Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Holy Hardness: a guest post from Robin Gorsline

The Rev. Dr.. Robin Gorsline is Writer-Theologian in Residence at Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, D.C. By his permission, his poem below is reblogged  from the wonderful blog site, If Whitman hadn’t needed to practice at least a degree of understatement, I find myself wondering whether he might not have written something like this poem.

Holy Hardness

I woke this morning with a more or less hard-on.
It felt so good I kept it up during meditation
feeling as if God's real presence had settled in my cock
each stroke connecting to a breath, holding my little guy
between, and knowing that my body and my God are connected
in sacred erotic embrace.

Some may see blasphemy in this connection but I remember
Jesus, the Incarnate One, who when focused on healings
and teaching may have set aside his cock but I feel sure in those
quiet alone times away from companions and the world
he too found his hard, connecting with God and his sacred
body with the caresses that bring joy to me.

That early erotic energy continued throughout the day
as I, naked, sat writing and touching myself, feeling the high that comes
when I begin to point toward climax. But I did not want
to explode then, saving it for joy with my man.
I did begin to hope that this time, unlike so many others lately,
our lovemaking might result in the eruption of precious liquid love.

To bed we went that night, and oh how his mouth on my cock and mine on his
brought sweet electric sensations, rising exquisite pure yearning
giving hope that here, now, we, phallus and I, if we can truly be understood
as separate, might experience embodied communion. But it was not to be then, though
my man lay across me and thrust his member between my legs and
ejaculated Oh God! Oh God! Oh God! Thank you God!

This old man did not despair, however, and with more pure organic coconut oil,
I lay gazing on the beauty of my man, stroking, stroking, up, down, up and down
the small but sturdy shaft went from fairly hard to less and back. Then I rose to stand
in front of the mirror to enjoy my own self-lovemaking and knew, oh I knew,
that with more vigorous strokes and a turn back to see the naked
languorous body of my beloved on the bed I would indeed favor the world
with divine liquid love of life--oh God! Oh God! Oh God! Thank you, my God!

It was holy communion then, embodied memory now a few hours past. I sit and type
and stroke and yet again give thanks to my parent God, and Jesus, and Holy Spirit,
grateful to have been created for this mystic sweet union, certain my beloved
and I were brought together for such a time as this, and more to come, yes, more cum.

I am called, we most are called, to such communion, divine eros joining bodies
in delight and ecstasy, it matters not the particular bodies, body parts, numbers,
or ways of joining, all are blessed because all are loved, God sharing
in the joy of orgasm as well as licking, sucking, fucking, kissing,
wondering why we carry so much shame about this holy gift.

So I write, a man now almost three score and ten, slower of gait
but still erect, even at times for my beloved, and when not so favored
I still know pleasure in touch and tongue--I swear so long as I live
I shall enjoy such holy hardness as it is mine to receive and share,
praising God with my upward and more often softer shaft.

It is not performance that counts, or even size, but faithfulness
to union with and through sacred eros, giving thanks to God.

Copyright Robin Gorsline 2016
Used by permission

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Green Man

Thanks to John Archibald, for sharing here his homage to the Lord of the Forest. John writes this:

"I love Greenmen. Such mysterious male energy. Must be those faces made only of leaves; that image invites a kind of primal reaction from the viewer. Weird, but it catches at you, as if reminding you of something you’d forgotten, long ago. Some of the medieval ones actually have roots growing out of their mouths. There was a shop in the gay neighborhood of Hillcrest in San Diego, called Column One, where over the years I found a number of Greenmen, orginally in an unpainted beige plaster, and have painted a number of them.

"I found as well a number of Greek gods here and there, which I’ve also painted. In the ancient world, practically all the statues were painted, with the larger, more important ones being made of molded sheets of ivory and gold, with semi-precious gems for eyes. They must have been amazing!"


Friday, July 29, 2016

The Acknowledged Christ

I hope you’ve had the experience, at least once in your life, of being blindsided by Somebody showing up where you’d least expect.

