195. Six de Bâtons

Standard

Six of WandsThe first few of weeks of 2014 have been hit and miss. Aside from a handful of social outings, I’ve been hermited away for the most part. There’ve been several close calls with jobs and a couple of interviews, but no luck so far. Not the best way to start the year, especially when the previous one was so dismal.

I’ve decided to make a change for this year in blogging. Since the inception of this site, most of my posts have had one-word titles. The idea was to draw from Word-of-the-Day sites, like Dictionary.com’s, and use that word as a guide for processing thoughts and experiences.

Lately, I’ve been engaging more with Tarot. I posted about a little this last time, but the more I work with the deck, the meanings of each of the cards in the Major and Minor arcana, and the different spreads used in Tarot readings, the more I’m interested in their potential application, especially from a Jungian perspective. The basis of Jungian psychology is the view that the human unconscious is largely unreachable except through the symbolic world of dream, myth, and folklore—the world of archetypes, “universal, archaic patterns and images that derive from the collective unconscious and are the psychic counterpart of instinct” (Wikipedia).

For example, the twenty-two cards of the Major (or Greater) Arcana. We see The Fool at the beginning of his journey, full of hope, potential, and ready to learn the lessons on his way through the Major Arcana. This seems to correspond to the archetype of The Child, who (according to many Jungians) is present in all humans throughout their life. The Empress represents fertility, beauty, nature, and abundance—corresponding to the “Anima” archetype, “the personification of the energy that gives birth to forms and nourishes forms is properly female” (according to Joseph Campbell). The Hermit represents soul-searching, introspection, and inner guidance, which corresponds to the “Wise Old Man” archetype.

As I do my own readings, and let others read for me, I use the cards (as I said in my previous post) as more a Rorschach test than for divination. Each card and its position in the spread has a significance. As querent, I listen for anything that resonates on the psychological level.

  • The Star reversed, for example, might suggest that I’m dwelling on negative issues and thoughts, to the point of them derailing any progress or healing that I’m making.
  • The reversed Ten of Swords might suggest that I’m still carrying around old wounds from past hurts, and that I still haven’t dealt with them.
  • The Page of Pentacles could suggest that, contrary to what I might feel or believe, I have the necessary skills and experience to succeed—but need to have clear goals and a plan laid out to put it all into motion.

These are all true things for me right now. But they’re not true because some mystical powers-that-be orchestrated how I shuffled. They’re true because the meaning could always be true. The question is: is the meaning true right now? Sometimes a card is just a card.

So my plan for the next couple of months is to go through the Tarot deck, card by card, and using a randomly drawn card as the basis for self-examination.

This afternoon, I drew the Six of Wands, from the Lesser, “Minor” arcana.

The Six of Wands depicts a man wearing a victory wreath around his head, riding a white horse through a crowd of cheering people. The white horse represents strength, purity, and the success of an adventure, and the crowd of people demonstrates public recognition for the man’s achievements. The wand held by the rider also has a wreath tied to it, further emphasizing success and achievement. He is not afraid to show off to others what he has accomplished in his life so far, and even better, the people around him cheer him along. (Source: BiddyTarot.com)

Wands are typically associated with creativity, with the Pythagorean element of fire, and the Jungian function of intuition. According to one site, “Wands are the creative application of what we experience in the world to make our lives more enjoyable.”

The number six in Tarot typically represents a journey into harmony. There are two parts to this journey. The first is departure. The second is the journey itself. In the process of getting from one place to another, one must leave something behind. In finding my “true” self, I had to leave behind the heterosexual expectations that my family and community had for me, as well as the belief in God that I’d “inherited,” that connected me to my family and everything that was home.

Home no more home to me, whither must I wander?

Much of the significance of each card in the Minor Arcana has to do with what comes before, and that’s where meaning can be found. In the Five of Wands, five men are playing or sparring with their wands (oh, the subtext), each going in a different direction, but with no contact. It typically signifies competition, strife, confusion, or disagreement. In the Six of Wands, that confusion has been overcome through focused work to achieve harmony.

