Total Eclipse of the Smart

Version 2We live in the age of information, with finger-ready access to data and facts on any subject. Most of us carry a portal to the world in our pockets, our cell phones the entry point to knowledge once housed in grand facilities and available only to those privileged with admittance.  Smart phones have somewhat democratized information access, yet they’ve also dumbed us down.  Overloaded with text messages, e-mails, breaking news updates, Insta-pics, and Facebook feeds, we simultaneously see everything while knowing nothing. It’s an accomplishment just to clear out our in-boxes and read through our feeds, and those digital demands can siphon energy away from more natural pursuits. In the information age, we’ve traded action for access, reflexively severing the most dynamic parts of ourselves onto an onyx screen.

Yet even in the most diluted of circumstances, each of us knows who we really are. There’s a deep knowing and understand that cuts through the distractions of any age to connect us to our higher, most authentic self. The time is upon us to remember who we really are and start acting on our own instincts!

I’m sitting outside right now at the La Brea Tar Pits writing this column as the solar eclipse is happening. I forgot the buy the glasses, and yes, I have peaked up a few times for a brief second at the sun; hopefully I won’t go blind! While I’m not privy to the solar views the dozens of excited people around me are seeing, I am very much connected to the energy of this moment. I’m in the sunlight soaking up the deepest possible meaning of what is happening right now on our planet, and in particular in our country. This total eclipse is all about examining what we’ve been hiding, uncovering the brightest parts of ourselves we’ve allowed to be eclipsed by the demands of the day and of this age. It’s a moment of collective and individual accountability.

Collectively, there’s no doubt that the United States is in the midst of a dark chapter as a country. We’ve seen an ideology of racism, sexism, and xenophobia emerge from shadows many of us thought were banished decades ago.  We’ve seen greed as a guiding force in nearly every institution. Corruption is now a primary characteristic of many of our leaders. Our new President is a narcissist, uninterested in facts, insecure about his own abilities, and powered only by the accolades of others. It’s easy to be upset at Donald Trump, and while we have every right to be outraged, this moment demands that we ask ourselves how we got here.

We’ve spent the past decade staring at ourselves, our eyes transfixed by an electronic screen that ultimately reflects back to us whatever we want to see. When the Narcissus of Greek mythology looked at his reflection in the water, he became so enthralled by what he saw that he couldn’t pull himself away, surrendering his will to live to an image that eventually killed him because he couldn’t pry himself up from his own beauty. Our smart phones are a 21st century pool, and the world we’ve created inside them has every bit as much power over us as Narcissus’ reflection! Energy knows no ideology; all stripes of thought have been part of what lead us to this moment. While Trump appeals to only a segment of the population, and while the majority of us voted to have a different leader, collectively we’ve been unconsciously culling a dark, self-motivated energy that merely manifested physically in the form of President Trump.

On an individual level, each of us knows how we’ve been playing it small. For myself, I know that I’ve spent WAY too much time obsessing over the latest “breaking news” and listening to echoes of political commentary and not enough time taking action on issue I care about. I’ve wasted hours reading mindless political articles and not enough time writing about higher truths and deeper concepts. For all the time I’ve spent as a political spectator over the past year, I could have written a book and been a novelist by now! I’ve played it small socially, too. I’ve mindlessly surfed my Facebook feed instead of connecting with actual people and deepening friendships. I’ve chatted up strangers on Grindr I never had any intension of actually meeting instead of attempting to connect with guys in a real and authentic way. In short, I’ve allowed technology to dim my own light as much as this eclipse has darkened part of our world today. I have a feeling I’m not alone.

I’m determined to make this moment count, though, and for this eclipse to be the end of the shade I throw on my own light!

This morning I was doing a kundalini meditation to align with my creative flow. It’s a specific kriya for breaking free from that which holds you back so that you can take positive steps forward to live out what you instinctively know is your mission in life. It’s the perfect action for the moment! With eyes closed and arms stretched out at the heart center, right hand placed flat over left, I recited the mantra Hari Nam Sat Nam Hari Nam Hari Hari Nam Sat Nam Sat Nam Hari. According to the teacher Gurucharan Singh Khalsa, “The first part of this mantra aligns the powerful creative flow of life (Hari Nam) with your personal identity and destiny.  The second line aligns your intuitions with your intention so the unseen hand of spirit supports your fulfillment.”

