Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Sex is a Finger Pointing at the Moon

The deeper you dive into the Left-Handed Path of desire, the more you run up against this inevitable truth: your monkey mind thinks it's about fulfilment, but it's not.

A well-known koan runs, Zen is the finger pointing at the moon. And the non-answer to the riddle is, "Don't look at the finger. Look at the Moon, stupid."

Don't get hung up on Zen teaching. Don't get hung up on perfecting your meditation practice. Don't get hung up even on the quest for enlightenment.

If we take desire a teacher, the stakes are high. We're pretty nearly hard-wired to imagine that the perfect fulfilment of the fantasy, the perfect connection with the perfect partner, the perfect orgasm, is what will bring us completion.

In other words, we're almost inevitably inclined to "chase the dragon," hoping for the perfect high.

If only the masseur's touch were a little firmer. Or a little lighter. If only the guy I just started dating were five years younger. Or older.  If only he were more my type.

If only my abs were a little tighter. If only I could still keep it up like I did when I was twenty-five. 

If only I'd come out six years earlier. Or twenty years earlier. Or fifty years earlier. 

If only the surgery hadn't put an end to my ability to ejaculate. Or to my partner's sex drive.

If only I weren't actually living my life as it is, here and now, in this present moment.

When we keep staring at the finger, we miss the Moon. We miss the lightning flash of unexpected experience. We miss the magic of what we never bargained on, of what's more than we could have asked or imagined.

Your fantasies, your memories, your expectations, they're all a finger. You need them to point the way. But look at the Moon.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Monday, July 26, 2021

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Midsummer Reverence


If you keep an altar and are willing to share it here, send me a photo and I'll post it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Icarus: A Reverie

We sit on the slope above the field where we go on warm, windy spring afternoons. We watch one bright purple kite fly higher than the rest. As it dives, the practiced hand of the young man holding the string lets it play out till it catches the updraft again and shoots higher. His son shouts in delight. 

I turn to my daddy and we lock eyes. "You really want it, don't you?" he smiles. I just nod slowly, and we head back home.

Thirty minutes later, I'm leaning against the diamond-shaped plywood frame with its thin mattress. He's putting the restraints on my ankles, stretching one of my arms out to the side to tie it down, then the other. He unfastens the base  of the diamond from the shackle that secures it to floor and hauls up on the pulley. I'm swinging in the air now. He puts one hand on my chest, gazes into my eyes, and rocks me for a few seconds from side to side.

The soft cord goes in a slipknot around my cock and balls. He wraps the other end around his forearm. His fingertips graze the underside of my erection, and I shudder. He flicks the tip of his tongue over my frenulum, and I moan.

This will go on for hours. By the time he lets me down again, I wil barely remember my own name. I'll have only a few words left, but they'll be all I need.

"Please, daddy."

"Thank you."

"Higher, daddy. Make me go higher."

"I need this so bad."

"Please let me be your fucktoy."

He tugs gently on the cord around my junk, and I sway tilted, suspended three feet off the floor.

He oils his hand and strokes the length of me, twisting so his palm rotates, gloriously and excruciatingly, over my glans. The middle finger of his other hand presses against my perineum and begins to burrow gentlly towards my pulsing hole.

He, too, will only need a few words.

"Take another deep breath for me."

"Take it in. I know you're close, but you can hold on."

"We're going to go a little higher now."

"That's my sweet boy."

"I know how full you are, but it's not time yet."

If I begin to hyperventilate: "It's OK, I've got you."

Everything will disappear but the feel of his hands and mouth. His eyes. His voice. The sight of his own erection, unreachable though just inches from my hand. The pleasure spreading from my bound, oiled cock through my whole body. Before it's over, I will forget that I am anything other than my daddy's fucktoy. I will not want to be anything, ever again, but my Daddy's fucktoy. 

At last, when I've pleaded for an eternity, he will make me cum. He will bend down to taste it and then share it with me in a kiss. He will adjust the pulleys so that I'm floating horizontal, slather the rest of my semen onto his own perfect phallus, and ejaculate into my grateful open mouth.

Until then, I will look down from the sky to see Daddy expertly playing the connection between us, tethering me safely to earth as I strain towards heaven.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

On Behalf of Our Fathers

This Father's Day, I know that some queer men have never experienced anything less than love and unconditional acceptance from their fathers. I rejoice for them. And at the same time, I'm somewhere between incredulous, wistful, and envious as hell.

