Awe-inspired living.

In Oliver Burkeman’s book, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, I resonated with a statement he feels is the best description of a true happiness that is worthy of experiencing.

Paul Pearsall writes “Awe is like trying to assemble a complex jigsaw puzzle with pieces missing.  There’s never any closure in an awe-inspired life.  We’re never allowed to know when this fantastic voyage might end…but that’s part of the life-disorienting chaos that makes this choice so thrillingly difficult.” (Burkeman, pg 211, quoting Pearsall in Awe: The Delights and Dangers of Our Eleventh Emotion (Deerfield Beach Florida: Health Communications, 2007).

Ponder that for a moment.

Awe leaves nothing out.  It is happiness, joy, love, anger, sorrow, fear, amazement, boredom, achievement, failure, all wrapped into one experience – life.  Embracing only the “positive” emotions and thoughts – as those preached by the cult of optimism – actually limits one’s experience of an awesome life.  But it is a deeper, difficult, and authentic experience compared to the superficial “grinning insistence of optimism at all costs, or the demand that success be guaranteed.” (Burkeman, pg. 211).

There is no “30-day plan” to happiness or success.  Now matters; not what might happen a month from now.  And it’s the realization and acceptance that some experiences and situations cannot be explained.  It is okay to rest in uncertainty.

Awe, to me, is a balance of these positive and negative emotions.  It is not wearing rose-colored contact lenses trained on the future, nor being a prophet of doom based on the events and writings of the past.  The awe-inspired life happens right now.  Because that’s all we really have.


The 40-year relationship is over.

January 19th, the NHL season will finally get underway.  I really don’t care.

This should concern me (and anyone who really knows me).  I marveled at the sport ever since the days of my youth.  And even though I’ve never had an athletic bone in my body, in gym class I excelled at floor hockey.

I wasn’t a casual viewer.  No, I was someone who…

  1. still has the program from the first hockey game I attended live (January 9, 1971, Detroit Red Wings vs Buffalo Sabres at the Olympia in Detroit).  Larry Brown is on the cover, and the Wings won 3-2;
  2. collected hockey cards from 1970 up through the late 1990’s;
  3. shared two season tickets to the Red Wings for three seasons (1989-90, 1990-91, and 1991-92);
  4. was the booster club president for the Detroit Jr. Red Wings of the OHL (currently known as the Plymouth Whalers) for two seasons (1992-93 and 1993-94);
  5. photographed the Detroit Vipers of the International Hockey League (IHL) and wrote a column in a local hockey publication for the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons (Great Lakes Hockey Alliance);
  6. traveled to places like Kalamazoo, MI; London & Niagara Falls & Owen Sound, Ontario; Montreal & Quebec City, Quebec; Long Beach, CA; Buffalo, NY; and Cincinnati, OH to watch live hockey;
  7. was the commissioner of a fantasy hockey league that spanned over a decade; and
  8. continues to wear vintage Detroit Vipers jackets appropriate for the season.

Why is this forty-year relationship coming to an end?  Perhaps the sport and I have just grown too far apart.

The first signs occurred after the IHL folded.  In 1994, the Detroit Vipers emerged at the Palace of Auburn Hills, which provided quality, entertaining and affordable hockey.  The IHL was a minor hockey league dating back to 1945.  With the NHL locking out its players during the 1994-95 season, the IHL expanded into areas to compete with NHL franchises.  Along with Detroit, the league added teams in Minnesota and Chicago.

I followed the Cincinnati Cyclones the year previous, as my sister and her family lived across the Ohio River in Kentucky.  But it didn’t take long for my blood to flow the aqua and eggplant of the Vipers.  I attended the team’s very first game (a 7-3 victory over the Cleveland Lumberjacks on September 30, 1994) and their very last game (a 3-2 victory over the Orlando Solar Bears on April 14, 2001) at the Palace.  I still have my photo passes for the June 15, 1997 game where they won the Turner Cup against the Long Beach Ice Dogs, and the October 3, 1997 game where Gordie Howe took to the ice for one shift as a Viper.  The memories are endless, and all of them fond.  The Vipers folded, and my passion for the sport waned.

Stan Drulia of the Detroit VipersPhoto by Michael Kitchen
Stan Drulia of the Detroit Vipers
Photo by Michael Kitchen

NHL ownership greed pushed me away.  Three lockouts which shortened this season and the 1994-95 campaign, and completely cancelled the 2004-05 season.  How does a tradition establish and maintain itself with this kind of off-ice instability?  Such gaps provide the opening for other interests to emerge.

The game itself went in another direction.  For each step forward that the league made, such as the elimination of the two-line pass, the game retreated a couple of steps because of the oppressive push to eliminate fighting from the game.  I’m not the biggest fan of fighting, but the role of the enforcer insured that players were held accountable for their brutal acts on the ice.  With that element removed, players have been able to injure each other with intent, and the league assuming punishments of suspensions and fines would provide adequate retribution.