I tend to focus on defeats and obstacles rather than successes and progress. At the present, worries about finances and employment (and getting my fracking landlord to fix the fracking hole in my fracking ceiling) have been sapping my creativity. However, in the past few weeks, I finished revising my one-act opera and orchestrated it. I wrote an article published today about my first Christmas back with my Evangelical family in two years that my editor called “one of the best essays I’ve read in a long time.” And even though my grad school applications were rejected this time, I’m getting back on course to aligning my career with my passions and what I’m truly good at.

The message I see here: Look at what you want, not at where you are, not at what you’ll be.

Advertisements

190. enormity

Standard

Ohmygoodness, has it really been fifty-one days since I last updated this blog? That’s terribly delinquent.

My world as of late has been consumed with stress, worry, anxiety, and the like. A few weeks ago my therapist asked me what’s been keeping me going. I replied that the thought of graduate school, studying music again, and having a real career in music (as supposed to the state of meager subsistence I’ve been in since graduating from college in 2004) has prevented me from being totally consumed by depression.

At the end of last month I submitted my first grad school application, this one to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. At the end of this month, I’ll be submitting two more applications, these to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and the University of Southern California. Of these three, my top picks are Eastman and the University of Michigan. USC would be a great opportunity as well, but I’m more an East Coast kinda guy than West.

The process of writing statements of purpose got me thinking a lot about my past, and since I don’t have much else to write about, I thought I’d discuss some of the music that has been most influential to me. I don’t talk about music that much here, probably because LGBT issues and atheism have been such dominating forces the last few years.

One of the first pieces of music I can remember is Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. My parents had a recording with Mia Farrow narrating that we’d listen to in the car or around the house. My early tendencies toward neoclassicism probably started here.

My early ventures into composition were largely shaped by exposure to Classical music. The first piece I ever wrote was a minuet that I composed shortly after learning to read music. One of the pieces in my lesson book was an arrangement of the menuet from Act 1, Scene 2 of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. I’d seen a production on television and skipped ahead in the book to learn it and probably drove my family crazy by playing it over and over.

After my family moved to Minnesota in 1993, we found both a church and a library to call home. In my piano lessons, I was studying a lot of Baroque music, and I probably checked out the library’s entire collection by the time I finished high school. By then, I’d listened to everything Bach ever wrote, plus a good deal of Handel, Corelli, Purcell, Domenico Scarlatti, and Purcell.

My love of Bach and the Baroque though was firmly established around age 10 when I went with my dad to an orchestra concert where they played the first of the Brandenburg concertos.

When we left the concert, I asked my dad for a recording of the complete Brandenburgs, which I still own. I was obsessed from that point on. Throughout high school I studied everything of Bach’s I could find, which were my first lessons in orchestration and counterpoint.

I also adored Mozart. My first opera was Le nozze di Figaro, and it remains my favorite to this day. A seminal moment in my composition career is at the end of Le nozze, when the Countess sings: “Più dolcile io sono, e dico di sì.” It’s ridiculously simple: a G major chord in first inversion, to C major, to d minor, to e minor. It took my breath away the first time, and still does.

Everything changed when I heard Stravinsky’s Le sacre du printemps. Considering the majority of my listening up until that point, it almost felt like checking out pornography. I knew that it was supposed to be dissonant and that it had caused a riot in Paris in 1913, and that I should be familiar with it as a musician, but I didn’t know what to expect.

Rite of Spring literally turned my entire world upside down. It was violent, dissonant, chaotic, and unfamiliar—and I loved it. I listened to it straight through two of three times that first day. Then I discovered Prokofiev’s adult music through his seventh piano sonata; Béla Bartók; Alban Berg; Paul Hindemith; Steve Reich; Francis Poulenc; Maurice Ravel; Samuel Barber; Benjamin Britten; John Adams; and probably most importantly, György Ligeti, whose music I heard in the film 2001: a space odyssey. And I almost abandoned writing tonal music completely.

