Saturday, September 22, 2007
Do you know what happens when a person gets cancer? In some cases of early detection, the malignant tumor may be removed before it has spread. If the tumor was indeed isolated and discreet, this may be the end of that person's battle with cancer. Sometimes there are clusters of tumors, all malignant, but perhaps localized, and thus again there is a possibility of removing them and keeping the cancer from spreading throughout the body. Sometimes cancer seems to be gone, but then another tumor appears, and again we remove it and hope for the best. But then, there are cases where the cancer has spread into the lymph nodes, and then eventually the whole body is filled with cancer. In most cases certain genes have mutated and instead of creating healthy whole cells, they code for production of cancerous cells. After cancer has spread throughout the body, there is not much that doctors can do. They often give the person afflicted with cancer a certain amount of time to live.
One way of fighting cancer at this advanced stage is chemotherapy. "Chemo" is basically injection of dangerous chemicals that primarily attack rapidly dividing cells. Oncogenes (mutated genes that cause cancer) code for such cells, and thus chemo chemicals attacks them. However, the genes that code for hair growth and intestinal lining are similar. In other words, chemo takes certain systems in your body to within an inch of death with the hope that in killing almost everything, you kill a lot of the cancerous cells. Of course it stands to reason that you will also kill healthy cells in the process. Your hair will fall out and your stomach and intestinal lining will be obliterated. Some individuals even have a port (shunt) put into their bodies: basically an opening where the chemo can be dumped in directly, often in agressive doses. In the film "Wit" Emma Thompson's character is undergoing intense chemotherapy and radiation and therefore she has literally no immune system. She is placed in complete isolation, almost even from her doctors. This is to protect her from simple opportunistic colds or flus, which in her weakened state would kill her. At one point she muses, "I'm not isolated because I have cancer. I'm isolated because I am being treated for cancer." People who are being treated for cancer in this way often seem to be on the brink of death. Well, thats the point. We are almost killing them hoping to get rid of the bad stuff inside. At the same time we hope enough of the good can survive.
If you have ever watched period films, you might have seen doctors treating patients in a similar way when they fall victim to some serious malady. A medical practice called bloodletting existed from antiquity all the way into the late 19th century. The idea was the same: bringing the person even closer to death in hopes that enough of the bad blood would come out to allow the infirm person to recover. Again, good blood was also seeping mercilessly out, but again thats collateral damage.
Many men and women today react to their homosexuality in a similar way to someone being diagnosed with cancer. We have been told directly and indirectly that homosexuality is akin to murder in its seriousness, and that it is a spiritual killer. The church needs to watch out for feminists, intellectuals and homosexuals. Homosexuality is an aberration, a veritable spiritual cancer. In fact when repressed, I see homosexuality as often having a cancerous effect. The more you try to ignore it, the more powerful it becomes. Ignoring cancer will get you killed. Ignoring your homosexuality can make you feel so out of touch with yourself that you no longer feel like a person at all. That's why we are all here now blogging. Even those that are married and fully devoted to the church are making a point of reaching out to this online blogger community so that they can have some contact. We have to admit it. We are gay. Or if you prefer to follow the ambiguous and reductionist vernacular of many anti-gay groups, we have SSA. Gay would mean that we can't do anything about it. And that's wrong. We can change, right?
The big lie that I want to decry is this: homosexuality is a spiritual cancer. That is a lie. I'll tell you what is cancerous-- being treated for homosexuality. Like Emma Thompson in Wit.. we are not isolated and confused because we are attracted to people of the same gender. We are isolated and confused because we are trying to not be attracted to people of the same gender. Cancer will eventually kill your body. Homosexuality will not kill your spirit. If allowed to flourish, cancer will put you in a coffin. If allowed to flourish, homosexuality continues to be exactly what it always was: the emotional and physical desire to couple with a person of your same gender. Nothing less, nothing more.
I have spent 30 years believing that "giving in to my homosexuality" would lead to my spiritual death. I believed that if I did not take an active effort in trying to control the spread of my homosexuality to all areas of my life, that it would literally kill my spirit. As I got closer and closer to the edge, as I became that frog cooking ever so slowly in warming water, as I gradually became "past feeling", as I (insert your favorite fear tactic here), I became terrified of what I would lose when I did fall over the cliff and become that boiled frog and become that past feeling ex-nephite who was now a son of perdition.
Reader, I want to share something with you. I fell. I boiled. I changed. I can't believe what I found. My spirit is alive and thriving. I am whole. I am grateful. I am humble before God. I'm spiritually quickened. I'm connected to the Savior! What I was so afraid of losing was my connection to the Savior. I'm shocked. I thought I would have to choose one or the other. Gay or Mormon. That is true in a way. I guess I really can't be fully Mormon anymore. I'm not allowed to be with a man in any way (even in a legal and lawful union) and still be temple worthy. But what I realize now is that my connection to mormonism was mostly a need to feel connected to the Savior. And I feel Him in my heart in this very moment. I finally decided that I am not going to be a celibate gay mormon. I'm going to be me. I'm not even sure what that is yet, but I know what it's not. I will not be marginalized. I will not be celibate. I will be respected. I will be heard. I will be loved.