Mountains in a sudden flash of sunlight across a harbor.
An impulse at a Hare Krishna parade to join the chanting from the sidelines, good Methodist that you’ve always been.
The eye contact between you and the unknown woman who’s just pulled you back onto the curb out of traffic you didn’t see coming.
The desire to kneel down at the back of a church, when you haven’t darkened the door of such a place since you were sixteen.
The realization, in the middle of a random sexual encounter, that both of you (or all of you) are in the Presence of something vastly bigger and more important than a short spell of uncomplicated pleasure--that your trick is looking back at you with the face of God.
The sacred, grace-filled letting go in the last days of a lover’s life that Mark Doty describes with such heart-opening clarity and vulnerability in Heaven’s Coast.
The flash of lightening across the night sky of a quiet mind in the meditation hall, nice Jewish boy from Dallas that you are.
The kind of experience that leaves you stammering something like, “Oh--it’s You again.”
From my own perspective grounded in the Christian tradition, these experiences are already foreshadowed in the vagueness of biblical accounts of the Resurrection. No two Gospel accounts tell the same stories. Mark, the earliest of the four Jesus narratives that eventually got included in the Bible, doesn’t have a resurrection account at all, just an inexplicably empty tomb from which two women flee in terror at dawn. My favorite is the story from Luke of two disciples on the road to Emmaus, who fall in with a stranger to whom they tell the news of Jesus’ death. The stranger starts laying out for them everything in Scripture that predicted the Passion. That evening, they sit down with him to a meal, from which he vanishes, in the same moment that they recognize the risen Lord “in the breaking of the bread.”
There’s plenty of space in that story for me: I don’t know what the fuck would show up in the Polaroids that nobody took, and I don't much care. I just know that the encounter broke their lives open, as it breaks mine open.
This isn’t about a resuscitated corpse. In Christian terms, this is about the Second Person of the Trinity taking flesh at times and in places you never saw coming, setting ablaze the ordinary world of our material existence. After all, it was God’s flesh all along, before we were given a life lease on it. “He comes to us as one unknown,” wrote Albert Schweitzer in The Quest of the Historical Jesus. It’s about “the acknowledged Christ” (the phrase belongs to Indian theologian M.M. Thomas), ever present in the world, shoring it up from below as well as drawing it down from above, known across cultures by a thousand different names, though none can ever comprehend him/her. The One who vanishes from sight most completely in the dogmatism of those who think they have sole possession of the truth.

Friday, July 8, 2016

On Buddhas and Buttholes

The tattoo I added to my left shoulder twelve years ago needs some retouching. As well as I can judge. I’ve never seen it. At least not right side around. The mirror is the best I can do.

Without telling you the whole story of how the design came to me, my  ink reads, “Destroyer of Illusion.”  The script looks sufficiently Indo-Himalayan, the pattern sufficiently abstract, that lots of people curious enough to ask me about it assume it’s not in English. The letters striate from the perimeter into a tightly described circle, a part of my body visible to others but not to me. I take it on faith that it’s there.
Well, maybe you get the idea...
“Destroyer of Illusion” can mean a lot of things. When the phrase started running incessantly through my mind, I pictured Keanu Reeves in The Matrix as vividly as the warrior boddhisattvas of Tibetan Buddhism. Only later did I get it that those three words, and the design I’d made of them, were teaching me a lesson about acknowledging my First Chakra. Big surprise--embodied wisdom isn’t always a matter of cognition, or of self-awareness in a dominantly intellectual sense. Sometimes it’s a matter of going down into the earth and into the silent, unseen roots of our life, rather than up into the clarity of an elevated realm of light. It’s a matter of trust that it’s not only safe, it’s even essential, to be seen from another perspective than that of our own ego.
“We go down, like moles, claws scrabbling in the soil,” sing The Hidden Cameras. “The journey goes down, not up,” writes Pema Chödrön. “A man walks upright, and the food in his body is shut in, as if in a well-made purse,” says Julian of Norwich. “When the time of his necessity comes, the purse is opened and then shut again, in most seemly fashion.  And it is God who does this, as it is shown when he says that he comes down to us in our humblest needs.”

