Category Archives: Inspiration

Being “Real” for a Moment


Will you allow me to be “real” for a moment? 

I know it can seem vapid and self-serving to be slutty on the internet, but truthfully it’s a lot bigger than that.

I can’t speak for everyone else, but for me, this isn’t the easiest thing in the world I’ve ever done. In fact, two years ago I would have never even posted a shirtless picture of myself online because I didn’t believe I had a body worth sharing.

It’s taken a lot of work to get to where I am now and I am so proud of myself. I never thought I would be strong enough to be this open. While getting called “hot” will always feel good, that has never been the reason behind any this.

But it is also really hard sometimes, because whether you intend to or not, you are giving other people a lot of power over you. It can sometimes hurt my confidence doing this, but I recognize that as an inherent part of it. It’s important to keep my chin up.

What bothers me the most is that sometimes I feel like my true self gets lost in this. What I put out here is only one side of myself, and truthfully not always a very genuine one either. It’s fun to put on an act and be slutty, but sometimes it can be work.

Still, I recognize that this is all part of it and remain adamant that what we’re doing is important. Whether you realize it or not, because it is easy to become desensitized to it, what we’re doing here is extreme. But that’s a good thing.

By sharing ourselves, we are not only celebrating different types of bodies but also normalizing them. By sharing our kinks and fetishes and the way we have sex, we are dismantling the systems that say that they are wrong or taboo.

We are creating an environment that is conducive to safer, freer sex. We are creating a world where you don’t have to look like a Sean Cody model to feel good and sexy.

It feels awesome to be active in a community that welcomes and accepts everyone. It’s all of you who have inspired and guided me to this point, and I hope I am doing the same for other people.

So we shouldn’t undervalue what we’re doing here. It’s fun and sexy but it’s also creating the foundation for a new world where we all feel beautiful and sexy and worthy.

 

Warning: None of the links in this post are SFW.

Often, when I come across an attractive guy on Twitter, especially those with an Only Fans (OF) account, they often do seem seem vapid and self-serving. There are any number of reasons why a guy shows off on the internet and has an OF. Sometimes it’s simply because they need the money, and they have a body (or a particular physical attribute, i.e. 🍆 or 🍑) which can be used to make that money. Others use it because they like to show off their bodies, and they get aroused by performing for others. Then there are some who are simply vapid and self-serving, but there are also those who use Twitter or OF because it boosts their self-esteem and confidence.

The above series of tweets is from a handsome young guy from Alabama named Samuel, a.k.a. @galactaqueer. I think the most important thing he says here is: 

By sharing ourselves, we are not only celebrating different types of bodies but also normalizing them. By sharing our kinks and fetishes and the way we have sex, we are dismantling the systems that say that they are wrong or taboo. We are creating an environment that is conducive to safer, freer sex. We are creating a world where you don’t have to look like a Sean Cody model to feel good and sexy. It feels awesome to be active in a community that welcomes and accepts everyone. It’s all of you who have inspired and guided me to this point, and I hope I am doing the same for other people. So we shouldn’t undervalue what we’re doing here. It’s fun and sexy but it’s also creating the foundation for a new world where we all feel beautiful and sexy and worthy.

Samuel is right. We need to normalize all kinds of sex as long as it is not harming someone else. We often are made to feel bad about ourselves for our innermost fantasies, but just because others might see us as kinky, doesn’t mean that our desires are wrong. We also need to be more body positive. Few people look like porn models, and very few have the physical attributes that porn models have. We need to learn how to feel sexy on our own. It’s been many years since I felt beautiful or sexy, and I wasn’t even fully happy with myself back then. Even when I had a better physique and more hair, I still had vitiligo. During puberty, I began to lose the pigment in the skin my hands and in more intimate areas. People notice it and ask about it all the time, much to my embarrassment. I’ve been asked if I burned my fingers or if parts of me were dirty because of the darker patches that can also happen with vitiligo. Sometimes people are very sensitive about the issue when they ask; others are very blunt to the point of rudeness.