The first game I attended back in 1971, no one wore a helmet.  In fact, the Buffalo goaltender, Joe Daley, didn’t wear a mask.  In those days, you didn’t have the concussions and injuries to superstars that you have in today’s game.  The addition of helmets and goalie masks are acceptable safety precautions.  However, it has lessened respect for each other on the ice, and the elimination of instant justice, coupled with the faster pace of the game has allowed for a more dangerous sport, especially for the marquee players.

Dissatisfied, frustrated, and watching the game grow away from me, a past lover returned in my life, which sparked what has become a renewed passion and rekindled love: soccer.

In 1978, I was introduced to professional soccer through the Detroit Express of the North American Soccer League (NASL).  It was their first year in the league and Trevor Francis made the experience magical.  Arriving after the first eleven games of the season (finishing his English season with Nottingham Forest), Francis destroyed opposing team’s defenses scoring 22 goals and 10 assists in 19 matches.  The first game I saw live was July 30, 1978 where the Express defeated the Fort Lauderdale Strikers (and legendary keeper Gordon Banks) 4-2.  Francis scored two goals and assisted on another.  I also attended the first round playoff match – a 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Fury, with Francis netting the only goal.

Trevor Francis triple-teamed by the California Surf.
Photo by Michael Kitchen

I got to a few more games at the Silverdome in 1979 and 1980, and watched as much of the NASL that was televised.  But then I was off to college and the Express and NASL went the way of other defunct professional sports leagues.

On June 28, 2000, while vacationing and visiting friends in Washington DC, I attended a DC United match.  The LA Galaxy beat DC United 2-1 that evening, but the love of the sport that had been in hibernation for 20 years was reborn.  A couple years later I got to my first Columbus Crew game, and since then, there’s been no turning back.

Eddie Gaven of the Crew dribbles through Stoke City of the English Premiere League.Photo by Michael Kitchen
Eddie Gaven of the Crew dribbles through Stoke City of the English Premiere League.
Photo by Michael Kitchen

The hockey cards I’m slowly selling off on eBay, and in place I have almost a complete collection of every MLS card set available.  I find myself able to watch, at most, a period of hockey, but I can lose two hours in the blink of an eye if Arsenal is on the telly.  I do miss going to Detroit Viper games, however neither the Plymouth Whalers or Detroit Red Wings motivate me to purchase a ticket.  But I’ll eagerly make the four-hour drive to Columbus for a Crew match.  Given the choice, I’d take a ticket to a Detroit City FC match and sit amongst the Northern Guard, Le Rouge Supporters and Motor City Supporters than an ice level seat amongst the suits at the Joe Louis Arena.

I could conclude that the death of hockey’s influence on my life is a part of a maturing process.  Other interests such as civic duties, promoting change and protesting the elements in society that promote a destructive status quo, immersing in my profession, and just trying to make the world a little bit better place then it was when I got here was prioritized higher than being entertained by sport.

Yet soccer has moved in and occupied hockey’s place in my life.  Perhaps that, too, is evident of a maturing process.  Hockey, despite what Gary Bettman tries to promote, is a regional sport, conducive to areas where winter’s breath creates the field of dream in backyards and ponds and streets of everyday life.  Soccer is global and its fans and players are a global community.  The sun never sets on the beautiful game, for I can follow Arsenal in the English Premiere League from August to May, and attend Columbus Crew matches from March through October.  And with matches played on a weekly, rather than three or more times a week basis, a two-hour soccer match once a week leaves time open for other, more noble and mature pursuits.

After forty years, both hockey and I have grown in different directions.  It was fun and formative.  But it is time to move on.

Detroit City FC thanks you for attending.Photo by Michael Kitchen
Detroit City FC thanks you for attending.
Photo by Michael Kitchen

Guns don’t kill people AND they don’t do something else.

On December 14, 2012,Adam Lanza helped himself to guns owned by his mother, to kill her and murder 20 children and 6 adults before taking his own life at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.  This tragedy shook the nation, and even brought tears to the eyes of the President of the United States.  Since then, there has been talk, as well as the refusal to discuss, the issue of guns in the United States.  Also, concern about the treatment of mental illness has emerged as questions surround whether Adam Lanza suffered from autism.  Compound that with the video game burning to be held in Southington, CT., and the blame is well distributed.

Guns.  Mental Health.  Video Games & Movies.

Addressing these issues individually or collectively is merely focusing on symptoms of the deeper problem.

American gun enthusiasts throw out the cliché “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people,” as a mantra to protect their perceived rights to owning guns.[1]  However, they, and everyone else overlook the corollary:

Guns don’t protect people; people protect people.

This is the deeper issue.

We live in a society where our media, private interests, and politicians divide us based upon our differences:

Christians vs. Non-Christians.

North vs. South.

