A Mantra for Middle Age

IMG_3896Today, one of the luxuries of summer: a trip to a family fun center, decked out with video games, a go-kart track, and indoor batting cages. Even as I start to push 40, I can’t stay out of the cages.

Trying to be at least moderately sensible, I headed for the medium-speed cage, before my seven-year-old slugger intervened to ask why I wasn’t up for the high-speed challenge. Sensing that he was questioning not only my decision but also my manhood, I immediately turned to the cage that was bringing the heat.

At first, it felt like a big mistake. The first pitch blew by me in the dim flourescent light, the yellow, dimpled ball streaking across the outer half of the plate, at the knees, my arms lunging after it high and late. Rattled, I amped up. I started pumping the balls of my feet, waving the barrel of the bat up and down behind my head. The next swing wasn’t much better, a wild one that caught the top of the ball and drilled it straight down for a weak infield chopper.

Then, a voice of distilled wisdom called to me: steady the eyes, simplify the stride. All of a sudden, I was locked in. In baseball’s special realm of paradox, I was now relaxed enough to attack the ball with authority, to track it, meet it square, and send it back through the box.

After not missing a pitch for the rest of the session–about 60 pitches in all–I had to laugh at myself. This felt like just the sort of epiphany that could have helped me go to the next level in my days as a varsity and men’s amateur baseball player, but at this age, the insight is all but wasted on me.

But then a thought of even deeper wisdom intruded: what better mantra for the beginning of middle age than “steady the eyes, simplify the stride”? After years of hustling to establish and prove myself professionally, it’s becoming more and more apparent that I’m entering into a new stage of life, one in which I need to pace and take care of myself for the long haul–a stage of simplifying my stride and steadying my eyes on my relationships with family and friends, my students, and my writing. Not a bad “takeaway” for a day at the batting cages.

Posted in Autobiography / Memoir, Baseball, Fatherhood, Parenting, Raising Boys, Religion and Spirituality, Sports | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bosnia in Bloom

A few more images from my recent travels…the resilient beauty of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Domestic garden, Blagaj

Domestic garden, Blagaj

Bregava River / Rijeka Bregava, Stolac

Bregava River / Rijeka Bregava, Stolac

Pomegranate, rural Herzegovina

Pomegranate, rural Herzegovina

Riverside restaurant, Mostar

Riverside restaurant, Mostar

Riverside garden, Sarajevo

Riverside garden, Sarajevo

Mosque courtyard, Sarajevo

Mosque courtyard, Sarajevo

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Remembering Srebrenica (2014)

Today, remembering Srebrenica with words and images that have never left me. Click on the links below for essays, photographs, and links to Bosnian artists’ reflections.

Srebrenica, Bebolucija, and the Politics of Life” (2013)

Remembering Srebrenica” (2012)

Remembering Srebrenica” (2011)

Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial

Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial

Posted in Bosnia, Ethics, Gender, Human Rights, Islam, Peacebuilding, Religion and Politics, Religion and Spirituality, Social Justice, Travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Bosnian Summer

I’ve just come home from Bosnia-Herzegovina. Some lingering images…more to come.

Museum of Literature and the Performing Arts, Sarajevo

Museum of Literature and the Performing Arts, Sarajevo

Oleander and Olive, Stolac

Oleander and Olive, Stolac

Skakavac, overlooking Sarajevo

Skakavac, overlooking Sarajevo

Dervish House, Blagaj

Dervish House, Blagaj

Siege Memorial and Mosque, Sarajevo

Siege Memorial and Mosque, Sarajevo

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Fresh Wounds, and Sorrow, in Bosnia

Bosnian countryside, 2012

Bosnian countryside, 2012

Recent, severe flooding in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and neighboring Serbia, could not have come at a worse time. Words fail.

If there is hope, it is in the outpouring of compassion, often irrespective of borders, toward the approximately one million uprooted; and in Bosnians’ fresh resolve to create political and economic systems that will ease, at last, the suffering they have endured for far too long.

Donations can be sent to the Red Cross Society of Bosnia and Herzegovina via http://www.rcsbh.org/ and New England Friends of Bosnia and Herzegovina via https://www.nefbih.org/ (Lana Pasić’s article below has a fuller list of organizations providing relief in B-H and Serbia).