It’s a simple mantra really, but over the course of 11 minutes my mind started to wander. Every time I would think about what I was having for lunch, how much my arms hurt, what I needed to do later in the day, etc. I would lose focus and mess up the chanting, getting frustrated and feeling like a failure. As soon as I would calm my mind and focus on the words, though, I could seamlessly recite the mantra and feel a powerful energy envelop me. In this moments, I felt unstoppable. I went in and out of this dance of alignment and misalignment for several minutes before having a realization: when we focus on the work we know we’re here to do, we ARE unstoppable. When we get distracted by our own thoughts—the Narcissus within us— we lose sight of our true power and purpose and it can often feel as though we’re drowning in our own frustration. I understood in that moment that our truth lies in taking action on what we intuitively know we’re here to do, and that in doing so happiness and harmony flows naturally to us.

ig_20987021_1920377438236866_6799378810950123520_n-1503327834_600It’s a lot easier to just dive into our smart phones than it is to use our talents to serve the highest good. Too many of us have dimmed our light at a time when we’re being called on to shine bright. We can see where that’s gotten us. This total eclipse moment is an opportunity for all of us to examine our lives and decide what shifts we’re going to take.  We need to all take a moment to get very clear about what our mission is—what do we need to be doing in this moment to best serve the world? What talents do we have, what skills do we possess that we need to hone? What seeds are we going to plant and what work are we going to do over the next several months?

The time is upon us to stop staring at our smart phones and start doing something more dynamic with our lives! With each of us committing to small, right actions daily, we can emerge from this collective dark shadow just as the sun emerged after the brief moment of darkness today!

PS) I highly recommend trying the meditation I mentioned above! Click here for details and instructions.

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Ego-Friendly Wines

14125689_10101021973399372_6531290440239798060_oTwo things happened when I moved to California that I wasn’t expecting: I started meditating every day and red wine became my favorite drink.  For the last few years, I’ve navigated this odd dance between two diabolical forces: one a practice of calming the mind to go deep in order to mine intuitive knowledge, and the other a tasty indulgence that numbs the mind.  There have been days when I have had extremely powerful kundalini yoga classes where I could literally feel knots being untied in my stomach and heavy burdens lifted; then I’d come home blissed out and celebrate this liberation with a glass coastal Pinot Noir or mountainous Argentinian Malbec.

Somewhere in the mix of the pallet, bliss would morph into fog. What started as a spiritually-induced high turned into a chemically-inflicted (though extremely delicious!) haze that would usually see me passed out asleep early, and up in the morning with a mild to semi-splitting headache. Nothing that a bold cup of coffee couldn’t cure, and not what I would consider to be an addiction, but it was a pattern that began to have a rather unhealthy grip over me.

Be careful of patterns—they have a way of surreptitiously arresting your advancement! It wasn’t until recently that I understood the connection between spiritual development and alcohol craving: the unabashed ability of the ego to quickly trick us into thinking we’re making progress on our journey when, really, we’re just running in place!  When we start to grow, our ego (our limited, separated self that’s body-identified) gets scared. As a natural defense, the ego finds a way to contain our progress.  It finds distractions, often pleasant and harmless in their benign form, that keep us from making real transformation. You can change your activity, but until you’re ready to fully embrace an entire new way of seeing yourself and your place in the world, you’re not really making any huge personal shift. I don’t see the ego as being the conscious-minded answer to “the devil”, but rather the very natural defenses all of us put up when we’re confronted with uncomfortability. Change is hard. When you’re in a practice of meditation, mindfulness, or any personal growth, you will learn things about yourself that are often difficult to own up to. For me, that’s when the cork-screw would come out.

This isn’t a post about alcoholism; I’ve never considered myself an alcoholic. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with responsible drinking. I think you can be a conscious, spiritual person who is growing and evolving and also reasonably enjoy wine and other libations. There’s a line, though, when enjoyment crosses over into escape. While I don’t hold any particular judgments about the fact that for about 2 years I was drinking 2-4 glasses of wine almost every night at home after what were often rough and stressful days, I do now see how that action was limiting my growth and getting in the way of fully embodying my purpose.

