Here Comes Kobe!

Here Comes Kobe!

I wrote a post a while ago about Kobe called Tapeinos, which you can see here: http://nateandtheworld.wordpress.com/2013/05/12/tapeinos/

An article from Sports Illustrated recently came out describing Kobe’s ride back to the NBA. If you like the NBA, hard-working people, and tenacious desire to win, read this article. This man embodies all three :)

Wonder

Mike Wazowski

It is from the valley that things look large; it is from the level that things look high; I am a child of the level … I will sit still and let the marvels and the adventures settle on me like flies. There are plenty of them, I assure you. The world will never starve for want of wonders, but only for want of wonder.

- G.K. Chesterton

A couple of weeks ago it was my birthday. The big 2-0. So long teen years, with your angst, your pimples, your petty problems, hello a new world of opportunity. The twenties, if you think about it, are probably some of the best years of your life. You’re young, you’re youthful, and you’re untethered. You aren’t shackled by school, and if you are, it’s of your own choosing. You aren’t shackled by parental restrictions, you’re an adult now, you can do whatever you want to do. Also, you have very little to worry about besides yourself, unless you’ve already tied the knot or are engaged in a serious relationship. Lastly, you’ve more or less figured out who you are. You’re confident in and of yourself, and you feel, perhaps unhealthily, fearless of what the future holds.  For me, the twenties represent one word: freedom. All signs point to it being a good decade.

However, the twenties for me has established another sign of my future: blazing cynicism. I’m in university, with its self-righteous academics. I see the church at large, with some self-righteous theologians (as opposed to theologians who know their righteousness only comes from the Lord). They are all right in your face, their faults glaring before you. You’re also hit with a barrage of media, with its thousand different voices. These voices sometimes whisper to you through the words of a song, or scream at in you in an angry article. Hate, love, sorrow, bitterness, joy are everywhere, and they’re made easier to see with the easy access of the internet. Sometimes I think the most attractive thing about “being online” is that you get to experience an emotional roller coaster every time you go on. Instead of relating feelings to each other, we dump it online for others to see, either for pity, for argument, or because we are achingly lonely. This is what draws to me to the uneducated Youtube comments, to the blogs, to the impassioned Facebook posts of news atrocities. The emotion behind them is real, and it’s fascinating. However, seeing so much of it everyday leaves a person numb, like a finger that has lost all feeling because of a relentless chill. What I’m left with is a constant sort of apathy, which is a frightening thing. Apathy is one thing I have never had a problem with, but I’m talking less about apathy towards other people and their troubles, and more about apathy towards the magical, to the wondrous.

I remember the first day I saw the Lord of the Rings. The first PG-13 movie I ever watched was Spiderman (good old Tobey Maguire, in case you forget how incredibly attractive Tobey is when crying, just look at the picture below):

Then again, nobody is really a cute crier.

The next was Lord of the Rings, and I was super excited. I hadn’t read the books, but I was going anyways because my dad seemed super pumped about it, and I thought it would be awesome. I went into the theatre, and came out of it a changed 8 year old boy. I found myself a random stick (probably from outside) and immediately set about slaying orcs like a much more youthful and browner Aragorn son of Arathorn, complete with the sound effects and the cries of my falling enemies. I had never ever experienced a movie like that before, a movie that so captured my imagination that I had to live it out, every single day. Believe me, I did, ask my mother. I would also jump to the computer and write stories upon stories, of my brave adventures in some other realm, destroying my enemies with the help of my friends, a blade, and perhaps a little magic. In the end, after much trial and tribulation, the heroes inevitably won, all inspired by Lord of the Rings of course. However, for me the most amazing thing was the world of Middle-Earth. As I watched the movie, from the Shire to Rivendell, I was impressed. But once the fellowship reached the Mines of Moria, I was floored. I still remember seeing the massive hall of Moria, with pillars bigger than redwood trees supporting it. The goblins crawling out from the ceiling, the troll smashing through Balin’s tomb. Also, who could forget the battle between Gandalf and the Balrog, complete with the great wizard’s transcendent line:

