categories: Bad Advice / Cocktail Hour
So I had a big party on my 30th birthday. Eight days before I had been operated on for testicular cancer, and the whole next week I’d waited to find out what flavor the cancer was. I had already planned the party when the good news came that it was a seminoma, the best kind. It was a great celebration.
On the night of the party, however, perhaps retaining some residue bitterness from my week in the hospital, I tacked up a large poster that I called “The Wall of Hate.” On the poster there were a hundred blank spots where partygoers could write in their nominees for their most hated human beings. This was 1991 and some notable write-in candidates for most hated personalities included Nixon (still and always), Bill Lambier, Yakov Smirnoff, Garfield, Sinbad, Dick Vitale, The Blonde Poseur who played guitar on Saturday Night Live, Judas, and, finally, later in the night,“One-Balled Guys who Sing at Parties for Attention.”
I still have that poster somewhere, I think. The reason I bring it up today, other than the fact that I think it’s kind of funny, is that it is an example of something I have been thinking about lately: how outrage, anger, and even hate can release energy. All you need is love? Sure, maybe. But I remember how one of my best early essays, “A Letter to a Neighbor,” sprung off my pen when some jerk built a trophy house up on the bluff I loved on Cape Cod. Love was involved, but outrage propelled my pen. Not long ago I started to turn this into an exercise for my students: write about something that really pisses you off. Don’t hold back. Let it rip. It has produced some good results.
Of course no one wants writing that is all hate. But in this troubled world getting angry has its uses. It is active, for one thing.
Over the last couple of years I have been writing a book that is partly a biography of Edward Abbey, who seems to me an example of someone who used hate productively, as fuel. He said that a writer should be, “Fueled in equal parts by anger and love.”
That’s it. Love and largeness allow us to see the world fully. Just don’t entirely forget about that other thing.