Love With A Capital L

A journey towards living an inspired life of love in the modern world

Blind Spots — July 20, 2021

Blind Spots

We all have blind spots, right? That is something we can all agree on. I know that sounds like I’m an insane person. I’m not, as far as I can tell. (But would I know if I was?) I live and breathe, so it’s as obvious to me as everybody else that we can’t all agree on anything, except maybe that ‘we’ are 100% right and ‘they’ are 100% wrong. And that we’re hyper-sensitive, which makes us easily offendable.

Anyway, blind spots.

2 quick, great examples of this: I see people extinguish their cigarettes just before they enter the gym. On the one hand, they’re very conscious of building a healthy lifestyle, and on the other, they’re tearing it down. And Saturday mornings I go to a convenience store and buy an energy drink (again, for someone who is concerned with taking care of themselves, perhaps energy drinks aren’t the best. But wait, it gets worse…), careful to choose the option with NO SUGAR. Then I go to the donut shop because Saturday is donut day. Maybe having a “donut day” isn’t the worst, but the no sugar/sugar dichotomy invites questions of consistency.

The Bible talks about judgment and hypocrisy often. Hypocrisy is closely linked to stage acting, when we are one thing in one place and a different thing in another. The point is that we are who we are all the time, that there’s no image-making, no pretense. Bringing all of who we are under the same umbrella. Another way to say this is consistency. My dad was an alcoholic and I never ever knew which dad I was going to find, sober and awesome or drunk and awful. This isn’t exactly hypocrisy, but perfectly illustrates the importance of consistency inside and out.

As far as judgment, it’s possible that when we are extra judgy towards others, we are instead advertising our own hypocrisy and glaring inconsistencies. And when we talk about judgment and hypocrisy, social media is their breeding ground.

I’m convinced the reason we have absolutely no idea who is telling the truth in politics is because political discourse is rooted in sand, bereft of the anchors of principle, self-awareness, and consistency.

Now. This COVID crisis has drawn battle lines from the beginning: masks, quarantines, vaccines, on and on. And just like everything else, if you disagree with me, you are uninformed and/or ignorant and/or heartless. It is utterly impossible that you would be intelligent, well-read, compassionate AND come to a different conclusion.

For many years, there has been a certain debate among us that has the core of “it’s my body, and you can’t tell me what to do with my body.” One side says yes I can, especially when it comes to protecting others, and the other says no. And now there’s a vaccine with the same core, but what’s interesting is that the sides have crossed the aisle and taken each other’s talking points. And no matter what position we choose, there are exceptions that make this totally natural for a smart, thinking person.

We could talk about this all day, but my point is that maybe the Bible is right about judgment. Maybe we shouldn’t do it at all. Maybe our easy snap generalizations and categories don’t fit because they were never supposed to. We’re complex and nuanced, full of a wide range of experiences. And sure, Facebook is a wonderful place to spew vitriol, but maybe more violence towards each other just isn’t helping.

We feel the disconnect between each other, our communities, our environment, and ourselves. Of course we do.

There’s a song by Todd Snider called “The Ballad of The Kingsmen,” and it ends “Now brothers and sisters I am only one guy. And I don’t even know the words to that song Louie, Louie.” Today is heavy here, for me, and I don’t know much about anything, but maybe it’s not all that surprising that we’re separated when we’ve built concrete walls where bridges are supposed to be.

I’m really tired of being separated.

It’s The End Of Youth Sports As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) — July 6, 2021

It’s The End Of Youth Sports As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

The baseball season is over. When anything ends, there is always that familiar maelstrom of (often conflicting) emotions. I’m happy to get my evenings back, family dinners, and rejoin the groups where I have been absent. It’s awesome to not have to call to report scores, or line the field before games. It’s not as awesome, on the other hand, to be inside on this hot, sunny day and not on a ball field. I already miss the crack of the bat or the sound of a nice fastball hitting the glove. And I’m heartbroken that I don’t get to see the players and coaches every day anymore.

After the last game (a loss), I gave a game ball to one of the players I had coached for several years and would never again. He was 1 of 3 of in that category. They are 3 of the finest young men you’ve ever had the pleasure to know. So that’s hard. It was also the last game where I would be my oldest son’s coach. That’s way too much to sit with for too long, but that’s sort of the point, isn’t it? If we don’t spend that time, it stays kind of hidden in the corner of our hearts until…right? Who knows what it takes or when, but it simply has to be addressed. That’s what I did. I sat with that box of memories and I cried and cried, and then I laughed and thanked God that I had the opportunity for so long and that it may be the last for us together, but it is not the last for him. And it’s not the last for me.

