Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lent and the Inside of my Car.

Today is Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, a day of gluttony and excess before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Catholic (though also observed by many Protestants) celebration of Lent. Traditionally, pilgrims will fast or sacrifice in the 40 days heading into Easter. It makes me wonder: what can I do without?

My brother spent January to October of 2008 travelling in Southeast Asia, India and Africa. One of the lessons he said he learned in his travels was that he had too many material possessions. There was a lot he could do without.

At the State Wrestling Tournament this past weekend, my dear friend Courtney Mills Jones Willis picked me up and we had coffee, chatted and caught up with one another. Thanks to Facebook and Blogger, we stay pretty up to date on each other and our other friends. A recent Facebook phenom is for friends to make a list of 25 Random Things about them for their friends to read. Here is Courtney's list. Number 13 stood out to me:
I really struggle with feelings of materialism. I really want to "want" less and be more content with my needs. Yet, I really like having a nice house, cute clothes, and I REALLY love my Jeep...it's sad. I'm working on it.

Finally, about a week ago, I called my friend Kate who was packing and is soon to be moving back to the East Coast after nearly two years in Eugene, Oregon.
I said, "Hey Kate! What are you doing?"
Kate responded, "I am trying to figure out how to fit my life into my car."
At that moment, I was knocked over by such profound philosophy.

It was beautiful! Excluding furniture, f I could fit my life into my car, I would probably be an amazingly more happy, efficient and joyous person. The problem is that I love all the junk I have...

What can I do without? Some of my clothing? Kitchen stuff (Lord know that I don't use those enough) or my photographic equipment? My books? What about all my outdoor gear like bikes, tents (do I really need 2.5 tents)?

Are my material possession bad? Absolutely not!
Can I do without some things? Absolutely yes!
The question is, what can I do without?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday Observations - Feb 22

- Wrestling Season is over. It's always bittersweet. Relieved to have the grind of the season over, but sad because I do love coaching and l miss the fellowship with the boys.

- We fell short of some of our goals. No state placers. The kid with the best shot lost two tough ones: 2-0 to the eventual state champ and a 5-4 decision to the kid who takes 3rd. We were close.

- I see God in the most random places and times. When I least expect it, He is there.

- I would recommend the Marriott Courtyard University in Winston-Salem. Nice place to stay and friendly staff.

- My dilemma of the week: I alternate between wanting to live in a city for access to culture and arts, people and diversity. Other times, I want to move to rural Oregon, SW Colorado, Montana, Nova Scotia or somewhere in British Columbia and be totally isolated among great scenery. This week, I flipped flopped about 20 times in 2 days.

Crush of the Week:
When I think of high school wrestling in North Carolina over the last 15 years, the programs that jump out for sustained success are in the order: Cary, Orange, Morehead, Alleghany and Ragsdale.

Bobby Shriner, the head coach at Orange High School is someone I consider a coaching mentor and friend. His team won both the Dual Team and Individual State tournaments this year and won with dominance and class. He coaches winners. He coaches champions.
Coach Shriner, besides being a great coach is just a great man. Unless we end up at the same camp, I really only see him twice a year (at the State Tournament in Feb and the Coaching Clinic in July). When I do see him, I always get a warm hug and positive encouragement. When I was at Elon and doing a practicum, he allowed me into his wrestling room to watch. When I was seeking coaching advice early in my career, he let me into his office and chatted with me one day. Some teams that dominate develop a reputation of arrogance and others like to pull against them. Orange is one of those exceptions. People just like Orange. People like Bobby Shriner.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Parable of the Cave

I taught Greek philosophy today in class. I always teach the "Parable of the Cave" from Plato's Republic. The prisoner in the cave makes his way out to see a world of new things. But when he returns to tell his fellow prisoners, they refuse to be released from their bondage and threaten death to anyone who releases them.

On their less than outstanding Pop album (I believe that Achtung Baby and The Joshua Tree set the bar way high-- Pop could only underachieve), U2 has a song called "Staring at the Sun". This song, one of my favorite of many favorite U2 songs, is Plato's "Parable of the Cave" in a metaphor.

Not just deaf and dumb
Staring at the sun
I'm not the only one
Who'd rather go blind

When the prisoner leaves the cave, he is instantly blinded by the sun. After adjusting, he sees a reality not present in the cave. It's not always comfortable-- bugs crawl, grass itches. But it's real. Unlike the "reality" of the shadows of the cave. And the others refuse to go see it.

There's an insect in your ear
If you scratch it won't disappear
It's going to itch and burn and sting
You want to see what the scratching brings

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sunday Observations - Feb 15

- My last week was consumed with the Regional Wrestling Tournament at North Henderson. We ran a pretty good tournament and debuted our new mat lamp. The Knight finished tied for 4th and qualified 4 wrestlers to the 1A-2A State Tournament in Winston-Salem. Here are some links:

WLOS Video
Hendersonville News Video
Hendersonville News Article 1
Hendersonville News Article 2
Citizen-Times Article

- Here's a great picture from the tournament that the Citizen-Times took.

