Post Draft CeleBlues & Tape Clubs

This past weekend, I participated in my fantasy football league’s draft. My league is composed of some of the coolest cats on the planet and the competition has only gotten more fierce each year that we play.

Draft time is truly a special hour plus of time in which decisions are made that impact the entire season. The decision making. The research beforehand. The trash talk during. All add up to a fantastic time of strategy making.

As I participated this year in our draft it reminded me of something seemingly unrelated – Columbia House tape clubs. For those who grew up in a time when you physically owned copies of music (pre-MP3 era), it was difficult to resist the Columbia House marketing. If I memory serves me correctly, there was this huge sheet of music selections. This sheet was categorized by genre and included, by the standards of that time, an ungodly amount of options.

And the best part was you could get (cue an absurd amount) of tapes/albums/CDs for ONE PENNY!!! What? I could get the Spin Doctors, Digital Underground, and REM delivered to my doorstep? (Don’t judge the musical tastes.)

Now back in the day it took these tapes 4-6 weeks to arrive to your house so there was no instant gratification, but you could anticipate the arrival of your new music collection for weeks!

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But I also remember the anxiety of the shopping experience as well. I would stress about my selections, and the sheer number of choices engendered an unexpected stress. How did I know that I made the best decision? Would I be tired of the album even before it arrived? What if there was a new artist or even a new genre of music that released between my purchase date and actual receiving date of the music? I seriously lost sleep over my choices.

The recalling of Columbia House tape club reminded me of a book that I read a few years back – The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz.

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In the book, Schwartz describes how, for some people, more choices is actually unhealthy (think of the cereal aisle in the supermarket).  He insists that there is a real anxiety for some in decision making that last well beyond the actual purchase. Schwartz calls these people “maximizers.” Now this doesn’t play out in every selection process. Instead there are particular purchases where the paradox of choice anxiety manifests. For instance, in expensive purchases like electronics, cars, or houses.

Or when one commits to “clubs” where future purchases are required and costs are incurred like the Columbia House Tape Club. Or, to bring it back to fantasy football, when one makes selections that have long term effects on competitive games.

Now fantasy football is just for fun. I know that. My league is a non-monetary buy in league. There’s no moneys at stake.

Yet I still find myself reviewing my selections and asking anxious questions. There were so many selections that I passed on. How do I know that I made the best selection possible? (I don’t). I went WR heavy because of PPR formatting. All the expert talk revolves around the decline of the RB position. What if they’re wrong? What if a player Teddy Bridgewaters or Ray Rices? (Yes, I just made both of them verbs). How do I know that I maximized my selections? And it was over so fast. That beeping on-the-clock noise of the ESPN draft app…oh the pain!!!

This is why I refer to my post-draft as “celeblues.” (And yes, I made that word up, too). I truly celebrate fantasy football and revel in drafting. I am confident that A.J. Green, Lamar Miller, Amari Cooper, Tom Brady, and Jordan Reed were/are good selections. But I also have a “paradox of choice” post-draft blues that leads to questioning myself and selections. Thus celeblues (feel free to use this word, but give credit where credit is due).

This truly is a paradox to internalize and I’m not sure everyone can truly understand this dynamic. I’m sure that some will say “Get over it. It’s a fantasy game. Nothing’s at stake.” But I also know surely there are some with the same feelings toward fantasy football drafts and the waiting for the season to approach?

I don’t anticipate not playing fantasy football in the future. I’m committed. The leagues allows me to connect with friends across the states in fun platform. The rewards are worth the anxiety.

So, in sum, here’s to the annual celeblues of fantasy football. Good luck…to me.

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The Category of Unimaginables

In a The Shared Self, I briefly explored the ways in which I have come to think about self through intersubjectivity. Admittedly, these thoughts are briefly detailed and lack a thorough investigation; however this blog allows me a space to work through my understandings.

Continuing with my thoughts from yesterday, I want to explore more closely those within the supportive hub of the web of connections. (This might be similar to the “circle of trust” or the inner circle as some have referred to it.) I have come to refer to certain, elite persons of the web as “Unimaginables.” I utilize the term unimaginable to denote the intensity of the relationship in so much that the hub cannot conceive of life without the Unimaginable.

