Friday, May 30, 2014

On Sovereignty

We are sometimes very different depending on who is around us. Yet, however 'insincere' we may feel coming away from an encounter with another, whatever 'face' we showed, was one of ours...whatever personality we exhibited was from within us. The notion of being 'fake' is an interesting one, because even when someone is dishonest, they are still - always - themselves. Stories may be true or untrue, things may or may not exist, but people are hard to question...and they always have truth within them.

For instance, if someone says they are European royalty and own a fleet of expensive cars, and they're not and they don't, even though what they say is not true, the fact that they lie - and what they felt important and worth lying about - reveals some part of their greater truth.

I talk about being 'sovereign'. I write that I espouse self-realization. The two are very connected.
I'm realizing how vital it is to honor oneself, one's intuition and one's spiritual, social and intellectual needs. I should say perhaps that I've realized this before - have been in the process of 'realizing' it for a while - and am simply continuing in the process. I've found that when I don't act upon the aforementioned things, undesirable moments are more likely to happen.

A fascinating thought is that it is not out of personal dignity or want for best-case scenarios that one should be sovereign (although of course those are motivations) but out of necessity and self-preservation.

What is personal sovereignty? I would say it includes some of the following:
  • Avoiding and alleviating situations that threaten wellbeing (physical and spiritual)
  • Seeking stimulation
  • Requiring respect as a precursor to being in a relationship of any variety (romantic, friendship, social or group gathering), and only being in relationships where you can honestly give respect
  • Not requiring unfair or imbalanced generosity from others to sustain your needs
  • Being honest about yourself and to yourself
When you act and are seeking to be sovereign, you are in a place of strength, and you are then better able to love. I try and always be honest, not only with others but with myself. I am more sovereign than I was yesterday, and realizing how much more I can be...myself. And that is as it should be. The truth is of course that self-realization is an ongoing process and part of the continuing journey.

I wrote earlier this month about the idea of success. I questioned what it meant. I think true success is sovereignty. Being sovereign and allowing for and respecting sovereignty in others; and, the understanding that these are mutually reinforcing objectives. Not only having knowledge of this, but consciously acting and making choices based on that knowledge, I think is the best way to find and celebrate moments of real stimulation, joy and truth. These are the most valuable treasure for any individual's kingdom.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Prodigal Son

When I was growing up, after my parents had divorced, my brother and I would have long drives with my father - to Alabama to visit family, to national parks, and just the go-betweens that parental separation makes necessary. My father would tell stories that were both historical and "biographical". As a man who had lived over 4000 years, he had seen the rise and fall of the Greek empire, traveled through ancient Macedonia, Babylon and Egypt, and taken up sophistry throughout the Roman empire. He would move from citystate to citystate...town to town...always just in time to witness an event of great importance to civilization...and then escape into the hills before a battle, or before villagers and members of his variously adopted communities became suspicious of his lack of aging.

When I went away to college, and would come to visit, he would greet me without fail: "...and the prodigal son returns!"

The parable of the prodigal son appears as a story in the New Testament (Gospel of Luke) of the Christian Bible. Essentially, it symbolizes redemption. The second-born son of a wealthy man requests his inheritance early, and promptly runs away with it to a faraway land where he spends it on luxurious living (prodigal means "wastefully or recklessly extravagant"). Soon enough, his new-found homeland succumbs to famine, and he is left in poverty, herding pigs. He then realizes the error of his ways and reflects on how for so long he benefited from the labor of others, with no appreciation or gratitude. He returns to his father and begs forgiveness, which his father not only accedes to, but proceeds to arrange a feast and clothes him in fine robes. A celebration ensues. The oldest son is not pleased, as he has been hard-working and loyal to his father - and he says as much.

The father basically replies by saying that while the younger son has done wrong, he has returned with wisdom from his misdoings, and that is something to honor (plus, presumably "back then", the first-born would inherit the estate upon the father's death).

We often live amongst waves...of inspiration, spiritual inclination and generosity of spirit... One can be wasteful with a lot and one can also be wasteful with a little. If you have ten dollars to your name and you spend it on comic books, that is wasteful. If you have a million dollars and buy a Lamborghini - actually if you ever buy a Lamborghini - you are wasteful (arguably because there are far smarter, and better investments that would do far more good). I think most of us have been wasteful at one time or another, and one can be wasteful with much more than just physical resources.

Where mistakes may be made with this balance, the lesson of the Prodigal Son can be a fable for learning and increasing goodwill. The parable of the prodigal son mirrors the journey many of us take - down side roads and back alleys - away from our 'intended path'. Its lesson could be in part that we should not regret the richness of the landscapes we have seen, or the education received from so-called 'mistakes', recklessness and wastefulness, or the wonder of going places (metaphorically) that while interesting, were not quite right to set up permanent residence in. It is a story of redemption.

Friday, May 2, 2014

The issue with my sexuality

Whew! I spent some hours this afternoon landscaping the little D.C. yard of the home I share with my fiancĂ©. I don’t like to kill plants – even weeds and grass patches – but sprays and shovels tend to do that… A piece of advice: white, leather gardening gloves only look good before you use them. Spring is here, the house is getting spruced up, we are in love, and we are both male.