Here’s another thing: The umpires quit before the season was over! They resigned because of the behavior they were forced to endure night after night. I wouldn’t consider myself one of their biggest fans as officials, but I am generally a fan of human beings and am always a fan of interacting with respect and love. This puts me and the team I coach squarely in the minority. Apparently, the online culture of aggression and arrogance has left the screens and stormed the fields.

Now, I am not pretending that bad behavior didn’t exist, but like everything else in 2020 (and now -21), the pandemic and it’s partner isolation turned up the volume on the loneliness, anxiety and fear that breeds this selfish nastiness and lack of self-control. Nearly every night, there were new stories. I probably would’ve quit, too.

I know the root of the aggression and arrogance is inadequacy and insecurity. We find our identity in wins and losses, as if youth sports were the Great Arbiter of Truth. Youth sports is a lot of things, but distributor of worth isn’t one. Yet we keep asking it to do what it can’t. Of course, the kids sometimes act like monsters (because they sometimes are monsters), but they’re teenagers. They’re looking to the coaches to expect more from them. I’m not sure we’re not desperately looking for someone to tell us we’re so much better than these embarrassingly low standards we’ve accepted. And the coaches are acting like monsters (because they’re looking, too) and it’s a snowball that is rolling down a steep hill into the garbage dump of history.

I happen to be one of those lucky few that is very rarely tied to “how it used to be,” and especially in this case, if this is how it used to be, I say let it die and let’s start fresh. We can and should forget where it has mutated. Instead, let’s keep the amazing parts and trash the rest, and make something new and awesome in it’s place.

We can still call it youth sports, if you want to.

The Stairs — May 13, 2021

The Stairs

I haven’t written for a minute because I’ve been sick with the COVID. Mine is a very mild case, but it does carry with it an unpredictability. Every morning I wonder if today will be a good day, if I’ll have energy, a headache, a stuffy head, or just how severe my chest tightness will be. This, of course, isn’t awesome, but over the last 2 weeks I watched a loooong documentary that I had been meaning to catch. It’s called The Staircase and details the death of a woman and the murder trial of her husband, who happens to be famous author Michael Peterson.

I suppose it’s actually about the justice system in this country, with these people, their families and communities as the backdrop.

The Staircase is 13 episodes – 8 original with the next 5 added over the last 20 years of this ridiculous saga. So, I watched every one and have no idea how this woman died. Maybe she fell, maybe she was beaten, maybe an owl (no kidding, an owl!) attacked her. Who knows? I don’t know if everyone is telling the truth or if no one is, if they’re all just doing the best with the limited information they have.

Not everyone was telling the truth. There was a crooked investigator in North Carolina named Duane Deaver who we can all be quite certain was a villain in this story. Maybe he’s not anymore, maybe in being found out, he was forced to look in the mirror and his soul and changed his life. I often dream like this. Just because we are one way today doesn’t mean we have to stay that way. The boxes inside which we put ourselves and each other are really just tape on the floor that we can easily escape…or they should be. There’s an honest discernment involved. Obviously, we don’t want this guy anywhere near evidence or in any position of authority where he can steal any more years of any more lives, but there must not be a period where a comma should be.

I did not like The Staircase. I didn’t really like any of the characters too much, especially Michael Peterson. His arrogance was gross, his pontificating was inane and endless, I even found the tone of his voice grating by the 3rd or 4th episode. I just wanted it over. I cared about the owl more than anything else.

Afterwards, I looked up on Google to find out why anybody liked it. And guess what I found? One of the women on the documentary crew named Sophie ended up in a relationship with Peterson, who was first found guilty by a jury and then finally ended up pleading guilty to the murder of his wife. This love connection sounds awfully strange, but it’s an excellent illustration of my tape on the floor description, isn’t it? She didn’t label him or classify him as anything. She simply saw him as a human being, and I like that more than I can tell you. I can’t imagine what she saw in him, but Sophie is easily my favorite person in The Staircase and the one I’ll take with me long after I forget every last minute of this American tragedy.

Shirkers — April 29, 2021

Shirkers

“There are movers. There are shakers. And there are shirkers.” That’s the very catchy tag line for the Sandi Tan documentary Shirkers that I watched today.

