finding my way out

My adolescence and even adulthood has been characterized by silence. I am gradually learning to release myself from the oppression of self-denial. This record is for my discovery. This record is for our freedom.

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Location: Los Angeles, California

In my curiosity, I enjoy art and design, films and conversation that inspire reflection, and reading (how-to, art, psychology, sexuality, spirituality, philosophy). A strategic and analytical thinker, I'm mostly introverted, although I cannot do without friends who reveal life to me from different perspectives.

2006/08/25

fear and loathing in las iglesias

I have been reading a book entitled Russell on Religion (Selections from the Writings of Bertrand Russell), which has been taking me some time because I have been doing my best to digest what he is addressing, while in a period of my life where two contradictory feelings seem to have more equal ground than in any other time: I am coming back to a longing for some of the elements of Christianity, the religion I knew for so long, while also still quite defiant against many aspects of religion and Christianity, which seemed to order the world in terms of self-preservation... by which I mean an order that maintains the perspective of the privilege and did not include many others - which is to say it did not include me, a sexually confused young man growing up in the church and a religious university.

So I come to a chapter entitled "The Essence of Religion," in a subsection simply titled, "Love." Russell begins with a basic division between two types of love, with which I believe most Christians would find themselves agreeing:

Love is of two kinds, the selective earthly love, which is given to what is delightful, beautiful, or good, and the impartial heavenly love, which is given to all indifferently. The earthly love is balanced by an opposing hatred: to friends are opposed foes; to saints, sinners; to God, the Devil. Thus this love introduces disunion into the world, with hostile camps and a doubtful warfare. But the heavenly love does not demand that its object shall be delightful, beautiful, or good; it can be given to everything that has life, to the best and the worst, to the greatest and to the least.

He follows with an extension of this thought that may be harder for the contemporary Christian to grasp, whether it be due to the awkward conflict of living in a pluralistic society or to the marriage of Christianity to American politics and, more importantly, American capitalism...

Though it includes benevolence, it is greater than benevolence: it is contemplative as well as active, and can be given where there is no possibility of benefiting the object. It is love, contemplative in origin, but becoming active wherever action is possible; and it is a kind of love to which there is no opposing hatred.

Do not misunderstand my comment to be directed toward capitalism as an economic system. My suggestion is that capitalism has even found itself tangled with Christianity in such a way that we imagine spirituality even as a sort of economy, with which we can assess or assign value even to people.

In the first step of the economization of religion, I see a society increasingly bred to see themselves on an individual basis as consumers. The various marketing tools used to inseminate these formerly active citizens were built on basic psychological foundations eliciting feelings of inadequacy in one form or another, with the ultimate and non-inevitable result of an intense but unspecific feeling of separation. We said we were a global community, but still barely knew our neighbors. We increasingly know global brands, yet are still only scratching at the surface of cultural understanding - most often marring and obliterating it in exchange for something that is more easily assimilated into the masses.

This is putting it simply, of course, as this is neither the main point in my line of thought nor a chain in this line. Suffice to say that the sheer size of growing capitalism is bound to bleed into our religion and transfuse it with a similar sense of paired uncontrollable expansion and, at the same time, separation. Perhaps the church's intellectualization of spirituality was an effort to understand this shift, but soon found itself climbing into abstractions to escape from it.

The point is that capitalism has found great fodder in competition. Impartial heavenly love has no place where partiality finds one of its greatest expressions - which is again not a problem in an economic system so far as it is separated from spirituality or, to a lesser extent, even politics.

I say a competitive spirituality is no spirituality at all.

Competition implies lack and limit - if one person gains a penny, another loses it. This is not so with God's favor. While "the finite self aims at dominion" (as Russell says), "the infinite nature is the principle of union in the world, as the finite nature is the principle of division."

Russell has something even more challenging to say on the topic, bringing this division to the root of insecurity that I mentioned earlier. I realize it may be a bit out of context, but I encourage you to glean from it what you can. I will weigh it down with no further additions of my own, save for bolding my favorite piece. Read it and read it again.

