Sunday, June 1, 2014
cut to the chase
It has been more than a year since I last posted to this blog, and it's going so slowly I thought that cutting to the chase might help. My last post was about my early childhood. This one is a about my concerns for decisions about the future. (In between I also started another blog that is sort of my intellectual history, chadagain, but it's sort of bogged down, too.) Mostly I think I've just come to think that examining life too much takes up too much living.
Still, I do examine my life, and this post is inspired by a phrase from Richard Gundrey's liturgy, part of my baggage from Santa Fe: 'We die daily to things and ideas that no longer serve us'. There have been many things and ideas, from swedish modern furniture to neoplatonism that have served me at some time or another, to which I have more or less died. But some of the most damaging, time-consuming, distracting ideas cling. They become zombies. It's hard for me to die to them.
The photo in this post is from Robert Day's 1960 Tarzan the Magnificent, which I saw the first time largely because a thunderstorm interrupted my walk around downtown Jonesboro while I was in front of a run-down movie theater. It was unexpectedly exciting. Very exciting. The final fight between Tarzan Gordon Scott and the bad guy Jock Mahoney would remain one of the most erotic memories of my life. In the picture above, Mahoney's character is abandoning Betta St. John's character, who no longer serves him. Soon she is eaten by a lion. Soon he is defeated by Tarzan. It is the beginning of the final chase.
I don't know of course how soon I will die, but I do recognize some zombies that no longer serve me, that are sucking the life out of me, and that need to be fed to the lions.
Sometimes the zombies have been so much a part of one's self-image that it hurts to let them go. I like to think of myself as a explorer with few possessions, free to wander the world at will. While it is certainly true that I learned much from that period of time, it's not where I am now, nor do I need a repeat of those lessons. But the more sedentary, older person that I have become feels somehow less romantic, and I get crazy urges to sell everything and peddle off on a bicycle or paddle off in a kayak. I feel somehow guilty about enjoying my little urban apartment with a convenience store a block away.
The zombies hardest to kill, however, seem to be those who are part of my public persona, the creature I have been professionally and that has attracted many of my facebook friends, the role I have played as a student and as a teacher, the zombie of religion.
My acceptance of religion started with a nightmare. I was 8, and dreamed that some big one-horned monster was chasing me. My mother said that if I would give my life to Jesus the dream would go away. So I was baptized. Walnut Street Baptist Church gave me a little box of booklets whose smell I still remember. For years religion and the smell of ink on paper would be my defense against nightmares. The wonderful part about religion, especially if one is a queer child fearing the disapproval of his own father, is that it holds out the concept of a bigger daddy in the sky who is said to approve of one unconditionally--except that of course some terms and conditions may apply. My growing comprehension of the real nature of the one-horned beast that pursued me came with an deeper immersion in the religiosity that killed my real life more effectively than the immersion in the baptismal font had killed my sinful self.
In my descent into religion, however, I met people who were intellectually interesting and sometimes sexually attractive. It was a world in which I was strangely accepted. Religious beliefs, if they are at all to be cognizant of the nature of reality, require sophisticated contortion. I can contort. But it is also an absurd world, in which the bloodthirstiness of sacred scriptures and holy wars must be made analogies even if the deaths and sufferings they cause are real. 'Good' Christians and Muslims plead that the atrocities committed in the name of their god are not part of their religion. The 'good' pope talks about the evils of the rich while living in a palace and wearing spotless whitewashed clothes.
So, I am trying to decloak myself of the pomps and pretensions of religion. I don't think, looking back, that it ever served me. It merely made it possible for me to lie and deceive myself within a rich intellectual tradition. But, as Jesus said, 'know the truth, and the truth shall set you free'. It's time for me to chase truth.