This is a different circumstance because all of the many colored blocks that populate the calendar on my phone had to be erased, leaving me with oodles of free time. Free time that has been suggested/issued/commanded by the PA Department of Health. In the DoH phone call to check on my symptoms (none) and/or exposure (constant), they kindly asked me if I would be complying with the quarantine order and I thought that was a nice gesture. I guess they can’t make me, per se, but I do love you a lot, so I’m on lockdown.

(I don’t want to talk about COVID or quarantine guidelines & regulations. Also, because everyone is home, I can’t talk about Father Yod and the Source Family doc I began that is inappropriate for young viewers. Soon, soon.)

Now. Shirkers. It’s a pretty great documentary but I don’t think I would’ve liked the movie it’s based on at all. The film is from Singapore and at least 5 times too art school pretentious for me.

Mostly, we have our imaginations squeezed out of us by the time we make it to middle school, replaced with standardized tests and the overwhelming stress of future success hanging in the form of grade point averages. We have “what could be” beaten into “it is what it is,” “why not” into just “not.” Shirkers was founded on the idea that something new is not only possible, but here in their heads screaming to be expressed.

I don’t care if I would’ve liked the film. I want to live in a world where art exists that I find horrible or offensive, because that means I cold love it, too. You can’t love the middle of the road. You can’t love white bread. I value the risks of dreaming of a new day, where yesterday isn’t necessarily today. It might be, but it’s up to us to decide if it will be. If we sand off all the edges, all we’re left with is circles rolling in and out of our souls and lives, never making an impact.

Bad art (I’m not saying Shirkers was bad art. The truth is that I don’t know, nobody knows, some charlatan stole and trashed the audio files) is essential to forward motion. The line between compete unwatchability and the best thing you’ve ever seen is thin and blurry at best, invisible at worst. I’d like to totally ignore that line and listen to the creative impulse in each of our heads & hearts and follow that, instead. Of course, maybe it’s destined for the rubbish heap, but what if it’s not? As it says on so many inspirational plates and blocks of wood, “Oh but my darling, what if you fly?”

Rise of Skywalker — April 23, 2021

Rise of Skywalker

I wrote this last year, before the world stopped, and for some reason never posted it. It’s still true.

I saw Star Wars and I liked it. Of course I liked it. I am the target market. If a marketer’s intended demographic had a face, it would be my face.

From around 5 to 12 or 13, nothing mattered more than Luke Skywalker, Jedi knights, empires and rebellions. 24 year-old me cried at the opening crawl of episode 1…on a date. As I write this now, it’s less embarrassing than it was then – the happy ending is that the date was with the Angel, and she still married me.

The 2 externals in my life that mattered the most were Star Wars and, later, Morrissey.

In High Fidelity, the author Nick Hornby asks the question if we find the things we find because we are the way we are, or if the things we find mold us into the way we are. Which comes first?

Did I love Morrissey because I was super-sensitive and leaned towards loneliness and melancholy? Or did those songs push me in that direction?

I suppose it doesn’t matter now. No matter how I got there, I did and now I’m the sort that cries at movies and paintings and, well, everything. It’s probably a combination. If I was the captain of the football team, maybe Morrissey would’ve sounded sad and whiny and I would’ve tended more to Led Zeppelin IV or Nickelback. If I was a 5 year old girl, maybe I wouldn’t have wanted to fight and liberate the princess and the galaxy (in that order) with a laser sword and space ship so badly.

Sometimes it feels like the road has been mapped out perfectly all along, that we found the people and things that made sense and gave us some context for our lives at EXACTLY the right time. So perfectly, in fact, that it can make us question if we have any free will at all or if we’re just puppets in a theater having our strings pulled by giant fingers in the sky. Then other times, it all seems so random and confusing, with no narrative or plot, like we’re bumper cars driven by toddlers.

My favorite book of the Bible is Ecclesiastes (and this is likely no surprise, I imagine it leaks into everything I write and say.) It holds all of this confusion, the duality of an authentic life lived with eyes half closed (or half open;), with both hands. The Writer asks questions without expecting answers, is comfortable being lost without needing a detailed map home. A life that holds everything “temporary” (a better translation than “meaningless” – it’s not meaningless, not at all, only temporary) lightly, wanting to understand but willing to abide in the uncertainty, content to eat and drink with the people we love.

Star Wars wasn’t perfect, but in a world that has much much much more than enough pain and suffering to go around, it was beautiful. Morrissey is, too. I don’t care how they got to me, I’m just so thankful they did.

