Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Hate Diet

I'm driving to work. I've only been awake for about 35 minutes, yet I'm already seething. My knuckles are white, and my fingers are wrapped tightly around the steering wheel. My jaw is clenched. My eyes are squinting.

No one has done anything to me this morning. I am simply revisiting past wrongs. The person who committed these wrongs is no doubt not thinking about them at this moment, but I am absolutely chained to them. Where is this hate coming from?

I call my friend, and let it all spill out.

Luckily, my friend is wise. She doesn't fan the flames of my anger or assert the righteousness of my position. She states to me that my hatred is mine, that it is something inside of me that is always there, and that it is always looking for something to attach itself to and feed on. The person who hurt me did not give me the hatred that I carry. The hate was there before the wound, but when it saw the wound, it moved fast. It latched on. It fed. It expanded itself.

So where did the hate come from?

I guess for everyone it's different. For me, some of it was absorbed through various environments I have passed through in my life. We are social creatures, and we pick up some of the traits of those we socialize with. Tribal adversaries and codes get absorbed through our pores. Some of it was cultivated by me. Wounded pride, resentment, missed opportunities, failures, fears...they all get mixed up together and solidify into hate.

These adversities in and of themselves do not act as properties of hate, but the mismanagement of these adversities do. Adversities pass through everyone's lives, but not everyone ends up carrying around this amorphous hatred. It's the way we look at things. It's the way we process them. Maybe we were raised by and around people who respond to adversity with hatred, so hatred is our natural tool for translating these events into our being. But we are not bound to this tool. There are other tools. Stoicism. Understanding. Empathy. Self awareness. These tools work too.

At work this month, we're doing a 'biggest loser' contest to see which staff person can lose the most weight. As I was talking to my friend during my hate-drive, I thought, maybe it's time to try another kind of diet. I'm going to try a hate diet.

I have plenty of hatred in me. Some of it is fairly easy to identify, and some of it is relatively easy to imagine recontextualizing and parting with. But I love some of it. Fantasies of revenge and justice are intoxicating. The power of hatred is singularly focusing, and there is a weird kind of protectiveness one can develop in regards to their sense of grievance. I have some hatreds that would cause me to lash out at a person who challenged their legitimacy. I am capable of taking the deepest offense at someone who is unwilling to acknowledge my sacred victimhood in certain areas. To point out a common humanity that exists between myself and my enemy, to impartially explore the possible motivations of my adversary...these are deep blasphemies.

I want to challenge these hatreds. Even the ones I love. Even the ones that have come to define me. There's no scale I can step on to tell me that I'm succeeding in my Hate Diet, so measuring success will be difficult. But I feel like I have methods. I am going to unchain myself from this spiritual weight before it irreversibly consumes me. I am going to conquer this disease before I spread it on to my own children.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Ready to Burn

there is so much junk in my house
Left to lay there by a broken heart,
But the heart is mending
And proud of its new scar;
It's a long winding road on a map
Showing pit stops along the way.
Ready to clean up this house;
Ready to burn, ready to build;
Ready to strip away everything
That stands between the heart
And that old invisible God.
If you listen closely,
You can hear his labored breath;
Surely old God has a few scars
Of his own.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

afternoon nap

My body, warm
Envelopes his little frame.
I was napping,
And he climbed up
Into the cave of my twisted limbs
And fell asleep himself.
I can feel his tiny feet
Pressed against my bear-belly;
They are cold. He has been running
Around on the cold wood floor.
I smell his hair. He's been outside.
I squeeze him into me and he makes
A grateful little noise.
I am the bear, and this is my house;
These arms, these legs, this chest.
In this house this boy is safe.
It is the knowing that I can protect him
That makes me warm.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Seafaring in Ohio

Pulled into the lot
Of a big old church
To read some poems I bought.
Rolled down my windows
And lit a cigarette;
Stared at the mottled clouds.
The air smelled like the ocean
Though I was in the Midwest,
And the breeze made me wish
I had brought a jacket.
The poems were just words;
They didn't take me anywhere.
I just sat in my skin,
Listening to the sound
Of my own breath and the cars
Whizzing by on wet pavement.
Seems like there's no holy places
Anymore. Seems like every place
Has its own ghosts. Seems like
I bring mine with me and they
Rattle their chains and I do
My little dance for them, light
Another cigarette and turn my eyes
Back to the poems that don't take
Me anywhere,
And the smell in the air
Takes me further
And further
Into the ocean.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Salvation Reading

Flipping through
Page after page
Looking for something
To make me hungry.
Quell that yammering concern
Unbite those careless fingernails.
Lift from my shoulders
The onslaught of time
And put salve on
The memory of absence.
But nothing works.
Every page
Every word
Every carefully constructed sentence
Fails to budge me
Fails to remind me
Of a sweeter humanity.
Books cannot save me.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Secularists of Ohio Unite!

The only thing secularists in Ohio have to lose is their isolation...

I'm writing this from the particularly conservative/christian suburbs that surround Cincinnati. It can be a lonely place for someone who doesn't fit into the area's ideological mold.

There are plenty of good secular groups in Ohio, yet there is still a general sense among those who are not actively engaged of there being a lack of community. That's something Camp Quest Ohio--for which I am a board member--plans to attempt to rectify.

Camp Quest is a wonderful thing for the area's secular families. It's a place where--two weeks out of every year--secular children can come together in community and complete acceptance and learn, laugh, play, and grow. The problem is that this is only two weeks out of every year.

What we are looking to do is to expand this sense of community and acceptance to a year round experience by creating meet ups, outings, and other cultural experiences that will bond our secular families and create a more cohesive community structure.

We are starting in earnest with a volunteer opportunity to serve a meal at the Drop Inn Center in Over the Rhine on May 9th, precipitated by a tour of Over the Rhine and a speech by a local homeless advocate.

Because there are things we can learn from our religious brothers and sisters too: Dietrich Bonhoeffer taught that a robust Christianity would blend into its social surroundings and participate in the most pressing issues facing a community, and that it would do so under the auspices of a common humanity, rather than under a particular religious banner. Who better to adopt this approach than a bunch of humanists? Not only do we have to build and strengthen our own community, we need to fuse with the wider community as a whole and have our impact felt.

We will do more activities like this. We will stage fun, bonding events for local Camp Quest families as well as more socially conscious activities like reaching out to local non profit organizations and seeing where we might plug some holes in a worthy yet flawed system. Your ideas are welcome, and you are certainly welcome as well. Contact me at if you'd like to participate in the May 9 event, and if you'd like to brainstorm some more activities. All we have in this world is each other, and it would be a shame for those connections to go untapped.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

getting dressed

I am moulding a darkness around me
It will be my cape--I know you've always
Loved fancy pants, so the darkness
Will be my scarf. It will be my hat. It will
Be my cane, and I'll lean on it with my full
Weight, its body bowing out to the side
As I smoke in the shadows and exhale pregnant
Clouds, dark with things we wish we didn't know.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Folk Song

And I can't get better
No I just get harder
There is no mother
There is no father

And the earth awaits me
It spins so casually
Beneath my stumbling feet

Baby there is no water
The oven just gets hotter
Why do we even bother
Why do we even bother

And the earth awaits me
It lays there patiently
Beneath my stumbling feet

I dream of flying
Of mountains sighing
Of great releases
And honey kisses

But I can't get better
No it just gets harder
No wings for sister
No high for brother

And the earth awaits me
Waits to embrace me
Beneath my stumbling feet