08.31.19

the missteps of the eagles’ off-season

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:54 pm by Administrator

now that we’re looking at the final cuts and anticipating the season opener in a week, it’s a good time for a post-mortem on the eagles’ off-season. specifically, what were the missed opportunities (if any) for a team that took plenty of risks in its quest to contend for a championship in 2019?

i was pretty critical of our front office’s decisions early in the off-season, and i documented my concerns about our approach to the draft. that being said, i’m not unhappy with the squad that roseman and his team have put together. i’m predicting a 10-6 wild card team that may win a game or two in the playoffs; but we will struggle to match up with the saints, cowboys, and even the rams in the NFC playoffs. could we have put ourselves in a better position to win the NFC East and sustain a playoff run? i think we could have—but we made a few critical mistakes that may have cost us. here are the missteps that we may be thinking about six months from now, when we’re watching two other teams duke it out in the super bowl.

1. Not franchise-tagging Nick Foles: with $18 million in cap space right now, a dubious use of a 5th round pick in clayton thorson, and real ambiguity at the QB position behind carson wentz, i think that in retrospect putting the franchise tag on Foles would have been the right decision for the eagles. at worst, this decision would have forced postponement of a wentz contract (perhaps not a bad thing) and raised speculation about a real QB controversy in philadelphia (which would be justified); at best, the decision would have either shored up our QB depth or created a mega-trade opportunity with either indianapolis or jacksonville. i remain in the minority camp that would have chosen foles over wentz as our long-term QB in philadelphia.

2. Trading away Michael Bennett: we spent much of this off-season debating whether our defensive end group was sufficiently deep, and a result of this quandary was our use of a critical 4th round draft pick on shareef miller, who is unlikely to break into a rotation that is a middling group behind derek barnett and brandon graham. in retrospect, there was no need to cut ties with michael bennett in order to save cap space, and in fact bennett was probably worth the raise he was asking for, particularly given the overall quality and age of our defensive ends. dumping him to New England was a baffling move early in our off-season, and i chalk that up to an unfortunate error in roseman’s personal approach to bennett and his contract.

3. Passing on Tevin Coleman: despite pre-season praises of jordan howard and miles sanders, the costs of 2nd and 5th round draft picks were probably not worthwhile when an all-purpose veteran running back in his prime was available to us for $5-6 million per year. playing the bargain game worked against us, and choosing not to bid on coleman’s services was a costly mistake that reduced not only our draft capital but also our chances at winning in 2019.

4. Not drafting a safety in 2019: rodney mcleod is untested after a serious injury, malcolm jenkins is unhappy with his contract, and we have two veterans behind them that are either past their prime (sendejo) or a liability in coverage (cyprien). it’s very obvious that we made a major mistake in not drafting a safety in the 2nd round of the 2019 draft, and this is a mistake that may not be fully evident until we move into the 2020 season with major holes in the secondary. betting on an all-pro season from mcleod is simply not reasonable, and betting that our veterans can hold down the safety positions for another two seasons isn’t smart. choosing not to draft a safety in the 2019 draft was the worst decision that howie roseman’s team made this off-season, and we may pay for it for years to come.

5. Not giving Chris Long what he wanted: losing chris long wasn’t the worst missed opportunity for this team, but it was the most baffling moment in this team’s off-season. we had a defensive end here who was playing top-notch football, wasn’t asking for a king’s ransom, and simply wanted a guaranteed role that would allow him to make his impact on the field. why didn’t we give him what he wanted? there’s a legitimate chance that chris long and michael bennett would have been our best pass rushers this year, and we lost them both unnecessarily and without adequate talent to replace them.

if the Eagles face plant this season, it will be because of a carson wentz injury. if the eagles fail to capitalize on a healthy carson wentz, it’s because our defense failed to hold leads, due to real gaps at defensive end and safety. keeping foles, bennett, and long while bringing in a young safety like nasir adderley and a 3-down running back like tevin coleman would have put us squarely in the championship conversation. those were missed opportunities—every one of them—and that’s going to hurt us.

all that being said, a 10-6 wild card season and the opportunity at a playoff run is not something to mope about, and i am hopeful we’ll be dangerous when it matters. i’ll be at the linc on september 8 to see us kill the redskins!