We each have our story. Our fathers abandoned us for a life elsewhere. Or were explosive, abusive drunks. Or were quiet, emotionally crippled drunks. Or told us to stop acting like goddam pansies. Or were themselves so shamed by their own bodies and desires they couldn't reassure us about our own.  Or furtively imposed their own same-sex attractions on us. Or told us we were going straight to hell if we went on experimenting with the boy next door. Or...

My own story isn't representative of anyone but me. My father was an obsessive-compulsive binge drinker, a hollowed-out emotional wreck who destroyed himself before he'd made it to 64. It's been over fifty years since he died (on Mother's Day, for God's sake) when I was 8. I've spent my whole adult life piecing together a fragmentary, indirect, conflicted relationship with him. Like reverse-engineering an onion one layer at a time, from the inside out. 

So it was a huge grace when, some summers back, I experienced a flood of compassion for him unlike anything that had ever come alive in me before.  During a journalling exericse at a weeklong intensive program, I revisited the usual litany of ways he failed me. And then: thanks to a constellation of circumstances I won't rehearse here, I suddenly thought, my poor father, and spent the next fifteen minutes quietly sobbing. And knew what I had to do. I needed to say Kaddish. Non-Jew that I am.

If you're not Jewish or familiar with Jewish practice, the Kaddish is the prayer you say in memory of one you mourn, and especially in memory of parents.  The most observant say it every day for a year, and then annually on the Yahrzeit--the anniversary of the death. The odd thing is, the Mourner's Kaddish never mentions the deceased. It glorifies God, prays for the speedy arrival of God's kingdom, and voices hope that peace from above will descend on us and on all. This peculiar disconnect between the content of the prayer and the emotionally charged intention with which it's spoken is a source of discomfort to many who fulfill their responsibility to recite it: they feel denied the chance to remember one they loved in all his or her individuality.

But oddly, in keeping the deceased out of it, the prayer can become a container big enough for the conflicted feelings you may have toward the dead. You don't have to wax warm and fuzzy toward the person you're mourning. You're not obliged to feel any one thing as opposed to something else. Instead, you speak this on behalf of the dead in the presence of the Holy. The deceased is representative of humanity. You're saying it for him. You're saying it for yourself. You're saying it for all humankind. If what's really going through your head as you pray is that the deceased was an empty emotional shell, or an abusive creep who made your life hell when your were five, there's room for that, and you don't have to fake the saccharine greeting-card sentiments that characterize (for instance, in my own experience) so many Midwestern Protestant funerals.

That unexpected space to feel whatever you're feeling can become fertile ground for the post-mortem healing of relationships. If you say Kaddish repeatedly, you'll experience it differently every time you do so. Your feelings will change over time, from one day to the next, from one month to the next, from one year to the next. 

All this to unpack my intuitive flash, in the moment that I softened towards a man I can most of the time feel very little towards at all, who died over half a century ago. I'm sometimes still bemused that a nice Lutheran boy from the Midwest needed with unhesitating instinct to borrow a Jewish prayer to mourn his father. Saying it linked me to my partner in his Judaism, as well as to the leader of the workshop--a man who gave me more of what one would hope to get from a father than most others in my life.

And then there's the very fact that in borrowing somebody else's tradition, we can set aside toxic associations that our own spiritual heritage has often accrued for us as queer men. We take what we need, in ways that might not always win the approval of the keepers of the tradition(s) we pilfer. But it's not simply that I can imagine my appropriation of the prayer offending some, simply because I don't have a right to it by heritage. 

It's that I recited it  in front of a five-foot Phallus in a flowering meadow. Standing before this sign of linkage between my spiritual and erotic life as a gay man, laying hands and forehead on it at the end of the prayer, I contemplated my father's woundedness as a share in the wounds all men sustain. In the midst of a circle that represented the infinitely fertile womb of the Mother Goddess, I meditated on the sexuality that links my father to me in a continuum with the embodied, desirous experience of all men--a message I desperately needed to absorb from him as a boy but never could. And then found myself giving thanks for the miracle of his orgasm that made my life possible.

I expect to go on doing the work of repairing my relationship to my father for the rest of my life. Praying a very queer Kaddish for my father,  and on behalf of my father, changes nothing of that, and changes everything.






Saturday, June 5, 2021

Encounter With Eros: A Guest Post by Michael Gvamos

 Deep gratitude to Michael Gvamos for sharing this beautiful reflection on the connection of his erotic energy with the Source of All Things. Michael's previous guest post, on his extended hermitage last year, appeared here last August 7. Michael observes that he felt he was transcribing it more than writing it himself, at 3 a.m. shortly after completing the Body Electric School's weeklong intensive, The Dear Love of Comrades.

I woke up at 3 AM, my hand stroking my raging cock. It was as hard and full as I can ever remember it being. It was like a power unto itself – asserting itself; demanding attention, insisting on being dealt with and reconciled with – my Life Force declaring itself in its full power and manifestation. It was a beautiful, awesome and thunderous spirit to behold. 

I do not own it; it inhabits me. I am but the earthly vessel – a limited, rickety and beautiful container. My Life Force is beyond male and female; yet is both at the same time. I acknowledge and honor it by stroking – moving the energy/power; transferring it into my body. I stroked it for quite a while – riding the energy, celebrating its spirit and power – being thrilled and humbled by it. Participating with it but not owning or possessing it. Stroking it; feeling the ecstasy and the danger at the same time. For the first time, feeling a freedom, a pride, a communion with it without shame, hesitancy or recoil. “Pride” does not capture it – it is “happiness with the fact that I am the custodian of this awesome and thunderous power.” Having a fascination and infatuation with it – knowing it is unusual, unique and special – humbled and reverent towards it power and responsibility. Thrilled at getting to play with it – to be able to ride the waves of ecstasy – both physical and spiritual. At the same time knowing that such power exacts a terrible price; there can be no ecstasy without suffering. Knowing that this force is what is best in me – that which drives me and compels me to love myself, to love others, to love this world; to feel, imbibe and soak up this world, as beautiful and broken as it is. 

As it is, my Life Force is very small and insignificant in the big picture of the world. But at the same time, it is vital and crucial to me and those in my spiritual/emotional circle. Irreplaceable but miniscule. I have never felt so unified, whole and healed. I am humbled and reverent to the Power that has guided me to this moment. I know that I consciously choose to participate with that Power, even as I am possessed by it. My body seems a fragile and inadequate vehicle; but one that has learned to welcome, celebrate, dance and surrender to our symbiotic relationship. As I stroke my fully alive Phallus, I both seize and surrender to the Power of my Life Force. 

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Through a Glass, Darkly

 "Remember, the only language available to religion is metaphor.  God is always like something else we have experienced visibly and directly."

--from Fr. Richard Rohr's daily meditation for May 30 (Trinity Sunday)

Center for Action and Contemplation

Saturday, May 22, 2021

L'dor v'Dor

It's the Jewish liturgical phrase for the endless sequence of connection, from generation to generation. 

And wired into it is the privilege given to biological reproduction as the means by which we inherit a sense of belonging in the world.

This side of the Holocaust--with whole lineages wiped out, and others that survived by the most tenuous thread--that phrase is also full of trauma, grief, longing, the desire for reparation. 

And for queer children of survivors, I know--sometimes a nearly intolerable burden, as it was for my beloved, gifted friend, the late Oscar Wolfman. 

Oscar Wolfman, "Five Sons"

I don't have to be Jewish myself to get the nostalgia, the longing for connection to a family of origin who couldn't teach me what I needed to know about making my way in the world as a man who loves men. Growing up German Lutheran in the Midwest, at the tail end of a dysfunctional generation who loved to think they were the Waltons, I got a full helping of the desire to be seen and mentored, and precious little of its fulfillment. 

Of course, it's where my daddy fantasies got their start. 

I've decided I'm done with pathologizing those fantasies. I'm ready to move on and accept them as my personal expression of a broad and easily recognizable human need. More radically: I'm ready to say that the erotic connections we form across generations (within the parameters of the law, which is to say 18+) are a precious form of mentoring. Rooted deep in our individual psyches, yes.  And at the same time, a means of weaving the queer social fabric we need to thrive and find our place in the world. A means of creating acceptance and belonging for one another. 

