Our Spiritual Malaise

I took a class in college on the history of religion in the United States. About all I can recall from it was being intrigued by the unwieldy, far out nature of one of the “Great Awakenings”.

Here’s how the internet encyclopedia’s entry on The Great Awakening begins:

“The Great Awakening refers to a number of periods of religious revival in American Christian history. Historians and theologians identify three or four waves of increased religious enthusiasm occurring between the early 18th century and the late 20th century. Each of these “Great Awakenings” was characterized by widespread revivals led by evangelical Protestant ministers, a sharp increase of interest in religion, a profound sense of conviction and redemption on the part of those affected, an increase in evangelical church membership, and the formation of new religious movements and denominations. The Awakenings all resulted from powerful preaching that gave listeners a sense of personal guilt and of their need of salvation by Christ.”

What’s the opposite of religious revival? A secular surrender?

A Secular Surrender is when we talk about public health threats in the context of stock market volatility and don’t think of it as sordid.

A Secular Surrender is when “leaders” ignore religious violence like that perpetrated by Hindu mobs against innocent Muslims in India this week.

The Guardian explains:

“It has been the bloodiest days of protest in India since Modi’s government passed a new citizenship amendment act, which grants citizenship for refugees of every major South Asian religion except Muslims, in December.”

In fairness, Modi did take to his keyboard to tweet an appeal for “brotherhood and peace” (that was sarcasm).

The Guardian describes the violence:

“The death toll from the worst religious violence in Delhi in decades has risen to 24, as Muslims fled from their homes and several mosques in the capital smouldered after being attacked by Hindu mobs.

The deathly clashes between Hindu and Muslim groups that began on Sunday continued into their forth consecutive day, with reports of early morning looting on some Muslim homes which had been abandoned out of fear.

More than 200 people were admitted to hospitals for injuries mainly from gunshot wounds as well as acid burns, stabbings and wounds from beatings and stone pelting. Several of those who died had jumped from high buildings to escape the attacking mobs.”

You would never know it by evangelicals’ enthusiastic embrace of President Trump, but his and Modi’s words and actions contribute to The Secular Surrender.

Wikipedia again on The Great Awakenings:

“The Awakenings all resulted from powerful preaching that gave listeners a sense of personal guilt and of their need of salvation by Christ.”

I’m uninterested in guilt and my notion of salvation is far more funky than Whitfield’s, Edwards’, and Tennent’s, but I would like to live in a world where we think and talk about public health without any reference to stock market volatility. And in one where political and religious leaders condemn violence perpetrated by Hindu mobs against innocent Muslims.

Is that asking too much?

 

Cincinnati—You’re On The Clock

The National Football League Draft combine is taking place right now in Indianapolis*.

Everyone knows the key to success in the NFL is having an elite quarterback. Everyone also knows the key to being an elite quarterback is having big hands.

And so, Cincinnati faces a decision that could transform their franchise—Burrows or Byrnes?

Burrows was decent during his final season at LSU—60 touchdowns to 6 interceptions. But when it came to pickup basketball at UCLA’s John Wooden Center, Byrnes was an early 80’s legend. Among other things people on campus remember from his play was the way he’d palm the ball like a shorter, younger, whiter Connie Hawkins.

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Byrnes easily palmed the ball because he has large hands. Burrows—9″. Byrnes—9.75″. Cincinnati’s dilemma is there’s not a lot of football tape of Byrnes since he retired to golf after whiffing a tackle in the eighth grade in Cypress, California. That was on the coach though because the young phenom told him that he was “. . . born to quarterback, not cornerback.”

People in Kentucky, Ohio, and Southern Cal still reminisce about his after school pick-up quarterbacking. It is Cincy’s bad luck that all of that was before pocket video cameras, GoPros, and drones.

Will Cincy go with the guy who is anxiously waiting for the iPhone SE2 so he can more easily grip it or the guy who can palm an 11″ iPad? We won’t know until April 23rd.

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*President Trump, that’s in Indiana.

Shaq Gets Big Laughs With Kobe Story

From Yahoo Sports. O’Neal provided perspective on Kobe like only he could, sharing a story about his early days playing with him en route to three NBA championships together.

“The day Kobe gained my respect, the guys were complaining, Kobe’s not passing the ball,’” O’Neal said. “I said ‘I’ll talk to him.’ I said ‘Kobe. There’s no I in team.’ Kobe said, ‘I know, but there’s an M-E in there mother f—er.’ I went back and told Rick [Fox] and Big Shot Bob [Horry], ‘just get the rebound. He’s not passing.’”

Just Say No

From ESPN:

“LOS ANGELES — The widow of Kobe Bryant has sued the owner of the helicopter that crashed in fog and killed her husband and her 13-year-old daughter last month. The wrongful death lawsuit filed by Vanessa Bryant in Los Angeles says the pilot was careless and negligent by flying in cloudy conditions on Jan. 26 and should have aborted the flight. Pilot Ara Zobayan was among the nine people killed in the crash.”

Bryant is probably right, the pilot should’ve aborted the flight. And she may even win. But that doesn’t mean she’s right to sue. Her family does not need the money, so what’s the point? I have a dream that someday, really wealthy people who are wronged say, “I could sue, and I’d probably win, but I’m not going to.”

Book of the Week—Geezerball

I’m on a nice little reading roll, meaning a book a week. This week I cheated though when I subbed in a fun, short read, for a long, dryish, academic one that I was plodding through.