Recently, I came across another guy on Twitter who also has an OF, Jay Mason, a.k.a. @homoblanket. Like me, Jay has vitiligo, yet he’s a bit more fair-skinned and hairier than I am, so it’s not always as noticeable. Jay’s vitiligo also isn’t on his hands or face where it would be be noticeable when he’s not naked. Mine began appearing on my hands early on and most recently, it has spread to my face, though it is not as noticeable on my face as it is on my hands. The point of this is that Jay doesn’t hide his vitiligo and shows how his confidence makes it basically not an issue. I’m sure there are those who make negative or ignorant comments, but if they bother Jay, he doesn’t let it show. He uses his OF to fund his dream of becoming a songwriter in Nashville.

Another guy that I enjoy following on Twitter is Lucas, a.k.a. @LucasCashXXX. Lucas is a 21 year old personal trainer from Alabama who just enjoys showing off. Personal trainers have been hit hard by the pandemic. Often, they are self-employed and when gyms closed, they were no longer able to see their clients. Many did virtual training for those who had access to fitness equipment at home, but they often still took a hit to their finances. Single, self-employed individuals did not get the same benefits of many others who were affected by the pandemic. I find Lucas to be probably the sexiest of them all, and he certainly has those physical attributes that come in very handy with an OF account.

Not only do all of these guys have a Twitter and OF, they also have one other thing in common, they are all from Alabama. Recently, Alabama ranked as the worst state to be LGBTQ+, and I agree with that assessment. There are a few places in Alabama, such as Birmingham or Mobile, that make it somewhat easier to be LGBTQ+, but the rest of the state can make it very difficult. I’m glad that all of these guys have found an outlet for their sexuality and that they feel confident enough to show their beauty to the world. From what I have seen from Samuel, Jay, and Lucas, they are all beautiful people inside and out. If you are so inclined, I hope you’ll go follow them, and if you subscribe to any OF, maybe you’ll check them out there as well. From the previews on their Twitter feeds, I’d say it would be well worth it. See one of those previews below:


Have a Great Weekend

As we go into the holiday weekend, I hope we will all remember these words from the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Many Americans who claim to believe in “their Creator” want to deny LGBTQ+ Americans, and other marginalized groups, our unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and deny us the equality that Jefferson wrote was “self-evident.” Those same people claim there is some secret gay agenda, when in truth we just want life, liberty, and the ability to pursue our happiness. We want the right to live our lives without fear and without the tormenting hatred of others. We want the liberty to be liberated from our oppressors who claim we don’t have the same rights as everyone else. We want the ability to pursue our happiness and to love each other. We simply want what all Americans want. There is no “gay agenda,” but there is a human agenda.

Other tripartite mottos like “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” include “liberté, égalité, fraternité” (liberty, equality, fraternity) in France; “Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit” (unity, justice and liberty) in Germany and “peace, order, and good government” in Canada. It is also similar to a line in the Canadian Charter of Rights: “life, liberty, security of the person.”

The phrase can also be found in Chapter III, Article 13 of the 1947 Constitution of Japan, and in President Ho Chi Minh’s 1945 declaration of independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. An alternative phrase “life, liberty, and property,” is found in the Declaration of Colonial Rights, a resolution of the First Continental Congress. The Fifth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution declare that governments cannot deprive any person of “life, liberty, or property” without due process of law. Also, Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person.”

The civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer told the National Women’s Political Caucus in Washington in 1971 that black and white women had to work together toward freedom for all. “Now, we’ve got to have some changes in this country,” she told the group. “And not only changes for the black man, and only changes for the black woman, but the changes we have to have in this country are going to be for liberation of all people–because nobody’s free until everybody’s free.” Shes 100 percent correct, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”

I hope you all have a wonderful and relaxing weekend.


