly, if I were in the NFL, I’d be playing just hard enough to make what I need to make, without putting myself at any undue risk. I’d slack off in the off-season. I’d probably smoke pot to work through the pain and stress of the game. and for damn sure, I’d kneel during the national anthem. I’d be one of those guys getting labeled for being a problem in the locker room, a guy “who doesn’t love the game”. so be it. a man’s got to survive. get the money and get out. there are no permanent loyalties in the game of life. just permanent interests

03.13.18

brittleness

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:57 pm by Administrator

I was in a meeting today and feeling terribly deflated. my wife just heard bad news this morning about her academic job search, and it was just difficult for me to realize that months of preparation, prayer, and hard work have culminated in this—a closed door. it was also difficult for me to realize that this means I will now have to address the steadily more difficult situation I am facing in my job. there’s no easy way out now. there’s no fresh start on life, unless I choose to make it unilaterally. for an hour and a half, I sat in a terribly boring meeting and felt my life grow heavy with many burdens. I thought about all the prayers and tried to tell myself that there was meaning in them. was there meaning in those prayers? what was the point of striving, hoping, and even wanting something? and what is my wife supposed to think or believe about her future now?

I’m a brittle man, I realized after some reflection. one thing goes wrong in my life and I crack inside. one thing doesn’t go as expected and I find myself in a quandary. all the years that I was growing, my father named me a greenhouse flower, as if I’d never known real pain in my life. isn’t it true though? the only real pain I’ve ever experienced was on his account. the hardships I experienced in my schooling and training were common hardships, and it is clear from what has become of me that these struggles were insufficient to teach me the lesson of resilience. I look at the despondence I’m experiencing today and I balk at it. is this really what I have become? am I a brittle man, constantly on the verge of being snapped in two, a beaten and eroded husk of life begging to be broken? despite all I have, is life truly this precarious for me, that a setback—if it can even be called that—can ruin it all for me?

in moments like this, I feel such disdain for what I am. I remember the hard conversations I had with self eight years ago, when I fell upon hard times with my job. “who made your life such a laughingstock, that you would be reduced to such self-pity?” I asked myself, as I sat alone and in my shame. “who convinced you that your life consisted of such trivial little things? is your job your life? is it your wife and your child that determine your worth to the Lord? who blinded you to the truth of what you are and persuaded you to devote yourself to idols? like a whore, you sell yourself for money.”

those were dark times, but they were true times. it took me months, locked away in the private hell of my thoughts, wandering between therapy and my bed and all roads in between, just to realize there was real living underneath the pain of desolation. it was in that time of my life that I felt the spirit of God call to me, to be a lion for His people. I understood that a certain way at the time. I see it somewhat differently now. but still, one thing has remained the same. I remember the indignation of God at my humiliation, because my humiliation was not failure in any real sense but rather bondage. I had given my life over to the enemy. I had put myself in chains; I had made myself weak; and the weakness had made me brittle, in the face of life and its many challenges.

there was a time in my life when I was convinced that death would be a relief. death would be my deliverance from the unceasing possibility of failure, of responsibilities unfulfilled. in my moments of real wisdom, which are desperately few and far between, I recognize that true vitality requires not a freedom from that basic responsibility but rather a profound embrace of greater and more expansive responsibilities. I have not simply the responsibility of providing for my family or paving our way forward in life. I have not simply the responsibility of preserving my children to the best of my ability. I carry also a responsibility for the world that I live in. I am responsible for the influence I exert, for the people that I influence, and for the repercussions of their lives upon other lives in our society. I am responsible for the fate of my people, the people to whom I belong. and most importantly, I am responsible for myself—for the self that is not merely a vessel of transaction but also the person that was meant to experience love, to love others, and in the fulfillment and the sacrifice of self to experience the glory of God. such an experience of life demands resilience, flexibility, openness to possibility, and the capacity to grow in the midst of ambiguity and unceasing struggle. it demands more than brittleness.