Geezerball: North Carolina Basketball at its Eldest (Sort of a Memoir) by Richie Zweigenhaft tells the story of the Guilford College noon pickup basketball game that I played in between 1993-1998 when I taught at the “small Quaker college”. The game is 44 years old and counting and some of the participants have been playing most or all of those years. One of the game’s mottos is “You don’t stop playing because you grow old; you grow old because you stop playing.”

Richie, also known as “The Commissioner” is an accomplished author of several books on diversity in the American power structure. Now 75 years young, he’s the glue that’s held the game together over the decades.

Geezerball prompted a lot of reminiscing about those years and reflection on what’s most important in life. I remember 11 of the 29 players on the current geezer email list which is pretty remarkable given how bad I am with names. It also speaks to the game’s stability and what demographers have been telling us for awhile—that Americans aren’t moving nearly as much as in the past.

The game combines two of the very few things upon which most medical doctors and social scientists respectively agree—the importance of exercise to our physical health and the importance of close interpersonal relationships to our mental health.

“My wife says she expects to get a call one day saying I’ve died on the basketball court,” one geezer writes in the book. “If that happens, she’ll know I died happy.” In actuality, the game is probably extending the life of the participants. Even more importantly, it’s adding tremendously to the quality of their lives. Their friendships, and the humor that marks their interactions, are testaments to the power of community.

Among other remarkable aspects of the game is the fact that nearly all the participants are men. As a runner, I can’t help but notice more women running together; like the geezers, strengthening their bodies, their hearts, and their minds simultaneously. Same with the Gal Pal and her girlfriends who go on long walks every Saturday morning while catching up on the week’s events. I don’t know if it’s true, but it seems like men are more prone than women to prioritize their work lives, often to their own detriment. Given that, I find it inspiring that a dozen men in Greensboro, NC have been defying that norm every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for 44 years.

The sort of memoir reminded me of exactly how cool of an addendum the game is to the participants’ lives. But now, upon further thought, I can’t help but wonder if when those men near the end of their lives, they’ll think of the game as one of the most essential parts of their lives, and their work as more of an addendum. Meaning, what if we all have it backwards? What if the GalPal’s Saturday morning walks, my Saturday morning group runs, my Tuesday and Thursday night group rides are the core and everything else is the periphery?

This line of thinking may be just one more example of my economic privilege at work, but I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we organized our lives around Geezerball-like communities, where we prioritized movement and friendship over material wealth and status? Put another way, how much is enough? When it comes to work hours and money, there’s always a point of diminishing returns. At a certain point, more work means more impoverished relationships with family and friends.

In contrast, when it comes to walking, running, cycling, swimming, surfing, or playing basketball or golf with friends, there is no point of diminishing returns. Our physical and mental health just keep improving. Our entire well-being. That’s the lesson of Geezerball.

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Grading the Demos

Biden. “C-“. Came across as desperate. Clearly “his people” told him it’s now or never. Kept saying, “I’m the only guy who. . . ” Once referred to the Obama Administration as “My administration”. The repeated references to the past, coupled with his age, makes one wonder why we should put our future in his hands. Peeved at the moderators for slighting him. Reminded me of a once great athlete unable to walk away from the game.

Bloomberg. “D”. What a waste of $419m, the amount he’s spent on on t.v. ads so far. Of course, to him, that’s parking ticket money. I would love to see him debate Trump because he’s so good at trolling him and he’s clearly not afraid of him, but after he was eviscerated by Warren, the odds of him winning the nomination are about the same as me. His not crying or disappearing during one of the commercial breaks saved him from an “F”.

Buttigieg. “C”. Seemed resigned to not winning the nomination, but continued trying to position himself as the sensible alternative. Did a good job of repeating the $29,000 line, the amount at which people who support Sanders “Medicare For All” will see their taxes increase. Smiled a fair amount. His line about “living in his one house” in Indiana was excellent. Obviously thinks his geography is a distinct advantage, but has not acknowledged how it might limit his appeal to people of color. Tried to be mean to Klobuchar on her Mexico faux pax, but he’s not a natural cabrón. Should’ve shaved beforehand. Reminded me of a young athlete who may be great some day.

Klobuchar. “C”. Seemed resigned to not winning the nomination, but continued trying to position herself as the only person who can beat Trump because of her winning record. Came across like a car in a Minnesota blizzard with its back wheels spinning, spinning, spinning. Displayed an impressive array of “Oh shit, you did NOT just say that” facial expressions when attacked by Buttigieg and Warren. Gets credit for a sense of humor (“Post-it notes were invented in my State”) and poise when under attack. Sadly, she is the one candidate who is consistently cut off by moderators.

Sanders. “B”. Didn’t do anything obvious to slow his momentum. Sticked to his now predictable talking points. Handled the Culinary Workers Union controversy adequately. Avoided front-runner attacks thanks to Bloomberg’s presence. Someone from his team should send Bloomberg a $25 Starbucks gift certificate. How many people, like me, googled his age mid-way through? He’ll be 79 on election day. His campaign is an interesting political science experiment. Can people handle the truth about our country’s decline? About how social mobility has grinded to a halt? About how the quality of life is better in some other countries? That we’re lagging behind Denmark? Sadly, I don’t think so.

Warren. “A”. Yeah, I’m biased since I’ve thought she would make the best President all along. I loved the FIREY comeback. Her evisceration of Bloomberg had to make Trump nervous. She was the most prepared, most intelligent, most detailed, most focused of the candidates. But she wasn’t just flame throwing. Her defense of Klobuchar for not knowing Mexico’s president’s name (Andrés Manuel López Obrador) was one of her strongest moments. Girl power and all that. Reminded me of a great athlete in her prime.