I popped awake around 3am this morning and eventually wandered downstairs and flipped on the TV. God I love MeTV. Some of the old shows I used to watch as a kid I never really got when I was that young. One of those was Route 66, which is just amazing to watch now that I’m older and been around the block a few times.
This morning’s episode was titled “Love Is A Skinny Kid”, which is from a line of dialogue that will probably haunt me to my grave. Buz and Tod find themselves in a small Texas town when a young woman wearing a very disturbing Japanese Kabuki mask gets off a bus. She burns a doll on a stake in front of someone’s house, and a crowd gathers and the local sheriff takes her into custody. Then the following exchange happens between Buz and Tod…
Buz: I can still smell it.
Buz: No, I mean the hate. That girl — she hates so hard it came right through the mask. You know what I mean?
Tod: No, I’m not sure I do.
Buz: I guess you gotta be around it the way I used to be. It’s like … malaria. One sniff of it, it comes right back. You can forget anything, except … hate.
Tod: What about the little item that makes the world go ’round?
Buz: Love? Love’s a … a skinny kid, that can catch cold and die, from just standing outside a locked door, begging to come in. But hate … now that’s a tiger in the hall. Hot or cold, it busts in, chomps out a piece. And it never grows back.
Wow… Just…wow… Some of those early TV shows had some amazing writers working for them. And actors. That episode, in addition to regulars Martin Milner and George Maharis, also had Burt Reynolds, Tuesday Weld, Veronica Cartwright and Cloris Leachman in it. All of them gave amazing performances. But the writing…I never really appreciated it…couldn’t have back when I was a kid. That line, Love’s a skinny kid that can catch cold and die from just standing outside a locked door, begging to come in…But hate… It will haunt me forever.
by Bruce |
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August 12th, 2014
Depression, Madness, And Those Of Us Who Slip Between The Fingers Of Concern
It’s not often another story of celebrity death makes me feel like the floor went out from under me, but that’s what news of Robin William’s death by suicide did. I was heartbroken in that instant, as were a lot of people. The word “celebrity” demeans someone like him. He was an artist, an actor, a tremendous creative talent. He could be the gifted stage comic, the manic genie in Disney’s Aladdin, and then you look and he’s the evil Walter Finch in Insomnia, and then you look again and he’s John Keating in Dead Poets Society, and then you look again and he’s Peter Pan.
Williams it seems, was battling depression. I follow a bunch of very talented and creative people on Facebook and Twitter who are also battling depression. That’s, the clinical depression, which is a thing unlike those bouts of sadness and loneliness and loss we all face at one time or another in our lives. It’s a thing, a real medical clinical thing. People who experience it speak of it as a gray cloud that hangs over everything and never goes away. They say it sucks the energy and joy out of everything. I have had my moments of grief, I’ve had it so bad I’ve stood at the threshold of suicide myself many times. But it’s never been like that. And what comforts me as I walk into old age and I find myself standing at that threshold once again is I’ve seen the darkness come and go over and over and over again and I know from experience that sooner or later It Will Go Away, and I just have to keep walking through it. So I am told, it’s not like that when you have clinical depression. For those folks, that gray cloud never goes away, at least not without medication. I know I can always count on time making mine go away. But I also know how easy it is for people like me to lose our balance, and fall into a pit we may or may not get back out of in time.
The writer David Gerrold wrote this on Facebook the other day…
I don’t know the details of what Robin Williams was dealing with and I won’t speculate.
I do know that when you have a mind that works that fast and makes that kind of connections, flashing from moment to moment, assembling new pieces out of fragments of old experiences, it’s exhausting.
Sometimes my mind does that, all the circuits firing at once, and it shows up in stories — and leaves me emotionally drained, sometimes for days. It’s hard to live inside a brain that active. (And no, I’m not comparing myself to Williams, I’m only noticing my own experiences and extrapolating from there.)