Thus the relationship with the unimaginable is usually composed of intersections and parallels based from a rich, complex history. The memories associated with the Unimaginable draw from a storehouse of shared experiences, emotions, losses, gains, and commonalities. All this together makes the Unimaginable irreplaceable.

The loss of an Unimaginable leads to great anguish. In fact, the very thought of losing an Unimaginable can cause great, emotional distress. And potentially the only comfort one can find from losing an Unimaginable is the proximity of other Unimaginables.

Numerically, a person could have a diminutive or expansive amount of Unimaginables within their life, but I would argue that there is certainly a limit of Unimaginables that one could maintain.

To connect it further with my post from yesterday, I am fortunate to have several Unimaginables within my web of connections. My immediate family (wife and kids), parents, brother, and friends across the globe engender my closest web of Unimaginables.

The Shared Self {or Thank you to The Notorious BG…Mic Drop}

For a while now, I have been obsessed with reflecting on human conceptualizations of self(hood) through the lens of intersubjectivity. I tend to deal less with philosophical approaches to subjectivity and more on the ways in which we know our(self) in relation to others.

More often than not I find three approaches useful:

(a) I am increasingly convinced that if we are to truly discover who we are, both individually and collectively, we must turn more toward evolutionary and social biology than religious scriptures and myths. In this regard, David Eagleman‘s work on neuroscience supplies interesting approaches to thinking about the human brain’s development and evolution in relation to moral agency.

(b) Also I find reading more on the myriad ways that fear influences the American collective psyche beneficial. Alarm, panic, fear, terror, distress, anxiety and the like are common rhetoric driving politics, religion, mobility, lack of mobility, and so on. More work should be done analyzing America’s infatuation with fear and the ways in which this fear shapes who we are.

(c) And personally, reflecting on one’s social networks as a means of knowing one’s self seems profitable in this entire conversation of intersubjectivity. I strongly believe in the power of community and collective imagination in creating healthy and productive lives. Admitting that community influences can inform one’s self both in the positive and negative, I and my conceptualization of my(self) are an artifact of the relational bonds throughout my existence.

I ground my(self) through my close personal networks.

It helps me to imagine all of my contacts as a spider web with myself in the hub. Those closest to me, in the strengthening zone, are those with the most impact upon my life. To a degree, as I construct my web, these are those persons whom I wish to provide the most influence on me. It is incumbent upon each of us to select wisely who these persons are while also embracing the responsibility to cultivate and foster these relationships. And as the web extends outward on the y-structure, each spiral becomes less influential.

This web metaphor permits me to visually frame my connections and make decisions on the present and future directions of my(self). To be sure there are those who enter the web uninvited or those whose presence disrupts the web construction, but possibly this is where maturation hopefully allows one to wisely make decisions.

In thinking about this web metaphor, recent events have reinforced how important those within the first few spirals truly are. My mom was diagnosed with cancer this summer. She went through surgical procedures and the subsequent chemo treatments. Her physical body and the chemo were at odds with one another causing an abandonment of the chemo as an option for continued treatment. Her health and prognosis are, thankfully, good for the future.

Being separated geographically from my parents during this tumultuous stage of my mom’s life is difficult. My mom is fortunate, however, to be surrounded by a supportive web of social connections. So many wonderful people have passed along an encouraging word or visit making this current situation much more bearable.

My wife, kids, and I were privilaged to be able to visit my family for a few days this summer. These are great memories filled with hugs, tears, and laughter. Those moments are valuable in that they are shared, but also because they construct selves – multi-layered, multi-generational selves.

In addition, I reconnected with several of my friends from the Bowling Green area (the Notorious BG). The laughter and conversations picked right up from where we left them. This group of people allows me (and my family) to be fully who we are with no need for facades or imaginary selves.  This is a group where the lone self starts to flourish while also fading into the collective – where the “we” turns into a shared “I.”