The sheer scale of the world of Middle-Earth inspired absolute, and unadulterated wonder within me. All I could do was sit back and say wow. Ever since then, I became a child of wonder, looking for things that awed me. In fact, the first thing that really hit me about the nature of God is his scale. He is so big, and so beyond my understanding that it hurt my head, and it was the first thing about God that really brought me to my knees. At first, it wasn’t his love, or his faithfulness, but rather his vastness that made me want to know him more. He inspires wonder in me like nothing else I could ever experience in this world.

Fast forward to now. I’ve seen countless movies, read countless books. What once made me sit back and say wow, I can sit back and say that I’ve seen better, mostly because of the reasons I listed above. Around the weekend of my birthday, I watched two movies, Monster’s University and Pacific Rim. Here’s the trailers for both, just in case you’ve forgotten or are unaware of what they’re about:

I watched Monster’s University, and watched as a cute little Mike Wazowski (voiced endearingly by the timeless Billy Crystal) dreamed of being the scariest monster he could be. I watched Pacific Rim, and let boyish excitement fill me as massive machines picked up cruise liners to wallop otherworldly leviathans in the ruins of a city. I haven’t enjoyed two movies like that it a long time. I was reminded of the creativity behind Monster’s University and Monsters Inc.; I mean, who would have ever thought of monsters needing children’s screams for energy to support their world? Genius. I was also reminded of wonder, as Pacific Rim showed me how a big, bad machine and monster movie should be. All of a sudden, I realized something something very important.

I’d forgotten how to wonder. I’d forgotten how to be in awe. Seeing these movies triggered that again for me, and its something I don’t want to lose again. As my twenties carry on, I don’t want to be stuck in the muck and mire of having seen it all before. Believe me, it’s so incredibly easy to not be impressed by the things around you. A generation like ours has seen it all before. In fact, its frustrating, because you know you want to be in awe, but you’re so numb to everything that you’re hit with that you simply can’t feel. It’s like you’ve come in from that cold winter’s day, furiously shaking your frozen digits to get feeling back into them, although they remain as unresponsive as before. The movies triggered that for me, but it doesn’t for everybody, and there lies the problem. How do we stay curious, how do we remain in awe?

I saw the quote from G.K. Chesterton today, and it echoed so much of what I’ve been thinking about for the past few weeks. I posted it above, but I’ll post again right here:

It is from the valley that things look large; it is from the level that things look high; I am a child of the level … I will sit still and let the marvels and the adventures settle on me like flies. There are plenty of them, I assure you. The world will never starve for want of wonders, but only for want of wonder.

Wonder isn’t something that’s over the next horizon. It’s something that I discover when I decide to sit back and “let the marvels and adventures settle on me like flies.”  I’m reminded of the movie American Beauty, with its famous movie poster, which had the tagline, Look Closer. It’s about a middle class family in the suburbs, who from the outside seem normal. But once you look closer, you see levels of pain, sorrow and loneliness that couldn’t be seen by just looking at the surface. The people and the things around you are complex, and once you delve deeper into them, you find they are inexplicably beautiful.

I’m making it my goal throughout my twenties to no longer be satisfied with seeing everything and wishing for more. I don’t want to sit in my room at Conrad Grebel University College and wish I was somewhere more exotic. I don’t want to wish I was halfway around the world saving children from being trafficked into the sex trade. I want to sit back, and appreciate deeply all that I have around me. In the end, the wonders I search for aren’t distant peaks to be climbed, they’re sitting right under my nose. That’s how I want to live, by seeking out these wonders. Happy 20th year of life Nate Dawg.

Not entirely sure if it’s socially acceptable to refer to yourself as Nate Dawg, but I hope we can just let that one slide this one time.

 

Tapeinos

“But you, Achilles,
there’s not a man in the world more blest than you—
there never has been, never will be one.
Time was, when you were alive, we Argives
honored you as a god, and now down here, I see,
you lord it over the dead in all your power.
So grieve no more at dying, great Achilles.”

I reassured the ghost, but he broke out, protesting,
“No winning words about death to me, shining Odysseus!
By god, I’d rather slave on earth for another man—
some dirt-poor tenant farmer who scrapes to keep alive—
than rule down here over all the breathless dead.”

- The Odyssey – Book 11 (11.547-558)

Thus spoke Odysseus to the ghost of Achilles, the greatest warrior of the Greeks, a champion of soldiers. He achieved much glory on earth, but in his death, his wishes were nothing more than to live again, even without glory, slaving away for another man. Anything other than death. The great Achilles was humbled. As a man on earth, Achilles had very little reason to be humble, or as the Greeks said it, tapeinos.

He had no weakness, save for one spot on his body, his heel. That same heel was the heel that his mother held him by as he was dipped into the River Styx in the underworld, as the Greek mythology goes. The river’s waters rendered his whole body safe from harm, save for the spot where his mother held on to him. As a result, Achilles was one of the greatest warriors Greece had ever seen, and was renowned for his prowess in battle, and for his seeming invincibility. No sword could cut him, no spear could pierce him. When he fought, everyone on his side knew that they would stand victorious, while his opponents shirked back in fear. Few knew of his one weakness. However, as the fates, or the gods, or luck would have it, that heel was the same heel that was skewered by an arrow, flying from the bow of Paris the Trojan. The arrow was poisoned, and even the great Achilles could not defeat it. Thus Achilles died, and it is from that story that we get the name for the Achilles tendon in our heels. Everyone has one, go on, feel it right now. It’s that long, tubular thing at the very back of your ankle. The Achilles, or calcaneal tendon, attaches the calf muscle to the heel bone. Without it, one cannot walk, or jump, or run. Your foot would hang useless below, unable to move to the bidding of their brain. The reason why I bore you will information about the Achilles tendon and its origins is because it establishes for me an interesting irony, based on recent events. Let me explain.

Gets buckets.

Scoring champion: 05-06, 06-07. 12 All-Defensive teams, 9 of them first team. 14 All-NBA teams, 10 of them first team. 15 time All-Star, and 4 time All-Star MVP, earning him the most NBA All-Star Game MVPs in league history. 2-time Olympic gold medalist. League MVP 2007-08. 5 championship rings. 4th all time on the NBA scoring list. More importantly: 1239 games played (regular season, not including long runs into the playoffs) and 45,390 minutes played. This is Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest basketball players to ever live, and one of the greatest competitors the world has ever seen. I didn’t know much about Kobe Bryant when I was younger. Not being much a sports fan, and seeing as no one in my family cares much either, he was off my radar for a very long time. When I started to get into basketball, I came to respect him greatly. My respect for him came from his insatiable desire to win, and with that, his impeccable work ethic and his on-court escapades that back it up. I have seen no player do the things that Kobe does on the basketball court. You can see his hard work in every juke step, in every hard dribble he takes in the paint against a hapless defender. You also see his brash confidence, his undeniable swagger. He knows he’s the best. And he’s not afraid to show it. As a Boston Celtics fan, most people would expect me to hate that, and to hate Kobe. But I can’t; he’s too good. You cannot hate greatness, and if you are, you’re being petty. More than all this, Kobe Bryant saw every injury as a minor annoyance. He broke his middle finger, he learned to shoot using the other fingers. His knees were falling apart, so he went to Germany, underwent an operation, and was good to go. The man shakes off injuries like they are nothing. You can tell, he always thought he was unstoppable. Indeed, by all accounts, he was.

Big jam.

Fast forward to the 2012-13 season. Kobe’s team, at the beginning of the season thought to be the new favourites for the championship with the additions of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, are floundering. Instead of fighting for the top seed in the playoffs, they are fighting to even make the playoffs after a horrid 17-25 start. However, number 24 was not about to let them go down without a fight. Against all odds, the Lakers climbed the ladder, their record a mediocre, but playoff qualifying 42-37. Their climb up the ladder was led by their 34 year old shooting guard, who gifted fans with some of his greatest performances of the season when it really mattered.

