Friday, May 24, 2013

"What Will Matter"

Ready or not, someday it will all come to an end. There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours, or days. All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten will pass to someone else. Your wealth, fame, and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance. It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed. Your grudges, resentments, frustrations, and jealousies will finally disappear. So too, your hopes, ambitions, plans, and to do lists will expire. The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away. It won't matter where you came from or what side of the tracks you lived on at the end. It won't matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant. Even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant. So what will matter?? How will the value of your days be measured? What will matter is not what you bought but what you built, not what you got but what you gave. What will matter is not your success but your significance. What will matter is not what you leaned but what you taught. What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage, or sacrifice that enriched, empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example. What will matter is not your competence but your character. What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many will feel lasting loss when you're gone. What will matter is not your memories but the memories of those who loved you. What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom and for what. LIVING A LIFE THAT MATTERS DOESN'T HAPPEN BY ACCIDENT. IT'S NOT A MATTER OF CIRCUMSTANCE BUT OF CHOICE. CHOOSE TO LIVE A LIFE THAT MATTERS. **Parents: your children hold on to your every action & every word. Be the example of the person you want them to be in 25 years. **Coaches: you are your players hero. Set an example of a person who would make you proud. **Players: be kind. Do something nice for someone who doesn't expect it today.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


for Girls FASTPITCH pitching Instruction & Hitting lessons. Individual & group lessons. Winston-Salem, NC Kernersville, NC Greensboro, NC contact AMBER: or 4344265837

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bringing Energy to the Field by Coach Mike Candrea

A key word that I find myself using more and more during practice and competitions is the word Energy. I sometime wonder if players truly understand the importance of energy and how the lack of it can affect the ultimate goal of playing as a team. You always hear that softball is a team sport that is played by individuals. We all know that the best team usually wins the competition and not the best individuals. This is constantly proven in Major League baseball when it comes down to the play offs. It is not always the team with the highest payroll and the most talent. If you disagree, just look at what the Oakland A's have been able to do with a very moderate payroll. Over the years, I have found how important the positive energy of a team can set the mood for performances that result in more success than not. How do we get our players to understand the importance of bringing that energy to the ballpark whether we are playing a game or executing a practice session? Softball provides many moments to become selfish or negative. After all we play a game of failure and the best players are not always successful. We all can remember a teammate or two that just had a bad attitude. When things are going well, they are great teammates - supportive, caring, positive, and engaged. When they go 0-3, make an error, give up a big hit, they tend to shut down and become selfish, negative, and disengaged from the atmosphere required for good teams to be successful. They take all the air out of the dugout, create tension in their teammates, and create an atmosphere that is never fun. Great teams are truly unselfish and there is never a weak link - ever! If we are truly playing a team sport, it is important for young players to learn to control the controllable. We cannot control much that may happen in a game but we can always control our attitude, effort, and energy! After all, a player that continues to mope around after a mistake will guarantee that they will continue to make mistakes. The greatest thing about high energy is you tend to not worry about yourself and you become more connected to just playing the game and your focus is intensely on the team. This state of mind allows you to play the game without fear and in a more relaxed state. After all, softball is a game of relaxed skills. The more relaxed you are, the more success you will have. Each player is responsible for the energy they bring to the team and energy should never go into a slump! If we will all understand that it takes a total team effort to win games, the day will come when we eliminate selfish concerns such as batting average, ERA, and focus on winning the At Bat, inning, game, and eventually that championship we all would like to experience. Energy is the greatest asset to creating a passion in life. We all know that to be great at something, passion is a key to finding success in life. I can honestly say that I have never known a highly successful coach, player, parent, or team that was not full of energy, positive thinking, and totally engaged. Energy is a wonderful fuel for life!
- -Coach Candrea

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Man Seeks God

I read this article on a recent flight... I found it interesting yet sad...

