Intention White Crane Journal #51 Winter 2001/02
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Principle and Perception Walter Starcke Let Us Pray for Our Enemies Clayton Gibson-Faith Seeing with Different Eyes Toby Johnson Fiction: Dream Lover Matin K. Smith Outspirit James E. Nicholson
The Third Testament by the Brothers Zinzendorf Steven LaVigne Beloved Testament by E.J. DiStefano Steven LaVigne Red Heifer by Luther Butler Steven LaVigne Mortal Love by Franklin Abbott Kevin Bothwell
R.I.P. George Harrison Toby Johnson
One of the major concerns of religion and spirituality is how to influence the future so that bad things don't happen and desired things do. In theistic religion, this is accomplished by praying to God for his aid and protection. In nature religion, it's accomplished by bringing one's fears and desires into harmony with the natural flow of life. In the various esoteric and occult spiritualities (from freemasonry to witchcraft, Hermeticism to Kabbala, A Course in Miracles to est, Religious Science to the New Age), it is accomplished by tapping the individual creative powers by which human beings construct the world of their personal experience.
This power is believed to be tapped and modulated by the thought forms we humans put out. The world you see is the world being created inside your mind by the fulfillment of your expectations. These expectations, of course, do not exist in a vacuum. They are constantly being affected by the creative power and expectations being put out by all the other people around you. The way to manage some control of what is happening is to consciously exercise your creative powers--mythologized as God the Father--by setting out a clear intention for what you would have happen. Instead of letting life happen to you, willy-nilly, in obedience and submission to the will of your culture and society, you can shape your destiny by knowing what you want, why you want it and what good will come of it if you get it and then holding a firm intention and expectation that this is what will happen. Whether there's any magic in this or not, it certainly sets up self-fulfilling prophecies and molds your choices and predilections so the desired ends come about. What is certainly true is that if you don't have any clear intention for what you want, you aren't very likely to get it.
There's a Zen story about a Master who makes fun of his students' slavish devotion to meditation by polishing a floor tile saying he's going to make it a mirror. When a visiting Master tells him that's impossible, he answers that just so meditating all day long cannot make one a buddha. But, he quickly adds, unless you do the meditation you will never become a Buddha. You have to do the work for what you want, but you must also be open to the "magic" that will finally make it happen.
New Age notions of Creative Visualization teach that you can create whatever future you want by forming a picture in mind of how things will look when you get it, holding that image faithfully but lightly, and believing that as you intended so will it be done.
The gay community got suckered into this kind of wishful thinking in the early days of the AIDS crisis. New Age gurus told the first wave of PWAs that they were sick because they didn't love themselves enough and that by looking in a mirror and telling themselves they were lovable they could invoke the power of intention to heal themselves. Those mirrors might as well have been floor tiles! Those men are dead. Though surely some of them died loving themselves and their lives as never before, transformed by the experience of focusing their intention.
But, surprise, twenty years later, AIDS is a very different disease. All those intentions that AIDS not kill did work, but not quite the way the gurus promised or the dying had hoped. In fact, the amelioration of the epidemic came from ACT UP's noisy demonstrations and gay health activists making demands of the CDC (and drug companies competing to find more profitable drugs). And yet the miracle did happen. The intentions were fulfilled. They did what they were supposed to do: create a universe in which AIDS is manageable (even if still terrible). And they did it through real things.
In this issue, White Crane considers the topic of INTENTION. I think you'll find an interesting variety of viewpoints. Some of the writers echo the notions of the practice of Creative Visualization. Most add a twist here or there to explain the practice without exactly promising the magic--at least not as magic.
Intention (and healing!), after all, isn't magical. It doesn't come in the form of deus ex machinas or sudden interruptions of natural processes. Intention just sets up the conditions for the future. In a way, intention isn't actually about the future at all. It's about understanding the present. Being clear on your intention is not about what will happen some day, it's about what you are really feeling and thinking and being conscious of right now. In that sense, investigating how you see the world and what you hope for from it is a reminder to be aware now, to live in the presence of what is coming into creation in the only time there is: the present moment.
In that experience of presence we touch the power of God. We feel it working through us. And, in that perfect present moment, when we're at one with the creative power of the universe, the future doesn't matter at all. You are in the only time there is. You are dancing the Great Dance. And it's just right.
If everybody in the world were living in that perfect, just right moment, then everybody's creative power would be focused on making the next moment just right too. And that would be the salvation of the world.
White Crane is especially pleased to present Marty Smith's short story Dream Lover. It delightfully caps the discussion with that perfect wisdom. The last months of the year of 2001have seen a dramatic change of things on Earth. The Letters column addresses the beginning of the Terrorist War with characteristically gay sensitivity and insight into the nature of fundamentalism (and I take the opportunity to share a tribute to George Harrison). Let's hold in mind the collective intention that our gay spiritual consciousness contribute to the mystical evolution of humankind.
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Principle and Perception
Now we come to the subtle, but necessary, metaphysical difference between concepts and perception. Though they are often used interchangeably, concepts and percepts are not the same. Concepts are objective; they have taken form. How we perceive of circumstances is subjective. Our perceptions dictate the spirit that is inherent in our concepts. Just as "in the beginning is the Word, and the Word is made flesh," in the beginning are our perceptions and those perceptions then become our formed concepts. We are all made in the image of God, but as long as we entertain a false perception of who we are, we can't live it. Spiritually speaking, in order to change ourselves or change someone else, it does not mean we have to change who they or we are. We have to change our way of perceiving who we or they are.
Webster's Dictionary says that a concept is something that is conceived in the mind, and that to perceive comes from a Latin root word, "percipere," which means "to take hold of." By perceiving them, concepts become objects you take hold of. What you take hold of becomes that which is real to you. It follows that how you perceive reality actually creates your reality. Again, a Trinity experience takes place. Your perception is the father and your spirit is the mother that conceives and gives birth to the son, your concept. The three are one. As such, a concept does not exist apart from how the mind perceives it and how the spirit animates the concept.
A great number of metaphysicians and others unwittingly make a wrong turn by perceiving humanhood as something separate and apart from God. When we judge anything in the visible scene as anything other than a materialized conception, we are conceiving of an effect as something other than cause and are placing ignorance before truth.
I am pounding away at the importance of perception and concepts because there is an ancient mystery school secret involved with the power of concepts. As is the case with most alchemists' secret, where they transmute base metal into gold, it is so simple that we cannot believe it: never deal with a problem at the level of the problem. Change your concept and the appearance will change. If through our perceptions our conceptions come out of pure Love, the Christ is born.
Personally, I don't want to save the world. I don't think it needs saving, but when I see someone crying out in pain while continuing to hit their thumb with a hammer, I naturally feel inclined to say "Stop. You don't need to do that. Change the way you perceive of the situation that causes you pain and your imagination will stop creating it." Though it may not be as obvious as a hammer blow, when the Scripture says "Judge not that ye be not judged, " it is saying that we become what we perceive and conceptualize.
We hear that we should not judge, but few people tell us why judgment is something to be avoided. It is a mistake to judge because when we judge we are acknowledging that the concept we entertain has power, and, by doing so through our perception, we give it power. We become what we judge. There are no two ways about it. Whatever law we perceive, we dignify and empower.
God's creations are actual and not changeable; so we have a yardstick by which we can check to see if our concepts reflect reality or if they are judgments. Behind all appearances there is an unchangeable reality; therefore, if a concept can be changed it is not to be taken as ultimate reality. When our scientists tell us something has to be seen in order to exist, they confirm that what we perceive with our eyes is a creation of our minds or consciousness, rather than a true fact. Mystics are individuals who are so subjectively aware of the truth of being that though they see material objects they do not believe that cause is material. They have found that by changing their perception of what claims to be taking place, the forms that appear change accordingly. That, of course, is the secret of spiritual healing.
Spiritual healings are the result of altered perceptions. By double thinking, we can constantly remember reality (it is all God) and we can act upon that truth rather than re-act to the changeable concepts with which we are confronted. The way we can be in the world and not react to it is to constantly perceive that within every person, place, or situation is something spiritual that is unchangeable. Within every form or concept, there lies hidden something that is permanent--the presence of God, Spirit, or essential being.
Since recorded history; those people who have offered the most to society, who have added to the betterment of humankind, who have created inspired art, who have contributed to those scientific breakthroughs that have made life more manageable, have all claimed that life is meaningless without a faith in God. Ask them to define God and you would have as many different descriptions as there are people you have asked. However, they all have one common denominator--they all have faith.
Faith is not something you think or feel. It is something you do that can take you from finite limitation into infinite possibility. I, for one, found out a long time ago that I could not live without faith, but it took me even longer to realize that faith was not something that worked on me from outside of myselL My having faith was not as though I would blindly push a button that would turn on some outside godly resource. Faith is not an invisible servant that is there to do my bidding on call. Faith is something I must do--something I must do that empowers me.
Scripture tells you, "...if ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. " However, when you discover what faith is, you will find that misguided faith can also cause mountains to fall on you as well. Whatever you have faith in, you create--good or bad. When the principle of faith becomes a conscious activity, your destiny is in your own hands, and you no longer need to look to a God outside of yourself for protection or success. When you consciously know how and why faith works, superstition is replaced by knowledge and you go beyond having faith into being faith-full "and nothing shall be impossible unto you."
What actually is faith? All of our lives we have been told we should have faith. Though Paul said that "faith is the substance of things hoped for," no one has told us what faith really is or how it works. Sure, the dictionary says that faith was derived from the Latin word "fidere" which means to trust, but what makes trusting work? Everything we have in life and every situation in which we find ourselves is the result of an activity of faith; so what is it?
