Category Archives: WC72 – Cinema

WC72 Cinema Paradiso Contents


Table of Contents

We hope you enjoy the following excerpts from this issue of White Crane.

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A Fellow Traveler…and Friends
The White Crane Interview with Mark Thompson by Bo Young & Dan Vera
Four Portraits from “Fellow Travelers by Mark Thompson
Harry Hay – Clyde Hall – Robert Mapplethorpe – Essex Hemphill


Taking Issue

Seeing the Light: James Broughton on Cinema by James Broughton
At the Movies by Don Clark
Gays In/At The Movies: An Appreciation of Vito Russo by Arnie Kantrowitz
Wish Upon A Star  by James Van Buskirk
Night Movies: Pay Attention to Your Dreams  by Don Kilhefner
Gay Celluloid Markings by Donald L. Boisvert
Goddess by Malcolm Boyd
My Life with Movies: A Memoir/Montage  by Eric Riley
Seen Anything Good Lately?  Readers Write In


And I Did  by Brady Earnhart
Crickets & Yellow Dogs  by Dan Vera

Culture Reviews

Perry Brass on
Jay Michaelson’s God in Your Body: Kabbalah, Mindfulness and Embodied Spiritual Practice

Steven LaVigne on
David LaRochelle’s Absolutely, Positively Not

Steven LaVigne on
Augusten Burroughs’ Possible Side Effects

Steven LaVigne on
Tennessee Williams’ Memoirs

Peter Savastano on
David Montalvo’s boy with an ‘i’

Toby Johnson on
Souldancer’s Pay Me What I’m Worth: A Guide to Help You Say It, Mean It, Get It

Toby Johnson on
Christopher Lee Nutter’s The Way Out:  The Gay Man’s Guide to Freedom No Matter If You’re in Denial, Closeted, Half In, Half Out, Just Out or Been Around the Block

Vilius Rudra Dundzila on Drew Harriot’s The Secret
"Homophobia from Religious Liberals"


Everyday Sacred
“Abundance & Wealth”  by Donald Engstrom/Reece

Updrafts by Dan Vera

Our Bodies
“HPV: Yes, I’m talking to You.”  by Jeff Huyett

“Cinema Paradoxo”  by Andrew Ramer


Opening Words “Making Light of It” Bo Young & Dan Vera

Call for Submissions


Contribution Information

Subscriber Information

In Memoriam: Barbara Gittings by David Carter
Ralph Walker  by Sunfire

WC72 – First Words…

From the Editors


Bo: I think there was probably as much consternation about doing an issue on “movies” as there was about doing the issue on “food.”

Dan: I didn’t think it’d be controversial. I mean everyone loves movies. At the very least everyone loves talking about movies. We’ve been told by our faithful readers — when we hear from them (ahem—a blatant plug for Letters to the Editor) that we need to lighten the topics. “Don’t do so many heady, serious themes all the time.” So we try to liven them up with some amusing themes — to use Frank O’Hara’s term. He defined something as amusing as an artwork that spoke to his muse…that a-Mused him. This is certainly the case with material we’re covering and also the conversation with Mark Thompson in this issue about fellow travelers.

Bo: They’re a fitting companion to the four portraits from the touring Fellow Travelers show we’re sponsoring. I’m just sorry we don’t have enough space to run more of them in the issue. But…on to the issue at hand. So, where were you and how old were you when Making Love came out?

Dan: Well, that’s going to date me. Making Love came out in 1982 so I would’ve been 15 years old at the time. But I remember the hubbub that occasioned the film. I remembered hunky Harry Hamlin from the Clash of the Titans movie a few years before and it was one of those films that caused Gay ripples in my consciousness way down in South Texas. So was Cruising, which was a big film with Al Pacino. Of course it’s an awful movie for many of the reasons Gay film critics have mentioned, but it was also a film on Gay subjects and it opened up the possibility that Gay people were out there somewhere.

Bo: I don’t think anyone can honestly make the argument that movies, film, cinema, isn’t an important component of “Gay culture” and always has been.

Dan: Well, it’s a mass medium and as such it has presented views of Gay life. I was talking to a friend of mine about the old Doris Day/Rock Hudson movies. He has teen-aged daughters who are pretty savvy and hip and they just love those old films. He’d gotten them three of the films in a DVD package called “The Romance Collection.” We were talking about how those films have a valance they didn’t have when they first came out. Movies like Pillow Talk are perfect little films because now, in retrospect, they tell a tale about the ridiculousness of gender lines. I mean Rock playing straight, playing Gay “mama’s boy” is funnier in hindsight. It renders the conventions ludicrous on so many levels.

Bo: I think one of the reasons Gay folk love movies so much is it’s a reflection of the “play acting” we all experience in our own lives — of “acting” straight. We relate on a very deep, psychic level to the medium. So when someone like Rock shows up, well, there’s just all this double entendre and subterfuge and wink-wink that we all are in on and straight culture may or may not be.

Dan: This might be the moment to talk about Vito Russo. His work was so helpful in helping me make connections to all these movies I enjoyed as a kid. I’m so happy to have Arnie Kantrowitz’s memoir of Russo in this issue. It seems like a proper act of paying due homage to the foremost Gay Cinema Maven.

Bo: It was only a matter of time before Gay Lib got into the movies. That’s the mirror America uses to look at itself and create its own mythology, which Vito so beautifully illustrated. I think another reason movies are so important to Gay folk has to do with how important it is as a tool and how important it is to American culture. It is probably the single most important export in the American economy.

Dan: But how telling is it that the healthiest depictions of Gay life aren’t usually American? Some of the best Gay films I’ve seen of late are films from France, Germany and England. The American Gay trope, even when it’s helmed by Gay creators, is mired in alienation, despair and death. How many times have we seen a Gay film from another country and thought, “if this were an American film, it’d end with a shooting or suicide.” Films like Cachorro (Bear Cub) from Spain, Sommersturm (Summerstorm) from Germany, Drôle de Félix (Adventures of Felix) from France. Those films are electrically vivid, very honest, and not mired in the trope of despair that most American Gay cinema is. And they accomplish it without being overly saccharine.

Bo: And it comes as no surprise that these are also the countries where we are more equal, less oppressed, more integrated. It seems Modern Europe is much more mature around matters of sex. These are also countries where fundamentalist Christianity isn’t as much in power. They’ve done a better job of keeping the secular separate from the church. And look what Hollywood has contributed to the religious community…the whole Biblical Epic movie. It becomes the entire vernacular for scripture for the man/woman on the street.

Dan: Yet even in biblical epics the best examples have profound Gay curves, whether it’s the campiness of Ten Commandments, Gore Vidal’s spin on Ben Hur, or in a more serious vein, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St. Matthew. Which makes Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ look like a toddler’s horrific temper tantrum.

