This is not a political post.

This is not a political post.

This post is about character. It’s a post about the way people treat other people every day in Alabama.

This post is about bigotry and poverty and hate. It’s about power and religion and hypocrisy.

Most of my family has lived in Alabama for around one hundred years. Some of my family has been here much longer than that. This is my home. It is the stuff I am made of. My family were farmers and entrepreneurs and teachers and lawyers and slave owners.

My children are still young. They are sweet and beautiful and mischievous and caring and I am teaching them one guiding principle. Respect. I am teaching them to respect themselves, to respect other people, and to respect the natural world. I’m trying to keep it simple and we all know what the concept of respect means from a young age. Do the right thing. The thing that little scale in your soul feels naturally when you make a decision. It’s purely human, and it is what makes us incredible. We innately know what is “right” and what is “wrong”.

But sometimes our internal moral compass gets corrupted. Sometimes we are taught by our culture that what is wrong is right and that what is right is wrong. I believe that as human beings, even if our intuitive ethics get confused by the noise of the crowd, deep down we still know what is truly right. The actions we undertake that are intuitively wrong will slowly degrade our sense of righteousness, and self-worth, and make us angry and petty and mean.

In Alabama, we’ve become mean. We’ve become complacent and angry and our culture is poisoned. Our communities are broken, and we refuse to acknowledge the fear and separation and bigotry that permeates each day of our lives. Like all people, we’re doing our best to just get through every day the best we can, but we know that we are hypocrites. We have very little love in our communities for those who don’t look like us, or go to our churches, or believe in the same political ideologies we do. I’m not talking about each individual. We all feel something when we see an uneducated, malnourished, disheveled human soul. We all want to help in a crisis. We all know what it feels like to be scared and alone and to have no idea if anyone cares enough about us to reach out a hand to help lift us up.

But in Alabama, we still elect leaders sometimes for no other reason than because they are bigots. Because they can hate the loudest. We still poison our communities with exposure to the idea that some of us are better than others and it’s usually because of the color of our skin or the religion we follow. It’s anathema to the scale of justice that lives inside us all and that tells us that hungry, uneducated children and people who are sick or disadvantaged deserve our respect too. They deserve our love and they need it more than anyone else. We all know that this is the truth. All religions teach it, because it is the thing that makes us human. We can feel each others pain. We are all connected spiritually and emotionally and physically and everything matters.

Roy Moore is a bigot. He covers his petty, misogynistic, racist, hate-filled meanness in a cloak of religion and we all know that he is a hypocrite. He is a false idol who has built his career and his fortune by being the loudest voice among the meanest parts of our communities. His voice and his views are oppressive and they are hateful and they are un-American. He seeks to separate our communities in order to build his own power. He ignores the gospel of love and instead shares only a message of spite and fear and anger and hate.

This post is not political. This post is about our character. This post is about the idea that the voice of Roy Moore doesn’t have to represent the people of Alabama to the rest of the world anymore. We can break the cycle of hate and hypocrisy and we can send a message to the rest of the world together. We can say that we are ready to embrace the belief that we not only can, but that we will do better by each other. We will listen to the little voice inside each of us that knows that we are made to love each other. We are formed to protect innocence and to fight injustice. We all know that when four little girls are killed by a bomb planted in their church by hate and bigotry that we have not regained righteousness until their killers are brought to justice. We know that a man who fights for that part of our communal souls is a man that is worthy of our respect.

That little voice inside each of us knows the right action to take on December 12. If you let the voices of our poisoned culture tell you otherwise, you’re not just perpetuating that culture of fear and hate but you’re also hurting yourself. Roy Moore is at best a pandering charlatan and at worst a predator that targeted innocence as his prey.

This is not a political post. This is a prayer for the soul of the state from which I am formed. It is a prayer for the future that I hope to create for my children. This is a plea to the people of Alabama to be kind to each other, and to believe in each other, and to listen to the voice inside you that knows that bound together with love and trust we are stronger than the hateful, bigoted poison that still pollutes the culture of our state.

Choosing not to vote makes you complicit. Voting for a man filled with hate and driven by ego and hypocrisy is cruel. Choosing not to share the things that little voice inside your soul is screaming loud and clear that this is not ok and that Roy Moore is not the image we want to represent us to the larger world is not an option.