About midway through college, after hearing repeatedly from colleagues and teachers that they preferred to hear my “nicer,” tonal work, I reversed course and delved into what my friends affectionately refer to as my “Tallis and Tavener” phase.

I got back into Henry Purcell after hearing a piece from King Arthur used at the end of Theatre de la Jeune Lune’s The Miser. I also heard an incredible “completion” of his anthem, Hear my prayer, O lord, by Swedish composer Sven-David Sandström in 2002. I actually include a chord from the penultimate bar of the anthem—a G major chord with an added fourth—in all of my own music.

I’m also still obsessed with the funeral sentences from Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary.

My voice teacher in college specialized in Baroque music, and I discovered Monterverdi’s L’Orfeo. My piece for double brass choir, Elisabethan Musicke, is an homage to the opening.

I also got very interested in Stephen Sondheim and Kurt Weill, and in writing music for theater… especially music incorporated into productions. I don’t remember at what point, but I realized that why I liked Mozart so much was that all of his music seemed to have dramatic links, and the music I enjoyed writing the most also had extra-musical links and was spatially oriented.

Moral of story? At age 30, I’m finally figuring out who I am, personally and artistically. I’ve tried on different styles and have found what works for now. I also know there’s more to work on, and that’s what I intend to pursue in graduate school.

186. serotinal

Standard

Photo Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/37010090@N04/8559696948/">Sprengben [why not get a friend]</a> via <a href="http://compfight.com">Compfight</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a> How did it get to be September already? It seems just yesterday that it was snowing and twenty-below-zero. Now August is spent and gone and we’re running pell-mell into autumn. Soon the leaves will be changing color and falling off trees, and we’ll be digging our way out of snowdrifts and cursing the fact that Minnesotans forget how to park in the winter.

Incidentally, I learned the word “pell-mell” around age seven or eight from the Hardy Boys book The House on the Cliff: “The other boys followed, running pell-mell through the hallway and clattering down the stairway” (p. 15). These were some of my favorite books growing up, and they opened a door in my mind to literature and to writing.

One of the things that most sticks in my mind about those books was the fact that the boys seemed to always be getting naked—or at least mostly naked:

  • “Tony began to peel off his clothes.” (p. 91, House on the Cliff)
  • “Frank and Joe took off their slacks, T shirts, sweaters, and sneakers.” (p. 97, House on the Cliff)
  • “Let’s take off our socks, shirts, belts, and sweaters.” (p. , The Clue of the Screeching Owl)
  • “He stripped down to his shorts and Joe did the same.” (p. 161, Secret of the Caves)

Of course, there’s no reason to think that any of this was meant to be homoerotic. These books were first written in the 1920s. It was a different time. If anything, it’s a sad commentary on our own age that we now interpret instances of male intimacy as indicative of homosexuality. Boys and men used to get naked all the time, and enjoy being naked together, without it being erotic, or analyzed and pathologized. To be sure, there were certainly gay men forced to find each other in dark, secret places to avoid detection and punishment. We see some of this in books like E. M. Forster’s Maurice, Gore Vidal’s The City and the Pillar, and Christopher Isherwood’s I Am a Camera, which provided the basis for the musical Cabaret.

To my young homosexual mind, however, these instances in the Hardy Boys books were teeming with sexual tension, and they provided me with the material for my earliest fantasies of male-on-male intimacy. In fact, one of the first times I can remember being sexually aroused was in chapter five of The Secret of the Caves:

From "The Secret of the Caves," p. 41.[Joe] kicked off his shoes and flung himself on top of the bedspread.

Too exhausted to undress, Frank did the same. The boys slept soundly for several hours.

Frank awakened first and thought he was having a nightmare. A pillow was pressed hard over his face and a powerful hand pinned his shoulder to the mattress.