Spread Kindness

I was in Starbucks waiting on a mobile order the other day, and I saw a sign on the wall that said:

Shortly after I first moved to Vermont, a very close friend died in a terrible car wreck. I was not able to handle it well. The death hit me extremely hard. If you go back in time on the blog to December 2015 and early 2016, you’d probably be able to tell some of the pain I was going through. I bring this up because I decided that along with antidepressants, I needed to see a therapist to try and work through my grief. While I found the therapy to do more harm than good due to the therapist I saw, the therapist did make an interesting point that I think is largely true. I have a lot of hidden pain. This hidden pain came in several different forms. I was closeted most of my life. I hid who I really was from most people in my life. I suffered from depression and anxiety for many years and did not seek help when I should have. I essentially hid the pain associated with my headaches because I feared people would not take my headaches seriously. (More women suffer from migraines than men, so men who have migraines often hide their pain because they feel it makes them weak.) I also often hid my feelings. I didn’t want people to know how sad I was all the time. So, I hid a lot of who I was from the world around me for fear of being judged for who I was. 

I was one of those people who was doing their best not to fall apart on a daily basis. I am also not the only one who hides their pain. I do try my best to be a kind person to those around me. I put on a happy face, even when I don’t always feel like doing so. I always have, and I probably always will. I want to make other people feel better. Wouldn’t we all like the world to be a better place? We live in a time when LGBTQ+ rights (particularly trans rights) are constantly being attacked and threatened. We have made many gains, but the fight is far from over. Voting rights are being attacked because Republicans want to make it harder for more liberal-minded people to vote. Many religious organizations are pushing for exemption from anti-discrimination laws to legally discriminate against those who don’t follow their narrow beliefs. We cannot stop the fight if we want to make the world a better place. 

Mahatma Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” The change Gandhi referred to can be significant changes like civil rights, but it can also be small changes like opening the door for someone, giving a helping hand when you see someone with their hands full, paying someone a compliment, reaching an item off a high shelf for someone, giving up your seat to someone who needs it more, or something as simple as smiling. There are so many little things we can do for those around us to spread a little kindness. I urge you today to send an encouraging text, make a phone call to say, “I’m thinking of you,” smile at a stranger, or do any number of small acts of kindness. You never know when that small act of kindness can keep someone from falling apart. Let your kindness be contagious.

June is Gay Pride Month, and kindness should be a part of who we are. The LGBTQ+ community has faced many hardships. Instead of treating others the way we were treated, we should treat others the way we want to be treated. Pride has always been an event for the diverse LGBTQ+ community and their allies to joyously declare their presence. Let that presence include kindness and acceptance. Pride had its roots in a rebellion against the policing of our lives. Being LGBTQ+ once meant we had a mental illness, and the simple act of wearing the clothes of another gender was illegal. The Stonewall Riots in late June 1969 proved to be a turning point for the LGBTQ+ community, but there is still more to be done. We cannot rest on our laurels. Pride celebrations are a festive “unity in diversity” that is a hallmark of Pride that continually evolves and responds to contemporary challenges. Most of us have struggled with coming out and coming to terms with our sexuality. We often hide parts of ourselves. Pride Month is a time when we can all say, “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!”


Dreams

“I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, but my life was never ordinary. I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was.” – Ransom Riggs

I used to hate my life. I wanted to be anything but what I was. I’ve accepted who I am more in the last five years since moving to Vermont than any other time in my life. Yes, I came out of the closet to myself twenty years ago, but I had basically resigned myself to the fact that I am gay. I realized I’d never want to marry a woman or have a romantic relationship with a woman, and if I tried, I’d end up making us both miserable. So, I admitted to myself that I am gay. I’d fought it far too long, and it nearly killed me, literally. I’d always been attracted to men, but I tried to suppress it. I did my best to deny my true self. However, admitting that I am gay is not really the same as accepting myself for who I am. There was always a part of me that wished I was not gay. 

In the last five years, I quit wishing I wasn’t gay. I love being gay. I love accepting who I am and celebrating the fact that I am attracted to men. I want to find a man with whom I can spend the rest of my life. In many ways, I’m a different person than I was twenty years ago when I admitted to myself that I was gay. In fact, I’m a different person than I was five years ago. I am happy with who I have become, and it has made me a happier person. While I did once dream of escaping my ordinary life, I realized, my life, like that of all of our lives, is not ordinary. We are all extraordinary, and we need to celebrate who we are.