The animal part of man, knowing that the individual life is brief and impotent, is appalled by the fact of death, and, unwilling to admit the hopelessness of the struggle, it postulates a prolongation in which its failures shall be turned into triumphs. The divine part of man, feeling the individual to be but of small account, thinks little of death, and finds its hopes independent of personal continuance.

...The divine part of man does not demand that the world shall conform to a pattern; it accepts the world, and finds in wisdom a union which demands nothing of the world. Its energy is not checked by what seems hostile, but interpenetrates it and becomes one with it. It is not the strength of our ideals, but their weakness, that makes us dread the admisssion that they are ours, not the world's. We with our ideals must stand alone, and conquer, inwardly, the world's indifference. It is instinct, not wisdom, that finds this difficult and shivers at the solitude it seems to entail. Wisdom does not feel this solitude, because it can achieve union even with what seems most alien. The insistent demand that our ideals shall be already realized in the world is the last prison from which wisdom must be freed. Every demand is a prison, and wisdom is only free when it asks nothing.

2006/08/17

I can't see the back of my own head.

Last night, I had another dream in a series of dreams where I am cutting my hair. Unlike most recurring dreams I have experienced or heard about, this dream takes place in a number of different locations at a variety of different times. Whether it be over a sink or a trash or even outside, I find myself cutting my hair. I recall using a razor blade once; all the other times, I knew it was not actually a razor blade although it was cutting my hair. Still, I could not tell you what it actually was.

What's even more strange is that I am mostly cutting the hair on the back of my head - in other words, the hair I would not be able to see in a mirror, meaning the hair that it would be most difficult for me to cut attractively by myself.

This is probably mostly related to how I have been playing with the hair on the back of my neck because I can feel it getting longer... but I can't help but feel that there is some psychological investment in the repetition of this metaphor. I can't help but remember a slight sense of panic as I am trying to get rid of my hair, and then as I realize that it might look terrible because I have been cutting it myself. I am feeling the back of my head and it feels okay, but I am looking for a mirror so I can see what it looks like. Last night, I happen to find one - but it is not hinged, so it does me no good. How am I to see the back of my own head?

If anyone has any ideas, I think it might be interesting to hear them. Here are some of mine:

  • A dream dictionary suggested that if you are happy with your new hairstyle, "you are developing a new aspect to yourself and are happy for others to see it." Perhaps I am uncomfortable with a new aspect? I have been feeling a bit uncomfortable with some of the ways I am being pressed in work and love to change certain aspects of myself, but who isn't?
  • I also read, "How hair appears in the dream indicates the quality of thoughts giving the dreamer insight into the way he/she thinks and what alterations can be made to enhance thinking. For instance, if hair is being cut, this will symbolize the dreamer's current tendency to reorganize thoughts." I have been doing a lot of reorganizing thoughts, personally and professionally.
  • There is also the obvious: "Samson's hair was the source of his strength and virility." In a related post, it was said, "To dream that you are cutting your hair suggests that you are experiencing a loss in strength. You may feel that someone is trying to censor you. Alternatively, you may be reshaping your thinking or ambitions and eliminating unwanted thoughts/habits."
I think I have reached the consensus. I can't help but think, When does a person dedicated to growth not go through these things? but there is still the strange idea that any loss in strength is self-induced, and that any reshaping or reorganizing of thoughts might actually be in response to self-conflict.

2006/07/21

always lying

There is an inescapable, frustrating irony which has just recently come to my attention about where I now find myself as a consequence of being born into this time and place (America, 20th-21st century), in this state of being (gay).

As I believe I previously explained, I have dated women for most of my life. My college relationship is the most vivid, but that ended nearly a year and a half ago. Having been dating Rich for almost a year now, I still find myself referring to him as a "friend" to many people – especially my coworkers.

