Thursday, September 13, 2007

Quest for the Holy Goal

Driving from my flexible strength class at the Y yesterday, my mum and I started talking about the book Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. I'd finally convinced her to start reading it. It's an unforgettable story about Christopher McCandless who died at the age of 24 in the Alaskan wilderness. He grew up in the wealthy suburbs of DC and after graduating from Emory University, gave all his money away, changed his name and disappeared. During his travels he abandoned his car, burned all his money and tramped around. His body was eventually found in a school bus in the Alaskan wilds. (Look it up on Wikipedia for a better description or better yet get it and read it. It's very Thoreau, very Kerouac, very Jack London.)

This is what I told my mumsie to get her interested in the story. And of course her first question, anyone's first question after hearing this, was WHY? Why in the world would someone give up their life like that. Give away everything they had, even their name, and take off. And this is one of the few questions that Krakauer's book cannot answer. Obviously projecting, I said "Well, sometimes intelligent people can't take life. It's hard you know to have all these pressures to deal with AND be expected to make goals and be successful or what YOU think OTHERS think is successful. And when someone can't make them it all work or has too many conflicting pressures it is sometimes better to just cast it off. You know, a clean break, tabula rasa. Then you can go about figuring what life is all about for you. Sometimes I get that way cause I think WAY too much about it all. Ignorance is definitely bliss." My mom said, "Yes, ignorance can be bliss."

So I compared Chris McCandless' story to Krakauer's other well known book, Into Thin Air, about a tragic expedition up Mt. Everest. I told her that I admired people who had such a definite goal and the chutzpah to go after it. Mom said that she thought people like that (i.e. mountaineers, adventure seekers, Chris McCandless, etc) were essentially selfish people. "They weren't thinking about their families or anybody else. Just themselves. You wanna do something tough? Try living a simple life. That's a good life." I was a little taken aback from the heat that entered her voice. She was starting to sound angry. So the two questions ready to jump out of my mouth were left there, kneeling on the starting blocks. I wanted to ask: What if they didn't have families or anybody else? and Do you think that I'm not living a good life cause nothing is simple for me and I'll never have a family like yours? Honestly, I don't think I want her to answer those.

But the heat in her voice was transferred to me. I wanted to start yelling (very not me). I was mad about two things. One, that I thought I was over needing my parents' approval at my life and being gay. Now instead of wanting to do what they want, I was now afraid of what they thought of my choices. And that made me steaming.

And two, I wanted a goal and I didn't have one. Not like a "get a good job" goal or a "get in shape" goal. Those are easy. But a big, life consuming goal. My goals used to be the goals of the Church. Family, kids raised right, fulfilling callings, eternal reward sort of stuff. I'm an all-or-nothing sort of person. If I think something is worth doing I'll do it to the fullest. So I always threw myself into Church stuff with everything I had. Full-time mission that I extended 2 extra months; going to SVU cause I thought it would be in someway "building the kingdom of Zion"; doing everything right; and trying really really hard not to be gay. That was it. I had no other goals. Nothing else I yearned for. I didn't really have the energy for anything else. The don't-be-gay strife took too much effort and energy. I got good grades and stuff and every now and then I would see glimpses of things I was interested in but they were always eclipsed by my struggles. Anyway, what did it matter? I was on the Lord's side. I was fighting the good fight. I would be rewarded in the Celestial Kingdom where I would be eternally happy. Wasn't that worth some unhappiness here?

So now I don't have those Church goals. I don't want to have the Church telling me what I should want. Because what they want from me is too confusing. "If you're gay get married, no don't get married live a celibate and lonely life, but try to not be gay, cause you can change, well some can, maybe, or maybe not". (read between the lines of what the Church says about gays and it screams we-have-no-idea-what-do-with-you-people all over it) And so now I don't know what I want. I had severely confused myself. I had tried to fit into my community of Saints so much that I didn't know who I was anymore. I had so often heard the phrase "Fake it till you make it". It was my mantra, my war cry, my prayer. If I acted the part, I would eventually be it. I analyzed and adapted everything I said and did so I would fit in. Not only was I trying to stop being gay and just be a regular Peter Priesthood, I was making sure nothing would slip identifying me as gay. It was exhausting. And now all this effort had been for nothing. Now that I have accepted my queerness I am now left with trying to figure out not only what I wanna be when I grow up but what I like and what interests me. That's crazy. That's what I gave to the Church and got self-loathing and self-doubt in return.

So now I need to fill that void. I need a goal and a good one. Something that I could wear my life out doing. And I think I might have it. But I'll have to wait and see. I'll let it percolate for a while and see if I still like the taste. It would be a very worthy cause and I would help people too. I feel like a knight-errant searching for my own Green Chapel and Green Knight to toil against. But once found, it will be wonderful!

3 comments:

santorio said...

i read 'into the wild' mainly because i had such a powerful response to 'into thin air.' but whereas i felt a lot of empathy for the mountain climbers, when i read 'into the wild,' i kept thinking, stupid, stupid, stupid, what are you trying to prove; there's nothing wrong with depending on someone else once in a while.

it's ironic that the church expects gays to develop just that type of independence-refusing to sanction a close, interdependent relationship.

sure sometimes i think about going to the airport, bus station, whatever, and buying a ticket for as far away as i can... but not away from people, just away from the set of relationships that now entangle me. it seems very selfish, but in the long run who knows. during the past year in the moho blogging community, three men have divorced their wives. into the wild they go, who knows.

Jake said...

One of the things I'm most grateful for is that I never married. I got as close as being engaged but cut it short cause I didn't think I could cut it. Reading the experiences of the married mohos makes me realize what a bullet I dodged. I could never have made a good husband. I know I would have been really unhappy and my spouse would have been too. My heart goes out to those men and their families cause it's not easy or simple. I couldn't make those choices.

I've realized a while ago that being gay isn't just about the sex. For me anyway it more about the emotional intimacy. If I had married not only would I have been miserable without the emotional attachment that I need but I wouldn't have been able to give it either. I would have been a great friend just not a good husband.

You are right tho. These 'into the wild' acts are by definition selfish. It IS all about what I need. I think that sometimes people confuse the need for a vacation with the need for a complete change. The trick is determining when you need a few days in the sun to relax and when the pressures and situation is too damaging, too harmful that you need to get out or you will break.

I think that McCandless would have broken in his situation. I know I would have in mine.

santorio said...

i think in the long run, we are all going to realize that a "mixed" marriage just doesn't work.

in another blog i commented that mixed race marriages, mixed religion marriages, etc., all have hurdles to overcome; why can't mixed sexual orientation marriages be viewed from the same perspective?

but it's different. you just can't compartmentalize intimacy and sexuality. not in this world anyway.