He gets it. Whenever someone so creative and talented kills themselves, you will always hear a bunch of people saying, to the effect, that madness and genius go hand in hand. I can’t begin to tell you how much I hate hearing that. I’m not about to wrap myself in the robes of ‘genius’ by any means. I don’t even like the concept of a single measure of intelligence. I think there are a lot of different kinds of intelligence. And I always flinch at calling myself an artist. But I am. There are many kinds of artist too. Some of us paint and draw. Some of us do photography, or music, or act. We are writers and poets. Some of us pursue the engineering arts. And it isn’t madness we have, it’s brains that contain a whirlwind…flashes of insight, connections, moment to moment, all firing at once. Constantly. Someone on Facebook I follow posted a graphic with the message on it that, (recalling it from memory) to understand how having a creative mind feels, imagine you’re a browser and you have 2,868 tabs open all at once.
Williams had that. He had to given that amazing, wonderful ability he had to mentally jump from one random connection to the next on stage So Quickly. He had to have that whirlwind going on inside. You could see it. It just delighted you. And you could see it delighting him even as he was doing it. It’s not madness, it’s art. I don’t know that this necessarily makes you unstable, but I know from my own experience how vulnerable it can leave you if you don’t have something to anchor you, something…someone…to always bring you back home.
For the artist depression has to be an even bigger hazard, one that multiplies the risk you already have of losing your balance if you’ve already got those 2,868 tabs open. I’ve never had that overarching clinical depression, so I wouldn’t know. All I’ve ever been is sad. Just…very very sad. But I know what it’s like living with a furious mental cascade that just won’t stop unless you apply some chemical brakes and getting lost in it is oh so easy and losing your balance…maybe it was sadness, maybe it was some sudden crisis that came out of nowhere…and then the whirlwind in your mind throws you into a place you may or may not make it back out of.
This is why a lot of us end up not as suicides but as overdoses. The lucky ones have that anchor. Others, too afraid of the overdose or blessed like me with bodies too timid to handle a lot of drugs without getting violently sick long before the overdose can even get close, dive into their work as a substitute for the anchor, the home, the place of rest. I know how that is too. But when work becomes less a passion and more a crutch then it can have the same effect as drugs in that it allows you to deny and ignore the central problem in your life until that one moment when the crutch can’t bear the weight and it snaps and there you are and you’re on your way to the bottom of a pit and you can’t stop falling.
Bunch of highly talented and creative people I follow who’ve been open about their fight with clinical depression, are feeling very sad now for Williams, but also afraid for themselves. If he lost the fight, then what chance do I have? They need to be told the are loved, and cherished, and not alone in their fight. I’m afraid of a different thing. I don’t have a fight with depression. I have a fight with a hoary old stereotype about artists and madness that I am convinced is getting a lot of us killed too. You can call what our brains do to us madness I suppose, but it adds a little something to the world, and the thing is, we don’t have to get lost in it. We just don’t. The problem is people seem to think we’re supposed to. It’s part of the deal.
The shooting star. The one who lived so miserably and died so tragically, but oh look at all the wonderful things they left behind for the rest of us to enjoy! We don’t all suffer from depression, but we could all use a little sympathy too, and a little help. Because that inner whirlwind makes it hard to find that anchor, that intimate other, or others, who can see what the others can’t because they’re used to you behaving like you’re not quite all there, that that can see that you’re losing your balance, and seeing it, can take you by the hand to that place of peace and quiet you need to be in to get it back.
I know from experience that when I get lost in a whirlwind of grief or loneliness or sadness I can just wait it out. But I also know that it’s not a sure thing. I have come so very close to it. One of these days you might find yourself reading right here about the one time I couldn’t walk myself out of it. I told my brother once that if I died alone and especially if it was by my own hand, I wanted him to burn everything…all the artwork, all the photography. I was at a point in my life where it sickened me to think of people enjoying the artistic spoils of my miserable life. He flat out refused, and I’ve moved on to a place where I don’t care anymore.
There is nothing wrong with homosexuals. That is a simple statement of fact. Not opinion. Fact. Well researched, well established, scientific fact. And it has been well established fact for quite a very long time. If you were born in the 1960s or later, then this fact is older then you are.