In New Orleans, down by at least 20 points, Kobe led his team to victory, reminding everyone why he is one of the greatest of all-time.

He continued his escapades against the Portland Trailblazers, wowing the fans in the Rose Garden again and again.

Again and again, I was reminded of how the man spits in Father Time’s face, with every jumper, every dunk, every dribble, he proved himself seemingly greater than the passing of the days as his 17th season continued on. On April 12, 2013, the Black Mamba and his team faced off against the Golden State Warriors, a division rival, and another obstacle that Kobe needed to get out of his way. The game was tight in the third quarter, with the Lakers down by 2. The ball came to Bryant, who was isolated against the rookie Harrison Barnes. Kobe spun to his left, heard a pop, and immediately fell to the court. Barnes was called for the foul, and Kobe lay wincing on the ground, feeling his left ankle. He said he had known exactly what it was when it happened, but he didn’t want to believe it. Amazingly, the worn and wearied player stayed in long enough to shoot his free throws, and then left the game. After the game, Kobe was interviewed. This Kobe was a marked change from the usual Kobe. The cool, calm, collected, and utterly cocky Kobe was gone. What we see is a broken man, who is suddenly unsure, unsure of the present, unsure of the future, and perhaps mostly importantly, unsure of himself. He had torn his achilles tendon, an injury that takes half a year to recover from, and no athlete who has suffered from the injury has come back the same. So why did I tell you all this? Why talk about this Kobe Bryant and his torn tendon? I’ll tell you why: it’s because this man who was by all accounts a god, was broken. It fascinates me to no end that the injury that took Kobe Bryant out was an Achilles injury. The god was broken, the unkillable was brought low, just like Achilles. It made me think about human frailty. Even the greatest of all time (some would say), the man who treated sprained ankles like bugs to be squashed, whose cockiness was backed up by his domination of opponents, could still be brought low. No one is exempt from human frailty. Not even Kobe. He went on a rant on Facebook a few days after his injury, expressing his extreme frustration with the whole situation. He was angry, he was sad, he was broken, and most of all, humbled. There were no workouts to make him come back faster. No way to shake this off. The injury, at least momentarily, had beaten him.

I wish and pray for a swift recovery for Kobe Bryant, and hope to see him at full strength again. There are very few players I love to watch more than the Black Mamba. But he reminded me of an important thing, that no matter how high I get, no matter how successful I am, no matter how indestructible I seem, I’m not. I’m a frail human being, and all that I’ve been blessed with is from God alone, and nothing of my own merit. When I feel small, I will ask God for strength. But also, when I feel powerful, I will thank God that it is in his power, and not of mine alone, that I stand. So thank you Kobe, for reminding me of this, hope to see you on the court soon (not that you’ll read this or anything, but I thought it was a nice touch).

 

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13 NKJV

With Great Power Comes Responsibility II

Haven’t posted on this blog in a while, but earlier this year I had posted about the responsibilities of athletes to use their power for the good of others (http://nateandtheworld.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/with-great-power-comes-great-responsibility/). This includes giving an example of Christ for people to look to, and to ask about. This is a fantastic opportunity for athletes to share their faith, but it’s also a dangerous one. We’ve seen countless “Christians” like Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber leave their faith in the background for the sake of record sales and acceptance. Real Christianity is not easy to stomach, and not easy to stay consistent with, and this is made especially more evident when we see the publicly scrutinized celebrities of our time proclaim that they are Christians and then do things that convict them of hypocrisy. This is not to say that we the general public are any better. It is an unbelievably difficult task that is given to celebrities to live as Christians in the public eye. Hypocrisy is something that every single Christian struggles with, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23. We are all imperfect, and all of us needs grace. However, not everyone is privy to seeing our dirty little secrets played on television and computer screens for the world to see. This makes the verse from Luke that I posted in the previous athlete post all the more important for the celebrities/athletes in our world today who profess the Christian faith.