GO EAGLES

08.29.19

the poet

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:17 pm by Administrator

every now and then
I decide I am not
the thing.
I’m the poet,
the unbroken and kind
and utterly feeling person
inside the thing.
have you seen the people
coated in clay? or better yet,
think of the plaster cast
encasing the limb you last
remembered to be raw,
bleeding, shattered.
that marred flesh, that
gaping wound, that’s the poet
who is accidentally feeling,
beside himself with the shock
of sensation and exposure,
begging to be mended,
covered, and forgotten.

when the cast was cut open
with scissors, and the brittle
fraying strands were brushed off
what lay beneath in the dark,
it was not an arm, or a leg,
or a neck that we found there.
it was a revelation, or rather
the simple discovery of a scar
shaped in letters that told
the memory of a pain.
it was words.
alone, with the dampness
of a limb reborn,
I listened to its soft cry

08.27.19

bad fucking day!

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:37 am by Administrator

you know what? even mindful people can have a bad fucking day!

we just moved to a new house—an anticlimactic moment that in my bad moments feels like an unfortunate decision. we moved for the kids and for their schooling—but really, does that matter? if i assign a purpose for moving, then i can blame someone for the consequences for moving. in fact, there was only a theoretical purpose for moving. in fact, we moved. and the repercussions i have experienced as a result of moving are also theoretical. it is the ideas that make me suffer. those ideas include increased financial burdens, a delayed age of retirement, and an ongoing responsibility for doing work that i don’t actually want to do. those are ideas. i can observe them, hold them, and regard them from afar. but they are not real. i am the cause of my own suffering.

in any case, in the midst of moving, contemplating a job change, dealing with an ailing ankle that is possibly a surgical problem, agonizing through acute low back pain (which started out of nowhere this morning), and struggling through a couple other issues that have upset my life balance and thrown me into a mild depression (yes, a mindful person can struggle with depression), we discovered that the air conditioning at our new house has stopped working. it is 90 degrees in this house right now as i write this. in any case, my wife and i have been trying to hunt down an interface unit that’s supposed to relay thermostat signals to the central air system, and in the process of doing this outdoor work, i was bitten in about a dozen places but angry mosquitoes. the expedition was fruitless, and half an hour later i was on the floor of the kitchen sweating profusely and scratching my legs and feet into a bloody mess. i was on the verge of tears, feeling wrong at work and at home, cursing up a storm in front of my 7 year-old girl and working through health issues and chronic pain that i don’t even feel comfortable writing about. what the fuck else could go wrong?

people committed to mindfulness can fall into depression. and i am committed to mindfulness. shit happens. shit fucking happens, and it smells bad fucking bad, every single time.

but here’s the thing. as i sat on the floor of our new house’s kitchen, scratching my ankles, sweating through my shirt, feeling upset about everything that feels so up in the air, and not feeling like my new house is a home, i sensed the universe reminding me to breathe. “accept”, said the universe. and so i breathed, and i breathed again. and i laughed, because i remembered Job, who was himself eaten alive by insects once upon a time. his kids died and he lost a lot of livestock and his house as well. once upon a time, Job had a bad fucking day. and the place where he ended up is where every mindful person eventually lands. i will accept what has befallen me, because cursing god and all circumstances is not only futile but also furthers my suffering.

so i committed myself to this: accepting my circumstances. i laughed out loud. i laughed out fucking loud because i knew that no one was watching me persevere—and no one gives a crap how i deal with this moment of suffering—but even if my salvation and sanctification are not on the line, this moment is mine. it is mine. in the midst of physical pain, thorough discomfort, dissatisfaction with many things in my life, and a general lack of control, this moment is mine, and it is the only thing that i have. i can choose in this moment to be well, to be happy, to be peaceful, and to be free from suffering. and so with the simplest, most basic, and yet most thoroughly fucking profound wisdom that i have ever received, i accepted the moment before me—a moment that is beautiful and utterly sufficient, despite the boils, the losses, the failures, and whatever the fuck else someone writing his totally wack life story can come up with. now, i’m not implying that Job was lying about his life. i think he wrote a perfectly legitimate egocentric recounting of his life—the story of a perfectly innocent man who suffered utterly unjust punishment ordained by the god of the entire universe himself. if i could just record the story of every unfortunate man in a courtroom in america…

in any case, i took a few mindful breaths, thoroughly accepted the shape i was in, and felt the beauty of the moment. and it was beautiful. quite beautiful. i wouldn’t have sensed that beauty a few years ago, but i sense it now. feelings are the product of a state of mind. in the space of a moment, i abandoned that state of mind, and the thing i was left with, that spontaneous and wonderful thing, was emptiness—emptiness simple and true enough to live out and love, for a lifetime

