How Ancient Wisdom Can Help Us Deal With Haters

Like most everyone, I once waged a battle against a force as relentless, punishing and timeless as waves crashing on the beach: kids being dicks to each other.

Here’s a quick recap of my life up until age 16, with a focus on what would become the major annoyance of my youth: my high voice making me feel inadequate on the basketball court. 

3rd through 6th grade — The good ol’ days. I was tiny and had a high voice, but every other young boy was in the same boat. We could all answer an incoming phone call and be mistaken for our sister or mother. This happened to me all the time. I hated it. If only cell phones had taken over a bit earlier.

7th grade — Even amongst mostly pre-pubescent people, I was smaller and more squeaky-voiced than most. I compensated by being scrappy on the court, which rubbed some people the wrong way. That included opposing coaches.

Once, when taking a crucial shot, a 40-year-old coach leaned over and whispered in my ear that I was a “little bitch.” I was 12. And you wonder why the AAU circuit gets a bad rap.

8th through 9th grade — The kids I played against were pretty much done with puberty. I still looked like someone you’d try to help if you saw me alone in the mall. 

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This is me at age FIFTEEN

This was the period where it felt like every time I called a play on the court, someone on the other team would echo back my words, mockingly, in a comically high voice. It was like playing against a team full of 80’s movie bullies. 

Throughout my playing career, I used to get so focused on the game that I often couldn’t hear the crowd noise. I think that’s why I found it amazing that there were people who had the wherewithal to openly mock me during a game. Kids are ruthless.

The annoying thing is, it totally worked. I hated when people made fun of my voice. I silently cursed my endocrine system. I jealously stared at other guy’s protruding Adam’s Apples during class. I ate like an NFL Lineman, hoping to jumpstart my growth and development. I did everything besides wander around by a radiation plant in hopes of scrambling some sense into my DNA.

Nothing worked. I was stuck.

I was too naive to realize there was no problem to be dealt with.

I never came across the studies showing that delayed puberty can lead to an increase in final height. I never thought of responding to the jeers with “do you idiots realize Mike Tyson has a high voice and he’d send your septum into your brain with one punch for looking at him wrong? Are you really equating vocal pitch with masculinity?” That would have probably led to more mocking for my use of big words. Again, kids suck.

What my interest in history has taught me is that everyone, no matter how awesome, is persecuted in some way. DaVinci was hated on for being gay. Socrates was murdered for suggesting that maybe a bunch of toga wearing gods didn’t have all the answers. Copernicus was excommunicated for pointing out that the sun does not revolve around the earth.

What all those people had in common was a strength of conviction. DaVinci rolled with a posse of gay dudes in open defiance of the customs at the time. Socrates accepted his death sentence with dignity, refusing to back down from his stance. (The judges that put him to death were later put to death themselves for having made a dumb mistake. Ancient Greece was on some real eye for an eye ish.) Copernicus, having been excommunicated and excoriated by the entire community, remained defiant. While in exile, he is known to have said (my updated translation) “those fucking dummies are gonna feel pretty stupid when I’m proven right.”

Now, being made fun of by a bunch of people for having a high voice doesn’t seem so bad. The giants of history had it a lot worse. I just want to reiterate the ancient wisdom that it’s always better to keep your head down, tune out the nonsense, and continue to work toward your goals. 

Eventually, my voice did deepen. Even if it hadn’t, my relentless focus on being a good player would have put me in the upper echelon of athletes for my age.  Would it really have been that bad if I sounded like a Powerpuff girl but still dropped 30 points per game? My anger only served as a distraction. 

I was infuriated by mean, un-clever people over something that was outside of my control. I hope to never repeat that mistake.

Ralph Waldo Emerson has an elegant way of putting it:

Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.

The quote is not 100% applicable, because I wasn’t so much misunderstood as simply picked on, but the basic point remains. There will be haters, and you only hurt yourself by giving them credence.

Book Reviews, Harvard Weightlifting Madness, Hollywood Sadness

kesey

 

Books I’ve Been Reading

The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, by Tom Wolfe

This is a classic for anyone who truly wants to understand the origins of the psychedelic movement in the 1960’s. If you’ve ever done a psychedelic and been overly worried about set and setting (quiet room, trip guide, etc.) then this could be a good book to check out. To the originators of the whole movement, set and setting was far less important than partying as hard as possible at all times. The core group out of northern California was tripping 24/7 and tooling around the country in a tricked out party bus. It’s a great read. Ken Kesey is like Keith Richards, Rob Gronkowski and Jesus all wrapped into one.

