Jordan Hasay Wins

My pick to win the Olympic Trials Marathon in Atlanta Saturday was Jordan Hasay who is a family acquaintance. On the surface, I was way off, seeing that she crossed the line behind 25 other women.

But like everything in life, our perspective changes, that is we gain perspective, when we begin to understand the larger context.

Jordan’s mom died suddenly a few years ago. More recently, her coach of many years was banned from the sport. She has been battling a bad hamstring (public knowledge) and back (not known until now).

Her dream of making the Olympic team was over by mile 10. Meaning she faced 16 more hilly, windy miles with her back “feeling like it’s bone”. And she gutted it out in what may have been the most impressive performance of her stellar career.

Watch this interview and try thinking about her as anything but a winner. In sport and in life. And I will not be surprised if the spirit she displays in this interview enables her to return to the top of her sport.

Galen Rupp, the men’s winner, and friend, consoling Jordan post-race.

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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?

 

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.”

I Watched Americana

And not too proud to admit it. Well, so far, the first 35 minutes, which to my TSwift-loving daughters, secures my place in the pantheon of history’s most outstanding fathers.

For extra credit, I read Amanda Petrusich’s review in The New Yorker, TAYLOR SWIFT’S SELF-SCRUTINY IN ‘MISS AMERICANA'”.

 Petrusich notes:

“Swift is certainly not exceptional in her yearning for approval, but her life has unfolded on an unprecedented scale.”

Not exactly original insights. If The New Yorker had commissioned me to write the review, which in hindsight they should’ve, I would’ve framed the film as another in a long line of case studies on the corrosive effects of fame. As my saying goes, “Fame tends to corrupt and absolute fame corrupts absolutely.” Then I would’ve referenced “Amy” the documentary about Amy Winehouse which powerfully illustrates how sadly pop icons’ stories often turn out especially when surrounded by selfish, financially dependent employees, family, and “friends”.

And it’s odd that The New Yorker’s choice for reviewer is silent on our mindless tendency towards celebrity worship, which I’d argue makes us complicit in Swift’s struggles and Winehouse’s demise.

It’s also disappointing that their reviewer is silent on Swift’s passive acceptance of her fame. Swift did lay low for a year, but more as a pause in her incredibly ambitious career. What’s stopping her, someone has to ask, from a complete retreat from the public sphere for much, much longer.

Taylor, if you’re reading this, which I suspect you are, eat up and change your appearance, move to Canada, make friends with Harry and Megan, and dig into the ancient Stoics. You won’t be disappointed.

I can’t speak for my daughters, but the rest of us will be okay.

Hating The Homeless

Monday morning post swim workout. YMCA locker room. The showers specifically, but you didn’t do anything to deserve that unsettling imagery. I’d say I was eavesdropping on the two men across from me, but the one man hating on the homeless was so worked up, so loud, I don’t think it really counted as eavesdropping.

LIVID at how many people were living under the 4th Street Bridge downtown.

ENRAGED at how many resources the state was dedicating to helping them.

FURIOUS at them for not having the decency to live indoors.

So indignant, I couldn’t organize my thoughts until immediately afterwards. Isn’t that how it always is? As soon as I escaped his orbit, I knew what I should’ve said to him.

“It’s so amazing how you’ve never lacked for anything, how you’ve never even needed any compassion from anyone. You are so perfectly together, your life is such a model of success, you owe it to everyone of those homeless men, women, and children to share your life lessons. You should go down to the 4th Street Bridge right now and start your “Live Life Just Like Me!” lecture series. I’m sure they will be appreciative and immediately start applying all of your amazing insights on how to live. And as a result of that wisdom, and your incredible personal example, they will no longer be homeless. And just like you, they will have disposable income, some of which they will use to also join the YMCA. Then they will join us in these exact same showers, and following your amazing lead, express their outrage at some other offending subset of people.”

On Mourning

Conventional wisdom is sometimes wrong, but when it comes to mourning, it’s correct. Everyone mourns differently, some inwardly and quietly, others with much more feeling. Some mourn briefly, others for extended lengths of time. There is no right way to mourn, the key is to respect everyone’s individual approach.

At the same time, the recent passing of Kobe Bryant, the other eight victims of the helicopter crash, and also Leila Janah, have me thinking more about death.

Intense grieving for the likes of Kobe and Leila makes perfect sense given their relative youth, 41 and 37 years old respectively. In that same spirit, one of the most sad passings I’ve ever observed was that of a friend’s 7 year-old son. We are understandably most saddened by people who do not get to experience the full arc of life.

And yet, Kobe, Leila, and my friend’s son left the world a better place. Leila, for example, founded a company that . . .

“. . . employs more than 2,900 people in Kenya, Uganda and India, creating data for companies around the world that need to test numerous artificial intelligence products, including self-driving cars and smart hardware. The company has helped more than 50,000 people lift themselves out of poverty and has become one of the largest employers in East Africa. . . .”

And as we’re learning, Kobe’s imprint was also large, most significantly off the court through his parenting, writing, and support for technology startups, young athletes, and women’s professional sports.

My friend’s son’s legacy was less public, but still profound, a lasting impact on his family, classmates, and community. Until cancer appeared in his blood, he was pure joy, a natural peacemaker.

To me, the saddest deaths are those of people who do not leave even some small sliver of the world better off. People whose words and actions didn’t console, inspire kindness, or help others be more humane. Those are the passings we should grieve the most.