My biggest fear has always been that I won’t do anything significant with me life. So gripped by this anxiety that I’ll never make a meaningful contribution, I fell into the clutches of inaction without even knowing I was being held. I have certainly done a good amount of meaningful work over the past few years, but it’s my writing that suffered each time I’d pop open a bottle. When I drink, I tire easily, and I lose the ability to access any higher form of articulation. Since moving to LA, I have learned so much in all of my kundalini classes, and even more in the “off-the-mat meditation” that was my job as executive director of a spiritual center. Often, I’ve had bursts of thoughts that I felt would be useful to share. I’d intend to write a blog post based on what I was seeing and learning, but when I got home, and after I’d do my nightly meditation, I’d hit the wine instead of the keyboard. My ego convinced me that I needed to reward myself, but looking back I see four years of missed opportunities to share in a meaningful way and also significantly develop my portfolio as a writer. That was selfish.

When you’ve been given the privilege of knowing something useful, you have an energetic obligation to share so that others can also benefit. And that’s exactly what I am going to start doing with this post.

Last night during my evening kriya, I was chanting a mantra for self-healing: Guru Guru Wahe Guru Guru Ram Das Guru, a repetition that projects the mind to the infinite and brings in finite guidance. Somewhere in the intonation of those 11 minutes, I saw exactly how I’d been playing it small.

I have a gift and I haven’t been using it. Instead, I have used red wine to relax away the tensions I’ve been experiencing, indulging out the larger lessons the universe has been trying to teach me. Instead of drinking away my stress, I need to transmute what I perceive as strain by writing about it.

I then saw beyond myself and into a collective conscious that I am a small part of within the broader LGBT community. As a collective, we’ve also been playing it small! Those of us who incarnated as LGBT beings did so for very specific reasons: we are ushering in new paradigms around love, sex, and gender, forging new understandings that are expanding what is possible or everyone. Many have stepped up to meet this moment, but many others in the community are dimming their lights with addictions to drugs, alcohol, sex, and other substances. At a time when people are literally dying in the streets because of hate, it’s never been more important for all of us to wake up to our missions in life!

This fall I’m taking the kundalini yoga and meditation teacher’s training. I decided to do this because I’m ready to step up and share what I’m learning in hopes it can help others heal and transform. I won’t be the perfect yogi. I have limited flexibility, abysmal mind/body coordination, I drink coffee, and turbans really aren’t my thing.  I’m not going to stop drinking red wine just yet, but I am going to drink much less and be much more mindful of my actions. When I feel I have something that needs to be shared, I’m going to write that out before I uncork that really delicious red blend from Paso Robles!

The ego isn’t our enemy: it’s a stubborn barometer of our stasis. We’re here to learn, grow, and share. That’s how we keep the ego in check and our true selves powering forward.

So, cheers to less wine and more written words!

Body Statement

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We have the power to pick the lock of our own suffering!

Our bodies.

There is perhaps no greater manifestation of anxiety than that which we place upon our physical form. We spend so much of our time in an elliptical of judgement, comparing ourselves to others. In a marathon of attack thoughts, we obsess over pounds we have yet to shed, muscles we haven’t developed, and physiques we may never attain.  It’s more exhausting beating ourselves up over our perceived imperfections than it is actually going to the gym!

Anyone who has known me for a while knows that I’ve had a turbulent relationship with my body. I’ve been obese, anorexic, and everything in between. I’ve carried the shame of being overweight, and I’ve known the pains of starving for perfection. At every weight, from a high of 240 lbs. to a low of 155; in lifestyles variances, a completely sedentary video gamer in my adolescence to a hyper active 7-days a week, twice a day gym goer by my mid-twenties; and in every diet, from processed fast foods to organically vegan, the feeling has always been the same: I’m not good enough.

That’s my life’s F.E.A.R. maxim, and by fear I mean “false evidence appearing real.” And indeed, it’s a pretty terrifying refrain!