– The End of All Evil, by Jeremy Locke

This is a short read about how we are all slaves to our corporate masters. Also touches on how every nation exists to exploit its citizens and can only exists as long as we all live in fear. Should this book be required reading in high school instead of garbage like The Scarlet Letter? I say yes.

– Every Love Story is a Ghost Story, by D.T. Max

A biography of one of my favorite writers, David Foster Wallace. I loved it. DFW was one of the most accomplished writers of his generation. That didn’t stop him from spending an insane amount of his free time writing letters to Jonathan Franzen, pleading for help with his procrastination problem. Makes me feel better for not blogging for months at a time!

Random Thoughts

  • This was in Delta’s in flight magazine:

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“Richard, the article is about how happy we all are. You’ve got to smile”

*Richard tries to smile.*

“Mr. Anderson, you’re frowning. Think about your happiest memory.”

*Richard imagines the sweet release of death*

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“That’ll do.”

 

  • I found an old training manual from my freshman year at Harvard. It’s amazing. If you read it, you’d probably think we were training for a strong man competition. If wins and losses were determined by who could scream the loudest while getting so deep into a backsquat that you can feel your discs slipping out of place, we would have been set. I mean, check out our unofficial mascot, Harvey Crim, who is featured on the first page of the manual:

Harvey Crim

 

Classic basketball body right there. Pretty sure Kevin Durant would be better if he looked like the physical embodiment of roid rage.

We all prayed at the alter of Harvey Crim. It’s nuts to look back and see the kinds of workouts we were doing either right before or right after a 3 hour practice. But, at least we had a manifesto on the second page of the book explaining why it was so crucial to work ourselves into oblivion day after day regardless of whether it made us better players:Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 14.28.38 PM

That’s some intense, typo riddled craziness! Did you catch the author? 

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If we ever had to see a real doctor because it felt like our workouts were making our knee tendons disintegrate, that was a disaster. Shouldn’t be done. Fight through it. Or, we were encouraged to seek out Dr. Squat instead. His prescription? Squats until you saw the white buffalo, preferably followed by exhaustion induced vomiting.

I’m all about hard work, and I have tons of fond memories of working out with my college teammates. I still maintain that we should have been a little more focused on improving our jump shots instead of our lifting numbers.

  • I found a great screen shot of an email from my ICM days. It shows just how brutal it is trying to make it as an actress in Hollywood.

Casting

 

Not just beautiful. Not just sexy. Beautiful AND sexy. That’s the golden ticket. Go to Julliard and learn how to be super, duper hot.

 

 

 

 

Neighbors – Not What They Appear

A couple of months ago I was at home to recover from my foot surgery. My afternoon routine involved small amounts of rehab and a lot of lying spread eagle on my front driveway. Don’t judge, zoning out and getting natural Vitamin D is integral to healing.

About 20 minutes into my sun session I heard something that snapped me out of my zen state. It was the unmistakable hum of my neighbor Belle’s tan Honda sedan. Melvin, her husband, was probably with her. (Names changed to protect the innocent.) They are both small and stout and approximately 72. More importantly, they were pulling into their driveway. I had to think fast.

My brain went into overdrive cycling through possibilities. Can I get up and hobble into the house? Impossible. Otis the family dog was wagging his tail and walking toward their car, a sure tell that a human is in the vicinity. Lie perfectly still and pretend to be in some unalterable meditative trance? It would not deter them from walking over anyway. Start moaning in pain, make them think I am in grave danger, crawl inside after convincing them to call an ambulance, then say I am recovered by the time the medical personnel show up? A tad dramatic, and it still had the chance of ending in a conversation with them. Sit up, wave, and brace myself for the inevitable? Sadly, this was my only real option. They had seen me. I was caught.

Seeing a Housman in the driveway has long been a huge conversation trigger for Melvin and Belle. Ever since we moved in back in ’95, they have taken every opportunity to engage with our family. In my memory these exchanges always took the form of a couple of neighbors sharing a few pleasantries. Perfectly friendly behavior. It was only as I grew older that I realized M&B were playing the long game.

I have no doubt that they understood the ramifications of having brisk, concise conversations with the boys next door. Surely they were thinking “Make them believe we merely want to say a quick hi and bye. Appear to be all business. If we do that for the first 8 years or so they will never see it coming when we decide to turn every conversation into a one act play, starring us. We can wax poetic about politics, travel, our son, our many and various adult education classes, basically whatever we want! They will feel rude if they cut us off because we are old! We will ignore all hints that they want to terminate the chat. If all goes well we can talk with them uninterrupted for hours. It’s the perfect plan!” And it has worked marvelously. They continue to hone their craft, and in order to do so the seek out interactions.

