Thursday, October 18, 2012

Living Soulfully

Last Sunday afternoon, I spent two hours in a church basement with thirteen other men, most of whom I was meeting for the first time. Maybe the fact that we'd come together wasn't exactly miraculous. But as we went around the circle introducing ourselves and sharing what had led us to gather, the hope I heard most of us voice seemed rare and precious.

Many though not all of us had in common that we'd spent time at Easton Mountain; or else at least we shared curiosity about Easton's mission of building more vibrant, more spiritually engaged, more inclusive community among gay men. But more immediately, what had brought us together was the desire to find such connection closer to home than the seven-hour drive from Toronto to Easton itself.

Easton's own programs, and the programs it hosts, are extraordinary and precious resources for personal growth and transformation, for the formation of new friendships, for the weaving of wider communal bonds. But as with so much of our experience of spiritual community as gay and otherwise queer men, these brief, finite opportunities to build our own culture are here one day and over the next, as we move back again from such gatherings into a world that we haven't made for ourselves, where we stand at the margins, where we're not quite fully at home.

There's a wistfulness that's an almost inevitable hangover from the peak experiences of "workshop culture. " It's a longing to walk more easily, and more often, into the space of deep connection. It's a dissatisfaction that the texture of everyday life allows so little space to integrate deep friendship, queer eros, faith, playful abandon, and resolve to change the world.

A place like Easton Mountain,to offer sustained hope for the transformation of queer men's spiritual realities, has to find ways of becoming more than itself--more than a few acres of land in upstate New York, however beautiful and peaceful they are; more than a week or two at a time of celebration and release from the constraints of life in a heteronormative world; more even than the few men who live on its land and hold space, ready to welcome those who come. It has to spread itself out as a widening network of complex, interwoven, multiple connections, like rhizomes just under the surface of the soil.

That's my prayer for what the fourteen of us in Toronto, together with those who find their way to us in coming weeks and months, might become: a web of roots strong enough to hold together, vibrant enough to send up fabulous green shoots into the gay sunshine, extensive enough to link us to men who share our vision at the foot of a mountain in upstate New York; in Boston; in Philadelphia; in New York City; in Florida; in New Jersey.

Chapters of Living Soulfully, an organization of men whose lives have been touched by the promise of Easton Mountain, offer fellowship and opportunities for local community in a growing number of cities and regions: see and the Facebook pages of local groups.

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