Bo: It’s powerful stuff that celluloid. We haven’t really talked about the powerful images of women in film and how Gay men have traditionally, and still do I suspect, been part of that adoration of women. Some even identify with them — all these butch men who can cite chapter and verse of Sunset Boulevard or Bette Davis in All About Eve. “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.” I mean what is that about? I suspect there’s some identifying with “hidden power” just lying under the surface of all that…

Dan: I think a lot of Gay men can come up with a list of strong women characters that made an impression even when they’re over the top. Eve Arden in Mildred Pierce, Greta Garbo in Ninotchka. The role of Gay men in creating that is clear. The image we have of Katherine Hepburn as an independent, strong-willed woman comes from the roles George Cukor directed her in — movies like Philadelphia Story, Pat & Mike and Adam’s Rib.

Bo: And James Whale who directed all the Frankenstein movies and The Invisible Man.
It’s fitting that we lead the cinema section with one of the most honored avant-garde directors of the last century, James Broughton. He was highly intellectual, if a bit giddy at times. It’s an excerpt from the forthcoming edition and our next book, ALL: A James Broughton Reader. The timing of the book with this issue was a beautiful bit of serendipity. So, we have a long honored history of Gay directors. Why is it, do you think, that there’s no lead actor, no leading man, who’s come out? Obviously we know that Lesbians are going to feed straight male fantasies. But the whole “brave to play Gay” thing, which so pisses me off — is still very much alive for men.

Dan: Well, the old saw we get handed is that actors are put up there to play heroic action/adventure heartthrob types and the viewing public won’t believe it from a Gay man. It shatters their illusions. And perhaps that’s a proof of sorts that the medium is very grounded in a society that still has deeply entrenched homophobia.

Bo: And I want to say horsefeathers! It’s called ACTING!

Dan: Well, that’s true. But the sad reality is that Rock Hudson, being who he was, would not have the same career today he had then if he’d been out of the closet. That supposition has not been disproved by a reality in the form of an out Gay actor. I mean we know they’re out there — Gay actors that is — but they’re still trapped in smaller roles or in complete silence. But I’d like to focus a bit on the role of out Gay people in cinema. A few years back we published that delightful piece by Josh Adler on Ian McKellen as a Gay Gandalf [WC#60 Greying Temples: Honoring Elderhood.] It was a lovely essay about Adler’s experience with his younger brother and how McKellen in the role of the sage Wizard in Lord of the Rings was a breakthrough for his little brother. His brother was able to understand and accept his Gay brother a little more because of that depiction.

Bo: Which brings us back to the power of imagery and that flickering light in a dark room with a group of people all round you…it’s intensely powerful in its ability to portray, project and build image and there’s also Gay people’s attraction to dark, sexy places. Movie houses are almost another one of the Sacred Groves.

Dan: I’m curious if you remember the first time you saw a Gay character and thought to yourself “Hey. That’s me up on the screen.” Do you remember the movie and the actor?

Bo: I’d have to say Women In Love. I soooo wanted to get into that wrestling scene…and I wanted to live in Alan Bates’ little stone cottage in the woods. But actually seeing someone who I thought was like me…I don’t think I have yet. Maybe Harold in Harold and Maude? But he wasn’t really Gay, either…at least not overtly so.

Dan: That is rightfully one of the best movies ever made.

Bo: So what’s yours?

Dan: Well it’s interesting. I think a lot of earlier movies spoke to me before I came out but they’re in a haze really. I guess it isn’t fair to ask a question you don’t have a clear answer to yourself. But I think the movies that spoke to me were those where people were misfits. Ergo my loving Harold and Maude too. I know this is going to sound odd, but Woody Allen’s Sleeper is one of my all time favorites. In hindsight it may have been the humor of the protaganist in a world where he just didn’t fit in. That and Woody’s Blanche Dubois imitation from Streetcar Named Desire is just delicious.

Bo: Woody does Blanche Dubois?

Dan: It’s a funny bit of gender bending towards the end of the movie where Diane Keaton does the Marlon Brando role and Woody Allen plays Blanche Dubois.

Bo: I didn’t remember that. I think one of the key things here is when you bring up movies in a room full of Gay men, you’re going to get a lot of response. I think one of the most interesting things in this issue is the section where we asked people to tell us about their favorite movie or most important movie. The response was huge! And it’s one of the most interesting and telling pieces in this issue.

Dan: So at the risk of treating cinema as light — which is only part of its power — we hope readers just enjoy a great issue and are inspired to look at some of these movies again.

Bo: We’re ready for our close up…

Bo Young and Dan Vera are editorials mid-wives and co-conspirators in creating each issue of White Crane.   Bo lives in Brooklyn, NY a few blocks from a museum and Dan lives in Washington, DC a few blocks from a Shrine.  Bo is the author of First Touch: A Passion for Men and Day Trilogy and Other Poems. Dan is the author of three chapbooks of poetry, Crespuscalario and Seven Steps Up.

If they sometimes seem interchangeable in the minds of White Crane readers it’s because they talk on the phone each day and bask under the shade of the same growing tree, the watering of which they consider their contribution to the continued flowering of gaiety.

You can write them at

WC72 – Letters to the Editors


Allen & Walt

To the editors:

I enjoyed David Carter’s “Poetics and Consciousness” in the Winter 2006/7 issue, but although I respect David as a scholar  and friend, and I consider Allen Ginsberg to be the greatest American poet of the mid-twentieth century, if not the entire century,  I have a few pedantic quibbles with both of them.
Carter says, “…poetry had become a mechanical slave to rhyme and meter before the Beats.”  But Walt Whitman had broken that dependence with the 1855 publication of Leaves of Grass in unrhymed, unmetered free verse.  Many poets before the Beats followed his example.
In a quotation from Ginsberg, the poet cites a 1923 textbook that uses the line “Thou too sail on, O Ship of State.” He complains: “…they had an unaccented mark for O and an accented mark for Ship. ..O is an exclamation, and, by definition, you can’t have an unaccented mark for that and an accented mark for Ship.” Ginsberg was wrong. This use of the word O is called an apostrophe, a direct address to an abstraction, and is not accented.

Carter writes, “When it came time to write ‘Howl,’ it was Kerouac’s example of going with the flow of language based on breath that set Allen free to write such long lines…” Ginsberg (or Kerouac) could as easily have learned that lesson from Whitman, whose long lines got there first: “The smoke of my own breath /… My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the passing of air through my lungs…”
Later in the piece, Carter again quotes Ginsberg’s comments on Whitman, and Ginsberg is again wrong. “Whitman…said he thought that for poets and orators of the future, the great quality would be candor, frankness, truthfulness — like first thought-best thought, the notion of non-manipulative communication rather than trying to dress it up and look good for the public.”

Whitman certainly believed in a tone of candor and frankness,  although he personally didn’t always practice truthfulness (pretending to be one of the “roughs” to attract the working class men who attracted him). He also believed in clarity of style. In his notebooks, he wrote: “Rules for Composition — A perfectly transparent, plate-glassy style, artless with no ornaments, or attempts at ornaments, for their own sake…”
But anyone who sees the numerous, meticulous revisions of his early drafts knows that far from “first thought-best thought,” Whitman followed Wordsworth’s 1798 dictum: “Poetry is emotion recollected in tranquility.”