Today, on one such occasion, I had this dreadful feeling that I was lying. In a moment of clarity, it referred my emotions back to when I had been dating a woman in college whom I would refer to as my "girlfriend," of course. Dreadful feeling that I was lying there.

How terrible to keep myself in such familiarity with dreadful feelings! In both cases, I feel like there is a piece of me missing, a piece of my honesty and transparency compromised, a piece of my ability to live with passion lost. Not to be dramatic... but please understand my position:

  • I refer to my boyfriend, Rich, is "a friend," and feel like I am hiding my homosexuality from people.
  • I referred to my girlfriend as "my girlfriend," but was increasingly aware that my inadequate sexual attraction did not warrant such a title... painfully aware that our emotional connection went deep, but we could never find a bridge to span the mystery: What wasn't working?! (God, I can't imagine the pain and confusion I must have caused.)

Please don't get me wrong. I'm musing, not complaining. I readily recognize the more dramatic adversity and even open punishment I would face in some times and places, both in the past and today. I am just exposing a curious conflict in my self-awareness.

Believe it or not, it really has and does make make me doubt my trustworthiness to some degree. I guess, more than that, it puts up a communication barrier between me and those to whom I must lie. Thin and translucent, sure, but a barrier nonetheless. Sometimes, I imagine I must know a bit about how it would feel to be autistic – to be able to listen, but not speak... Following that moment when I call my "boyfriend" a "friend," I have set a standard and will potentially forever refer to him as a friend. Each time I refer to him as "a friend" (or think about referring to him but don't because I'd rather not risk the awkward intonation of that particular use of "friend"), I am affirming to myself that it is dangerous to call him my "boyfriend" to those who may or may not know I'm gay and, in any case, may be uncomfortable with it.

I have a friend who would say that, ultimately, it's me who's uncomfortable with it. I figure it has to be true to some extent.

Have a good weekend, kids!

2006/07/12

pangs of hunger

I previously posted the following.
I am discontinuing this blog... I no longer feel a need for it. I suppose there never was much need for it, seeing as how I never posted. Because I have been entering a new phase of truth in my life, I will be writing anything new on my original blog (which is similarly plagued by a lack of posts). If you would like to watch this blog, you can find it at http://augmentality.blogspot.com.
It has come to my attention that I cannot truly discontinue my thoughts on this matter, so it does not follow that I should discontinue writing my thoughts on this matter. Although it is true that I never posted, what is true now is that I must post.

I have grown comfortable in my distance from APU and my life there. The separation has been necessary, of course, but the lessons I learned and the energy I spent (and continue to spend) in processing my experiences at APU cannot be left unshared.

If I cannot at least physically touch those in pain, then I will still do what I can to ameliorate the emotional wounds. May I continue seeking release from my self-misunderstanding and, in so doing, give others permission to truly and fully express themselves as well. May I save myself from my own hatred and regret, owning my choices and offering positive resolutions.

Admittedly, my life is – at this point – more consumed by work. My college days, on the other hand, were filled with new thoughts. In the holes between work and rest, these thoughts come back. I see they've been doing some work themselves while I've been away, and I am looking forward to the opportunity to listen to them again.

Take note that I will still be using Augmentality to share random thoughts, but I imagine that Augmentality will be updated less frequently than this blog.

