WC81 – Andrew Ramer’s PRAXIS

Ramer The Big Two-Oh by Andrew Ramer

Recently, at a queer gathering I attended, we were asked, “What’s your favorite number?” As a retired bodyworker I’ve always been fond of the number twenty. Not that everyone comes this way, but of us most do – with ten fingers and ten toes. To me twenty is the number of wholeness, not ten, the number that usually carries that symbolic value. For me ten is Commandments and a continual reminder that somehow I and we have done it all wrong, or are about to. But twenty in my private lexicon of life is the number of embodiment and completion, from top to bottom, earth to heaven. It’s the number of fullness, of overflowing richness, toes pressing into the warm earth while curious fingers reach out toward the stars.

And here we are, celebrating White Crane and its twentieth birthday. As far as I’m concerned there’s nothing quite like this magazine. Each issue is another gift come in the mail, another window onto the world. What I can always count on from White Crane is that I’ll get words and images to help me stay alive and aligned, encountered, engaged, and encouraged to go on. It may not be the New York Times – but I can’t help quoting Sappho:

let me tell you this:
someone in some future time
will think of us

We are all a part of that us, the family of White Crane and twenty is five times around the cosmic wheel of the four directions. That’s a lot of traveling and twenty is a time to pause and review. Franklin Abbott’s poem “Self-Help” contains useful directions for reviewing a long and honorable history: 

    review your notes
    the ones you took
on your life
ponder
    old photographs
    read letters
    written to you
    cycles ago
    recount your blessings
    one by one
    two by two
    repeat

    repent
    of any doubt
    or shame
    that you are not worthy
    whole
    nothing short
    of a miracle

Others have reviewed and recounted far better than I. I wasn’t here at the beginning. I can only vaguely recall something folded in half as my first introduction to the miracle that is White Crane. What I do remember are the many many hours I’ve spent in private intimate time (in the tub and on the toilet) with the writers and artists whose work has filled the pages of this magazine. Timothy Liu, in his poem, “Leaving the Universe,” points me in the direction of what I want to say:

    Can’t go back
    to his body. That wilderness.
    At times he would let me
    rest there, no other place to go.
    A bedroom
    full of star charts, planets tearing
    free from orbit, a belt
    of asteroids flying apart.
    In that space
    between us, the gravity
    of my bed unable
    to keep his body from floating
    out the door.

Can’t go back to retell my top twenty favorite articles. The carton of back issues in my closet will remain there, for now. What I can say is that the star charts of our inner lives were recorded in this magazine when almost no one else was paying attention. And the deep gravity of our encounters with the world and with each other, all those toes and fingers of back issues, include every element of our queer lives, the good, the bad, and the frightening.

Twenty is also a number that’s useful for looking ahead. I can’t say where this gift of a quarterly is going, but the community found here, the wisdom, the culture, all add up to something that Assotto Saint understood:

    birds of a feather coo
    spread their wings
    at the edge of the world
    they soar
    stretching themselves
    to god

We are birds of a feather, we readers and writers and artists and editors of this communal treasure. The play-work of White Crane is a kind of offering to that which some of us might call God. And as the guardian of one corner of this yummy little world, called “Praxis,” I offer twenty spiritual practices to help you celebrate our many journeys around a star. Each practice is tied to one of the four cardinal directions and to the center. Pick one, or as many as call out to you.

East:

Think back on your 20th birthday if you’ve already celebrated it
Think ahead to your 20th birthday, if you haven’t gotten there yet
Think about the 20th anniversaries of significant events in your life
Think about 20th anniversaries that are waiting for you in the future

South:

Draw a picture of something that has 20 elements in it
Draw a picture that uses 20 colors
Draw the same picture 20 times and compare each version
Draw 20 different pictures and compare them to each other

West:

Cook a meal with 20 ingredients in it 
Cook a meal for 20 friends 
Cook a meal for 20 people and give the meals away
Cook a meal that you dedicate to White Crane’s 20th anniversary

North:

Meditate for 20 minutes on what White Crane has meant to you
Meditate in 20 different place on what White Crane means to you
Meditate for 20 days in a row on the future of White Crane
Meditate in 20 different positions on what you offer/can offer White Crane

Center:

Write something about White Crane and send it to the editors
Send a gratitude check to White Crane as a donation
Give the gift of White Crane to a person or institution, perhaps your local library
Thank whatever Force/energy/Being/beings/god/Goddess/God/gods you believe in for White Crane having reached its 20th birthday, and wish it 20 more.

Andrew Ramer is a writer and educator.  He is the author of numerous books including Revelations for a New Millennium, Little Pictures: Fiction for a New Age and the Gay classic Two Flutes Playing: A Spiritual Journeybook for Gay Men  from White Crane Books.  Ramer lives in San Francisco.   Praxis is a regular feature of White Crane.

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