Tag Archives: seven quick takes

roerich-order-of-rigden-jyepo

Clean Of Heart

I’m on day 30 of Clean Of Heart, which is cool. Father T. is my official accountability partner, but as I’m not willing to ask him to give me time every single day to talk about the silly, petty mechanics of my lust, even though he’d never put it that way; and, knowing what a thorough and generous shepherd he is to his flock, I doubt he’d have time anyway. So we only talk once a week or so. But imagine my delight when somebody else in my life decided to start using the program and asked me to be their partner! Now we both get one.

Side B

Speaking of partners, it turns out that there is some kind of trend among some gay Christian folk to have some sort of unclassifiable relationship that isn’t marriage, exactly, and isn’t pointing towards marriage, either, because it is celibate; but isn’t friendship, exactly, either, because it involves a kind of exclusivity that friendship doesn’t. I presume it involves an amount of cuddling that friendship doesn’t usually involve, either.

I don’t know what to think about all that. Maybe it depends on which side you approach it from. It would be a terrible idea for me to enter into a kind of relationship like that, because it’d be a movement away from my commitment to celibacy, even if it wouldn’t by itself constitute a rejection of celibacy.

On the other hand, it would obviously be a good thing if two gay men who had previously been sexually active with each other decided to make their relationship celibate; good in the same sense that Benedict XVI famously, and misconstruedly, said that for a male prostitute to start using condoms, after having not used them, would be step in the right direction; even though the best thing would be for him not to be a prostitute at all. But, you know, baby steps.

The Ache

Speaking of cuddling, I recently read a particularly heartwrenching blog entry from a reader. Excerpt:

I can tell you about the hundreds of times I have felt the need to cuddle, embrace, hold, and kiss another man. I know the ache of wanting a hand to hold and a partner to love. It is such a strong desire at times that I feel as though my heart is about to rip out of my chest. I feel the desire streaming through my veins, and in every fiber of my being. It is a burning ache that yearns to be satisfied and is begging to be quenched.

I know what he means. At the same time, I don’t believe this is something that simply needs to be accepted as a permanent feature of his day-to-day existence. It has to be accepted and offered up right now, yes, and doing so will get him further along the road that he needs to travel.

But this kind of heartwrench doesn’t only point to the fact that he’s celibate and would rather not be; because this isn’t the way that straight, single people express themselves. This kind of heartwrench is what comes to people, gay or straight, who have deep wounds that badly need tending.

A gay guy that aches for touch that badly isn’t going to find healing in getting a boyfriend who will touch him, because such an ache that intense is indicative of something else. But, the point is, a straight guy that aches for touch that badly isn’t going to find healing in getting a girlfriend who will touch him, either. In both cases, it’s a bandaid rather than a cure.

Social Media

Yesterday I set up a Facebook page. I also put some social-media links on the navigation bar, up yonder, and some liking-and-sharing buttons at the end of every post. You won’t hurt my feelings if you ignore them.

Realer Than Real

The cover photo on the Facebook page, by the way, is Nicholas Roerich’s Bridge of Glory. Miniature version below. Click to embiggen.

roerich-bridge-of-glory

His landscapes always seem alive, his earth less an expanse of dead dirt and more the hide of some huge, slumbering animal. In that way he reminds me of Charles Burchfield, who was a pantheist and, well, it shows:

burchfield-road-and-sky

Roerich’s landscapes are often visited by gods, who always seem larger than life, not only in dimension but in quality: in that way they remind me of the creatures of Ray Harryhausen. Cf. Roerich’s Order Of Rigden Jyepo:
roerich-order-of-rigden-jyepo

For Burchfield, on the other hand, God, or a god,1 is rarely visible, but he suffuses the landscape, or maybe waits just outside the frame — cf. his Autumnal Fantasy:

burchfield-autumnal-fantasy

I like painters who make things look realer than real — not because reality isn’t enough by itself, but because if our doors of perception were cleansed, then I imagine the world would look a lot more like Roerich and Burchfield than it does. As it is, we’re bound to trudge along with foggy eyes for the time being, but it’s good to have a reminder of what we’re trudging towards.