Wrestlers are warriors, but they often display some of the greatest class. Seth Stewart from Owen was the heavy favorite, losing only once this season to an out of state wrestler. Brevard's Trey Hemphill is a good wrestler, who barely placed at the conference tournament but fought his way into the finals at the Regionals. Stewart took the early lead and almost had Hemphill pinned before Trey miraculously turned Stewart onto his back and pinned him. The two shared this long embrace after shaking hands. Classy. Nice.

- And it shows how cool our mat looks under the lights.

- If you want to know how busy I have been: These are the times I LEFT the school this week:
Monday- 7:00PM; Tuesday (we were hanging the mat lamp) - 11:00PM; Wednesday (seeding meeting) - 9:00PM; Thursday (pre-tournament) -10:00PM; Friday (Regionals- Day 1) - 11:00PM; Saturday (Regionals- Day 2) - 11:30PM.

- Yesterday was the 150th anniversary of the State of Oregon. Hooray for the Beaver State.

- I went snowtubing with the Grace Youth today. It looked like this:

Crush of the Week:
The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue arrived in the mail sometime this week. I haven't even looked at it. Seriously. It's still sitting on the kitchen table among some unopened mail and unread issues of Time, Sports Illustrated, Bike and a few catalogues. This week's crush my favorite SI Swimsuit model, Stacey Williams. Stacey was featured in Sports Illustrated from 1991-1998.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sunday Observations - Feb 8

- Knights wrestling lost in first round of dual team playoffs. That completed our dual season. Now individual regionals and state.

- I stayed home on Wednesday for our snow day. I always go in because I have to try to sort practice and schedules for wrestling and I have stuff to do. Well, I was planning on giving the guys Wednesday off since we lost on Tuesday and don't compete again for another 10 days. Also, I stayed late on Monday and caught up on my grading. So, I had no reason to go in on an optional workday. Nice!

- Everything regarding a bailout scares me. If there are holes in my backyard, that's just where I buried my money in mason jars. Doh! I wasn't supposed to tell anybody...

- Nice weekend. No wrestling tournament and mid 60s. I actually pulled the motorcycle out of the basement and rode Saturday and Sunday. And played frisbee today. It was marvelous. Rode up 276 because I wanted to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway past Graveyard Fields and Devil's Courthouse and back through Balsam Grove. Alas, they had closed the Parkway, but beautiful ride through the Pisgah National Forest still.

Crush of the Week:
As a Track and Field coach, I have learned to appreciate the art that is the sport. Watching a perfectly excuted handoff in the 4x100, a smooth glide in the shot or the proper approach, plant and takeoff in the high jump is thrilling in the same way as seeing a Matisse, Degas or Dali. You just know it's special.

The events I love watching the most are, ironically, events I did not participate in: the 4x400 and Pole Vault. The 4x400 is the last event in a typical meet and, to me, the most exciting. The Pole Vault is fun because it is such a technical event and so difficult to do. It takes a lot of practice. In many things, athleticism will carry you and you can get by with flawed technique. In the pole vault, flawed technique hurts.
This week's crush is Jen Stuczynski, the 2008 Olympic Bronze medalist who this past week at the Millrose Games in Boston, set the new American record in Women's Pole Vault at 15' 9 3/4". Go ahead and try it. Take a fiberglass pole, and 7 stride approach at full speed, plant into a 60cm wide, 20cm deep hole in the ground and get the pole to bend and trust it to sling you safely 15 feet into the air. It's hard, which is why my vaulters cannot practice without a coach present.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sunday Observations - Feb 1

- Just got done watching a surprisingly exciting Super Bowl.

- Commercials not really great. But you did have your talking babies and man getting hit in the groin commercials. Those seem to be the recipes for success.

- Can "Go Daddy" go away? Their commercials stopped being interesting and original a long time ago.

- Coke always has a nice commercial. I liked the animated insect one. And my favorite last year was the Charlie Brown Macy's balloon commercial.

- I love Bruce Springsteen but I did not love the halftime show. Don't get me wrong, the Boss still rocked. I guess I might have set the expectations too high. My favorite show is still the 2002 U2 show.

- The worse thing about the whole Blagojevich impeachment: I think the former governor really believes he's telling the truth when he says he did nothing wrong.

- New "Transformers" and "GI Joe" movies coming soon. I find myself excited about that. I also feel like I am 9 years old again.

- Knights wrestling update: Lost to Pisgah on Tuesday and beat Brevard on Thursday. North is the second seed from the Western Athletic Conference in this week's playoffs.

The Knights did, however, win the WAC Conference Tournament yesterday. It was our second tournament title in a row. North had 7 in the finals and 6 went on to win their weight classes (including German Ramirez, pictured above, Conference Champ at 103).

Crush of the Week:
For a guy who turns 60 this year, he still is able to move and rock out. The Boss has not aged in 20 years. Here's a guy who played at Obama's inauguration just a week ago, the Super Bowl today and just released the first single off his new album. The Boss still rules... 'Nuff said!