Let me cut to the chase: Faith isn't something we have; faith is something we do. Faith is an energy; Faith is the power inherent in what we see or perceive. If faith is the substance of things hoped for, then faith becomes our "seeing" because what we image or see manifests outwardly in form.
Starting with the First Chapter of Genesis, God first had an idea and then actively "saw" it fulfilled. Remember, at each stage he had a concept and then saw that it was good. We, too, have to complement our ideas with seeing them in order for them to come into being. Just having an idea isn't enough. We have to complement it with the energy of seeing it happening. That seeing is what faith is. When we say that someone has faith, it means they have seen and been convinced that the harmony they seek will come about, and it does to the degree that they see it.
Faith is the seed we plant in consciousness. The Scripture says "Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed... " Those seeds, like the mustard seed, symbolize seed-thoughts. "In the beginning was the Word (the seed), and the Word was made flesh," means that the word is a seed that is planted in consciousness, and then by being "seen" becomes flesh. That is faith in action. When our seed-thoughts are conceived of and then seen as reality, they complement each other and become activated faith. Faith that succeeds is not something that happens from outside. It is the result of our seeding our own thoughts in consciousness, and then faithfully energizing them by seeing them into being.
In Genesis, it says that while we are still at the earth level, the level of personal sense, we have a time to plant our seeds and a time to harvest the results. But, through Spirit, the planting and harvesting can be instantaneous, as Jesus said, "Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you; Lift up your eyes (your seeing), and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest." When we need something and can see it into being, miraculously the harvest will appear.
Whether you know it or not, you are having faith all day long, because you are constantly planting thought-seeds and seeing them in your mind's eye. That is why I say that misguided faith can produce negative results as well as positive ones. It depends on what you have faith in, what you seed ("see" with the addition of a "d.")
We plant the seed and then we wait. However, waiting is not static. Waiting is not silent resignation. It is active service. In the same way that we are waited on in a restaurant or a store, we must wait on God, wait on the principles of faith to be active as our consciousness. We must see it, serve it, love it, honor it, and actively co-create with the divine process of imagination. "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."
You have been given an insurance policy, a spiritual law for faith; a law that will assure you that faith will create your highest good. That law is "seek (see) ye first the kingdom of God." Plant that spiritual seed, see it, and your faith-full seeing will create it in form. Make sure that the seed you are planting is spiritual, is constituted of love and divinity. Have faith that God's will is being done, not will be, or should be, but see it as being done. "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me (in your inner self) " Plant yourself in God. Then you will have gone beyond faith, because you will "be" faith.
Until one has gone beyond prayer, one most likely thinks of prayer as something one does. When we think or say prayers, we are indulging in an objective approach. To go beyond praying is to "be" prayer. In order to do that, you have to transcend conscious thought by merging with the process. You have to see yourself as "being prayed" rather than as praying. Both thought-filled prayer and experiential prayer have value, and either, when exclusive of the other, may find itself unsuccessful. Unless conscious seeds of faith accompany the experience, there is no direction, and unless thoughtful prayer is spiritually experienced, it is a futile endeavor.
Many have been led up the garden path by having been told that they should "pray without ceasing." If they see prayer as an objective act, then to pray without ceasing would mean they would have to be thinking of prayers all day long. Many in and out of monasteries have tried this by either countless repetitions of mantra-like prayers or by hours upon hours of sitting, kneeling, or bending in prayer. Others have believed that there is the possibility of being so selfless as to be able to live at a permanently impersonal level of Higher consciousness, but they have failed, because totally transcending the personal while still in a body is impossible. Jesus didn't.
In the new paradigm, at which time we go beyond old concepts of prayer, both the act of praying and the experience of spirit fit together in a perhaps surprising way, a way that takes us beyond prayer. For instance, some people believe that a mystic is someone whose thoughts are constantly on God; however, a modern mystic is one who has reconciled life into a oneness where it is all God. He or she may only pray or meditate for a relatively short period every morning, and not at all throughout the day or night unless something calls on him or her to return to a conscious realization of oneness. In other words, modern mystics have a time when they consciously meditate, when they clean the slate, tune in to the Spirit, and receive guidance. However, for the rest of the day, they go about the business of living or working without consciously thinking of God or "beingness" because they are actually being it. That is, they do until or unless something comes up that signals them to return to their center, to stop whatever they are doing, and remake contact.
There is a golden key that unlocks the mystery of prayer. Complicated theologies, superstitious rituals, and elaborate metaphysics can lead you further away from the mystery, until you finally realize that there is no wrong way and no right way to pray All roads lead equally to Rome if, at the center of your heart and soul, the one magical element that transcends all others is pure--your intent.
The intellect with all its often inhibiting shortcomings and confusions is set aside if at a level beyond thought or theory your intent is to evoke the Spirit of the divine in and as your life. No matter what church you do or do not go to, no matter how well you know the Bible, no matter how much time you spend praying, no matter if you feel you have never experienced God, if your intent is pure and heartfelt, you can put aside everything that has gone before and the miracle will ultimately happen.
God is not mocked. Despite the jungle of words and thoughts, your unconscious soul knows the purity of your love and desire. Your intent is the altar upon which the Sacrament rests. It is how you take communion with your Holy Self. It is the magical key that opens the door to prayer. Honor it. Keep it pure and it will pray you.
The Eleventh Step in AA, which is arrived at after making contact with God, asks that we do His will and that we have the power to carry it out. The Twelfth Step acknowledges having received awakening and it asks that we dedicate ourselves to living by that experience. Finally, after the twelve steps have been taken, disturbing as it may seem, we find there is another step to take--a Thirteenth Step--a step beyond being an instrument for God or of doing God's will. As long as we think in terms of doing God's will, as though it is or could be other than our own wills, there are still "two," something that needs to be united with something else. As long as we think of achieving union with God, we have yet to see that right now we are already God appearing as us. Right this minute, we are all that God is. When we experience that, we will have taken the Thirteenth Step.
The Thirteenth Step is the step beyond deity. Ancient Yogis or sages in both India and the West have tried to propose this totally absolute step, but because evolution itself had not progressed to the place that it is now, that step could not be explained or lived by the majority. In the past, it was thought that taking the Thirteenth Step meant rejecting the world and one's humanity, that taking the step beyond concepts meant transcending all action, and that unity and multiplicity were in conflict. Our evolved ability to simultaneously think from two different viewpoints or dimensions now makes it possible for us to be aware of and live in both the visible world of personal sense and the invisible world of Spirit without being caught between two worlds and without denying individuality or contradicting our absolute oneness. The Thirteenth Step does away with the limited, abstract, and remote concepts we have assumed God to be, or at least takes us beyond the limits of anything we have been able to conceive of as God.
As long as God remains only a thinkable concept to you, you are still in the past. Until you know what it means to experience the Spirit beyond words and thoughts, the Thirteenth Step cannot be taken. Each previous concept of God leading up to your experiencing union with God brings you closer to a sense of One being. Finally, you come to the Thirteenth Step, a step beyond being a channel for God or beyond hearing God's words, as though God is other than your own self. That step is taken when the concept of God "and" is replaced by the realization that everything including your own self is God appearing "as." This final step allows you to be active in the world without duality because you realize everything is God appearing individually.
Does going beyond God "and" mean that there is no God to call on? Certainly not. If God is the Infinite Source within you, when you call on God you are calling on your own Higher Consciousness, and that is as necessary and mysterious as it ever was. That kind of prayer is the only way you can go beyond past concepts.
Let me repeat--there is no way you can possibly go beyond words and thoughts unless you have become consciously aware that it is all God.
Walter Starcke's most recent book, from which this article was excerpted, was titled It's All God. It was reviewed in last summer's WCJ #50. It's available from Guadalupe Press, P O Box 865, Boerne TX 78006. $15.95 + $3 p&h. 830 537 4655
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Let Us Pray for Our Enemies
When I was in college, a private and conservative institution, an unusual and impromptu revival occured on campus. For several days, the school's chapel was packed for hours a night with individuals publically confessing their self-perceived "sins" and hundreds of others witnessing those confessions--a cathartic process both moving and disturbing. I went one evening to observe--having nothing to confess, I thought.
As the crowd sweated and wept and prayed, caught up in an emotionally charged "King Mob," I realized I wanted to speak. Now, as the only (and decisively) "out" person on campus, I had some infamy and responsibility. I could not, in good conscience, encourage these kids' self-identification as less-than-worthy, since I disagreed with their pervasive idea that human beings are created dirty and imperfect by God. At the same time, I felt it important that I participate, contradicting the stereotype that LGBT people are anti-Spirit and offering an alternative spiritual point of view. I got out of my pew and joined the line filing toward the microphone without knowing what I would say.
The chapel was still full, standing room only, when I reached the front. Over a thousand faces turned toward me. I waited for silence and for words. When they were quiet, I said, "Most of you know I'm gay, but I'm not up here to confess the 'sin' of homosexuality; I don't believe in 'sin.' But I am up here to ask for your forgiveness." Curious silence. "I owe each of you an apology. I have prejudged you. It's so easy after one experiences some prejudice to assume that everyone is a bigot. I almost didn't participate, actually I almost didn't come, because I was afraid that I would be unwelcome. I'm sorry that I have lived in fear of most of you, because I judged you without knowing you. I assumed that you were my enemy, without ever asking you. I've treated you as 'the other' in many ways, and I apologize. I don't want to live in fear. I don't want to feel separate from you. One of the sacred books of my tradition is the Chinese Tao Te Ching, and it says, 'There is no greater illusion than fear, no greater wrong than preparing to defend yourself, no greater misfortune than having an enemy. Whoever can see through all fear will always be safe...' I guess that's it. Thanks."