48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Luke 12:48

This really just struck me as I read an article on Relevant Magazine (an unreal magazine by the way, everybody check it out), about 2012 being the year of the Out-Spoken Christian Athlete. So check it out! And read it! It details what these Christian athletes did, and how they acted (although Lecrae is not a professional athlete, he is also included in the list), in a way that honoured God. What we should do is pray for these athletes, and pray for these celebrities, that God gives them the grace and the strength to stay true to his Word, even amidst the good life that fame and fortune can bring. Just as I would pray for my own self.

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/culture/2012-year-outspoken-christian-athlete

Nate Dawg out.

What a Wonderful World

It’s been a full week of classes for me now, finally over. I found it the same last year; the first week of classes seemed endless, until eventually it became a routine and just whizzed by. But for now, everything is fresh, and I’m able to experience everything anew.

Thus far I’m loving my classes. I love that I’m interested, and passionate about what I’m studying. I love that I’m busy doing Grebel athletic activities and organizing intramurals with my friend Katy, and I love getting to know everyone that has come into Grebel this year. I am so blessed! I’ve decided that I’ll probably try to post once a week, just to write about my classes, what I’ve learnt. I think it’s a good way of me absorbing what I’ve learnt and then spitting it back out with my own nuances to it without it being for school. This is just me, and what I think, without worrying about marks or whatever.

So to begin! My INDEV 100 class, detailing pretty much the basics of international development. So what really is the basics of INDEV? Ha, if only it were a simple answer! Previously in history, countries were marked by either being developed, or underdeveloped, without an in between. This was based mostly on the country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product), the market value of goods and services produced in a country at a given time. This is basically the indicator of a country’s standard of living. It’s a convenient way of measurement, especially when it comes to seeing how a country improves or regresses. However, it focuses solely on the economic side of things. For example, if Congo’s GDP shoots up because of the discovery of oil reserves, does that really make the standard of living better when the amount of impoverished, illiterate and discriminated remains the same? This segues in the greater theme of what else constitutes a developing country, and then the question of whether or not we should develop, or should we not develop. In the past few hours I’ve read convincing arguments by people like Amartya Sen and John Rawls, concerning morality and ethics and when and where we should help and blah blah blah. It’s a mind-numbing effort because there’s so many different sides and views that must be looked at and observed carefully before coming up with a satisfactory conclusion. So I guess what I have to conclude with is that this is just a symbol of how complex our world is. It is not simple. Some people may equate this kind of statement with the other statement that says not everything is black and white. The thing is, I believe there is a black and white, as the saying goes. I just think that the process of getting to black and white is so muddled and confusing that us human beings can’t always get through. What a wonderful conundrum of a life we lead! I say wonderful, because there’s so many good and wonderful things to be experienced, tasted, felt, and heard. In the depressing effort that is often the study of the world’s issues, one can learn a little something from Louis Armstrong’s classic. One can look at the trees outside, the people around them, and the wonders of human creation, and say, yeah, this is a wonderful world.

When it comes to other classes, not much has happened. I previously posted about the stylus, during my 3 hour STV 202 class. That class, though long, and arduous, has some interesting ideas in it, namely, what is good design. It should at least be relatively interesting going forward. Any ways, I’m looking forward to a fantastic term!

On another note, there is an awesome looking expo that is happening this week. It’s called the Go Global Expo, and its keynote speaker is Dev Aujla, the co-author (along with Billy Parish) of the book Making Good, which really gave me a different perspective on my future and what my future employment can look like. The book was great, and the expo looks great, as it’s all about going abroad and experiencing the world through either study, volunteer, work, or explore. Sounds like a blast right? I might just attend.

Here’s the link: http://www.letsgoglobal.ca/en/toronto.html