The Art of Doing Nothing

Life has become increasingly stressful. In normal times, we run from one appointment to the next, and during the current pandemic, we might not be running from appointment to appointment, but there are a new set of anxieties for us to handle. It’s only natural that at some point, we ask ourselves: “How can I reduce my stress levels?” But the answer is not always easy. When George Shultz — who died recently at age 100 — was secretary of state under Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, he developed a weekly ritual. He closed the door to his office and sat down with a pen and a pad of paper. For the next hour, Shultz tried to clear his mind and think about big ideas rather than the minutiae of government work. Only two people could interrupt him. His secretary was under orders to only allow interruptions from his wife or President Reagan.

Clearing our minds is good advice, especially these days of instant and constant interruptions from cellphones, computers, and social media. Four decades ago, when Shultz was secretary of state, technology was not as advanced, and it was easier to become unplugged because no one was “plugged in” to the technology that surrounds us today. These days, we are constantly interrupted by minutiae via alerts and text messages. They can make it impossible to carve out time to think through difficult problems in new ways or come up with creative ideas.

Letting our minds wander is said to make us more creative, better at problem-solving, and better at coming up with innovative ideas. The Dutch have a word for this concept: niksen, or the art of doing nothing. First, there was hygge, the Danish concept of creating a quality of coziness and comfortable happiness that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being. Then there was lagom, a Swedish and Norwegian word meaning “just the right amount.” The Swedish mindset of approaching life with an “everything in moderation” mindset. The connotations in Norwegian, however, are somewhat different from Swedish. In Norwegian, the word has synonyms as “fitting, suitable, comfortable, nice, decent, well-built/proportioned.” Buddhist have an expression referred to as the “middle way.” The middle way refers to the understanding of practical life, avoiding the extremes of self-denial and self-indulgence, as well as the view of reality that avoids the extreme positions. 

Now there’s another Northern European trend that many people are embracing as a way to combat our increasingly busy and often stressful lives: niksen. The Dutch concept is as simple as doing nothing. For many, doing nothing isn’t as simple as it sounds. In fact, it can be somewhat challenging to sit still and stare out a window, for instance. It can even feel unsettling at first when we are used to doing something at all times. However, if we push through the discomfort, we can take a few minutes each day to practice niksen and work up to longer stretches. Ideally, we would reserve one evening a week without appointments and obligations. However, there can be drawbacks if we devote too much time to doing nothing. Scientific literature suggests that a disadvantage of letting our minds wander for too long could be getting “caught up in ruminations” rather than feeling refreshed.

Some argue that boredom can open the mind to creativity, problem-solving, and more ambitious life goals. Niksen has the advantage of inspiring us. Inspiration almost always happens when we’re doing nothing special — when we’re showering or doing the dishes, for example. It is essential to do something “semi-automatically.” That means concentrating on something simple without much effort. Even a game on a smartphone can be niksen. These types of activities allow the brain to process information, which in turn leads to fresh and new ideas.

As the psychologist, Amos Tversky said, “You waste years by not being able to waste hours.” So, my advice is to take a few minutes each day when you can do nothing and let your mind wander and wonder. Don’t try to be creative but let your thoughts meander and see where they take you. You might be surprised at your increased productivity spurred on by doing nothing.

The picture above is from the blog Fit Studs by the blogger Hot Guys. While I think it is an appropriate picture for this post, it caught my eye because I have stood on one of the balconies of this same hotel. When I visit my friend Susan in Manhattan, I always stay at the Royalton Park Avenue Hotel at 29th Street and Park Avenue where this picture was taken. Below is a picture of me holding my complementary glass of champagne while on one of the Royalton’s balconies.


Happy New Year!

Some sage advice for 2021:

“Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.”

—Helen Keller

“There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

—C.S. Lewis

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”

—George Eliot

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

—Nelson Mandela

“What a wonderful thought it is that some of the best days of our lives haven’t even happened yet.”

—Anne Frank

“Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each year find you a better man.”

—Benjamin Franklin

“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.”

—Thomas Jefferson

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

—Socrates

“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.”

— Eleanor Roosevelt

“Last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice.”

—T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”

“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, ‘it will be happier.’”

