By Frank Jackson
This is only an excerpt…
I’ve never been much of an ancestors guy. Remember when, back in the 80’s, Jon Lovitz impersonated presidential hopeful Michael Dukakis, saying, “My ancestors were short people—short, swarthy people”? That’s how I always felt. In my case, they were Eastern European shtetl-dwellers, but, like Dukakis’s progenitors, nothing to get too excited about.
Plus, because of the Holocaust and the transatlantic crossing, I know nothing about anyone more than two generations ahead of me. My parents, my grandparents—and thenfg a blank. I know that my maternal grandmother was one of ten children, and that they lived on a farm, and ate potatoes, and struggled. But not much more than that.
And I’ve always assumed that, because I’m a fag, my ancestors would be shocked to learn how their progeny has turned out. It’s one of those little homophobias that seems to stay with me; no matter how well things are going with my boyfriend (and at the moment they’re not going well), I know, or think I know, that they would have disapproved. We’re something new under the sun, we Gay families, and so, for me, that means a certain disconnect from all that’s gone before. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be Frank Jackson the IVth, or really feel that I’m following in my grandfather’s footsteps.
And yet, as I enter my forties, I’ve naturally found myself thinking more about ancestors, as “youth” (however prolonged by Gay culture, Propecia, and trips to the gym) gives way to “middle age.” I look more like my dad every day. I’m haunted by his failures, and even though I know I’m haunted by them, I still get stuck. And I wonder whether I’ll ever have children, whether I’ll be remembered or not. To think of one’s ancestors is necessarily to ponder one’s descendants.
During a recent ayahuasca ceremony, I had an encounter that gave me an even stronger intimation of ancestry and religion. Ayahuasca is an Amazonian shamanic medicine, made of two different plants, that creates powerful visionary experiences — what other cultures would call prophecy and revelation. Some of these experiences are big-wow visual theophanies, others are all about the heart, and others still are mostly about the body (physical, astral, energetic, etc.). Ayahuasca is not a drug, and definitely not for day trippers. In many ways, I’m still recovering from the work I did months ago and feel, frankly, scarred. But it opened new doors for me, in ways I do not pretend to understand.
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Frank Jackson is an itinerant meta-theologian living in the arcadian wilds of New York State. Frank Talk is a semi-regular feature of White Crane.