2016 – Three Days In


What I bought.

1. 3-Jan-2016…nothing.
2. 2-Jan-2016…smoothie for my daughter from Native Sun, just under $6, ticket to Star Wars $8.50 and coffee from Starbuck $2.18.
3. 1-Jan-2016…nothing.

What I did.

Mostly watched football, though on Sunday I did clean the kitchen, bedroom and did laundry (not the Friends version of “laundry). Walked the dog for 2 miles on 1-Jan-2016, and 5 miles on 2-Jan-2016. Rained on 3-Jan-2016 so we stayed in. Could I have done better with my time? Absolutely. On Saturday, 2-Jan-2016, I committed to soccer and college football. On Friday, 1-Jan-2016, it was also college football. Interspersed was recreational reading of current events and philosophy, along with the audio books “The Life We Bury” and “The Way We Eat”.

Let’s just call the first three days somewhat of a final binge. The Spring semester at the University of North Florida starts this week, and while I only have one class it is an independent study. This is because I’ll be doing some serious engineering of our mobile solution at work.

What I will be doing (I was going to type “hope to do” but that is not a positive statement) is tracking my daily activities and spending. I’m thinking to also track food waste, but just mine. I can’t be accountable to my families habits and frankly this isn’t about them. Daily activities will include, but are not limited to, exercise, reading and television.

Why am I doing this? Four reasons. First, thanks to “The Obstacle is the Way” I was motivated to move beyond my reactionary lifestyle. This isn’t an indictment of how I’ve lived, but both the book and hiking Katahdin’s Knife Edge made clear to me I am missing a certain quality of life by not planning and documenting. This is my public attempt to honor a degree of self-monitoring through blind accountability. By blind I mean any unknown internet participant who may happen across this site. I want to work on self-improvement through self-reflection.

Second, I want to work on my writing. Although this is nothing near writing a philosophy paper (I’m in graduate school for applied ethics) it is something that will hopefully allow me to work on articulating ideas and formulating thoughts. I won’t only be writing about what I’ve done, but as a friend once told me writing is habit.

Third, and it’s really an extension of the first reason, I want to journal 2016. To see how I honored my commitment to train for a Spartan Super, not be wasteful of time/money/food and improve upon my quality of life by spending more time learning than reacting to events (or watching TV). Those are but a few elements. There is a website, My Morning Routine, where successful people share what they do to start their day. Many of them have expressed the importance of writing down what you do in order to learn from it. I think I’ve probably exhausted my ability to operate off memory.

Lastly, writing is something I’ve been told I’m good at, but something I’ve not really given myself to. In honesty I’ve lived a relatively safe life. By that I mean if effort, serious effort, was required I probably sought the path of least resistance. Going back to Knife Edge, that experience was a life or death choice. What this man from Florida did, as one who lacked any training in this terrain, was an example to myself of what skills have been accumulated over the years of outdoor activities. More importantly was the competitive side of me which caused me such focus. I want to find that again, but I want to find it in the daily decisions I make. The short version of this: one day I’d like to make money from writing. Maybe it is educational curriculum. Maybe it is research or stories. I just know there is an envelope I need to push. I need to reach the ditch of failure and leap over it.

Or maybe this is all about the Fitbit Charge HR I was given for Christmas. Simple tracking.

One down.

Considering Good Friday


“For a truly religious man nothing is tragic.” – Wittgenstein

For me Easter has no religious meaning. There was a time in my life when I wore the label of (c)hristian, but at present I am a blissfully content Agnostic. What happens during any religious holiday is that I consider how these people are living, and whether through their lives they are examples of being more ethical,content and giving than the rest of us. Let us be clear that I am not grouping all of a faith into a single bucket. They are nuanced in how and what they believe, and to universally label them is unfair. But Easter holds an almost universally accepted element of the faith: Jesus died and rose again.

So what is next? How is this act interpreted? With death seen by humanity as that which cannot be defeated, does the story of Christ not show us anything is possible and subsequently nothing is tragic?

As noted I was once a “believer”. Upon reflection it is not clear that, for me,  there was ever a “conversion experience”. It is a demanding ask to pull the memory from behind all the life experiences which have succeeded it, yet I do recall being on a youth retreat courtesy of Parkwood Baptist church when I made “the choice”. My newest friend and neighbor Billy Bond had invited me to his church, and having a parent who felt the Church brought value to one’s life my attendance was supported. What I cannot recall is whether I personally felt anything beyond the opportunity to be with a friend and meet girls. The church was a building. God was not a concept discussed, much less seen as relevant.

So here I was, Epworth By The Sea if the mental lines being drawn are straight, sitting in a room with a few others my age. Head bowed down, as requested by the group leader, listening to a series of questions directed at my eternal soul and whether my life was constituted with things to bring peace. In spite of the directive to keep our eyes closed I peeked to see if others had their hands raised when the calling for whether anyone wanted to give their life to Christ was presented. Others raised their hands. My hand went up. There was no emotional fan fare, but there was crowd acceptance. A decision made absent of any reasonable discussion, but validated by welcoming as if being selected to a mysterious club.

There is a degree of confidence that if I spent time reminiscing with those who were also in attendance that certain details would achieve greater clarity. While part of me doubts some of the specifics, the sentiment is not a thing to doubt. To a greater extent focusing on the specifics will be a distraction from the narrative. But what is the narrative without a grounding on some truth? It’s just a story, and one which loses some level of practicality  Things must happen for the lesson to be learned.

“The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance – it is the illusion of knowledge.” – Daniel J. Boorstin

To be sure, then, what I know is that the feeling of closeness to the divine was less than a feeling of belonging. This played out for many years with me simply accepting statements rather than questioning them. There were times of civility, and there were times in which caustic confrontation was the lantern. There was significant reconciliation of conflict as the Baptist theology collided with my love for music. Rush. AC/DC. Iron Maiden. Def Leppard. Judas Priest. The Police. It probably wasn’t until U2 landed that any degree of harmony was obtained. This made the relationship between faith, sound and the extended congregation less hostile. But it took years to make the decision that the world didn’t look brighter, I wasn’t treating people better and I wasn’t more at peace with faith pulling the rope.

Where did I go when stress came? Sorrow? Struggle? It was music (and now it is also nature) that absorbed the world to clarify its messages. You might even say this clarity was my “religious experience”. Falling into the singular mode of thinking that the bible was the source of record, one which validated the confirmation bias being taught, was a tragedy but it was not tragic. The need for the religion experience was part of my steps being built which will constitute my final self. As time passed there was clarity which has me in what one might call a Zen state, though I can assure you such a term must be understood within an irreligious undogmatic context. And it’s also always a process of becoming.

Today, while millions are preparing for this holy time of year I am listening to Band of Horses’ Acoustic at the Ryman. It’s 80 degrees outside, the back door is open and the sounds of someone doing yard work is the present backdrop to “The Funeral”. Is what I’m feeling right now so much different from my Christian friends?

My thoughts inevitably go back to that Wittgenstein quote, and I think about how certain events are portrayed. Was the crucifixion a requirement? Is suffering an existential condition as much as joy? Are all experiences lessons on how to be at peace with being? The news is littered with the religious fighting against the rights of the LGBT community and radicals murdering those of other faiths along with those who they feel offend their faith. Why do many who call themselves religious, through these myriad of religions, react as if occurrences will somehow derail their divine? What is tragic about that which they fight against?

As hard as I try to it is almost impossible to not see some things as tragic. But at times I’m reminded that thinking is illusion. Years ago I watched a story about a girl who was raped, got pregnant and carried the child to term. How does someone do that? Asking my memory for another gift I seem to remember her stating how the child came to be was not more important than the child being. She said her Christian faith gave her the strength to see things that way. If I’ve learned anything it’s that people have the strength to not see things as tragic, they just need something to ground them. If my grounding is just as religious as the religious then common experiences, while leading to different views, have left us with a similar perspective. It is people like this girl who define the truth of the faith as equally as those who can’t live it make it a lie.

Easter, from a secular perspective, can be a story about being reborn as someone who sees things not as tragic but as hopeful. And if the faithful are living that then we are neighbors.

 

The wind blew a path through the fallen leaves
And there showed a crack in the old oak tree
The door stood as if it was standing guard
Of the dozen chipmunks in the backyard

Every house not a home but dare do I roam
There’s a light on the porch here for someone

Once upon a time in a border town
The war was over, the guns laid down
The women, the men, the children say
Now it’s hard to remember it any other way

When the law acts as though there is nothing to show
There is compassion and depth in a neighbor

Now if Bartles & Jaymes didn’t need no first names
We could live by our own laws in favor

Every house not a home but dare do I roam
There’s a light on the porch here for someone

Now if Bartles & Jaymes didn’t need no first names
We could live by our own laws in favor

“Neighbor” by Band of Horses

 

The Difficulty of Discussing Race – Being Called out for Being White


It should not be surprising that some consider the comments made by Red McCombs, University of Texas alum and successful businessman, regarding the hiring of Charlie Strong instead of Jon Gruden as racially charged. As was noted in a Twitter exchange I had today:

A super wealthy old white guy doesn’t like the black guy coaching his team. No news here.

by @DFUNK57

What I found worthy of challenging were these two tweets:

We know what Red Mccombs thinks of UT hire of Carlie Strong. So sad in 2014 some still feel this way. #bestrong.  

by @ShannonSharpe

Red McCombs sounds like a racist, my opinion. A black QB can win you the BCS but a black man can’t coach your team. #CmonMan 

by @VernonWells10

My initial tweet in response to this was:

So @VernonWells10 and @ShannonSharpe assume McComb’s comments are racist because why? If I think Gruden is more qualified am I racist too?

by @iambwf

Another individual joined in, qualifying this lengthy discussions with:

@iambwf @ShannonSharpe his position isn’t flawed at all. It gets old arguing the obvious over and over with white folks.

by @Corey1911

Sharpe’s assertion was that his quote’s meaning was in reference to Charlie Strong being qualified, and that I was the one who brought up race. When asked how his statement better clarified who was better qualified, Gruden or Strong, he was silent. Additionally he did not acknowledge his error in asserting I was the one who brought up race.

Consequently I was blocked by Shannon Sharpe.

You can view the entire thread on my Twitter timeline, but I want to speak to some specifics of the discussion. At one point @Corey1911 asserts that he’d like Lincoln to be a presidential option in the coming election as a means of defending his position that Gruden was never a candidate and was never interviewed for the job. It is a valid argument if Gruden actually was never a candidate and therefore was not an option. McComb’s, who was not on the search committee and therefore did not have a direct say in the process, (source) believed that he could have worked to bring in Gruden.

“I was not on the search committee. I had no official role whatsoever,” McCombs said. “However, the people that were in charge were aware that I was talking to Jon and I was trying to develop some interest with Jon.”

My initial contention is that if McCombs felt that Gruden was an option, if he felt Gruden was more qualified and if Gruden had not explicitly said no then it is reasonable to interpret his comments as non-racially charged. This position was never answered by the above individuals. Is it possible they had knowledge which they were not sharing? Absolutely. The information I was able to find relative to Gruden and Texas was that he did have an interest in the position (source).

However, rather than offer evidence showing Gruden had told Texas no, my opponents developed false analogies: Gruden and Strong are like Lincoln and <insert other living candidate>. Gruden is an impossibility for coach as Lincoln is an impossibility for president.

Was this based on knowledge or personal opinion? In light of an absence of evidence one can only infer it was speculation. When I did a web search on “Gruden says no to Texas” I found this article which directly addresses Gruden not returning to any NFL team. If there is no evidence of an absolute no then the possibility exists. If the possibility exists then the Lincoln correlation is inherently flawed.

The best I received from Sharpe was a comment asking if Gruden should be in Tampa? He also asked me if Gruden was ever interviewed for the Texas job, which is ironic coming from someone in the media. But isn’t that my point? Do we know if he was interviewed? But beyond that was there an expectation by McComb that either Gruden was interested or that he, McComb, could sway Gruden’s interest?

Amidst the blocking and my opponents counter arguments being tagged as a favorite by other Twitter members, the question was never answered. Based on the information at hand is it more reasonable to assume McComb’s statements were racially charged or where they simply statements of preference? One thing that was noted by @DFUNK57 is that, being from Texas, he has experience of Red to the extent that his past actions/comments would indicate that his reason for not liking Strong was more about race than about qualifications. I noted to @DFUNK57 that his experience would hold more weight, and in lieu of investigating the validity of his experience would defer to him accordingly. It is pointless to argue on experience, but it is a big ask to assume the other’s experience is factual and reasonable.

The triangle of discussion was a white male and two black males. There was an opportunity for genuine investigation into how we perceive statements which could be viewed as racially charged. Instead the subject in question was profiled, if I may use the term, for being old/rich/white and I my questions were dismissed because I am white. It smacks of being told the way something is due to one’s condition of existence through experience.

In the end I was told I was “missing the point”. I cannot agree with that closing assertion. Might I be ignorant of the facts at hand? Absolutely. However, me being white has nothing to do with it, and the condescending attitude of my opponents, along with their ability to redirect the discussion, afforded no positive outcome. It smacks of Godwin’s Law, as a corollary, such that any race discussion, if exhausted, will end with one person qualifying his/her opponent’s race as a reason for why they can’t come to the “right conclusion”.

Intent is a difficult thing to prove, and sometimes the best we can do in deciding on intent is to look at past history. We owe conversations related to race a greater degree of respect than talking at people. One of the greatest elements of discovery for me is to understand better how the black community perceives the American institution relative to access to resources that white America takes for granted. Leveraging that awareness I strive to not assume a position which facilitates a myopic view of the possibilities. If we do not ask why we find Red McComb’s comments racist when we do not have sufficient information at hand to make such an assertion, we are choosing to play on our prejudices. In the end that arms those who think race is used a political weapon with more ammunition.

What, then, is “obvious” and why is it so? Is it “obvious” that the comments are racist because the person making the statement is rich/old/white? So many questions are left unanswered because there is a demand that if things are not seen as I see them then you must be wrong. That is a one sided conversation.

Years ago I was exposed to the phrase “Ally of your own grave diggers” through Milan Kundera’s book Immortality. If you must define people as difficult to talk to because they are white, you become those who claim you call things racist when they are not simply because you are black. Again, call me ignorant of the facts. Say that I am being stubborn. Call me obtuse. But do not make it about my whiteness. Do not claim I initiated the discussion within the context of race when the evidence is obviously to the contrary.

And if by whiteness you mean my culture, then we had best both agree that is what you mean or we are lost in our private language.

UPDATE

I found this from a Houston Chronicle blog post.

McCombs stressed that he does not speak for Gruden, but said he received glowing reports from several people he consulted about the former NFL coach. It’s unclear whether Gruden has been approached by Patterson about the job.

This further validates the assertion that claiming Gruden was unavailable, as Lincoln would be for president of the US in 2016, carries no weight. It is merely speculation by people and therefore inferring racial charged sentiment is itself a weak speculation.