—Alfred Lord Tennyson


Goodbye, 2020

One of the things I think we all have learned this year is how selfish and hateful many people are. After four years of a Donald Trump presidency, people have lost all sense of decorum and decency. That was never more apparent than when the pandemic began, and people were asked to wear masks, social distance, and not gather in crowds. While many of us followed these directives, many others did not. They protested the mask mandates and the temporary closures because it “violated their personal freedoms.” Yet, they seemed to not care about others’ rights as they derided the Black Lives Matter Movement. Many people’s ugly personalities came out over 2020, and they became so prevalent we saw “Karens” and “Richards” everywhere we looked. People need to understand that they are not entitled to deny someone else their life, health, or livelihood. We’ve seen a Republican Senate that has refused to offer aid to starving and jobless Americans. When significant problems arose, they abdicated their leadership responsibilities for partisanship, Trumpism, and denial.

I hope that 2021 will be a year of healing. I pray that we will see a return to kindness. I want 2021 to be a year of hope. The Trump presidency will end on January 20, and hopefully, the Senate will be in the hands of Democrats after the January 5 runoff in Georgia. If the Republicans retain control of the Senate, we will see at least two more years of inaction and hatefulness. This coming year could be a year of great change and finally be a time when the United States moves in the right direction and lives up to the words of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men humans are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The past year saw many people fight against the idea that all people are created equal, and they have done their best to deprive us of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This needs to change, and the United States needs to finally live up to its promise. We need equality and rights for all people wherever in the world they may be, and we need to be a world leader in making sure that comes to fruition. We need to put aside our differences and work together to make this world a better place before destroying it and becoming more akin to those dystopian novels of destruction where there is even greater suffering or injustice.

Let us pray that 2021 will be a better year. I pray it will be a year of hope and a year when we begin to work towards equality for all. I pray that we will work together to create a world that is devoid of discrimination on the basis of age, disability, genetic information, military service or veteran status, national origin, pregnancy, race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

I wish you all peace, good health, prosperity, and equality in the new year. May 2021 be a hope-filled year for all of humankind.


Only the Pigeons, Or A COVID Christmas

On Monday, I was reading a Washington Post opinion piece by Kay Collier McLaughlin, a leadership consultant, author, and retired religious journalist from Kentucky, titled “From a long ago sermon, a joyful message for this troubled season.” In the piece, she tells a story about a sermon by a good friend of hers. Here is the story the priest told as McLaughlin remembers it:

That sermon, as I recall (having failed to locate the cut sheets of newsprint containing the actual words), was about his friend Phil, an American priest who was serving in Guatemala. While the bulk of the story is no longer with me, the memorable line came after a vivid description of Phil climbing steep, narrow steps to the very top of a bell tower and finding there that local artisans had painted intricate designs “where only the pigeons would see.”

McLaughlin’s primary focus is the holiday season during the COVID-19 pandemic and the social distancing mandates that are in place in most parts of the country. If government guidelines are followed, we won’t have any large family gatherings or holiday parties. No one will drop-in to wish us a Merry Christmas. On November 23, I wrote a post saying, “I won’t be going home. I doubt I will even decorate for Christmas here. I rarely do since I am not usually here for Christmas, but even though I will be alone in Vermont this year, I just feel it is a waste of money to decorate just for me.” After reading McLaughlin’s piece, I agreed with her sentiment of wanting to shout, “Only the pigeons! Only the pigeons!”

One of the commenters on the McLaughlin piece wrote that Notre-Dame Cathedral had been renovated numerous times over the centuries. During the Middle Ages, all parts of a cathedral were decorated or carved, including the roof. The roof was not decorated for those who could see it, but it was done because God could see it. On that November 23rd post, Patrick wrote, “You should put up a small tree for you and Isabella, and at least she will be happy you are spending Christmas with her.” VRC-Do You! also commented and said, “Yes, it is only you and Isabella but at least put up something that screams CHRISTMAS. Maybe a nice poinsettia. I love Christmas. Not the commercial aspect of it but the colors, lights, and decorations, and smells.” Chris commented as well to say, “As one who has spent many a holiday alone, I did buy a small tree (when I lived in Germany) that I haul out — it is only decorated in fruit, but it is a small reminder of the holiday — which you should celebrate in at least a small way. Issy will enjoy having something new around to play around.”

