Beginner's Heart

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While I’m passionate about many things (politics, tea, food, books, poetry…), I usually only get really angry about a few things. The main one is mean people.

I know: ‘mean girls.’ But seriously? If you’re mean to my friends or family, or even really mean to someone in my presence, I will NOT be a happy camper. And I will almost certainly let you know about it. Since I consider the family of my friends & family (& dear colleagues) my friends, I get angry at more people than I might otherwise.

You can be mean to me — I’ll manage. I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself. But if you’re mean to my people, I’ll be furious.

Right now, I’m beyond furious. I’m enraged, and heart-broken, to boot. I can’t STAND mean people!! You don’t get to make snarky comments to people who are much nicer than you are, more generous than you are, and probably smarter you are, and then pretend you didn’t. This is not nice, and I won’t be okay with it.

Unfortunately, I don’t always have the luxury of telling people what I think of them. Well, it’s unfortunate for me only, probably. My nephew once told my son he’d rather be beaten by the principal than lectured by me, his aunt. (To be honest? I thought that was a high compliment!) In other words, I wield a mean tongue when riled.

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This isn’t good beginner’s heart, I realise. I should be more compassionate to people who are such miserable sots that they take it out on others. But I’m not that kind of compassionate — I’m more a warrior than a nurturer, I’m afraid. Hence the whole engaged Buddhism thing. If you’re afraid of people who look different from you, and you want to legislate your own fears? Tough luck. Grow up. Push your boundaries. Learn something about cultural differences.

But don’t beat up on unarmed men. Don’t kill unarmed men. Don’t be mean to people I love. Take a deep breath, and remember that every wisdom tradition teaches love. NOT ONE teaches hate. There’s a reason for that: love heals. Hate? It kills. Sometimes w/ a bullet. Sometimes w/ a broken spine. Sometimes w/ the slow poison of spite and malice. It’s all the same once you’re dead…

So as we enter the last days of National Poetry Month, here’s a poem on anger. It seems appropriate as I grieve for Baltimore, and its beleaguered peoples.


~ by Kwame Dawes

            For August Wilson

No one quarrels here, no one has learned
the yell of discontent—instead, here in Sumter
we learn to grow silent, build a stone
of resolve, learn to nod, learn to close
in the flame of shame and anger
in our hearts, learn to petrify it so,
and the more we quiet our ire,
the heavier the stone; this alchemy
of concrete in the vein, the sludge
of affront, until even that will calcify
and the heart, at last, will stop,
unassailable, unmovable, adamant.

Find me a man who will stand
on a blasted hill and shout,
find me a woman who will break   
into shouts, who will let loose
a river of lament, find the howl
of the spirit, teach us the tongues
of the angry so that our blood,
my pulse—our hearts flow
with the warm healing of anger.

You, August, have carried in your belly
every song of affront your characters
have spoken, and maybe you waited
too long to howl against the night,
but each evening on some wooden
stage, these men and women,
learn to sing songs lost for centuries,
learn the healing of talk, the calming
of quarrel, the music of contention,
and in this cacophonic chorus,
we find the ritual of living
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