That being said, Allen Ginsberg is the true poetic descendent of Whitman, both of them great heroes of homoerotic poetry, and of all poetry. It is only because of their importance that we comb their work for details of content and style. David Carter’s work brings credit to Ginsberg’s memory.  I hope to do the same for Whitman.

Thanks for your contribution to Gay thought,

New York, New York

Thanks for the Illumination

Dear Editors,

I just finished the latest issue of White Crane and it moved me profoundly.  For me  it was the finest issue yet, so fascinating, so substantive, so much interesting history, so many very profound issues explored, so many illuminative personalities.  Thanks so much for your work and dedication.
Much love,

New York, New York

On the Bohemian Issue

Nice work men.

A lovely balanced issue with lots of our history that I needed to read.


Twillingate, NL, Canada

We’d love to hear from you.
You know what?  We LOVE hearing from our reader-friends. 
There is nothing we enjoy better. 
So if you have something to say, give us the pleasure of your
communication and let us know what you think!

By Mail:

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This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journal and need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

WC72 – Mark Thompson Interview

72_thompson_2A Fellow Traveler…and Friends
A White Crane Conversation with Artist & Writer Mark Thompson
Bo Young & Dan Vera

Readers of White Crane and anyone with an interest in queer spiritual seeking are, by now, familiar with Mark Thompson as a writer and editor from his trilogy of books: Gay Body, Gay Soul, and Gay Spirit, recently republished by White Crane Books. If you read Gay Soul, you had to be struck immediately with the beautiful portraits of the men Thompson interviewed…not so many will be aware that Mark took these photos.

72_thompson_hayBo Young:
I think most people, when they think of Mark Thompson, think of a writer, not a visual artist. When did you start taking pictures?

Mark Thompson:
Although I am not known for taking pictures, photography has always been a secret muse for me. I started taking pictures in high school. I attended a very progressive, artsy-liberal campus in Carmel, California, during the 1960’s where many alternatives were offered. I remember taking a photography class there, and one of my fellow students was Edward Weston’s grandson. Weston, of course, is one of the consummate photographers of the 20th Century. I greatly admired his work, and in fact could walk a short ways down to Point Lobos and see where he took many of his famous images on my favorites beaches.

Joe_kramer Also not too far from my school was the legendary Friends of Photography gallery where Weston’s peers such as Ansel Adams and Wayne Bullock showed their work. So, I was very inspired to frame and capture my own point of view.

Later, when I moved north to study journalism at San Francisco State University, I continued to take pictures — only now my focus was the burgeoning Bay Area gay liberation movement. Soon, I began my professional career as a journalist and editor at The Advocate, and the pen and tape recorder became my first tools of choice. Plus there were many other very 72_thompson_halltalented photographers on the scene. So I used my lens very selectively, photographing mentors and friends, rather than parades or protests which were then so abundant. Later I focused on documenting the Radical Faerie movement as they were the closest group I could find that mirrored my own hopes and dreams. The Faeries were my own authentic tribe.


The portraits that accompanied the interviews in Gay Soul were yours, too, weren’t they? Are these part of the Fellow Travelers work?


The portraits in Gay Soul (published in 1994) were taken by me to illuminate the speakers and their words. I am reusing six of my favorite images from that book in this collection of 15 “guides” — or gay elders, if you will — and dozens of never-before-seen color images of the Radical Fairies taken over a 15 year period. My black-and-white portraits of early AIDS activist and singer Michael Callen and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe are among the pictures that have not been previously exhibited.


What does the title “Fellow Travelers” mean to you?


“Fellow travelers” for me means being in the company of like-minded companions: Brave brothers who are building a community, moving forward together! It is also a sly reference to the use of the phrase during the early days of the Cold War when people who were accused of being communist sympathizers were dubbed “fellow travelers.” It was a coded word used pejoratively, so I wanted to redeem that and give it a more positive application for today.


So who are the fellow travelers?


Just about everybody who reads this magazine, who has ever attended a Radical Faerie gathering or a Gay Spirit Visions retreat, or has done anything to achieve healing and authenticity as a sublime, radiant, self-actualized and purposeful gay man who loves others like himself.


Well, we certainly hope so…but you haven’t taken pictures of everyone who reads this magazine (I’ll be out for my sitting!) Who are some of the fellow travelers in the book?


Fellow Travelers is divided into two sections: Guides and Tribes. Some of the iconic individuals, or “guides,” who have influenced or touched upon my life in significant ways include James Broughton, Ram Dass, Harry Hay, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Paul Monette. There are many others, of course. The Tribes section contains dozens of pictures taken at various Faerie gatherings held across Western lands during the 1980s and early ‘90s. Some of the images from the first Black Leather Wings Radical Faerie gatherings will probably be controversial to some readers.


Controversial how?


72_thompson_mapplethorpeThe book concludes with powerful images of the Sun Dance and Kavandi rituals, which involves ritual body piercing. Not everyone may understand the cultural context for doing this and therefore be put-off. I hope not, as I do my best to explain the background of these ancient practices and their relevance to the gay men conducting them in the photos. As seen here, spirit and the flesh are truly one.

Each of the men portrayed here, in the Fellow Travelers exhibit and forthcoming book have created important legacies in the form of literature, art, recordings, and ongoing work that exists to enhance our lives. See these photographs as portals of discovery, rather than just black-and-white pictures. If a reader tries a Google search on each of these lives they will be amazed. Delve even further into the work itself and you will be illuminated, entertained, and in some way transformed — as was I.

My collection of photographs is not meant to be encyclopedic or encompassing, in any way, of the countless artists, teachers, and spiritual leaders of the gay men’s movement. Rather these are portraits of some of the men who helped to liberate me, personally.

As Edward Weston so profoundly illustrated, the universal is best captured in a grain of sand.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journal and need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

Mark Thompson is the author of many books, including Gay Spirit: Myth & Meaning from White Crane Books. Mark’s portrait show, Fellow Travelers, is currently showing in NYC at the GLBT Community Center and will travel from there to Washington, DC, Chicago and Philadelphia. Thompson can be reached at

WC72 James Broughton on Cinema

James Broughton on Cinema

White Crane Books is very proud to announce the spring 2007 release of All: A James Broughton Reader, as part of the White Crane Wisdom Series. Edited by poet and Berkeley radio host, Jack Foley, it is a new collection of James Broughton’s poetry, film scripts, and commentary. Broughton, with life partner, Joel Singer, created some of the most avant-garde films of the 1950s, 60s and 70s and fathered a child with legendary film critic, Pauline Kael.  He was a “Walt Whitman of film” and received the American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement award in 1989. No discussion of the spirituality of film and cinema can be complete without his contributions being taken into consideration. Seeing the Light is excerpted from All: A James Broughton Reader portions of which have never before been published.

