Gregg Popovich (on losing and being small)

Stubbornness is Virtue week has been renewed, though perhaps not entirely by popular demand. Meaning? I’m finishing up neglected pieces, or otherwise writing even more out of time than usual. But hey! The quote is right current, a brilliant basketball coach and genuinely interesting human — yes, it happens — wrapping up another season that did not end with a victory, though he’s had more than his share. It’s about basketball, but also a whole lot more. Get to know Coach Pop.

If you haven’t heard of Gregg Popovich, you’re not a basketball person, and that’s okay by me. Even if you are routinely insulated from the seductive drumbeat of ball on hardwood, or the peculiar sonic pleasures of colourful lace-up “kicks” squeaking across that same polished surface, you may encounter this man. The wide admiration and growing affection for this hugely successful professional coach is growing, even beyond the sweat-stained bowels of NBA arenas and of man-caves across the continent. Quick example: my most-viewed post so far in 2015 is because of Popovich. He has used the “pound the rock” imperative of a now-obscure immigrant-rights activist called Jacob Riis to inspire his Spurs teams to stay their relentless course. “Pop”, as his players have long called him and a smitten public increasingly does, has coached five teams to National Basketball Association championships. He is, of course, madly competitive, tactically astute and motivationally fiery. He is also a wine connoisseur, a book-lover, an amateur historian and — though his intolerance for stupid questions and media agendas might belie it — a kind, thoughtful and funny dude. It’s weird but not at all coincidental, say I: he loves basketball and pursues it with furious focus, but it may be his detachment, his ability to put the game in perspective, that has allowed him to be so successful at it for so long.

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(Not) Marcus Aurelius (on reasons for goodness)

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

Marcus Aurelius, 2nd century Stoic philosopher and, for twenty years, Emperor of Rome. I love this statement of the sovereignty of goodness above hairsplitting and vain imaginings. It comes from the Meditations of Aurelius. Actually, I don’t know where it comes from. I’m no classics scholar, and I was nearly fooled. It sounded so good to be quoting a famous but under-read (including by me!) philosopher.

According to WikiQuote, there is no record of such a statement before 2010.

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Spirit, Ethics and Climate Change Action: IEF 3

Here’s a third quick instalment on the International Environment Forum’s conference earlier in October. As with the earlier three synopses, I give you a link to somewhat more expansive notes that I posted on the IEF site. The following link takes you to a news story, with photos, from the Canadian Baha’i community. (It focusses especially on the Friday sessions that I didn’t attend.)

Here’s a peek at what Saturday afternoon’s IEF session had to offer.

Living Lightly, With a Smile

David Chernushenko is an environmental consultant, activist, and author, and a former deputy leader of the Canadian Green Party. He took the conversation from the abstract and the global to tangible, immediate and home-based actions. His personal motto is “live lightly”: reduce our ecological footprints and do it with joy.

He emphasizes the following characteristics. Resilience. (Are we ready to ride out the rough spots?) Integrity. (Walk the talk.) Empowerment. (Are we encouraging our children?) Equity & Fairness. (Am I taking more than my share of the planet’s resources?) Redefining growth. (It’s not all economic indicators.) Humility. (Who do we think we ARE?) With that in mind, he suggested a range of simple, practical steps that any family can take. Make one step. Then make another. It’s simple, and it’s light. (Upon light!)

“Learning to Make Responsible Choices: The Consumer Citizen Network”

Victoria Thoresen, Ms. Thoresen, an Education professor from Norway and the manager of the CCN, challenged the conference. Many of her frankly imploring messages – I beg of you, please consider… — urged the perspective of parents and teachers, and the needs of their children/youth, about these concepts:

SufficiencyHow much is enough? How do we withstand the barrage of materialism? Courage. Sustainable consumption has powerful enemies. Encouragement is golden. Diversity of response. Not everybody should be doing the same thing, even if it was possible!
Empathy. Thoresen, with her wide travel and international experience, called upon us to remember how the majority of humans live. “We are only a small corner of the world, even if we DO own most of it!”

Dr. Thoresen also implored us to remain mindful of the UN Decade for Sustainable Development, 2005-2014, as well as the earnest United Nations’ Millennium Goals which many have already forgotten. She spoke briefly of the Consumer Citizenship Network (“’consumer’ is such a bad word in Canada!”) and its work to create debate and enlightenment about “the pressing need for consumers to understand the ethical choices that they make”. She concluded:

For humanity’s nobility to emerge, its qualities of trustworthiness, compassion, selflessness, dedication, loyalty, sacrifice and service need to be nurtured and gain ascendancy over its selfish, baser impulses.”