A Robbery — April 15, 2021

A Robbery

2 days ago I started a limited documentary series on Netflix called This Is A Robbery about a never-solved art heist. Every time I see the word heist now, I involuntarily think of the time heist from Avengers Endgame. (for this reason, I’m going to use the word as much as I can) This doc is not like Endgame. The other thing is that we know from the opening moments that the 1991 heist hasn’t been solved. The Angel can’t stand things like that, with no resolution. I don’t mind because so much of life doesn’t have nice tidy endings and we have to be ok with strings left untied.

The interesting thing about this series (and this heist) for me, was an outrage far outweighing the mild annoyance I feel at garden variety heists of institutions like banks or corporations.

A personal robbery is a different animal altogether. Taking another’s anything violently rips away any safety and security previously felt. It’s a deeply personal, psychological violation that can, and often does, haunt forever.

Obviously, I understand that there are human beings and trauma involved in banks and corporations, I’m just telling you that the sadness I felt when these one-of-a-kind paintings and artifacts were stolen and never recovered was far deeper than the loss of a 100 dollar bill. Or a zillion 100 dollar bills.

It felt like the violation was one of humanity, of culture, of society, of beauty, of creativity. Like the heist was picking the pocket of the Divine. This feeling was unavoidable to me as the filmmakers showed 1 particular painting over and over: Rembrandt’s The Storm On The Sea Of Galilee.

It’s a cool Bible story of God’s peace in the middle of an overwhelming storm. I’ve always loved the story and I like it even more now. The painting is stunning, and now no one will ever see the original again.

That’s horrible for a lot of reasons. When Rembrandt’s talent and passion (gifted from that same Christ) to craft this work of art (inspired by that same Christ) and loved by so many people (created in that same Christ) was lifted, so were all of those blessings. For God so loved us all that He gave us that masterpiece, through that artist. Art, especially great art, is a window of the Garden of Eden, where the first humans were made from love in the wildly creative image of God. Work like this shows us our intention and possibility, which is written into our souls. Work like this teaches us to dream, to imagine, to hope. Work like this shows us the beauty inherent in each of us in ways that a green piece of paper cannot.

That beauty is of course still there, heist or not. It’s just heartbreaking that a magnificent illustration of it was callously cut from frames and is now left to rot in some warehouse where it can no longer bear witness to our own striking brilliance.

Kong — April 8, 2021

Kong

Last weekend I saw the movie Godzilla vs Kong.

First thing to know about me, while you might think it’s just the kind of movie I’d like, it’s not. There are roughly 2,500 movies in existence with King Kong and/or Godzilla in the title, I haven’t liked one. This wasn’t an exception. My sons loved it, so I said I did, too. I want them to like mostly everything, to not become one of those insufferable snobs who thinks it’s cool to hate. I used to be that guy. I’d tell them (and anyone else who would listen to me self-righteously pontificate) about dialogue and plot holes and blah blah blah and they’d feel silly for loving it and who wins in that? No one. I don’t believe in “guilty pleasures,” either. We can like anything we like and there’s absolutely no guilt in that. Unless it’s that song “Watermelon Sugar,” by that boy that I think used to be in One Direction. Anything else, have fun, man. Life is heavy a lot of the time, if monsters pro wrestling each other is your deal, this is your movie, enjoy!!!

That’s my review of the movie itself, but I’m writing this to tell you how much I LOVED going to the theater to see Godzilla vs Kong. I was overjoyed to buy tickets and popcorn and sit in a mostly empty deafening theater with other actual flesh-and-blood human beings having an experience together.

COVID stole a lot of things from us, and to take them back inch by inch is wonderfully satisfying. Our friends have been on screens and telephones, hugs are virtual, smiles have been obscured by masks. Theaters have been closed. There has been so much loss in these past 13 months, a monster movie in the theater is hardly the most important, but sometimes it’s the little things we might consider trivial at another time that perfectly capture the pain or the hope in any situation.

One time a flood destroyed my home and all of my things and that was horrible, but it was months later when I had a wedding to attend and realized I didn’t have dress socks that broke me into a million pieces. I wept loudly, bitterly in my truck along the highway. Dress socks were hardly the most valuable thing we lost, but as symbols go, it was priceless.

Godzilla and Kong ushered in a new mindset for me, for us, that pointed to a reality outside of quarantines and pandemics. It illuminated a hope that we would be together again, that we would connect, that we would hold each other’s hands in our own, that we would be human again.

And as far as experiences go, I can’t imagine one better than Godzilla vs Kong.