These wonderfully complex, multi-dimensional people truly inform me, in myriad ways and degrees. I exist appreciatively in connections with my friends and family. My hopes and intentions are that I can faithfully cultivate these relationships, contribute to each of the others healthy construction of their(selves), and express my sincere gratitude for their presence along the way.

Pearl Jam & American Religiosity: Having Faith In No Faith…And the Freedom to Do So.

ImageSurveys prove that a continually, increasing number of Americans are choosing to be non-religious, irreligious, or areligious.  A Pew Research survey (just to name one of many) found an increase in those categorizing themselves with no religious affiliation, those intentionally not seeking a religious community, and those deciding to attend their religious community less. This data can be alarming for many who consider religion the moral crux of society, but the statistics can be hopeful by many who perceive religion to have dominated the American landscape for too long. 

In a newly published book titled Varieties of Personal Theology: Charting the Belief and Values of American Young Adults, David Gortner discovered a lack of religious influences upon young adults’ overall personal theologies (or worldviews).  This work is interesting especially for this topic because it relies heavily upon interviews conducted with emerging adults before September 11th.  Thus giving us some insight into the same generation (Generation X?) maturing into young adulthood at the time when the music of Pearl Jam was most popular.

So how does one who is not religiously affiliated perceive faith, religion, or morals?  Pearl Jam’s new album discusses disaffiliation from religious institutions in the first song “Getaway.” 

The song opens comparing religious groups to leaking boats in an approaching storm.  In this midst of these inadequate rescue vessels, Eddie Vedder states, “But I found my place and it’s alright…I got my own way to believe.”   Interesting enough, in this song, every boat (all religious perspectives) are full of holes.  

Additionally, the song does seem to suggest that if someone chooses to religiously practice, they are free to do so as long as they do not infringe upon others: “If you wanna have to pray, it’s alright/We all be thinking with our different brains/Get yours off my plate, it’s alright/I got my own way to believe.”  The emphasis on subjective religiosity and individual freedom are important values for many from Generation X and Millennials (as well as others, but younger generations seem more concerned with freedom of [no] religious expression).

As a matter of fact, the chorus beckons:

It’s Ok

Sometimes you find yourself

Having to put all your faith

In no faith

Mine is mine, and yours won’t take its place

Now make you getaway.

There’s a rich reflection found in this chorus.  Is placing faith in no faith simply not committing trust to any religious institution/community/doctrines? Is this arguing for the complete privatization of religion (i.e. do not attempt to proselytize)? Further, the last line is very interesting.  Is Eddie Vedder suggesting that more people should make their getaway from religion? Or those that would want to pressure the religious nones into religious affiliation should getaway? Or both?

But, do not think that lack of religious affiliation leads to a lack of reflection on life’s purposes, meanings, and values. That’s next.

 

New Tattoo Explained

This past week, I added another tattoo to my growing collection of body art.  [All of my ink is provided by Carter’s Tattoo Company, specifically Wes Carter.]  This tattoo was one of my smallest with a completion time of approximately thirty minutes. 

The tattoo quotes The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.  Told from five female perspectives, this book is broadly about colonialism, power dynamics, and patriarchal dominance.  But, the plot also details the intersection of two faith traditions.  A missionary family maintains dogmatic faith beliefs which hinders their cultural assimilation and their willingness to embrace their very caring and giving neighbors.
 
Slowly, as the plot develops and the missionary family is eventually separated, one of the teenagers wakes up one morning without her mother, father, or siblings.  In this separation, a final epiphany occurs regarding her culture, her religious tradition, and what she eventually embraces as her own society.  She simply states:

“Finally, I sat up to see the sun still rose in the east, but everything else had changed.”

This quote encapsulates many existential thoughts that many people formulate (including myself). For instance, it is interesting to think that there will be continued existence upon death.  Thus, understanding that the universe persists might lead one to question the value of individual life. And maybe, like in The Poisonwood Bible, the continuation of the sun rising, might lead one to correctly conclude that human activity might not be the center of the universe.  Who are we then? What is our individual and collective purpose? How do we even begin to construct answers?  Enter religion.