Tuesday, December 26, 2006

And Another Thing: Happy New Year

By Carole Taylor

Just in case the world really does end in a couple of months, I wanted to get in a few more words on existence and Godde
stuff while there are still a few people out there who are yet conscious and able to read. Ok, just conscious then. Ok, just
able to read. With all the earthquakes and killer mosquitos and nuclear accidents and hurricanes and floods and wars and
rumors of wars, it does look a little bleak for us all. And strangely enough, it looks bleak for straights as well as gays. Wonder
what they've been doing wrong all these years....

Despite the possibility of lightening on a clear day for my saying all this, I'm wondering just how good a shot Godde really
is. (A few people spell it this way because it removes the gender bias.) And given the millions of years He/She/It has had to
end the world, why the Deity would get lucky just now in the supposedly magic year of 2000 is yet another mystery. Does
Godde reeeeeally like round numbers for big events? And what's it take anyway to wipe out the human plague we've become?
He/She/It has at Hir personal disposal untold thousands of meteors to blip us off the radar screen; and floods and pestilence
and creatures that jump out of the bushes and eat us; landslides; about a billion things that can go wrong with any given
cell in our bodies, ice ages, diseases without number, old lovers, current lovers, bosses, total strangers, politicians, postal
workers, doctors, faulty brakes, nuclear bombs and reactors, truck drivers on amphetamines...need I go on? And
if you manage to stand out in that deathly hail of mortal endings without getting hit, you get to endure wrinkles, bad ankles,
flab and lingering old age. And then, you guessed it: death. No wonder we have sex whenever we can get it and eat Karo
pecan pie like there's no tomorrow.

Is Godde just a bad shot or does He/She/It really have Attention Deficit Disorder? I don't think a little gay sex is going
to piss the Deity off at us any more than He already appears to be. It seems redundant in the extreme to think that after all
His attempts to kill us that He'd send us to hell as well. I'm saying 'He' now because I just can't see a female being that
essentially, eternally violent. But I could be wrong.

I don't really think the world will end on January 1, if only because the Deity has demonstrated throughout the ages to
have a sense of humor. It would be just like the old Being to say the cosmic neener to all the christian preachers who claim
to know what the Deity is up to or what thoughts exist now or ever in the Original Brain. But let's say for the sake of argument
that on January 1, we all end up at the Pearly Gates instead of in front of our keyboards. There's an old book that addresses
this possibility, and one that's probably so obscure that you may not have read it.

Anatole France wrote a book called "Thaïs" back in 1890, and in it a character is allowed to visit heaven. The character
is a Christian, and what he sees there really has him puzzled. According to New Testament teachings, none but Christians
get to go there, as you'll recall, and only a select few of those.

But what the character sees in heaven are all these old pagan guys like Aristotle and Plato (not known of course for
their heterosexuality) just having a large old time, sitting side by side, no doubt holding hands, and calmly discussing the
origins of the universe and the nature of existence. Their idea of a wild party. According to theology, these guys aren't supposed
to be there, despite the fact that Aristotle and Plato were born before Jesus and could have no way of knowing that rewards
for their immortal souls would depend on believing in something that hadn't been invented yet. Christian theology isn't known
for it's logic, but what's a mother to do? The character, though, sees hundreds of demons and devils and priests of various
stripes all around these two windy old pagan farts just plaguing the life out of them, poking them with pitchforks and lighting
skyrockets under their butts. But Aristotle and Plato don't seem to notice. They're in heaven, you see. They're all in heaven.
Even the devils and people like Falwell. And everybody is getting to do what each of them has always wanted to do. The
Christains get to plague us, but we won't know they're there. Nice concept of heaven, don't you think?

So maybe I'll see you there on January 1. But in my view of things, I'll see you sometime, no matter what. And if all you
gay bashers out there want to send me a nasty email while we're there, my celestial software won't be able
to read it. My critics will get to plague me all they want, but I won't notice.

Happy New Year a little early. :)

Carole Taylor holds
a masters degree and most of a doctorate, which she used
as a university administrator for much too long by all
accounts. She has been a commercial artist, a journalist,
a grants writer, a house cleaner and a Renaissance woman.She is at work on her second novel, a bildungsroman of sorts, and all she wants for Christmas -- one of these Christmases -- is a sweet movie deal.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Finding Peace for the Holidays

by Victoria

The holidays are a time for reflection and nostalgia. Yet in the midst of all the shopping and planning, parties and festivities, we often forget that the holidays are about the spiritual part of ourselves. They are about our hearts and souls, about the part we share with others and the part we share with the spiritual being we believe in. The holidays are about finding peace.

