Being Gay and Being Good

Joel Osteen, author of the bestselling Become a Better You, says being gay is “not God’s best”. Oh darn, I didn’t make the cut!

I say I’m exactly the way I should be. Perhaps in a world where role models for being gay were encouraged rather than the demonized, gays might have a better chance of adjusting to the often ridiculous and narrow strictures of “straight” society, with its questionable moral rectitude and double standards.

Chris Evans
Better yet, perhaps God is hinting to straight society that a better model is among them and they should wake up and pay attention. After all, since gay culture has seeped into straight life, especially through fashion, manners, taste and style, haven’t God’s ideals for a better “man” been upgraded?

What’s your take?

Not so Rare Air

High up on the eighth floor
the view spreads a smorgasbord
of warm golds, tangerines and greens,
lit by bronze back-light across the dream.
He could almost smell that odd burnt Fall
bouquet through the plate glass picture wall.
His world held a long, slow major chord.

The spacious room flooded with natural light.
(this would be a luxury efficiency in NYC)
He watched cars and trucks rush to and fro
along the highway through the forest, appearing
and disappearing into the waiting trees.
From up here the little bodies behaved
with such conviction, trusting the highway’s
path with utter certainly. The scene was proffered
a peaceful silence by the muted, glass plated score.

But the air up here is not so rare
as he thought it might have been,
considering the pain it took to get up those all those floors.

At the end of his third day in this room, Dorn felt truly refreshed, rested and ready to face the impending surgery to remove his ailing gall bladder. The pain which brought him here had now been relegated to yet another chapter in his living novel of that subject. But the experience of it had reminded him of how much of an unlikely teacher it had been.

Pain is no friend to anyone. It stretches and warps time. It removes even the most secure protections of philosophy and spirituality from any soul it inflicts. The self is laid bare. As he lay 2 hours in the ER 3 nights ago, moaning loudly for relief, Dorn reviewed all the pain he’d been through, mostly in the last 12 years.

All this began with cancer, the surgery for which he awoke from in a blazing supernova of raw pain; though, oddly, a minute before while coming out of anesthesia coma, he had asked for a Banana Split Sundae. With a dozen parts of his guts rearranged and re-attached, it would be 6 weeks before the Sundae dream could come true. Meanwhile, he had a morphine button which could be activated only every five minutes.

It is possible for time to stop. It stops when a train is about to hit you in the face, or perhaps after your gut has been hit and you are waiting for the pain to start. Or when you are waiting for a lover to return from a dangerous trip. When it starts again, it is not like normal daily time, but now moves counter to the holding time, counter to the waiting, not faster, but deeper, like in honey.

The awakening after his major cancer surgery was literally gut wrenching. Each five minutes took at least an hour. Sometimes one minute took a week to pass as he watched the clock, with the attentiveness of a dog watching the door for it’s deceased owner to return. After he pressed the button, or rather when he pressed it and it finally worked, since he pressed it many times in the seconds before 5 minutes were up, something happened which could only be described as a spiritual message being sent to each screaming nerve cell, soothing it momentarily, as if covering with a warm blanket each suffering pain victim in the world all at once. Then within a minute or two, the deceptive comfort is slowly realized and each cell begins spreading the word of truth, “We must scream in agony, for it is our destiny until its cause is eliminated.”

Pain had been his nearest relative for a good part of the dozen years since then, a relative which he’d rather not see but who keeps showing up uninvited and spins his life into chaos during that time. It’s tricky to build a lasting structure of behavior and habit when continuity is lacking. If you walked 10 steps through a field and tripped in 4 holes, you would continue only with trepidation.

He also believed that abdominal pain accompanied by nausea could be the most un-grounding kind of painful experience, an earthquake at the center of emotional open-ness. That perspective was only natural, since that’s the kind of pain he had experienced most. He’d also had migraines, a close second for the most disruptive pain. He had never broken a bone, never been shot. He had been punched to the ground once. That hurt, but his ego suffered more than his body. When he was 6 or 7 he dove into a shallow cement pool head first. The water turned a pretty shade of bright red around his head. However, that pain diminuendoed after a quick crescendo. As long as it’s receding, even the worst flood of pain seems less threatening.

