On this particular autumn night, only the prospect of another solitary evening lies before her. She will fry her chop and read herself to sleep, no doubt with a tale of wizardry and romance. Then, in dreams that strike even her as trite, Miss Dark will go adventuring in chain mail and silk. Tomorrow morning she will wake up alone, and do it all again.
Poor Judy Dark! Poor little librarians of the world, those girls, secretly lovely, their looks marred forever by the cruelty of a pair of big black eyeglasses.-Chabon in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
The comic book characters Joe and Sammy created were, in a sense, golems as well. Or, failed to be, I suppose. Joe wanted them to be brought to life, battling the Nazis through his comics all the while expecting and hoping that some actual political movement would be inspired by his efforts. In this he was disappointed, as his friend had warned him:
"There is only one sure means in life," Deasey said, "of ensuring that you are not ground into paste by disappointment, futility, and disillusion. And that is always to ensure, to the utmost of your ability, that you are doing it solely for the money."
If I could twist his words to my own devices I would change it to read that you should do it solely for personal satisfaction. Money, it seems to me, could be an even larger disappointment after failure than missed political influence.
And, the perennial consideration of blogging's purpose seems to be apropos. My reason for blogging constantly evolves, but at present it is 1) because I'm completely addicted, 2) because it is helpful to me in addressing subjects that bother me, and 3) because I think it's helpful to others. And those latter points give me some satisfaction. The fact that it may NOT be helpful to anyone puts a damper on my efforts to avoid being ground into paste, but I always have #2 to fall back on.
But bringing Frankenstein to life has its cost. I could be producing other types of golems instead. Is this really the best use of my limited time? I've given up so many hobbies and interests over the years out of necessity. Adulthood and gainful employment preclude the personal indulgence I've enjoyed to create golems throughout my life. It's a sad truth that there's only so much time and it can fit only so many opportunities. I hope I'm choosing the better part. Or at the very least, I'm fortifying myself in a manner that will allow me to do so in the future. And I hope my golem doesn't end up turning on me and killing me.
Monday, November 27, 2006
For those of you who never read the book, feel free to join in. I can't give a decent synopsis, but I'll give it a shot all the same. It's a story about Joe Kavalier, a Czeck Jewish teenager who left his family to come to the US during WWII and spends most of the book trying to help them reach safety, and his gay American cousin Sammy Clay. Their adventures center around the creation of successful comic book characters, as well as their relationships with each other, their respective families, their boss, their romantic interests, a Nazi sympathizer, etc.
The writing itself is mostly beautiful and fun, but labored at times. You have to be willing to put up with a style that I found to be irritatingly confusing at crucial moments (you know: gunshots, bombs going off, fight scenes) and excessively thick at times (to borrow a phrase from Chabon himself, they "caught like batter in the blades of the ceiling fans"). The sections that walk through a comic book's story and panels are amazingly effective.
But the real power of the book is its ability to capture believable characters. I could pick Joe or Sammy out of a crowd. I would know just how to talk to them. I fell in love with Joe during the first part of the book (didn't want to...) and cried at the end because of how Sammy dealt with the awkward family situation. It made me reflective, it heightened my awareness of my past conflicts and my current decisions (and is that a good thing?).
To continue a quote I started on this post:
At the same time, as he watched the reckless exercise of Joe's long, cavalier frame, the display of strength for its own sake and for the love of display, the stirring of passion was inevitably shadowed, or fed, or entwined by the memory of his father. We have the idea that our hearts, once broken, scar over with an indestructible tissue that prevents their ever breaking again in quite the same place; but as Sammy watched Joe, he felt the heartbreak of that day in 1935 when the Mighty Molecule had gone away for good.
I've sometimes felt that my heart is scarring over nicely--I've come to accept the desires in myself that are never going to be fulfilled. Whether that involves removing the desire altogether or just letting it settle silently into the unacknowledged background, I don't really care. But reading this book--particularly the part recognized by all the reviews I read online as a happy ending--had quite a sobering effect on me. It reminded me that what I believe is right and necessary for myself is nothing like what many people believe is best for me. Being reminded in just this way opened that wound up all over again, and the happy ending I had been promised was excruciating. I am Sammy, in so many ways, and I can't/won't be trotting off to Hollywood to be "true to myself," despite that I genuinely want to at times. I was filled with self-pity and confusion and cried. I had to deliberately remind myself why I've made the decisions I have, and that I'm really glad for them.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Plus, my family sang.