You won’t find God after reading this book, but you will speculate, ponder, and laugh. We were immediately captivated after reading the first few pages of an early draft. Eric Weiner is the author of the New York Times best seller The Geography of Bliss. A former correspondent for NPR and the New York Times, Weiner has reported from nearly 40 countries. His writing has appeared in Slate, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, Foreign Policy, The New York Times Magazine, and other publications. He divides his time between Starbucks and Caribou. — Lance Elko, Editor


An Uncomfortable Question
Nobody likes hospitals, but I like them less than most. I think it’s because my father was a doctor, an oncologist, and when I was young he’d drag me along while he did his rounds. He’d park me in the cafeteria, a fluorescent purgatory that reeked of burnt coffee and fear, then go see his patients. “Be back in twenty minutes,” he’d say. An hour or two later he’d show up, apologetic. One of his patients had died. They always died. And they always died in hospitals. So, my eight-year-old brain concluded, if I just avoided hospitals I would never die. It was airtight logic. And aside from a broken leg at age seventeen, that’s what I managed to do.

Until one warm August evening, not that long ago, when I found myself in the emergency room. My friend Michael had driven me there, as I sat in the passenger seat, doubled over in pain. At first, I’d dismissed it as indigestion, but this was unlike any indigestion I had experienced before. They took some X-rays and CT scans, and a few long minutes later the ER doctor walked into the examination room, grim-faced. Something was wrong, though exactly what kind of wrong he couldn’t say. The lines of worry on his face sent a spike of panic through me. A surgeon was en route. They had to interrupt his dinner party, he said, thus layering my terror with a film of guilt. Just wait here, he instructed, as if I were going anywhere with an IV dangling from one arm and a hospital gown wrapped around me, though “wrapped” was an overstatement and, for that matter, so was “gown.” Little separated me from the chilly, sterile air of the examination room.

I was shivering, partly from the cold, mostly from fear. Is it cancer? Something worse? What, I wondered, is worse than cancer? There must be something worse than cancer. I was pondering what this might be when a nurse walked in. She was about my age and, judging from the accent, originally from the Caribbean, or maybe West Africa. She leaned over to draw blood and must have smelled my fear because she paused, maneuvered close to my ear, and said, slowly and clearly, words I will never forget: “Have you found your God yet?”

It was one of those moments when your mind takes a long time, much longer than usual, to catch up with your ears. Have I found my God yet? “Why?” I asked, once I could breathe again. Will I be meeting Him soon? Have you seen my CT scan? Do you know something? She didn’t answer. Just gave me this wise, knowing look, and left me there alone with my careening thoughts and inadequate paper towel of a gown. I knew her question was not exactly standard operating procedure, even at a hospital called Holy Cross, but there was nothing malevolent or accusatory about it. She said it matter-of-factly, not exactly like “Have you found your car keys yet?” but close. Her words also conveyed a maternal concern, and the quiet certainty of someone who has already found her God.

The hours in the ER turned into a few days at the hospital. Tests were performed, blood drawn. I did not have cancer or that thing that is worse than cancer (I never could figure out what it is) but rather an unusually severe and prolonged case of . . . gas. Yes, gas. Apparently, my colon did not take kindly to the stress inflicted on it as I met an insane deadline imposed by a tyrannical editor. I was, in hospital parlance, discharged.

Within a week or two, I had fully recovered, physically, but the nurse’s words stayed with me, like an image burned onto a TV screen that’s been left on too long. Have you found your God yet? Those were her exact words. Not have you found a god or the god or just plain God but your God, as if there were one out there just for me, waiting.

For a while, I tried to forget about the incident. There is nothing to know, I told myself, no God to find, or at least not one I am capable of finding. Just drop it. Go back to your books and your single malt. Go back to the “world of dust,” as the Chinese call our everyday existence. This worked. For a while.

Then the nurse’s words returned, burrowing into my brain like a groundhog in early winter. Who, or what, is my God? I was born Jewish. That’s certainly my religious heritage, but not necessarily my God, which is another matter altogether. The truth is: I have many doubts about God’s existence. Yet calling myself an atheist doesn’t feel right either. Too coolly confident. I’m not certain about anything. I’m not certain about argyle socks. I’m not certain about soy milk. How can I be certain that God does not exist?