But combine gnawing, constant pain in the nerve filled center of your gut, where your gut reactions come form, with the most universally ignominious of feelings, nausea… now there’s a combo platter from the fast food counter of Hell’s Kitchen!!

What had this intimate familiarity with such black pain gained him? Stories of pain without some glory are a hard sell. The war vet gets credibility for his pain because he has the heroism to match it. For the most part he had treated pain the same all a long, as something private and to be avoided. Thought he knew and believed that avoiding his pain was a natural right, he also knew the side affect could be a pleasant slowing of time, a poetic state of mind and body where the world became a large terrarium to be observed and enjoyed from a distance.

Alas, one of the almost inevitable side effects of being in pain so much is that one becomes all to eager to reach for that “blanket” of treatment to temporarily sooth the fires of all the wretched suffering. One of the limits of scientific knowledge is how to treat pain without resorting to narcotic “cover up” drugs (morphine or its derivatives), which don’t alleviate the pain as much as coat the consciousness of the sufferer with opiate honey to dispel the worst of the experience. The pain doesn’t go away, it just appears much, much further away. It’s a powerful illusion, but it’s still the best we have.

The pleasure of the release of pain under a narcotic blanket is two fold. First,the body’s own endorphins are released as the stress of pain subsides. Second is the the known effect of opiates, the softening of all edges in life’s pushy world. This narcotic buzz is well known from the poetry and philosophy it has inspired, from Baudelaire to Poe to Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes). Even American thinkers such as Jefferson, Emerson and Thoreau used opium as we use a glass of wine to relax. As the poem in the beginning of this post implies, the world seems clearer and more beautiful from the narcotic distance, but it is neither so rare nor so distorted as either end of its experience might seem. That is to say, it is not as evil as as its detractors say, nor as beautiful and singular as that addict might think.

The problem of addiction to pain meds is global and severe. The prevailing solution is to place a hefty dose of bureaucratic doubt into the system of health care. Suffering in the ER and many hospital rooms is the counter-balancing epidemic resulting from conservative doubt of pain to filter out pain med. abuse. A patient needs to really show suffering to convince the painless, comfortable skeptics surrounding him. That kind of commonly acceptable lack of compassion is reprehensible.

One respected European doctor had explained to him a radical minority opinion; “Pain” he believed, “is an evolutionary survival mechanism which is no longer needed in modern, human civil society. Pain should be treated immediately and with complete compassion and trust for the sufferer. Any problems of addiction should be handled secondarily.” Dorn agreed. And it wasn’t without experience of both ends, pain and addiction.

His addiction to pain meds had caused ripples of problems in his life, but none worse than the suffering of the pain itself. In fact, addiction had not so much created problems as covered ones which might have otherwise come to light in a more timely fashion. The deepest problems are the ones we run from when we resort to pain meds to soften the edges of a normal day. For Dorn, his depleted self-esteem was easier to inflate temporarily with the “distancing” effect of pain meds. Brush fires are easier to consider with authority when their heat seems far away. Composure can be maintained, and “normality” along with it.

Little of the experience of pain serves common use to the world, except perhaps a lesson in compassion for other’s suffering. But he felt he had learned much about who he is, was and could be. He could survive suffering. Mostly it had taught him how frail he really is, we all are, really, that our accustomed patent approval of our selves is often just a blink away from agony. Funny thing is, knowing that made him feel stronger, not weaker. Moment to moment self-approval and confidence is more real than the illusion of security as something continuous and solid.

Not such rare air really, but worth the climb to get there.