It's been forever, it seems, since we've had a good gather-'round-the-piana-and-sing-til-it-hurts extravaganza. The songs were beautiful and were largely about gratitude for the atonement, for families, for all our blessings. I love my life and I love my family. I'm so thankful for it all.
Whenever I hear the song of a bird
Or look at the blue, blue sky,
Whenever I feel the rain on my face
Or the wind as it rushes by,
Whenever I touch a velvet rose
Or walk by a lilac tree,
I’m glad that I live in this beautiful world
Heavenly Father created for me.
He gave me my eyes that I might see
The color of butterfly wings.
He gave my ears that I might hear
The magical sound of things.
He gave me my life, mind, my heart;
I thank Him rev’rently
For all his creations, of which I’m a part.
Yes, I know Heavenly Father loves me.My Heavenly Father Loves Me
The Children’s Songbook, p. 228
Saturday, November 25, 2006
I had a bishop who used to say that whenever he had a hard situation he used to ask in his prayers what he had to learn with that situation. He said that every trial we get is for a purpose and that we have something to learn from it. He also said that once he knew its purpose and have done what was required of him the hard situation he was facing would go away.
I don't know if I can say that God has given us SSA. But I believe that in my situation it has given me some blessings. Let me explain. I was raised in a very small community in Brazil, in the country... I started to realize that I was different. I felt attracted to other guys... [Several years later] I was feeling very depressed about these feelings and I still couldn't talk to anyone. I had decided that I would commit suicide... I had decided to [find a church to help with the SSA] and if it didn't work I would proceed with the suicide plans. About 2 or 3 days after that episode the missionaries knocked on my door... Two weeks after that first contact with the missionaries I got baptized. Served a mission and it's been 7 years now since that first contact with the missionaries.
I am telling all this to try to make my point which is: I would never have joined the Church were it not for the SSA... it was the SSA again that made me seek God for help.
I feel grateful that it has led me to join the Church though it is hard sometimes. Thinking on my bishop's thoughts on why we have trials I think I still have something to learn from this. I just hope I learn it soon.
This story inspired me. Usually when I think about the blessings God gives us, I don't think of the challenges. If people try to re-frame challenges to view them as blessings, I roll my eyes. But, they can't see me through the Internet, so I'm safe... until I just confessed it and now they all hate me. But I really like Rodrigo's story all the same.
Over the last couple weeks I've heard all sorts of people express their gratitude for SSA--people of all persuasions gushing their praise for SSA here and there, happy it has made them who they are. I could put in the links, but there would be too many. Rodrigo's story above is the most compelling I heard. I like the idea of learning from the challenges God gives us. I like the idea of looking on the positive side. I like the idea of burning in hell a little bit less, and the fact that my SSA motivates me to do things that could bring that about (like cheat on my family) tempers my gratitude.
I'll be grateful for my SSA and all that it has taught me once it is gone. But I fear that to laud it as some wonderful thing in my life invites me to incorrectly view it as good in itself. And I believe that SSA is morally neutral in and of itself--it's only the way I deal with it that makes it a blessing or a curse. I hope that someday I can express my true gratitude for the things SSA has taught me. I suppose it will happen when I'm certain that I'll have the strength to successfully bypass all the temptations that are associated with it.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
I thought about doing a post about all the good things in my life... you know, to try to put a positive spin on the travesty that is my unjust existence. I'd post some list detailing every random thing to find something good about it. "I'm thankful for income tax because it helps me to be humble. I'm thankful for speeding tickets because law enforcement is important. I'm thankful to have lost my arm on the job because now I get disability." But something inside me felt slightly cynical about such a post. So, I decided to fess up and tell you my REAL feelings. I deserve more.
To be honest, the touchy-feely nature of this holiday just makes me want to curl into a fetal position and block out all sounds and light. I mean, I have to spend it with the in-laws instead of actually getting a vacation, and grandpa will say the requisite speech about how glad he is we have our health right before wolfing a meal with 15,000,000 grams of saturated fat. We'll no doubt spend the rest of the evening in the emergency department getting his EKG and heart workup just like last Christmas. If we were really grateful for health, we would eat Brussels sprouts for dinner. And who's thankful for that?