While gardening, I was thinking of a conversation I had last night with my friend Scotty (and via speakerphone, his fiancĂ© Maggie). I don’t recall how we arrived on the topic, but afterwards it was one of those I-am-so-glad-we-had-this-conversation conversations. Scotty was my college roommate, then became one of my closest friends, and is now someone for whom I am to be a groomsman at his upcoming wedding (for which I still need to buy a proper suit). We always chat well. When I met him, I was dating my high school sweetheart, to whom I lost my virginity, and who was also a woman.

I’ve never identified as gay. I’ve never ‘come out’ in any commonly understood sense of what it is to do that. I do not mind being identified by others as gay, being that I am in a relationship with a man. When I began dating a guy for the first time, back in college, my parents had a party and suggested I bring someone from school (the intonation was that, since my girlfriend and I had broken up, I should bring someone if there was someone to bring…). I showed up with who would later be my boyfriend and introduced him to my parents and their friends. It was obvious that we were seeing one another romantically. It did feel a little uncomfortable at first, and the relationship didn’t last, but I’ve never had a sit-down conversation with my family (or anyone really) about my sexuality. I’ve also never concealed the romantic side of my life from anyone. And now I am to be my future husband’s husband.

I was explaining to Scotty the issues I felt with categories of sexuality. He said “you know, it never seemed like an issue…it wasn’t something I ever thought too much about…you didn’t change after you started dating men”. If I’m being reflective, I have (since my early teens anyway) always dressed ambiguously. I’ve never attempted to exemplify masculinity. Part of that may be my long-term enrollment in a ballet academy during my childhood and teenage years and being around creative and artistic people, but even in the world of classical ballet (at least then), the reinforced archetype of a male dancer was a heterosexual one. My parents were always very supportive and loving, but not overtly encouraging of experimentation.

I guess being myself has always been more important than being part of a group – even a minority group that embraces me. When I was 8, I remember this mean kid coming up to me in the cafeteria, pushing me to make his friends laugh, and asking “Why are you so weird Jameson?”, and I replied “Because I choose to be”. It did not feel like the right response at the time since “I’m Jameson. I’m weird because I chooooose to be!” became a favorite phrase of theirs for a while. But looking back – and remembering that seemingly minor exchange so clearly for whatever reason – it was the correct answer. Often, I just couldn’t figure out how to fit in with others (I did try sometimes). So I would resort to just ‘doing my thing’ – be it dance, or drawing or putting on makeup. As I became an adult, one of the most marvelous things was the discovery of being able to choose who you spend time with – a luxury not afforded to most school-aged children. Fitting in becomes such a lesser concern because when you seek out or connect with the right people, they seem to realize that you give the most when you are you. I am blessed to have a community where the idea of ‘normal’ is as terrifying as any disease.

So back to Scotty and sexuality. He made the point that I am lucky. Lucky to live where I live, lucky to be around loving and open-minded people, lucky to feel safe. Ultimately, he is right. Although it drives me a little crazy sometimes to think of being ‘thankful’ for the ‘acceptance’ of others (yuck). One of my least favorite types of conversations:

Hello.
Hello.
Nice to meet you!
And you also!
So is that your partner?
Yes it is.
Oh cool…yeah, you know, I totally support gay marriage.

And then I get another drink. Or more often, smile and continue trying to have a relevant and pleasant conversation. I am never quite at ease about the position I feel put in or the response I am supposed to give. ‘Thank you’, I guess. Obviously the intention is a nice one. But as progressive as many people may be, I am uber-progressive, and I don’t even want to be. I think sexual categories in general are unproductive. I think some people tend to prefer women, some tend to prefer men, some are more evenly split, and some have very specific preferences for other – completely non-traditional – ‘types’ be them alternative-gender or otherwise. As long as there are two consenting adults seeking to enrich the other, a label seems reductive. And it’s always amazing at how offended my HRC-involved and other LGBTQ-identifying friends can be when I have expressed similar feelings to them.

I am going to marry a man. More often than not, I am identified as gay. But are we not entitled to self-identify however we choose? Of course we are. I’ve never liked any label, and I have tried on a few. I don’t protest at labels being applied to me, but I also don’t self-apply. I understand the importance of banning together to fight inequality and prejudice. I understand that history is full of incredible and important instances where if ‘gay’ was not in our vernacular, if a community did not feel connected based on a shared characteristic, the power of rising against violence and oppression would not have been doable…certainly not cohesively and as strong as we have seen it done. I would like to think of myself as a strong and uncompromising advocate for equality. I have known prejudice and ignorance, and I reject them as sad but temporary side effects to a humanity moving towards enlightenment. Categories have made sense, and perhaps we are not yet at a place in our collective evolution to move past them. I just would be excited to see the day when we are.

I am so thankful for those who I love and love me. I am thankful to be part of a generation where my ideas are not radical, and where decades (or centuries) of struggle have allowed for a present that affords me safety and the embrace of those in my community. I am lucky.