Agnostic? The word means literally “one without knowledge,” and that certainly describes me when it comes to matters of faith. Agnostics, though, strike me as atheists without the conviction.

Agnostics are covering their religious bases, just in case there is an all-powerful Creator capable of granting eternal bliss. (“See, Lord, it says right there: ‘agnostic.’ Can I have my eternal bliss now please?”) Also, implicit in the agnostic’s creed is not only “I don’t know if God exists” but I don’t particularly care. That steady drip, drip, drip of doubt can pool into a kind of wish fulfillment. Doubt God’s existence long enough and He doesn’t.

Perhaps I fall into that most elastic of categories, the “spiritual-but-not-religious.” These seekers align themselves with the world’s wisdom traditions while distancing themselves from anything that smacks of doctrine or, God forbid, an actual belief system. The spiritual-but-not-religious like their yoga without Hinduism, their meditation sans Buddhism, and their Judaism God-free. This approach is tempting. It strikes me as easy, and who, after all, doesn’t like easy? Alas, the problem with the spiritual-but-not-religious is that it is too easy, too convenient. Also, too herbal, and I am, if anything, a fully caffeinated being.

Since no off-the-shelf spiritual category seems to fit me, I find I must invent one: Confusionist. As the name implies, we Confusionists are confused — deeply and profoundly — when it comes to questions of God and religion. Wait a second, you’re probably thinking, isn’t a Confusionist just another word for an agnostic?

No, we Confusionists lack the smug uncertainty of the agnostic; we are, in a way, pre-agnostic, or maybe meta-agnostic. We’re not even clear exactly what it is we’re not clear about. We Confusionists throw our arms skyward and shout: We have absolutely no idea what our religious views are. We’re not even sure we have any, but we’re open to the unexpected, and
believe — no hope — there is more to life than meets the eye. Beyond that we are simply and utterly confused.

I blame my confusion, as I do most things, on my parents. I was raised in a secular household where God’s name was only uttered when someone stubbed their toe (God damn it who put that chair there?) or ate something especially delicious (Oh my God this is to die for). We were gastronomical Jews. Bagels and lox, of course, but also rugelach, whitefish salad, challah,
latkes, hamantashen. If we could eat it then it was Jewish and, by extension, had something to do with God. As far as I was concerned, God resided not in Heaven or the Great Void but in the Frigidaire, somewhere between the cream cheese and the salad dressing. We believed in an edible deity, and that was about the extent of our spiritual life.

Oh, once a week, I did attend Hebrew school (my parents enrolling me owing to that other Jewish tradition we maintained: guilt), but I found it much less relevant to my life than, say, breakfast. I couldn’t understand what these ancient peoples, who weren’t even smart enough to invent indoor plumbing, could possibly teach me about life. My family attended synagogue once a year, on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. It wasn’t a lot of fun. I had to wear this blue polyester suit and clip-on tie, and all the adults were crabby, owing to the fasting, no doubt. The fasting bit really confused me because, as I said, I equated God with food so I couldn’t figure out why on this, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, people weren’t eating.

Later, my years as a foreign correspondent for National Public Radio did little to rehabilitate God in my mind. I saw firsthand what was done in His name, and it wasn’t pretty. I lived for a while in Jerusalem, the city of peace, though it was anything but. Even a blind person, especially a blind person, could detect the tension that hung over the city like an L.A. smog. The thunderous kaboom of an Israeli fighter jet breaking the sound barrier alternated with the kaboom of a young Palestinian detonating a charge of explosives strapped to his chest. So similar were those sounds that we journalists developed our own auditory bomb-detection technique: A kaboom followed by the roar of a jet engine meant you could go back to your morning coffee; a kaboom followed by sirens meant a mad dash to a horrific scene.