Last Blockbuster — April 2, 2021

Last Blockbuster

I’ve been so nostalgic lately. Many of the documentaries I’ve watched and are now recommended for me by whatever AI algorithm know this well. Shopping malls, toy stores, 80’s movies and tv shows populate all of my home screens. The latest was The Last Blockbuster, a tidy history lesson on the rise and subsequent fall of video stores. There’s just 1 Blockbuster left in existence, teetering on the edge of extinction.

Now, why would anybody go to a physical store to rent a movie anymore? Maybe a better question is, why would anybody go to a physical store for anything anymore?

I do think there’s an answer for this better question. But first…

There was a record store in my town that I went to at the very least once a week. It was regularly busted for illegal drug sales, but that’s not why I went. I was/am not an illegal drug guy, except for that one time. I went for the records which turned into cassettes which turned into compact discs (of which we said on more than 100 occasions, “how could there be a new format that’s better than this??”) This one day I walked through the door, bell ringing, and the record store guy Joe (who incidentally fronted a local band that was super cool) stopped me 2 steps inside and said he had a disc for me. I asked what it was and he didn’t tell me, just said it was for me. I paid and left immediately.

Exactly like romantic set-ups, you can find out a lot about yourself by how others see you. If you had set me up with the Angel, I would know you see me as the perfect man, handsome and awesome in every way;) Conversely, if you had arranged a blind date for me with a mountain troll, I would figure you see me in a light that isn’t quite so complimentary.

How did this fellow see me? What was this album that was “for me” and would I see it the same way? It was the Smoking Popes Born To Quit and it remains one of my favorite records of all time.

It’s entirely possible the algorithm would have recommended Born To Quit, but the algorithm isn’t the singer in a band. The algorithm doesn’t know my sister or what I look like, doesn’t know that I shave my head, love kisses, hugs and Three’s Company, like you do. The truth is, it doesn’t care, either. It only cares if I buy something or if I can be used as a product to sell to advertisers.

Blockbuster and malls have something Amazon don’t, and can’t: Joe the lead singer of the Neverminds. And me – I was a record store guy, too, and a very very good one. It doesn’t have a bench outside where I would skip my college classes and sit anxiously until they’d open the steel gate and FINALLY let me in on New Release Tuesday. It doesn’t have another person standing in front of the Smiths section for me to talk to. It doesn’t have anyone to talk to, ever.

Sure, they’re not perfect. Record store guys aren’t all Joe, sometimes they’re awful and mean and don’t have the slightest clue what they’re talking about. Sometimes the mall isn’t what you want it to be. Sometimes the movie you want isn’t there, sometimes the store is closed, sometimes late fees, sometimes sometimes sometimes. Of course they’re not perfect, but neither am I. You know, these retail stores are a lot like people; messy, temperamental, quirky. They aren’t ever exactly what we expect. But maybe it’s the imperfections, the individuality, the personality, the heart, that make them so great. Just like us.

Superheroes, etc. — March 1, 2021

Superheroes, etc.

We’ve seen 8 episodes of Wandavision now. What once was confusing and gimmicky is now clear and focused, the gimmick has faded into a deep character-driven exploration of grief. We all knew this, probably, but the genre hasn’t historically been a space for deep character-driven anything. At least that’s what we all have been led to believe. To say you’re a superhero guy implies you’re stunted emotionally and especially socially, living in your parents basement wishing for a girl who likes action figures and cosplay as much as you do.

Aside on cosplay: The last time I participated in anything that could be called cosplay was when I was 8, with a lightsaber and bathrobe or a towel safety-pinned around my neck. Good times, man. But if that’s what your deal is, I’m down with that. I don’t live in my parents basement, either. I am married with 2 kids, and haven’t played with action figures since high school. I loved it then and would probably love it still. I don’t think I’m stunted in any way. I wouldn’t, though, would I?

But I really love superhero movies and would sign a petition to classify them as films, nowadays every bit as nuanced and layered as any random indie film nobody sees and is critically adored. They just use a different delivery device. Peanut butter is still peanut butter if it’s on celery or an apple or a cracker or a chocolate bar. Courage, fear, friendship, kindness, and love are real if they’re in your town or Hogwart’s.

This has taken a while to come to grips for me, as a fairly insufferable snob with negative opinions on popularity. If everyone likes it, I figure it’s like white bread or McDonald’s hamburgers; nothing to love but nothing to hate, inoffensive, safe, produced for mass consumption. But Endgame raked in 2 billion dollars and everybody saw it and screamed with joy when Captain America held Mjolnir (the hammer of Thor). It’s hard for me to understand that sometimes everyone likes something because it’s actually very good.