Trying to cry out, Frank kicked wildly and flung the intruder away from the bed. Someone hit the opposite wall with a thud and crashed to the floor. The noise aroused Joe who sprang up, wild-eyed, and looked around the room. [p. 39]

No worries, it’s just their friend, Biff Hooper (described as “tall and lanky,” blonde, and an “amateur boxer”), playfully holding Frank down on the bed as a joke. I didn’t yet have the emotional vocabulary for why this scene excited me so much, or why it looped on virtual continuous playback in my mind. I would later discover firsthand the palpable thrill of male sexual play and wrestling, and the masculine roughness and uninhibitedness that was already such a turnon to me when I first read the above passage.

Almost all of the boys in these books are athletically inclined. Both Frank and Joe play football and baseball (Frank is a pitcher—heh), but Joe is the smarter of the two, playing with transistor radios or tinkering with motorbikes, so I always had more of a crush on Joe. It’s funny now to think that my parents were unwittingly aiding my development as a young gay man by giving me these books to read. I’m not even ashamed to admit that, as a teenager, some of the focus of my *aheh* “alone time” was Joe Hardy. At least, the Joe Hardy of my imagination.

Autumn is a time of transition and reflection. The leaves change color as the youth and vigor of spring and summer fade and shift with the tilt of the Earth away from the sun. Farmers bring in crops sowed in early spring and tended to all through the summer.

I too have been doing reaping of my own, thinking about my growing up years as a closeted teenager and trying to make sense of the time lost, both as a Christian and as a gay man. As my circle of gay friends increases, I’m coming more into contact with couples who met in their early twenties and have been together for years, their relationships deepening and becoming more knowing and intimate. They’re buying houses, adopting children, going on trips, and in general making lives together.

Many of my friends met each other around the same time that I was graduating college and just beginning to come to terms with the fact that I would never be a heterosexual man as my family and friends assumed that I was.

These relationships aren’t perfect by any means, but with every day that passes I’m reminded of the fact that I’m not getting any younger and that time is slipping by. Like the leaves, my own hair has started to change color. I’ve recently started noticing grey hair at my temples.

I don’t want to waste any more of the years that are left to me. I spent too many years trying to be someone else, and am finally getting to know who I really am. Life is short enough as it is, and I would rather spend my life getting to know a beautiful and fascinating man, and investing time and love in each other.

152. concatenate

Standard

 

Last week I watched my news feed with excitement for the much-anticipated landing of the Mars rover Curiosity. Since I don’t watch television, radio and online news are my primary sources of information, and I was admittedly somewhat embarrassingly anxious to hear how the $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory would fare on its “seven minutes of terror” landing. Seeing those first few pictures of the Martian landscape is still breathtaking—images of literally another world that isn’t earth.

This mission has revived a public conversation that’s been raging in the scientific community for decades. What is life? How do we define it? How do we recognize it when we see it? Since the dawn of the science-fiction genre with the second-century Roman satirist Lucien’s True History,we’ve been imagining other forms of life in our own image, which really isn’t all that different from how we’ve crafted our gods. Until recently, sci-fi shows and movies almost always portray aliens as humanoid, partly due to budget or material constraints.

In an article on NPR today, Marcelo Gleiser ponders the implications of finding (or not finding) evidence of life on Mars. “The expectations are high that Curiosity will find a trace of life, even if long extinct,” he writes. “However, if results turn out negative, we will still learn a lot. After all, the question we are asking is whether life on Earth is the exception or the rule. If life is not found on Mars, it will be harder to justify that life is abundant in the universe.”

The human race is currently emerging from its infancy. Until a certain age, young children are egocentric, incapable of empathy and recognizing that other people are separate individuals. Their brains haven’t developed that ability yet. (Some people never grow past that stage.) Similarly, the human race is finally learning that there might be other ways to be alive. We’re now conjecturing what silicon-based life form might look like, how it could evolve, how it could evolve intelligence, and how we might recognize any of those things. Depending on planetary conditions and the elements its parent star are rich in, a life form might find chlorine, arsenic or methane nourishing, and water a lethal poison.

Analogously, the human race is also discovering that there’s more than one way to be human. (Yes, I just managed to link the Mars mission to gay rights. Bite me.)