I also lived in India, the over-achiever of the religious world (over 330 million deities served!), and there found myself more perplexed than outraged. I once attended the Kumbh Mela, a Hindu festival that attracts some eighteen million people to the banks of the River Ganges. People traveled for days, weeks, in order to dunk themselves in the filthy, brackish water. It supposedly promoted good fortune and health. Yes, I thought, if the dysentery doesn’t kill you first. “It’s faith, only faith,” one of the holy dunkers told me. “Isn’t that enough?” I didn’t know what to say. Huck Finn’s words sprang to mind: “You can’t pray a lie.” But who was I, a foreign journalist with a microphone that I wielded like an assault rifle, to say what was a lie? Shortly after, I remember driving with an upper-class Indian playwright to an Ashura ritual. That’s when Shiite Muslims commemorate the death of Ali, cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad. The playwright got out of his SUV, removed his Ralph Lauren shirt (folding it neatly, and placing it in the backseat), then, using a long metal prong of some sort, began to flay his naked back, again and again, in order to feel Ali’s pain. I saw dozens of other men doing the same. Then I felt a fine mist of red liquid spray my face. Blood. It was raining blood. India made me long for the God of the Frigidaire.

I was — and still am — a rationalist. I believe that reason and its offspring, science, are good. I question, though, whether reason alone is sufficient for a happy, fulfilled life. Nobody, as far as I know, has ever reasoned herself to a state of pure bliss. Reason is an excellent tool for solving problems but offers little guidance in identifying which problems we should solve and why. Reason makes a wonderful servant but a poor master. Reason cannot account for those moments in life that “bewilder the intellect yet utterly quiet the heart,” as G. K. Chesterton observed.

I also believe in words, in the power of words, and for decades my philosophy, such as it was, mirrored that of the great student of myths, Joseph Campbell, who when asked what spiritual practice he followed said, “I underline books.” Me too. I’m a promiscuous underliner, also circler, highlighter, scribbler, margin-writer, and dog-earer. I’m not sure why; maybe I’m like a cat marking its territory; maybe underlining a passage makes it real, makes the author’s ideas my own. Then again, maybe they already were. The act of underlining always contains an element of self-recognition.

I read, and underline, anything I can get my hands on, but I have a particular weakness for self-help books. I love these books, though I dislike the term “self-help.” For one thing, it’s not accurate. You’re not helping yourself. The person who wrote the book is helping you. The only book that can accurately be called self help is the one you write yourself. The other problem, of course, with self-help books is that they broadcast weakness, and thus invite judgment. That’s why my wife insists I keep my sizable collection hidden in the basement, lest dinner guests suspect she is married to a self in need of help.

Despite my compulsive underlining, or maybe because of it, I’ve never made much “spiritual progress.” (A term that also strikes me as very wrong; isn’t being spiritual about transcending self-defeating concepts like progress?) Reading these books, I’d experience moments of clarity. I would read, then underline, some wonderful passage by Meister Eckhart or Gandhi and think, Yes, of course, I’ve got it! We transcend our duality by uniting with the Godhead. Then I’d spend the next three hours obsessing over the best color — spruce green or desert khaki — for a shoulder bag I was ordering online, or endlessly staring at a mole on my neck wondering if it was just a mole or possibly Stage 12 melanoma. The books did little to relieve my outsize fear of death, or alleviate my chronic low-grade depression, and at some point I began to suspect that I was using these books, using concepts themselves, in order to avoid having an actual spiritual experience. It seemed like a plausible theory. In fact, I found an excellent book on the topic; in it, you will find many underlined passages.

To be clear: I don’t only live in books. I do get out of the house sometimes, where I am prone to peek at other people’s spiritual lives. I like to watch. Always from a safe distance, though. I’m the guy standing near the exit of the synagogue or the meditation hall, plotting his escape in case things get dull, or strange. Or real. I’m the guy mumbling the prayers just clearly enough so as not to call attention to himself but not clearly enough to absorb any meaning. Even in silent meditation, I’ve felt like a spiritual fraud, waiting to be exposed.