1 For the regexp-inclined among you, that’d be /(a\s)?[gG]od/.

1—It’s my writing day, and that’s a good day, but frankly, I’m in a lot of pain. These road bumps come and go, and I know better than to try reinterpreting my whole life in the light of how I happen to feel today, but today I happen to feel really awful. It’s like those days when you lie in bed shaking with the flu and you just think, “Gosh, I’d like this to over, but it keeps going instead.” Just waiting for the upswing, and in the meantime finding comfort where I can.

2—On the bright side, Pope Francis has released a new encyclical today: Lumen Fidei, the light of faith. You can get it on the Vatican’s website, of course. I’m working my way through it now.

3—I’m super psyched for Matt Jones’ coming out post today. He’s one of the best gay Christian writers I know on the interwebz, and a great human being besides. If you haven’t already read his stuff (as “Jordan”) on Gay Subtlety, there’s a lot of wisdom and entertainment (wisdertainment?) there too.

4—This and other events have me rethinking my own stance towards anonymity. I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if I followed suit before too long — partly it’s just a matter of bowing to the inevitable, since my voice is already out there on the net, and soon my face very likely will be too (more on that as that story develops), so maybe my name won’t be that big of a step. But I wanna have some fanfare! I want a party! And also I just want to bide my time and make sure I’m doing it right.

5—Today I needed Confession, like bad, and I actually left my writing spot at the coffee shop in the middle of the day to hunt down the priest after the 12:15 Mass at the Cathedral. Turns out this is the one day he couldn’t make it. That didn’t help my day any. It’s like, you know the Lord isn’t actually telling you “I don’t want to see you” or “I don’t forgive you,” but it’s hard not to feel that way anyway. Catholic Guilt, I know.

6—On the plus side, on my way back to the coffee shop, as I’m processing this and reminding myself of everything I really do know about the Lord, how he’s actually not mean and would actually not rather see me burst into tears in traffic, if it could be avoided, I see this bumper sticker: “Esfuérzate y sé valiente”, be strong and courageous; which is not only relevant but contains a little personal nod, because for me (thanks to my stay in Peru), Spanish is the language of the Lord and of the heart.

Then I look up the full verse and just kind of go, Huh. Well.

7—I’m not nearly as big into Signs as I used to be, but whenever I see something like that, I think of that bit in Lewis’ The Silver Chair:

“Don’t you mind him,” said Puddleglum. “There are no accidents. Our guide is Aslan; and he was there when the giant King caused the letters to be cut, and he knew already all things that would come of them; including this.”

I know that doesn’t do a great job of explaining this moment, but if you’ve read the book you’ll get it, and if you haven’t, you should!

1: Black Dog

I know y’all have been praying for me. I know some of you pray for me all the time. I’m so grateful, and I do my best to return the favor. I’ve had a hard month or so, and I hate having hard months, because I’m not supposed to have those, and haven’t had one for years; kinda thought they were done with. So I’ve been moping around like the emoest of emo kids, spilling out over the side to anyone who will listen.1 Not ready to write about it just yet, but things are looking up; and a hearty thanks to everyone whose ear I’ve been bending lately.

2: Dying Animal

There’s a rich irony, I guess, in the fact that it’s only in the last four years or so that I’ve discovered how it actually, Surprise!, makes you feel good to get exercise; and it’s also in the last four years that my spine has decided to get all bulgy & subluxated & whatnot, so that I can’t be nearly as active as I want. It’s not that it’s so bad, I just hate having to be so careful. Like my sister says: how come you have to get good sleep, and exercise, and eat carefully, and go to therapy, and ALL THIS STUFF just so you can feel normal? I like my body, but I can’t wait for the resurrected version.