There was a moment of silence, then some applause as I recessed down the center aisle. People came out from the pews, friends and strangers alike, to embrace me. I was told later that it was a powerful experience for many people who heard me that night. Ever since, I've been very aware of when I am prejudging others--especially heterosexuals and particularly our "enemies."
Frequently in our struggle for full, unequivocal legal and ecclesiastical equality, we demonize and distance ourselves from those with whom we disagree. Like any abused creature, we growl and bark, and occasionally bite, the one who hurt us in the past. We can even see how we directly "make" our own enemies, giving them power and influence just by virtue of our defensive reaction to their anti-gay activities--we've given them more free publicity than they could ever have afforded! It's a basic metaphysical Law, folks: "That which you pay attention to, you get more of." It's not unlike the Law of karma, that what you put out into the universe comes back to you sevenfold.
Of course, the Law of Attention doesn't mean to not pay attention! We have choices about how we pay attention to our "enemies." We can hate them, fear them, call them names, lampoon them, counter them, fight them with every ounce of our being--or we can forgive them and develop compassion for them.
A Course In Miracles teaches that forgiveness is necessary, not because others have actually wronged us, but because we participated in believing in our vulnerability. We are culpable co-creators of our experience. When we forgive others, we exalt the light in them--the light that is in everything; that is everything. The light that is in us, as well, linking us to the rest. "Fear condemnns and Love forgives. Forgiveness thus undoes what fear has produced, returning the mind to the awareness of [Mother/Father/Creator/Spirit/God]." (II.73) The wise and indomitable Marianne Williamson writes in Healing the Soul of America that "It is in forgiving people that we release them from the darkness we might judge them for; it is in refusing to judge people that we have the most power to affect them; and it is in loving people that we heal them of the wounds that have hardened their minds and hearts."
We might also say that "Fear divides, and Love joins." The goal of the TBGL rights movement is not to conquer: we don't really want to just switch who's on top and institute a form of domination more in line with our thinking to replace the patriarchal, ethnocentric, heterosexist culture we have now. Our goal is what Martin King called the "Beloved Community." We envison a nation and a world in which all people-- regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity--live with equal opportunity in open and affirming social and faith coommunities, free from blatant and subtle forms of discrimination, intimidation, harassment, defamation, and violence.
Dr. King also said that "Peace is not the absence of tension but the presence of justice." Even in a Beloved Community, there will be those with whom we disagree, but we will be able to communicate and respect those differences without attack. If the Beloved Community is our goal, we must begin forgiving our enemies now so that we will be able to join with them in harmonious partnership. We cannot join together with those we hold grievances against. We may have to forgive them every day, but we have to keep on keeping on until our attention is focused on what we really want, the Beloved Communtiy, and not focused on the illusions of hate and separation that appear to bar our way.
Clayton Gibson-Faith receives email at SoulforceMI @hotmail.com. For a guided forgiveness meditation and prayers, visit www.PrismMountain.com
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Seeing with Different Eyes
One Saturday afternoon [in 1978] Toby Marotta and I were waiting for a bus at the corner of Castro and 18th, in the heart of San Francisco's best-known gay neighborhood. All around us were men intentionally projecting themselves sexually. It was a warm day for San Francisco and many had taken the excuse to discard unnecessary clothing. Guys wearing only cut-off jeans, some with skimpy T-shirts or tanktops, many bare-chested, were walking or leaning suggestively against lamp posts or buildings. They searched each passerby suggestively, invitingly.
This blatant sexuality upset me. While as a counterculturalist I considered myself liberated, I had very strong notions, many of them learned from the feminists I worked with at the Tenderloin Community Mental Health Clinic, about what kinds of behavior were "politically correct." I had notions developed during my experience as a monk about what kinds of behavior were "spiritually pure." And I had notions deriving simply from my own sexual sensibilities. Perhaps because of my political and religious background, I'd come to feel "superior" to people who seemed to me too concerned with their bodies.
Like most such feelings of superiority, I suppose, these were really just compensations for feelings of inadequacy. I've suffered from what might be called the "Woody Allen complex." I've wanted to look like a Robert Redford and to have people desire me for my masculine beauty. But the fact is that I don't look like Redford and do look more like Allen--or like Saint John of the Cross (I could never shake my monkishness). I have been more respected for my intelligence than desired for my beauty. I resented the sexual prowess and obvious good looks of the men walking along Castro Street. These were the homosexuals, I thought, who were supposed to be effete sissies, but here they were, almost all handsome, manly, and vital. Some of them put Robert Redford in the class with Woody and me. Yet for all their good looks, I did not see them as happy.
As I stood on the corner, I watched the men avoiding eye contact as they passed one another. They glanced furtively, looking away quickly when someone appeared to look back at them. They seemed almost afraid of being caught in the act of cruising. I recalled reports I had heard from clients at the Clinic of how they'd felt rejected and put down as they cruised Castro Street. I recalled their stories of the futile hunt for "Mr. Right," the fantasy lover. I recalled their acknowledgment of how such fantasies, based on particular kinds of sexual attractiveness or physical appearance, seemed to keep them imprisoned in only the most superficial assessments of people.
I thought about the myths of karma. I saw these men trapped in webs of their own unwitting design, rejecting and so being rejected because they were looking for a fantasy ideal that just didn't exist, looking for someone attractive and sexy yet missing out because, hoping for some ideal still more attractive and more sexy to come along, they passed up real opportunities.
I recalled my own experiences of walking down Castro Street and feeling invisible, unable to make civil eye contact with other walkers. I recalled the fears that I'd woven for myself a karmic web from which I could never escape. And I thought that the solution-what I often told my clients might bring them some relief-was to cut right through the karma by fleeing from this place.
I was feeling disgusted with all the impersonal sexuality I saw around me, yet struggling to feel compassion for the suffering homosexuals hiding behind their masks of pretended glamour. I remarked to Toby that if we could have some influence in the world, how wonderful and merciful it would be to free these suffering homosexuals from their imprisonment in the sexual ghetto.
Toby looked at me quizzically. "What suffering homosexuals?" he asked. I described my perceptions of the surging crowd moving up and down Castro under the bright afternoon sun. Toby said he didn't perceive things that way at all. What he saw were liberated gay men, enjoying the sunny day, reveling in their sexuality, delighting in the beauty of their own and others' bodies, showing off to one another, sharing their delight, and exulting in their liberation.
"But what about all the sexual rejection and internalized self-hate?" I objected.
"That's the whole point," Toby replied. "These men are free from fear and self-loathing. They're not suffering queens and oppressed faggots. They're being natural and open in the styles the subculture has developed. They're behaving just like everybody else walking on a public street, acknowledging friends and acquaintances, noticing an attractive face now and then, but being pretty oblivious to the passing stream. Most of them aren't feeling sexual rejection because they're not out hunting sex. They're on their way to the supermarket or the drugstore.
"Of course, most of them are aware of the sexual tension in the air; they enjoy it; that's partly why they're out here today. Some of them are cruising for sex, especially the ones in the bars," he allowed. "But even then they're doing that because they enjoy the game; it's a sport, a way to spend a lazy afternoon. It's not all that serious to them."
Suddenly I felt in myself an odd change of consciousness. Just as switching the lights from a dim and cold blue to a bright and sunny amber can abruptly change the mood on a stage, so in my mind a filter switched. I saw what Toby was seeing and everything was different. Instead of a repressed demimonde, full of desperate, suffering, compulsively sexual homosexuals, I felt surrounded by gay community, full of natural, happy, liberated gay men. Instead of karma, liberation. I was astonished by how differently I experienced the world around me and how differently I experienced myself standing on that street corner.
"Why do you think they're desperate?" Toby asked, breaking into my astonishment.
I started to explain, but stopped myself, not wanting to spoil my vision. "Well, I don't know; your explanation of it all is much more appealing than mine.
Toby began explaining the liberationist politics to which he attributed the emergence of vital gay neighborhoods like the Castro. I listened half attentively, half noticing that the bus we wanted was coming, and half questioning what my sudden change of consciousness signified.
As we got settled on the bus, I was still feeling dismayed. We both fell silent as the bus motor, revving to carry us up the hill, drowned out our conversation. I was thinking about Toby's question. I saw the men on the street as desperate because that jibed with my own experience and the report of more than one person I'd talked to in and out of the Clinic. I wasn't only projecting my own prejudices or neurotic conflicts onto the scene. But Toby's version wasn't wrong either. Strangely, both perceptions were true. Both realities were present together, superimposed on one another.
"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. One man's meat is another man's poison," I thought tritely. I recalled the Buddhist saying that the unenlightened live in an unenlightened world, the bodhisattvas live in a bodhisattva world, buddhas live in a buddha world.
The bus crested the hill and started down the other side. The motor groaned as the clutch engaged to slow us down for the steep descent. After a couple of stops it was time to transfer to another bus. I began to explain to Toby, after we'd alighted, how the universe must be very amorphous, never fixed or solid, how it must be that both my clients' reports and his description were equally true.
Toby did acknowledge that there were people in the Castro who were suffering and who did feel the burden of years of homophobic indoctrination and who spread their unhappiness to others. But he wouldn't agree with me that the truth was so arbitrary. He insisted that he could scientifically document his perception. In fact, he said, he was beginning to through his research.