So that was me: mildly curious about God, but not curious enough to actually do anything about it. A spiritual voyeur, at best. A hypocrite, at worst. Someone who had, theoretically, entered Dante’s “age of wisdom,” a stage of life that begins at age forty-five. And that was okay, really. Until now. What has changed? Is it just my brush with gas, or perhaps something as pathetically clichéd as a midlife crisis? Maybe it’s parenthood. Being a parent forces us to confront head-on those nagging existential questions that we long ago stowed in our mind’s attic. How do I want to raise my daughter? As a gastronomical Jew like myself? Something more? Something less? Children are brutally honest and ask questions adults are too polite, or scared, to ask, and my daughter is definitely no exception.

“Dad?” she said not long after my hospital stay. We were riding one of those tag-along bicycles. I was in the front pedaling and steering and she was in the back pedaling, always pedaling.

“Yes, Sonya.” I was expecting another butt question. She’d entered the butt age and had many questions about that particular body part. But, as she often does, my daughter surprised me.

“Is God responsible for us?”

I nearly swerved into oncoming traffic. Two thoughts sprang to mind. First, that’s an awfully heavy theological question for a four-year-old. Second, this is one of those defining parental moments when we have a chance to impart lasting wisdom, to inspire and mold our child’s worldview in ways that will bear fruit for decades to come. Either that or make total asses of ourselves.

“Well, Dad, is He?”

“Just a minute. I’m thinking.”

Finally, I blurted out, “God gave us everything we need to be responsible for ourselves.”

I’m not sure where I pulled that one from — probably from the same part of the anatomy that my daughter was obsessed about — but it wasn’t bad, I thought. Sonya seemed satisfied, saying simply and sweetly, “He sure did.” As I pedaled, I marveled at her bigheartedness and thought of a wonderful line in a poem by Stephen Dunn.

you can’t teach disbelief
to a child,
only wonderful stories

A few days later, when I was putting her to bed, she announced that she saw God.

“You did?”

“Yes. He was in the sky, like a big cloud,” she said, holding her fist above her head in order to demonstrate.

“How did you know it was God and not just another cloud?”

“I could tell.”

“Well, what did you do?”

“I waved and said, ‘Hi God,’ ” she said, as if it were the obvious thing to do and I was slow.

I am. The ER nurse had laid down the gauntlet, asking me a question that demanded a serious answer and not, as is my wont, a clever rejoinder, a joke. At the time, there was an urgency to her question — Have you found your God yet? — as I lay in that cold examination room, thinking I was dying. Is it any less urgent now?

The fact is I am dying (we all are), though not quite as quickly as I feared. The nurse, wittingly or not, issued a call, in the old mythological sense of the word, and I feel compelled to respond, lest I end up like one of T. S. Eliot’s “hollow men,” those wretched, pitiful souls who hear a call but refuse to heed it.

The 17th-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal coined the term “God-shaped hole” to describe that yawning void that is the human condition. I quite like the term. Every time I hear it I think of donuts, and of my life. Over the years, I’ve attempted to fill my God-shaped hole with all manner of stuff: food, sex, bags, success, more food, travel, drugs, books, more food, leather-bound notebooks, red zinfandels, Cuban cigars, yet more food, pretentious foreign films, and once, briefly and ill-advisedly, a concoction of Guinness and Jack Daniel’s imbibed through a plastic funnel. None of this has worked. Why not try filling my God-shaped hole with . . . God?

I recently came across a passage from the Hindu sage Ramana Maharshi. Speaking of the burdens we all bear, he asks: Would you carry your luggage on your head while on board a train? “You are not lessening the burden of the train by keeping it on your head but only straining yourself unnecessarily.” Likewise, Ramana says, we unnecessarily strain ourselves by laboring under the belief that we, and we alone, bear this heavy load called life. Put down that bag, he advises. Nothing disastrous will happen, and you might feel lighter.

I find that passage irresistible. (I have, of course, underlined it.) My wish, greater than any I’ve ever had, is that I can somehow, in spite of myself, find a way to live it. But where to begin?