At times like these I grit my teeth and remember that for every blessing I have in my life, there's a half dozen I've lost. For every opportunity taken, there were several opportunities irrevocably foregone. For all the triumphs in my life there have been exponential challenges rushing in to temper the headiness and redirect me to the gloom of reality. My life could have been so much better.
So. Thankful? I don't think so. Grateful, shmateful.
P.S. I loved all the beautiful Thanksgiving posts I've read today and over the last several days, and I just didn't know how to measure up. I especially loved the series on this blog and the personal notes on this blog addressed to virtually everyone on the Internet. Have a good one because... well... we're blessed.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Romantic love is not only a part of life, but literally a dominating influence of it. It is deeply and significantly religious. There is no abundant life without it. Indeed, the highest degree of the celestial kingdom is unattainable in the absence of it.
I got this from Kim Mack quoting Bruce Hafen quoting Boyd K. Packer. (If you ever use it elsewhere, be sure to add me on the list of acknowledgments.) I've always had a favorable opinion of romantic love, but never considered it to be deeply and significantly religious. How 'bout that?
I want an abundant life, so I guess I'd better go buy some jewelry.
Monday, November 20, 2006
At times like these, it's my job to lay the smack down.
"What's the trouble, Mr. X? Why are you planning to leave?"
"I'm 42 years old and I can eat whatever I want. This place is terrible. If I want bacon for breakfast, I can have bacon for breakfast. If I want to smoke, I can smoke. I'm 42 years old."
He was, of course, acting 4 decades younger than his stated age. I attempted to explain to him in no uncertain terms that bacon was likely going to kill him and that we preferred it not be today. I don't know if he really understood what I was talking about or not. The concept of risk factors and cumulative behaviors contributing to disease aren't compelling when his past experience so emphatically impressed on him the memories of wolfing down saturated fat to his, umm, heart's content with nary a chest pang. It's the same conversation I've had a million times with smokers who with fallacious logic stubbornly refuse to understand that there are any real consequences at all.
It's a problem that results in poor "compliance"--the term used to connote how well a patient adheres to the treatments recommended by the doctor. Some patients are non-compliant because of financial concerns, some because the don't understand the instructions, and some because they're too darn lazy to go fill the prescription that could save their life. The best treatment, and the one prone to the worst compliance, is more exercise and a better diet. Such treatment helps every system in the body in unimaginable ways. But who wants to do that? Certainly not someone status post decades of habitual self-abandon.
The point of this post-call tirade is guilty acknowledgment that I'm non-compliant. For decades I've known that the best prescription listed in the scriptures for temptation is to pray. It's repeated more often than any other commandment, according to one of my seminary teachers. Pray that you may come off conqueror, Christ tells us. Why don't I pray more, I wonder? Is it so difficult? It's even easier than flipping open the scriptures and taking in a few verses... another prescription I've left unfilled for so long. Praying and reading scriptures are the spiritual equivalent of diet and exercise--fundamental and irreplaceable.
The risk factors of ignoring God's treatment suggestions are well established in the literature. They're beyond doubt. Why then am I so poorly compliant? I should be listening to the greatest healer of all. The message is like the one I gave Mr. X, "If you ignore the treatment we're offering, if you don't follow the advice, I can't stop you. You can leave here and behave however you'd like, as you say. But you know the results of those decisions now, and it's up to you what kind of future you have."
Sunday, November 19, 2006
I bring this up because being gay leads to odd scenarios that seem to break the rules at other times as well. Take, for example, showering with other guys. It’s not really a choice in high school, despite folks like my poor friend in middle school who got an erection and whose middle school life was never the same. Fob's quip in a comment that showering with other guys was not the time anyone needed to worry about him doing something inappropriate! Funny, and certainly true. But, just because they aren't likely to have public sex together, we still frown on high school guys and girls showering together... for some reason. I think extrapolating that traditional guidance to gay guys is probably a good idea.
We're careful about men going to girls' camp in the LDS church. And men and women living together in BYU housing, for example. A huge amount of care and effort go into trying to keep the situation itself, no matter how benign, free from temptation and even what my mother would call, "the appearance of evil."