Earlier this week I was having several discussions over this infographic that’s been floating around cyberspace:

In case you haven’t seen it, the gist of it is that we dismiss much of the Bible now as being either culturally contextual and therefore irrelevant to modern-day society (such as wearing clothes woven from different fabrics, or any of the Old Testament laws and regulations), or flat out wrong (such as forcing rape victims to marry their rapists).

Naturally, it’s caused a firestorm of controversy and disagreement.

The two central questions this debate has raised seem to concern the definition of marriage and the definition of sexuality. What does it mean to be married today? What has it meant historically? Is heterosexuality the only way to be sexual, or are there alternatives? That was the central issue in the California Proposition 8 case—whether homosexuality is a learned “behavior” or it’s a natural variant of human sexuality. The answer to that question determined whether the GLBT community could be considered a legal protected class and therefore entitled to protection under the Due Process Clause. In his ruling decision, Judge Walker overturned Proposition 8 as unconstitutional, saying that “no compelling state interest justifies denying same-sex couples the fundamental right to marry.”

Walker’s decision harkens, of course, to Chief Justice Earl Warren’s landmark 1967 ruling decision in Loving v. Virginia, when he wrote that “marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival.”

I’ve encountered a number of people of the anti-gay persuasion this week, most of whom continue to insist that being homosexual is a choice. They’ve also claimed that gay men have hundreds of partners, are riddled with STDs, rape and molest children, and bring down God’s wrath and judgment on any society that doesn’t persecute us. But I haven’t heard one argument that has cited a scientific study proving categorically that homosexuality is indeed a perversion of human sexuality, that anyone is harmed by homosexuality (including homosexuals), that children are placed at risk of harm or indoctrination by an insidious “gay agenda,” or that the institution of marriage itself is endangered by including same-sex relationships under the umbrella.

And that is the central issue at stake here. You can argue that “God says it’s wrong” until you’re blue in the face. That argument doesn’t hold any water in a secular society and government—which America is. And the second president of the United States would agree with me.

The question we should be asking is not whether homosexuality is wrong. The reparative therapy crowd has admitted that the homosexual orientation is 99.99% fixed; the scientific community has a plausible explanation for how homosexuality could indeed be genetic; conservatives have yet to produce one marriage destroyed by homosexuals (though the Miller family of Pittsboro, NC might disagree after their harrowing ordeal); and children of same-sex parents seem to grow up perfectly normal—perhaps even more well-adjusted.

In the absence of any compelling reasons, the Constitution of the United States of America weighs in via the Fourteenth Amendment:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Bottom line: Either all citizens deserve equal protection, or no citizens deserve protection.

128. profluent

Standard

“History is the fiction we invent to persuade ourselves that events are knowable and that life has order and direction. That’s why events are always reinterpreted when values change. We need new versions of history to allow for our current prejudices.”
— Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbes



profluent
, adjective: Flowing smoothly or abundantly forth.

Today I am 29 years, 1 months, and 3 days old.

In comparison to the incomprehensible age of the universe, the age of our own solar system, or even the microscopically brief length of time that we have even been “human,” this is an insignificant fraction of an insignificant fraction. To me, that ineffable smallness is a beautiful thought—that I mean absolutely nothing in the near infinity of time and space, and yet am here all the same, with my own small thoughts, emotions and experiences, and the power to decide upon and create my own meaning.

“I suddenly felt very deeply that I was alive: Alive with my own particular thoughts, with my own particular story, in this itty-bitty splash of time. And in that splash of time, I get to think about things and do stuff and wonder about the world and love people, and drink my coffee if I want to. And then that’s it.”
— Julia Sweeney, Letting Go of God

This is something that never made sense before I came out as an atheist, and something that doesn’t make sense to my friends now who are theists. And I think that’s rather sad. I could be wrong, of course, about the notion that this is all there is; that there is no deity outside of the universe measuring the threads of our lives; that nothing awaits us after we die. There could be a god, but the probability of that being true is astronomically small, or at least insignificant as a fact.