3: Good Stuff

Hey, check out this terrifying and enlightening and funny article by Dan Lord, whom I’ve somehow just gotten around to reading. While you’re at it, check out Letters to Christopher, a series of letters between a (fictional) uncle and his nephew on the subject of same-sex attraction. I’ve only read a couple, but I’ve found them bracingly honest. I also recommend a piece by Kevin Aimes called Sexuality and Astraphobia. Dude writes with verve — but be warned, there is at least one naked male butt on this website, albeit a very, you know, artistic one.

4: Bad Ass

After years of talking about it, Sal and I have set a date — okay, a year — for running with the bulls in Pamplona. It’s just far enough in the future to be deal-with-able, but just close enough to place it in the realm of actuality. There, Sal, I’ve gone and put it on the internet, so if 2015 rolls around and we haven’t yet come at least mildly close to being gored, please let me know exactly what a pusillanimous bundle of mediocrity I will have become, and I will do the same for you. Sal has also suggested we visit the famed HOLY CRAP IT’S A NEVERENDING LIGHTNING STORM of the Catatumbo River in Venezuela, and it’s not precisely on the way, but seriously: Wow.

5: Pure Gold

Oh my goodness, you should really read The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt. It was an impulse buy, on the recommendation of Kate Beaton (who I only wish I actually knew), but I haven’t devoured a book so fast since I stumbled across Wonder Boys. Think Flannery O’Connor meets William Faulkner as directed by the Coen Brothers.

6: Roaring Lion

I read 1 Peter 5:8 at least once a week, ‘cuz it’s in Compline, but somehow I wasn’t aware of the full context until Wednesday, when it was the reading at Mass and was exactly what I needed.

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time, casting all your cares on him, because he cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil prowls around looking for someone to devour. Resist him, solid in your faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren who are in the world. But after you have suffered a while, may the God of all grace, who hath called us into His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you.

7: Moonrise Kingdom

Other things I’m looking forward to: (1) Getting my poor ailing motorcycle fixed so I can (2) drive it to DC and visit old friends; (3) the new Whit Stillman; (4) The new Wes Anderson; (5) The new P. T. Anderson! I will be sorely disappointed if any of these movies stink. With Wes Anderson, at least, I’m used to being disappointed — but I mean, he couldn’t possible get more smarmy, right?, so the next one is bound to be good.

1 Ten points if you can identify this phrase!

1: Quitting
A few weeks ago, I decided that I was going to quit smoking for New Year’s. But this time it would be different. I wouldn’t leap into it on a whim; I’d spend time, between now and then, consciously thinking of reasons to quit, and how life would be without my beloved ciggies. By the time 2012 rolled around, I would already have mentally quit. It’d just be a matter of the physical part. I even made a list of Reasons to Quit and put it on my fridge. It included things like “It will make your mother happy” and “You will probably avoid a long, gradual, agonizing death. Probably.”

Then on Jan. 1 I went, “Yeah, but I like smoking,” and lit up, and that was that. I have more important things to think about.

2: Counting
I found a countdown widget for my phone. You put in the date and it tells you how long until that date, or how long it’s been since that date. So: it’s been 50 days since I joined Kung Fu, 80 days since I looked at porn,1 20 days since I did the other thing,2 and 5 days since my last confession. I keep meaning to come up with a reasonable alibi for when somebody picks up my phone and ask what the numbers mean.

By the bye, I don’t mean to brag about the numbers, but I figure it’s a little bit like an AA meeting around here, and a little back-patting is okay in that setting. Did I mention Clean of Heart? Yes, I did. Well, I’m mentioning it again, and not just because of the Amazon revenue.

3: Running
But speaking of martial arts, here’s a scene from Ong Bak which is probably the greatest 33 seconds in the history of cinema:3

4: Reading
I am rereading George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin. After that I plan to reread The Princess and Curdie. Because they’re the best books in the world. Not only that, you can get ‘em for free on the interwebs, because they’re old, and stick ‘em on your phone, very suitable for bedtime reading.

One reason I love reading MacDonald is that he makes goodness so attractive. Evil is always exciting from far away, but boring up close; good is the opposite. But how often do you come close to someone so good he glows? That’s why we need writers like MacDonald. A few chapters and suddenly you remember what you’ve been fighting for, even you also remember how far away it is.