The science that shows there is nothing psychologically wrong with gay people has a pedigree going back at least half a century now. But it wasn’t until 1973 that the American Psychological Association removed homosexuality from their catalogue of mental illnesses. In that same year, the very first ex-gay ministry, Love In Action, was founded in San Francisco. And soon after that, the first ex-gay suicide. Jack McIntyre wrote the following just before he killed himself…
To continually go before God and ask forgiveness and make promises you know you can’t keep is more than I can take. I feel it is making a mockery of God and all He stands for in my life.
So to keep himself right with God he killed himself. Others simply retreated into a living death of the soul. They went deep into the closet, married against their nature, lived lives of quiet desperation. Or they embraced the lie and threw themselves into the sexual gutter. Human filth they believed they were, they consigned their sex lives to the public toilets and back alleys. There are many ways to put the knife into your own heart because you can’t bear its pain, but then tomorrow comes anyway and you have to do it all over again.
We were taught to hate ourselves. And the more we hated ourselves, the more painful our lives became which we were constantly told was proof that homosexuality was a sickness and to be homosexual was to be broken. But there was nothing wrong with us. There was never anything wrong with us. Science proved it decades ago. Perhaps science could have better served us all by discovering what it is that makes a person a bigot rather than what it is that makes someone homosexual. But now at least, the grotesque dance of hate is coming to an end…
Nine former ex-gay leaders, from organizations like Exodus International and ministries like Love in Action, have signed onto a letter in partnership with the National Center for Lesbian Rights calling for a ban on gay conversion therapy and saying that LGBT people should be celebrated and embraced for who they are.
“At one time, we were not only deeply involved in these ‘ex-gay’ programs, we were the founders, the leaders, and the promoters,” they said in the letter. “Together we represent more than half a century of experience, so few people are more knowledgeable about the ineffectiveness and harm of conversion therapy. We know first-hand the terrible emotional and spiritual damage it can cause, especially for LGBT youth.”
You can read their full letter at the link above. These are among those who inflicted the wounds and now ask forgiveness and I can appreciate that forgiveness for some may be impossible. This is why I can’t stand people that like to yap about how Christianity has made their lives so much Easier. Christianity is goddamn hard and I am no Christian. But I know this: it isn’t faith the size of a mustard seed that redeems, it’s love. That’s all you need. When the roll call of the dead and wounded is read, remember kindly, if it is in you to, the ones who could not at long last silence their heart’s voice, because the ones who can say “enough” despite their own guilt are civilization’s final hope. Keep them apart in your thoughts from the ones who kept on doggedly with it to the bitter end, because there was no heart to silence within them, just that empty void which is the end of the world.
by Bruce |
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May 5th, 2014
Reality Is That Which, When You Stop Believing In It, Does Not Go Away
The charade that persecuting homosexuals was rational and necessary because there is something pathologically wrong with homosexuals should have ended with Hooker’s Adjustment Of The Male Overt Homosexual in 1957. But human prejudice does not succumb so easily to mere experimental evidence. It wouldn’t be until decades after the Stonewall riots, after the Personal Computer and the modem made it possible for gay people to speak directly to each other and see ourselves just as we are, not through heterosexual eyes as some strange alien other, for this charade to finally begin to crumble. Because until we could see the humanity within ourselves, and the legitimacy and righteousness of our feelings of love and desire, we would never have the courage to come out of the closets, and live our lives openly, so that our families and neighbors could see our humanity too. There was never anything rational about homophobia. It was always about hatred of the Other, inflamed by bigots to rouse the mob and thereby glorify themselves.
The charade is falling apart because it had no basis in reality. The facade of respectability is crumbling. Sometimes it’s just a brick here and there…parents coming to terms with gay children, friends looking at gay friends and seeing a person not a monster. Sometimes its a whole wall that falls over. The sodomy laws in 2003. Same sex marriage. The proposition 8 trial was a massive earthquake beneath it. Seeing for the first time in an actual trial how little there actually was to support any of it opened a lot of eyes.
Far-right groups including the Family Research Council and the American Family Association pooled $600,000 to place ads promising the effectiveness of reparative therapy in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Tribune. Anne and John Paulk smiled from full-page newspaper spreads.
In front of the crowds and cameras, Paulk was the image of certainty. But backstage, he was faltering. More than that, he knew he was lying.
“It’s funny, for those of us that worked in it, behind closed doors, we knew we hadn’t really changed,” he says. “Our situations had changed—we had gotten married, and some of us had children, so our roles had changed. I was a husband and father; that was my identity. And the homosexuality had been tamped down. But you can only push it down for so long, and it would eke its way out every so often.”
It. It. It would eke its way out every so often. The human identity is not a blackboard anyone can walk up to and scribble their will upon. The “It” that was eking its way out of Paulk wasn’t homosexuality, it was Sexuality, an instinct older than the fish, let alone the mammals, let alone the primates, let alone us. What Paulk was trying to suppress was an urge hundreds of millions of years old, that in him and others simply directs its relentless attentions to his own sex, not the opposite one. Beyond that one minor difference it was still the same force with the same hundreds of millions of years of the history of life on Earth behind it. Unless nature had made him asexual or gifted him with a very very low libido, he had no more chance becoming straight by playing straight than a left handed person does of becoming right handed by playing right handed.
“I would be in hotel rooms, and I would be on my face sobbing and crying on the bed,” he says. “I felt like a liar and a hypocrite. Having to go out and give hope to these people. I was in despair knowing that what I was telling them was not entirely honest. I couldn’t do it anymore.”
One of the first things that leaps out at you when you dig into the history of ex-gay therapy is how little data are ever retained about the clients. No long term follow-ups, no data to give meaning to any of the statistics they like to trot out. Hundreds have changed…no wait…thousands…hundreds of thousands… But it’s all smoke and mirrors. They have no data to prove any of their claims. They have done no research. It isn’t merely that they have no evidence: what leaves your jaw dropping when you first see it is they haven’t actually sought any evidence. It isn’t an oversight, the object was never to actually change anyone. If pressed, some will admit that change is not likely, but self discipline against homosexual urges can be attained through proper training. But homosexual urges are no different in kind from heterosexual urges; they are just two different expressions of the same ancient and powerful sexual urge we all possess. So the question then becomes at what cost to the individual? And the answer is the damage done to the person is not a cost, it is a benefit.
What you have to understand about Paulks misery is that his changing was never the object his masters sought. His crying and sobbing on the bed was the object. Then, now and always, the point is that we have to hate ourselves at least as much, if not more, than the bigots hate us.
The charade is ending. It is ending because there was never any truth to it. The only thing that kept it going was its monopoly on discussion, enforced by the sodomy laws, and from the pulpit, and because we stayed in the closet: because it was dangerous not to, because in a world where we could be kept isolated from each other we could be made to believe the lies. Those days are over. Now the mindless brutality behind the charade steps out from behind the curtain. Yes, it’s ugly, but don’t look away. You need to see this. What the ex-gay ministries offered to so many innocent people was more poison to add to the poison that had brought them in the door in the first place.
We taught your parents to hate you. We taught your preacher to thunder damnation at you. Everywhere you turn you see hate reflected back at you. We’ve prepared you nicely for your role in life little scapegoat. Oh…you’re troubled by your same-sex attractions are you? Good. Now let us dangle some hope for change in front of you, tell you all about how we have helped so many others just like you, and we can help you too, if you are willing to work hard for it. And when you fail to change you can hate yourself even more.
It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.