CWM (Confusionist White Male), young at heart,
open-minded, God-curious, seeks omniscient deity for
fun, maybe more. Me: Funny. Endearingly neurotic.
Loves books and bags. Likes to watch. Hoping for
more. You: All-powerful but kind and loving. Sense of
humor. Health-conscious. Good with kids. Talker.
Please no smokers or smiters. Are you the answer to my
prayers? Serious replies only

I look at the words I've just typed, flickering on the screen. Not bad, I think. They neatly capture what I'm looking for, and in a format that seems surprisingly apt. Romantic and divine courtship have much in common. Both demand courage, a high tolerance for disappointment, and an unflagging faith in the power of dumb luck. There is such a thing as spiritual compatibility. We do not find all Gods equally appealing any more than we find all potential mates equally appealing, and finding the right God, I suspect, is every bit as daunting as finding the right partner. I'll take all the help I can get. I'm not sure where I'd place such an ad, though, and worry I might attract some crazy deity, one who looks nothing like His profile photo and is concealing a dark past. You can't be too careful out there.

This is where flirtation comes into play. Flirtation is a safe way of taking a potential relationship for a test drive. The flirter signals the flirtee and waits for a response. If none arrives, no feelings are hurt, and both parties move on. If the signal is reciprocated, though, the flirtation accelerates and may lead to more - or not; flirtation, like cooking, possesses its own unconsummated pleasures.

Our divine flirtations have grown increasingly bold and, at times, frenetic. We are a spiritually promiscuous nation. Nearly one in three Americans will change their religious affiliation over the course of their lifetime, according to a recent survey. It makes sense. We are a people that worship choice. Choice is freedom. Choice is good. If we can choose our elected leaders, our calling plan, our toothpaste, why not our God?

Choosing is not one of my talents, though. In fact, I am a terrible chooser. I always feel as if there is one, and only one, "right" decision, and live in chronic fear of making any number of other "wrong" decisions. So I tend to get stuck a lot, paralyzed by the fear of choosing the less-than-perfect thing. I find it helps to narrow my choices. I've been a vegetarian for the past seventeen years - not out of any concern about the treatment of animals (I don't care that much) or health benefits (again, don't care) but simply because it makes it easier to decide what to order in a restaurant. Really. I envy those who make choices effortlessly, and wonder: How can I possibly choose a God? I decide to look at the menu. See what my options are. I mean, how many Gods can there be out there? Nine thousand and nine hundred, it turns out, with two or three new religions formed every day. That's according to David B. Barrett, a former Anglican missionary who has been tracking world religions since the 1970s and knows of what he speaks.

Nearly 10,000 religions! How can this be? I experience that same flash of panic I get at the supermarket cereal aisle. As the French say, Trop de choix tue le choix. Too much choice kills the choice. Excessive choice has another insidious effect: It creates the illusion of ease. A proliferation of health clubs, for instance, leads us to believe that it is easy to get into shape, and if we're not, then - well, what the hell is wrong with us? Likewise, a proliferation of religious and spiritual options creates the illusion that it is easier than ever to know God. It is not.

I stumble across something called "rational-choice theory," and I like the way that sounds. (The rational part, not the choice part.) Proponents of this theory believe we choose our religion in much the same way we choose a new car or a house or a breakfast cereal. We weigh the benefits of a given faith against the costs and then make a "rational" choice. I'm skeptical. Choosing a religion is fundamentally different from choosing a breakfast cereal. Yes, we want something out of it, but we also want something that we don't yet know we want. ("Behold my need which I know not myself!" cried Archbishop Fénelon.) How can we possibly choose something of which we're not aware? Choosing a faith is an act of faith, yet we don't have that faith yet, which is why we're looking for one in the first place. You see the problem.

Maybe my choice doesn't matter. Maybe I could just throw a dart at the list of religions and take my chances. Hard-core atheists like Christopher Hitchens say sure, throw the dart. Religion, Hitchens says, is all mush, so feel free to choose your mush - or even mix various kinds of mush. In the end, you'll just get more mush. On the other extreme lies the politically correct belief that all religions are equally valid. In one study, nearly half of those surveyed agreed that "all religions of the world are equally true and good." I find this extraordinary. Would we say that about anything else? Would we say that all forms of government, be it totalitarian or democracy, were equally true and good? Would we say that all corporations were equally true and good? Would we say that all toaster ovens were equally true and good? Yet when it comes to religion we jettison our powers of discernment. Saying all religions are equally true and good is like saying none is, and that brings us full circle back to the atheists.