Glittering Commentari 17, Jesse

Glittering CommentariIt’s been awhile since I posted a Glittering Commentari, which are comment highlights from around the blogosphere. A recent commenter left this wonderful gem of spiritual advice on my post Spirituality without Religion. His or her name is Jesse Saunders, but that’s all I know, since there is no blog link. Enjoy…

Here’s my understanding, as best as I can describe:

The more simple you try to make your rules, the more abstract and harder to implement in real life they tend to be. But too many rules quickly start to become contradictory. My only suggestion is having an innate drive for understanding.

Trying to understand everything and searching for the truth leads you to greater wisdom. From that wisdom you can begin to see how even the words we use and ideas we have can never fully encompass everything that is. The truth is you will never be perfect, and once you discover that, you wouldn’t want to be anyway.

You’ll find that wise men tend to break things into either or situations and make one good and one bad in order to give the masses something to hold on to, but truth and reality weren’t made that way. It is basically a shorthand for more effective communication and will do nothing to help you spiritually.

Always search, always question, always discover. The goal isn’t to find one, or five, things to hold onto; it is to gain a more clear and true understanding of reality.

Your own perception is your greatest ally and worst enemy, the journey will usually start and end there.

Touching Juice

Moon Rake Over MeThere are places we go and places we need to go. They are similar. They both fascinate us and thrill us and also terrify us. Spiny urchins with unforgettable foibles chuckle at our fear, or knock in the night. (play dramatic, clutching string chord, perhaps a nice healthy 13th cluster, with vigorous tremolo, diminuendoing to background) We fear the unknown, lurking, well… unknown, beneath the surface, beneath our physical lives and in our psychic lives. “Could you pass the pickles? I love those Kosher dills!” We are hard wired to ignore a lot.

Learning is doing and letting. When we face what we fear, we learn. To learn we must let. To let we must trust. To trust we must believe. And it goes on, until we get to experience. When we experience, we find change, it begins to carry more weight. When we see things as they are we admit they are absolutely new. Sure, there are patterns. Like spirals and swirls and hatcheted hounds tooth patterns looming over the surface. What I mean is the raw, visceral newness, like opening a new box of Cheerios. It’s not pretty. Accepting and opening to everything is daunting, terrifying. But it can happen. And it needs to be acknowledged, heightened, fleshed, lived, feared.

Johnny, oh Johnny boy, take me to your haystack and shine your sun on me! Yes, Johnny redeemed me resuscitated me, brought me back to reality, to the reality I sense is right for me, for anyone, to cherish the sweetness of life as it happens, from as early on as you possibly can, to give that whenever you feel it. Johnny hungry skin, perfectly hungry, salient. Connecting with his perfect hunger, giving it back, sharing it. Just for the moment, carefully, formally. Yearning, but with open eyes, embracing, shocked, vermilion snare. There is only one lesson. There is only one lesson. Do I need to repeat myself?

I know when I’m outnumbered, and when I makes sense to give in, I know. I don’t try to kid anybody. I take it as it comes. I flop around a lot. Others may not see it, but it’s me. Quiver, huddle, crouch, scream, rejoice, vibrate, weep, smile, give myself completely up to the glory of being alive, no turning back, no redemption, just gratitude, giving in, giving up, giving over, and finding the glory of just being, just breathing.

I get out of the car and press the garage door button. The noisy motor grinds for 10 long seconds. I stand there, pausing, knowing I’ve paused safely here before. High above the wind chimes barter their wares, seductive questions, partial answers, an essence of music, sampled sirens messages. She swims between two notes, daringly, favoringly. I look up at the great beast hovering over my house, reaching unrelentingly, immeasurably, knowingly, anciently toward the sky. One of it’s great, gentle hands, magnificently delicate hands, at the tip of its long, almost grotesquely feminine fingers, cradles the moon. The wind chimes pause.

Regal, diminutive, she notices me, sideways, alluring, and smiles, looking someplace beyond what I see, across the neighborhood, across the house with the perfect lights. She blows clouds around her noctilucent face, swirling them infinitely slow, a slow liquid, like glass. She listens as I watch. She calls deeply, she shows me myself, my weakness, my perfection, my end. She somehow touches me inside. She calls up my innocence, my child, my hurt. She tells me it’s OK. She lets my tears out. She lets them out from far, far inside me. I stand there, looking up at the moon through the arms of the great, gentle beast. I cry, wailing inside. Not wanting to wake the neighbors with the pretty lights, not wanting to disturb them, wailing silently, for all I cannot do, all I fail to do, all I wish to do, all I am afraid to do. I have so much to learn.

