Speak. Listen. Respectfully.

I’m seeing a trend of posts in my Facebook feed about people encountering hatefulness and bullying on their own feeds regarding the election. I’m in complete agreement that we need to be kind and respectful with one another, but in my personal observation, I really haven’t seen outright unkindness – bullying, name-calling, belittling – from those who agree or disagree with me personally.
Maybe I’ve got a roster of amazing friends (and I’m not denying that!)** – but I’m wondering if some people are feeling threatened by the intensity of other people’s emotions and emotive posts regarding their personal perspectives on the election, and calling grief and anger (at the state of things, not at particular people) or celebration and excitement (from those who voted for the winning candidate) hatred and bullying when that is not what they are.
I’ve always appreciated knowing people with diverse opinions, and I want to hear what they have to say. And I feel valued and respected when other people want the same from me. I also don’t feel that I need to comment on everything or try to change anyone’s mind.
So yes, please, let’s make America kind again. And let’s also be brave in voicing our opinions and listening to those of others. A well-rounded society needs both.
**And also, as in everything I have to say, I acknowledge that I speak from a mostly privileged position, with all the blind spots and lack of understanding that that inevitably entails. I also acknowledge that other people may be processing all the memes and sound bites and joking or not-so-joking or angry posts at a much more personal level, and also that some people definitely are posting things to be hateful and unkind, and others are on the receiving end of that.

Long Hard Fall

A good bit of this song for week 41 of #songaweek2016 was inspired by this poignant article by Andrew Sullivan, which was the cover story for the print version of New York magazine, which was sitting on my coffee table when I wrote the song. The headline on the cover reads “Put Down Your Phone.” The article discusses Sullivan’s identification of and struggle with his own “distraction sickness,” and its title and subtext read, “I Used to Be a Human Being: An endless bombardment of news and gossip and images has rendered us manic information addicts. It broke me. It might break you, too.”

And I was thinking about fall, this seasonal descent into dark and cold and emptiness, when organisms break down and fall asleep, and look dead, come so apparently close to death, but somewhere deep inside there’s a dream of spring, of impossible things happening, of starting over, giving it all another go.

Put your phone down, take it easy
sing a song with me
what is this old world coming to anyway?
When you think you’ve got it made cause you’re the top of the heap
of the people all sleeping their lives away

It’s a long hard fall into lonely winter
and summer’s a fading memory
it’s a long hard fall into lonely winter
and spring’s an impossible dream

Hold your hand out, let me touch it
let me know there’s life
out beyond my self-contained planet
all those dreams they made us dream when we were only sixteen
are now battered and broken to bits

somewhere there’s somebody, something, somehow
and nowhere there’s nothing at all

keep your faith in evolution
let your life unfold
give it time and anything can happen
from the ashes of the past rises new and resilienter
you even brillianter now

It’s a long hard fall into lonely winter
and summer’s a fading memory
it’s a long hard fall into lonely winter
and spring’s an impossible – springs an impossible,
ever, eternally, springs an impossible dream

What If

What if you are more than what you think? What if we are all more valuable than all that we believe?

Here’s my song for Week 25 of #songaweek2016:

What if I were you, what if you were me?
Could we listen to each other, could we let each other be?
What if we were both about to die?
Could we find a common mercy looking in each other’s eyes?

Or is this sad race to the end the best we can do
and when it comes right down to the wire is it me or you?

What if I told you I’m not so sure
would you ridicule my weakness, add a point to your score?
What if I found out that you’re afraid
would I crow that you’re a coward, have a cynical parade?

Is this sad race to the end the best we can do
and when it comes right down to the wire is it me or you?

What if we both took a flying leap
off our high-minded horses
into heart-deep conversation?
Could we make some waves of grace
that ripple out from you and me?

What if you are more than what you think?
What if we are all more valuable than all that we believe?

Blinding Noise

Here’s my song for Week 18 of #songaweek2016. I took a poem I had written last year about my fascination and frustration with the Internet, and set it to music, sort-of loud music:

No no disconnect me

from the bluster and brooding

from the bright and blare

This is a hole in my heart

This is a tunnel to somewhere

I can’t remember

and can’t get back

and cannot banish


will not vanish

Thoughts transfer

from brain to brain

meat brain

to silicon brain

I have cut out the middleman

skipped the paperwork.

All this high-tech transcendence

makes me dizzy

I am falling down a hole

falling down a tunnel to somewhere

I can’t remember

and can’t get back

cannot banish


will not vanish

Sleep baby sleep

your dreams have all been written

watch the screen

breathe easy




Ready for a Silent Night

In the news – more mass shootings than calendar days this year. Police brutality, Black Lives Matter protests, Syrian refugees, domestic terrorists, Islamic extremists . . . and my Facebook feed lights up with posturing and politics, fear, reactionism, polarization. So much of it is ugly, irrational, unkind, thoughtless.

I used to have a lot more to say about these things, back when I was smarter and more authoritative on everything, I guess. Now, I just feel softened, tender towards everyone, silent and sorrowful, observing the overwhelming ocean of humans trying to make their way in the world – a few take their pain and anger to destructive extremes, and the Internet ignites over these incidents. Behind our screens, scanning and clicking, we think we know, we’re sure we understand the heart of the matter.

But I for one am safe and comfortable, and it’s possible that until and unless I somehow become otherwise, I simply cannot understand, have very little that’s useful or constructive to tell you from my social media soapbox.

Maybe not every form of silence is violence. Maybe we could all use a silent night or two – shut down the devices and be still. Breathe.