Seeing the Light, Broughton’s book on filmmaking, appeared from City Lights in 1977. Rewritten, and with a new title, Making Light of It, the book appeared again from City Lights in 1992. The new version began with a glance at Dante’s Vita Nuova: “On a foggy morning in 1946 Sidney Peterson took me to an abandoned cemetery in San Francisco where I discovered a new life.” The selections here are from the 1977 edition. “Follow your own Weird” is Broughton’s transmutation of Joseph Campbell’s phrase, ‘Follow your bliss.” As he did with everything, Broughton constantly mythologizes cinema, seeing it in relationship, not only to himself, but to various worlds and contexts:

When I was 30 my greatest consolation was the thought of suicide. But that was three years before I began to make films. What a lot of vicissitude, ecstasy and ennui I would have missed!
Did the creation of moving black and white images save my life? It is certain that I have never seriously contemplated suicide since. “It takes a long time to become young,” said Picasso.


I am not talking here about going to the movies; I am talking about making cinema. I am talking about the life of vision. I am talking about cinema as one way of living the life of a poet. I am talking about film as poetry, as philosophy, as metaphysics, as all else it has not yet dared to become.


Going to the movies, to indulge your fantasies or to have critical opinions, is certainly one way to pass your time. But it has little to do with the art of bringing the movie to life or bringing life to the movie. Be wary: life is what happens while you are doing something else.


Analytical theorizing is often felt to be “over one’s head.” It is nothing of the sort. It is actually under one’s feet. It is the mud one has to wade through: the bog of literal minds who build labyrinthine swamps of intellect to preserve themselves from direct experience. What is truly over one’s head is the realm of the poetic imagination. As Barnett Newman put it: “Aesthetics is for the artist as ornithology is for the birds.”


Cinema like life is only worth living when it is in the service of something beyond the explicit and the mundane.

When Marianne Moore was asked whether she wrote poetry for fame or for money, she replied, “Are there no other alternatives?”


Every new film begins from scratch, from a roll of blank film, as if one knew nothing at all. Another leap in the dark, another jump off a cliff!


Look at cinema as a mystery religion.

Going to the movies is a group ceremony. One enters the darkened place and joins the silent congregation. Like mass, performances begin at set times. You may come and go but you must be quiet, showing proper respect and awe, as in the Meeting House or at Pueblo dances. Up there at the altar space a rite is to be performed, which we are expected to participate in.


The Secret Name of Cinema is Transformation

Transform transform
anything everything—
stairways into plants
buttercups into navels
icebergs into elephants—
the old scene renewed by seeing
the unseen seen anew

Are you ready and willing to take the Three Vows — the vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience?

Poverty: because you will be forever in debt to the camera store and the laboratory, and will be forever begging from friends and foundations.

Chastity: because you will be wedded to your work and your wildest escapes will be with it.
Obedience: because your life will be in the service of an endlessly demanding tyrant with more heads that a hydra and more legs than a centipede.


The Pledge

I swear to abstain from all ready-made ideas and from all critical assumptions.
I swear to refrain from falling in love with my own footage.
I swear to be precise, ruthless and articulate.
I swear to delight the eye and ear of all creatures.
I swear to attempt the impossible, to exceed myself (no one else), and to venture where no one has ever pushed a button before.
I swear that my aim will always be: to put the right image in the right place at the right time and at the right length.


Don’t waste your time making a film like anyone else’s. That’s duplication of effort. Besides, it won’t be any good. Your business is to make something that neither you nor I have ever seen before. Your business is to make a wonderful new kind of mess in your own way…Your business is to take the risk of your madness. Hello, Columbus.

Excellent strategy: do what you are most afraid of doing. Look what [Stan] Brakhage did. He has always feared death intensely; it has been a constant threatening imminence for him. So, with the courage that has always made him a trail-blazer, he took his camera tightly in hand and went into the city morgue of Pittsburgh and looked closely and filmed unforgettably the forms of death as they had never been seen before: The Act of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes.


If you become familiar with your dreams, you will enter the translucent realm of the archetypes, those potent primal images of mankind. They are much more exciting and abiding than topical events.


“Follow your own Weird.” But this doesn’t mean that all you have to do is turn on the camera and express yourself. Just as talking has nothing to do with creating, self-expression has nothing to do with art. “Anything goes” may be therapy but that is only prelude to the shaping of visions thus discovered.


Perhaps the ultimate avant-garde position: to reach the place where you no longer lean on any object, any reference. Or, as with Krishnamuri, ‘the stairway without any railing.’ Then you might reach the sphere of the innate light, the Mother Light, the light of which all other lights are the children.
Can you go past your dreams to the pure light of dreaming?


For the Brothers of Light Cinema is:

a high form of yoga discipline
a service of prayer and thanksgiving
a translucent mystery
a devotional agony
a quest for ecstasy
a new creation of the world
a society of explorers
a fellowship of the inner radiance
In recent years some particularly movie characters have moved into Oz. One of them is a dowager from the early days, Queen Trixie of Flix, who dwells in the Hall of the Great Silents. She has gotten fat from long sitting, her eyesight is defective, and she no longer knows one movie from another. But her magic movieola is always going and she loves everything she sees.
One of the muses of cinema sometimes visits Queen Trixie of Flix: a shadowy alluring creature, who has a habit of fading out when you need her most, her name is Oblivia. She makes filmmakers obvious of everything but film and then leads them and their works into oblivion.
Some of the other muses of cinema are: Lumena, Opia, Ephemera, Insomnia, Nostalgia, and Synchronicita.
Above all of these is, of course, the great goddess CineMa, whom the residents of Cineoz worship religiously. She is a goddess of Time continually weaving for us and through us the fabric of her illusions of the world. All the movies that we imagine we experience in time are generated for us by her dancing web. Endlessly proliferating, she is our mother, our magic and our despair.


Some Mottos for Editing Room Walls (1992 version)

Compose yourself. Then compose.
Every frame is a moment of Now.
Take nothing for granted.
By all means try all means.
When in doubt, cut.
Attain the inevitable.
Allness is ripe.


Cinema is its own Book of Changes. It has, in the end, little to do with works of art as such. It is not an infinite number of separate “things.” It is a “sensitive chaos” in duration like the Tao. How can you look at something as a public monument when, while you are looking at it, it is already floating down the river into Elsewhere?…the picture you just took of what is happening is not what is happening now.


The Tao of cinema affirms unbroken movement: it never stops, it never turns back, its patterns are real only as they pass. And every observer is himself part of this web-like river. This is the never-ceasing cinema of our light and dark, great and small, dim and bright Yang and Yin.


If you accept the principal of Eternal Change as governing the universe, then to work in a perishable medium like film means that you accept the universe…Either you trust a river, or you don’t. Tao means knowing that you don’t know, and being happy about it.


There is no black and white dualism in Taoist cinema. Its dark is always into its light and its light is always into its dark, for these are not absolutes. They continually flow into one another, overlap, become their opposites. This is symbolized on the revolving reel of the Tai Chi at the beginning and ending of Nuptiae. That symbol is the eternal movie of the Relative Absolute (or Absolute Relative), which might best be expressed by a transcendental double exposure.

Is there a true Taoist film that uses double exposure metaphysically to reveal the play of opposites in every moment of our being? Please try this, someone.


Buddhistically speaking, cinema is just a way of filling the Void.