Recently I started re-reading Gabby Bernstein’s May Cause Miracles. It’s a 40-day guidebook for manifesting a radically happy life. Four years ago, when I was living in Kansas and only dreaming of California, a friend randomly suggested it to me. What I thought would be another dust collecting Amazon purchase ended up being THE catalyst for a new and amazing life. I’m positive I would still be stuck in Wichita if I had not read that book and done the work that allowed me to attract the life I have today in Los Angeles. Three years later, everything about my life has changed! Well everything but one…

The sunset photos on the beach, selfies with colorful friends, inspirational meditation quotes, and vegan food porn pics have all been posted with that same “I’m not good enough” refrain lodged into my subconscious. That’s called the ego–the part of you that wants to cling to the familiar, playing it small so you never step into the uncomfortability  of the unknown. A positive statement about my body is what my ego fears the most.

So, of course, in reading May Causes Miracles again, one miraculous shift under my belt, it’s fitting that this longstanding ritual of body hating would surface. I’m so thankful that it did because in doing the course work this past week which was focused on the relationship we have with our body, I have finally come to not just know but truly feel a massive shift: You can either identify with the physique that is your body or you can vibrate with the grander purpose of what it is you are meant to do with the physical form you were given.

I’ve spent the last few days really meditating on exactly what it is that I, Jason Aaron Dilts, was put on this planet to do. Once the fog of attack thoughts cleared, it was so obvious. I am here to create community. I am here to bring people together as an activist under banners that collectively bring forward meaningful progress. I am  also here to use my gift of writing to articulate in spoken and written words messages that will resonate for positive cultural shifts and deep healing. When we let go of negative dialogue and limiting beliefs we allow in the freedom to receive everything those limitations have been blocking. Instead of the fear maxim of “I’m not good enough” I now have the mantra of “I am not my body. I am free.”

I know I am not the only person who is handicapped by body image issues. I am sharing this post because I hope if you too are gripped by negative perceptions about your body that you’ll be so bold as to step outside this limiting belief. Sit for a moment and think about YOU–not your body but your essence. What is it you were born to do? What brings tears of joy to your eyes when you think about doing it? What do you know you were put on this earth to do?

When you know the answer to that, you have the power to write your own body statement! And I want you to write it out. Sit in stillness and listen to a song that uplifts you. I listened to Donna DeLory’s “Sanctuary” while I wrote mine and I’m happy to recommend some otherbeautiful mantras. As the song plays, breathe in the feeling of joy that living this purpose will give you. Breathe out the any anxieties that arise.

Write it out.

There’s something powerful about putting down in words the essence of who you are.  Those words are your body!

I’ll start by pasting my statement in the comments. Share yours in the comments below if you feel called to. Or place it somewhere at home where you’ll be able to see it regularly to remind  yourself that our purpose is our body!

PS) Read May Cause Miracles–I’ll even buy you a copy if you can’t afford one yourself (serious, private message me!).

Sat Nam in the City

When I lived in Kansas, I was homo on the range; literally—and as a matter of literature.

I was an out gay man running a political party at 19, and several years later a columnist for a popular local m10845912_10100546475785402_4435399975493342740_nagazine called Naked City. It was sort of like Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City. Except my life really wasn’t glamorous, the city wasn’t New York, and I spent more time politicking than I did dating men. So actually it wasn’t Sex and the City at all. Homo on the Range, both the column and the life, was its own, unique creation.

Then I left the range and moved to California. There’s really nothing special about being gay in in the Golden State. It’s actually rather commonplace here, especially in Los Angeles. If you followed my adventure on Facebook, you saw a never-ending feast of vegan food, endless sunsets on the beach, palm trees galore, and an overall happy life. That was genuine. You didn’t see the other element that was equally real, though: the depth of how alone I felt after I moved.

Even when I was at my lowest, I always knew how to be me in Wichita. I continually attracted people into my orbit. I really didn’t have to do much work, either. I assumed LA would be the same. It wasn’t. This is a town of ambition, egos, and fast-paced movers. Friends are often seen as potential competitors, and the sprawl makes meeting up for coffee an arduous affair. I found myself wandering this curious city alone most days. That bothered me at first, but then I stopped fighting that loneliness and just went into it: deep inside its chasm, to the innermost chamber of my mind.