Here are links to a few (of many) thoughtful pieces on the floods, in English:

This is Going to Stay with Us for the Next 20-30 Years,” from the website “Bosnia-Herzegovina Protest Files”

Bosnia’s Other Calamity,” by Srećko Latal and Edward P. Joseph for The New York Times

After the Balkan Floods: Unity and Compassion,” by Lana Pasić for Al Jazeera

This post is dedicated also to the memory of those who lost their lives in the May 25, 1995 massacre in Tuzla.

Posted in Bosnia, Human Rights, Peacebuilding, Photography, Politics, Social Justice | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

The “Bosnian Spring”: Anniversaries, Protests, and an Uncertain Future

Sarajevo

Sarajevo

30 years ago this week, the 1984 Winter Olympics began in Sarajevo.

20 years ago this week, the Markale marketplace massacre in Sarajevo shocked the world.

This week, riot police in Tuzla clashed with demonstrators fed up with the political and economic status quo. (Protests quickly spread; see the updates below.)

This summer, Sarajevo will mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I. Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Sarajevo, bearing a message of peace. The Vienna Philharmonic is scheduled to perform. And by sheer, wonderful coincidence, Bosnia & Herzegovina’s national soccer team will make its first appearance in the World Cup.

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s history is tragic, its future uncertain. Here’s hoping that enough good people, there and abroad, will invest in that future, so that history can finally be on Bosnians’ side.

Update, Feb. 11: Thanks to able translators, an impressive — and growing — collection of Bosnians’ own statements and commentary about the ongoing, peaceful demonstrations is now widely available, in English, at the new site “Bosnia-Herzegovina Protest Files.”  

Update, Feb. 10: More analysis of /political fallout from the weekend’s protests. See The Balkanist’s live blogs and updates page; the BBC’s “Bosnia Unrest: Bruised and Bitter in Sarajevo,” on the multi-ethnic and multi-generational character of the protests; and Slavoj Žižek’s “Anger in Bosnia” (The Guardian).   

Update, Feb. 9: Citizens are back in the streets of Sarajevo Sunday afternoon, demanding sweeping political reforms and the release of demonstrators arrested Friday. A few fresh links: Jasmin Mujanović’s “It’s Spring At Last in Bosnia and Herzegovina” and his updated “Demands of the People of Tuzla, Sarajevo, and Bihać;” statement from the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo on the protests; Eric Gordy’s observations and predictions and Florian Bieber’s  Thoughts on the Bosnian Protests; and impassioned statements from Valentina Pellizzer, Nick Semwogerere aka “Smooth Deep,” and Damir Nikšić.

Update, Feb. 8: here is a link to a “Declaration by Workers and Citizens of the Tuzla Canton” and Jasmin Mujanović’s latest post “The Demands of the People of Tuzla and Sarajevo.” See also Elvira Jukic’s powerful piece “Sarajevo, My City on Fire” and Tim Judah’s BBC article “Bosnian Protests: A Balkan Spring?

Update, Feb. 7: protests are spreading across the country, to cities like Sarajevo, Mostar, Bihać, and Zenica. Here is a link to an article in English in The Sarajevo Times.

Photograph by the author.

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2013: A Blog’s Life

Temple Mount / Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem

Temple Mount / Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem

This New Year’s Day, gratitude for all of you who followed Wayne Street Soul in 2013. Thank you so much! Here are some highlights from the past year:

Viva Bosnia” — on the stirrings of hope in a shattered land

A Curmudgeon’s Take on the World Series” — humor, on that infamous obstruction call

New England Fall” — photographs from another gorgeous fall

The Next Generation of Mormon Studies” — on my archival research and forthcoming book

Keeping Score” — more on baseball, and a father’s obsessions

Images from the Middle East” — photographs from my first trip to Israel and the Palestinian Territories

More to come in 2014, including updates on my two book projects: All We Have Left (essays on postwar Bosnia & Herzegovina) and Authority, Ambition, and the Mormon Mind: American Universities and the Evolution of Mormonism, 1867-1940. 

Posted in Baseball, Bosnia, Christianity, Ethics, Fatherhood, Higher Education, Human Rights, Humor, Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, Parenting, Peacebuilding, Photography, Politics, Popular Culture, Publications on Religion and American Culture, Raising Boys, Social Justice, Sports, Teaching, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment