Saturday, October 30, 2010

Why Would an Agnostic Celebrate Samhain?

It's no secret, as far as this blog is concerned, that my religious history is very complicated. Here, in words and phrases, is a recap: Fundamentalist Christian, Liberal Christian, Neo-Pagan, Buddhist, Neo-Pagan, Santerían, flirter with Islam, Agnostic.

I don't know whether or not the ancestors/dead flitter around me day-to-day, or not. I. Do. Not. Know. That is the Agnostic 'mantra' right there. To my mind, the mysteries I observed among Christians, Santeríans, Neo-Pagans and Buddhists were simply mental states and brain-avenues not usually found in day-to-day living. Including, but not limited to, access to one's ancestors/dead (or what their meaning/influence is for one).

Honoring one's ancestors and dearly departed means honoring thoses aspects of one's own psyche. Tomorrow I will celebrate an actual holiday for just that: honoring parts of myself that have come and gone before (hell, even my past relationships are fodder for this celebration).

Happy Halloween/Samhain, and All Saints and All Souls, my friends. Enjoy the decline and resurrection of the solar and agricultural years. Your dead sit within you, desiring recognition and honor. My suggestion: give it to them, and live.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Language of Violence

I read the other day a piece about how hiphop culture (as a whole, not including outliers) is actually very conservative. It embraces not only misogyny and heterosexism, but also the corporatist money culture. The aspirations of hiphop culture are not to change the power structure of our society, but rather to become a part of it.

I have read that there are two paradigms of power, power-over and power-with. The first kind, power-over, is the system we live with today. Very wealthy people and corporations basically run our lives, sometimes extra-legally, but usually quite legally, since the government is in their control. Very few politicians, Democrat or Republican, resist their corporate overlords, and most protest movements, e.g. the tea party, are actually made of corporate shills and dupes, and are designed to blow the steam of an abused citizenry while actually further entrenching the power structure already in place.

Power-with on the other hand is a system of consciously shared power, based on an ethic of concern. Power-with means that I see that it is to my benefit that you also have all the things you need to live, whether food, clothing and shelter, as well as safe schools, safe streets, and a culture that affirms your unique worth as an individual. It is a melding of the communitarian with the diginity of the individual. We used to dream of bringing about a culture of power-with in our society. Those dreams have fallen.

We will be stuck with power-over until such time as sufficient numbers of individuals outgrow the desire to have that structure in place. In the meantime, only individuals can truly make a difference, first in themselves, then in their communities.

In the meantime, I'd like to share an old video of one of the earliest outliers in hiphop, an anti-bullying hiphop song from 1992, The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy performing "The Language of Violence":

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Self-Absorbed or Self-Protective?

I’ve been accused of being self-absorbed. I cannot deny that. But nothing happens in vacuum—I’m self-absorbed for a reason.

I was a very intelligent and unathletic child raised in a town full of average, sports-minded boys. On top of that I was gay, and raised in fundamentalist church. Subconsciously I absorbed the lesson that I was at war with the world.

In adulthood I learned that of course I am not important enough to be the object of the world’s persecution. Paranoia is perverse egotism. But I’m wise enough to know that this world is harsh on individualism, and really harsh on those who fit in least.

To forgive the world and ‘lay down my arms’ would be best for me, for my mental and physical health. (Forgiveness on my part will make no difference to the world.) But every week I get some new, fresh reminder just how opposed to me the world is (as in last week’s DADT drama from our current executive administration). To forgive and to lay down my arms could possibly open me up to more relationships, more friendships and possibly even a long-lasting relationship. To forgive and to lay down my arms could save my brain, my stomach and my heart, literally.

Today I saw a man not much older than me walking down the sidewalk. He gave me this look that hurt me to see. It wasn’t a leer. It was desire mixed with sadness and loneliness. It was pathos. I felt bad for him; I felt fear for myself. I don’t want to be like him. I want a relationship with another man, and my body is still sufficiently youthful to lust. But I don’t want ever to have that look of sadness, loneliness and desire to play across my face.

The likelihood is that I will never have another long-term relationship. With each passing month, the likelihood grows less and less. I could give into the feelings of sadness, loneliness and frustrated desire. Or I can choose to celebrate my uniqueness in my solitude.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Dan Choi!

I don't know how to do this, or even how to say this, so I will be plain. I WANT TO LIVE IN A COUNTRY WHERE DAN CHOI IS THE PRESIDENT.

I cannot express in words how freaking disappointed I am with our current administration. Okay, I get it. You wanted to get some things done. Please explain to me: how did you get your things done BY MOTHERFUCKING THROWING YOUR BEST ALLIES UNDER THE MOTHERFUCKING BUS?!!!