I'm a man of a certain age, and getting more certain by the month. At some point, you look in the mirror and can no longer deny you're now the older and wiser man you always wanted to meet. I may still be a son longing for his father figure, but it's time to step into being the father figure ready to respond to the younger man who needs me. Giving what I've always needed is the best way I have to experience it myself. 

Not to pretend I can recover lost youth, but to send the young into a country I'll only see from the top of a nearby mountain.

"Your children are not your children," wrote Kahlil Gibran. "They are the sons and the daughters of Life's longing for Itself."

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Why I Love Shortbus

I can count on one hand the movies that I don’t just love but credit with changing the way I look at my life: 

Word Is Out, the 1977 documentary that assured me there were any number of ways to be gay in the world, most of them interesting, many of them desirable; 

Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander, which helped me find the courage to walk away from spiritual abuse at the hands of a dogmatic, life-denying religious hierarchy; 

Babette’s Feast, which goes on reminding me that the only way to find the deepest joy is to give joy lavishly away;

And Shortbus : John Cameron Mitchell’s sexy, sad, funny, compassionate vision of a queer utopia, set in and around a Brooklyn salon/sex club hosted by the outrageous and divine Mx. Justin Vivian Bond (then still pre-Mx. and pre-Vivian). 

When the movie came out in 2006, I was raw from a long, obsessive breakup with plenty of confusion, grief, anger, and blame to go around. Mitchell’s film showed me people trying hard, fucking up, struggling against shame, longing to connect, fleeing from connection, hurting those they loved, forgiving themselves and each other. I found myself in more or less every scene. 

Years later, talking about the movie with a group of other gay men--some of us newcomers to the film, some fanatic ongoing fans. At the end of the evening, one man observed that if we'd screened the end of the film as one of the clips to prompt discussion, he would likely have cried through it, as he had before. I expect I would have too.

In candlelight during a blackout, Mx. Bond sings "In the End," more or less summing up the vision of the film. Songwriter Scott Matthew's lyrics are anything but upbeat: "We all bear the scars," they begin. "We all feign a life." But it's the tenderness and affection that Bond brings to the song, and that Mitchell and his cinematographer bring to the shooting and editing of the scene, that convey what matters here: that the participants in this "salon for the gifted and challenged" have touched what Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön would call "the genuine sadness at the heart of things": bodhichitta

This is the realization that our lives are infinitely precious because they're infinitely vulnerable. The end of the song erupts, with the incursion of a marching band--I'm not making this up--into a riot of musical and erotic carousal. In the end, the characters celebrate their humanity not despite, but in and through their flaws. They find community, but only because they accept the aloneness that we can't overcome.

Some less than appreciative responses to the film, including Bruce Diones' snyde notice for The New Yorker, objected to the utopianism of the final scene. But the inbreaking of what isn't expected and can't be foreseen, until we let go of our attachment to the illusion of perfection, is the whole point. "I never saw that one coming," Bond observes through a bullhorn in the last line of the film. "You never know what's gonna happen in this neighborhood."

Sunday, April 25, 2021


In the midst of a lockdown, a promenade of Japanese cherry trees lines a walkway on the south side of the university library. Friday they were at what is traditionally considered the most beautiful and poignant moment of their cycle--in full bloom, but the petals just beginning to fall:  the glory of the perfect, present moment bound intrinsically to the impermanence of all things. 

It was my third pilgrimage in a week. They'd lasted longer for the cool, mostly dry weather, and they escaped damage a few nights earlier when the temperature dipped significantly below freezing and we woke to three inches of snow.

And beneath them, several dozen people wandering through the miracle, looking up in delight, taking photographs--of the trees, of one other standing beneath them. Almost all of them masked, all careful to stay distanced, strangers immersed together in a communal moment of deep joy, despite the anxieties of present circumstance. Themselves part of this transient and inexhaustible beauty, themselves subject to the precarity of all things, and all the more precious for it. 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

The Goal

The goal of an erotic spiritual practice isn't satisfaction.

The goal is to embrace desire as Life's unbounded and endless longing for Itself.

To take it as a teacher.

To see that what you have, you cannot possess.

To see that what you lack, you already have.

Sunday, April 4, 2021




Friday, April 2, 2021

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.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Revisiting Mark Epstein

Watercolour by Tantrika au Naturale

I’ve just gone back, for a third reading, to Mark Epstein’s Open to Desire: The Truth About What the Buddha Taught (Gotham Books, 2005). As intelligent as it is accessible, it holds up wonderfully fifteen years after its publication. A Jewish-Buddhist psychiatrist in private practice in New York, Epstein makes a clear and convincing argument for desire, and particularly for sexual desire, as a tool for spiritual growth—providing we see desire clearly for what it is. 

He’s at pains to tweak some unfortunately standard English translations of the basic principles of Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths. Epstein rephrases them more or less as follows: that all life is marked by pervasive dissatisfaction; that the cause of this dissatisfaction is our constant attempt to cling to the illusory promises of fulfillment; that to genuinely relinquish that clinging eliminates the cause of our dissatisfaction; and that we can overcome clinging by following Buddhism’s Eightfold Path of right living, action, and attitude.

He’s saying that, contrary to many assumptions about Buddhist teaching, it’s not desire that we need
to eliminate. Instead, we need to renounce attachment to a false image that turns the Beloved into an object, a vehicle for achieving what we want. If we don’t, the alternative is “chasing the dragon”: endlessly shopping for the ideal lover, the perfect experience, the mind-blowing orgasm, the hot scene to end all hot scenes. It’s not pretty when hunger and thirst feed only themselves: when, on the altar of an illusion, we sacrifice the reality of the life that unfolds before us and within us as a glorious, unpredictable, and fleeting gift.

If we instead experience desire mindfully, it becomes a great teacher: it leads us to recognize that what we yearn for always exceeds what we grasp. It reminds us that lack is fundamental to the reality of our lives, and that paradoxically we can only live fully when we embrace that fact instead of trying to escape it. Mindful desire invites us to accept that what we most truly long for is always Other than what we grasp after or strive to retain. We come to understand that the Beloved is not an object, but an unknowable Other with a life of his own that we can witness as a miracle and honor face to face but never possess—that our task (and our pleasure) is to go on desiring without clinging.

Here (p. 108) is Epstein at his most precise and, to me, most compelling: “The therapist, by not gratifying, but not rejecting, the unfinished cravings … models a new approach to desire. By examining those cravings in the nonjudgmental space of the therapeutic encounter, the therapist encourages a renunciation, not of desire itself, but of the clinging that comes to obscure it.” Though he’s talking about the therapeutic relationship in particular, I find myself thinking that to behave like this toward my partner, toward my friends, toward those whose lives touch mine in small, daily encounters, is a high, challenging, and worthy aspiration.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Erotic Generosity

I've read a lot of queer theory in my day. I've read a fair amount of sex-positive liberal Christian theology. And have I ever read a lot of porn.

But in very little of it all have I found much that really voices what people who participate in alternative sexual communities are sometimes blessed to learn among themselves: when we find safety to accept our longings as a given, without shame, with the good will and acceptance of others--when we let down our defenses----our impulses toward generosity blossom. And we beget the further generosity of others in turn. 

The chance to create safe containers for such experiences is one of the reasons queer men need to find each other apart from even the most tolerant and inclusive of wider cultures--and why those containers are probably best left mostly shielded from outside scrutiny. There's not really a lot of point in wasting emotional energy on dealing with the discomfort the alternative erotic spaces and practices we create are likely to engender in the wider normative culture.

Queer theory explores the creative, liberative impulse in all this--but without much attention to the impact that pleasure and erotic encounter have on the soul. Liberal Christian moral theology focuses on how interpersonal sexual connection shapes and fulfills the soul--but largely remains embarrassed that pleasure and fantasy shape our sexual preferences and experience before deep interpersonal connection comes into it. And a lot of porn focuses unrealistically on fulfilled fantasy and impossibly perfect pleasure--while mostly ignoring that good sex also engages our minds and spirits.

Radical faeries know better. I get the impression from friends that leatherfolk often know better. Men who participate in networks for non-penetrative touch know better. The characters in John Cameron Mitchell's sweet, heartfelt, funny and incredibly hot film Shortbus know better. And the men who come to the monthly online Heart and Lingam Circle that it's my joy and honour to facilitate clearly know better.

To be fair to queer theorists, theologians, and pornographers alike: it's a tall order to write about a sexual experience in a way that's analytical and reverent and hot. 