So, I read with interest this post and the comments that followed. It reminded me of a discussion on D2 regarding SSA roommates. It doesn't seem like a great idea to me, to be honest, although I have mixed feelings.
In another example, I was jealous but also a little bit relieved that I couldn't hang out with the crowd of fun bloggers who met at the Evergreen conference and who had a big sleep over party.
I guess the point is that when the normal rules don't apply... you have to try to find wisdom in dealing with the situation for yourself. And although there are plenty who find tradition to be restrictive and absurd, I find it comforting as a default. Where it doesn't apply, as a gay man, I try to use an analogy to a straight situation when possible. When that’s not possible, I think it's important to use vigilant care in recognizing red flags. And maybe err on the side of caution.
Now, if I can just think of how to get a nurse in the room when I’m doing male exams without outing myself…
Friday, November 17, 2006
As he watched Joe stand, blazing, on the fire escape, Sammy felt an ache in his chest that turned out to be, as so often occurs when memory and desire conjoin with a transient effect of weather, the pang of creation. The desire he felt, watching Joe, was unquestionably physical, but in the sense that Sammy wanted to inhabit the body of his cousin, not possess it. It was, in part, a longing--common enough among the inventors of heroes--to be someone else; to be more than the result of two hundred regimens and scenarios and self-improvement campaigns that always ran afoul of his perennial inability to locate an actual self to be improved. Joe Kavalier had an air of competence, of faith in his own abilities, that Sammy, by means of constant effort over the whole of his life, had finally learned only how to fake.
That's to get you to go read it. Discuss on November 27!
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Today I’m more interested in who I am and where I am in my life. In my anatomy class I’ve been surprised to see men and women in the most vulnerable and exposed position possible—inside out... Each one of us presents on a day to day basis as an attractive, thinking, feeling individual. And yet each of us is, on a more fundamental basis, a very intricate and astounding combination of organs, genetic information, and just plain guts. Guts that change from day to day, as a matter of fact. I’m quite literally not the man I was just a few years ago. So the continuity I suppose is in the spiritual factor. In some inexplicable way a person’s spirit infuses the body with ... individuality and higher feelings.
... In embryology we speak of organs that are in the embryo but are then obliterated during later growth. I’ve seen parts of myself—parts that some have told me will never leave me—that I would like to be obliterated. I like to think that some have been and that it has made me closer to being like God. Others are to follow.
I don't care much if I sound like a broken record. I like to reinforce myself to myself once in a while, and I really feel powerfully certain that there are parts of ourselves that we need not mourn losing. Without such metamorphosis, life would not be possible. And without such a metamorphosis, becoming more like God is entirely impossible. Hence the concept of being born again, or letting God change us. I hope I can be changed in a manner that will remove my prejudice against change.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
If you're going to spend that many cows on a wife, you'd better really be fixin' to enjoy your investment. And to make that work, she's gotta know that she's worth every scrap of that beef. And that's just the trouble for me. I've become worried over the last several months that my Mohanna doesn't appreciate my appreciation... that she doesn't feel desirable. That she doesn't feel worth 8 cows. Or 4, or even 2.
Walking the dog through the park one day, I asked her whether she felt that my being gay subconsciously affected the way she perceives her own attractiveness. I asked her whether knowing that I was not strongly sexually attracted to her made her feel unsexy. I expressed my concern that she realize the difference between how a wife might normally interpret a husband's response, and how she should interpret mine.
Let me just say that walking over a bridge in a gorgeous park on a nice summer day is a good time to have this conversation. There was peace in the air, and we felt very close as we expressed our very real love for one another.
But it's one thing to think rationally through something holding hands in a scene from a Hallmark card, and quite another to have estrogen forcing you to cry when you don't want to, alone in the middle of the night. Err... so I've heard. A couple times since then things have turned hard and we've talked about it again. Something I've said or done has reminded her that our sexual situation is not ideal, and she realizes she does want to feel validated in that way... she does want to feel pursued, and sexy, and... worth 8 cows.