Please vote for Doug Jones on December 12th, and encourage everyone you know and love and care for to do the same. He is a good and decent man who has fought for justice and for the rights of others his whole life. His platform is to tend to the wounds of division and poverty and injustice that still exist in our state and in our world. Doug Jones is a good and decent and caring human being and Roy Moore is not. It really is that simple and every single one of us knows it.

Conflict and Kindness

They fight for peace,

kindness in conflict,

as their hearts break daily,

and daily they rise again.

The burden writ large on their faces,

but kindness ever-present in their eyes,

cheek-turning warriors

whose broad shoulders carry

the weight of humanity’s promise.





A World Awakens

A world aslumber

is underwhelmed by violence,

religious righteousness and silence.

Corporations rule with dollars

like dog collars worn with

unquestioned compliance.

Politicians pull the levers 

of our lives and hide their masters,

making money off disasters,

starting wars, filling streets with blood

and cries of children with no fathers,

their dreams aren’t dead but dying,

their mother’s milk still drying 

on lips whose voices blend and rise

only to be pushed aside,

ignored and marginalized.

Is this the world we’ve strived for,

that soldiers gave their lives for,

that Martin marched for,

and forefathers forged forward?


A world awakened,

supported order formed from

human compassion and listening to others.

Accountability contains conflicts,

transparency shines light 

upon the truth that binds us

and reminds us that for every action,

reaction is the norm, we’re creatures

of habit and instinct and urges,

we need nurture, we’re all in this world together

we all need purpose, to be heard

and observed, our nervous energy

diffused and focused, living examples 

of the lessons mothers and fathers taught us.

Corporations and their politicians

don’t have to fear us,

just work harder to hear us, they are us.

So stop denying the dying, help heal the sickness

help stop the crying, no more lying, just striving

together is the way forward, it’s undeniable

connection is the key, unlock the doors,

embrace the world and what we’re all here for,

not to be created but to be reborn.

Like a moth to a flame…

I’ve always enjoyed reading about Buddhism. I think it’s mainly because underneath all of the complicated terminology, history, and mantra, Buddhism is a philosophy that is built on a series of metaphors, which stack on each other like Russian nesting dolls, revealing a tiny piece of truth at the center that resonates in a very intrinsic place for me. There’s a Buddhist concept I read about a few years ago that has worked it’s way back into my mind and caused me to re-examine the course of my life over the last year. The sanskrit word for the concept is vasana, which in one context can be simply identified as “habit energy”.

Of course, as with any religious or philosophical concoction, there’s a million different flavors of vasana.  Some folks believe that the inertia of former lives can influence decisions for better or worse in our current incarnations. Some believe that vibrations of our past, once in motion, will physically force our molecules down a path that can only be overcome through conscious physical effort with an opposing frequency. But this week, as thoughts of habit energy have crossed my mind, I find myself drawn to a more practical, more medically modern interpretation of vasana.

The way I understand the research I’ve read regarding brain structure and function, the human mind physically stores memories much in the way that modern computers do.  Our bazillion synapse and neuron interactions form physical pathways as we experience life, and the more we reinforce similar physical pathways through repetition, the more stable and lasting those pathways, and their related memories, become. In a fascinating aside, every time we recall a particular memory, our brains attempt to physically recreate all of the connections that formed the original experience. For each connection the brain gets wrong, our memories actually change. Forever. Freaky, I know.

So to me, that means that our behaviors, habits, and initial impressions are hard wired into the physical structure of our brains.  Our daily routines and reactions are dictated by the habit energies we have nurtured and repeated over the course of our lives.  We process everything through the physical filter of our past experiences, and the behaviors we repeat are driven by pathways in our minds that while hard-wired and resilient, are also adaptable and fickle.  The habit energies we have developed due to the experiences of our lives physically guide our daily behaviors because that is how our brains are wired today.

For me, these thoughts are helpful.  Over the last year, I’ve embarked on a journey that has been complicated, maddening, and diverse in its challenges.  I feel like I’ve been fortunate to grow, then regress, and then re-examine things in such a way that I will be a better person for the experience. I feel that the energies of my habits have been poked and prodded and stirred in such a way that my senses have once again awakened to the possibilities of a future that is better than the present. Not because the present is necessarily flawed, but because my habit energies are being challenged, and only by pushing my mind to physically recreate itself do I feel truly rewarded and satisfied on a very visceral level.