in the face of our struggles, I call out my enemy. what idol is it that I have bowed down to all these years, that at my moment of greatest testing I desert hope in the Lord my God? woe to me then, in these times. let my suffering be multiplied, that in my dying the deathly things might be put to death indeed. if there is anything worth living in me, let it be what survives the destruction of every false hope, every arrogant presumption, every cruel and fallen thing in me that is suffering decay. I am not the suffering man afraid of what will fail; no, I am the one that survives his immolation and rises from his humiliation, the man reborn and unwilling to go the way of his elders. test me. test me again. what broke me is what gave me life; so again, what seems to pain me will perfect my offering. my work, my children, my wife, my body, my health, and my dreams are yours—meaningful only insofar as they testify to real life. and as for the rest of it, just ashes. let me be new

03.12.18

sabbath

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:33 pm by Administrator

I am like the priest bringing the animal of sacrifice to the altar. I am the priest—sober, reflective, and far-seeing. and I am also the animal—frantic, instinctive, and fearful. I have a grip of the beast’s neck; I am the one being hauled against my will to a destination of certain desolation. in my experience of life, I am both the one who governs my actions and I am the one from whom action is provoked. in this creative exercise of life, the one doing the work on self and the one who is shaped and even punished by this work are one and the same. it is a Sabbath reflection. I cannot restrain my hand, any more than I can resist where it is leading me.

I thought about a patient of mine who was murdered sixteen months ago. he was just a little older than I but thinned out and burned out by life. up until he went missing, he saw me every month, and before I went into the exam room to see him, I’d have to take a deep breath and collect myself. it wasn’t that he was unpleasant or particularly difficult with me; it was that every month he came with the same pervasive despondence, which showed in his face, his posture, and his every word. he often had his face in his hands. it took him long moments to get the words out. life was never going well. our visits would extend past twenty minutes. there was no hope in his life. toward the end, I resented him for it.

in the months after he died, I thought with some guilt about how glad I was to no longer have to share in his life. it was a hell of a kind that I shared with him, month after month, and I came to dread his visits with me. but just a few weeks ago, I thought of him again, and I thought of how they had found him, tossed into a container and already in decay, and I felt for him. I felt for him with fondness, affection, and great sadness. it was then that I heard a voice in my mind. he was not your enemy, the voice said. he was your friend. and I realized then that it was true. I had dreaded him, because I had loved him.

for years, I have wondered at the idea that Christ could simply tell the adulteress to go and sin no more. what manner of man could say this so simply to a woman who had just been publicly exposed, humiliated, and nearly stoned to death right in front of him? and yet these few words and a simple gesture of drawing upon the earth were all that he offered to this person in crisis, and I have wanted to believe that this was sufficient for the woman. there is this one idea I have arrived at from years of reflection—that Christ did not see her the way other men did, and that knowing this was all that the woman required to be new.

the story reminds me of a journey I have taken over the years with a young man who realized at a certain point that he has always wanted to be a woman. I will admit that it was a shock to hear it from him the very first time. but I strived to see it her way. our first conversation led to a second, and together we mapped out her journey. we would begin with hormone pills; she would wax off her hair and change out her clothes. first, we would see the skin change; later, after a few months, the breasts would grow, and the voice would soften. her body would change to conform to her self-perception. she would share the news with the people in her inner circle when the time was right. she would struggle with mood swings and with the judgments and uneasiness of the people who had known her. she would go to the DMV and apply for a legal name change, and I would sign the document to confirm that she had passed for over a year and was genuinely transformed. and at the end of it, she would be the person that she had always wanted to be.