He did allow, however, that metaphysically my point might be valid, and that as a therapist it was logical for me to focus on the experience of those needing help. It became clear to me that my goal in therapy should be to change the clients' perceptions so that what looked to them like a world of misery became instead a world of happiness. Obviously, when people perceive the world as desperate, hostile, unfulfilling, and sick, they tend to act out those qualities and to create around them that kind of world, for themselves and for others.
The conversation continued all through dinner. By the time he left for home, Toby and I had agreed that the way to change things was to see the world with different eyes so that instead of vulgar and threatening it appeared benign and supportive.
From In Search of God in the Sexual Underworld: A Mystical Journey (Morrow, 1983) by Edwin Clark Johnson.
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Martin K. Smith
Once upon a time, there were two men who made a wish; and had it come true.
Chuck McDonough and Jeff Greene lived in Manhattan, in the East-East Village, not too many years ago. Chuck was a mechanic at a printing plant. Jeff was in-house masseur at a gym, and lunchtime waiter at a midtown restaurant. They had glimpsed each other occasionally, in bars, church and street; but never met. Yet one night they both wished for a lover; and on awakening the next morning they were lovers, as romantically as in an old song. How on earth did that happen?
Pause a moment, and speculate on the metaphysics of how wishes might be granted. Since Manhattan is the setting, envision a sort of celestial corporate-strategy session. Imagine a midtown office building--name it, say, Olympia Tower--one of those new "postmodern" ones, bastard child of Donald Trump out of Philip Johnson, midwifed by Giuliani: all glass and steel from the avenue up, but with a neo-psuedo-Graeco-Roman temple-thingie perched decoratively on top. There in a lofty conference room, the deities and entities are gathered.
Venus is present, of course, to speak for Love. Cupid heralds her entrance with the Frankie Avalon oldie "Venus." "Venus, Goddess of love that you are; Surely the things I ask; Can't be too great a task..." Pan rolls his eyes at this extravagance, and tootles a disrespectful obbligato on his pipes. Coyote Trickster contemplates plot complications. A Fairy Godmother stands ready to advise on Divine Intervention, if needed. There is also a dark dour figure--Morality; Mortality; Devil's Advocate--who binds granted wishes with constraints: "Be home by midnight" or "Never untie the ribbon round my neck."
Mercury-messenger-of-the-gods wheels in an elegant Fifties jukebox, agleam with chrome and neon. The silver wings on his helmet and heels flutter slightly as he moves. He touches a button, and the circumstances of the wish are replayed:
- - - -
The first Sunday in January Chuck had gone to visit his family, in their not-too-successful motel down the Jersey shore. He regarded such visits as a pleasure about equal to drowning in quicksand. His father always groused about life's raw deals. His elder sister, a Fundamentalist, disapproved of his "lifestyle," and was not averse to saying so. Younger sister defended him, but expected his blind support in her endless arguments with Dad. Mom fussed, fretted and ate a lot; and like Rodney King wished they all could just get along. Over dinner, with her unique talent for non sequiturs and flashpoint topics, she asked Chuck if he was "seeing anyone." At the tone of her voice, both timid and patronizing, he was instantly thirteen again, plagued with zits and traumatized by secret desires for other boys. He hated when she did that. He wanted to reply "No, but I sucked off all the Knicks and their coach, and Spike Lee for good measure," but managed to restrain himself. He feared she might stare blankly and ask what "suck off" meant.
On the train back, a fellow passenger's walkman was leaking an oldies station. "Whenever I want you, all I have to do; Is dream..." Chuck wondered. Was there a lover somewhere out there, who could handle not only him but his surreal family, there in their motel with its shabby, didn't-they-find-a-dismembered-corpse-here atmosphere? Such a man would need the quick wit and strong nerves of, say, Nick and Nora Charles, or Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, or John Steed and Mrs. Peel. Even Philip Marlowe would do passing well, with his wisecracks and faint homo subtexts. Chuck looked out the window but saw only his own hollow silhouette, superimposed on falling snow and dark lurching landscape.
At home he made hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps, and read some Raymond Chandler. Neither improved his mood much. "It only made me think of Silver-Wig, and I never saw her again," he quoted to himself, turning out the light. The clock read "12:12:12." He lay there with the un-original thought that, should he die before he waked, the city out there wouldn't even notice, much less give a damn. Nick and Nora, Peter and Harriet, Steed and Emma..." I wish I had a husband," he thought.
- - - -
Jeff had gone to Long Island with his friends Keith and Kevin for dinner with Keith's sister Yvonne and her husband Vince. Afterwards they went to Callahan's, a nearby saloon, a rowdy fun roadhouse-y kind of place. They squeezed five into a booth designed for four by Keith seating himself on Kevin's lap. The two flirted and double-entendre'd each other; Vince and Yvonne exchanged similar affections; and Jeff made fun of them all. They asked him was he seeing anybody ("No"); asked him what he sought in a lover. "Looks are kind of important, you know," he replied, "but more, they have to be smart, they have to have a job, they have to have a life --"
"They have to have at least eight inches," Keith put in.
"-- which is why you never qualified, you're five inches too short." Yvonne gave a sisterly whoop of laughter. "They can't be psycho, or they can't be any crazier than me, put it that way. So they have to be out, naturally. And they have to be--for instance, if we're driving somewhere in the middle of nowhere and have a flat. He can't run around screaming 'Oh my god, oh my god, what're we gonna do?!!' Because I do that. I want him to just say 'Goddammit, we've got a flat,' and then fix it."
When they came out they found the full moon gone behind clouds and a wonderful light snow falling. Kevin drove, while Keith searched the radio for songs to sing along with... past a New Age astrology show discussing a rare conjunction of planets; then punk, salsa, Mozart, reggae, the BBC News; then some oldies station--"Someday (some sweet day), We'll be together..." Keith lay his head on Kevin's shoulder; Kevin's hand came up to stroke Keith's hair. 12:12:12, read the dashboard clock.
In the back seat Jeff thought, "They're so sweet; they're really, really in love with each other." A moment of loneliness crossed his heart. "I wish I had a husband..."
- - - -
In the empryean conference room, in balances calibrated by Osiris to the finest feather-light gradations, the pros and cons are weighed.
The dark constrainer speaks first. Two men, miles apart and unknown to one another, making the same wish at the same moment: a remarkable and rare coincidence, but still only coincidence, hardly worthy of Olypian favor. Furthermore, it was not a true wish, merely an exercise in the rhetoric of longing. Neither man really expects it to come true. They live in the twentieth century--they don't believe in magic.
In favor, Venus speaks (while Cupid plays his lute) of a new year, a full moon, the elemental magic of new-fallen snow, and the rare planetary conjunction, which--though neither man believes in astrology--favorably aligns their "houses." The Fairy Godmother also notes (as Pan tips her a wink and a nod) that both men have an inherited affinity for the supernormal. The Greene and McDonough family trees each bear various relatives worthy of study by the Fortean Society: Spiritualist mediums and "wise women" and odd fey types who, when something goes Bump in the night, instinctively know what, or Who, it is. (And Jeff, if he witnessed true magic, would believe it without a qualm, and the lonely little boy Chuck once was still wishes, in the grown man's heart, that magic did exist...)
A consensus is reached. A gamble is taken, an experiment set working. Mercury is dispatched with instructions to appropriate departments. Cupid touches a button on the jukebox. "Mister Sandman; Bring me a dream..."
- - - -
Chuck and Jeff dreamed that they were lovers. They dreamed they were sleeping together, side by side, with the comfortable familiarity of people who've been together a long time and plan to be together for the rest of happily-ever-after. They lay there, enjoying each other's presence. Dawn came, and slowly they opened their eyes. And Reality came blundering in, like Housekeeping when one's forgotten the DO NOT DISTURB card.
- - - -
Chuck silenced the alarm, then reached to touch Jeff and assure him he needn't get up. His hand fell on empty air. He sat bolt upright, blinking, and thought "Where's Jeff?"
"Who's Jeff?" replied Reality, still blundering round the back of his mind. Then another source answered Geoffrey Alan Greene. He is my husband. My wish has been granted.
Chuck did not like having such dialogues in his head. He rose, paced, summoned all his resources of reason and logic. "This Jeff guy, whoever he is," he thought (and had to admit, the name did sound familiar) "--of course he's not here, he doesn't live here. He couldn't. Look at this dump--there's barely room to swing a New York rat, let alone a husband. (He'd be still lying in bed, yawning, grinning, talking about what we'll do tonight after work. He'd be stretching in all directions--those long wiry arms with their strong hands. Blond hair on the pillow, darker hair under his arms, and running from navel down to where his cock lies across one flank...)
Chuck's own member was rising in appreciation. "You stay outa this," he told it. He grabbed the phone book. Of course there were several pages of Greenes, and several dozen variants of Geoffrey. "Just as well," he thought. "What would I tell him? 'Hi--you don't know me; but I wished for a husband last night, and they gave me You. Wanna go to IKEA and pick out china patterns?' " (He'd love it. He'd think it totally screwy, and love it. He'd throw back his head and laugh with delight, flashing those green eyes at me. "Let's go!" he'd say.)
Well. Whoever "they" were, whatever deities or entities had granted his wish, they sure as hell did a sorry-ass job--leaving him, a mere mortal, to untangle the logistics. "And if you did grant me a husband," Chuck reasonably and logically demanded, "where the hell IS he??"
(If he woke and found me gone, he'd search for me. He'd look everywhere, call everyone--my job, my friends, even, God forbid, my parents...)