2005/10/10

a memory 1 & 2

    I expect I might have a number of random memories I would like to share, so I am attaching numbers to this title. These may or may not have significance, but they are cozy thoughts...interesting thoughts...I'm sick right now, so have some patience with me.
    My first random memory came when I was laying in bed, trying to get to sleep but feeling miserable. I heard the TV on upstairs, through the floor of the apartment complex. Although it was coming from the wrong direction according to this memory, it suddenly took me back to my room in the house we lived in while I was in junior high and high school. I would go to bed earlier than my family in those days, and so I could hear them talking and laughing, and even louder than that, the muffled sounds of talking television people. I don't know how it took me back. Maybe because we long for something familiar or comforting (which is usually something familiar, right?) when we are sick. Strange, but strangely comforting.
    My second memory came as I was looking for some vague photographs of interesting texture or motion for the background of a design I'm working for. Yeah, I take photos like that. I put them on my desktop background. Makes me feel creative. Makes me feel special. Well, I came across some photos and I remember that at the time I was taking them, I was borrowing a digital camera for a project I was working on. At this time, I lived in an apartment whose kitchen window faced the second pool of the apartment complex. I was "testing out" the camera's zoom (I tell myself) by taking pictures of the guys at the pool outside. They were those ripped kind of guys that you can only find in college - especially at my private Christian university...they'd likely been pampered through high school and now into college, using a significant portion of their time to pump iron. What I mean is: no one with a normal, balanced life could really look that way. Still, it was attractive and I was taking pictures of it.
    Meanwhile, my roommate was in the back room (the office), playing computer games. Usually, he spaces out when he plays these. Unfortunately, I hadn't figured out how to turn off the mock shutter click sound and I suppose my shutter clicks caught his attention. Eventually, when I ended my "kitchen-window-boy" exploits, then deleted all the pictures I had taken (filled with guilt), my roommate said to me, "Taking pictures of the hot girls at the pool, eh?"
    Really, that's what he said. I think I probably turned a shade of red or pink. No response there (or a stumbling one) was read as a yes, which made me more comfortable than the truth, even if I was still shamed.
    Funny story.

2005/09/28

how time flies when you're...you know

   I can't believe that time has gone by this quickly. It's been a month and half now that Aaron and I have been dating. You know, I can't stand to use this fake name. His name is Richard.
   I came out, of sorts, to my roommate the other day. I could not bear the pressure any more of feeling so distant from him, and I decided that I wouldn't make the choice any more to create that distance. If there would be distance, it would be his choice, and I could be okay with that. It seemed like a good time - meaning there was time to actually talk about it. It was a great experience, actually. Since I have known him for more than four years now, making him one of my most longstanding friends, and because I have shared so much with him at times in the past, I found myself expressing myself curiously well. It was a growing experience for me because of this, and I always enjoy how well he stretches his mind. Now, I don't know how comfortable he will ever become with it, but of course he can acknowledge that there can be a difference between our worldviews. The most significant thing he repeatedly communicated was that he wasn't seeking protection or limitation in his experience of life, that he didn't want to be someone who others felt they had to hide from, or hide things from.
   Later, one of my new good friends would say to me something like, "Sooner or later, it surprises you that you have so little faith in people." I like that
   So, yes, friends...I am now in a relationship. A relationship with a man, no less (yes, that was an incomplete sentence). So much to say. No big revelations, actually. I hate to say this, but it feels like it's what I've always done, like where I've always been.
   I want to say more, but all that I haven't said is overwhelming. How, how, HOW can I say it all? He is beautiful. Simply beautiful. I told him in an email that he is "fucking beautiful" - in reference to a Rilo Kiley song. The way she says it just fills me with joy for life. Joy in response to life. Joy in the awareness of life. These things are what I feel.
   And, in a way, what is more important to say than that. Let this be a new starting point for my words here, and I will try to be more disciplined. What a loss to not have record of these events, and what a loss that this will be this chasm for you. You might wonder if you missed something in this gap that makes the two "pieces" seem more connected. It is all connected. I believe I will make this clear, at least as far as I can.
   I am wondering now how it is that I never felt this way. Pieces of me have begun to regret the way I now see that I neglected the women in my life whom I had the privilege of dating. Yet, there was no way for me to know AND I would not be who I have become or am becoming without these experiences, and neither would they.
   This is beautiful. "All's well that ends well." I say it often. I do believe it - and it is encouraging because I believe all will end well.
   I do wish I could say more, but my laundry is done and I need to go to bed. Look forward.