I thought about her yesterday, as I thought about Christ and the adulteress. is this not the beauty of the Gospel? I cannot remember what she once was; I only see her now as she has wished to be seen. once upon a time, she carried another name, but now I know her by her chosen name. she is not in between; she is wholly a woman. to me, she is what she was meant to be; but in a way, she’s new.

a couple of years ago, I walked through every room of the national gallery of art, beginning with the oldest works and working my way over leisurely hours through the centuries of history. I gazed upon gold-leafed tempera panels of the somber saints. I saw the works of the Florentine masters. angelic visitations and annunciations gave way to grand coronations and architectural spectacles. portraits thickened with texture and hue; I saw the hallways of titian give way to the brooding brush strokes of Rembrandt and Rubens. the Dutch masters reached intimidating heights. there was a movement toward bluer skies and straightforward heroism, away from the introspection of dark oils to the soaring achievements of military men. but later, there was again ambivalence with the world of gathering power and political passions. the impressionists blurred cityscapes to find stillness in the relentless motion. the cubists and surrealists gave themselves over to craving and distraction and even to doubt, sensing truth only in their own feelings, amidst a world careening toward the certainty of lines, directions, and grand trajectories.

after hours, I sat in a room of abstractions and felt such heartache for us—the mankind stretched and torn across the millennia. we have aspired to such heights and given ourselves to such depredation. our wars and unfulfilled dreams have shattered our pens and paintbrushes and bled like plain colors across jagged canvases. we cannot apprehend what we were or what we are becoming. but generation after generation, we bring what we are to the altar to render what we are, because this is what we were made for—worship, made complete in self-sacrifice. I sat there at the end, in a hallway that stretched for what seemed like miles, and I looked down the tunnel of history and felt it reaching me, like the hint of a wind or the faint call of an echo. regardless of all things, be new.

be new

03.10.18

Mock NFL Draft #2

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:54 am by Administrator

here we go with my 2nd mock draft of the 1st round, after accounting for combine results and the bennett, kizer/randall, tyrod taylor, and torrey smith/daryl worley deals. i’m assuming that kirk cousins will go to minnesota.

1. Cleveland: Saquon Barkley.

There is no doubt that Cleveland will draft a QB with one of their first two picks, as Tyrod Taylor can only be considered a “bridge” quarterback given his severe limitations as a passer. But Barkley is the gem of this draft, and i believe Cleveland will convince itself that it can live without Darnold, should a team trade up to take him between picks 2 and 4. fortunately for the browns, that will not happen.

2. New York Giants: Bradley Chubb

the Giants will not take a quarterback in this draft. they’ve invested too much into a defense with a short window to start over now; and once they sign andrew norwell, they’ll have o-line pieces capable of supporting 2-3 more functional seasons from eli manning. the football giants will seriously consider several offers to trade pick 2 and move down; but these offers (miami, arizona, and buffalo) would force them out of the top 10. on Gettleman’s cheat sheet, there will only be three or four franchise-defining non-quarterback players, and none of these guys are likely to fall out of the top 10. so after much deliberation, new york will stay put at #2 and pick the one guy most likely to transform the franchise in his first year in the league. chubb will terrorize opposing o-lines for years.

3. Indianapolis: Quenton Nelson

with all quarterbacks still on the board, indy will look to trade down, but they won’t be able to get it done with the jets, who ultimately won’t offer much since they can live with any of the top 3 prospects that fall to them. that’s ok, because they’ll get the draft’s single best player in quenton nelson, who will afford the colts elite pass protection as well as the hope of an inside running game.

4. Cleveland: Sam Darnold.

Cleveland passes on Darnold at pick 1 but they still get their guy at 4. with a plan at QB, an elite running back, two excellent receivers in gordon and landry, and a young, talented defense that will improve at all three levels this year, this should be a team that breaks out in 2018 and wins (gasp) four games this year.

5. Denver: Josh Rosen

mastermind john elway will be happy to snap up the guy that very well could be the best QB of this class. smokescreens and fake news notwithstanding, there’s no reason josh rosen can’t be generational.

6. NY Jets: Josh Allen

they’ll think about trading up to 3, but they’ll sit tight and still get the guy they had their sights on.