There's no better word than generosity to describe what happens when a roomful of men drop down into the lively possibilities of our bodies, stop searching for the ideal partner, smile in welcome at each other, and open up to treating those we meet in the moment with respect and delight. Generosity accepts the interest and affection of men who'd never turn one's head in a bar. Generosity creates safety for us to stop judging ourselves against impossible standards of air-brushed beauty. Generosity gives us space to be a little goofy, and to stop masking our longing behind a defensive screen of attitude. Generosity is love directed not just to a circle of friends and lovers, but to a random sample of humanity. Generosity is patient. Generosity is kind. Generosity is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It is not irritable or resentful. Generosity is willling to experience all things, hopes all things. Generosity never ends.

Monday, February 22, 2021

If Not Now, When?

 “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”—Hillel

“To begin with oneself, but not to end with oneself; to start from oneself, but not to aim at oneself; to comprehend the self, but not to be preoccupied with oneself. . .”—Martin Buber

I’ve been thinking again, lately, about how Power works. About who holds it; about the experience of being oppressed; about the experience of being an oppressor—because like most of us, I’m both at once.  

As a kid, I was mercilessly queer-bated; over the decades since, I’ve had my life threatened more than once on the streets of a large city by homophobic teenagers; been drummed out of a congregation of devout, upstanding Lutherans while its pastor stood impotently to the side; listened most of my life to right-wing bigots drape their incitement to discrimination and violence in the veil of religious freedom; had the full advantages of the legal recognition of my primary relationships denied me. 

I’ve also enjoyed most of the privileges of being a white cisgendered male, sometimes without thinking much about it. I’ve caught myself—or been called on—making thoughtlessly sexist remarks. I’ve worn clothes made in sweatshops by people whose lives I’ve barely given any thought to at all. I’ve contributed to the needless suffering of countless animals by buying industrially produced meat. I’ve paid my taxes to governments that subsidize ecological rape and pillage and the continuing disenfranchisement of indigenous nations. And on and on.

I struggle to understand how these sides of who I am fit together. I struggle harder in a season when my own religious tradition calls for a process of self-examination—a season that causes me continued discomfort because of the baggage it carries with it. Far too much of Christian practice in Lent ends up being about punitive navel-gazing, about idealizing a purer version of the isolated self. That model of penitence has for centuries done vast damage to members of sexual minorities. I react to it at gut-level by defending my own innocence and pointing instead to what’s wrong with the world.

Francis Spufford suggests that instead of talking about original sin, we pay attention to "the human propensity to fuck things up." Now that I’m thinking about Power, I find myself thinking about how, often even without being aware,  I can thoughtlessly collude in its structures—the very structures that oppress me, and that I claim to oppose because they oppress others. 

And I start to understand differently how to look critically at my own life. The shift is like turning a kaleidoscope. The pieces are still all there. But I can see more easily that what’s wrong within me isn’t  so separate from what’s wrong in the world. If I long for a better world, helping to create it is tied up with building a better version of myself. Learning to say a louder “no” to the abuse of Power in the world means taking stock of the ways I say yes to it within myself.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

I'll Meet You There

Have you ever tried your hand at writing erotic fiction or poetry?

What did it feel like, seeing your imagination come to sexy life on the page? Have you shared the results with friends? Have you gone as far as joining an erotic writers' group? If you have, maybe you agree with me that there couldn't be a better description of the experience than some famous words of the Persian poet Rumi. 

Rumi wrote (according to one popular translation), "There is a field beyond all notions of right and wrong. I will meet you there."

Maybe we'll discover that your fantasy life and mine look more alike than we'd expected. Maybe we'll both be surprised at the number of people in the room who like to imagine getting tied up. OK, the mysterious stranger does it to you, and my daddy does it to me, and the woman in the UPS uniform does it to somebody else. But still.

Or maybe somebody in our circle has uses for ripe avocados that wouldn't occur to either of us in a million years. Maybe my fetish for men in cassocks is, like, the biggest turn-off imaginable for you. And the donkey suits--well, let's save the donkey suits for later.

But we came into this with a promise to hold safe, non-judgmental space for each other. A promise not to "yuck anybody else's yum." We'll write, we'll read to each other, we'll listen, we'll witness and be witnessed. We'll cross the bridge to the world of the other, carrying only our passports in a clear plastic bag--as couples therapist Hedy Schleiffer would say.

