I had no idea who Madalyn Murray O'Hair was when I stumbled upon this quote, but it knocked me over. There was something so sincere and so childlike in her plea for love. Such a rare display of vulnerability made me curious to learn more of her story, and as I researched, I was shocked by what I discovered. "The Most Hated Woman in America," a title given to her by LIFE magazine in 1963, was just one of the seething descriptions she was given during her lifetime. The end of her life was horrific-involving the murderous betrayal of a trusted employee and the death of her son and granddaughter. How this be the story of someone so honest in her desire for love?
Frankly, this is not a woman I could ever see myself calling a "friend". If I'd been alive during her time, I would have swiftly categorized her in the group of people who deserved my prejudice-who's contribution to society was detrimental at best, evil at worst. Her steely exterior and aggressive personality would have sent this gentle soul sprinting in the other direction.
But I didn't know her when she was alive. I knew her posthumously through the opinions of others, and one brief sentence of her own. What cut to my core wasn't the list of wrongdoings or offenses, as tragic as they may be. It was the piercing intimacy of a cold woman gone soft. For a fleeting moment, on the pages she'd deemed private, the most hated woman in America revealed something of her true heart.
My life story is much different from Madalyn's, but her desire for love is the same one smoldering like the remains of a winter's fire in the pit of my stomach. Atheist or Anglican, woman or man, young or old, It seems we all have this flame in common.
I started listening to the people in my life-whether strangers on a subway train, friends from their college dorm rooms, or family from far away- as if they were all asking the same thing: do you love me? It changed my perception of humanity for good. The kinds of people who used to intimidate me, the Madalyn Murray O'Hairs of the world, now humble me with sorrow. Instead of imposing strength, I see the incalculable pains that have been taken enshrine the most fundamental question of their heart. The bondage they have chosen to carry in order to hide their vulnerable selves from the world. Better to be shallow and safe than to be vulnerable and deeply hurt.
So why tell this story? And what in the world does it have to do with this site?
Friends, if I have one goal for this tiny space of Internet, it is to go deep. To cut sharp through the chords of expectation, culture, shame, and countless other ties that bind to reveal that timid blue flame of love that ignites in the core of our very beings. Through stories, poems, songs, and images, I want to embark on what may be the most dangerous journey of all: into the human heart. To come close to its flame, to warm my hands, and to whisper "burn, burn, burn."
I thank you from the bottom of my heart for joining me.