Quick Takes, Vol. 8

Quick Takes, Vol. 8

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.


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:


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:

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:


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/.

21 Comments on “Quick Takes, Vol. 8”

  1. Aspie Girl says:

    Beautiful pictures. I think you’re right about the quoted words being indicative of a deep woundedness. I am single. (Whatever my orientation might be, the actual individual I fell for is of the opposite gender. He just didn’t quite feel the same way.) But I am pretty happy, a pretty happy single person. I have a good friendship with someone, and also an ongoing closeness to God, but no earthly romance. While it is true that sometimes I think of romantic love, and a family, and physical touch, without those things I am still able to, overall, live a happy life.

  2. Gabriel says:

    Intense pictures, man! I want to go buy some prints of them now.

    About The Ache. I’ve been thinking just a little about the relationship between loneliness and marriage of late, and I’m not sure what to make of the relationship between The Ache and marriage. Not long ago I would have quickly assented to what you’ve written here and not given it much further thought; but reflecting on Genesis 2, I have to wonder whether marriage doesn’t have a unique effect upon loneliness — whether, in short, The Ache might (in some cases anyway) be precisely an ache for marriage, rather than a result of woundedness.

    1. Gabriel, do you think straight guys ache for the touch of a woman the way gay guys ache for the touch of a man? I think it’s different. And I think if straight guys *did* experience this kind of ache for the touch of a woman, that would indicative of something wrong, not just indicative of the fact that they wanted to get married.

    2. Aspie Girl says:

      I think the problem that Steve/Joey saw in the ache, was not a problem with the existence of desire or longing, it was a problem with the intensity of that desire or longing. Commenting on it, he used the phrase “ached for touch that badly”. In other words the problem is if the ache is so strong that it feels as if the heart will be ripped out of your chest.

      It simply shouldn’t hurt that badly. Not to that degree.

  3. Jamie says:

    I think that the Ache is ultimately for God, not for anyone else, no matter their gender, and no matter our orientation. People and relationships are important, infinitely important, but they can’t and will never completely fulfill us. Only God can and will do that. And I do think that an ache that deep is indicative of woundedness. I don’t care who you are, if you go into marriage with an ache like that and expect your partner to fill that hole (seriously, no pun intended…whoa…hehe), you will probably rip the other person apart, as well as yourself, in the process. Not to say that marriage, of course, won’t help with some, even many, aspects of loneliness. It’s just not the end-all be-all fix everything cure. And entering into the commitment of marriage won’t automatically heal your wounds; it just gives you another person who hopefully is going to be instrumental in helping you heal. Helping is the key word, though. They can’t heal you, just help you heal.

    I hope that made some kind of sense. This also made me think of a fantastic song that a friend of mine wrote. Check it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oF5F2ZNkZZQ

    1. ARM says:

      I agree with all that Joey said in his original post, and I sort of agree with what you say theoretically, but I also have to say, just as a matter of empirical fact: before I was married, I was lonely almost all the time – most of my waking hours – and since getting married (three years now) I have never been troubled by loneliness. Not that I think my husband can be everything to me or fix all my problems or anything, but I think sharing one’s everyday life with one person really does make all the difference to loneliness as a source of chronic unhappiness.

      That said, I totally agree that such an intense ache for touch sounds like a symptom of another problem.

  4. Gavin says:

    Hi, Joey – and Gabriel:

    I do not think that the ache for physical contact and communion is either wrongheaded or specifically gay. It is a good thing in itself and can bring a lot of healing if it occurs within the context of chastity and trustful surrender. There is a huge amount of evidence that caring touch is an extremely important part of human flourishing. And that it’s sorely lacking in our sensual, individualistic culture.

    Remember Frodo and Sam.

    Or in the context of that mystical, life-transmitting form of friendship called marriage: http://www.e-lovepoems.com/poem/country-marriage —- [Straight men feel this too].

    However, I also think that like all good things, it can become disordered and obsessional. Preoccupation with it can can become a type of self-absorption. Neediness can get in the way of really being present to the other. There are seasons in our life and our friendships when we need to let go of it and give space. But neither can we let caution and fear make us push away from intimacy. Yes, I find this balance very hard and it requires a lot of faith and an inner sense of security.

    If a couple of guys want to get together in a celibate union or community, and stick it out and really grow, all power to them.

    1. Mike says:

      Great post.

      I will share a link I think would add to the discussion:


  5. Carolina says:

    I just wanted to second all those who complimented the artwork – lovely, lovely, lovely!

  6. Photina says:

    I am writing as a straight married woman. I recognized the description of The Ache immediately – not from its presence in my married life, but as a familiar experience from my years of celibacy beforehand. I remember the times in college when my roommate and I would each at different times end up curled up alone in the beanbag chair in our room saying, “All I want is a guy to hold me right now,” the whole-self, whole body ache. I remember the years after that, years entirely without kisses and with only one relationship that got as far as just holding hands, when I would find myself lying in bed with that consuming ache. It tended to coincide with ovulation – fluctuating cycle means fluctuating libido means that the ache was not always there. I did learn how to turn that ache into prayer – over and over again – choosing to stretch out on that cross with a “Thy will be done” rather than curl in on myself, not pretending away the pain but offering it up, uniting it to the suffering of Christ for particular intentions. Spending time in Adoration chapels, in the physical presence of the Incarnate God-Man who revealed the thirst-quenching water of life to the Samaritan woman at the well (St. Phontina), also helped.

