Opening Words from Sun. February 11 by David Gutekunst

Good morning! Today I’m going to try to link this month’s theme of Love with January’s theme of Fear & Hate. 

In mid-January, Kate gave a platform talk, Fear: the Mind Killer, titled after a theme in the science fiction novel Dune. I haven’t read Dune…but I have watched it go up in flames.

I should explain: last March, my partner Michelle was invited to a party, and the central event of the evening was a backyard bonfire to burn the accumulated belongings that the host’s ex had left behind. Among those items was a beautiful, hard-bound, gilded-edged copy of Dune.

Have you ever been the plus-1 at a gathering devoted to the theme of how much love sucks? It’s…interesting.

Michelle and I were brand-new as a couple, probably 5 or 6 weeks at that point. I think a new relationship is like a new car: shiny; no dents, rust, or fading. I contend there’s even a new relationship smell. (It’s oxytocin and schmaltz.)

We had a fun time, but after the party, I was pretty judgmental about the host – shocked that she had destroyed such beautiful things and prevented others from enjoying them.

“I would have read that book! I would have played that game! I would have verbed that noun!” (The last one is from my forthcoming book, Exasperation Mad Libs.)

As Michelle and I talked about the party, I realized that I did understand the underlying emotion. I have felt ugly emotions when relationships have ended. I always eventually come around to gratitude for the shared experience, and to a genuine hope that the other person can find happiness and fulfillment.


In the raw early times, I wanted to burn it all down, emotionally: the feelings, the memories, the lost love. I just didn’t light an actual bonfire. I didn’t want the ex-partner to be valuable to anyone new.

Short of feeling hatred for an ex-lover, I have felt confusion, jealousy, anger…all stemming largely from fear. Fear of being at fault. Fear of being undesirable. Fear of being alone. Fear of being unlovable.

It doesn’t have to be a case of lost romantic love. As soon as we realize we have something to protect, fear can creep in. I’m not a parent, but even in my role as World’s Greatest Uncle I know that love can lead to fear, if you let it. Buckle a young child into a car seat, and suddenly realize all of the frightening and dangerous things in the world.

On a brighter note, Michelle and I just celebrated a year together. We met here at Ethical. Michelle started attending in late January 2017, along with a wave of new visitors to Ethical right after January 20th. (A similar uptick in visitors and new members happened after November 8th, 2016. Go figure.) People seemed to be looking for hope and community.

It has been strange to realize that we might not have met if not for the Trump presidency. So perhaps in addition to being, like, really smart and a very stable genius (with all the best words) the current President is also an unwitting matchmaker.

How is that as a connection between love and hate?

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.