After the advice I received, I did put up a small tree. No one else will see it, though all of you saw it in a picture on this blog. It made my apartment a little more festive. Isabella has enjoyed it. She’s knocked off a couple of the balls I hung on the tree. Thankfully, the balls are shatterproof. She batted them around a bit and has spent some time sitting near the tree, admiring the lights. She does seem happy that I am home this holiday, though I’m not sure she understands the time of the year and that I am usually gone away at Christmas, but she’s always glad when I am here. So, Isabella and I have enjoyed the few decorations I put up, and I put the tree in the front window so that it’s lights can be seen from the street below.

On Monday, my boss stopped by my apartment. He didn’t knock, nor did he ring the bell. He just quietly set a Christmas present by my door and left. He texted me later to tell me it was there. It was very kind of him. I also bought a few presents for myself and wrapped them (the packages I wrapped are much prettier than the one he wrapped, but I am gay after all and love wrapping beautiful presents). I saw an interesting new way of wrapping gifts and wanted to try it out. Otherwise, I might not have wrapped the presents I bought. I think they look lovely under the tree.

Here are the gifts I wrapped. Here is a link to other videos with gift wrapping ideas.


This Is What You Shall Do

“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”

—“Preface” to Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman

On July 4, 1855, Walt Whitman published the first edition of Leaves of Grass. This first edition consisted of 12 poems and was published anonymously. It contained a preface, which Whitman left out of subsequent editions. Whitman set much of the type himself and paid for its printing. Over his lifetime, he published eight more editions, adding poems each time. He was continually revising Leaves of Grass. There were 122 new poems in the third edition alone (1860-61), and the final “death-bed edition,” published in 1891, contained almost 400. The first edition received several glowing — and anonymous — reviews in New York newspapers. Whitman wrote most of the reviews himself. The praise was generous: “An American bard at last!” One legitimate mention by popular columnist Fanny Fern called the collection daring and fresh. Praise for the work was not universal, however. Many called it filth, and poet John Greenleaf Whittier threw his copy into the fire. Writing in The Atlantic, Thomas Wentworth Higginson said of Whitman’s book: “It is no discredit to Walt Whitman that he wrote Leaves of Grass, only that he did not burn it afterwards.”

Leaves of Grass has its genesis in an essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson called “The Poet” (1844), which expressed the need for the United States to have its own new and unique poet to write about the new country’s virtues and vices. Reading the essay, Whitman consciously set out to answer Emerson’s call as he began working on the first edition of Leaves of Grass. However, Whitman downplayed Emerson’s influence, stating, “I was simmering, simmering, simmering; Emerson brought me to a boil.” Whitman sent a copy of the first edition of Leaves of Grass to Emerson. In a letter to Whitman, Emerson wrote, “I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom America has yet contributed.” He went on, “I am very happy in reading it, as great power makes us happy.” Emerson’s positive response to the first edition inspired Whitman to quickly produce a much-expanded second edition in 1856, which saw the book grow from a meager 95 pages to 384 pages with a cover price of a dollar. This edition included a phrase from Emerson’s letter, printed in gold leaf on the spine of the book, “I greet you at the beginning of a great career. R.W. Emerson.” Emerson later took offense that this letter was made public without his permission and became more critical of the work. Emerson once said, “Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” Whitman certainly had ambition, and Emerson should have recognized his own advice in Whiteman’s use of Emerson’s quote on the second edition’s spine.

While Whitman is not my favorite American poet, I am a great admirer of Emerson. The 1841 essay “Self-Reliance” by Emerson is one of my favorite literary works. It contains the most comprehensive statement of one of Emerson’s recurrent themes: the need for each individual to avoid conformity and false consistency and follow your instincts and ideas. It is the source of one of Emerson’s most famous quotes: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” Emerson emphasizes the importance of individualism and its effect on an individual’s satisfaction in life. He stresses that anyone is capable of achieving happiness, simply if they change their mindset. Emerson focuses on seemingly insignificant details explaining how life is “learning and forgetting and learning again.” 