I guess it is possible that we just happen to be outside at a lot of the same times, but I doubt it. I swear they keep a watch over our front door. If I so much as turn the knob one of them will causally saunter outside to “garden”, “get their mail” or “get in their car and drive away.” They are such good actors that sometimes they make it seem like they actually want to be doing those things. Ha! Surely they only feign interest in leading a life that doesn’t revolve around speaking with me.

So imagine their joy when they not only saw a Housman exposed on the driveway, but lying down with a cast on his foot and no crutches in sight. I could not even stand and face them eye to eye. They would loom over me.  I was like an infant in his high chair who is done eating and wants to leave but has no choice but to sit there. Add in the fact that my brother had successfully avoided them for his most recent visit and the effect was like a herd of African hunting dogs stumbling upon an incapacitated impala. The icing on the cake was a happy looking Otis standing beside me. It was almost too easy for them.

Otis’ presence is often the flimsy excuse M&B use for coming over and starting the marathon chat sessions. They do a phenomenal job of feigning that they enjoy his company. Oftentimes they bring him treats and play with him for long stretches. The whole thing can look adorable to the untrained eye. Most people would never suspect that their elderly neighbors would pretend to like a dog as a means of furthering their own narcissistic agendas. Thankfully I am able to see through their ruse. I now use my knowledge of their true motives to better protect myself.

It really is about protection, because a few minutes into their story about how their cruise ship ran out of iceberg lettuce you begin to lose your will to live. Some might say “Drew, what were you really going to do for that 5 minutes? Have you not recently spent 5 minutes literally staring at a wall?” To which I say it’s about personal freedom. I had a choice to stare at that wall. They leave me no easy way to get out of the talks. If I have to sacrifice making them feel a little better in order to maintain complete autonomy over my actions than that’s what I will do.

Did I live by that creed on this particular day? Of course not. I readied myself to nod, smile, and ride out the storm.

They ambled over with their seemingly warm hellos, but I knew what was lying beneath. They sensed that they had a captive audience. It took them about 30 seconds to get past the initial pleasantries and start the real conversation. The one that, as if by fiat, revolved around me asking them questions and then patiently waiting as they told horrifically boring stories.

I got a 5 minute discourse on every injury they have ever sustained and how one of them has an impending knee surgery. Next was a story about their visit to a museum in Israel, an anti-riveting 10 minute saga that somehow became about family values. Are they teaching me now? Do I need to pretend they are wise because they remember a time when you could say that cigarettes treated asthma?

What makes everything worse is that the situations the stories derive from usually contain a hint of something I might be curious to hear about. The problem is that their delivery is unfathomably monotonous and plodding. The words start to lose meaning. The tiresome anecdotes and unnecessarily long pauses pile up until any last vestige of interest has been mashed into a fine dust.

M&B can usually recognize when that point has come, and I think they consider their work done. They retreat back to their home, successful in having made someone listen to them. I can’t hate them for it. In fact, I admire their persistence and the way they were able to execute their decades long plan. All I can do is work on ways to avoid the talks. I also hope to warn other young people of what can happen if they fail to recognize the signs of a neighbor who is out to cannibalize their mind, spirit and time to fuel their own deep rooted needs. Stay strong out there.

College Speech

I was cleaning my room and found the speech I made at the basketball banquet my senior year of college. Thought it would be interesting to throw up here. It’s kind of sappy, but whatever. It got laughs at the time. At least I didn’t skip the event entirely to go to a Nas concert, something I actually considered. Continue reading “College Speech”

JLin!

     This Jeremy story is having a profound affect on me. I can’t deny it. I could not fall asleep until 7 AM, I dreamt that we were kicking it after his game, and I woke up with regret that I didn’t enact my plan to make a personalized player app for him this summer.

     Fortune really does favor those who work hard, are prepared for their opportunity, and have an unwavering faith in their abilities. He really, truly thought he was going to make it in the NBA, and that’s the reason he is now the biggest story in Manhattan since George Washington’s inaugural presidential address. He arrived in New York and changed their constitution so profoundly we should call him Alexander Hamilton! (Sorry, been reading a biography.) Continue reading “JLin!”

My Slacker High School Lifestyle

I decided to write about a bunch of stuff that happened a long time ago.  I have too much time on my hands.  But first, a super fast bball update: My confidence, playing time and performance have all slipped dramatically.  I do well in practice, but it is not translating to minutes or production.  The situation is deteriorating fast, but there are still a bunch of games left, so I have a chance to turn things around.  Lets hope it happens.  And now, on to the stories. Continue reading “My Slacker High School Lifestyle”