Turns out that the journey within has a range far more vast than Kansas—and it’s open to everyone, the gays included!

You’ve probably noticed that I post often about meditating and something called Kundalini Yoga. When I moved to Los Angeles, I anticipated spending a lot of time in West Hollywood drinking mojitos at The Abby and cruising hot boys on the Santa Monica strip. I think I’ve done that exactly twice in the fourteen months I’ve lived here. Instead, I spend a lot of time doing weird hand gestures, holding uncomfortable postures, chanting phrases I can barely pronounce, and breathing in and out at odd intervals.

It all started when I stepped into a place called Golden Bridge Yoga in Hollywood. I knew exactly two people when I moved to this city, and one of them always posted about going to that spot. I enjoyed yoga for a bit in Wichita, and wanted to get back into it. I assumed this was a “normal” yoga studio—you know the kind where they do down dogs and warrior poses while sort of tiptoeing around the fact that there’s a higher purpose to all the movement? Kundalini Yoga is anything but usual, and it’s totally out of the closet when it comes to its spiritual nature.

In Kundalini, you pull energy up your spine and through the seven chakras, working to balance the power-centers in your body. You focus on your body, mind, and soul being in unison. You quiet your thinking and let the stillness of a calm mind heal you. There are literally thousands of kriya for doing this, and pretty much any problem you’re having can be dealt with on your yoga mat. Weird energy or high stress at work? Mediate to release irrationality! Difficult boss? Ego eradicator! Want to manifest something specific, like say new friends or a more money? There’s a mantra you can sing! Addicted to Internet porn? There’s even a literal butt-kicking series that will help you harness your sexual energy! There’s a reason some people call it Kundalooney—it sounds bazaar until you give it a try.

It was in the range of this odd practice and within the science of its motions that I began to find my own footing in the new city that I now call home—and on a deeper level that I began to feel truly and wholly at peace. Loneliness gave way to a divine self-examination and allowed me to go deep—really deep into issues I’d never resolved. In Kundalini Yoga, we have a mantra that’s a constant refrain: Sat Nam. Loosely translated, it means “truth is my name.” There’s no segmenting parts of yourself when it comes to stepping in to your divine truth.

As a gay man who grew up attending a fundamentalist Christian school and came of age during the heyday of right-wing Christianity dominating our politics, I had divorced my spiritual self from my sexual self. Most of us who are gay feel at some point that we have to make a choice between being who we are or being true to our religion. I choose to be honest, and in doing so had to acknowledge the truth that Christianity (and organized religion in general) wasn’t the path for me. For my entire adult life, I pretty much left it there. Yet, somehow I could never leave behind the guilt and the shame that far too often accompanies the reality of being gay.

We busted through the closet door, survived an epidemic, lived our lives out in the open and among opposition, and have now won the right to march down the aisle to marry. Yet all of those battles have left us shell-shocked as a community and in need of healing on a deep and profound level.

Within Kundalini Yoga, I found an integrated acceptance that I’ve never known. I’ve discovered a practice that I can come to as an out gay man where I can sit equally and without shame. Once I got serious about the practice, I started to find a community of like-minded people on a similar journey. And recently, I’ve found a spiritual home in Venice where I’m making new friends and collaborating my talents.

I’m not in Kansas anymore, but I am very much still on the range—a never-ending horizon of deep discovery that’s guided by something greater than me. I acknowledge my spiritual self, and because of that I am very much proud to be a homo!

I went over a year without updating this blog because I really didn’t know how I could be “homo on the range” in California. Now I understand that the range stretches far beyond the prairies, and that gay people everywhere have continual expansion to do themselves, no matter where we live! I’m going to start updating this again regularly, though instead of the whole gay boy in Kansas shtick, this will focus on the spiritual path that’s unfolding as I step out of shame and claim the divine nature of having incarnated as a gay man.

I guess I’ll never be Carrie Bradshaw. That’s ok. I can settle for Sat Nam in the City!

