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I Still Support Gay Marriage

I support gay marriage.

It doesn’t matter whether the bodies of the betrothed couple are both male, both female, or one of each. We’re going to discard the bodies anyway, after 80 years or so. And what is left is the journey: gay, straight, or bi, people have an inalienable right to the dignity of a journey that includes marriage.

Any two consenting adults over the age of 18 should be allowed to marry. Moreover, they should be congratulated and supported on this momentous undertaking. Marriage is unfathomably hard. It’s painful in too many ways to articulate. You have to live it to really grok the exquisite mental, emotional, and relational agony that is marriage.  Two people committing to it need all the help they can get from their community. They are co-creating a fundamental unit of society, and should be bolstered and praised for that effort.

I suppose some people object to what is perceived as an overly promiscuous lifestyle that can be part of the gay community. I never liked that either–if it was true. But I don’t like excessive promiscuity in straight people, either. There’s a point where healthy sexual exploration becomes soul-numbing, heart-deadening–that’s not good for anyone, whether straight or gay.

But gay people who want to get married are acting, it would seem, to settle down into a life of open-hearted, soul-united monogamy. So how could a promiscuous gay lifestyle be used as an excuse to oppose gay marriage? I just don’t understand.

Are people really that concerned about which body part goes where? Why should it matter?

On Beauty
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On Beauty

On Beauty

I have been reading Rumi.

I do this whenever I am heartsick, soulsick. Usually it’s for something I can’t identify, though there’s always some exterior thing like a convenient hook to hang it on: my dog bit my little one and had to be surrendered; my 14-year-old told me a great big whopper; my in-laws have rejected their own grand-daughter and disinherited my husband as a means to communicating their supreme dislike of me; my husband is cranky with exhaustion and overwork and a long string of fourteen hour days; the publishing industry is in a stupid place, and largely, in my view, because publishers publish the same damn crap rather than searching out interesting work, and then they wonder why people don’t want to buy it; our financial situation is fraught, as is our situation with our two former spouses…. There’s no end to people and matters that will serve as an excuse. Rumi says, “Everyone chooses a suffering that will change him or her to a well-baked loaf.”

But I think that is preferable to avoiding the suffering, and failing to rise. That happens, too.

So there is all this stuff amenable to being blamed for my anguish, not to mention that it is that time of the month. But is the body or its relationships or its contexts really the reason for this melancholy seeking without an end?

Yesterday this poem of Rumi’s manifest itself to me, in a moment of bibliomancy, or at least I like to think that the Divine was smiling wryly at all my flailing about, and granted me this mouthful of grace.

Coleman Barks calls it THE MOST ALIVE MOMENT:

“The most living moment comes when
those who love each other meet each
other’s eyes and in what flows
between them then. To see your face
in a crowd of others, or alone on a 
frightening street, I weep for that.
Our tears improve the earth. The
time you scolded me, your gratitude,
your laughing, always your qualities
increase the soul. Seeing you is a 
wine that does not muddle or numb.
We sit inside the cypress shadow
where amazement and clear thought
twine their slow growth into us.”

(THE SOUL OF RUMI, translations by Coleman Barks.)

I cried after I read it. I found excuses to cry all day. It’s something I rarely do. And then my husband showed me this photo on his iPhone of his Apollo’s outstretched arm. Even in process, it was beautiful: gesture and form, a supreme example of artistry. I cried some more, alone, in my bathroom, so no one knew I was being so silly. And I remembered why this man, this life, this set of choices that has led to this moment in all its bittersweet, empty fullness.

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My husband is selling some plaster copies of his bronze sculptures on eBay. He came home last night dressed in his usual grungy, clay-spattered jeans and ragged tee-shirt with red iron-oxide patina stains. He trudged into the kitchen where I was cooking dinner for our little one, kissed me on the crown of my head, and tread back out. I followed him to see why his hands were so dark. Sitting on our dining room table was PERSISTENCE.
I gaped: this is a powerful, stunning piece of art. His muscles bulge under the compression of gravity, his mighty thews heave with will and determination, his veins strain and pop-out. It’s anatomically plu-perfect, hyper-real in accordance with modern taste, but classically designed and conceived in its male nudeness. It is sensory exaltation. It is an experience of revealed truth.
It’s easy for me to forget, in the dailyness of our life together, that my husband Sabin Howard is a singularly talented artist. Grumbling about his messiness, his clothes left out for me to put away, and his penchant for over-peppering every plate of food he cooks, I lose sight of his extraordinary ability. No one else can sculpt like him. No other working figurative sculptor sculpts at Sabin’s level. No one has sculpted as well as Sabin since, who, Carpeaux? And there is an argument to made that, historical place aside, Sabin is a better sculptor than Carpeaux, who tended to a saccharine quality. Don’t get me wrong, I love the sweetness in Carpeaux’s figures. But for sheer mastery, Sabin’s got him beat. Michelangelo, Bernini, Cellini, Howard: these are the great master sculptors.
Even if I do have to wash out the sink after Sabin shaves.

Inquiry & Redemption

My husband and I went to marriage counseling this morning. Between us, we have four children, his daughter, my two daughters, and the mischievous little minx we have together. We’re a modern blended family, with all the complications that brings, in addition to the usual stresses of married life: finding time for romance, communication, finances, dealing with teenagers. As we shared our stories, the counselor prompted us to turn our statements into questions. “Inquire of the other,” he said. “The more you define the other person, the farther you get from actually knowing them.”

It’s a point well taken. I think back to all the times my former husband told me who I was: “You’re crazy!” was probably his favorite definition of me. And every time he made like Webster’s this way, I would look at him and wonder if we inhabited the same planet, and what mirror he was trying to look through to see me. Of course, I did, and do, the same thing. I’ve been known to tell my current husband that he lacks the compassion gene.
“But turn that into a question,” said the counselor.
“So are you feeling cold and uncaring in that moment?” I managed to ask, with only a little bit of squirming. It really didn’t kill me to ask.
“I’m feeling scared,” my husband admitted, “that I don’t know how to fix this for you, and you’ll get angry with me. I’m trying to protect myself.”
Inquiry has broader implications than promoting understanding between wife and husband. At the end of the session, the counselor shared an observation. “I travel a lot. I’m in the Muslim world for a few weeks every year. I listen to them talk about Americans. They don’t know diddly about Americans. They think they do, but they don’t. Then I come home and listen to Americans talk about Muslims. They don’t now diddly about Muslims. I keep wondering, when will we all sit down and inquire of each other? Inquire and discover?
“But we won’t do that. And so we’ll go to war. A hundred years war, devastating, all because we won’t inquire.”