We'll learn things about ourselves that we haven't fully known. Or that didn't seem completely real, because we've never before shared them with a roomful of trusted companions. Now I see them, and you see them too. Because everybody in our circle sees them, I see them differently. And seeing them differently may be like seeing them for the first time.

Maybe we'll even begin to see, at least a little, through each other's eyes. Maybe what our friend wants to do with ripe avocados, and the way they describe it, pushes out the envelope of our own erotic worlds and enriches them. Maybe my fantasy of getting tied up will help you feel your way into how that could be adventurous and exciting, or reassuring and safe, in a way you've never been able to understand before. Not part of your world, but an interesting, perhaps even rewarding place to visit in mine.

We've got a whole banquet of possibilities before us. A fantasy you've never shared before. A real-life memory I can't stop rehearsing. A piece of fan fiction: Seven of Nine and Captain Janeway getting it on in the shutltlecraft, or Harry Potter learning a new spell with his wand. A sci-fi tale of what happens when people have sex in zero gravity. Historical fiction. A recently defeated President of the United States arriving in hell, assigned to blowing a former mayor of New York for all eternity.

Drawing on our erotic imaginations as a creative resource in community, we get to play with the boundaries between our most private, defended selves and a world that's undeniably different from us, but ready to witness, ready to welcome us with respect, curiosity, and celebration. We can name our fantasies as just fantasies, things to play with rather than something that threatens to take us over. Along the way, we learn to take responsibility for our own reactions to what others have written as our reactions and nothing more.

A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of Shakespeare's best-known and most-loved comedies. It's about lovers eloping into the forest and getting enchanted. And it's often thought of as a cute play for kids in middle school to put on. But it's richer and darker and funnier and scarier and way, way edgier than those sixth-grade productions ever get at. It's about nice young people from respectable, repressive families getting lost and confused under the full moon, and faeries mixing it up with donkeys--yes, with donkeys--and everybody wanting to have sex with the wrong people. Who finally turn out to be the right people.

Out beyond all notions of yuck and yum, there is a moonlit forest. I will meet you there.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

The Morning After the Long Nightmare

The day of the Inauguration in Washington, I felt like we'd all just awakened from a four-year nightmare. On that bright morning, Amanda Gorman--along with the others who spoke and performed--embodied the promise of an America where inclusion and equity might prevail, after all.

The ten days since then have made it clear that the flames of hatred and division fanned by a vindictive, unqualified narcissist throughout his shameful time in office are far from extinguished.

Just as in November 2016, this is no time to retreat into a shell of private serenity and personal tranquillity. Neither is it a time to lash out in retaliation. 

It remains a time to recognize that the only way to heal the soul is to repair the world, and the only way to repair the world is to heal the soul. The most authentic foundation for action is contemplation, as Franciscan Richard Rohr continues to remind us. And the litmus test that our spiritual practice isn’t mere self-delusion is conversely that it bears fruit in the world.

It remains a time to deepen our awareness through spiritual practice that our lives aren't restricted to our small, isolated selves alone. They're nourished by the web of connections through which our life flows in and out of us, in and out of each other, in and out of all creatures. It remains a time to go on building and sustaining the web of connections that have kept hope alive through dark years that we’ve already faced.

It remains a time to donate to organizations that fight for the dignity of the marginalized. Till we can’t afford to give more.

It remains a time to volunteer.

It remains a time to help settle refugees and to protect them from xenophobia.

It remains a time to stand in solidarity with the victims of hate crimes.

It remains a time to work for progressive causes at more local levels, as Congress promises to continue in much the same dysfunction that it's wallowed in for years. 

It remains a time for queer men of spirit to recognize that what’s done to our Muslim brothers and sisters, our Hispanic brothers and sisters, our black brothers and sisters, our impoverished brothers and sisters, our trans brothers and sisters, our indigenous brothers and sisters, is done to us, and to act accordingly. It remains a time to remember that we are the guardians of the Earth who is our Mother and of whom we remain a part, and to act accordingly.

It remains a time to remember that whenever we make love, we win.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Taking the First Step


"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."