The Gay Agenda

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Talking over the gay agenda with Randy Roberts Potts.
Photo by Robin Dorner

The Gay Agenda

That’s a buzz phrase designed to elicit alarm and entice anxieties. It implies that gay people have different intentions and an alternative itinerary than those who are straight. The religious right has used those words as a rallying call for decades. Their alarming rhetoric has historically worked pretty well to divide us in places like Wichita; however, a new reality has emerged that is disarming fear and replacing it with something much less titillating—the bore of reality!

Thanks to Randy Roberts Potts, grandson of the famous Pentecostal televangelist Oral Roberts, you can see exactly what the gay agenda looks like. Taking a page from his late grandfather’s penchant for affecting the masses, Potts is embarking on a performance arts odyssey that is showing Middle America just what it means to be gay. There’s no better illustration for “homo on the range” than what he is doing! It’s not as raucous, edgy, or even avant-garde as it might sound, though. That is, unless you consider watching television, making dinner, and playing video games to be acts of prime subversion.

“The Gay Agenda” is centered on the notion of showing audiences in mid-size conservative towns across America what domesticity looks like for same-sex couples. A “home” is set up inside a vacant storefront and a male or female couple essentially lives a fishbowl existence for a period of time over a couple of days. Passersby can see two women holding hands on the sofa while watching the evening news or witness a guy play X-Box while his boyfriend prepares dinner. Occasionally the floor will be vacuumed. Sometimes coffee will be made. Regularly, friends stop by for a visit.  This is the stuff that has the likes of Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann foaming at the mouth with disgust!

The “Gay Agenda”, as conceived, is actually pretty dull. The reality this performance mirrors, though, is anything but boring. This is a live action, real time demonstration of what has been happening in the culture for the last decade—and yes, even happening here in Wichita. As gay people have come out of the closet, straight people have been forced to witness their lives on full display. They’ve discovered there isn’t a whole of difference in terms of the daily schemas of our lives. It isn’t often that one gets to consciously witness cultural transformation as it happens, but with this mission, that’s exactly what is going on. Passersby in locales that might not have open dialogues about the issues surrounding sexual orientation are immediately transported into this conversation when they see the make-shift storefronts. Potts himself is often outside with volunteers, engaging them in discussions about what is taking place and challenging them to examine their own, internal hesitancies.

The fact that Potts’ linage is so closely aligned with American religious fundamentalism really speaks to the core struggles that take place in a town like Wichita. Religion is an important force in the lives of many. Gay rights activists cannot hope that people will disregard their deeply held faiths in favor of secular acceptance. Gone are the days when we must divorce our spirituality to accept our sexuality. Oral Roberts isn’t the only fundamentalist Christian to foster gay ancestors. I’m sure you know several folks here in town who are people of faith and also people with a beloved gay relative. The key challenge for the gay rights movement in this country will be winning over the hearts and minds in the middle of America. To do that, we have to meet people where they are—and in Wichita, a lot of them are at church. This subtle piece of performance art is a reminder that there is no “us” and “them”; we all have the same agenda…however boring it might be!

Randy Roberts Potts’  “The Gay Agenda” will be rolling through Middle America starting this spring. There are plans underway for stops in Kansas, including Wichita. I had a chance to visit with Potts in Oklahoma City when he and his partner inaugurated this instillation, and he was quite interested to see what’s stirring on the range. Stay tuned for more information!

If you’d like to help bring “The Gay Agenda” to Wichita, e-mail thehappygayagenda@gmail.com! You can also follow along and watch live streaming of the performances by visiting the Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/thegaygayagenda

Mind the Foxes

Image“There’s a fox in my backyard.”

That was the simplistic picture message Odin sent me on a winter afternoon. His random text was accompanied by an image of whitewashed woodland. A little red creature darted across the snowy terrain. Its bushy tail dusted a trail as he ran.

Initially, I was perplexed by the message’s random nature. Later, its profound depth entranced me.  It took a tragedy to shake meaning out of meagerness; Odin died unexpectedly a few months later.  He bequeathed me a fascination with all things foxy.

