Don’t Misunderstand

If you don’t know that I live a life of passion and anger, then I have done a good job. Make no mistake, I am not happy about how things have turned out. The anger rages, but where I can make a difference, requires more temperance than anger.


Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

We do not have to grow more conservative with age. We can choose to fight for everyone. We can choose to let our old prejudices die. Prejudice and hate are merely the results of lazy, sloppy thinking; habits carried out of fear. We really don’t have to be fearful of difference.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Have no regrets. Fight for right. Fight for the rights of all. Don’t leave it to others. Do you really want to die knowing you stood by and did nothing? Or worse, that you actively supported the subjugation of women and people of color?

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

–“Do not go gentle into that good night,” Dylan Thomas

I will never go gently into that good night. You will have to take me kicking and screaming. I won’t just stand by.  Rage, rage  against the dying of the light, against the dying of rights.

A Dangerous Kiss

In the foreword to the short story collection Skeleton Crew, Stephen King writes this:

“A short story is a different thing altogether – a short story is like a quick kiss in the dark from a stranger.”

Kisses can be sweet.  They can also be dangerous. And somewhere in between. Think of your first kiss with a new partner. Where did that take you? Was it where you expected? Each time you kissed someone new, was it the same?

In the Lord of the Rings, Frodo replays a conversation with Bilbo to Sam, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. “You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”  Likewise, a kiss is a dangerous business, especially that first kiss, because you never know where it might take you. I know that in my case, there was one first kiss that led me down a road to disaster. It was a trip that almost destroyed me, one for which I still pay a heavy price.

When we get to the point of that first kiss our emotions are often surging, passion overwhelms. When we are young, it is awkward and confusing. When we are older, the awkwardness might be gone (unless we really care) and the confusion is present when deserved (such as crossing new boundaries).

A kiss is really nothing. A pair of lips touching another pair. It needs be nothing else. Just a physical act of no great consequence. It is all the stuff leading up to that kiss that makes it special, especially once combined with the uncertain promises of an idealized future. Perhaps this is a wrong. A friend reminds me that sometimes we are attracted to danger. Yeah, that’s true. That’s why we allow quick kisses from strangers in the dark. We thrill in the risk, the endless possibilities, the potential of a journey across a mythic landscape with risk of certain destruction.

At the end of the brilliant “L.A. Story,” Steve Martin narrates, “A kiss may not be the truth, but it is what we wish were true.” Indeed, at least when it comes to love. If we kiss out of something other than love, or infatuation, what is it we wish were true?

Michael Corleone kisses his brother Fredo with the “kiss of death” in Godfather II and says, “I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart.” I watch this scene now and I wonder, “Is this what a predominantly white part of America said this week?”

For those of you who embraced, and kissed, your infatuation of the last 18 months, you’ve taken us all on a new journey. Is this really what you wished to be true? Early signs look to be far more ironic and threatening to us all than any new change that is good. What are you going to do if this doesn’t work out the way you thought – such as the privatization of medicare or the return of a bunch previously ousted politicians turned lobbyist?

It all begins with a kiss. Journeys of excitement, love, glory, or excruciating failure. And worse.