From the Potted Psalm in 1946 to Erogeny in 1976 I could not have created anything without sharing love with my collaborators. This is a weakness I take delight in. “Relations are real, not substances,” said the Buddha. And the more intense the love, the livelier the work. Eros is a true source of the Light.


All of my own films have been acts of love. They have been made with love and for love, with the love of others and for those whom I loved. And for the most part the theme of all my work is Love: a call for, a quest for, a fete for.

I meant what I said in Testament: I do believe in ecstasy for everyone. There is nothing I would more gladly give to the world, if I could. The ecstatic has been my faith and my adventure.

WC72 – Remembering Vito Russo

72_kant_russo1Gays In/At The Movies:
An Appreciation of Vito Russo

By Arnie Kantrowitz

I dreamed about him again last night. It’s been more than sixteen years since he died, but still he is a part of my every day. Vito Russo was the most life-loving person I ever knew, and it’s not like him to let a little thing like death stand in his way.

In this dream, he had just opened a fabulous new restaurant, and people of every sort were there while he hospitably nodded and conversed — a glass in one hand, a cigarette in the other — gliding through the crowd in a black and white caftan I remember from our summers on Fire Island. Vito loved to entertain as many guests as he could crowd into his small apartment. He mixed doctors and film critics, academics and street drag queens, Lesbian activists and society matrons, and everyone had a good time.

Whenever I ride down Manhattan’s Ninth Avenue, as I pass Twenty-Fourth Street, I look at the building on the northwest corner and remember entering it to the smell of the superintendent’s cat box and climbing up the well-worn stairs to knock on Vito’s door. There was a sort of magic inside, but it was certainly no Disneyland; it was a working-class place, which Vito had dolled up by redecorating along with each new man in a successive line of boyfriends, but whatever changes he made — repainting, refurnishing, even tearing down walls — a picture of his beloved Judy Garland remained in every room.

His kitchen — he loved to cook — was spare, but boasted a collection of French copper pots and a few discreetly placed mousetraps. His bedroom, which had room for little beside its large platform bed, opened onto his narrow office space, where he worked on his many essays and film reviews, along with his masterpiece on Gays in film, The Celluloid Closet. (His original title was "Gays In/At the Movies" until a calmer head prevailed.) His living room was dominated by a movie screen, permanently affixed to a wall. He owned a small collection of feature films and Judy Garland TV specials transferred to film, and a reel of Bette Midler at the Continental Baths. But he borrowed and traded films and always had something new to project when company came, which was most of the time.

72_kant_russo2He employed his sparkling charisma to excite anticipation in his visitors about whatever he was going to show because he loved to watch people watching movies. His favorite film was Caged, featuring Eleanor Parker as a naïve young newcomer to a women’s prison who catches the eye of Lesbian Lee Patrick and grows into a hard-bitten ex-con. He loved its opening words: “Pile out, you tramps. It’s the end of the line.” And he loved the comeuppance of Hope Emerson, the sadistic matron who ends up with a fork stuck in her breast. He had a predilection for films featuring noble women or African-Americans, Gay themes, or camp, which I think he took quite seriously, but he was at home with all movies, doting on a message, a performance, a plot twist or a significant moment. Those moments — sharp dialogue, covert glances, bits of action — collected since he was a boy, had laid the foundation for his encyclopedic knowledge of film.

His mother, Annie, told me he was always running off to the movies as a kid in New York City. She and I found it easy to talk to each other. She had a limited education and a brash New York accent, but she knew the truth when she saw it and wasn’t afraid to say so. She told me that when the family moved to suburban Lodi, New Jersey, Vito said that when he was 21, he was moving back to New York, the capital of glamour, where he belonged. Sure enough, on the morning of his 21st birthday, he came downstairs with his suitcase packed and left for the hardscrabble land of his dreams. The glamour would come, but not until he worked his way to it.

Not long after he arrived in New York and secured a job as a waiter at the Omnibus restaurant in Greenwich Village, the Gay liberation movement exploded in the wake of the Stonewall riots. Just before the end of 1969, a small group of twelve activists split off from the Marxist-oriented Gay Liberation Front to form the more reform-minded, militant, but non-violent Gay Activists Alliance, and soon I was swept up in the movement. A few weeks later, a new friend told me, “There’s a guy you absolutely have to meet,” and we went to the Omnibus for dinner. Vito joined the new group immediately, and in short order, he and I and the organization’s president, Jim Owles, were friends for life. As far as Annie was concerned, his friends were her friends, and his cause was her cause. We were always welcome at her home. When we weren’t at GAA meetings or demonstrations or Sunday brunch, we were running over to each other’s apartments or talking endlessly on the phone. Vito told me, “You can say anything to me, and I won’t go away.” The agreement worked both ways.

The Gay Zeitgeist of the early 1970s was focused on visibility. It created a binary division of straight and Gay for political purposes. Of course, some of us knew from our own experience that sexuality is malleable, but we had chosen the model of a pluralistic political minority, containing middle class white boys, black drag queens, Asians and Latins from Manhattan and the outer boroughs, macho leathermen and Lesbians bent on self-determination. We were seeking equal rights as a voting bloc, and in the name of identity politics, as it came to be known, everyone was either Gay or straight and either in or out of the closet. Bisexuals (though many were among us) were considered semi-closeted Gays, and sleeping with the opposite sex was looked on as a form of treason. When academics began to question the validity of that world-view and spin post-modern theories about the meaning of desire and what that meaning means, Vito had little patience for such ivory tower pursuits, even though he had a Master of Arts degree in film from New York University.

Vito’s roots as a Gay activist informed his criticism of film. For him the questions were about fairness and accuracy, more political than aesthetic issues. Here is an excerpt from a speech he gave at Yale University in 1987:

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journal and need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

Arnie Kantrowitz is professor emeritus of English at the College of Staten Island, CUNY. He is the author of Under the Rainbow: Growing up Gay, an autobiography; Walt Whitman, a Gay biography; and many anthologized essays. He lives in New York with his partner Lawrence Mass.

WC72 – Jim Van Buskirk

Wish Upon a Star
By James Van Buskirk

I don’t remember exactly how old I was when my father gave me a little plastic Jiminy Cricket mini-puppet, only that I was too old to play with such a silly toy. Another inappropriate gift, I thought, in a series of paternal offerings that continually failed to acknowledge who I really was. But I couldn’t help myself. Again and again I absent-mindedly punched the base of the puppet’s plastic platform to watch the limbs of the dapper cricket collapse and then realign. For some reason I kept the toy. My identification with the character seemed to symbolize something.

Perhaps I remembered that Jiminy Cricket had been assigned by the Blue Fairy to be the conscience of Pinocchio, at least in the Walt Disney version of the story. In that animated film, the cricket, who had lived in the wood carver’s house for over 100 years, accompanies Pinocchio through his journey to the discovery of the values that allow him to become a real boy. I guess I’d conveniently forgotten, as Disney seemed to have, that early in the original Carlo Collodi story, Pinocchio smashes the nameless insect against the wall, and that is the end of the character.