The occasional apocalypse is necessary for the long-term evolution of the soul. Old habits, aged ideologies, and outdated practices have to be destroyed so that the individual can survive in an evolving world. Sometimes, it is not just a Phoenix that rises from the ashes. There are moments when we must mind the fox.

Odin’s fox was going somewhere; he was on a mission. The where and why were irrelevant. It was only the advent of his interloping that mattered in that moment.

Odin saw what others missed. Maybe that is the up side to having a disordered personality. The frame of his mind minded not the fences we tend to put around ourselves. In a smart-phone society, we lose focus on what is in front of us. If it is not on Facebook, we do not know about it. If it is not in our iCal, we are not there.  Most of our actions are premeditated; much of our existence is preordained by the rigid schedule we box ourselves into. We get so consumed by the details of our life that we often forget to live. We miss the foxes in our own backyard.

And sometimes, we forget about the foxes in our bedrooms! Odin’s message reminded me that I had a fuzzy creature in my own midst.

His name was Victor. He was an unassuming, fluffy toy-animal. My parents gave him to me on my fifth birthday. I vividly remember unwrapping a round, red box and finding a furry, stuffed creature snuggled inside. When my eyes met his synthetic gaze, I knew we would be companions for life.

“I want Victor to be my friend when I’m 100 years old!” I exclaimed. “We’ll go everywhere together.”

We did. That day, we went camping by a lake in Ohio with my mom and dad. A few months later, we ventured to Arizona and explored deserts with my grandparents. Later, we moved to North Carolina. We explored the kudzu-laden woods of “Tarheel Land” as I pretended to be the Nintendo hero Link, on a mission to save Princess Zelda. We went to Myrtle Beach with my aunts every spring. We visited my cousin in the mountains of West Virginia every summer. We really did go everywhere together.

As I got older, I stopped impersonating video game heroes; I also stopped playing with my toy fox.  Life changed. My parents divorced. I moved to Kansas with my mom. I came out of the closet. I went to college. I ran for office. There really was no constant to weave together my disjointed life; none but a furry fox named Victor.

Though he had always been a fixture in every bedroom I have inhabited, I somehow forgot about him. Odin’s picture message jolted my brain. I called him up and exclaimed proudly that while he had a fox in his backyard, I had a fox inside my apartment. Odin was captivated when I sent him my own fox pic.

“Why didn’t you ever tell me about Victor?” he asked. “We’ve talked all these years and finally I’m impressed by something of yours! Send me one picture of him every day for a month.”

It took a lot to impress Odin.  Throughout our relationship, I tried in vain to astonish him with my arty lifestyle, political career, menagerie of friends, and zest for exotic food. The things I thought I loved always annoyed him. We found our common denominator in a fox.

For a month, I sent him a picture of Victor posed in different places, behind unique paintings, and with blends of various people. Each photo was an opportunity for us to connect. He listened with interest when I filled in the details of where and with whom Victor was socializing each day. Eventually, that led to me telling him about all the places Victor had been over the years and about all of the very real events he had seen unfold before his plastic eyes.

Victor saw my dad throw my mom onto her bed and force himself inside her when she refused to take him back after their separation.  He saw me cry when my friend Glenn told me we could no longer talk because I was not a good Christian anymore. Victor saw the joy on my face when my best friend Mary moved to Kansas to live with me. He saw the pain in my eyes when she left to marry a guy she had only know for a few months. Victor’s fur was splashed with champagne the night Democrats regained control of Congress in 2006; his fuzzy façade was bathed in tears the night I pulled the plug on my own political career by dropping out of the city council race.

Maybe my life was not so disjointed after all. The more I talked about what Victor had seen, the more I began to realize that it was really just one big fox trot!

The more of Victor’s visions I shared, the more of Odin’s adventures I became privy to.