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Slow Burn

Nearly a week after the mass murder of forty-nine mostly queer, mostly brown people, and the critical injury of dozens more, I still feel numb. I need to go on parsing apart my dissociated reaction, but meanwhile, what cuts through my denial is seeing the faces of the men and women who went to Pulse wanting a night of ordinary, God-given human happiness, but whose precious and irreplaceable lives ended there.

Here’s what I’m not numb to: the spineless cowardice of the U.S. Congress in its endless deference to the gun lobby. In particular, the hypocrisy of Republicans who care more for the score of their morally shabby, backward-looking party than they do for the future of civil society and the viability of constitutional government.  The desire of of xenophobes once again to lay blame on Muslims and on Islam, instead of acknowledging that the corrosive rage of deeply damaged men  and contempt for sexual minorities run through American society like a cancer. And chief among them, the entitled, narcissistic buffoon who will almost certainly be named the Republican candidate for president. The refusal to acknowledge that  virulent hatred and incitement to violence are in this country more often associated with right-wing Christian preachers like Baptist ministers Roger Jimenez in Sacramento, California and Steven Anderson in Tempe, Arizona, to mention only two.
For years, we’ve been marching in Pride parades more in celebration than in protest or defiance. This year, walking with queer brothers and sisters will, for many, be once again an act of courage and witness. And in the assertion, "We are Orlando," a testimony that love is stronger than death.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Other People's Gardens

Peony, poppy, bearded iris, Siberian iris, poppy, peony, peony, lilac, bearded iris, lilac.

One of the daily gifts of the short bicycle commute to my office is watching other people’s gardens burst into flowers I can’t grow in my own. Amazingly, I get to live in a place where one tiny front garden borders on the next, and it’s easy to see them not as my garden, his garden, her garden, their garden, but as the garden--the “one great garden which/ is always here” so movingly celebrated in Thom Gunn’s elegy for his aunt, “Breaking Ground.” I find myself not caring much that I can’t grow myself what somebody else has grown for all of us.  And glad for the things I grow for them. Gratitude for what I receive, beyond anything I might have asked or imagined,  flows into generosity flows into gratitude.  You can't garden in spaces like these without having at least some awareness that you're planting and weeding and watering for other people, just as they're planting and weeding and watering for you. After a while, the very distinction between giving and receiving starts to break down in this non-zero-sum game.
(Photos offered by Hoppergrass.)

Friday, May 20, 2016

Sacred Clay: A Guest Post by Abwoon

I’m very grateful to Abwoon, an ordained minister and ceramic artist, for his generous sharing below. I read in the following account of his creative practice his devotion to the deep Mystery of embodiment, and a moving faith that spirit and flesh belong together--that, for those of us who walk the Path in cisgendered male bodies, heart and cock belong together, for the repair of our souls and the healing of the world.

You can contact him at

I'm obsessed with process. I seldom find something interesting without wondering how it came into being. The process of mold making has always roused my curiosity in particular. No matter the material, looking at the finished piece, I love to imagine the mold from which it was pulled.

While preparing myself for my second attendance at Coph Nia, a now-defunct gathering of gay and bi Pagan men, I considered what I could add to my vendor space alongside the essential oil blends I’d prepared and the bodywork I’d be offering. I’d long wanted to learn how to make plaster molds for slipcast ceramics, and I was also interested in the notion of phallic objects for altar and ritual use. It seemed like the perfect time both to learn this process and to create those phalluses.