Religion, at its best, helps us grapple with, if not answer, the three big questions: Where do we come from? What happens when we die? How should we live our lives? In this sense, religion is a kind of applied philosophy or, as Alfred North Whitehead put it, "What a man does with his solitariness." All of which, I figure, makes choosing the "right" religion that much more urgent. "Seek and you shall find," the Bible says, as if it were so easy. Seeking (the word derives from "sagacious") requires a robust dose of intuition, a sort of spiritual intelligence. Do I have that?

I print out a list of religions. Page after page materializes from my printer until I am holding a sheaf 50-deep. I sigh. There must be a way to narrow this down. Some religions I can eliminate immediately. Zoroastrianism, for instance, is a very old and fascinating faith but one that does not accept converts. The Rastafarians intrigue but smell like an excuse to fly to Jamaica, listen to reggae, and smoke some weed. Sadly, I scratch the Rastas. At this point, my father's advice springs to mind. "Eric," he said, "never date a woman crazier than yourself." He was right about women (a lesson I learned the hard way), but I'm not so sure the same applies to gods. One man's crazy is another man's liturgy or, as author and mathematician Martin Gardner puts it: "Exotic doctrines and legends always seem funny, just as everybody else's big toe looks funny." Besides, I've always found much wisdom loitering in life's margins. So, no, I don't dismiss "crazy religions."

I do eliminate cults, though, which I define not by their oddness or newness but their coercive tactics. I eliminate the "parody religions" such as the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a faith invented in order to mock faith. I eliminate religions that require the use of hallucinogens, owing to a bad experience I had in a New Jersey dorm room in the 1980s that I would rather not talk about. Some religions seem overly narrow, such as Hungarian Folk Religion; others, such as Unitarian Universalists, overly broad. Believing in everything looks a lot like believing in nothing.

In the end, I come up with a list of eight faiths, eight possible answers to the ER nurse's question. A smattering of monotheistic, polytheistic, and atheistic religions. Some, like Catholicism, solidly mainstream; others, like witchcraft, solidly not. I have chosen not entire faiths but, rather, slivers of belief. God slices. I figure it is easier to wrap my mind around, say, Sufism, than it is all of Islam. Likewise with Kabbalah and Judaism. I am naturally drawn to the mystical paths, which strike me as a necessary counterweight to my head-heavy existence.

Religions aim high but often fall short of their own lofty ideals, as even a cursory glance at the day's headlines reveals: Muslim suicide bombers, Catholic pedophile priests, various doomsday cults. These perversions explain why so many of my friends give religion, all religion, a very wide berth. For them, nothing is worthy of belief. Belief is for suckers. Mentioning God in anything other than a mocking, ironic tone is viewed as laughably atavistic, like an outbreak of acne at age forty. If I am going to find my God I will need to disarm this caustic cynicism, kill it, while leaving unharmed its necessary sibling, skepticism. This won't be easy.

Indeed, I'm not sure how to launch my search, so I resort to my default strategy: I read. Books, I reason, have steered many a person to faith. "Pick it up and read it" were the words, uttered by a child, that inspired Saint Augustine to read the Bible and thus transform his life from one of self-degradation to bliss. I read Tolstoy and Huxley and Merton and Heschel and Gandhi. I read a lot of William James. Brother of the novelist Henry James, William studied medicine but soon discovered he was more interested in matters of the mind, and the heart. He became a philosopher and, a new profession at the time, psychologist. His masterpiece is a thick tome called The Varieties of Religious Experience. As the title suggests, James was not much interested in rituals or theology. He wanted to know how religion affected people personally, not what they believed but what they experienced. The book, published in 1902, is often cited as the first scientific approach to the study of religion. It is no mere taxonomy, though. On each page, I sense James's quiet yearning, how he envied those he wrote about, those for whom "religion exists not as a dull habit but as an acute fever." James never experienced that fever himself. He wrote like a world traveler confined to home, forced to rely on secondhand accounts of journeys he desperately wished to take himself.