He saw if he spent any more time in metaphysical speculation he'd be late for work. Over lunch he could call various friends to ask if they knew a Jeff Greene. If they did, and if a meeting could be arranged, and if this person resembled the Jeff-Greene-of-his-dreams... well, then he could go with reason and logic.
Just then, the radio came back on (he'd hit SNOOZE instead of OFF). "Please Mr. Postman, look and see; If there's a letter, a letter for me..." He slapped it into silence.
- - - -
Jeff yawned and stretched, one arm reaching to give Chuck a good-morning hug. His hand found the edge of the bed, but no husband. "Chuck?" he asked, opening his eyes. Chuck wasn't there. Jeff pulled on boxers and went to the kitchenette. Melissa was staring impatiently at the coffeepot while gnawing on a bagel.
"Who??" she stared back, with a moue of distaste. "You bring somebody home last night?"
The coffeepot signaled readiness. She poured travel mugs for herself and her boyfriend Tad, who'd just emerged from the shower with his usual "I-fucking-hate-morning" face. "He reverts to a primitive life form mornings," Chuck had said. "He needs the caffeine to re-evolve..."
Wait a minute. Had said, or would say? Had he told Chuck about his roommates? Wait a minute part two--who was Chuck?
(Charles Eliot McDonough. He is my husband. My wish has been granted.)
What the hell was going on?
Jeff returned to his room, staring at the empty bed as if it knew something. (He'd be just getting up, smiling at me as he talked--that little half-smile, that dry humor that always cracks me up. Dark brown eyes, shy-little-boy eyes, that're the first to show when he's hurt or sad. Dark hair and trim beard; big sturdy body; nice hairy chest to nuzzle in. His morning boner, thick and stubby and sticking straight out like a torpedo...)
Damn. This was way, way screwy. He'd have to think. Did Melissa leave any coffee? No, of course not. The later she was, the more she drank, as if caffeine could expand time. One morning she'd overslept, and run out still clutching the pot. "Of course, this being New York," Chuck went on, "the sight of a woman in full business getup carrying a coffeepot didn't turn a single head. Though I can imagine people pushing their mugs at her, saying 'Hey lady, fill me up!"... She could become one of those New York eccentrics: the Coffee Lady, arriving in the nick of time. She could wear a red cape with a coffee plant on it..." Jeff could hear the quiet noncommittal voice, see the hand gesturing as Chuck told the story.
Jeff knew Chuck had never told him that story. He also knew, in the way he knew certainties like gravity or sunrise or Melissa drinking all the coffee, that it was exactly the kind of story Chuck would tell, and exactly the way he would tell it. "Yeah," Jeff thought, "so if he is my dream-come-true boyfriend, where the hell IS he??"
The phone book listed a C.E. McDonough on East 13th. The number rang thrice, and an answering machine picked up. "Hi, this is Chuck. Please leave a message." Jeff's heart leapt. That's him! That's him! "Beep!" said the machine, and waited. Jeff found himself, for once, completely at a loss for words. He hung up and laughed. "I'm NOT totally nuts!" A Chuck McDonough did actually exist, with an address, a phone, and a voice. Maybe some of my friends know him--Keith and Kevin, or Shaun. Yeah, Shaun, Mr. Party Central, Mr. Gossip. I'll call him from the gym.
Melissa in superhero drag, running down the street pouring coffee on people. The more Jeff pictured it, the more he grinned.
- - - -
Round the conference table, all are looking at Pan. The dour moralitarian wonders, are the gross sexual visions truly required? Pan flips him the finger with a leer, and touches a button. "My baby does the Hanky-Panky..."
- - - -
Yes indeed, Shaun told Jeff, he knew a Chuck McDonough; who was single, strong, handsome, dark-haired and bearded, single, employed at Holland Printing on East 8th, a regular at church, apparently sane, single... An hour later, Shaun informed Chuck later that a Jeff Greene not only existed, but had called that same morning in search of Chuck McDonoughs. Jeff was, by the way, single, tall, blond, incredibly handsome, single, a masseur at Caracalla Gym on Avenue A, lots of fun, single... An hour after that, before leaving for the restaurant, Jeff called Holland Printing. Chuck was out making deliveries, they said--did he want they should leave a message? He declined. He felt the same as when he was sailing and the wind picked up, sending the boat speeding almost out of control, that balance between fear and thrill. Chuck existed. Chuck's description matched his dream. If they met, what would happen? Would they really fall in love? --like, with violins playing and rainbows rainbowing and Shaun scattering flowers (and Melissa pouring coffee?) Or would Chuck think Jeff was crazy-weird and run away? He hurried uptown.
- - - -
Chuck cursed the midtown lunch-hour traffic, the ungainly truck, potholes and construction, current and previous Mayors (even ones he'd voted for), the delivery driver who'd called in sick (goddamn hypochondriac) thus putting Chuck behind the wheel. He had some choice words as well for the deities and entities etc. who were messing with his reality. The s.o.b.s--had they or hadn't they granted his wish?? Jeff existed, and sounded like the guy in his dream, and apparently was even looking for him. What would happen if they met? What the hell was going on?? He imagined the d's and e's playing Pong with his mind, and laughing themselves silly.
He parked, shouldered the delivery, banged into the restaurant--and there found Jeff standing before him, in waiter drag.
- - - -
They recognized each other straightaway. They stared at each other, green eyes and brown, for a second that seemed like an eon. (A clock on the maitre d's stand read "12:12:12.") Each had the same thought: What's he going to do?
The chef was frowning from the kitchen door; a diner waiting irritably, fingers tapping, at a table. The maitre d' approached, her expression presaging bitchy remarks. Chuck dumped the heavy box in her arms, and said "One for lunch, please." Jeff broke into a grin, and grabbed a menu.
"Cassoulet Oliver and tonic water with lime, please," Chuck said. He continued to hold the menu open as if studying it. He looked up at Jeff and waited. He thought, He's psyched. Scared, yes, but really excited too--he can't stop smiling. "Cassoulet, tonic with lime," Jeff repeated. He stood by as if waiting while Chuck studied the menu. He thought, He knows something's up. His hands are steady but he's trembling inside--I can see it in his eyes. But he's cautious, he won't take the first step.
"Uh... is your name Chuck?" Jeff asked.
Chuck looked steadily at him. "Yes. Chuck McDonough."
Jeff wanted to shout with relief. "I knew it! So you know my friend Shaun Gomez?"
"Oh yeah. Shaun the walking gossip column. Are you... by any chance Jeff Greene?"
"That's me." Jeff's smile was immense.
Chuck had never felt such exhilaration in his life. He had taken a flying leap of faith off the cliff, and he had landed safely.
The maitre d', looking even more annoyed, staggered past with the box. "What time do you get off?" Chuck continued.
"Two, but I gotta go back to the gym. I'm free at 5:30; come and I'll give you a massage. Free introductory offer."
"I'd be a fool to turn down a free massage." Chuck handed back the menu and reached for the crackers.
- - - -
Venus beams with success, Cupid reflecting her glow. The Fairy Godmother, in a silver dance card, notes down Shaun as a possible ally. Pan conjures up a gay-porn fantasy of masseur and client. The dark advocate casts the shadow of his hand upon them. The opera is not yet over, he opines, the fat lady has not yet sung. Trickster ponders possible hindrances. A space-alien attack à la Independence Day? No. Too over-the-top. Perhaps a broken press to keep Chuck overtime, or a last-minute client for Jeff? He and the dark one confer. The jukebox plays an incoherent jumble, like a radio on random search.
- - - -
At five-thirty that evening, Chuck and Jeff faced each other in a massage room at Caracalla. No broken presses, last-minute clients, or alien attacks had thwarted their meeting. They looked at each other, brown eyes and green; and Chuck said, "So tell me about this dream of yours."
Jeff leaned forward and grabbed his arm. "First let me ask you: did you make a wish last night?" Chuck blinked at him, surprised as much by the eager touch as much as the query. "Because I did," Jeff added, encouraging.
"Well, yes," Chuck admitted.
"What was it? Please tell me."
"Well, I'd come back from--long story short, I was alone in my apartment feeling sorry for myself--it's a hobby of mine--and I wished--" he looked away--"that I had a husband." He felt Jeff's grip tighten, saw Jeff's face light up. "I did, too! Then I dreamed you were my husband, even still after I woke up. So I started trying to find you. Is that what you dreamed too?
"Shaun said you'd called asking about me. He was so excited! He wants to know when the wedding is."
"I bet he does. He's probably told everyone in town by now. He'll have us on the front page of the Post if he can. 'DREAM LOVERS COME TRUE.'" Jeff's face showed puzzlement. "Because let me ask you, didn't you--right away, you said, you started looking for me. Didn't you have any doubts at all?"
"Are you kidding?? I've been bouncing off the walls all day, wondering 'Is this real??' "
"Because I've got doubts up to here." Chuck raised his hand high over his head. "Is this real? Are we supposed to fall in love or something? If so, why? Who says? What caused it?"
"I thought we did. What's the matter?"
"What if this was just a really intense dream? Because the last thing I want to do is try to force a fantasy lover onto a real person. It won't work. The real person'll never stand for it: they'd say 'Fuck you!' and walk. And even if we did get together I'd never completely trust it. I'd always be wondering if it was some weird magic worked on us, and what'll happen if the magic stops?"
"That's exactly why I started looking for you," Jeff insisted. "I had to find out if you were like my dream. And you are."
"Irritable, stubborn, grouchy and prone to depression?"
"Yes. And smart, funny, cute, quick--"
"Self-putter-downer. Don't tell me you don't find this just even a little exciting. I know you do, the way you smiled in the restaurant."