I worked with a friend I’d met through a ceramics class she'd offered. She’s a master mold maker, and I couldn't have had a better teacher. We worked from a big rubber dildo that I borrowed from a performer friend who'd used it as a prop. My teacher and I created the mold in a day, I brought it home to cure, and over the course of a few weeks I poured and released copies of that mold that each managed to take on its own personality and individual qualities. You might expect a mold to create perfect replicas every time, and in a very controlled, factory setting, that’s exactly the case. I wasn’t looking for that at all. From that mold I pulled phalluses that leaned different directions, curved in their own ways, and displayed a suggestion of the diverse reality of men's members in shape if not in size.

I used a two-glaze process on the phalluses, and the outcome was exactly not what I expected. This aspect of ceramics both interests and maddens me. It’s part of what moves the process beyond the mundane. I find the finished products beautiful, and not what I’d anticipated. They were fired hotter than they normally would be in order to increase their strength. The high temperature changed the behavior of the glazes. At first I was disappointed. I felt that two months’ attention in pouring, releasing, first-firing, glazing, and now second-firing had ended in failure.

I spent some time with them on shelves just to look at them; I needed to see them for what they had become, apart from what I’d imagined. They were and are beautiful in spite of my desire to control the outcome. If that's not a metaphor for life, I don't know what is.

Our lives are beautiful.

What I ended up with in this first (and maybe only) run of ceramic phalluses, is a dozen ceramic cocks of various shape, size, and finish. Some are light; others are heavy. Some are varied in color, others uniform. Some are glossy in finish, others matte. What they all share is an incredible feeling when they rest in your palm. They are solid. They are powerful. They will endure.

It’s been a pleasure to share these pieces with others. It's been a pleasure to walk this path, practicing a new process with my hands while experiencing a higher journey toward accepting my life as it is, apart from expectation, and remembering, every time I lay hold of my own phallus, that I hold something sacred in my palm, a source of pleasure that can be devotional, worshipful. When we remember this sacred dimension of our desire and pleasure, we find ourselves living in a new way. We honor our sexuality as part of the entirety of who we are, and not as a substitute for holistic living. We find that we are called to live out a life that finds the sacred everywhere, just as we find it within.

Monday, May 16, 2016


If God were as small
as the houses we frame--how
deeply fucked we'd be.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Waiting on the Season

These last days of April, these first days of May, what I most need to cultivate is patience.

The garden’s awake, and something new is stirring every day, if not from hour to hour. The clumps of Tulipa tarda whose buds  I first noticed just this morning had started to open in the sun by early afternoon. Two days ago, I wondered what had happened to the lily-of-the-valley. Today the shoots are coming up everywhere, reminding me they’re an invasive species, and the last thing I have to worry about is that they’d ever die out. I didn’t even remember planting wild ginger by the front walk last year,  until yesterday I saw the leaves an inch above the soil, looking like the wings of a pale green moth still unfolding from the chrysalis.
The longing for new life is almost more than a dedicated gardener can sustain, once the winter is truly over and past. The nearby nursery is already stocked and waiting. I can’t bear the suspense until it’s clearer, two weeks from now, what’s come through, what’s flourished, what didn’t make it and needs replacing. Three years after moving into this house, I still don’t completely understand what will grow in this soil, in this much shade, between the roots of long-established trees. Every season thus far has involved trial and error. My impatience is equal parts eagerness to see what’s in store and a fantasy of what I want to do next with the tiny front and back gardens of a downtown Toronto house. Thank God I don’t have an American Midwestern quarter-acre to contend with.
My unwillingness to wait on the garden around me reminds me of the impatience we’re capable of showing toward the garden within. When I hear friends who long for personal growth berating themselves over their lack of progress, over their loops back into earlier patterns and habits, over their inability to map a clearly defined path forward, my prayer is that they can offer themselves a little more of the lovingkindness I’m confident they'd extend without hesitation to someone else.
Like I should talk--like I’m not equally capable of smacking myself for not becoming an overnight boddhisattva.
Patience in the garden is like the balance of Wisdom and Compassion that we need  in order to thrive, and in order to allow others to thrive.
It’s also like the patience called for in Matthew 13:24-30--the parable of the weeds among the wheat. There, the owner of a field tells his servants not to risk pulling up the crop by mistake before harvest time. The subsequent explanation of that story, ascribed to Jesus by the Gospel writer, reads like a judgmental othering of the people on the wrong side of a moral divide. I’m inclined to think of that exposition, though, as a later addition that obscures, even reverses, the real point. At its core, the parable is a story of the garden of our souls, and we’re cautioned not to fuck up the process of growth and unfolding by trying to exert control. We don’t need answers before the fact. We just need respectful curiosity and the patience to wait--and gratitude when the results manifest themselves in their own time.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