As a kid in the pastel, post-war suburb of Buena Park, a few miles from Disneyland, I felt estranged not only from my own family, but also from the neighborhood kids and from my schoolmates. My alienation propelled me to escape into a world of books and movies. As a boy I was different, and even though I didn’t yet know that that difference meant Gay, I knew to keep my heart’s desires carefully hidden. I took the lyrics of Jiminy Cricket’s song to heart, dreaming that he was singing his words of wisdom to me. “When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are, anything your heart desires, will come to you. If your heart is in your dreams, no request is too extreme.”

Pinocchio was not the only film that starred Jiminy Cricket. He appeared in a fire prevention film that I was forced to sit through annually in the cafetorium of Buena Terra Elementary School. After each safety instruction, he would dance and sing, “I’m no fool, nosiree, I’m gonna live to be a seventy three, “and then”…eighty three,” until finally “a hundred and three!” I may have rolled my eyes, but this odd creature and his worldly advice stuck in my psyche. His morning coat, top hat and spats represented sophistication and self-possession. I wanted to be just like him.

Later, listening to songs from the Pinocchio soundtrack album I recognized Jiminy’s voice as that of Cliff Edwards. Known as “Ukulele Ike,” Edwards was a British vaudevillian who from 1929 to 1968 worked on stage, screen and as a singer. I was fascinated that in 1933, seven years before Pinocchio, he had recorded a novelty number called “Come Up and See Me Sometime.” Its suggestive lyrics and campy delivery à la Mae West made me wonder if Cliff Edwards might have been Gay. This thought was encouraged by the fey portrait of him in a book of character actors I once found, despite the fact that he was listed as being twice divorced.

Edwards, it turns out, is buried at Valhalla Memorial Park in Burbank, near the Disney studios, a fact I uncovered on my last trip there to visit my grandmother’s grave. This odd coincidence also made me realize that my father’s name, Edward Riley, and my name, James Edward, together makes us “Edwards.”

When I became lovers with Rob, he willingly played Pinocchio to my Jiminy Cricket. During a visit to Los Angeles, where I was born, we stumbled into “Fantasies Come True,” a shop of Disney collectibles on Melrose Avenue. This mini-museum of Disneyana was familiar from my many visits to the amusement park. Each birthday my brother and I had been offered the choice of a party or a trip to Disneyland. We negotiated so that one of us would choose the party and the other the trip, thus always ensuring at least one annual visit to the Magic Kingdom. Each visit concluded with a trip to the emporium on Main Street where we got to select a small souvenir from among the many Disney tchotchkes.

Here on Melrose, there were Mickeys and Donalds and Sleeping Beauties and Cinderellas. Far fewer were the Jiminies and Pinocchios from which Rob and I purchased appropriate presents for each other. Over the years I collected a placemat, a candle, two music boxes, a plush toy. I had top-hatted crickets of glass, plastic, lead, metal, ceramic. Friends continue to feed my fixation by offering Jiminy cards and gifts.
One Halloween Rob and I made quite a pair as Pinocchio and Jiminy: In a feathered cap, short pants, big bow tie and vest, Rob carried books and an apple. A long plastic nose completed his elfin look. As his loyal conscience, my spats, umbrella, and top hat set off my green-tinted skin. Somewhere a Polaroid photograph preserves the memory of our costumes’ success.

After years of unconsciously assembling these disparate pieces of a puzzle, I noticed several queer artists also deconstructing the Pinocchio story. What is it about this tale that Gay men relate to? Is it the sense that because we feel we are not “real” boys, we are willing to do anything to become real? I tried to apply Jungian archetypes to the story’s characters but got bogged down trying to distinguish the hero from the trickster from the shadow self. Perhaps Jiminy Cricket was a surrogate parent who provided moral guidance, as the Blue Fairy asked him to, but his message was: “Woe to those who revolt against their parents and run away from home. Sooner or later they will repent bitterly.”

My experience has been just the opposite. Over twenty-five years ago I put my heart in my dreams by moving to San Francisco and coming out as a Gay man. Although I physically “ran away” from home many years ago, I am still trying to psychically escape those internalized messages. I spent much of my life trying to be a “good” boy, maintaining the myths of the family, denying my feelings. Revolting against my parents has had a surprisingly profound liberating effect on me. Rather than repenting bitterly, I wish I’d had the courage to do this long ago. It was only after decoding the messages of my family during years of therapy that I have started becoming a “real” boy.

Now, my father has died, Rob and I are no longer lovers. My Jiminy Cricket puppet sits atop my desk reminding me of the wish upon a star. Suddenly I realize it wasn’t that I wanted to be Jiminy Cricket; I wanted Jiminy Cricket. I wanted someone to support and guide and love the real boy that was me. Slowly it dawns on me, my wish is coming true.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journal and need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

Jim Van Buskirk is the Program Director of the James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center of the San Francisco Public Library. This is his first contribution to White Crane.  He can be reached at

WC72 – Donald Boisvert

72_boisvert_2Gay Celluloid Markings  
By Donald L. Boisvert

Movies can mark, in a powerfully visual way, the major transitions or passages in one’s life. Like an old song, seeing them again, or simply conjuring up their names, makes us think of “where we were” at that particular moment in our lives. We do see ourselves reflected in movies, and their stories or characters, real or imagined, often linger in our adult memories and lives. Movies are like a mirror reflecting ourselves, a painting rich with melded colors, a love letter sealed with the kiss of our youth. They compel and define us, sometimes daring us, more often simply opening up our lives to a different way of seeing and feeling. Movies can be prophetic; they condition our lives. This has been the case for me, and a number of specific films have marked my Gay life.

My earliest such memory is Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. I must have been seven or eight years old. I recall sitting in the very back of the theatre and watching the whole thing, wide-eyed, twice in a row. I don’t recall precisely what it was that so awed me. It could have been the rich color of the production, or the very diabolical looking larger-than-life bad queen, or perhaps it was the sheer romance of the whole thing, or even my own inchoate fantasy of wanting to be awoken from a long sleep by a brave and handsome prince. I suspect it may have had a great deal to do with my best friend Edward sitting next to me in the dark. Perhaps his body was leaning ever so lightly on mine. I really don’t recall. I do remember that there was a considerably older usher who smiled at me attractively. Perhaps he was the one who leaned his princely body into mine. Perhaps, like the sleeping princess, I wanted him to carry me away to live with him happily ever after in the enchanted forest. We would have the seven dwarfs as our neighbors, and Pinocchio and Peter Pan would come for dinner parties, and we would all make believe we were asleep so we could be kissed awake by elegant passing princes.