A few days ago my friend Emily turned 30. In my experience, after 25 age doesn’t start to matter again until around 40, but reaching 30 is still a cultural milestone. While I was making coffee this morning, and taking the dishes out of the dishwasher and putting them away as I waited for the grounds to steep, I considered the idea that there is nothing we can do to stop time, the process of aging, or the inevitability of death. Someday, probably sooner than I’d like to think since time itself is a fiction that we create to make sense of our waking moments, I am going to die. Life is uncertain, but of that I can be certain as an organic being.

This past weekend we threw Emily one hell of a party as only twentysomethings with too much education and access to alcohol can. Since we aren’t teenagers it wasn’t a wild party by any definition. However, I did end up getting very drunk since the only thing I’d had to eat the entire day was a scone from Starbucks and two pieces of chocolate cake. The result was that I blacked out for part of the evening, although I do recall playing a Bach prelude from memory and then breaking down in tears because I’d just played a Bach prelude from memory and no one at that party fully appreciated that fact; the fact that I love Bach, the fact that I write music, write stories (or this blog), or all of the sundry incongruous elements that make up Me.

And there’s no one special person right now who appreciates that. That’s mainly what upset me this weekend. And I was up until about three in the morning talking in my bed with the only other gay guy at the party (who I wasn’t even sure would like me since 1) he’s a Christian and a pastor; 2) I’m an outspoken atheist and a loud one, and he knew that) about some of those things—including Seth, with whom we’ve both had unfortunate experiences.

In the little over a year since I came out as an atheist, the desire to deeply and intimately share the experience of being alive with another human being has grown a lot. In the past my youngest sister has expressed a total lack of sympathy or understanding when I’d talk about wanting to find a guy. (This is the sister who, incidentally, is currently substituting a dog for a meaningful relationship with a guy because she “can’t find anybody good enough,” which is not-so-subtle code for “fear of intimacy,” the congenital malady of my family.)

For me, the desire to be with someone comes out of the knowledge that this is the only go-round that we get on this planet, and I want to spend that time with someone who, out of all the other guys in this world, wants to spend it with me (and vice versa); who finds my quirkiness enchanting, and my insanity endearing (even if, at times, infuriating); and who desires as much as I do to deepen his understanding of humanity and of existence by exploring life with another person.

“I speak of none other than the computer that is to come after me,” intoned Deep Thought, his voice regaining its accustomed declamatory tones. “. . . A computer which can calculate the Question to the Ultimate Answer, a computer of such infinite and subtle complexity that organic life itself shall form part of its operational matrix. And you yourselves shall take on new forms and go down into the computer to navigate its ten-million-year program!”
— Douglas Adams, The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Chapter 28

When you believe that “there are other worlds than this . . . that this world, that seems so real, is no more than a shadow of the life to come” (William Nicholson, Shadowlands), it doesn’t matter whether or not if you find someone in the Here and Now. To my youngest sister, all that matters is knowing Jesus.

I want to focus on making this life the best one possible—which includes waking up with the guy I’m in love with (and vice versa).

119. crib

Standard

cribverb: To pilfer or steal, especially to plagiarize; slang: One’s home; pad.

Regrets collect like old friends,
Here to relive your darkest moments—
I can see no way, I can see no way.
And all of the ghouls come out to play.
— Florence + the Machine, Shake It Out

Change is inevitable. That’s the way of evolution. It’s the driving force of the universe. If things stayed the way they were, nothing would exist.

I’ve called Minneapolis/Saint Paul home since August of 1993 when my family moved here from central Kansas, where we’d lived since 1986. Ever since we came up over a hill and the skyscrapers of Minneapolis came into view, I’ve never wanted to call anyplace else home—even after visiting England and Ireland in 2003. This is where my family is from, where my friends are, and where a million memories are connected to.

But over the past couple of months, like a person gradually losing their mother tongue and having it replaced by an alien language, it’s felt less like the home that it always has been.

A similar thing happened in 2007 when I left the church that had been home for 14 years and went off by myself to another church, where I’d be for the next three and a half years until finally becoming an atheist.