All sexuality is a gift. Homosexuality is beautiful. I hope that each of us will look inside and see beauty, not cancer. I pray that none of us will bring ourselves to the brink of death or beyond in the hope of killing his/her homosexuality. We are so beautiful. When will we learn to stop destroying ourselves? I hope that day is today. Today is our day of life.
Saturday, September 8, 2007
FICTIONAL SCENARIO #2: An average white man stands up and slowly edges out of his pew during fast and testimony meeting. He smiles as he passes the rows on the way up to the pulpit. He clears his throat, looks out at a young woman in the audience, smiles and then begins to speak. "Good morning brothers and sisters. I've come before you today to share something really important to me. About 8 months ago I left the church. I moved out of my apartment and started living with my girlfriend. I just came here today to tell you how happy I am! Alma tells us that wickedness never was happiness. I guess if that is true than living with my girlfriend is not wicked. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen."
Friday, September 7, 2007
I found myself completely awestruck by what I was hearing. My best friend from college was saying words that I had so longed to hear for nearly a decade: you have the most amazing nail beds.. JUST KIDDING. He called me yesterday just to share some of the things that were going on in his mind. He said something like: for the first time in my life I find myself not worrying about the future. In some ways I have this feeling that my life is over.
Take that at face value and it might be a little bit confusing. He is saying he is not worrying about the future-- most of us would agree that is GREAT, but then he feels his life is over-- thats NOT GREAT. Or wait a moment.. is it?
My friend is someone who can do everything. He is handsome and winsome and takes everything he attempts to do by storm. In college everyone was a victim of his talent and brilliance. Let's call him Dr. Doolittle. Not because he talks to the animals mind you, although he probably could if he tried. A month after joining the vocal performance major, the faculty would call him into an office to say things like: you know we have about 150 full time students in this program. Of those 150 students, we think about 3-5 have a chance to actually make it in the opera world. We want you to know that you are one of those 3-5 students. You have just joined the major, but we feel so strongly about your potential. My friend would walk away feeling satisfied and happy that he received such validation from these renowned professors, but he also started to feel nervous. Do I really want to be an opera singer? Now that they love me so much what are they going to expect of me??
Inevitably my friend would spend the rest of the semester showing up late for rehearsals and classes, perhaps arrive a little unprepared with his german aria, and in whatever other way he could, he would try to dissapate the pressure by disappointing the faculty as much as he could. He did all of this largely subconsciously. When they stopped caring about his progress, he would change majors. Take the above scenario, and transfer it to the new major he chooses: Graphic design. There is a new star in the program people would soon say, but just as suddenly that star would begin to fade, or at least move out of view. Then English, then Russian, then Classics.. and on and on it went.
I would stay up late talking about the future with my friend, as college students are known to do. Over the years I probably had over 20 conversations with him about his career, and what he wanted out of life. I began to see his talent as a handicap in some ways. If this guy could only do one thing well he wouldn't be able to bounce about so. He would have to focus because there would be no choice. (OMG Satan's Plan?!?) My other friends and I would often discuss him and say things like-- this is a bigger issue than just career. This guy does not know how to be happy! Every time things start to go well for him, he sabotages the chance to be happy for some reason unknown to even himself.
My recent ex was very similar in many ways. The minute we resolved one problem that seemed like the ultimate crisis, another equal or greater crisis would arise in its place. After about a year of living in total crisis mode, I started to check out of the relationship. I started to feel like my boyfriend was creating problems because he didn't know how to feel like a whole person without a struggle. There was always so much white noise going on in his life. Sounds created only to create noise-- with no message: only a wall of sound. I would often talk to him about this hypothesis and he usually fervently disagreed with my diagnosis and for pity's sake would I stop psychoanalyzing him. Sometimes I stopped.
Imagine the reaction of all of our friends when Dr. Doolittle came forward with his newest career du jour: medicine. After already finishing nearly 3 majors at BYU, having a degree in Russian, and being accepted to NYU in the Russian Literature Masters program, he would go back to undergrad for 2 years to do the medical prerequisites. He would then most likely have to wait another year and apply for schools. Everyone said-- oh here he goes again. Another career-- more white noise to drown out the voices. Something inside me said that this was different. This is actually what he had always wanted to do but was too scared to try. Something from within him was trying to quell the white noise.