In my discouraged moments I think my efforts to give her 20 cows worth of affection and love are just an apology for the kind of love I'm not able to give her. And then I feel like I'm a bad husband. But in my good moments I know that 20 genuine cows worth of affection IS the kind of love I can offer and with some conscious appreciation and thoughtful effort we can work together to make sure we both have a healthy approach to our self image and our beautiful relationship. My Mohanna is worth more cows than any other woman (or man) on the island! I just need to make sure I send messages consistent with that fact.
Monday, November 13, 2006
It was... get ready for it... an assignment for a class. Students in that class were asked to do something outside their comfort zone. However, this friend's comfort zone was pretty darn broad to begin with, so she knew actually fulfilling it would take something extra. She would have to face one of the few things that intimidated her. Among them was me--the enigmatic boy with whom she had been best friends for quite a while, but who had somehow failed to take the slightest initiative in escalating the relationship.
After being relieved of my lip-virginity, my innocence unwillingly taken from me, I sat pensively wondering why it felt like such a big deal? Why should I care? Why didn't I experiment more? I decide I had better get comfortable with myself enough to explore. The idea made me slightly nauseated.
I remembered a time during high school when I had watched my buddy kiss his date on the porch when we dropped her off (we were doubling). It had made me really angry. I don't know why it was so hard for me to consciously understand what is so obvious to me now--I wanted him to be kissing me. Although I told myself I was losing my two best friends (to each other), the real problem was that the relationships between the three of us hadn't played out in the impossible way I secretly preferred. So, I was miserable and channeled my displeasure into a ridiculous philosophy that kissing was cheap and insincere. It got me out of a lot of kissing for several self-deluding years.
My kissing boycott extended to hand holding, rubbing backs, or any other mild publicly acceptable affection as well. I attributed my reluctance to hold hands during dates to my virtue--I wanted it to really mean something when I was affectionate with a girl. I once forced myself and was rewarded with sweaty disgusting hands for the evening as well as feeling cheap and dishonest. It was not particularly pleasant, but I gave it a shot. In a laughably stupid lack of insight, I was completely mistaken about my motivations and my conclusions about why it was unpleasant.
Fast forward now to my first real kiss. I was at the airport with a girl that I was thinking about asking to marry me. It was awkward because I loved her, but as with the other women in my life, I wasn't sexually attracted to her. Could it work? I had to try to make it work. So I kissed her. The kiss was powerful in some ways and disappointing in others. It was powerful because I initiated it. It was pathetic because I had no idea what I was doing. It was powerful because I loved her and I wanted to desire her. It was pathetic because the desire was all wishful thinking. I just wasn't feeling it.
We got engaged and made it our habit to get lots of practice making out. I got a lot better. ;-) We got married and I got better still. One may even say (if that "one" is my wife) that I'm a really good kisser. And she has, ahem, lots more experience with other kissers than I do!
So, now, when I read posts about being repulsed by the prospect of being affectionate with someone to whom there is no sexual attraction, I get it. And this post has no great moral to it--I just note that somehow I used to be at point A and now I'm at point B (getting lots of hetero kissing action, and thoroughly enjoying it). The getting from one to the other is quite a mystery.
Friday, November 10, 2006
Here's my problem: I see the passionate experiences of folks like John Galt and Enduring Eric and I want those experiences for myself. Here are married men who had extended affairs that were by all accounts highly enjoyable and now are in the process of returning to the church and receiving full forgiveness and all the blessings of the gospel. Their own blogs explain the details and all the obstacles and heart-wrenching repentance they have and are experiencing, but at the end of it all I keep thinking they've managed to have their cake and eat it too.
I want to love and be loved in the powerful way John describes. Gay or straight, I think few people find a soul mate as attractive and perfectly suited as John has. I wonder if the forbidden nature of an affair makes it that much more passionate. Actually, I'm sure of it. Regardless, that's the kind of passionate sexual connection I've never experienced. And I should be thankful, all things considered, but I find myself feeling cheated. Why shouldn't I experience it just like John did and then repent and go on with my family life?
Commence cognitive therapy.
The problem with my thought process on this subject is that, like many church members, I've tried to distill the atonement into some kind of spiritual arithmetic--the kind that always ends with dividing by zero and being forgiven of all debts. But the gospel of Jesus Christ isn't only about the tally of sins and the ability of the atonement to "cover" them like a credit limit, it's about becoming like God. And you don't become like God by milking the system. You can't become holy by planning your sins and delaying your repentance to get the maximum experience. Every sin contributes to Jesus' suffering. Every one. What kind of person has his sexual fling knowing that the cost is another person being hung from nails through his wrists? Not a divine person, to say the least.
When Elder Eyring says:
This is my warning to you today. It is a bad estimate of your personal costs to believe that a choice to commit sin is made so free by the power of the Atonement that we can have painless forgiveness... how much better to choose to be good and to do it early, a long way upstream from the terrible effects of sin.
I revert to my self-defeating mental exercise of rationalizing that I would be willing to endure a large amount of pain to have the intense experiences John describes. But, then I remind myself that it's not primarily about the happiness or pain involved. It's about becoming a divine person.
Elder Eyring also says:
If we stay at it long enough, perhaps for a lifetime, we will have for so long felt what the Savior feels, wanted what he wants, and done what he would have us do that we will have, through the Atonement, a new heart filled with charity. And we will have become like him. That promise also is in the Book of Mormon: "Charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen." (Moroni 7:47-48.)
I don't have to experience what seems like the most passionate and intense feelings in life. I don't need to "experiment" with my gay feelings to see what it's like... to know that, yes, I really am gay, and yes, I really will be missing out on that amazing sort of passion I desire in order to become who God wants me to become.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
One little old lady I currently take care of is dying of heart failure--an ironic malady for a woman so pleased with her young male physician. Heart failure is when the body fluids get backed up and end up filling up the tissues and lungs rather than staying put in the veins. You can't breath and/or you're swollen all over, and you're excessively thirsty despite the fact that you've been packing on more and more fluid. All that fluid can't do you any good because your heart isn't strong enough to pump it, and eventually you drown as you're dying of thirst.
As I chatted this morning with this sweet lady, feeling the pressure to move on to the next patient, I thought about my own heart failure
And in that day shall be heard of wars and rumors of wars, and the whole earth
shall be in commotion, and men’s hearts shall fail them, and they shall say that
Christ delayeth his coming until the end of the earth. (D&C 45:26)
Elections and wars and terrorism and really mean people make me tired. The other day I wandered through the circuit of anti-Mormon blogs and just found so much bitterness and hatred that it literally made me cry. Granted, being 4:00 AM in the middle of a frustrating call night might have had something to do with it! I get emotionally overwhelmed these days. I need to rely more on Christ, but I just don't do it. I'm like that patient who knows the lasix will alleviate the symptoms, but can't be bothered to fill the prescription and take it.
Well, I'm going to do it. I'm going to read the scriptures and feel better.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Is it too much to ask that blog polls be of high quality, flawless, and completely free?
John Galt, what post date would you like to shoot for?
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
The oft publicized problem with reparative therapy is 1) that it hasn't been rigorously proven or disproven (and yes, I know there are those who disagree and I can forward you to the current body of evidence to decide for yourself if you want), and 2) the success rate is quite low even in the best case scenarios.
Any particular therapy should have a good therapeutic ratio to be useful to anyone--the chance of benefit must be high enough to justify the risks of harm. The risks of reparative therapy get a lot of press, but they are just as unverified as the supposed successes.
So, despite that I have a number of friends who have undergone reparative therapy and are still as gay as a pink tie, I wonder to myself whether there is still some benefit. What if the social relationships "repaired" during the therapy really needed to be repaired apart from any sexual consequences?
That's pretty much where I am these days. Still undergoing reparative therapy (although not intensively right now) because I see lots of ancillary benefits that have nothing to do with my sexual orientation. I've really looked at the way I view myself. I've looked at the way I view my family members. I've carefully considered what intimidates and attracts me and why. And that sort of insight is really valuable no matter how you look at it. I'm completely okay with the prospect that my sexual orientation may not budge from this exercise. And I think that sort of attitude is a far better way to mitigate the risks and increase the therapeutic ratio than to avoid the therapy altogether.
Monday, November 06, 2006
So, I encourage anyone who is gay and Mormon to consider blogging as a therapeutic way to think about and work through this issue.