[Edited a tad, and then some more, for clarity…]
by Bruce |
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February 21st, 2014
I Hate You Cupid…
…but then I’m hardly the only one. This came across my Facebook stream a little while ago…
Count your blessings straight boy, and be nice to the one you can’t love back. Painful unrequited love is probably waiting patiently for you too, somewhere down your road…
by Bruce |
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January 2nd, 2014
To Whom It May Concern…
by Bruce |
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December 19th, 2013
The Atheist And Christmas Music
I’m sitting at my desk listening to Christmas music. Specifically, to my Pandora app on my iPhone. Pandora has a “Peaceful Holidays” channel and I love it. The music lifts me, soothes my soul, brings back old and very pleasant memories of Christmases past. Back in the day I would set the family manger scene under the Christmas tree. I was the good Baptist boy. Nowadays if I bother with the tree (the holidays aren’t the best of times for us single people) I use my manger figures to make a little middle ages town. (Funny isn’t it, how the people of Jesus’ day all dressed like people from middle ages Europe.) But even if I don’t put out the decorations, I have Christmas music playing softly on the stereo. I inherited all mom’s LPs, and treasure the Christmas ones especially. So how does the atheist I’ve become in my old age listen to this essentially religious music and still enjoy it so very much? See…there’s a thing about music: it’s not about the lyrics. Let me reach back into my blog archives, and tell you a story…
It is 1981, and I am a longhaired twenty-something out for a hike along the trails around Sugerloaf Mountain near Comus, Maryland. I am alone, with one of the new Sony Walkmans as my only company. I am well into my Bruckner phase, and in the Walkman is a cassette I’d recorded the previous day with his Symphony 8 and the Te Deum. Some say that title was a tad redundant for a Bruckner piece…that everything he ever wrote could have easily been subtitled, as he had in the dedication to his ninth symphony, To My Beloved God…
It is September, my birth month, and the air is clear and crisp as it only gets in the Washington D.C. suburbs during the beginning of spring and fall. The sky is a deep cobalt blue, flecked here and there with threads of high cirrus clouds. I walk lightly with a branch I found at the trail head like a staff, my hiking boots clomping over a narrow trail that winds through the woods, around and up the mountain to a little park on it’s summit. As I walk a pair of headphones fill my world with wonderful, evocative, richly textured symphonic classical music. I am in love with my Walkman. It lets me fill my world with music, yet bother no one else. Years later, I would rediscover that love in a little white iPod.
I reach the top of the mountain. The little park is empty. It is just me and Bruckner. I plop myself down on a rocky ledge that faces south toward the Shenandoah valley. It is a lovely view. In the distant haze I see the northern end of the Shenandoah mountains reach toward the horizon, and go over it in a procession of gently curved peaks. Several turkey vultures are in the sky below me, circling idly on a random updraft. Through the rolling hills of the Maryland Piedmont the Potomac river glistens in the late afternoon sunlight. A ribbon of smoke floats eastward from the smokestack at the Monocacy river power plant.
I take it all in, and Bruckner’s deeply spiritual music seems to make the very air around me sing. Life is good. It is awesome.
The music ends, and I take off the headphones. There are people behind me.
I turn to find that my quiet spot has been invaded by a crowd of picnickers. I figure them for a church group, since the boys still have their Sundaywear on, and their hair slicked down. Only somewhat more disturbing than the fact that a crowd of people were able to get behind me while I was listening to the music, is this kindly older lady sitting only a few feet from me: she is looking straight at me with that expression that at 27 I’ve come to know and love…
She smiles a sincerely transparent smile at me, and says, “That must be very nice music you’re listening to. What is it?”
I am dressed in cutoffs and a Hudson Bay Outfitters t-shirt. My hair is about as long as it gets, almost halfway down my back. I have my blue bandanna tied around my head, 70s fashion with the ends of the knot trailing down just behind my left ear. I am in my golden earring and lambda necklace stage of outedness. My friends tell me I have this perpetually bewildered look on my face when talking to strangers, and I know a hook when I hear it, but I look her in the eyes and answer her question seriously. “The Te Deum, by Anton Bruckner, Zubin Mehta and the Vienna Philharmonic.”
Her eyes glaze over. We stare at each other for about a second. Then the kindly smile reappears and she says to me in all seriousness, “That’s very nice, but I think on the Sabbath we should listen to music that praises God…don’t you?”
That does it… I get up, nearly dropping the walkman, and start walking back to the trail. Behind me I hear the woman say, “Where are you going?”
“Into town to buy some.” I reply, walking faster.
I’d seen the lyrics to that Bruckner piece once on an album back cover and they disappointed me, Christian though I still identified at the time. And I think it was then that I resolved never to read the lyrics of classical music pieces that I discovered and loved. I still try to avoid it. Michael Nesmith once said on one of his album covers that the lyrics were only the logical part, that the meaning was the music itself.