2005/08/12

freedom, frustration, and foot massages

Long post warning!!!
   So I went into work today. I haven't been in just over a week (for context). I had been gone for my sister's wedding. It feels like quite a bit shifted in that week. I will eventually get to telling about this, but I essentially came out to everyone in my direct family but my father. I even showed my mother pictures of Aaron, and she seemed to handle it pretty well. Anyhow, I was in the mood for talking to someone at work about it, but I didn't know how to bring it up. See, I have never really talked about it very casually. Usually I tell people that I know very well, and even then it's a risk because most of my friends, coworkers, etc. are (or had been) Christians.
   Anyhow, so I'm seriously considering it but it washes from my mind when I step into the store. Maybe I am intimidated, maybe I am distracted...I am not sure. But when I walk into the back, I say hi to two coworkers in the back, one of them counting her till, another reading a book on her half. The one reading her book (but she is really talking to the other coworker) asks me the casual "How are you" etc. and then heads straight into, "Do you like guys?" Her tone made it obvious - she was actually asking me if I was gay. Now, I'm not sure if I believe in God anymore - or at least the Christian God - but this actually prompted me to send a prayer of thanks.
   I could feel myself grinning and heard myself say, "Yeah, I do." WHAT?! Wow - how did that happen?! Some other comments followed in the short conversation. The girl counting her till, who is Christian - I know because we had a conversation shortly before I left on vacation - turned around with her mouth half-gaping. Really gaping! Later, she would tell me she thought I was joking at first. I asked her if she was shocked, and she said, "Not really." I tried to explain in a few words why it was that I had a girlfriend, because they had known about us breaking up about 5 months ago and asked me about it. I tried to explain why I went to a private Christian university. There was so much I wanted to say, but it was okay that I could not. In any case, there is no doubt the rumor mill will have this around within a week, which is okay with me. It feels better, actually. It actually made me more cheery today, which is good because I've been a bit down about some family drama.
   The frustration was last night. To make a long story short, a friend of both of my roommates was at this birthday party for roommate #1 that his girlfriend planned. It was a small group, and I knew this guy the least out of any of them, but have been acquainted with him for about three years. Anyway, he joked about a lot of gay stereotypes and kept mimicking what is supposed to sound like a gay man, calling himself a "fag" about certain things that he did that are not stereotypically macho. I wasn't terribly offended, because I've experienced it for so many years...but I'll say more...
   Funny story - one of my friends who recently got married and moved into an apartment with his wife nearby has been telling us that we need to come over for dinner. As we're saying goodbye, he says, "You need to come out." About 10 minutes later, we get in the car to drive home and the radio comes on and it's some talk radio. It starts with this woman saying, "...and...my son came out...(I see my roommate #2 reach for the dial)...and shit on the stage..." We laugh, but I am laughing at the double coincidence that makes me feel awkward.
   So we get home and I ask roommate #2 about why this guy uses so much homophobic language. His eyebrows raise and, confused, he says, "Huh?" He is brushing his teeth and I say, "Gay jokes...acting 'gay'...and all his other homophobic language." Maybe I'm wrong and this is not what it's called, but I am astonished as my roommate stares into the mirror and repeats to himself, all the more confused, "Homophobic language...?"
   He really does not know what I am talking about. See, he was raised Christian and went to the same private Christian university I went to, although he transfered in. He asked me to explain, but I was angry and did not want to. He seemed offended. "I'm sorry," I said, "it's not you, it's just four years of having to explain what I mean and how it feels. I'm just tired of it." He was still offended. We were silent. Some moments later, after walking around, he says to me, "You have to keep in mind that Mark (disguised name) is not necessarily Christian."
   I was incensed! The implication was that Christians were any better! Sure, in general they're too paranoid to use such blatantly politically incorrect speech, etc...but I'm going to say I've felt more persecution from Christians. As if some Christian moral code would make him better here! I would actually feel more comfortable explaining myself to this guy and my consideration to even do so was dismissed because of all the other familiar company. So I was angry and said something, "I don't give a fuck about Christians! They're no better." We stopped talking for the night. I felt a bit too exposed for my liking.
   I am frustrated because I feel a growing chasm between me and so many of my old friends - a chasm because they never really understood and, even if they could now, I don't want to bear the burden of explaining myself so many times over. God, that there was some way it could not always be my burden, that they would take the initiative...but how are they to know how to find out. I need patience on all sides.
   I tell a friend about some of these events over IM because he is in Europe and he says, "Though a part of me fears for you, another is excited for you, and yet another is envious somehow...I fear for the persecution and misunderstanding you will face...I fear because I have yet to really know my own thoughts on homosexuality...I am excited because I see how much less burdened you are now...and because you have a chance to be you, uninhibitedly...and envious because I wish that I were more sure of my own standing...but mostly, I just love you and want to see the best for you."
   Oh - and I was just kidding about the foot massage thing. I wish.
   Thanks for listening.