08.17.19

facing the new

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:41 am by Administrator

there are moments, like some moments i had today, when i face something new—a change, an opportunity for real growth—and i face it with an openness that feels to me like a casual confidence. it’s not so much an indomitable courage as much as an inability to seriously regard any specter of failure. it’s a good feeling, a sure feeling, a sense of myself as one who doesn’t really need to be protected because he is up to any challenge and more.

in the midst of dramatic changes, i don’t typically have moments like this.

the moments i typically have are dominated by anxiety and fear. they may not present themselves so overtly, but they color everything, like slow-building but dense stormclouds dampening light and hinting at a downpour. i usually face change with a deep and unrelenting pessimism that condenses around obstinate images of all the least pleasurable tasks—an uncomfortable breaking of news, a bill that will now have to be paid, a phone call with an unfamiliar person that promises to be interrupted by long interludes on hold. a whole sordid life can seem to pass in such drab and horrific motions, and in the narrative of my begrudging mind, change could force me through the ringer of the most narrow and corrosive kind.

if only i could go through my whole life dominated by that light, positive energy that seizes upon change with such relish. why can’t i be that man when i need to be, and not the man so obsessed with self-preservation and the costs of life’s sundry transactions?

positivity, i have learned, breeds positivity. the moments i had today were on account of people who shared their positivity and passion with me. i was infected with their sentiments and perspectives; they grounded me and spun me in new mental directions. negativity, for its part, invariably breeds negativity as well. now these are basic truths and things that have been preached to me by religious and non-religious teachers alike. but i recognize now as i wade through the heavy, murky waters of uncertain times that each of the individual conversations i have from one hour to the next—down to the very non-verbal signals and chance words that transpire in unreplicable moments—are what establish or upset my footing for days, if not for whole seasons of my life. avoiding the dispirited and ever-critical naysayer is as critical to my sanity and awareness as pursuing the voice of encouragement. i once believed that the voice of truth was the one that was willing to validate my greatest fear. that is only half the truth; in fact, the voice of truth is the one that calls out the greatest fear with a humor and a wisdom that exposes the feeling for what it is—an utterly transient state of mind.

awareness, i am coming to understand, is something cultivated in non-conceptual solitude but perfected in conscious, compassionate, and intentional interaction with others. there is no better meditation than in the simple act of mutual regard; when one witnesses another’s loving and truthful perspective of oneself, one cannot entertain ego. the ego is dispelled by the view that only a third person—the friend, the forgiver—has to give

08.15.19

a meditation, in words for self

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:53 pm by Administrator

forget for a moment these companies, these bosses, these people, these ideas. rest in emptiness, which will be with you all your life. be happy and be well in that emptiness.

remember jesus and the prostitute. remember their emptiness. meditate upon the woman, who was well, as she washed his feet with her perfume. and think also of jesus, who was happy even in the absence of words. emptied of identity, she was aware of him—not the celebrated man whom she had no right to approach, but the living being that radiated compassion. emptied of his identity, jesus was aware of her—not the scandalized woman but the person who shared his peace, in their precious moment of communion. they experienced the mutual compassion that comes from awareness. they demonstrated, in a moment of simple and wordless service, what we can perceive as love.

i have compassion for you not because of the many things that are happening around you, or because of the pains and inconveniences that they might cause you, or because of the changes that these happenings will demand of you. i have compassion for you because i can see that the suffering you are producing in yourself as an indirect result of these happenings and ideas is unnecessary. it is unnecessary, and i want you to see that, and i want you to see your life for what it is—empty, filled with possibility, absent of structure and purpose, and delightful.

be well, as your lord was well, and as the sinner who sat with him was well. leave this world of ideas and don’t return to it. live your moment, as one who is conscious and truly alive

08.13.19

the stack

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:42 pm by Administrator

I happened to come across an interview from a couple of months ago about mindfulness. it was an interview with an American Buddhist practitioner who raised the concern that mindfulness, as currently popularized and applied in corporate settings, would serve to pacify the very people who might otherwise be inclined to dig into the systematic roots of their suffering. it reminded me of something I read of slavoj zizek, who himself labeled mindfulness the new opioid of the masses.

at eckhart tolle’s recent event at the pasadena civic auditorium (which he co-hosted with marianne williamson), i sensed the same strain of thinking from marianne. mindfulness can’t simply be self-focused and self-serving, can it? true awareness must deepen our appreciation for the deeper movements in society that are oppressing people; in this society at least, genuine enlightenment must be manifest in political action of some kind.

my wife too has raised the same concern with me, as she’s observed my journey into meditation and out of habitual emotional reactivity. what is the trajectory of this journey? will it not inevitably lead to self-isolation and total disengagement from society? where is the virtue or responsibility in that kind of selfishness?