After spacing out at the moon, I come inside the house, greeted by my little friends, whom I ignore way too much, like many of my friends. Why do I do that? Why do I let pass so many perfect, sweet, gentle moments in favor of some kind of thrill, a roller-coaster ride? I get hooked on far out orbits, swinging low, way low, on a glittering chariot, way, way too much.

My little, patient friends, warm, so free, so reliant, so poetic, they know me and cannot speak, they ground me, tell me things, remind me to eat, to sleep, to breathe, to love, to hug. They are so patient. They embody some subtle, effulgent fragments of a great spirit. They embody something, at least to my fertile, lumbering sense of it. How come we do the things we do? How can we be so sensitive and so seductive and so dull, crashing and flopping across exquisite landscapes, barely noticing, just passing, blinking, into some strange night.

I cross the bridge. I walk away from the river into the fields. I walk with the moon, hold hands with a tree, weep with the night, end.

Anti-Valentines Day Celebration

White Bleeding Heart FlowersWatching some “boob tube” (as my mother calls it) on Valentine’s Day, I couldn’t help but notice the most common themes on sitcoms were pitiful rejections and absurd self-deprecation glorified by favorite characters on Will and Grace, Becker and Scrubs.

Though I have trouble understanding the comedy of some of those characters, I can relate to the anti Valentine’s sentiments. Valentine’s Day is perfect for lovers, who already have something wonderful in their lives, to masturbate the genie bottle some more, and for the greeting card and flower business to suck up love’s dysfunctional dollars. Love is often based on co-dependency, on passion rather than committment or understanding. Bottom line; Valentine’s Day crates a lot of pressure to love someone now, or else.

So what does it mean to “love” someone? Do you have to love them all the time, unconditionally, for it to be real love? Should you fake it when they need it and you don’t feel it?

Those who have read my two most recent posts know I was in a very passionate love affair which blew up, for good reasons, in the end. The passion was there, full Valentine’s force, 24 hours a day for two months; then, poof, it wasn’t. End of story. You can’t turn love on and off like a spigot. It comes and it goes on its on.

Last summer, I had lunch with a long time friend/acquaintance who was born on the same day and year as me. Through Junior and High School she was a steady soul in my often turbulent psychic life. Even at 15 or 16, she could look me in the eye and care deeply for me without expectation. No wonder she ended up becoming a psychologist.

Seeing her again after a space of 20 years was like coming home to an old, comfy home I had forgotten about. The same steadiness was there. I felt a natural trust I rarely feel with anyone.

At one point in our mellow conversation about our lives, I blurted out that I think I’m incapable of feeling love for someone. I really do feel this way, always at a deficit compared to the love I am given by so many close friends and family. I’ve been called all sorts of names: selfish, self-indulgent, petty, uncaring, unaware of others feeling, etc. Perhaps these are true at times, but it doesn’t make me an unloving person.

Her answer changed how I feel about love. She said something to the effect of, “Of course you are capable of loving. But no one feels love for someone all the time. I don’t feel it for my husband all the time, but I know I love him none the less. Just because you don’t feel it when you’re “supposed to” doesn’t mean you don’t love them in your own way“.

Feeling love and/or caring for someone has to come naturally, unforced. Over the years of feeling guilty for not feeling love when I was supposed to, I had lost touch with the times I really felt something for someone. Someone once told me that saying “I love you” to a person is like holding a gun to their head. Well, maybe it’s not quite that drastic, but it can feel forced.

So let’s call all the days of the year other than Valentines Day the “Show Love when EVER you feel it” Days.

Happy Show Love when you Feel it Days, all 364 of them.