When we moved here in 1993, we quickly decided on a non-denominational church in Saint Paul. Everything about it felt just right—the people, the teaching, the Christian education programs for both adults and children. And we got involved right away. We got connected with the active homeschool community at the church, and soon we were there 3-4 days a week, including Sundays. There were music practices, AWANAS, clubs, and regular events.

Later I would join the adult choir at age 15, which became my special church family, and I honestly cherish every memory I have from that group. And we were good. We were not your typical warbly church choir. We were an auditioned ensemble—and voiced. Our music director was incredible, and we were seated according to how our voices blended.

Needless to say, there were a thousand things about that church that I loved. But then our pastor left after a coup of sorts by the executive pastor who was hired to basically turn us into a mega church. That eventually led to the installation of the pastor who is currently there, a much younger guy who had his own “hip” ideas about church. The sermons were watered down in content and quality. Services started resembling rock shows, with one of the pastors shifted over to overseeing production.

And then one day I was standing in church, looking around, and it suddenly hit me. “I don’t belong here anymore.” I couldn’t put my finger on it, but so much had gradually changed that it no longer resembled the church I had grown up in. It was someone else’s church. At the time I was working at the church as a custodian, and I continued to work there while going to Saturday services at the church I would eventually move to.

In the same way, Minneapolis and Saint Paul have ceased to feel like home. Only nothing about the city itself has changed. The people have. And I have.

For many reasons, this past Christmas I cut off all contact with my immediate family—my mom and dad, two younger sisters, a brother-on-law and a nephew.

Many of my friends have also either moved away, or gotten married and/or started families of their own. A very close-knit group of friends of mine scattered last year after about half of them moved away. I lived with two guys for about a year and a half until one of them moved out to move in with his girlfriend, and then the other guy was getting married so I moved in with my parents for a bit until I found a new place to live. They became my “church” after I left the other one.

Then there’s SafeHouse, the church that my friends are starting. For those of you who’ve never been in a church, there’s a closeness that comes with being part of one that makes everyone on the outside feel a bit alienated. It’s not intentional on their part. They’re just becoming a tribe. It’s basic sociology.

… there’s also Seth.

It feels like playground politics to say it, but he’s really become the line in the sand with my old group of friends. Before the night of my birthday in 2011, I had grown incredibly close with that set of people, and Seth (at least for me) quickly became the center of it all. He’s incredibly charismatic and likable. From the first time I heard about the kid who had been kicked out of his Christian parents’ home when he came out to them, to when I read his blog and fell in love with his words, to when I actually met him for coffee and fell in love with his personality and his incredibly piercing, beautiful blue-grey eyes, I was taken.

Then it all fell apart. Now he’s my friends’ pastor, and on one side of the line is me and on the other is all the pain and ugliness that lies between him and myself, as well as anyone who calls him “friend.” And I miss him terribly. There are few days where I don’t think about him or wonder what he’s up to, and wish things happened differently.

So I’m seriously contemplating relocating to Seattle this summer. It’s pointless to run from your problems, but neither is anything getting better; and sometimes a radical change of scenery can help, like women in Jane Austen novels vacationing in Bath.

There’s the need for physical distance between myself and Seth, from SafeHouse, and from the people in my life who I just don’t belong with anymore. And I can’t figure out who I am now as an atheist when I’m dragging this horse around with me.

108. facades

Standard

It’s a bit frustrating to be nearly thirty years old and basically starting over in life. It’s true that there’s no check list for where you “should be” by such-and-such an age, but when you suddenly find yourself basically set back at square one after over a quarter century of heading down one particular path, it’s rather disheartening.

True, it could always be worse.

It also doesn’t help being nearly thirty, still being single and watching your friends who are five years younger than you finding their “soul mates” (hell, even writing that word brings the taste of bile to my mouth), getting married and having kids. Yes, I know enough about their personal lives to know that it’s no walk in the park and there’s nothing perfect about it (especially once children enter the picture), but still, it’s got to better than single life. And for a single gay man, the older you get the more you start to feel like a carton of milk in the fridge with a rapidly-approaching expiration date.