5: Stretching
Why didn’t anybody tell me how good stretching makes you feel? Just kidding, my friend Rivka has been telling me that for ages, but it took Kung Fu to make me actually do it. I guess it’s the same thing for any kind of change that takes place in your body: you’re so used to thinking of your body as always basically the same — whether you’re too skinny, too fat, too stiff, too tired, or whatever — that any tangible change for the better (like being able to touch your toes, or [!!] the floor) feels like a renewal of hope.

6: Moving
This is my last month by myself in this apartment. In February I’ll be moving into a house with two other guys. I’m not sure how I feel about that yet. It took me about six months to adjust to this life. How long will it take to adjust back? But I’m excited, too, not least because said house has a basement where I can keep my motorcycle and hang my punching bag.

7: Whining
Do any of you deal with chronic back pain? I’ve got sciatica, pretty bad. The stretching helps, taking aleve helps, heat helps (sort of), but is there any such thing as a permanent solution? Doc says no, but I don’t think he cares as much as I do. I’ve even been thinking acupuncture. What has helped you?

1 Is it a good idea to keep track like this? I find that it’s encouraging, but of course eventually my plan is for the countdown to be moot.
2 Still don’t like that word. Guess I’m a prude.
3 Or maybe just the history of Thai cinema.

1: Deep Horse
Kung Fu! It’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. Every class day, I don’t want to go. I’m tired, or lazy, or scared. I go anyway, and the blessings just pour out. There’s the very natural blessing that comes from moving your muscles — you know, endorphins or something. But there’s everything else, too. The feeling of moving with increasing grace and strength. The camaraderie with the other students, aged approximately 12 to 50. There’s Sifu Gary himself, who supports and challenges in equal measure with all the instincts of a good father. Highly recommended!!

2: Pure Heart
Have I officially recommended Clean of Heart yet? It’s a program aimed at overcoming sexual sin. I started it about 30 days ago. It goes like this: each day you prayerfully read a meditation, about a page or two. There are morning and evening prayers. You pick a friend or mentor to be accountable to,1 talk to him every day,2 and if you slip up, you have to tell. Not only that, you have to start from the beginning. Being clean feels good — you start to realize that sexual sin affects not just one small part of your life, but puts its tendrils into just about every moment. The converse of that, of course, is that being clean makes you feel wonderful! You can tell how good I feel! Because I am using so many exclamation points that William Strunk is spinning in his grave!

3: Long Drive
I’ve also just started attending a support group for other Christian men who struggle with SSA. Like the Kung Fu and the Clean of Heart, it was something I’d been meaning to get around to — some time — some day — maybe next week. Anyway, I did it, and so far, so good! These are solid guys, seeking both to heal and be healed. I’m glad to be with them.

4: Nice Suit
The big company Christmas party is coming up. I decided not to go stag for once and got myself a date. Huh. Not a lot of sparks there or nothin’, but she is a great girl and I fully expect us to have a good time. And I hear the boss doesn’t skimp on the champagne.

5: Quick Chat
My interview with Roxane Salonen went great! Anyway I thought so. I have this thing where I think I’ll bore people if I talk too much, but it occurred to me that a radio interview means they want you to talk a lot. So I did. If you missed it — wouldn’t have been hard to do, between my forgetting to tell you about it and then telling you the wrong time besides — you can catch it again this Saturday at 2pm EST, by going to yourcatholicradiostation.com. If you can’t get the live listening to work, there will be a podcast — I’ll post a link when it’s up. Not only that, it looks like there will be a part two in January. Stay tuned!

6: Big One
As in “I — I want a BIG one!” I recently got to see It’s a Wonderful Life on the big screen. I can barely watch that movie, it’s TOO INTENSE. Luckily my fellow moviegoers felt similarly, and I wasn’t the only one who suddenly had sinus problems at the dénouement.

