Friday, July 10, 2009


My old buddy Bigg [now at Bigg on Life, click here] posted a wonderful contemplative piece about the feeling of going through the Looking Glass--or at least, that's how it hits me. It includes his wish that he could in fact spin straw into gold, and a wonderful hymn of gratitude for all that he has, which he celebrates as only someone who has once lost everything he held dear can do.

I resonate to all this like a tuning fork [just as I do to UP, with its story of adoption and the appearance of a mysteriously loving grand- parent] and I don't have to go far to find the reason: we both had a lot invested in what we thought our lives were about, with marriage and fatherhood pretty far up the list. I can't speak for Bigg, who seems to have figured things out a little earlier than I did.

But I do know that when I left home I fully expected never to feel the kind of love that had made my life worth living for so many years. And here I am, so deeply in love that it's hard to keep my eyes from crossing.

Things are different: I once made the mistake of thinking someone had no faults or limitations, which was unfair to both of us, and I won't [can't] make that mistake again. I once thought I knew what made me tick and what made me sing; I now wait to find out what else I don't know--a very weird feeling now I've reached the Heinz old age of 57. And I find that I am at odd moments so grateful for the reappearance of love in my life that I can hardly breathe. Yes, the sex is great, and God knows that helps smooth out some of the bumpier bits.

But it is the infinite tenderness that completely undoes me, and has from the beginning, when the Goat reached out and offered what amounted to a one-night stand for what was left of a man.

What strikes me is how what I had really lost was my faith: I knew what God wanted, and I had walked away from it. How could I not pay a price? Well, the answer is that I did pay a price, and as Bigg says, it was giving up everything I held dear, including my idea of myself, at which I had labored so long. Where my failure to believe comes in is that I could not believe that God had something good up his sleeve for me, several somethings, in fact. There was the not inconsiderable item that He [sorry, girls] really did love me exactly as I was--"without one plea." Now I had never doubted that, but I had never experienced it in such an obliterating, vivifying way. And there was the idea that He could grant me the one thing I thought I would never see again: a love worthy of the name.

Having had it and having walked away from it when I felt the price demanded for its continued life was too high to pay, I thought for sure that I lost all claim to love at all. Sure, I set about trying to remake myself as a gay man, down to furnishing my bedroom with two bureaus, two bathrobes, all the stuff the Ann Landers contingent advised in making a man welcome in your home as well as your bed, and then some--I have never done things by halves. But I never expected to find anyone as beautiful, funny, talented in the kitchen as well as the bedroom as the person I had had and chosen to leave. How could I "expect" to be struck by lightning twice in my life?

And yet, the thing I have to admit, the thing that drives my gratitude into high gear, is that I have been continually struck by lightning, my whole life long. From the moment of my birth, I have been loved by somebody or other--I have never had to live in the awareness that there was no one who cared for me. It makes a pretty big difference in the way you walk through life; yes, you can ignore how lucky you are and take it all for granted, but I rarely [dare I say never?] fell quite that low--it was all just to clear to me from the way I reacted to others: I responded with affection when in fact little or none was on the table to begin with. I got kicked in the pants a few times, but who doesn't? The fact is, I have always been blessed, and most of the time have managed to be grateful. That makes walking away from the sources of that blessed happiness all the harder, and makes imagining happiness on the other side of it nearly impossible.

Other than all the above, what struck me about Bigg's post is the way Walt Disney's heavy hand has landed on all of us. It's nothing personal, it's just that he roots in the real American religion that substitutes hope for faith, and nature for God--even priests and ministers in America wax eloquent on nature to the point that you wonder if it has ever occurred to them that the God of the Jews created us in time, not space. Look at the images Disney chose to accompany "Ave Maria" in Fantasia: shapes that look like nuns in habits but aren't walk through a grove of trees whose limbs somehow form Gothic arches without being them. And then there's the poisonous drivel that makes us all think that we wish for something hard enough, the Blue Fairy will deliver it. Ha!

That would make as cynical a sentence to post over the gates of Auschwitz as the actual "Work will set you free."

Hope requires you to know what you wish for; faith hopes for things "unseen," things undreamt of, unwished for yet. Faith calls upon the future to break into the hell which half of the present always is for some of us, and redeem it. Wishing upon a star means that if you know what you want, and want it hard enough to "deserve" it, you'll get it--but I would not advise most of you to hold your breath...

God's grace, on the other hand, which is the response to any degree of faith [and I mean faith in anything, my agnostic friends, even faith in a Disney song], is always undeserved. Which is what makes it so overwhelming if you open your eyes to see that is not your wishing that "makes it so."

So here I am. My comment in response to Bigg's post was not as eloquent as it should have been, and while I can't exactly improve my eloquence, I can at least fiddle with the words. What I came close to saying was this:
Everything of value can be lost; everything that has life will someday die. The only things that cannot die are those that were dead to begin with. Real life begins when you take that on board and live in the knowledge that everything you treasure will, indeed must, at some point slip away. So, live life while you can--make life worth living. Know what you have been given, what you can give in return.

Or, as the
Goat is fond of saying: carp that diem.
That's my message for the day, guys.
In fact, it's my message for pretty much every day:
Carp that diem.

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