So, bottom line, I'm done with our current administration. I want a REAL LEADER. I want someone who has proven himself to be past stupid partisanship be MOTHERFUCKING WALKING INTO the middle of the heat of battle, speaking the language of the enemy as well as our own. Who can trod over the halls of MF congress as well as MF business as well as MF whatever country wants to be recalcitrant.

Dan Choi is the best MF leader I have seen in the contemporary US. No fucking contest.

So seriously, all you, gay or straight, who want a real, ballsy leader who will take it to Congress or take it to whatever MF foreign soil needs it, DRAFT DAN CHOI FOR PRESIDENT 2012! I am not kidding, I mean it. We need a real leader! He has proven himself willing to serve his country over and over.

If you agree with me, the best way to start is this: #DanChoi2012 on Twitter. Let's build the meme, then build the steam. I want to believe again, don't you?


I think a person's mind is a constant conversation. If there are unitary, unquestioning consciousnesses out there, I strongly suspect they are psychopathic. I have a host of difficulties, but I am not psychopathic.

An inner conversation consists of interrogating who one sees oneself as being. I.e., am I gay, am I a Christian, am I white, etc. What do these identities mean? How do I recognize the fluid and changeable, as opposed to the essential and immutable?

I realize I am agnostic. This was as much a discovery as a choice. I realized I couldn't push myself into trying to have faith any longer. I just do not know. I always, I suspect, will not know.

So why do I wear a Guadalupe medallion? It's simple. In it I see a recognition of my mestizaje.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Single, and Creating Meaning

I embrace being single. I actually do like going home and reporting in to the cat, but not having to worry about someone else. I know, this feeds my tendency toward self-absorption, but it's comfortable right now, and given my 'success' at relationships, it may well be a necessary leg in my life's journey. Besides, no one can completely lose himself in self-absorption if he lives with a cat. Even moreso than a dog, a cat will let you know he has differing items on his agenda from yours, and that some of those differing agenda items require your efforts to get done. "I don't really give a damn that you are watching 'Stargate Universe'—I want the red dot to go; if the red dot doesn't go, I will start pulling books out of your bookcase. We'll just see how fricken interesting 'Stargate Universe' is then."

As I weigh what I need to make my life, cotidie et in toto, meaningful, I am stunned by my lack of creativity. I make no art, and only craft things that I want to have immediately (e.g., bracelets and necklaces). I haven't pursued a creative hobby in years. I would do well to express myself more. Even Manuel will occasionally create 'art' from the toilet paper roll.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The War with the World

After I came out I always assumed I would be partnered. I felt as if, whether I deserved a partner or not, I needed one in order to be able to face the world. I reckon ever since kindergarten I've always viewed my relationship to 'the world' as adversarialy. We maintain a wary truce at best. A partner was supposed to be someone with whom I shared the burdens of the ongoing war, a person who would dress the wounds of the day's battles as I would his, and with whom, in each other's arms, we would become restored for the next day's fight.

It may well be that the problem I'm having with dating and finding a partner is the assumption of an adversarial relationship with the whole world. Most weeks, by the time Friday night rolls around, I feel so defensive I know for a fact it would be a very good idea not to show my face in public. Having spent a week feeling like I'm under attack, I don't want to go out and whoop it up with friends—I want to hide out in the mancave with Manuel, some primo ale and bad television.

I wonder whether my approach to weekends would be different if I arrived at them feeling merely tired, as opposed to feeling tired, embattled and aggrieved. Is it possible that a more active social life is available through a simple attitude adjustment?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Why They Hate Us

I have a theory as to why there seems to have been a rise in anti-gay violence. It's not just that LGBT folks are more visible than before, both in the media and in the neighborhoods; it's that as we become more visible we are proving to society just how normal–how just like them–we are, and that scares the bejeezus out of them. It is essential to certain fragile psyches to have us as a debased Other. The more strides we make in ceasing to be Other, the scarier we become to them.

As for religious hatred, there's a whole extra layer of meaning. When we claim homosexuality as an essential trait and an identity, it calls into question the inerrancy of their foundational scriptures, which see homosexual acts as individually chosen acts of sin. When we contest by our very lives (e.g., my 'homosexual agenda' for today includes getting lunch, finishing some work tasks and buying groceries on the way home, where I'll watch tv and play with the cat) that the full integration of our sexual orientation is part of a wholistic personality, it is like pulling a thread out of a sweater. Once that thread unravels, more threads unravel, and soon the whole sweater (i.e., their whole religious world-view) is a heap of chaotic threads on the floor. In other words, our very existence challenges their entire purpose in life, and we either must cease to exist, or they must lose the purpose they currently have. It's no wonder their very real hatred trumps any ideals they may have about love and forgiveness. Their hatred of us is a symptom of their clinging to religious belief against all the evidence that the belief is based on falsehoods.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

An Insight into Forgiveness

Anger, resentment and fear are signs I have given away my power over myself and my life. Letting go of anger, resentment and fear allows me to reclaim this power. Therefore forgiveness saves me, when I forgive.