At the same time, I do have a few tips and tricks for the novice blogger. I've learned a few things the hard way and maybe by offering some advice I can save others from the same mistakes. Keep in mind, these are just the thoughts of me, one random blogger, and they may have no benefit or relevance at all. But here they are in case they do:
- Be anonymous. This is disputable, certainly, as plenty of folks are either not anonymous or semi-anonymous and seem to be doing just fine. But I've found clear benefit in the freedom to discuss anything I want, including, for example, my struggles with pornography--something I don't want Mom and Dad reading about regularly.
----a) The first corollary to #1 is that you can't include personally identifiable biographical information in your blog--even if it seems vague. I've seen at least three gay Mormon bloggers decide on a moment's notice to delete their entire blog because of anonymity issues. I've also seen at least two anonymous bloggers recognized by members of their ward. Why would these ward members be frequenting gay Mormon blogs? Who knows!? But they apparently do! So, be careful and save yourself the angst.
----b) The second corollary to #1 is that if you have another blog that is not anonymous and you post to both from the same computer, you might want to use different browsers for the different identities. I've, unfortunately, posted comments on gay Mormon blogs as my true identity and posted comments on various family blogs as -L-. Not cool. So now I always use FireFox for one identity and IE for the other. You might even consider Opera if you hate Microsoft as much as I do.
----c) Third corollary to #1: you may eventually get to know and love other bloggers, but don't be too hasty to out yourself. After chatting enough with folks outside the blogs, I've outed myself to various people with mixed results. I've made some close friends that are very supportive and I now have the benefit of having a "normal" friendship with them that isn't exclusively focused on sexual and religious issues. But I've also outed myself to some people I wish I hadn't. I finally decided that as a rule of thumb, my wife has to give me permission to out myself to someone. That gives me an excuse not to if I don't want to, and keeps me from doing so hastily if I want to too much. Hope that makes sense. Come up with a system that works for you.
- Don't wait for something earth-shattering to say to post or comment. Get comfortable with the crowd.
- When you've finally got the blog going in a good rhythm, think about the potential of being a bit more structured in your approach. I like to post whatever random thing I'm thinking about on a given day, but for those times when I've got nothing, but want to think through some issue to get that catharsis, I have some backups always on reserve. For example, I'm doing the 12 steps of addiction recovery. It's a workbook and has a million questions to think through. I'm not rushing it, and I can always post on those topics if I want something to think about. I also have made the habit of reading books and reviewing them on my blog. But the reviews aren't really assessing the work itself, they're more of an exploration of my own response. It gives me a chance to decide what I think about stuff deliberately. Make a list of what you want to figure out. Then figure it out over time on the blog.
- Don't be afraid to write about something someone else has already covered. That's the beauty of blogging--it's a personal journey and what's on your mind is perfectly legit, no matter who has already done a PhD in that topic and blogged it.
- You can always write posts for yourself that are super personal and just keep them in draft status. I have a few of those. It's all the benefits of a journal with a peanut gallery only when I want it. ;-)
- Be nice even if you are really, really cranky. Cyber people are real people even when they're stupid. (I've been cranky way too often--many apologies to all!)
- Let me know if you start a blog so I can read it. Don't make me do the work of finding you on my own.
- Don't follow the rules. I'm just saying what I do, and if it's helpful to you in doing your own thing... great!
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Really, that’s been the problem with personal revelation from the beginning—the vagueness. It’s described in a way that seems to require certitude as the defining characteristic. But when I try to wrestle with life’s problems, I often find very little that is so distinct.
I’m in the habit of attributing such spiritual communication failings to myself. After all, if one is unworthy of the spirit, one should not be surprised that He fails to imprint God’s truth with searing absoluteness in the heart at a moment’s notice. And I have never been wholly satisfied with my worthiness. That’s not to say that I haven’t been a good person. But I’ve never felt myself to be “godly” and part of me feels, however wrongly, that that’s a prerequisite for really being on chatty terms with God.
God is in the habit of talking with sinners, though, and I’m sure he recognizes far better than I do the paradox of withholding His help from those who are unworthy of it when it is His help that they need to increase their worthiness.
So I pray and I try to listen even when the answers are uncertain. I act on the answers I think I’ve received, and I think I may well have been mistaken at times. I chose my career based on such an answer. I married my wife based on such an answer. In retrospect it’s hard to imagine the borderline insanity necessary to make such huge decisions based on something so nebulous. But it wasn’t really based only on the answers I believe I received to my prayers, it was also based on a lot of critical thought and carefully measured introspection—logic trumping gut instinct as it so often does when I appraise my life’s situation.