i confront these questions at a very interesting time in my life. on one level, it has been quite possibly the most challenging period of my life in the last ten years. the confluence of health issues and disruptive changes has been unprecedented and forced me to wrestle with what i am. just two nights ago, i actually reached out to God in a moment of prayer, seeking solace. i’m in a time of my life when i don’t have the luxury of exploring what might be true; i need to make decisions and proceed forward based on what i find to be absolutely true. so i reflect on these things with a personal energy that is immediate and practical, not philosophical and abstract. is mindfulness leading me to dismiss what is really important in the world around me? is it merely serving to help me manage unpleasant feelings? i approach these questions with urgency and honesty—and with a willingness to face what i am.

when i think of what is important—all the factors that truly drive human suffering in my life and in the lives of others—i visualize a whole stack of discrete realities, all resting upon or supporting other realities. if you try to remove just one of these contingent factors, then the whole stack collapses, like a tower of jenga pieces. for example, one cannot understand the many pervasive impacts of racism in american society without understanding the laws that were in place just a generation ago that formalized de facto segregation; one cannot understand the laws without appreciating the historical context within which these laws took shape in the minds of the political leaders who championed them; and one cannot understand the relevant social history without also discerning the history of ideas—the ways in which religions and other prevailing ideologies evolved and expressed themselves through symbols, words, and images so as to shape and direct beliefs and personal values.

the stack has never stopped mattering to me. the suffering of the LGBTQ community will never stop mattering to me. the experience of undocumented immigrants in this country will not stop troubling me, because i have deep relationships with those who have been marginalized and persecuted. this country’s history of enslaving, hunting, and butchering black people will always trouble me and inform my perception of what this country represents. and the role that white Western nations have played in creating a colonial world order that has placed all people of color at a deep and perpetual disadvantage continues to impact my understanding of institutions, nationalist ideologies, and even the mission of the evangelical church. the stack is filled with gnawingly sharp, blood-tinged, and incongruous pieces that i so wish i could take apart and reassemble as simple solutions.

my journey into mindfulness has not made the stack any less imposing, intimidating, or grating to my senses. rather, my journey into mindfulness has allowed me to see the stack for what it is: innumerable ramifications of compelling and transformational ideas, all incomprehensible unless understood for the beliefs and histories and pervasive anxieties that they rest upon. awareness is what enables me to understand that i cannot speak out against capitalism unless i am also willing to speak compellingly to the forces that once pitted disenfranchised peasants against their aristocratic landlords. awareness is what enables me to recognize that i cannot simply criticize the Christian Right as a political force without dismissing the unique history of American Protestantism and all the grand and subtle impacts it has had on abolitionism, women’s suffrage, the war on poverty, and the civil rights movement. mindfulness has not prevented me from recognizing what troubles me; but it has made it vastly harder for me to judge things simply and with certitude. the jenga tower of injustices indeed rises tall; it is as intricate and impenetrable as a human being himself, and it demands patience and perspective as much as it might seem to provoke hostility and opposition.

i believe that when eckhart tolle draws our attention to present-minded awareness, he is not dispelling the importance of an awareness of what is beyond our immediate surroundings. rather, he is suggesting that the broadest and most truthful view of what is beyond ourselves must first be seen through the clearest lens—a perspective that is not distorted by the ego’s constant and inevitably punishing reactivity to all ambient threats. a distraught three year-old child separated from his parents cannot possibly appreciate the magnificence of the National Gallery’s East Wing that he is running through. neither can the activist, whose mind has been inflamed by one event in one arena of one society’s elaborate narrative, be expected to understand the terrible irony of our interconnected pains across the nations, which might otherwise lead him to the solitary exercise of compassion for self.

eckhart would not imply that any activism or political action or organized effort for change is futile. like thich nhat hanh, i think he would suggest that the truth that comes out of genuine awareness need not be nursed and kindled as a personal conviction to be imposed upon others; it can be understood as a manner of simple and nonjudgmental living that can bring genuine peace and healing to any and all who accept it. when we say that our answer to the suffering of the world is to not add to that suffering, we are not saying an irrelevant or trivial thing; we are saying in our own way that we are standing against the currents and tides of the irrepressible and tilted world, with our arms open wide to catch anyone who is willing to grab hold. the one who stands firm in the waters might be more effective than the one who throws himself into the choppy waves with every intention of saving another; the former might be a bastion of life while the latter drowns with the rest of his kind