7. Buffalo: Baker Mayfield

here’s the big trade of the night: Buffalo will trade picks 21, 22, and next year’s 1st rounder to Tampa for pick 7, to get their QB of the future—their single most important goal for this draft. they’ll still have two 2nd rounders and two 3rd rounders to play with, so they’ll have absolutely no regrets about being very aggressive here. never mind that mayfield missed the bills logo on accuracy drills at the combine.

8. Chicago: Calvin Ridley

chicago will get all turned around here, as they won’t expect to be looking at minkah fitzpatrick after the big trade at pick 7. the fact is that the bears are set on defense and have kyle fuller franchised; they won’t need an elite corner nearly as much as they’ll need a receiver to bail out hapless mitch trubisky. calvin bombed the combine, but everyone knows that he’s far and away receiver #1 in this draft. chicago will not get props for this pick, but this is what they’re going to do regardless.

9. San Francisco: Minkah Fitzpatrick

SF will be gloating. put minkah anywhere on the defensive side of the field. he’s a football player.

10. Oakland: Roquan Smith

oakland’s defense always seems to be one year away from being any good. as long as they’re one year away, they’ll just keep face-planting. roquan “flies around the field”, which means he’ll stop up all the leaky gaps that their hyped d-line inexplicably keeps springing.

11. Miami: Denzel Ward

they’ll be positively bummed to be missing out on mayfield, but denzel will be a solid consolation prize, being the draft’s 2nd closest thing to a lock-down corner/island.

12. Cincinnati: Mike McGlinchey

quite possibly the most inglorious and unsexy pick of the 1st round, the Bengals will simply take the guy that fills their obvious need at offensive tackle. this is a terrible draft for offensive tackles, but beggars cannot be choosers.

13. Washington: Derrius Guice

many mocks have washington going for vita vea to shore up the interior d-line, but jonathan allen is going to be fine there. where the skins will not be fine is at running back, especially in an alex smith offense. if the skins do not get an elite running back here, you can basically cap their ceiling at 3 points for every trip to the red zone.

14. Green Bay: Marcus Davenport

green bay is quietly regressing to the middle of the pack in the NFC, and i think that ted thompson understands that without a big-play threat on defense they’re destined to fade through aaron rodgers’ last years. defensive ends always go higher than expected on draft night, especially game-changing prospects like davenport.

15. Philadelphia: Tremaine Edmunds

i had to devise a way to get my favorite player in this draft to my team. Philadelphia will pull of the 2nd biggest trade of the night, sending nick foles and pick 128 in the 4th round to Arizona in exchange for #15. the rationale is solid for the cards; they’re going nowhere without a solid QB, and with an elite defense and excellent offensive pieces (i.e. david johnson and larry fitzgerald), this is arizona’s year to leapfrog seattle and possibly the rams as well. philadelphia won’t hesitate to pick up edmunds, who is ferocious and tenacious at a position that’s the team’s single best need in 2018. within his first season, edmunds will become the Eagles’ #1 linebacker.

16. Baltimore: Courtland Sutton

the Ravens need a WR (and many other things). they should probably be thinking about a quarterback here (i.e lamar jackson or mason rudolph), but that’s not how the ravens play the nfl draft.

17. LA Chargers: Isaiah Wynn

the Chargers badly need someone to spring melvin gordon loose. an interior lineman isn’t the sexy way to go in the mid-1st, but i think the chargers are serious about improving their offense line in the twilight of phil rivers’ career.

18. Seattle: Connor Williams

seattle has been a case study of how to properly derail a championship team. big-ass contracts to defensive superstars and zero attention to the offensive line have been a bad strategy for the seahawks, and blowing up the legion of boom can only be demoralizing to everyone who’s left on the squad. the seahawks need identity, more than anything else, and connor williams is the kind of guy who can bring that identity to an o-line in utter shambles.

19. Dallas: Vita Vea

Vea is a beast, and Dallas could use a beastly front 7 after years of soft defense with occasional brilliance from demarcus lawrence.