I am not an atheist because I have a grudge against religion, I’m an athiest simply because I discovered I’d reached a point where belief had stopped making sense to me. But many things I learned and experienced in church I still hold close to the heart. I still find myself humming some of the old hymns while doing chores. And Christianity has produced wonderful, deeply spiritual music. When it’s done from that place of love and awe, all art, even the darkest, speaks a universal language, deep, soulful, and spiritual. It is a place where we can recognize one another, and our common humanity.
If the lyrics add something to the music for you, then fine. If not, then never mind the damn lyrics. They’re just the logical part, for those of us who have trouble sometimes, seeing the heart.
by Bruce |
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October 19th, 2013
This came across my Facebook stream just now. Some days you read crap on Facebook that just makes you want to write off the human race. Then there are things like this…
@Sherman_Alexie: “#2 reason for divorce: Belief in “soulmates.” #1: shagging someone else’s “soulmate.””
I guess he hasn’t seen very many long lived couples. I have. Soulmates is a real thing. But not everyone has that temperament for monogamy. People who don’t should leave people who do alone, and vice-versa. I would submit that a big cause of divorce is our culture places too much emphasis on monogamy and not enough on trustworthiness. But before you can be honest with others you need to be honest with yourself. You need to cultivate that habit of truth telling internally. The culture that discourages that is cutting its own throat. Not everyone is heterosexual. Not everyone is innately monogamous.
Some of us are. And we who are and those who are not seem always to be staring at each other in disbelief and fussing with each other about all the wrong things. Belief in soulmates isn’t a problem…soulmates are a real thing…belief that only monogamy is moral is a problem. Cheating is immoral. Lying just to get inside someone’s pants is immoral. Sex for its own sake is not in and of itself immoral. You live long enough and you will see lots of long lived happy couples and lots of thoroughly decent moral trustworthy people who’ve had lots and lots of lovers. Monogamy is a temperament, not an ideal.
by Bruce |
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September 19th, 2013
Grief comes in waves, and those relatively peaceful times when you think it’s past and you’re finally done with it are only the troughs between them. You get yourself through it by letting it happen and eventually you find the waves do get smaller. Or you’ve just become use to it being there.
In friendship you want your reflection, but in love you want your complement. This came across my Facebook stream the other day…
When arguing for the legitimacy of homosexual relationships and same-sex marriage you hear a lot of talk from the other side about the complementary nature of the sexes. But there’s the gender you’re attracted to sexually and the one you are emotionally comfortable with and in the best of all possible worlds those two are the same, because that is where the soulmate and wholeness are.
It isn’t always precise, lots of people are completely comfortable in the company of both men and women, and some people fit more in the middle of the Kinsey scale than at its extremes. But sometimes there is a disjointedness. You see the heterosexual male who is sexually attracted to women but dislikes them emotionally, prefers the company of his buds and treats women as nothing more than sex objects. And I’ve encountered gay males who are more emotionally secure in the company of women and do the same thing to other gay men.
I feel sorry for those. Life is so much sweeter when your emotional needs can be met by your attractive sex too. There is wholeness. And because heterosexuals mate to their opposite sex, it’s very easy for them to mistake the complementary nature of their relationships for gender. But the complement isn’t gender. The complement is the person.
So sometimes you see a same-sex couple and one seems very masculine and the other very feminine and you think ‘a-ha…this one’s the man and that one’s the woman..’ But then you see a pair and you can’t rightly tell and it’s confusing.
Forget about gender. See how they, as individual people, complement each other. That is how it always works.
As I have said many times here, this is a life blog. Nothing more or less. And sometimes life gets a little heavy. Not to scare anyone…I’m fine now…really…but this first quarter was about the worst I have ever had. Every winter it seems the period between Valentine’s Day and April just gets worse and worse. But I think that’s over now. As they say, what has been seen cannot be unseen.