I feel it’s safe to say that the ancient thinkers that developed the concept of vasanas had some insight into a phenomena that is very real.  Whether you believe that a former life as an executioner can influence the guilt you feel today, or simply that the structures of the synapses and neurons that have built up in your brain over a lifetime guide your present actions, the fact is that habits are composed, contained and distributed from a tangible place. There’s no reason to fall into the trap that present habits cannot be changed. The reality is that through conscious, intentional repetition of desired behaviors, the hard wiring of our brains can be changed as we see fit.  The habit energies we carry into tomorrow can be coerced and coached and gradually ingrained if we find the right techniques and support structures to simply repeat the behaviors we desire until they embed themselves in our corporeal being.

Like moths to flames, we are wired to chase the sun. Our habits and beliefs and biases are products of the places we are born and the paths we have traversed to get to today. I choose to evaluate the energy with which I embrace each moment, and to adapt as the strength of my body allows. There is no reason that the inertia of the missteps of our pasts, both individually and collectively, cannot be redirected into energies that guide us towards fulfilling futures.

The birth of tolerance

I love the spring. When the world awakens from the sleepy, frigid dream of winter, something inside of me begins to smile. The sight of slight green shoots emerging from the long-brown branches of a sleepy, dormant landscape excite me in a way that is hard to describe. I start to feel alive in a way that I seem to have forgotten.  I find the vibrant colors of early spring flowers contrasted against the leafless branches and still sleeping grasses that will soon emerge in their own glorious ritual of rebirth exceptionally inspiring.  And without fail, spring revives a renewed sense of hope within my spirit. A renewed sense that everything I have worked towards and hoped for and believed in, everything I have tried yet failed to accomplish, is once again within reach. And just like the soft, green shoots of spring flowers break through the cold, hard winter soil, I once again believe that love and hope and communities of people can overcome all of the injustice and hate and meanness of the world. I’ve been a middle-class suburbanite all of my life.  I’ve never faced the loneliness of true hunger, or the raw energy of institutionalized hate.  I grew up watching He-Man and GI Joe save their respective worlds from singularly despicable villains that were motivated only by their desires for power and destruction.  I grew up eating Lucky Charms, always wrenching open the box as soon as we got home from the grocery store to make sure that I got my hands on the cheap plastic toy or game inside before one of my sisters could.  I grew up in a family with a mother and a father that were always present, always loving, and unflinchingly dedicated to creating a safe and nurturing environment for me and my sisters.  There was shouting and anger and tears, but it was always rooted in love. Love that was so passionate that it tore out each of our hearts to disappoint one another. Love that permeated every activity, from finger painting to finger pointing, and held us together with the confidence that despite our individual shortcomings, we were all in this thing together and all we wanted was what was best for one another. It was real and it was beautiful. And when I venture out into the world from my suburban bubble, I can’t help but feel a sense of hope. A sense that the love that was created and nurtured and shared in my home could help ease so many of the problems of the world. A sense that if we embrace the idea that we’re all in this together that the meanness could melt away to reveal a world full of little boys and girls that just want to share and work hard and love and be loved. It seems to me that the injustices of hate and intolerance and selfishness are a disease that has a cure. That the resources required to overcome our communal failings are available and just waiting to be deployed and nurtured and allowed to blossom into a world filled with a real, tolerant love for humanity and life and the power of believing that we truly are all in this thing together and that together there is absolutely nothing that can’t be overcome. And before you write me off as naive or ignorant or some kind of communist hippy know that I’ve walked through the slums of Haiti. I’ve slept in the hut of a Maasai family formed from cow dung and mud in Kenya. I’ve proudly served in the US military during a foreign wartime deployment. And I was born and raised in a community that has been cursed for generations with the divisive, destructive scourge of slavery, segregation, and endemic, systemic racism. But then there’s that hope thing. That nagging, persistent belief that all that is inherently righteous and kind and born from the human capacity to love is crying out in each and every one of us, trying to come to the surface.  The belief that despite our cultural bias to fear the “other” and protect our own, everyone has not only the innate ability, but also the often unacknowledged desire to see our world as whole and to acknowledge that we are, in fact, all in this together. The understanding that although we each have shortcomings and differences of opinions and addictions and desires, the only way to overcome injustice is to live with love in our hearts. And not just a love for things that we understand and hold dear, but a love for the things that we don’t. A righteous, passionate love that fights not against the things we fear or hate, but fights for fairness and goodness and the courage to always grow and continue to learn what that means. Outside of my window, I can see the earth awakening from a long, cold winter.  The re-birth exploding in the world around me fills me with hope and renews my belief that together, we shall overcome.