I still identify as a Christian after all these years of living, all the crimes and abuses done in the name of Christ, all my doubts and grievances and downright embarrassment of the church culture I’ve been part of. And the biggest reason I can think of for my tenacity in this faith, is that I have learned I don’t know it all, don’t have it all, can’t get it right – and my faith remains in a God who loves, and loves, and loves us still – all of us, no exceptions – who holds it all together. And I don’t have to be afraid. I too can love unto death, can love my enemy, need not arm myself for battle. God is greater than all. And God is love.

And “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”

PS – If you take me up on the suggestion of a silent night, you might also want some cozy-dark holiday music to ease you back out of it. Halo in the Frost fits the bill, and it’s a free download.

Baby of Bethlehem

I wrote this song in 2008, but it never felt finished until I rewrote the last verse yesterday. Peace to you and yours, to neighbors and strangers, allies and enemies, to all of us everywhere.


Belfast and Belgrade, Beirut and Beijing

Baghdad and Bosnia filled with broken things

Tanks plow the streets

Bombs sown like strange seeds

Give them the baby of Bethlehem


El Salvador, Saigon, Sudan and Syria

Sierra Leone and Somalia are weary of

Fat cats and their dogfights

Nightmares in broad daylight

Give them the baby of Bethlehem


No crying he makes, no death or disease

What child is this who’s broken to be our peace?


Littleton, Newtown, Facebook and Hollywood

Pine Ridge and Ferguson and Bedford-Stuyvesant

We’re scared and suspicious,

Anonymously vicious

Give us the baby of Bethlehem

People Who Live in Glass Houses

“People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,”

but the pastor’s daughter thought,

“people who live in glass houses shouldn’t,”

because her life felt like a glass house

a fish bowl or a zoo exhibit

and it made her uncomfortable

until she saw the best level of comfort available to her

could be gained by smiling politely at the onlookers,

a docile captive relaxing on the concrete.


These days almost everyone I know lives in a glass house.

The glass is made of backlit screens

and you can project anything you want there

a polite smile, a superior sneer,

an angst-ridden mask of mystique

a hip air of disinterestedness

while inside your house you push keys, click mice,

and wrestle with your death wish

for a stone to come crashing through

bringing down the house,

letting in the weather.


I Quiet Down.

This Lent I am fasting from Facebook. The very first day of not browsing the news feed noticeably quieted my spirit, ironically widened my world.

I miss everyday photos and adorable moments from the lives of my brother’s children. I miss interesting thoughts and news from my friends and family who live all over the world.

But here are some things I don’t miss (things I didn’t even realize were part of my Facebook experience until I shut it off for a while): the urgency to form and express an opinion about each day’s big controversy. The concern to appropriately “like” or respond to comments people make on my posts, so no one feels ignored or left out. The compulsion to snap a photo or record the daily minutiae of my life.

In short, I feel less like a performer on a virtual stage and more like a living breathing person, free to think my own thoughts, spend my own time, in the peace and quiet of my own physical world. My mind feels more expansive, less bogged down with processing all the bits and bytes streaming through it as I scroll the news feed.

My Facebook fast coincides with my reading of Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I had heard a lot about this book, watched her TED Talk, figured I got the gist of it. But when the e-book went on sale for $2.99 while I was at a conference and burned out on interacting with people, I snatched it up.

I’ve known for years that I am an introvert, but this book pushes beyond basic identification, to affirmation, even normalization – of people like me. Not only is there an explanation for my love of solitude, my consistent mode of taking a long time to build friendships and not feeling a need for lots of social interaction – even my tendency to jump at loud noises, my lower threshold for disturbing smells and the way a poem or song or painting can emotionally knock me out – but Cain shows that this is completely normal for a good percentage of the population. It’s not something I need to fix in order to become a legitimate person.

Dear Facebook friends, I’ll be back, but with a more deliberate perspective after this fast. And I am not judging anyone else’s social media use. Simply noticing that for me, a confirmed introvert and highly sensitive person, too much social interaction (even virtual!) and everyday buzz interferes with me being my best self, and doing my best work.

*Note: You may be reading this post through a link you found on Facebook. That’s because my blog automatically displays new posts on my Facebook wall. So, if you comment about this post on Facebook, you’ll understand if I don’t respond, right? 🙂

About That Museum You’re Building . . .

The Cambodian National Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (Jean-Pierre Dalbéra)

The Cambodian National Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (Jean-Pierre Dalbéra)

Do you have a Facebook account? Twitter feed? A blog? Any other form of social media presence? Then you, my friend, are a curator. Your friends/followers/readers are impacted by the choices you make about what information you share through your web presence.

Curatoraccording to Wikipedia, comes from the Latin word curare meaning “to take care.” A curator in a museum is responsible for deciding what items will be included in the museum’s exhibits, and how they will be presented to museumgoers.

Your Facebook wall, Twitter feed, Pinterest board, or whatever cyber-real-estate you manage, is a little museum curated by you. It is your opportunity to open a unique window on the world for those who visit it.

Social media is filled with smear campaigns, feedback loops, and general inanity. Insanity too, but a whole lot of inanity, which does sometimes fill a legitimate need we humans have to veg out once in a while. But when “once in a while” turns into everyday routine, it’s time to admit we have a problem.

Clear writing generally uses active voice rather than passive. I think this is true about life – including social media engagement – as well. Active living is simply more brilliant than passive.

Rather than passively scrolling and clicking, mind disengaged, reptile brain in charge as we react with our “likes” and “shares” and thoughtless comments, we could be taking the driver’s seat, creating something worthwhile, expanding horizons, opening windows, bringing fresh air and sunlight to otherwise drab, dank quarters.

If you’re ready to take charge of your role as curator, I suggest accepting Ryan Crocoduck’s New Year’s Challenge as a basic policy on which to build your own delightful piece of cyberspace.

Wishing you fresh air and wide horizons in the new year!