"Are you gonna tell me you're not the least bit weirded out?"
"My god, I've been telling you. Didn't you hear me say I was bouncing off the walls?"
"I'm hearing 'Tra-la, tra-la, I've been made to fall in love with a total stranger I've never met, and it's all good."
Jeff took his arm again. "I'm not in love with you yet." He wasn't sure that was true; but felt like needling Chuck a little. He didn't know why. He thought maybe it was that crack about 'a hobby of feeling sorry for myself.' Chuck looked surprised. "Yes I was in my dream; but I had to find out for real," Jeff went on. "No I wasn't going to just run away with you or whatever, because of a dream. What if you were a stalker or something?"
"Or what if I hadn't had the same dream?" Chuck replied. "That's what I was afraid of. I have this dream, a really intense dream--really intense; it was like I'd finally found what I'd been looking for--that I was supposed to be with someone, namely, you. Then I wake up, and I'm alone, as usual; but still feeling that I'm supposed to be with you. But you aren't there. But I'm supposed to be with you. Round and round like that. Yes, I was looking for you too. But what if you didn't exist, or hadn't had the same dream? You would think I was nuts, or a stalker. But I still had that--I don't want to say 'certainty,' but that's what it feels like. So all day it's felt like I was being jerked around by... by whoever or whatever had "granted"--quote unquote--my wish. And being jerked around makes me really mean."
"I won't ever, then; except up here," Jeff smiled, patting the massage table. "But so we've both had this dream. Okay. Now we've met in real life, so we can go from here... Do you still want the massage?"
- - - -
"Can you change tires?" Jeff asked as he set to work.
Chuck raised an eyebrow. "Do you have a flat?"
"I don't even have a car. But if I did, could you change one?"
Jeff was skilled at his profession. His strong hands kneaded rhythmically. The oils were warm. The stereo, barely audible, played oldies. "Now you're back in my arms again; Right by my side..." Chuck drifted into sleep.
- - - -
He is walking up an avenue. Jeff is with him, looking tousled and a bit abashed. "Man, I was really tired!" he says. "Soon as I finished I sat down, and fell right to sleep. You must've been tired too--you zonked out almost as soon as I started. You're still snoring."
"I'm still asleep?" Chuck inquires.
"Snoring away, bare-ass naked on my massage table. You look really cute."
They are in the lobby of an office tower. Behind the desk Cerberus is on duty, a security guard's cap on each of his three doggy heads. Out the corner of his eye Chuck sees a portrait of "Our Founder and CEO." He turns for a full look but sees only a mirror, reflecting their faces. The label still reads "Our CEO." He has an idea. "Have you ever heard of 'lucid dreams?'" he asks Jeff.
"Sure. Where you know you're dreaming, and can even make things happen."
"Because I think we're in one."
Jeff is fascinated. "No shit."
"So let's see if we can find out what the hell's up with this wish business."
"Where do we start?" Jeff asks.
"At the top, of course."
As they rise they glimpse other departments at work. The Seven Dwarves toil happily in the mail room. Bacchus jiggles a cocktail shaker in the cafeteria. In Accounting, Smaug the dragon reads Forbes; in Public Relations, the Dream Weaver works at her loom. Reaching the penthouse, they see before them Mercury-messenger-of-the-gods. The silver wings on his helmet and heels flutter in agitation. "Look, it's the florist guy!" Jeff exclaims. Chuck stifles a laugh. Mercury glares.
They are in a conference room, with carpet the color of a wine-dark sea, drapes the hue of rosy-fingered dawn. A stately clock reads "12:12:12" above the fairy motto "It Is Later Than You Think." There are the deities and entities themselves; and just as Chuck has supected, they're playing games with his mind, on a Fifties jukebox. Amid gleaming chrome and neon, little holograms of himself and Jeff move jerkily through East Village streets, to an oldies soundtrack.
"Game over," Chuck announces.
Quick as lightning Cupid seizes his bow, and plants an arrow in each man's breast. They feel no pain--far from it. Instead there is moonlight, and violins, and starry eyes (green and brown); rainbows undulating like happy ribbons, larks and nightingales singing..."Can you say 'cliché?' " Chuck remarks to Jeff, pulling out the arrows. "Nice try, Geronimo; but no sale." Behind him the jukebox plays "Stupid Cupid, stop pickin' on me..." The visions fade and change: Shaun scattering flowers, followed by a woman in superhero tights and red cape, carrying a coffeepot. (Jeff stifles a laugh.) Chuck meanwhile, arms folded, faces the d's and e's. "What the hell is the big idea?" he demands.
Trickster explains in polished phrases: the course of true love runs not smooth; what fools these mortals be. Yet he cannot help smirking at his own cleverness, like Wile E. Coyote condescending to Bugs Bunny. Jeff notes the dangerous look in Chuck's eyes, and surmises that Chuck doesn't take kindly to condescenscion. He is correct. Chuck concentrates a moment; and boom!--a cartoon boulder squashes Trickster, laying him out flat as a Valentine's Day card. "The man who shot Liberty Valance...," sings the jukebox.
Now the dark advocate turns his stern moral glare upon them--
"Who's that guy?" Jeff asks.
"I don't know," Chuck replies. "The others I recognize: Venus, Cupid, Trickster Coyote, the Fairy Godmother--"
"Who looks like Shaun in drag."
"--who does look like Shaun in drag. But this guy... he's got a Puritan-type hat, and a Puritan haircut, and a mean Puritan 'Thou Shalt Not' tight-assed expression, kinda like Cotton Mather--"
"Cotton Mather? That sounds like a laundry detergent."
Chuck laughs again. "It does, doesn't it. Let's call him Sudso."
The dark one grows even darker at this disrespect. How dare mere mortals challenge the gods? Withdraw at once, or face revelation of your worst shames! He hints examples: the teen trauma of secret desires for other boys, the guilt and shame and gross sodden kleenex of masturbation, sordid trickings in car back seats and bar bathrooms... Jeff is disgusted, and pissed off. "Stop!"
"--in the name of love; Before you break my heart," the jukebox sings. Chuck looks at it in perplexity and some annoyance.
Jeff leans on table, looking 'Sudso' square in the face. "Yeah, we beat off as kids. Yeah, we've fucked around with other guys before. So what? We're normal healthy gay guys. Get over it."
"Boys will be boys," Chuck adds. "Nothing you can say could ever take me away from my guy...," the jukebox sings.
"Exactly. Know what? Whoever this guy is, I don't like him. I'm gonna try something." Jeff concentrates. A great big washing machine appears, and gobbles up the dark figure. It washes him, rinses him, spins him, and for good measure fluff-dries him. He emerges as a large, annoyed cloud of lint, floating ineffectually about. Chuck is much impressed. "Excellent work. A man after my own heart."
"My boyfriend's back, and there's gonna be trouble...," the jukebox sings. "That's enough outa you," Chuck says, and yanks the plug.
- - - -
Everything has vanished. Venus stands before them. We were wrong, she says, to make sport with your wish. Would you like to rescind it?
In unison they start to say "No, but--" They stop, look at one another, and laugh. "You tell it," Jeff says, "you're the practical one."
"I am? That's news to me. But this is a dream, and they're not supposed to be practical. You go."
"Okay. Well, we want to fall in love, sure. But not like this. Not with all this fairy-tale stuff confusing us."
"No divine intervention," Chuck adds.
"Right. We don't need it. No offense or anything, but... we're grownups now, you know. We can manage."
What is your wish? Cupid asks, all eagerness. Tell us your wish.
("He wants to play Custer vs. Indians some more," Chuck asides to Jeff.) "Our wish is, that when we fall in love we do so normally: by meeting someone and getting to know them."
Venus has a shrewd twinkle in her eye. And do you wish to fall in love with one another? she inquires.
Both men pause. Both are about to speak in unison again; both about to say "Yes." But they catch one another's eye, and Jeff winks. "We'll decide that," he replies.
So it shall be! Venus decrees. The Fairy Godmother waves her wand.
- - - -
I think we're alone now; there doesn't seem to be any one around,
I think we're alone now; the beating of our hearts is the only sound...
- - - -
The way they remember it, Chuck made a delivery one day at Jeff's restaurant. Jeff noticed him wince and rub his shoulder as he set down the box, and engaged him in conversation about sore muscles, leading to an offer of a free massage. Jeff was always scouting for new clients, but also saw a pretext to know more of this broad-shouldered dark-haired gruff fellow. Chuck, living on a tight budget, was in no way averse to free offers; nor was he averse--in fact, was all in favor--of further contact with this handsome green-eyed blond.
The massage had gone well, so they'd had coffee afterwards. The coffee talk had gone even better, to where they went back to Chuck's place. There the usual one thing had led to the usual another--"boys will be boys," as Chuck says. The sex had gone still better, to where Jeff slept over, and they had awakened to look on one another with interested surmise.
While dressing they discussed a dream they both seemed to have had. They both recalled the same scene: a jukebox playing oldies about them falling in love, and Cupid shooting arrows at them. They'd unplugged the jukebox and pulled out the arrows, saying "Thanks, but we'll do it ourselves." Shaun had then passed through, in drag as a Fairy Godmother, scattering flowers. (Chuck also remembered Smaug the dragon reading Forbes and a boulder squashing Wile E. Coyote, while Jeff recalled a Puritan falling into a washing machine and Melissa as a coffee-pouring superhero.)