7: Immaculate Conception
I know I’m late, but HAPPY BIG DAY, MOM! Is it weird to wish your mother a Happy Conception Day? Yes, it is, but there’s Catholicism for you, always talking about wombs and blood and sundry other gruesome things. I’m not usually in tune with the liturgical season — I feel glum and heavy on Easter, but Lent makes me manic and chipper — but I started the morning right, with Mass, and felt nothing but blessed all day long.

Bang! That’s seven. It’s past bed time, as usual. Thanks to Jen for hosting. Wait, she’s on Advent break, is this quick takes thing even still happening? Sheesh, just when I get around to volume 2.

1 Props as usual to the indefatigable Father T.
2 Although I actually get away with once a week, so as not to overtax Fr. T’s indefatigability.

Eyyyy, I jumped on the Quick Takes bandwagon! Great idea, really, because some days I really just can’t organize my thoughts more than a paragraph at a time. Let’s see, how’s this thing work?

There we go.

1: Passive Purification
I finally had my approximately-bi-weekly conversation with Father T. I was all “It’s awful, everything’s great!” and he was all “Then what’s the problem?” and I was all “That’s just it!”

Part of the reason I fear the Holy Mallet is that I like to feel like I’m doing something; I don’t like to give God the reins. But, as Richard Wilbur says, there is nothing to do with a day except to live it. Sometimes you have to sit back like a good piece of clay and let God do the molding. Passive Purification is what Fr. called it. Bears praying about.

2: Grease Monkey Redux
My beautiful motorcycle is still ailing. Someone knocked her over several weeks ago, bending the handlebars and rendering her unrideable. I ordered new handlebars, went to put ‘em on, and found out they were the wrong size. Ordered a second pair, put ‘em on, reattached all the levers and cables, and now she won’t start. Tried to figure out why and made it worse: now she won’t even try to start. And winter is closing in.

I just want another ride or two before the snow comes! That, and the chance to actually drive her, somehow, to the barn where she’ll be waiting out the big freeze.

3: The Soft-Dying Day
Speaking of seasons, though, I always seem to think I don’t care about autumn, until the first smell of autumn hits me. What is it about smell that takes you right back to a particular time and place? For me it’s usually Milton, about twenty years ago. Smell isn’t the most refined sense, but it’s the most poignant, and autumn is the most poignant (or second-most-poignant?) season. These things can knock you right over.

4: Steam Train
Every since January of 2010, I’ve made a habit of spending 30 consecutive minutes a day in silent prayer. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Usually I spend it in Adoration. Lately, though, that’s been feeling dry, and I’ve decided to make the move to daily Mass whenever possible. Adoration is lovely, but the Mass is…well, I don’t know what it is. I just know that, if Adoration feels like biking up a hill (most times), Mass feels like hopping a train.

5: Help, Please
I love that readers send me emails. Some people write with encouragement and prayer, and I can’t tell you how much this buoys me up. A few people write with disagreement, and so far, I’m impressed by how courteous they usually are.

And some people write for advice. I’m complimented and happy to get emails like this, even though I usually don’t know what to say. The question I have the hardest time answering is this: “My son/daughter/nephew/niece/cousin just told me he’s gay. I want to show him/her that I love and accept him/her, but I also don’t want to support a lifestyle that I know is immoral. What can I do? What can I say?”

Readers, I have no idea! I’ve only rarely been in this situation, and never with anybody who’s that close to me. But I’m betting some of you have been there. What do you? What worked? What didn’t work?

6: Dead Trees
I’m excited to be working on my first print article. It’s going to be on the subject of vocation, and will appear in Our Sunday Visitor’s news weekly. I’ll let you know! I sure hope I know what I’m talking about.

7: I Feel So Moron
I forgot to mention that I got the Search Term Poetry idea from Simcha Fisher, who if you don’t read her, you really oughtta. Blogerarily speaking, she’s my idol. I just reread one of hers, and she definitely wins. Not that it was a contest.

Thanks to Jen Fulwiler for hosting the 7 Quick Takes! See y’all soon. Like Fr. T always says, let’s keep praying for each other.