A few years later, I found myself in a different country. Our local church would organize Saturday afternoon film screenings for the kids in the parish. Because I was an altar boy, I would often be asked to serve as prefect to help keep a room full of hormone-crazed boys in some semblance of order. They showed a series of chintzy French films depicting the travels and adventures of Sinbad the Sailor. Sinbad was an often semi-clad, slightly Middle Eastern swarthy-looking muscular character, who spent most of his time swinging from ropes and fighting off nasty pirates. I was in love. He no doubt appealed to my need for adventure, though his brawny body was definitely an added bonus. The church auditorium itself was a turn-on: all those preening and rambunctious boys oozing a slight aroma of spent bodily fluids. I imagined all of us as traveling with Sinbad on his white-sailed ship: fighting and cavorting, laughing and loving, happy as only carefree and dirty boys together can be. But I would be in charge: forcing these wild teenage sailors to obey my commands and fulfill my every wish. They would no doubt rebel, but that was the secret thrill of it. We all knew resistance could only sharpen desire.

Fast forward several years when, as a young adult and a seminarian, at the tail end of that gloriously mad decade of the 1960s, I saw Midnight Cowboy, no doubt one of the truly great films of all times. So much has stuck with me: the clumsy charm and cocky daring of Jon Voight’s cowboy persona, the brilliant montage of Dustin Hoffman’s Ratso, the exotic and slightly repelling underbelly of New York City depicted as a modern-day version of Dante’s Inferno, the unspoken, yet brave love between the two male characters. As with many others, I saw in this film a contemporary parable. Yet the film opened up other vistas, most having to do with the forces then pulling at me. Here I witnessed sex as a hunger and desperate need, and as a source of power and money. On the screen was reaffirmed my conviction that affection between men was a good and noble thing. In my church-induced religious idealism, I saw Ratso as a Christ figure, dying to save his friend from physical and spiritual perdition. Only months after first seeing the movie, I actually found myself living in New York for an entire summer. It was here that I experienced the first real doubts about my vocation. It was as though the Cowboy had cast a spell over me, gently forcing my head onto his lap, giving me what I had always craved. I had yet to realize that I would have to pay him for the privilege.

That very same New York summer, I was hit full-faced by the glorious and stylish bitchiness of The Boys in the Band. Some may argue that the film is homophobic, laced through as it is with Gay self-loathing. There is a measure of truth to this assertion. But for an 18-year-old who had never really been away from the closed world of the seminary, and who knew, deep-down, that he was what he was, this unusual movie came as a liberating force, compelling me to look at, and secretly long for, the campy fun and good times that the boys on the screen were obviously having. Boys gave me my first vicarious taste of Gay life. It seemed to be a life full of witty and sparkling repartee, of handsome men in tight shirts and even tighter pants, and of intimate dinner parties where alcohol flowed desperately freely — not really all that far off from what Gay lives in the 70s turned out to be like, at least for some of us. The film also told me that I was part of a privileged group with its own codes and habits, that there were men out there who truly enjoyed being with each other, and that, though difficult, we could still arrive at some way of living with ourselves and with each other. All in all, this was not such a bad life lesson to be taught, to say nothing of the memorable one-liners that I have overused at many a glittering dinner party.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journal and need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

Donald L. Boisvert has published several books and articles on Gay spirituality. He is a frequent contributor to White Crane and lives in Montréal, where he teaches religion and sexuality studies.

WC72 – In Memoriam Barbara Gittings & Ralph Walker

Barbara Gittings  July 31, 1932 – February 18, 2007

An Appreciation by David Carter

It was a short while ago in historical terms that if a teenager who felt she might be lesbian bought a novel about lesbians and her father found the book, he could feel it such a terrible thing that he could not bring himself to speak about it to his daughter but would instead write a letter — even though they lived under the same roof — instructing her to get rid of the novel. He might even say that the novel must not be discarded, for then the evil pages might fall into the hands of another: the book must be burned! Such a teenager might then go seek information in libraries but find only subject headings such as “sexual perversion” and “abnormal psychology.” Finally, the youth, though qualified for membership in an honor society, could be rejected on grounds of “character” on the mere suspicion that she was attracted to other girls.

That we no longer live in such a society is in some part due to all of the above having happened not to a fictional girl but to Barbara Gittings, who then went on to dedicate her life to fighting for the rights and dignity of lesbians and gay men.

She founded the first East Coast branch of the Daughters of Bilitis, America’s first national lesbian organization, and edited the organization’s magazine, The Ladder. She used her editorship to try to push for a more militant stance as well as a more positive and visible image of lesbians, which resulted in her being fired as editor. She took part in the earliest gay pickets from 1965 to 1969 and later became active in the Gay Activists Alliance, an organization her lover, Kay Tobin Lahusen, helped found. She assisted her colleague Frank Kameny in challenging the Defense Department’s efforts to revoke security clearances held by gay people in private industry. She and Lili Vincenz were the first lesbians to appear on a nationally syndicated TV show. Gittings also played a key role in challenging the American Psychiatric Association, which classified homosexuality as a mental illness. She became a leader in the American Library Association Gay Task Force and helped change the way libraries treated gay books. She was on the first boards of both the National Gay Task Force and the Gay Rights National Lobby (the forerunner of the Human Rights Campaign).

She did all this and much more while living on low-paying clerical jobs. More impressively, she was a most sweet and loving lady and remained deeply humble even at the end of her life when organizations competed to honor her and name awards after her. No wonder that Frank Kameny called her the “Founding Mother” of the gay movement and after her death wrote that she was “one of a kind in my own life,” and Arthur Evans said, “She was one of the most decent people I’ve ever known. She brought out the best in everyone.”

Truly, Barbara, we will not see your like again.

Ralph Walker  May 27, 1919 – January 6, 2007

An Appreciation by Sunfire

Retreats at Easton Mountain, typically begin and end with a circle. I can’t count the number of circles I’ve been part of there, but I do know where and when I participated in my first circle of Gay men. It was in the winter of 1980, at the Barn, which was the home of Ralph Walker, the founder of The Loving Brotherhood.
I had joined that organization a few months before, and I came to The Barn not knowing whether to expect a prayer meeting or an orgy. I found a bit of both. I also found in Ralph, a man committed to a spiritual life, though not always sure of the direction his spiritual life was taking.

Ralph introduced me to A Course in Miracles, but that was just one of the ways he fostered my spiritual growth. By bringing together Gay men with a passion for a spiritual life, he showed us all what was possible.

For about twenty-five years, Ralph edited and published the organization’s monthly journal, often folding and mailing all the copies himself. For many Gay men, his voice was one of the few voices telling us that we as Gay men could have spiritual lives — lives rich in meaning and connected to the Divine.
Ralph Walker does not leave a legacy as recognized as Harry Hay’s. But his work was just as important. Over the life of the Loving Brotherhood, about two thousand men joined the organization. Many of them Ralph knew personally. With letters and long phone conversations he guided many of us through troubled times. He encouraged us to take an active role in political causes and to ground that activism in a very real spirituality. He constantly worked on his own spiritual growth. I wasn’t always ready to follow him in all the paths he explored. He didn’t expect me to.

Early in my friendship with Ralph, I remember his commenting on Last Letter to the Pebble People, a book about how friends supported a dying man. His words, after reading that book, were, “Death is a Victory.”