“Victor shouldn’t have to just see your life,” Odin announced one night. “So, I guess I’ll have to tell him a little about mine. Put him on the phone. I guess you can listen, too”

Every night, Odin would call with a different story to tell Victor. I grabbed the fox, and sat him and my Blackberry on my lap. We listened intensely as Odin’s voice penetrated the speakerphone. He told Victor about the time his father threw him out of their house and into the cold street because he could not memorize a section of the Koran at the age of five. He related the pain he felt when most of his family disowned him for being gay. He cried a little bit when he recalled being banished from his mosque at fifteen. He regaled the exploits of living for a happy summer in New York City. He remarked that Obama’s election brought him hope that we would one day live in a pluralistic society. He talked openly about the anguish his muddled mind brought to him.  He wished out loud that his personality was not so disordered.  He admitted that he craved connection and belonging; he was raw, vulnerable, and bare in enumerating his yearnings. He bemoaned that he had one too many strikes against him to ever be happy.

Eventually, Odin and I were talking beyond the fox. We were communicating with each other. We came to know, understand, and love deeply. We were men having an incorporeal connection; I never knew a plush toy could be so therapeutic.

I also did not understand the relevance of what was happening. I was too busy living the many motions of my life to fully grasp what those foxes—one alive, one fake—were trying to show me. There was something about the construct of Odin’s mind that disallowed the rudimentary to take root too deeply. He saw the understated, simple things. To him, the artless was an advent.

Odin’s untimely death was the personal apocalypse that opened up my eyes. It took the passing of one life to allow mine to move forward in a different way. Just like the fox in his backyard, Odin, too, was on a mission. His sojourn in this world ended all to soon. What he left behind is all too apparent.

Now, I mind the foxes in my own backyard. I seek out forgotten confidantes. I try to focus more on the simple beauty in front of me and less on the noisy distractions that abound. In doing this, I have become illuminated by the majesty that surrounds my ever evolving life.

Boomer Boomerang

Impact is measured by a convergence of people, place, and time. Grasping particular circumstances and harnessing a certain momentum at a critical point in history can leave a palpable legacy. Fifty years ago, a flagrant force began to stir subdued souls.

To everything, turn, turn.

Boxed into black and white suburbia, restless youth wanting more than company salaries and pallid picket fences began to rebel. What ensued is a decade that will forever be engrained into our national psyche. A controversial war was killing youths by the thousands. Protesters were rising up.  A civil rights movement was changing social and legal possibilities for blacks and women. A sexual revolution was “freeing love”, redefining many social mores. A sense that a new generation was going to alter the course of history permeated. In the end, change did come to fruition in countless areas. However, many of the promises that came with the times were ultimately unkept. A backlash ensued.

Sometimes, the energy of a particular period never fades. It marinates. It reincarnates, rebuffed and refined.

There’s evidence that the spirit of the sixties is manifesting itself in the youth culture of today. Much of popular art, music, and fashion harkens back to that psychedelic era. Listen to the music and analyze the fashion of popular groups like MGMT, The Dandy Warhols, and even the Jonas Brothers. You’ll see a boomeranging not just in style, but also with substance. Vintage has definitely come in vogue in other facets of life, too. With that comes an appreciation for not just material objects, but also the spirit of the time in which they were manufactured. It’s a badge of honor among many twenty and thirty-somethings to find a majority of their wardrobe at a thrift store. As “hipsters”, “scenesters”, and other millennial sub-groups purchase psychedelic frocks from the shelves of Urban Outfitters and pilgrimage to IKEA for simplistic, yet styled furniture, they’re making a statement about their values.

More important that commerce, though, are cultural conditions. Another unpopular war is being waged. Advances in civil rights, this time for gays, are being sought. Technology is changing how we interact socially and do business globally. An economy turned on its head is leading to a re-examination of fundamental values and expectations. There’s a lot of uncertainty, but with that comes yet another chance for a generation to leave an indelible imprint on the tapestry of history.

As energy is re-birthed, it is also redefined. There’s a key difference in the change in styles and mores among today’s youth. This isn’t a rebellion. This is simply a “propellion”—a forward moving evolution. We’re different from our parents. What we value is different. How we see the world is divergent. However, we aren’t living our lives in opposition to the mores of the generation that birthed us. Old ideologies simply don’t work for us. We have our own rendezvous with destiny, and this is our moment to live history. In this, perhaps, we can finally fulfill some of those seemingly utopian broken promises, sans backlash.

A time to heal? There is a season. Turn. Turn.

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