2005/08/11

growing pains

Wow...I met with my friend that day. He didn't seem surprised. Having not attended a private Christian university for four years (like myself) and not having grown up in a Christian household (like myself), he pretty readily offered his opinion that it seemed to him to be natural.
   What I failed to mention is that I had planned to meet up with someone I had met at a club in West Hollywood (that's the part of Hollywood with a particularly high concentration of gay people, FYI). UCLA is very close to We-Ho, so the trip was short for me.
   Now, normally, I would protest loudly if one of my friends were to meet someone at a club and attempt to take it seriously. My brain was screaming at myself. "Do you really want to do this?...What are you doing?...What could possibly come of this?" Things like that...and since one of my greatest fears is self-deception, I was having a tough time with this one. It was and is difficult to know how my id, my insecurities, and years of repression might be driving me where my truer self might not go. In the end, I suppose there is no way to know. The most unique thing about the experience was that I was doing something that I wanted to do. I felt myself grow nervous when he called and said he was close. Don't ask me to explain what kind of nervous it was; I wish I could. It was strange, though, as in I'd never felt it.
   And how to catch up on weeks of happenings? Well, me and this guy - who I will call Aaron for his protection - hung out for four hours. His presence, his perspective...they were just what I needed. I began processing what has happened to me for the past four years - more through expulsion than through understanding. I just talked. I asked questions. Aaron responded. We would meet again on Friday and some more of the same would happen. We spent about eight hours together that day, I believe.
   Perhaps over-eager, but feeling something I'd never felt before, I put his number in my speed dial when I got home that night. I liked this guy. How had we met? What a time for him to come into my life! How can I even explain how it all happened? Surely, I will have to add detail later. I took some of my friends to a club in We-Ho on the following Saturday, and Aaron and some of his friends met us there. Long story short, it was obvious that we both felt something for each other and it wasn't long before we shared our first kiss.
   And this is the hard part for me to understand. I am a person who is always so particular that I take twice as long to act as many other people. I must rationalize and understand and proceed with extreme caution. Yet there was no part of me in this that felt like anything was happening too fast. The feeling was more as if I had known him for longer than I actually had. The feeling was as if it was the natural progression. It was sublime. I had never felt a kiss like this. It was perfect. My God, his lips! Why had I never felt anything like this?
   I wish I could be less general or vague or scatter-brained in sharing some of these things, but there is so much happening in me right now. What I need to express, I suppose, is that the biggest shock of all of this is how very much I was made to believe that this would not feel natural, that I would feel guilty, that it would actually be disgusting - things like this. And I suppose I do wish the experience would match this worldview - it would certainly eliminate a great degree of persecution in my future as it can be projected at this moment, and it would allow the worldview I've held for years to stand strongly. Unfortunately (but I suppose more "fortunately"), everything is different now. The question that kept running through my head: "This is what a kiss is supposed to feel like?"

2005/07/27

good morning

This is a good morning. I am going to tell one of my best friends from high school, after four years, that I am pretty sure that I'm mostly gay. I'm bisexual, I'll say...but I'll say it doesn't seem like I can stay that way forever (can I?)...so I think I'm mostly gay.