So, Ralph, congratulations on your victory. No one can really know the full extent of your influence — the number of lives you touched and helped and sometimes rescued. If, Ralph, you have a chance now to speak to God in a way that’s more direct than we have here on earth, please tell God that I’m grateful for your life, and the example you gave to all Gay men.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journal and need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

WC72 – The Everyday Sacred

Everyday Sacred

Abundance and Wealth by Donald L. Engstrom-Reese

One of the great confusions that appears to touch all aspects of our contemporary lives, is the idea that abundance is a synonym for material wealth. It seems a given in this culture, that abundance is measured by how much we own; be it dollar bills, houses and cars, diamond rings, material goods of any kind. For that matter, many have forgotten that there is a definition of wealth which holds a meaning far beyond a corporate capitalist’s definition.

The Oxford defines it thus:

abundance – 1. Overflowing state or condition; superfluity; hence, loosely, plentifulness. 2. A large quantity, or (less correctly) number. 3. Affluence
wealth – 1. The condition of being happy and prosperous; well-being. 2. Prosperity consisting in abundance of possessions; riches, affluence. 3. Economies. A collective term for those things the abundant possession of which constitutes riches or ‘wealth’ in the popular sense. 4. Plenty, abundance, profusion (of what is specified).

Those of us called to Queer Spirit and/or to other cutting edge spiritual traditions are reawakening to an abundance understood by our ancestors that many of us never learned about in our schools, homes and workplaces. We are tasting an abundance in our day to day lives that hitherto, had only been tasted in our dreams; both in our day dream wanderings into the realms of possibility untouched by poverty, alienation and hatefulness and our night dreams which have lead us into sweet visions of a transformed life cherished by spirit.

Our sense of wealth and abundance is no longer tied to any particular economic system. Nor is it any longer tied to large bank accounts and hoarded goods. Wealth and abundance is simply living a life with all senses honed and alert, consciously filled with wonder and curiosity. It is a life immersed in glory and graciousness. It is a life rich with relationships. It is a life that consciously surrounds itself with beauty. It is a life filled with sensual pleasures and that chooses to embrace the majesty of everyday life. It is a life that knows when enough is enough.

It appears to me, that post-modern spirit people of all traditions are choosing to become major players in co-creating the sustainable abundance and wealth which are foundational to the emerging Cultures of Beauty, Balance and Delight. Just what do I mean by Cultures of Beauty, Balance and Delight? These are the currently emerging cultures that, among other things;

  1. Focus on transforming the relationships between the human made worlds and the natural realms into loving, sustainable and joyful partnerships,
  2. Choose to live life fully awake, aware and co-creatively,
  3. Are dedicated to pleasure and beauty,
  4. Embrace an ethics of justice and fair play,
  5. Delight in the authentic lives of it’s individuals and communities,
  6. Are willing to accept the consequences of their choices, learn from them and then move on,
  7. Remember that there is always a choice,
  8. Are spinning cosmologies clearly naming love and compassion as foundational underpinnings of the multiverse,
  9. Are committed to abundance and joy.

I am noticing that Queer Spirit people are not only mingled through out the many groups embracing these and other cutting edge ways of being, but are some of the primary voices naming the possibilities emerging from these cultures. I am noticing that we, Queer Spirit people, are essential to restoring and expanding the current definitions of what it is to live wealthy lives of abundance.

More and more Queer Spirit folk are using our own lives to flaunt our notions of abundance and wealth. I have noticed us shamelessly and publicly expressing our queer wealth by the ways we dress, decorate, eat, garden, make love, travel and just plainly celebrate our choices as out confident Queer Spirit folks in a culture consumed by greed and fear.

Queer Spirit people, as do many Earth Centered folk, have the advantage of the outsider looking into the ringing hollow calling out for meaning and substance at the heart of the over culture. We have noticed that this heart has lost its paths to sustainable lives of joy and plenty. Frankly, we are people who have worked hard to remember the ways of those lost paths while learning to live on the razor sharp edges of those over cultures because we simply wanted to survive. But now, not being satisfied with mere survival, we have kept moving forward along unknown roads of possibility. We have dared to create new standards of wealth and abundance to not only maintain our very sanity in this culture, but for the very real pleasures and wonders such explorations have brought to us and our feres.

Queer Spirit people are still feeling the stirring of ancient memories in our bones and blood. With each breath we take, we are awaking further to the fact that we have always been and will always be Living Treasures of planet Earth. This has led many of us to consciously choose to claim our places as co-creators of the multiverse. We are recognizing anew that all Treasures of all kinds; rocks, rivers, plants, animals, planets, stars, Mysterious Ones, ancestors, etc., are eternally co-creating the multiverse together in every instant of every second. This has encouraged us to deepen our relationships to all being-ness, adding immeasurably to our sense of place in an abundant cosmos.

Queer Spirit people are choosing to actively claim our places as co-creators of this and all of our worlds. We are choosing to claim our joyful obligations as spiritual leaders in the human realms. Queer Spirit folk are a people who have dared to learn from the past, while not being afraid to look for new ways of building and maintaining sustainable abundant lives on planet Earth. We find ourselves in the 21st century, continuing to learn how to more consciously choose to take on our co-creators’ responsibilities with dedication, respect and sincerity. We are modeling how to learn to embrace optimism and hope well tempered by the flaming realities of the current situations on this planet. We are learning anew the ancient knowledge, where two or more peers agree on an idea, that agree to invest their skills and time to manifest that idea, that agree to trust each other’s expectations, judgments, abilities, and contributions and that agree to trust in the mystery of co-creation, nothing is impossible!

Queer Spirit folk are again finding ourselves facing the opportunity to join other people of spirit, in bringing this understanding of abundance, this knowledge of well-being, to the forefront of human consciousness.

As we prepare to step into these challenges, I suspect that it behoove us to honestly ask ourselves a few questions.

  • Do we have the courage to act on our dreams with graciousness and compassion?
  • Do we dare to openly live lives of spirit and act accordingly?
  • Do we dare to publicly take the hands of our Druid, Heathen, Wiccan, Shaman, Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim and other peers as we dance together the magic of this great dance?
  • Do we dare to embrace the realities inherent in nurturing the incredibly diverse authentic communities sprouting up around the world?
  • Do we dare to dwell in beauty, balance and delight?
  • Do we dare to declare, as a core truth, the understanding that abundance and wealth are the birthright of all beings?

What will we choose to do? How will we support and nurture each other as we continue this great adventure? What other questions would be good to ask of ourselves? Perhaps it would be a good time to sit down with one another, over a nice cup of tea, and ask them of each other as we witness the wealth of spring emerge, yet one more time?

May abundance and joy flow through our lives like a wild, untamed river.

Bless the Bees.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journal and need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

A longtime activist in gay spirituality, Donald Engstrom/Reece’s work dates back to the mid-1970s when he took part in early consciousness raising communities in the Midwest — communities that foreshadowed later Radical Faerie developments in the early 1980s. In the 1980s he began doing work with the Reclaiming Community and hosted the first Faggot Witch Camps. He lives in Minneapolis with his partner and travels around the country doing work in the Reclaiming Tradition. “The Everyday Sacred” is a regular feature in White Crane.