My friend is now in his third year of medical school. He is doing a pediatrics rotation currently. He did his 2 years of prereqs, took the MCAT, got an amazing score, waited a year to apply and was accepted to an amazing school: all to the chagrin of the white noise. What would happen to his life without the constant stress of a new career and an unsettled spirit?
When the white noise stops, what DO we hear instead? What is it that we have been drowning out? My friend told me yesterday that he had been thinking a lot about his Jr. High and High School years. He said that he was thinking back to those times when he had no self esteem whatsoever, and he found himself reliving small seemingly insignificant disappointments from his past. Little things like a passing comment to a teacher that had been taken in the wrong way which caused him a lot of shame during his whole senior year. Or like answering a certain question wrong on a test and getting a lower letter grade that semester. What do these vague memories from the past hold within their sordid narrations? What started the white noise? And why is it suddenly gone?
Is his life over because the white noise has become obsolete for him? In a way yes. His life of finding meaning only through unhappy struggle and confusion seems to be over indeed. But maybe you, gentle reader, will not see this as a positive occurance. Maybe he won't be so driven to spend what little free time he has volunteering. Or maybe he won't learn a new language this year. Maybe he won't call his mother as much as she would like him to. Maybe suddenly having more self esteem makes him a less productive individual. One thing is for sure though: a new person seems to be emerging. It looks like a happier person. It looks like a more peaceful person. It looks like our Doctor is more capable of loving.
Regardless of what it is we don't want to hear, the white noise is not the enemy. I think it protects us from things we are not ready to face, and that is why it exists. It is my conviction that one day we will all be perfected. Slowly the universe, GOD, or the collective consciousness all draw us toward perfection. Even our defense mechanisms are our temporary friends. But as with Dr. Doolittle, there comes a day when they are no longer needed, and like scales from our eyes they shall fall away. We are already reborn.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
A man stands up in front of a room full of his peers, one onlooker coughs, then another. A 9 month old toddler crawls away from her father who is holding a blow up book with pictures of Jesus inside-- the father bends over at the waist to avoid making a stir and goes after the crawling child. A woman with white hair clears her throat and swallows loudly. The man standing before them speaks.
"Good morning brothers and sisters. I stand before you today, humbled to be in your presence. I feel so unworthy to stand before you today. I just love and admire you all so much even though I don't really know many of you yet. Thank you so much for being so welcoming to my family and me in the short time since we moved here. When the bishop called me, I knew it was to give a talk, so I screened that call.. (nervous chuckle from the audience). But of course I decided to call him back, and that's why I stand before you today. I spent all week working late, so I didn't really have a chance to prepare this talk, so BEAR WITH ME."
BEAR WITH YOU???? Are you for real? You mean that I have to sit here and give you my undivided attention with an opener like that? Gag me with a spoon. How am I supposed to engage in what you are telling me when you have clearly told me that you are not only unprepared for this oration, but beyond that you are unworthy to stand before me. What? You are not!
It reminds me of Pride and Prejudice when Darcy proposes to Elizabeth Bennet the first time. He tells her basically that he has struggled in vain but it is no good, his feelings will not be repressed. He asks her to marry him telling her that while he does this he also realizes that proposing to her is most decidedly against the wishes of his family, friends and last but not least against his own better judgement. In her reprimand she asks him how this proposal could ever induce her to marry him. How could you possibly expect me to accept you when you told me that you were asking me against your own better judgement?? How can I care to listen to anyone who says BEAR WITH ME?
Peoples of the blogger community, I'm just going to come right out and say it-- I can tarry no longer: BEAR WITH ME: I am a really bad blogger.
WOW! I can't belive how relieved I feel. Having that out in the open is just an amazing feeling. I could have waited until national coming out day.. which is coming up all you closets out there.. but I think now is the time to get this all out in the open.
Elbow is a close friend and cohort of mine, and he encouraged me to write a blog. I love elbow with every fiber of my being, so I of course agreed. He told me that he thinks I have a lot to say that would be interesting to people. But here I am, a bad blogger with a head full of ideas. So starting from right now I am setting a completely different intention for myself, as Clark the blogger. I'm going to give myself full permission to be a stream of consciousness blogger. Where are all my stream of consciousness bloggers-- where are the ward members who give stream of consciousness talks-- lemme hear you say HEY (HEY echo). BORING TALKS IN THE MOTHER FRIKKIN HOUSE!!! I feel like if I don't have the pressure of being totally focused every time I write, then the chance of me being a good blogger, or at least a prolific one, will be much greater. Yeah, so basically I am giving the world full permission to completely ignore my blog because I have started it with the universal turn off: BEAR WITH ME. I am unworthy to write this blog. Who says these kind of things? I do apparently. THAT MAN.. IS ME.
That little stream of consciousness inside me breaks forth into a joyous refrain: I'm small I know but wherever I go the grass grows greener still. Singing singing all the day, give away oh give away. Singing, singing...