Like me, James suffered. Throughout his life, he was prone to bouts of depression, and had recurring thoughts of suicide. Perhaps ashamed of his melancholy, as am I, he hid it from public view, only writing about it briefly under the guise of a "French correspondent," whom he quotes as saying, "I have always thought that this experience of melancholia of mine had a religious bearing."

Like me, James could not pray. (He felt "foolish and artificial.") Like me, he was obsessed with death, and like me William James was a case study in competing impulses. He complained about Americans' mindless worship of the "Bitch-goddess SUCCESS" yet tracked his book sales with greedy eyes. He was a hard-nosed scientist but also a "tender-minded" one, as he put it. Ultimately, as his biographer Linda Simon writes, "he was convinced of his own essential complexity." James was, in today's parlance, high maintenance - something else we have in common, at least according to my wife. William James died in 1910. When doctors performed an autopsy, they found that the cause of death was "acute enlargement of the heart." Of course, I thought. How could it have been anything else?

As much as I admire William James, I do not seek to emulate him. He may have been brilliant, but his brilliance never extended beyond that of an interested observer, nose pressed against the window, peering into people's religious lives from a safe distance. I realize I'll never know that "acute fever" through books, even good ones. No, I need to try on these eight faiths, see if they fit. I need to experience the varieties of religion. I need to get my nose out of these books and onto an airplane. So I do. My nose and I fly to California, which seems like as good a place as any to launch a spiritual quest.

Man Seeks God by Eric Weiner arrives in bookstores in December.

Excerpted from Man Seeks God: My Flirtations with the Divine by Eric Weiner. Copyright © 2011 by Eric Weiner. Reprinted by permission of Twelve Books, an imprint of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 05, 2011


I went to Knee doc today for checkup & He showed me pics from surgery.. .my meniscus has significant damage.. somewhat torn off bone. it still looks bad, yet it is fairly strong... Doc & I both really wished I had gotten surgery 3 1/2 years ago!! of course...but i was distracted with life & had minimal pain or complication. I had no idea it was so bad till this summer ... but on the positive side... i'm recovering very well & have fairly good RangeOfMotion & things look very good for 6 weeks out. I will continue PT for 6 more weeks & I will get released to RUN again! I cannot wait -- until then -- i have to continue my "Fast" from running for 6 more weeks.

I also just went to Las Vegas for NFCC (national fastpitch coaches convention).It was a great trip & I have gained so much great knowlege about my favorite sport on earth! I will post pics from the trip soon.

Friday, November 04, 2011

2 weeks since Surgery

I have been busy busy this week with 4 hours at the Physical therapist and a couple at the doc & doing lot of work at home getting my ROM ( range of motion) back. I am hopful as the swelling goes down & my Pain level subsides a bit daily. It HURTS soso Much to stretch & work my Left leg as my quad muscles are just starting to regain some strength & my knee straightens out. Still, the surgery will hopefully prove worthwhile. I was thrilled to return to the Y to do some Core & upper body I am looking forward to a full recovery in early 2012!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Physical Therapy

I went to my 1st session or evaluation for PT at Rehabilitation Associates with Heather M Walling. I had been her patient before surgery & enjoyed working with her. The session went much better than expected. I was able to straighten my knee out & got quad muscles to relax & respond better. I have more range of motion now, so I was very pleased with the outcome of that visit.Now, I have 4 pages of exercises/ stretches to do daily. I will be in PT twice a week for 10 weeks. So i hope to be walking & running by the new year.
I really HATE being LAME!! This is not my thing to lay around when there are dishes, floor & clothes to be cleaned. This morning after getting the kids off to school I actually slept till 1pm! I feel like a lazy bum. but yesterday I was very tired all day & didnt feel I guess this recovery will do what it wants with my body.
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