    From the perspective of now being married, I have two reflections. In my case I do think the ache was for marriage, not an ache springing from a wound so much as from a desire for the answer to the statement from the Beginning that “man is not meant to be alone.” But I also think that physical touch was a non-sexual necessity for me that was not being met. I wish now that I could give my then-self gift certificates for massages. It would Not have solved or eliminated the ache, but I believe it would have helped.

  7. mariecarolk says:

    I think the idea of the Ache is a very interesting one. It’s nice that your wrote about it because it’s something I’ve experienced quite often. And while yes, I don’t think it can always be solved by just marrying someone, I can’t help but think that it has something to do with being “known” by someone.
    I sometimes get The Ache for someone that I don’t even know exists. For someone who understands me and accepts me and just plain old, knows me (physical or not)! But I don’t have anyone like that. Any human that is. I think that’s where God comes in. I think someone mentioned this already, but I think that ache is for God Himself.

  8. Michael says:

    I had a pretty good sucker punch with the Ache today. It kind of started this morning and pretty much consumed my world by the afternoon hours. It was really dark, really scary and suffocating, like a heavy blanket over my soul that smothering any bit of joy that could make it past the superficial layers of my body. I had to drop what I was doing and go to the blessed sacrament because I was in such intense fear, which is saying something because I have a monster of a test on Friday. It’s better now, but what I figured was that the ache isn’t necessarily completely due to just the longing; although it makes a large part of it. Rather the acknowledgement that I can’t be 100% in control of what happens in my life bugs the heck out of me. The fact that this cross I am carrying is going to be with me 24/7 for the next 60 years of my life whether I like or not makes the other options look so much more appealing. But by God’s law, I am helpless but to remain the primary carrier of my burden and ain’t nobody likes feeling helpless.

    1. joey says:

      Michael, I experience a chronic medical condition called crohn’s disease which is genetic. I will have this condition for the rest of my life. I do not see it as a cross at all, just a natural experience. Why should I feel downtrodden by this condition unless I truly pity myself. I also happen to be gay, which I also do not see as a cross at all. I understand that you and Joey Prever want to adhere to Catholic teaching, but calling your attraction a cross demeans yourself and your self worth. It is simply a part of who you ate, whether you choose to act upon it or not.

      1. Tiffany says:

        Meh, I don’t know … calling something that causes us alienation (from God, fellow, self, whatever) a cross helps to validate us rather than demean us. I’m an alcoholic addict with 16 years clean ~ and I view my condition much the same as our catechism describes SSA. There’s not inherent damage in my temptations, but if I act upon them, I know the price I’ll pay and it’s too high. I’m not willing to trade serenity for oblivion, as much as I treasure(d) oblivion. Just my opinion.

        1. joey says:

          Tiffany, I understand your opinion. I used to feel the same but now feel differently. Your “condition” (I just don’t like to use that label) is neither good nor bad. That is why I don’t see it as a cross. It is a part of who you are, rejecting it as such destroys a part of you. I am not talking about the temptation itself. Obviously you do not want to give in to the temptation to drink. But rather seeing it in a different light, neutral instead of such an evil thing. That is my point. I happen to be gay and in a relationship and I respect the views of those who disagree with me. But who is to say such “conditions” alienate one from God? Does my crohn’s disease alienate on the sole fact that it is “not normal”? Or even my attraction to the same sex?

          1. Tiffany says:

            I think I see the distinction you’re making. Since alcoholism and drug addiction are based in selfishness, self-seeking and self-destruction to a harrowing degree (when engaged in, not the mere existence of the addiction or even the temptation), they’re different than something like Crohn’s. I say that with only a passing grasp of the pain involved in living with Crohn’s, so please know I’m not presuming to measure how it affects your life.

            My parallel isn’t perfect, and I’m hopeful that I don’t cause offense by comparing the two. As for proof that certain … proclivities (? still sounds clinical or creepy, eh!?) alienate one’s soul from God ~ yah, that’s an inside call. Gratefully. To desire interior harmony, order, union with God is a personal quest. We know authentic guidance when we’re getting it, I think.

      2. savo says:

        A weekend with mother nature cures the ache of longing for someone to touch.

  9. MD says:

    I have felt the Ache too – and I think the commentator who mentioned that we *do* need physical touch is onto something. I was a single straight woman who moved across the country to an unknown state, away from a VERY close group of female friends, several of whom were very physically affectionate. I know there were a lot of times I just desperately wanted to be hugged by someone, ANYONE. I started attending a 12-step group where hugs were common, and so once a week I would get all the hugs I could from people who knew me in my darkest hours. I would feel my entire body relax and my soul unclench when they would hug me.

    I love the pictures. They actually remind me strongly of J.R.R. Tolkien’s original illustrations for The Hobbit and LotR.

  10. Tara S says:

    This is very lovely and what nice pictures and HAVE YOU SEEN DINOSAUR COMICS #2570 OH MY WORD. 😀

    1. Oh my gosh, #2570 is AMAZING. Thanks, Tara. (Linking it below for the unsavvy.)


  11. Tara S says:

    Having read the comments now, I think children are lucky because they tend to get the hugs and contact they need. But when you’re grown up you’re assumed to have or be actively looking for a romantic partner to meet all your physical contact needs, and so culturally we forget the necessity of welcoming or reassuring physical contact between regular people. Hugs or a hand on the shoulder are such an important thing to have in your life, but we forget. Somewhere along the way I adopted Charlotte Diamond wisdom as one of my mottos: Four Hugs a Day is the minimum!

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