While we’re talking about that hammer, when Thor regained it and woke up to the idea that he could still be “worthy,” who didn’t understand? Who hasn’t felt the inadequacy of “Am I good enough?” Even the god of thunder feels like me and you. This is the sort of arc that takes half a dozen movies to move from sickening arrogance to heartbreaking insecurity. Have any of your friends fallen apart because the image they wrongly based their entire value on turned out to be pretense? If I am not what I do, what I can produce, then what am I? Of course, it’s as true and relatably human in a cubicle or corner office as it is in the last son of Krypton.

We live in a culture that needs it NOW, spoon-fed with a tidy conclusion – and that was always perceived as the realm of superhero stories. Our hero would vanquish the villain as the credits rolled. Infinity War ended with half of all living creatures reduced to dust and we had to wait a year for any other resolution. That first story in the Marvel universe took 23 (!!) films. That’s why it mattered soo much and was sooo devastating when Tony Stark made the sacrifice he did.

Wandavision took 4 episodes before anything happened that even considered making sense of the sitcoms from different decades. Many of us checked out, but those who stayed are now being rewarded with a richly imagined psychological drama. Vision says at one point, “what is grief but love persevered?” Of course, I cried then. So did you and everybody else because Wanda is now our sister, dealing with the kind of loss and suffering that breaks us into a million pieces. Does the fact that the lovely her life is dead somehow hurt less if she can fly? The decision to do this on a weekly tv show tied into and through the previous films allows us to truly know her story, and as it turns out, it’s ours.

I could write forever about Rocket and his loneliness or the Quill/Yondu father-son dynamic or Gamora wrestling with the sins of her own father or Natasha wrestling with her past and if she’s done too much and gone too far to ever return… but I won’t. You already know.

Trash — January 28, 2021

Trash

I read a book early this week. I’m not sure I’ll give you the name because it was absolutely awful and I try not to make this a space where I tear anything down. Maybe I will.

It was written by an author I love, who wrote one of my Top 3 books of all time which was made into my favorite movie. I’ve read much of his other work and loved most of that, too. This book I found in the bargain section back when bookstores were still a thing for $5.97. I was pretty ecstatic because once, my house was swallowed by a flood where I lost everything I owned, including the books.

Not the books! I collected lots of different genres. Different translations of the Bible, some very old and with stunning old famous paintings of the stories (like Daniel in the lions den, the sermon on the mount, and David & Goliath.) They were the sort that you would keep forever and pass down through generations. I have 2 now, one a large print that I received as a gift this Christmas. I also had everything Kurt Vonnegut wrote that I could find. You can tell a lot about yourself and the journey you’re on (and if it’s the journey you think you’re on) by the books you read 10 years ago and now, similar to a map or the Kevin Bacon degrees of separation.

This $5.97 discovery sat on a shelf for years. After finishing Bear Town, Us Against You (its sequel) hadn’t yet arrived, so now was a perfect time for this treasure. I devoured it hungrily and, when I was finished, asked the same question I always do when I finish: What was that? It’s asked in various tones and sometimes in different words. Now what do I do with this thing that is now a part of me? I sat, then I walked through the house and to the kitchen, where I threw this book right into the trash.

I don’t think I’d ever done that before. I’d usually take it to the library or a thrift shop to donate or put it on my shelf, but this one is different. I don’t want anyone else to read it, ever.

Maybe putting it in the trash was wrong. It doesn’t feel that good. It feels like I’ve been disrespectful of the time & effort, of his talent and discipline, of his craft, of his creativity, carelessly casting it aside into the garbage heap of history.

You know why I didn’t like it? A major theme of his work is connection. The characters are misfits in a culture that regards them as less than human. They are alone, isolated, lonely, weird, sometimes schizophrenic, and take wildly drastic measures to find others to break those categories and create new tribes or families. Obviously I find beauty in that. Obviously. I am weird, too, often depressed & lonely, looking for connection and belonging.

This book, though, was the inverse. In the beginning, characters were together, in relationships, and the plot separated them. It was super sad. Everybody lost everything and everyone that mattered to them. I expected a shift at the end where we realized how far off track we had gotten, but there was no shift. No redemption. I don’t need a happy ending, but I do need a sliver of hope that all is not lost.

Now that I write that last paragraph, I can see why I had such a visceral reaction. The country I live in is isolated and alone, divided, and I keep waiting for the shift where we all see how far off track we’ve gotten, but there’s just more hate and rage and space between us.

I guess I threw it away because I simply can’t abide a hopeless narrative, either here in real life or on the page, and I don’t want you to, either.