Friday, December 23, 2011

Purging the hate

BelieversI wish I could write a very sweet entry about the holidays and about the goodness and kindness of humanity. But I’m very bothered by something right now, and if I don’t get it out, I’ll regret it. I’ll enjoy my time with family tomorrow and Sunday, but tonight, I’m feeling an anger that I need to write about. (I suspect that some of you will understand about writing as a form of therapy.) I promise not to get too angry in what I write here—I’m more disheartened and disgusted than angry, to tell the truth—but if you don’t want to be sullied by any negative emotions at this time of year, feel free to skip this entry. I would totally understand.

This goes back to my recent entry about ‘haters,’ specifically my mention of the death of Christopher Hitchens, and how there were quite a few people who claim to be Christians who seemed to find some sort of perverse joy in his death. Last night a name popped up on Facebook; it was a person who dated back to my early days of blogging. Although I had stopped reading their blog some time ago, and had hidden their Facebook posts (I can only handle so many kid pictures), I hadn’t defriended them, and I thought I’d click through to see what they were up to.

As I scrolled down, my decision to hide their posts was confirmed. Then I came across this status update: “Christopher Hitchens is dead. Enjoy the heat.”

I wrote in that previous entry that no matter what you think of Hitchens, he was also a son, a brother, a husband, a father, and a friend. To see this sort of post from someone who claims to be a devout Catholic made me beyond disgusted. It sort of made me hate people for a very brief and disturbing moment. Obviously, not all people and not all religious people are like that, so I refuse to fall prey to such generalization, and I will not judge an entire group of people based on the remark of one big creepy jerk.

But I’ll say this: I find it appalling that anyone could find such malicious glee in the death of another human being. The gloating attitude and smug assurance that Hitchens was burning in a hell that many of us feel is nothing more than a manipulative ploy on the part of religion to foster fear, dread, and guilt in humanity is quite unattractive, and it’s one of the main reasons that so many of us are leaving religion behind. Why would I want to be around someone—or a group of people—who find a sick vindication at the thought of someone suffering eternal torment, or who think it’s perfectly fine to judge others and condemn them to the Fiery Pits™? Although I don’t want to generalize, I’ve seen far too much of this to think it is an isolated incident or the irrational hatred of just one snarky person.

Instead of offering condolences to the man’s family and friends, they just had to post about Hitchens burning in hell. Why not just say nothing? It’s actually kind of laughable, because it only serves to solidify the feelings and opinions of myself and my friends who happen to think that Hitchens was onto something. If he were still lingering about and able to see this sort of thing, I’m sure he’d laugh and say, “Typical! I’m quite unsurprised.”

The person who wrote the remark? Defriended. I don’t feel one bit sad about it, either.

Now, on to Christmas! I hope that you and your loved ones are safe and happy this holiday season. No matter what you do or don’t believe, I hope that you enjoy yourself, and feel a love and compassion for others. That’s what I try to focus on. I wish you all happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Achievement: Unlocked!

Challenge acceptedI did it!

I track my book-reading on Shelfari, and probably around this summer, I noticed that with the number of books I’d read, I was “ahead of my pace” for last year. I did a quick calculation, and wondered if I could not only double my reading output, but try for a book per week.

As I was working out today, I met my goal, and even started to go beyond it when I started one of Bill Maher’s books.

Were all of my books this year works of literary art? Not hardly. But the important thing to me is that I made the time to read actual books, not just online articles and content. Don’t misunderstand me...there is plenty of good content out there, but reading an actual book is different, and I made a conscious choice to focus a little more on my reading and cut down on my online time. That means that my ability to keep up with blogs suffered, but it was the right choice for me.

This past year, I read a wide variety of things, including political books, biographies, science books, and thrillers. For sheer pleasure, my favorite was probably Stephen King’s latest, 11/22/63. When it comes to science, my favorite was definitely The Panic Virus, about the anti-vaccine boondoggle. Then there was Keith Richards’ Life and Patti Smith’s Just Kids. I loved Matt Taibbi’s books, and Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. Some were memorable, and some I’d like to forget. But all in all, it was a very good year, and I don’t think it’s wrong to take a little pride in this particular accomplishment.

Book-O-MatOf course, next year, I could very well get an admonition from Shelfari saying “You are behind your pace of last year.” Get off my back, Shelfari! Just back off, man! Although I would like to keep to the book-a-week goal, it might need some modification, because I want to get back into the Modern Library’s Top 100 list. Unfortunately, the next book in line is a James Joyce book, Finnegans Wake, and I’m kind of dreading the James Joyce stuff. So some of those on the list could take longer than a week to read. But our friend Kim in San Francisco has made a deal with me that we’ll both read Finnegans Wake this year. I appreciate the challenge and that will help me get it done.

Do I have other goals for the coming year? Definitely! But for the moment, I’m going to let myself be proud about accomplishing this one. It might not be the loftiest of goals, but it’s something that was important to me, and I feel very good about it. Onward and upward, and many more books to read!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Happy birthday, Keef!

Long may you rock.