Conservatives vs Liberals

“Majority” vs Minorities

Male vs Female

Heterosexual vs LGBT

Pro-Life vs Pro-Choice

Rugged Individualism vs Collectivism

Free Market vs Socialism

Self-Made Man vs Welfare Queen

Workers who are anti-union vs unions

Corporate interests vs the environment

Wall Street vs Main Street

Profits vs People

Journalism vs Infotainment.

Liberty vs The Government

“Americans” vs. Immigrants.

United States vs All Other Nations.

Hammering these differences and creating fear against “the other” heightens our sense of self-preservation.  It is the promotion of this perpetual consciousness that allows us to witness the President of the United States with tear-filled eyes commenting on the Sandy Hook incident, yet fail to question why not  a single tear is shed, or even acknowledgment of the civilians and children he and his predecessor have killed in drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.

What kind of country are we that kills other country’s children (such as three children ages 12, 10, and 8) and justify it based on a philosophy that “In addition to looking for military-age males, it’s looking for children with potential hostile intent.”?

It’s okay to kill children who have “hostile intent?”  Really?

This corollary – Guns don’t protect people; people protect people – also relates to the mental illness discussion of the Sandy Hook incident.  In this nation, we are marketed the idea that a single-payer health care system, whereby we, as a collective people pool our resources into one central location – the government – to cover every one’s health care costs, is somehow inferior to the “pay-or-die” system we currently have in place.  The propagators of this idea are the very people who profit from the “pay-or-die” system – insurance companies, pharmaceuticals, private hospitals, and the media that reaps the financial benefits of these industries through advertising dollars.  Here again, our collective mantra is not “protect myself and all others,” but rather “me first, let everyone else take care of themselves,” which is the mental and societal breeding ground for incidents like Sandy Hook.

About three years ago I had a conversation with a couple – Dominic & Anna – who were Italian immigrants to Canada.  Health care was a hot button issue at the time, so I asked them about their experience with the Canadian system.  Anna’s mother had moved to the Metro Detroit area, and Anna had to care for her and her late father in the United States.  Anna could not believe the inhumane health care system that America has in comparison to Canada. She said that in Canada (and Western European countries like the UK, France, and Italy, where both Anna and Dominic were born), the common belief amongst its people is that we all look out for each other. “Over here,” she said, “it’s all about ‘me.’

Guns don’t protect people; people protect people.  The more we focus on that mantra versus the one the gun lobby and the citizens they’ve instilled fear into, the more sober an approach we’ll have to preventing incidents like Sandy Hook.  It’s not about arming every citizen (personally, if you need an assault rifle to kill Bambi, it’s time to take up a new hobby); it’s not about denying health care or maximizing profits from those who suffer from illness; or about burning video games (it’s seems an amnesty can be achieved without such a Fahrenheit 451 spectacle).  And if the President is concerned about the causes that are “desensitizing our children to acts of violence” as the Southington SOS claims in its press release regarding the video game burning, he should turn his attention to the largest perpetrator and influence of desensitized violence in our nation – the Pentagon.

Guns don’t kill people, nor do they protect people.  It’s about we, as a society, choosing how we wish to live.  If we’re going to be fear-based creatures, believing that everyone outside our immediate circle of family and friends is out to do us harm, whether they are in our neighborhood, city, state, country, or abroad, and therefore, we take care of our selfish interests first, and every other person for him or herself, there will be more tragedies similar to Sandy Hook.  However, if we become a society like those Dominic and Anna spoke of, where we all look out for each other, imagine what a different nation this would be.

Are we a people who kill people, or a people who protect people?

The choice is ours.

[1] I say “perceived” because, throughout the history of this nation, the Second Amendment has been interpreted to protect the “militia-related, not self-defense related interests.” (Justice Breyer’s dissenting opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller,128 S.CT, 2783 (2008)  Read Justice Stevens dissent, for it articulates the history of 2nd Amendment case law and is very well reasoned).   It wasn’t until the Heller decision by five conservative activist judges that overturned historical precedent.  “Conservatives, who for the last several decades have taken a narrow approach to individual liberties and refused to recognize new rights, had no difficulty in finding a Second Amendment right of individuals to have handguns.”  Erwin Chemerinsky, The Conservative Assault on the Constitution (Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2010).

Heron Bay Books Launch Party

On February 16, 2013, Heron Bay Books will be hosting a launch party for its release of Written in the Mitten an anthology showcasing Michigan writers.

I have three pieces published in the anthology:  The Word of the Day is “Trust” (the short story that won the 2009 Michigan Bar Journal Short Story Contest); With Prejudice (the short story that was a finalist in the 2011 Michigan Bar Journal Short Story Contest); and Walking Together – a short reflection on co-writing Down Through the Years: The Memoirs of Detroit City Council President Emeritus Erma Henderson.

The event is from 2:00 to 4:00 at the Detroit Yacht Club.  Admission is free, however you MUST RSVP to receive an entrance ticket, otherwise security will turn you away at the door.  You must register by January 31, 2013.


For more information about Heron Bay Books, their website is HERE.