A Cinderella Story

“Have Courage and Be Kind”

(I guess here is where I should mention that there are some mild spoilers below. But if you’ve seen any version of Cinderella, none of them are true spoilers)

On a rainy Saturday I went to a movie theater with my 6 and 4 year old daughters to watch the new live-action Disney version of Cinderella and was struck by how much death was involved in the latest incarnation of the fairy tale.  I thought the film-makers did a good job of blending the saccharine sweet magic of what the Cinderella consciousness has become, with the live action sensibilities that could have gone full-cheese, but felt relatively authentic considering the source material.  There’s no doubt that critics will moan about the lack of depth in the story and wail about the non-existence of feminist-forward principles of the main character, but as an attempted remake of the Disney animated version, I thought the tone was true. And the unquestioned theme of the film, stated over and over and almost crossing the line into the absurd is simply, “Have courage and be kind”.

But the death, oh man the death. Not one, not two, but three living parents that you see on screen die over the course of the movie. There’s nothing gory or visceral about the deaths, but there are plenty of tears and emotions and sense of loss to spare.  My 6 year old’s first comment after the movie was that some kids may get upset about all of the death. Which is when I turned to the tried and true parenting method of just repeating the overtly stated message from the film we had just enjoyed as a real-life teachable moment.  You see, we actually went to the theater with the family of a friend I’ve known since I was 10 years old whose parents both died before he turned 30.

It dawned on me that learning about the reality and finality of death early is a very important lesson.  I told my daughters that my friend’s parents had both passed away when he was still a young man, and I asked my oldest daughter how she thought the death of a parent might impact someone.  She responded that she thought death might make them sad and scared, and I began to think about my concepts of courage and came to the realization that courage is something that I often take for granted.  The simple willingness to look down the barrel of life and be able to keep moving forward is a vital skill that at best is lost on most folks from time to time and at worst causes people to become frozen in time, fearing that if they move forward something bad will happen and cause them additional pain and trauma.

I spoke to my daughters about courage and the understanding that pain and death would cross all of our paths often in life and that trying to understand what that meant could help us to appreciate the time that we have to share with each other and our friends and family.  I mentioned that my friend had chosen, not to dwell on the loss of his parents, but to move forward and create a new family for himself, with two of his own beautiful daughters and a wife with whom he shares all the adventures of his life.  It was a truly inspiring conversation, and the demeanor with which my daughters absorbed the deep topic gave me hope that my wife and I could be doing something right.  We spoke about how courage is the ability to cope with fear and sadness, about how courage is something that has to be practised and polished and earned. My daughters both seemed to understand that courage is not easy or free or common and I felt hope that when pressured by the difficulties of life that each of them would be prepared to at least try to be brave just like my friend had. It made me proud both to have the story to share and the faith to believe that my young girls understood the lessons the story conveyed.

And as we drove on, the conversation turned to kindness, especially courageous kindness, and the strength that a kind heart can provide when faced with difficult circumstances.  We spoke about goodness and the golden rule, about how the rule is not to do unto others as they do unto you, but how you would have them do unto you. We spoke about the courage that kindness inherently requires and how important it is to not lose sight of patience and the belief that people can be kind to one another and that we can be those kinds of people if we work hard.

As we got close to home I looked out the window and saw that the sun was trying to push it’s way through the clouds.  I was filled with happiness as I realized how my daughters and I had shared a spontaneous, important moment after watching a relatively innocent, innocuous movie about a girl, a blue dress, and death with the simple message to have courage and be kind.


I remember what it felt like to be thrown to the rough, sandy floor of the ocean by waves that were more powerful than my young, fragile body.

I remember a snake, shot through the head, that continued to twist and writhe in a coiled pile.

I remember my throat, fiery with scarlatina, unwilling to swallow and spitting out the window of a car.

I remember looking up through the facemask of a football helmet, lying on the ground and waiting for my father to come pick me up and take me to the hospital because my arm was bent in an unnatural way.  I remember crying in the emergency room after waiting for hours for a doctor to come fix my mangled arm, feeling like a failure after I had held back the tears for as long as I could bear, and the unnatural pain as my shattered bone was finally forced back into its proper position.

I remember sitting on a cold floor in a dark corridor with my back against a wall sometime in the middle of the night, waiting for my turn to have my head shaved as I wondered if joining the military was really a wise decision.

I remember an overwhelming feeling when my first daughter was born, my mind jumping back and forth between the possibilities of her future and my own, unsure if I was ready and knowing only that my life had truly changed forever.