20. Detroit: Nick Chubb

i don’t know whether detroit goes with nick chubb or his backfield pal sony michel, but for sure the matt stafford one-man show is not the answer for the lions. they’d better find a way to bring some balance to this offense; ameer abdullah and theo riddick really aren’t the answer.

21. Tampa Bay: Derwin James

Tampa Bay could have stayed at pick 7 and taken Minkah Fitzpatrick, but instead they move down and take Derwin James, a standout DB and perhaps a truer safety than Fitzpatrick. Derwin James is a bona fide playmaker, and at 21 he may end up being the steal of round one.

22. Tampa Bay: Arden Key

Tampa doubles down on defense with pick 22 and grabs the highest-upside 5-tech edge rusher they can find, in arden key. between James and Key, tampa will be adding elite talent to a defense that looked good on paper but totally failed to meet expectations throughout the entire 2017 season.

23. LA Rams: Joshua Jackson

apparently Jackson looked totally lost at the combine, but i’m not sure L.A. will care, given the quality of his tape and the magnitude of their needs at cornerback. personally, i don’t think combine measurables should be such a big deal. it’s how you play the fucking game.

24. Carolina: Jaire Alexander

Carolina could use some nastiness on the interior o-line, and Will Hernandez is getting mocked to Carolina. But they just traded away Daryl Worley, which means they’ve got nothing going on at cornerback. the panthers can’t be going at Julio Jones, Mike Thomas, and Mike Evans six times next year with the likes of james bradberry. jaire blew up the combine, but he was getting reasonable hype even before the pageant, so i believe carolina will reach for a guy that could be their next josh norman.

25. Tennessee: Harold Landry

great defensive ends are going to move up draft boards when it matters, and whether it’s landry or sam hubbard, i think tennessee will be in the hunt for pressure on the edge.

26. Atlanta: Da’Ron Payne

Payne will anchor the Atlanta d-line for years, and perhaps if there weren’t so many qb-hungry teams, he’d be an early 1st rounder. he’s huge, fast, and agile.

27. New Orleans: Rashaan Evans

i originally had the eagles taking Evans at pick 15, which may still happen if Tremaine Edmunds somehow goes earlier (unlikely by my estimation). the difference between the guys is not massive; both have the potential to be elite.

28. Pittsburgh: Leighten Vander Esch

despite missing out on evans, the steelers will not be disappointed to grab their 2nd choice linebacker prospect. vander esch is big, fast, and smart, and he will have a good chance of stepping in where shazier left off.

29. Jacksonville: DJ Clark

Clark is soaring up draft boards and will probably go higher than fellow wide receivers washington and kirk on draft night. i’m still surprised that jax committed to bortles; if they really want him to succeed, they’re going to need to give him more than just allen robinson to work with.

30. Minnesota: Maurice Hurst

i think that when the vikes find hurst available here, they will lick their chops and dig in without a second thought. hurst has an enlarged heart. so what? there’s no reason to believe that this should hold him back from a great career. hurst is a monster on the inside and has a relentless engine. all the game tape says that size don’t matter; hurst gonna hurt you.

31. New England: Hayden Hurst

Belichick is going to do something unusual at 31. he’s not going to trade out of the 1st round. because hayden hurst is a potential star at tight end, and somehow he will slip through everyone’s fingers and right onto the very dry, very dispassionate palm of bill’s diffidently outstretched hand. hurst might be gronk’s replacement in year one; or he’ll be a complement in two tight-end sets. doesn’t matter where or when you put him in. hurst is a game-breaking talent.

32. Philadelphia: Mike Gesicki

we’re losing trey burton, and we might just have to cut celek to get under the cap. it’s no secret that the eagles need to draft at least one tight end, and it’s also no secret that they touched base with gesicki throughout the combine. gesicki is apparently an atrocious blocker but makes up for it with superhuman athleticism and playmaking capability that’s off the charts. he could make for two tight-end sets on par with what the pats had in the hernandez/gronk years.

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