Did they live happily ever after? Well, they're still living, and still together, and by all accounts, including their own, enjoying each other. In fact, they had a holy union a few years ago. At the reception the DJ played a lot of oldies: "Venus" by Frankie Avalon, "Mr. Sandman," "Someday We'll Be Together," and "Dream Lover," which they tried slow-dancing to. They didn't get very far. They ended up swaying in each other's arms, laughing. "Because I want; Someone; To call My own, I want a--Dream lover, so I won't have to, Dream alone."
Martin K. Smith lives in Durham, N.C. firstname.lastname@example.org
All copyrighted song lyrics used by permisson. The complete list of permissions is printed in the print version of WCJ #51
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James E. Nicholson
Humanity is at a point of great awakening. Many people have realized that a universal God that openly welcomes ALL people with love, tolerance and compassion is not only a possibility but also a reality.
There is a growing sense that the Higher Being who created the uniqueness in all of us celebrates our diversity as part of the foundation of our souls. Unfortunately not everyone, or every faith has arrived at this conclusion.
Over the eons of the development of religion, humanity has used their beliefs to inspire, transform and create a better world for those of similar understandings of God. But for those who were, for whatever reason outside the accepted mainstream, religion has often been used as a cruel sword; severing individuals and groups away from community and thrusting them into a "godless" void. Historically indigenous faiths were over-powered by missionaries trying to create a homogenized world.
Many within the LGBT community have been abused from mainline religious faiths in the name of God(s). Modern Christianity, among others, has been at the forefront of discrimination, abuse and "un-Christ-like" action.
Outspirit is being formed as a nonprofit organization to be a multifaith voice of compassion, inclusion and empowerment for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered community. We are a gathering of people who are striving to give the world a message of Love, Peace, Hope and Connection. We are a pluralistic clearinghouse of Spirituality, whether based on traditional religions or the new awakening of personal spiritual pathways.
Please find us on the web at http://www.outspirit.org
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Reviews and Books
The Third Testament
by Brothers Johannes Renatus and Christian Spiritus Zinzendorf,
The Hermitage at Manhantongo Spirit Garden, $7.
Reviewed by Steven LaVigne
In his great, but underrated novel, Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. confronts his leading character, Kilgore Trout and releases him. Authors who confront their characters are always a treat, and midway through their novel, The Third Testament, Brothers Johannes Renatus and Christian Spiritus Zinzendorf confront the "villians" of their book and invite them to their Hermitage in central Pennsylvania.
Written more from a mythological rather than a theological point of view, this ongoing "concluding section of the Holy Bible," which the authors have based on their work is a serious attempt at a sequel which reinterprets the Bible, focusing on the return of Jesus at three different times in our history. It also honors the pagan concept of the Goddess and her comrades, who are the centering calm in the lives of their men. Gaia, the Earth Goddess existed before Yahweh; Eve remains focused as Adam jumps to conclusions, while the Countess Erdmutha is the voice of reason for her husband, Nicholas. This enlightened vision of the women's place in religious history is libel to offend the fundamentalists.
According to the Brothers Zinzendorf, Cain doesn't murder Abel, it was an accident. Adam banished Cain after Abel was found dead in his brother's arms, but Adam never examined the evidence of his son's death. When Jesus is reincarnated in an 18th Century aristocratic German family, he loves his "brothers" but his Father objects, so he relocates to colonial America. Like all families, there are conflicts between the parents which separate them from their parents. Gaia wants Yahweh to retire, because he's imprisoned Satan, who is Jesus' twin brother, while allowing the "good son" to relive the end of his human existence again and again. Countess Erdmutha does the same, but has a strong sense of the drama, directing the topic on her deathbed.
The Brothers Zinzendorf use humor to contrast the relationships betwen the men in charge and the women. While Yahweh, Adam and Nicholas get drunk and complain about their lives from a negative viewpoint, the women are more clear-headed in a similar scene. I was reading The Third Testament while the television was full of news coverage about the debris and death after the terrorist attacks, and found it interesting that Yahweh reacts to the damage he's caused by condemning the world he created.
With regard to the above comment that it's a treat to read about authors confronting their characters, the Brothers Zinzendorf use this as a device to bring their book into modern times, trying to send a message about the post-Christian concept of coming into contact with the divine. While it leads to a reconciliation between Satan and Yahweh, the reader would like more of the interaction between the Brothers and the convicted offspring, Satan, Cain and Christian (the German aristocratic son). The Brothers Zinzendorf end their book with The Hymns of Brother Christian Spiritus Zinzendorf, many of which honor the Goddess, Gaia. They also conclude that the Third Testament will never be finished, because we are always adding something of ourselves to the book. For those of us re-examining our spiritual path, The Third Testament is an ideal book to place our religious past into a new perspective. (For ordering information, see FYI)
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by E.J. DiStefano,
First Books Library, 238 pages,
Reviewed by Steven LaVigne
I was really excited when I first got the assignment to review Beloved Testament, because I thought it was the published edition of something I'd read a passage from in The White Crane Journal. That Beloved Testament is similar, but it wasn't what I was expecting, doesn't mean I was disappointed. Far from it,
Based on the Gospel of Jesus' most beloved disciple, John, the book is divided into two sections. In the first, "Diary of the Disciple," DiStefano takes us through the 31st and 32nd years of the King, recounting portions of John's own life, while relaying his experiences with Jesus, seen from the points of view of John and, occasionally, the other apostles. Introducing each chapter with scriptures, we learn that John's birth name is David, that by profession, he's a fisherman from Capernaum, and that he encounters Jesus by chance, only to be mysteriously drawn to him.
After he witnesses miracles, first at Cana, later, when Jesus saves a boy from death, and after Lazarus is raised from the dead, David/John becomes certain of his spiritual path. However, it's not until Mary Magdalene is forgiven after she washes Jesus' feet, and after Jesus stops the crowd from stoning a sinful woman that David notifies his family that he's leaving his responsibilities behind, including his engagement to Sarah, and following Jesus.
DiStefano ends the first section of his book with events at Last Supper and in the garden of Gethsemane. The second section, "The Carpenter's Serenade," evokes Jesus' emotional state from that night in the garden through his death on the cross. The conclusion is a short epilogue between John and Simon Peter.
Beloved Testament is a handsome volume, using large print that fills the pages with the wisdom in DiStefano's writing. The authors' ability to portray the emotions of his leading characters is especially noteworthy. He has a remarkable sense of emotion, especially as he contrasts the murder of John the Baptist with Sermon on the Mount. DiStefano creates, in a surprisingly fresh style, Jesus, the human being. Here's a man with strong feelings, who's not ashamed to cry. He's also conflicted by the rising crisis around him. The realism is especially notable. I certainly appreciated this, because, when my partner and I visited the Memorial in Oklahoma City this summer, for me, the most compelling part was the statue, "Jesus Wept," across from the 9:03 arch. It tied all the realities of this tragedy together for me.
E. J. DiStefano has written a thoughtful variation on the Gospel of St. John, and Beloved Testament is filled with beautiful imagery, which can have a profound affect on us all.
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by Luther Butler
to Excel Press, 320 pages.
Reviewed by Steven LaVigne
When I was a little boy, I loved Sunday morning television. Not for cartoons, but because of "The Lutheran Hour." Weekly, they would produce stories from the New Testament in tacky, overindulgent productions. One weekend, my Grandmother got upset, because, being a staunch Catholic, she didn't want me to watch this, but my Grandfather calmed her and told her it was okay. He even sat down and watched it with me.
Reading Luther Butler's epic novel, Red Heifer is a lot like watching those old TV productions. Butler has recreated the life of St. Paul, with fascinating detail, using the strong visual sense of a Cecil B. DeMille movie, as he determines to uncover Paul's bigotry and hatred of gays and lesbians. The book opens with Paul's observances of the stoning of St. Stephen, cousin to Paul and nephew of Jesus' father, Joseph of Aramethia. Paul has betrayed Stephen because he knows Paul's sexual secret. And what is that secret? I dare not reveal it here.
The saga flashes back and forth in time. At the start, Paul meets God, presented, as it is in scripture, as a light, being told that "God never shows a man the path until he's on it." This meeting affects his brain, and he's able to see clearer into his past. Paul's father, a merchant, was a lusty, passionate and sexual creature. After Paul's mother dies in childbirth, father and son are estranged. Constantly seeking his father's approval, Paul's athleticism is applauded, although he's embarrassed because he's been circumcised. Both nudity and attraction to his friend Antoine frighten and confuse Paul. When romance and courtship with the beautiful Rebekah lead to tragic circumstances, further upsets by his father's actions, Paul encounters a mountain seer who predicts for him a life of sadness.
Further conflicted by the rules of his Jewish faith and the teachings in the ancient, Wiccan faiths, when Paul pledges to serve the goddess, Cybele, at which time, his sexual secret takes shape. Now planning to dedicate himself to the religious life, Paul earns a living by working for a traveling merchant. He encounters a red heifer, a rare animal used as a burnt offering to cleanse a Rabbi who works with the dead. Because Paul has red hair, and is like that Red Heifer in many ways, the book takes its title from this aspect of his life.
Upon his arrival in Galilee, where Paul is reacquainted with his friend, Antoine, we learn that, ironically, in his carpenter's shop, Joseph makes a fine living building Roman Crosses to be used for crucifixion. As Jesus has begun preaching, one night Paul encounters him in a dark alley, and is told that someday, "You will follow me." When Antoine spends the night with a prostitute named Mary Magdelene, she entices Paul, then, when she's rejected, humiliates him, so he flees. He's then asked by the henchmen of Pontius Pilate to spy on Jesus.