Throughout the year, the stress and complications of daily life overwhelm us; we often become distanced from our spiritual selves. Most Americans don’t attend a place of worship regularly; most say they don’t have time. Meanwhile, most queers don’t feel welcome at places of worship, and many others don’t feel that queer groups like Dignity or MCC fulfill their desire to belong to a religious community.

Thus, at the holidays a sense of loss can pervade us, making us feel empty despite the frenetic gloss surrounding us. The holidays, with their emphasis on religion and family, tend to raise these conflicted feelings about our spiritual selves. We often feel pushed out of the most vital part of the season: the comforting sense of belonging that we get from being part of a family and a spiritual community. Even while we are immersed in the hustle and bustle of the season, we can feel excluded. The holidays are often the time when queers feel most marginalized. The holidays become a limbo time, never quite meeting our expectations — not as good as the nostalgic past we remember, not a warm memory in the present.

I have no happy memories of childhood holidays; my childhood was irredeemably awful, my family’s dysfunction a palpable presence that overshadowed everything, ruining every holiday and leaving only painful memories. In theory this should have made my adult Christmases easier to reclaim: no Norman Rockwell images from my past to conflict with my present.

But instead I have been overwhelmed with the desire for the perfect holiday, the best Christmas ever. Not just to make up for what I did not have as a child, but to make some fabulous memories, something to be nostalgic about.

One Christmas about which I feel such nostalgia was my first Christmas away from my family of origin. I was living in New Orleans with two virtual strangers, people I had known only a few months in a city in which I knew no one else. We were all in the domestic Peace Corps and were devoted to creating change. We shared goals, and we shared living on the edge of society.

Perhaps because the three of us were estranged from our families in a city that was not the city of our birth, we felt a deep connection. I know it was the most memorable Christmas of my life. It was a Christmas that had all the sweetness I had always dreamed of; it was so very genuine. None of us had anything — we were living on next to nothing in a cold little house in New Orleans. We shared evenings listening to Handel’s Messiah and drinking eggnog while we made construction-paper chains and strung popcorn (much harder than it looks) and cranberries. We turned our little house into a festive holiday village, wrapped our meager gifts in the Sunday comics and shared something I know I shall never forget. It was indeed the gift of giving.

The essence of that Christmas comes back to me each year, no year more poignantly than this one, because of the terrible disaster that befell New Orleans. All my friends who lived there were displaced; many lost everything they had. The places where I lived were submerged along with 80 percent of the city.

I imagine the 1.3 million people displaced by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath are having bittersweet holidays. Some still have nothing; many are far from their homes. The disaster marginalized so many, all of whom are no doubt feeling excluded this holiday season. After three months, these people are mostly forgotten by those who weren’t touched directly by the disaster; the rest of us have moved on to other tragedies, other victims.

Yet they are not alone in feeling lost. Many of us feel just as lost.

It doesn’t take a priest or rabbi to remind us that the holidays are about more than just things. Nor does it take being inside a church or synagogue to reconnect us with our spirituality.

Think about what has meant most to you over the years at the holiday season. Isn’t it always giving? Doesn’t it remain true that even as we feel lost or excluded or pushed to the very margins of society, we can reclaim our souls simply by giving of ourselves in some meaningful way? Doesn’t giving anchor us? When I remember that Christmas in New Orleans, I am always reminded of the most elemental part of what the holidays should mean: sharing with others.

This season, stop to reflect on what you really want for the holidays. Not things — they won’t leave you with cherished memories. Think about giving of yourself. Think about sitting around with your chosen family and making those silly construction-paper chains or stringing cranberries (much easier than popcorn!). Think about working at a shelter or going to sit with the elderly or the sick. Think about all those people displaced from New Orleans and how blessed you are to have a home. If you can, adopt one of those families and send them gifts.

In a world in which many of us feel alienated from the societies in which we live, it is vital that we keep our hearts open to others, that we remember to give much more than we take. It is easy for us as queers, as outsiders, to feel exclusion overwhelm everything else. But we don’t have to become lost.

I had nothing that Christmas in New Orleans. Yet the memory of what I shared and what was shared with me has warmed me for 25 years. Make giving memories for yourselves this holiday season. That is where you will find what we all yearn for: peace.