The problem with logic over the certainty that the Spirit can and does offer at times is exactly that—logical conclusions are always provisional, never certain, subject to perpetual review and can never really be certain as long as the data they are based on is never fully collected. As new information becomes available, the equations change, the suppositions morph, and the whole system of assumptions and conclusions is adjusted by levers and gears that are inseparably connected.
Such gears and levers have disturbed my peace many times over the years. When I’ve been confronted with some surprising fact or historical bit about the church or a church leader, I’ve been so sadly resigned to be an over-worked maintenance man on the whole mechanical system that my faith and world view have been.
But I’ve realized over the years that such maintenance is only appropriate if it does not seek to replace faith. There is a balance between faith and evidence both spiritual and intellectual. The evidence presents itself, but the faith is a choice. And I do choose to have faith in the things of which knowledge is unattainable through empiric means but that extend from everything desirable and wholesome I’ve encountered in my life.
The good that I find in my concept of God and the promises made to those of many faiths who seek to follow Him, all speak to a transcendent reality—a state of purposefulness and significance of the universe that has as its origin something other-worldy. I’ve watched for those people who have the most significant scent of wholesome other-worldliness on them, and I find they are my parents, my prophets, and good men of every faith who strive to do what God has variously revealed. God’s plan, his devices, his manner of interacting with mankind, has been curious over the history of the world. Odd, regardless of the religious tradition.
I was delighted to learn that he speaks with prophets and that these men and women with first-hand knowledge of God share the light and truth they know. They often demonstrate what kind of lives we can have when we partake completely of that other-worldliness. And that I see and appreciate with a clarity that is undeniable. In this I have achieved my certitude, my absolute confidence beyond logic. When I see the good and beautiful lives and deeds of those who know God intimately, I’m uplifted and inspired. And while there are faults and errors on occasion, the overall quiet peculiarity is pervasive and sound.
That realization, over the years, has “converted” me. It’s why I believe the church to be true and why I know there is truth outside the church. It’s why I try every day to change myself into the divine creature God intends me to be. Because only I can create my will to be like God’s will. Only I can work within myself to bring about an acceptance of God’s love and help. Then I can fully accept a changed heart and spirit as God’s willing gift to his imperfect child. I’ve seen the successes of those who accept God, and the truth of that is undeniable. Like a Gift of the Spirit, to believe on the testimonies of those that know, I have a transcendent certainty that can’t be shaken. And I’m grateful for it.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Discussion of book clubbing a few posts ago included these suggestions for November titles:
...Conrad's "Heart of Darkness"? Or if we want something lighter or more seasonal, Bradbury's "Halloween Tree"? I'd read Huxley's "Brave New World"
...The Razor's Edge by Summerset Maugham or The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Chabon. I think Heart of Darkness would mean a book club attendance of 3. Of Human Bondage by Maugham would be great too. Or anything by John Irving
...1984, Animal Farm or Fahrenheit 451
I like the idea of reading a classic because most of them are probably new to me. I don't know how I managed through High School without the obligatory reading that few high schoolers appreciate, but I think I'd appreciate it now.
So... please suggest what you want to read (i.e. vote) in the comments. Give a pitch about your choice, assuming we don't know much about it.
This fear is not completely unfounded. I'm a young man, but in some ways I feel very old. How long have I been wanting to be more healthy in my daily routine? For years I've set and re-set the goal to exercise more regularly, eat more healthily. But my eating and exercising (or lack thereof) habits die hard. For how many years have I determined every few weeks that I need to read my scriptures more regularly and study the gospel more carefully? My conviction is usually born during the sacrament and lost before I pull into the driveway three hours later.
Ben Franklin spent every week of his life focusing on some new virtue to master, from what I understand. And I'm a big fan of Ben's (notwithstanding the scandals). How could he possibly have been so good at really implementing changes in himself on a regular basis? Why am I so much like a rock?
O that ye would awake; awake from a deep sleep, yea, even from the sleep of hell, and shake off the awful chains by which ye are bound, which are the chains which bind the children of men, that they are carried away captive down to the eternal gulf of misery and woe. (2Nephi 1:13)