Put on trial because of his part in Jesus' crucifixion, Paul is told to escape, and the sequence in which he's lowered over the walls of Damascus in a wicker basket is exciting reading. It is shortly after this, while Paul is alone in the desert that a voice inside him criticizes his conflicting thought on gays and lesbians, as well as his substantial sexism. Because he's chosen not to be accepting, the voice tells him he's a hypocrite. The voice questions Paul's decision, telling him that the choice will require "reexamination for centuries," and calls into question just how enlightened we really are. Even Joseph tells Paul he should be silent on these issues. Butler offers a Paul who's multifaceted, and even has conflicts with the risen Christ. He also restored Joseph to his rightful place as Jesus' wise, Earth father. He's created very realistic, contradictory characters.
Red Heifer is an astounding book. Butler has an impressive sense of revisionary storytelling, and this enormous saga is great reading!
Steven LaVigne lives in Minneapolis with his partner, Douglas Dally. Presently on a renewed spiritual journey, he's an elementary teacher. His book, film and theatre reviews and essays have been published frequently. He's at work on a biography of actress Sylvia Sidney. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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Mortal Love: Selected Poems (1971-1998)
By Franklin Abbott
161 pp., Liberty, TN: RFD Press
Reviewed by Kevin Bothwell
Franklin Abbott entreats the reader in the introduction to Mortal Love, his beautiful and broad selection of poems (1971-1998), to "sound these words as you read them," to "en-chant yourself or others with these sounds and silences." It is good advice. One does not need the benefit of an accompanying melody to recognize in much of the poetry true lyrics, awaiting the color and nuance of the music of the individual voice.
I would add a second piece of advice: Don't read these poems page by page. Skip around. The organization of the book into sections, perhaps having more to do with WHEN they were written rather than how one progresses through them, only encourages one to reach a destination, a denouement. One COULD start easily with the almost Faulkner-esque elegy of Turner County Breakdown:
in long days
and lonesome nights
in broken dreams
in fears come true
in the unending heat
of that day in Fall
when I left
One could do this. One could progress on through the sections that follow &endash; Engenderment, Everyday Miracles, Mystery Schools, sections of virtual and literal travelogues of the mind &endash; and then land penultimately on the heart-wrenching title poem, Mortal Love, and Battle Fatigue, both rendered from a life scarred by the scourge of AIDS and too-early deaths. But to venture a guess, this is not what Mr. Abbott would have the reader, the speaker, the en-chanter, do. He offers up his lifeline, looking backward, inward, forward, outward, but the poetry is almost always of the moment, standing still but never static. Suspend your thoughts and just BE, he seems to be saying, in poems such as Patience as an Art Invisible:
patience is what happens
as we gamble
through the middle
it's the moment
when the dice have left
the hand but haven't hit
Abbott's work as a psychotherapist and well-respected commentator on men's studies and gender, most recently as editor of Boyhood: Growing Up Male (University of Wisconsin Press, 1998), provides the backbone for a wealth of poetry and prose in this collection that celebrates both the commitment and eroticism specific to men's relationships. For those of us who grew up gay, particularly in rural settings, the subject of his Lovers Found in Magazines is a refresher course on male lust manifesting itself among the periodicals at the local Woolworth's. How many of us know this man?: A STREET CORNER COWBOY...AN ANGEL OF THE HIGHWAYS..SPREAD OUT SLICK CHIAROSCURO..WITH STAPLE IN THE MIDDLE..
Having embraced this lust in this and other poems, he then gives us an astonishing honesty and clarity in his passages on experiencing the passion of a man's love for another man. While the poetry is again very much "in the moment," Abbott moves us through our boyhoods, our manhoods, as he has moved through his own, so that we come upon In the Absence of our Fathers and pause for just a split second before throwing our arms in the air and dancing:
in the absence of our fathers
on a path we call compassion
in a blur and trembling to the quick
the boys who played in flowers
are holding one another
are pressing close together
and singing to the wind...
Interspersed through all this is an awakening to the delights and mystery of places both distant and familiar. Abbott, an early-on leader in the Radical Faerie movement, takes the reader to Roan Mountain in North Carolina, one of the first Faerie gathering places, to invite one to dance for the sun to make love with the cloud; for golden light to penetrate the mist of gray and circle [our] circle. Through sections of prose and more lyrics, he roams from his native environs of southern Georgia to the cliffs of Chaco Canyon, County Cork in Ireland, Caracas, and Kamakura and Kyoto. This reviewer has been to the temples of Kyoto, and my memory found its voice in Abbott's inspiring capture of a moment in one of the pavilions: The stones in the sea of sand raked in the pattern of ocean waves render eternity available in a glance. His magic lies not so much in his ability to capture stones such as these, witnessed in 1989, and retain them undisturbed, but more in his ability then to splay them out in the patterns of his verse so that the reader sees them in the same light.
So it is that one should get the urge to traverse this poetry and prose without a travel guide or pagination. How wonderfully the various works speak when one skips from a grandfather's funeral in Alabama to a "wet grass" morning in a location undefined, to a fable on dreams entitled How the Earth Became a Star to the embrace of a loving partner --without embracing the virus that overcomes him --to a Venezuelan radio broadcast picked up from thousands of miles away.
One finally hears in this volume of poetry, if spoken aloud as the poet suggests, a connection with all things spiritual. Abbott knows his spirit well, and knows that it is a tangible thing. In Religion in the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, his alternative version of The Lord's Prayer, intoned by spirits in the after-life, ends with, "For Thine is the Substance; The Blood and the Flesh; In Time and in Space; Amen." The prayer occurs in the most ephemeral section of the volume, and perhaps the most enjoyable, entitled Magic and Amazement. Practitioners of the plastic arts and poets at times have preferred not to title their individual works. But Abbot chooses his well, and draws the reader in in this section with titles such as A Blessing for Relationships, Smoothing and Rounding, and Reminders, in which he encapsulates in the first phrases so much of what the entire collection speaks:
to be present in my life
to own my singing heart
to feel my body
as home for my spirit
in time and in dimension
Whether one sings his words as they should be sung, skips around or stays within the arc of the organization of the poetry and prose as presented, one should always come back to a Reminder such as that. En-chanting.
Kevin Bothwell lives in New York City
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R. I. P. George Harrison Nov 29, 2001
Toby Johnson writes: Just before this issue of White Crane was to go to press, the passing of George Harrison was announced. Harrison played an important role in my spiritual life, as perhaps in the spiritual lives of many of White Crane readers. Here's a brief excerpt from my book The Myth of the Great Secret.
I came home one afternoon to my room in the dorm where the Servites lived [at Saint Louis University], feeling a little perplexed by a statement about the historical uniqueness of Christianity that had been made in a theology class I'd just attended. From Jung and Campbell I'd learned that Christianity was far from unique in being the "One, true religion" and maybe even wasn't the best of world religions.
My room was small, a room in a once-grand hotel that had slowly deteriorated and then been bought by the University for a dormitory, mainly for graduate students and members of religious orders who attended the school. The walls were an old battleship gray. I had tried to improve the appearance of the room by adding brightly colored accessories. Among them were a number of psychedelic posters, including the Richard Avedon photographs of the Beatles. (A year before I had had my first experience with LSD, the easy access to mystical consciousness Timothy Leary had promised.)
I stood for a while looking out the window at the traffic moving below, wondering what was happening to me. Here I was a Roman Catholic religious, yet somehow I knew that I had seen through the external teachings of that religion. I no longer believed that that man Jesus who lived in Palestine two thousand years ago was so different from the other world saviors--from Prince Gautama, Mohammed, or Lao-tse, or, for that matter, from any of the rest of us who struggle with deep spiritual questions about the nature of our lives.
I turned and looked at a crucifix hanging on the wall. Even Biblical scholarship told us we could never really know what happened that day in Jerusalem. We could only learn of it through the filter of myth and metaphor and the conventions of mystical poetry of the Near East. Common sense told me Jesus was a man who'd taught about goodness and the meaning of life and used those very conventions to talk about God. He was caught up in the swirl of politics of his day and died a martyr to his gentle message of love and respect preached to a culture based on military power and patriarchal, legalistic dominance. In the poems about him he was deified, as symbols were used by the writers to give significance to the events of his life. Jesus wasn't a god exactly who incarnated to save the world by his death in order to repay a sacrificial debt to an angry father-God. I no longer believed in the historicity of such mythical, supernatural events. They were true as metaphors about the Self in every human being, not as historical events.
I understood that Jesus's crucifixion was important because of the faith of two thousand years of believers who found in the religious poetry a significance for their own lives and their own experience of Self. I knew this was a religious sensibility, but how did it fit with my identity as a canonical religious?
I turned away from the crucifix. My eye was caught by the poster on the wall opposite: Beatle George Harrison, in orange and green highlights, a blazing psychedelic vision, his eyes upturned and his hand, marked with a glyph of the all-seeing eye, raised in benediction, the mudra "fear not." And I realized that though I no longer believed in a specific religious truth, I still believed in religious experience. I believed in the possibility of mystical vision. And I saw what my identity as a religious man really was.
The point was not whether Jesus Christ was God, whether he rose again on the third day and would lead us all into heaven in the end, but whether the thought of him and his spiritual acts could lead us to the kind of vision he had had and that was symbolized by the poster of George Harrison. Somehow, in the moment of losing my faith, I found my faith restored. Somehow I had seen beyond the surface of religion to roots that sank deep into my soul and into the collective soul of humanity.
That poster, now framed and matted, still hangs in the most prominent position above my meditation space. Thanks to George Harrison for having changed the world.
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For Your Information
Call for Submissions
Link to Toby Johnson's GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness Last update December 31, 2001