I was in that chilly gray sky of the mind state all morning long yesterday. I’d been that way for weeks and it just kept getting worse and worse. Things went badly at work. Things I should have been able to shrug off that I took to heart. My co-workers were noticing, which only made it worse. It fed on itself. And it wasn’t about nothing either. I’m 59 years old and never had a boyfriend. You can’t walk that far in a life without time spent in the arms of an intimate other and not be damaged by it. We were not made to be solitaries. And I have been betrayed by people I trusted deeply. Or maybe it was my congenital naivety. People who look like that…
So it was deep in that feedback loop that I randomly chanced across that Hemingway quote in my Facebook stream and naturally the first thing that came to mind was a kind of despair that, no this isn’t why I feel the way I do because I have no courage. I do not take risks, I run away from them. Just ask Tico. I am not a good man wounded, I was damaged goods to begin with. Unworthy. The child who was never meant to be. And right then it was as if something tapped me on the shoulder and showed me something about myself that I’d never really looked at before, that through it all I have lived an honest life, because I never thought doing that was something to pat yourself on the back for.
A feeling for beauty…the courage to take risks…Yeah…actually I’ve taken a few haven’t I? And so it goes. I felt right then as though a terrible fever was breaking. Seriously, it was like a smothering curtain had been pulled off me and I felt alive again. Life was good again. The road forward clearer, and…enticing. Then I remembered what had happened to Hemingway. You try to be rational about things, but for a moment I felt like I’d been given a lift up, from a hand that would have known the need.
by Bruce |
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March 27th, 2013
Courage And Self Esteem
The Mad Hatter: Have I gone mad? Alice Kingsley: I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers.
But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.
You get into these depressive ruts and you start being critical of your every fault, real or perceived. Nothing within you is good enough. Everything is rotten. Yesterday I was tearing myself up inside for not having the nerve to just go ahead and go down to Washington and with my cameras bear witness to history being made. So just for good measure I took stock of every failure of nerve I ever had in my life, starting with the biggest one of all, that of not being able to tell a certain someone back in 1971 that he had made my heart skip a beat. By the end of the day I knew exactly what a sniveling coward I had been my entire life.
This came across my Facebook feed this morning…
…and I could see in it everything about me, except the courage part. Hemingway wasn’t talking about me. I have the feeling for beauty…it drives me mad sometimes. The truth telling part, yes. Just ask anyone who knows me. The capacity for sacrifice, yes. I can do that. I have done that. I have all of that within me. And I know how vulnerable it makes me. There are times it still surprises me how vulnerable. That is me. I have all of that. But not the courage. I have no courage.
And then it was like I swear a little voice inside said wait just a minute… You’ve been living as an out gay man nearly all your life. You came out to yourself when you were 17 years old, accepted yourself for what you are, two years before the shrinks decided homosexuals weren’t mentally ill after all. You kept it low key for most of the 70s but you never dodged a direct question and never lied to anyone about it, back in a time when you could be, and were, multiple times, fired for being a homosexual. Remember that day when you were still a teenage boy and you stood in front of the bathroom mirror and said to your reflection “I Am A Homosexual” after you read some crackpot who said admitting it was the worst thing a man could do? That day forty-seven states still had sodomy laws on their books. You have spent the past few days…no, weeks…digging up every failure of nerve you ever had. Now remember all those times when you were blind-sided by a question and you had to make a sudden snap decision about being closeted or not. Remember how afraid you were? And you never held back. What the hell is that if it isn’t courage?
Fear. Maybe that’s what’s always at the heart of a depression. Fear of being alone all my life. Fear of dying alone. Fear of walking through my one life never knowing a lover’s embrace. Friends With Benefits is the cheap shelf booze. Once you’ve tasted the real thing you never settle for faking it. The best or nothing, as Gottlieb Daimler once said. Courage. I’m depressed because I am afraid. That doesn’t make me a coward. Anyone with that discipline to tell the truth, and capacity for sacrifice, and feeling for beauty, cannot also be a coward. It just doesn’t compute. I forgot lately, all those times when I did what I had to do even though I was scared shitless. I forgot something I began telling myself in later years when I began looking back on those moments. T.E. Lawrence once said, “The trick is not minding that it hurts.” For me the trick was always not minding that I’m afraid.
