I’ve had a surprising number of friends commit suicide. I’ve also had a number of friends be killed by violence and by accidents. This life is not promised to any of us. You never know how many tomorrows you have left. So be unmistakably passionate about what you care about. Be honest with yourself and with others.
If you love someone, and you feel they need to know – tell them. Tell them now. This isn’t an act of selfishness. It’s an act of bravery. And if they turn around and tell you they don’t feel the same, you are free to be heartbroken; and then, as the flood of that pain recedes, and trust me it will recede like the tide, you will be free to love again. And hopefully, this time you will find someone deserving of your heart.
This is true not just in love but in all things. Be brave enough to stand tall on your own two feet and say, “Damnit, this matters to me!” Your life and all that it touches should matter to you. I’ve spent far too many years distant from others for reasons that embarrass me to admit but for the sake of your life I will share with you my fears. I was afraid of being rejected. I was afraid of being put down. I was afraid of being laughed at, of being excluded, or further marginalized. But you know what? To live in fear is the worst thing you can do. As many wiser than me have said in many ways, to live in fear is to die a thousand deaths each day. Fear is our greatest enemy.
The way to counteract your fears is to move boldly forward, chasing after what you want, unencumbered by all of the possible imagined outcomes. Love is the opposite of fear. It propels you to go after what you desire, what you wish for and what you need. As the screenwriter William Goldman famously once said, “No one knows anything.” He did leave out one thing we all know. We will one day die and be no more. With your ever-precious minutes in this world be wise and loving and brave enough to be you at all times. Yes, people will laugh at you and reject you and cause you to suffer many other pains of existence. Fuck them! Don’t let them steal away your vitality. Don’t let them darken your days.
Often people sometimes don’t know what to do with me. They don’t believe that I, or more accurately, that someone like me exists. They think that I couldn’t possibly care about fall fashion as much as I care about getting muddy on a mountain bike. They find it incredulous that I could love Beethoven as much as I love Mykki Blanco. They find it difficult to believe when I tell them they are one of my favorite of God’s creations. I know that. I get it. Not many people talk like that. But that’s not my problem. And it’s not going to stop me from being me. I just hope that one day they will believe me.
I have no interest in being cool because I burn. I burn like the fire of a thousand suns. As Michael Ondaatje once wrote, “The heart is an organ of fire.” I know exactly what he meant. And from that fire we spill out light and illuminate the world. Fire heats us up when the world turns cold and dark. Fire is one of humanity’s greatest friends. Whereas cool reduces life. It’s a lie as slick as an advertisement. It’s procured with great effort. Now, of course, there are those among us who truly are cool in the best possible sense of the word. The reason they are cool is paradoxical. They are cool because they burn. They care about themselves, about others and about what their life touches. They care! And that is the true secret to being cool. The coolest amongst us shed light.
In many ways, I am an emotional communist. I’d never be an economic communist because I don’t think it’s a system that befits our human nature. Socialism is another story. But leaving economics behind, the reason I say I am an emotional communist is because I believe, as the dictate of Karl Marx proscribes, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” and that means we are all in this together. Your emotions affect mine and mine affect yours. And thus, occasionally, I need to be able to give my time and energy to you to help you be your best and happiest self; and sometimes I need you to help me. If any one of us thinks being cool is more important than shedding light and being warm to the world, than all of us suffer for it.
So please, my friends, burn and burn bright. As Dylan Thomas once admonished us, “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” For as the sudden and surprising passing of my friends has taught me, you never know how much time you or anyone else has, until they are gone. And thus, we all must make the most of our hours on this Earth. Time and health are our most valuable commodities, and love is our greatest expression of those. So love yourself! Love your family, your friends, your neighbors, and bravely burn with the heat of a thousand suns.