This is very simple, very clear. But it requires practice, and daily diligence.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bathing for Joy

One of the 'sleeper hits' in my library is Leonard Koren's Undesigning the Bath. Essentially it is a long meditation on the joys of bathing, and how modern US bathrooms are poorly designed to facilitate enjoyable bathing. Instead, our bathrooms are extremely utilitarian, and designed out of the 'aesthetic'* of the Protestant Work Ethic. In other words: get in, get clean and get out and back to work. Koren particularly draws upon two cultural referents, the Japanese bath, and the Turkish hamam, as examples of pleasurable, joyful bathing. He espouses bathing as a means of returning oneself to the earthy and the pagan, and to a real sense of self.

I thought about this book as I was showering this morning (in a very PWE manner, by the way). I realized that I had at least four different soaps in the shower with me, but no place to put them all. I also realized I wanted more than four soaps, since I like to change which I wash with according to my mood. I will look around hardware stores this weekend and see what I can find to increase the storage in my shower for soaps. (Although whatever I get will need to hang high on the wall, since the shower is one of Manuel's favorite play areas.)

Speaking of Protestantism, I've begun to wonder whether my fundamentalist childhood & youth constitute my 'fisher king' wound. It seems that no matter how far away I get from that form of Christianity, I still can't shake off not only the scars of it's influence, but even the subtle thought patterns that are so deeply engrained in my psyche I don't even realize I have them. I wonder whether I will ever fully be rid of the judgementalism, the bias toward austerity, and the harsh negativity that underlie my daily approach to getting by in the world. I constantly find myself thinking and acting out from a harsh and judgemental place, and doing so so reflexively I don't even notice most of the time. I'm tired of it, but other than increasing my diligence, I don't know what to do. Ironically, 'increasing diligence' is a very Protestant Work Ethic value. *sigh*

*Although it seems obscene to use 'Protestant Work Ethic' and 'aesthetic' together, I think you understand what I wish to convey.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Six Who Only Saw Tens

I've been thinking about love, lust, sex and relationships. I wonder how much my desire for sex sabotages my search for love, and vice-versa.

If I didn’t want to find a relationship, I’d probably pursue sex with others more aggressively. Even at my age, it isn’t that difficult to find willing sex partners. However, the ones who seem interested in me for sex I intuit pretty quickly as being someone I wouldn’t want to date. Therefore 999 times out of a 1,000 I don’t even bother to hook up with them. I’m happy to receive the affirmation that comes with their flirtation/eye contact, but I really don’t want to put out the energy for such a small return.

On the other hand, I think if I let myself do without sex more I’d have more drive to find a partner. I take care of myself a little too aggressively, perhaps. As a result, most of what I see during the day I don’t notice. I suspect there are guys out there who would make good partners whom I never even notice. But do I have to go totally celibate to find them?

The fact is that I have no clue how to find a partner. The last three men with whom I had long-term relationships I met randomly. No one has successfully schooled me on how to meet good men for dating and relationships. Yet as I approach 50, this issue takes on greater urgency.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Celebrating October

Yay, October! It's my favorite month of the year. The weather finally starts to cool down, and we make the definitively change from summer to fall. The leaves change, the final harvest comes in, and people and animals start to gather themselves and hunker down in preparation for the winter. Best of all, it ends with my favorite holiday, Halloween.

I've loved Halloween/Samhain since I was a child, and loved it all the more during my pagan years. Now, even as an agnostic, I recognize that since it falls at the halfway point between autumnal equinox and winter solstice, Samhain marks the decline of the old year and the preparation for a new one. For the old pagans it was Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve rolled into one holiday, and the veil between the living and those passed on was thinnest. I still think it will be a good time to assess the past, and the influences of those who've passed on, and then set my mind on the coming days.

I celebrated the first of October and the cooler weather yesterday by wearing my favorite hoodie. (Warrior Lacrosse Mojo hoodie, in brown.) It was fun to have it on again. My one regret about the coming cooler weather is that I won't be able to wear my Vibram FiveFingers outdoors. But I have some attractive and comfortable fall footwear, so I'll be fine. I do need a new coat, however.

As for my weekend, I plan a quick dinner with an old friend who is town for a few hours this evening. Other than that, I would do well to do some housekeeping. I'd planned to make this a magazine reading weekend, but I left one of my magazines (Inside Lacrosse - it has an article on the Iroquois Nationals' inability to participate in this year's World Cup) at the office. So instead I may push to finish reading Dracula. Kind of appropriate for October anyway.