And…a bit bonkers…in the way the best people generally are.
by Bruce |
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March 26th, 2013
Second Thoughts That Tend To Come A Bit Too Late
Today is going to be murder to get through, but it’s my own doing. I let my depressed state screw me over. I should have planned to go down to the Supreme Court marriage Proposition 8 protests/counter protests regardless. I actually took the days off well in advance. But then I cancelled because I have been down ever since Valentine’s Day and I just didn’t want to deal with that part of me. Ironically, that not wanting to deal with the emotional creative part of me is what got me into computers, and making the very nice living I am making now. But there was a big drawback to all of that. This path I chose, has led me to a cliff. Now that the day is here I really want to be down there with my cameras photographing it but management wants not. Ever have one of those conversations with your boss, where the boss looks at you, smiles and says “It’s your call” and you know goddamn well what the call is supposed to be? It was one of those.
Maybe that would have been the reality anyway. So many things are happening at work now. Launch is in 2018 and while that seems like a long way off, there is a lot of up front work that needs to be done. A lot. Probably, it’s no fooling, I really have to be here and stay on top of my work. Maybe making it up on the weekend really just doesn’t cut it. Maybe it wasn’t a question of my boss telling me I could not have divided loyalties in his workspace. Put that artsy fartsy stuff away, you’re an adult now, live in the real world… But this is really stabbing me in the heart now.
Sometimes I wish I could just surgically remove that emotional creative part of me that keeps wanting to make imagery. I hear this thing inside of us drives other artists insane too and it’s been this way all my life, particularly as it’s become lonelier and lonelier and because of that, sometimes I really don’t want to look at what comes out of me. And while it’s had its rewards it cuts me to ribbons too. It is right now. I could have done without it. Life as an emotionless cog in the machinery wouldn’t be so bad.
So now, at fifty-nine, I think I know why the stereotype of the starving artist exists. It isn’t because they can’t find decent work, it’s because they know what will happen when they do, so they stay in their little slumtown lofts and hovels because any work that pulls them away from the creative urge makes their inner lives a complete mess. Well…more mess then what would be normal for them anyway. In the end the choice isn’t live a very low budget life but get to do your work whenever you want to, verses get a good job and appease the creative urge in your spare time…it’s follow your heart or slowly go mad, pick one.
Wish I’d been brave enough to take the poor scrappy starving artist path. Who knows, maybe the boyfriend would have been somewhere along that way. But nerve was always something I had trouble with having enough of. Just ask Tico.
Anyway…to those confronting the haters today and tomorrow…be proud. You are writing new lines in the history books. Wish I could be there with my cameras to get some shots of it happening.
by Bruce |
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August 23rd, 2012
Even Nice People Have Limits…
…and I am not the nicest person I have ever met. That would be mom. Mom loved everyone, tried to see the best in everyone and everything, and was a ray of sunshine everywhere she went. My Baptist grandma was another story, and proof that the fruit actually does fall very far from the tree every now and then. Misanthropy was her hobby. She frowned at racists not because they were racist but because they thought their own race made them something. She didn’t think black people were good for nothing because they were black. Black people were good for nothing because they were people. And I was especially good for nothing because I was dad’s son. Dad didn’t give a good goddamn what anyone thought. Mom loved him until the day she died, but often said he couldn’t walk past a mirror without looking in. Sometimes I think grandma loathed dad more for that then that he was a crook. If homosexuality is the biggest sin of all in some Fundamentalist circles, vanity was the unforgivable sin in grandma’s. Not knowing you were good for nothing was wicked in the eyes of the Lord.
I like thinking of myself as having all their genes.
So I drop folks from my Facebook “friends” list advisedly. Who am I, a stinking rotten good for nothing Garrett just like my pap, to set myself above all the other good for nothings in this wicked sinful world? It isn’t exactly a list of friends…there are friends in there, but there are also family members, co-workers, fellow travelers in the Militant Homosexual Conspiracy, and folks who’ve stumbled onto this blog, or my cartoons and friended me on Facebook because of that. It’s all good. But every now and then someone in there will piss me off and I have to let go. I love all the good for nothings in this life that is but a mere vale of tears but I will not endure cheapshit prejudices for very long, especially when they’re flung at people who get kicked around a lot as it is. All us good for nothings need to be rays of sunshine for each other, and if you can’t be that at least try not to spit in the other guy’s mirror.
by Bruce |
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