Last night I saw the movie Bridesmaids for the first time. I rather expected it to be a female version of The Hangover, with estrogen instead testosterone-induced idiocy. What I saw instead was a film about a single woman hitting rock bottom while surrounded by people who had seemed to have everything she was looking for. Of course, as dig you find that everyone is a mess: the gorgeous housewife is beleaguered by three teenage sons and a horndog of a husband; the sweet, seemingly innocent newlywed isn’t getting laid nearly enough; the Barbie doll socialite has two stepchildren who (understandably) hate her, and her husband is always travelling. Melissa McCarthy’s character is the only one who seems to have it together, despite all of her… eccentricities. And it’s true. If you look closely enough, everyone is more or less barely keeping it together.

I can also relate to dating guy after guy who inevitably disappoints, and to having a fuck buddy who, despite your better judgement, you keep going back to because of how lonely you are; who is just using you for sex under the notion that you’re both adults having fun, no strings attached (though he secretly knows what’s going on but still takes advantage of you). I’ve even had that conversation at the top of the film, where she assures him that of course it doesn’t mean anything, we’re just having fun—even though she’s dying inside.

When (like Kristen Wiig’s character) you’re constantly surrounded by seemingly successful people, constantly reminded by their lives of how far you are from where you want to be, it’s pretty demoralizing. I can’t even count how many weddings/wedding receptions where I’ve been asked the inevitable, perennial question, “So, are you here with anyone?” Or, “Oh, hi, you must be David’s girlfriend!”, only to have to backpedal and explain that not only do I not even know this girl but that I’m also gay. (“No, grandma, I like cock.”) Once I even had to explain that the girl I was with was my younger sister, not my wife.

No joke.

So I’m less than a few weeks away from my twenty-ninth birthday (which, for those of you who are curious, I won’t be observing again, for one glaring reason). Every year since I’ve come out, I’ve made the resolution that this will be the year I buckle down to the business of finding a boyfriend, a partner. Because I’m nearly thirty, not getting any younger, and the older you get the more impossible it seems for a gay man to find a permanent, lasting relationship with a decent guy. And I’ll be damned if I’m one of those pathetic forty- or fifty-year-old men who are still sleeping around like some bloody twentysomething.

It’s brought up the question the past few months of what sort of guy I should date—and specifically, whether I should date someone of faith. It could be any religion, but (for example) a few months ago I was dating a Christian guy. He was fairly liberal in his views, but there were a number of things that irked me about him intellectually to the point where a relationship was untenable. Then his father was diagnosed with cancer. It wasn’t terminal, but he was hurt that I wouldn’t pray for him. What was I supposed to say? I don’t think that things turn out for the best, or that there’s a plan for each of us. I believe that things happen, and we’re each of us caught in the inexorable clutches of time and chance. It’s not a comforting thought, but that’s reality, and I’ve always been one of those that liked to know how things are, devoid of the illusions of comfort and cozy half-truths, like the guy in a Western who’s been shot and blearily slurs, “Give it to me straight, Doc.”

And, assuming that he wants kids, how would we raise them? No doubt he’d want to take them to church on more than a bi-yearly basis, whereas I’d be for a secular upbringing—the upbringing I wish I’d had. While I don’t want to be my parents and bring them up in a vacuum, at what point do you draw the line? Do you turn Sunday morning into a cultural field trip, exploring synagogues, Hindu and Buddhist temples, Protestant and Catholic churches? And how to reconcile that one parent believes in absolute truth whereas the other parent believes faith is patent nonsense?

Then there are things like end-of-life. I support euthanasia (we consider it “humane” to put down dying animals that are suffering), whereas he’ll likely believe that god alone has the right to determine life and death.

However, so much of it will likely come down to chemistry and whether or not we love each other, but I would like to be with a guy with whom I share views, because you do look at the world differently as a non-theist.