I think Emerson’s influence on Whitman is apparent in that Whitman often lived his life in his way. As a humanist, Whitman was a part of the transition between transcendentalism (Emerson) and realism (Mark Twain), incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse. His work was controversial in its time, particularly Leaves of Grass, which was described as obscene for its overt sensuality. Whitman’s own life came under scrutiny for his presumed homosexuality. Yet, Whitman became one of America’s most influential poets. Critics have called him the first “poet of democracy” in the United States, a title meant to reflect his ability to write in a singularly American character. Whitman also believed in his own greatness and considered himself a messiah-like figure in poetry. Whitman became one of America’s most influential poets.


Etty Hillesum

“If there is ever to be peace, it won’t be authentic until each individual achieves peace within [them]self, expels all feelings of hatred for a race or group of people, or better, can dominate hatred and change it into something else, maybe even into love- or is that asking too much? It’s the only solution.”

– Etty Hillesum

I came across this post in my daily email from Queer Theology. I’ll be honest, I had never heard of Etty Hillesum, who was a diarist and Holocaust victim. There is probably a reason for that. Her diaries are not of a young girl like those of Anne Frank, but a woman who was open about her sexuality. In one of her writings she wrote, “I am accomplished in bed.” Hillesum journaled for two years and three months. In her first entry, she boasted of being, “just about seasoned enough I should think to be counted among the better lovers.” She was then sleeping with the man she was living with, Han Wegerif, a widower of 62. Soon, Etty would be sleeping with her therapist, Julius Spear. When it came to sexual freedom, Etty was a woman ahead of her time. But besides being a sexually free woman of the 1940s, who was Etty Hillesum?

Etty Hillesum was born on 15 January 1914 in Middelburg, Netherlands. After leaving school in 1932, she went to Amsterdam to study law. She also studied Slavic languages in both Amsterdam and Leiden. She greatly enjoyed student life moving several times within Amsterdam before settling down in an apartment on the Gabriël Metsustraat in 1937 which she shared with Wegerif. She lived in that apartment until her final departure for Westerbork (a Dutch camp that served as a staging ground for the deportation of Jews) in June 1943, and it was there in the Gabriël Metsustraat that she wrote her diaries.

At Westerbork, Etty was assigned to the registration of arrivals and acted as a social worker, psychologist, and spiritual counselor. The survivors of that period testified to her radiant personality and her great dedication. “One would like to be a balm poured on so many wounds.” She devoted herself to others and bore the daily brunt of the stress in the camp such as the deportation of a part of its population every weekend. She finally fell ill, but thanks to her status, was allowed to go back to Amsterdam to be treated. Despite such pressure, Etty nevertheless remained determined to write, and she kept up her journaling. 

On June 5, 1943, when friends offered to help her hide, she chose instead to return to Westerbork and stay there to continue her work. She also had the opportunity to help her parents and her brother Misha who had been the victims of the great roundup of June 20-21, 1943. An unfortunate letter written by Etty’s mother to H.A. Rauter, the Commanding Officer of the police and the SS in the Netherlands, exasperated him and caused the entire Hillesum family to be deported. On September 7, 1943, they were sent to Auschwitz with 986 other Jews. According to the Red Cross, Etty was thought to have died there on November 30, 1943.

What survives her is a diary covering the last three years of her life. In Etty’s diary we discover her as she really was, day by day, and this presence which we perceive in her writing moves us much more than a biography written by someone else. A few letters also remain. They were published in 1982, and give us a deeply moving picture of Westerbork: “the home of Jewish suffering” stuck in the mud and barbed wire where Etty depicts men, women, children, old people who have nothing left except “the thin cover of their humanity.” The end of her diary written in Westerbork unfortunately disappeared with her at Auschwitz.

The quote above shows her feelings about humanity. With protests, divisive politics, and an emerging police state surrounding us every day, we need to take her words to heart. We can honor her legacy by expelling those feelings of hatred we may have and achieve peace. We can turn our negative feelings to love and create a better world. I think Etty makes a very good point. It is something we should strive for in our lives.