Thursday, April 27, 2017

Part of Your Soul, On a Table: Hoppergrass's Altar

Heartfelt thanks to Hoppergrass for sharing this photo of his altar, along with his words about the objects he keeps there.

My altar is the mantel of the fireplace in the large-windowed second-storey room where I do my morning tantric yoga and meditation practice. A buddha candle, minimally burned to exemplify the impermanence of all things, sits on a metal lotus flower, to remind me that from muck comes radiance. Four stones, gifted at an Easton Mountain workshop by Body Electric teacher Colin Brown, mark the cardinal directions around the lotus, according to designated color; they also represent Buddhism's four Noble Truths. Ganesh helps me overcome obstacles to reconciling my erotic and non-erotic personas: he is encircled by my leather cockring, symbolic of my struggle with my shadow. The small stone bear fetish, gifted at a retreat at Bodhi Mandala Zen Center, connects me to the oneness of all things. The ceramic heart, supported by the mala I use in meditation, is a rattle that I use during dry abhyanga. Finally, the not-quite-eternal eternal flame that I light at the beginning of each session as matter becomes energy; I extinguish it at the end as energy becomes matter.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

He's Not Here

It’s a day, and a season, when some of us think about death and resurrection.

The deeper we dig into that mystery, the more we’re likely to conclude that resurrection doesn’t simply undo death. It doesn’t just restore what was there before. The one who’s resurrected isn’t even immediately recognizable by those left behind. They mistake him for the gardener (John 20:15), or for a random stranger on the road (Luke 24:16), or for someone who suggests casting the net on the other side of the boat (John 21:4). He passes through locked doors and suddenly just appears (John 20:19). Yet he’s flesh and blood, with recognizable wounds.
Maybe the stories we tell about Jesus of Nazareth also offer lessons about our relation to spiritual traditions: about clinging to them, about letting go of them, about finding ourselves opened to look in unexpected places for the presence of Life, about walking away from empty tombs.
Sometimes, to see Life when it’s in front of us, new and yet strangely familiar, the religious certainties we were handed as kids are themselves the veil over our eyes that we’ve needed to remove. Some of us have found that Christianity itself, with all its homophobic baggage, has become the empty tomb we’ve needed to walk away from, when we’ve heard the angel say, “He’s not here.”
Some of us have experienced the presence of risen Life in places the Sunday School lessons of our childhood could never have allowed us to predict: in a gay men’s Buddhist sangha; at a faerie Beltane gathering; on a massage table; paradoxically, at the bedside of a dying friend; on a dance floor; at a march on Washington; in the arms of a man who's become a lover before he’s shared his name; at the table of someone you’ve known most of your life; alone on a mountainside at sunset.
Sometimes we have to stop focusing so relentlessly on where we expected to see Life. There it is, in the background behind what we’ve been staring at. Or just a few degrees off to the side. Or in a tradition that isn’t our own, that can speak to us not because it’s more authentic than our own spiritual roots, but because it surprises us, or because we come to it without the stumbling blocks of long and sometimes painful acquaintance. The trick then is to see that what at first glance looks so different from what we’ve lost turns out to be the gracious return of what gave us life from the very beginning. To say, in response to hearts that burn within us, “Oh--it’s You again.”

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Night of the Arrest

“A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.”--Mark 14:51

You’ve seen him here late at night all week. He’s come up the rambles between the trees to this knoll at the top of the garden. You thought he was looking for sex when he first showed up on Sunday night, but he didn’t prowl like most of the men who linger until they’re sure it’s safe and then offer to buy you for the night, or for an hour, or for just a quick fuck behind the biggest, oldest olive tree. Or else keep on looking for another man as hungry for sex as they are.
He just leaned against what’s left of the stone hut that belonged to the gardener in the old days. Aware of what was going on around him. Not horny and panicked at his own desire and the danger of the place, like most newcomers. At peace, saying yes to it all, but wanting none of it for himself.
You wear just a linen sheet when you’re up here working the hill.
Tonight he’s back with two friends, who for hours started at the sound of every pebble that shifted underfoot as men cruised the paths. His own face showed more sadness than fright, until he finally went off alone to the side of the garden, kneeling as he wept. You waved a john away, wondering if you should go to him. Now his friends have drifted off to sleep.
Another john comes up, and you’ve got to make enough to eat tomorrow. But then the man turns, and your eyes lock. The john glares, shrugs, and walks off.
Without thinking, you get up and walk over to him. He’s still weeping as he reaches out to you, but by the time his arms are around you, you realize the comfort he’s offering is beyond anything you can give back. For the next five minutes, you exchange no words, only sobs, until the two of you fall into a slow, steady rhythm, rocking back and forth, your breath matched to one another. His hand burrows under your dreadlocks to stroke the back of your neck.
Down the hill you hear the scuffle of men scattering as they do when the police barrel through. You pull back in alarm. He smiles and says, “It’s O.K. Go, get out of here.”
As you pitch down the hill, a cop grabs for you, but you leave the sheet behind, clutched in his hand, as you run on to safety.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Ecosexuality: Men in Nature

Feminist cultural theorists have long pointed out the enduring and widespread tendency to associate women with nature and men with human culture--an association that reenforces patriarchal thought patterns, stereotypes, and power structures. Removing ourselves as men from the realm of nature, imagining that we’re in a position of dominance over nature instead of being part of it, has encouraged us as to wreak ecological havoc in the name of the economy and “progress.” Environmental rape and pillage aren’t just a metaphor--they’re perpetrated overwhelmingly by men who assume that they can and should control everything--both women’s bodies and the body of the Earth.

Affirming our place in nature, rather than pretending we occupy a place above it, is a way of realigning ourselves on the side of the Earth. It’s a way of saying no to patterns of male domination and entitlement. It’s also a way of affirming, as queer men, that we belong here, in the world--that we’re part of it, at home in it, alongside birds and grass, oak trees and dragonflies. It’s a way of dropping down into our bodies, instead of floating above them as disembodied intellects. It’s a way of practicing true humility--a word that in its origin means “close to the ground.” It’s also sexy and fun.