--Martin Luther King Jr.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Hope and the Flesh

Every four or five weeks since the summer, a group has gathered online for a Heart and Lingam Circle. In the midst of the pandemic, we've gone on buidling erotic community with the creative energy, imagination, and playfulness that queer men have manifested through times of oppression, health crises, anxiety, and isolation since--well, since queer men have been queer. (I send the invitation out a couple of weeks in advance. If you'd like to be on the blind copies list, let me know by e-mail.)

We've taken as a touchstone the words of James Broughton: "The penis is the exposed tip of the heart, the wand of the soul." What happens when (instead of just getting off online) we use our erotic energy to expand our consciousness, and to speak and listen more fully from the heart? What happens when we bring our heart energy to our erotic expression?

Can masturbating together, while we share the traditional structure of a heart circle in virtual space, make us more open-hearted, more compassionate and generous toward one another and toward ourselves?

We've found out that it can, and does. Without being able to reach out through the screen to touch one another physically, we've reached through the screen, and across continents and time zones, to touch each other's hearts. It's been sweet and rich. And sexy. Did I mention sexy?

Still, it's not the physical touch of another's hand. It's not skin on skin--the contact that all primates thrive on, and which we alone of all higher primate species live in want of, even in ordinary times, for the sake of civilization and its discontents.  It's what we can have, for now. Paradoxically, it's brought the gift of connection despite distances that would keep us ever from being able to do this face to face. We aren't just settling for second best. Like everyone whose lives have moved onto the Web since March, we've discovered new modes of community.

It's what's been possible in 2020--a year that nearly all of us will be glad to see the end of. It's a sign of hope, like the final words of the Passover Seder, "Next year in Jerusalem." Like the words of the Passover Seder, not an expression of a desire to move back to what we've known, but forward into something yet to come. A hope lived out with, through, and in our queer flesh.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

At the Return of the Light

The darkness of 2020 has been all-encompassing. 

But the Sun always returns.

A Cernunnos Litany for the Return of the Light

I sit before this altar

in praise of the Horned One.

I light candle flame

in praise of the Horned One.

Before this altar I slip deeper into trance

in praise of the Horned One

become one with my cock

in praise of the Horned One

gaze down into the eye of my cock

in praise of the Horned One

as it points upward toward heaven

in praise of the Horned One

as though gazing into a candle flame

in praise of the Horned One

eye gazing down into eye gazing up an endless circuit

in praise of the Horned One

beholding it from above as the God beholds it from above

in praise of the Horned One

wind the mala around the base of my cock

in praise of the Horned One

touch my chest, awaken my body

in praise of the Horned One

hold the Lingam to my heart

in praise of the Horned One

begin to pass beyond the veil of speech

in praise of the Horned One

lose the power of speech, possessed of breath and animal sound alone

in praise of the Horned One

vow that my seed will be an offering

in praise of the Horned One

after long lingering at ecstasy's edge

in praise of the Horned One

not my seed but seed of the God present in men's flesh

in praise of the Horned One

not my seed but sacrament of the God's presence in my flesh

in praise of the Horned One

to be lovingly, slowly, patiently milked from my body

in praise of the Horned One

to be collected in reverence

in praise of the Horned One

to be poured over the Lingam

in praise of the Horned One

to be drunk

in praise of the Horned One

to be shared with my brothers

in praise of the Horned One

to mark our foreheads and hearts

in praise of the Horned One

to be worn on our skin

in praise of the Horned One

affirming our animal mortality

in praise of the Horned One

celebrating the power of cockpleasure to open the heart

in praise of the Horned One

teaching us humility before the power of Nature

in praise of the Horned One

recalling that beside the Great God abides the Great Goddess--

all praise to them both, together and apart--

Womb of Creation, Cock of Life Longing for Itself--

all praise to them both, together and apart--

Cock whose seed falls into the earth and dies

in praise of the Horned One

Cock whose seed brings forth new life

in praise of the Horned One

Cock whose seed unites all men in one great brotherhood

in praise of the Horned One

Cock whose seed flows through the three worlds

in praise of the Horned One

the realm of this world, of ourselves and our brothers

in praise of the Horned One

the realm of our fathers now departed

in praise of the Horned One

the realm of our sons and  of the heavens and of galaxies not yet born

in praise of the Horned One

Milky Way and great Ganges of cum

in praise of the Horned One