In the Wake of Resurrection

I began making Jerusalem Cross drawings a couple of years ago, during mornings when I hold space at a drop-in art studio for guests of a daily lunch program at the Church of the Redeemer, Toronto. Whatever project I'm working on there, my attention is bound to be distracted--by requests for advice, by the constant task of putting materials back in order, and, once in a while, by the need to dial down the level of anxiety, manic energy, or conflict that comes into the room. These drawings gave me a pre-determined basic structure to work with and a freedom to play within. I could walk away from them and come back to them easily and quickly.

During a retreat to an Episcopalian monastery about a year ago, I learned something important about how my spirituality has shifted over the years: I've never felt great about much of the Psalms, but this time around, I learned just how low my tolerance has become for incessantly chanting vindictive, paranoid Bronze Age poetry. So during my days there, I needed a practice of prayer that  could also serve as an antidote to too much "Forgive Me" this, "I Am Not Worthy" that, and "Crush Everyone Who's Constantly Conspiring Against Me" whatever. These drawings were that alternative prayer.




Saturday, April 2, 2016

Hand in Hand

In bright, early spring sun--the kind of day that reassures you, when you live in Canada, that we've all survived another winter--as I coasted my bike up to the door of my office building, just ahead of me, a family of four was walking south: mom and daughter in front, father and nine-year-old son behind, hand in hand, the son a step behind his dad but not, it seemed, in any reluctance at this public show of affection. It caught me in the throat, in the chest, in the gut, as such scenes so often do. I was riveted, and I lingered on the steps for another minute, watching them as they continued on down the street.

I wondered how many months--or perhaps a year at most?--before the invisible wall will most likely start to rise--before it will seem uncool to the boy to do something so childish as hold his father's hand; before it will feel to the father that it's time for his son to man up.

The depth of my reaction had everything to do with my own history, with my own wounds around an emotionally crippled father incapable of reaching out, let alone making it count in a way that I in turn could hold onto. Such a history means that a scene like the one I witnessed yesterday morning sticks to me emotionally, spiritually, and erotically like velcro. It triggers a longing for paternal connection, for receiving nurture from other men and, just as importantly, giving them nurture. It energizes the satisfaction I find in mentoring my graduate students. It goes a long way to explaining why I find it so fulfilling to hold space for another man (or woman) to explore his /her interior life more deeply--and often find it easier than having such a space held for me by someone else. (To borrow a term from our lesbian sisters, you might describe me as a spiritual "soft butch.") It's bound up with my desire to find intentional community among men.  (As when I was mesmerized, and incredibly turned on, at the age of seventeen, watching a documentary about--wait for it--Episcopalian monks in Michigan. Monks. Episcopalian monks. In Michigan.)

There’s an odd way in which I can access the depth of the wound around my father’s unavailability only through the strength of the longings stirred in me by a scene like yesterday morning’s. Someone reminded me earlier this week that somewhere, Freud says something like this: that what cannot be endured is sexualized. Perhaps it’s fair to say as well that what’s too painful to acknowledge consciously is spiritualized. To say that isn’t to undermine the legitimacy of either our spiritual or our erotic longings. But it is an invitation to know ourselves more fully, and to turn our wounds into gifts--as we must, if we’re to live out our calling to the repair of the self and the healing of the world.