As we sat around the dinner table at my college reunion, one of my classmates told the story of a friend who left his wife. My classmate saw what might be described as the friend’s awakening to his sexual orientation. She told her friend and his estranged wife that she thought he was gay. Something both the friend and the estranged wife denied, but soon enough, the friend came out as gay.
Another classmate at the table talked about when he came out, only to find that his friends knew before he knew. It is easy to think about this in terms of concepts like ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ and ‘male’ or ‘female’ are social constructs. It is easy to think about this in terms of others knowing us better than we do.
So, I am struggling with my own identity, not along gender or sexual orientation lines, but more on philosophical and theological lines. We do I believe?
I’ve chosen the title of this post to be ‘Coming Out as a Post Structural Christian Mystic Poet’. A high school classmate of mine who is a writer looking for ideas to write about asked her friends on Facebook for topics, and I suggested Post Structuralist Christian Mysticism.
I don’t know if ‘Post Structural Christian Mystic Poet’’ is really a label that fits me. Each part of the phrase needs so much unpacking. Is my thinking post structuralist? I just participated in #rhizo15 where we explored Deleuze and Guattari. I’m not sure my thinking is any more clearer now than it was before #rhizo15 started, but I found the ideas appealing.
Of course the concept ‘Christian’ is also a social construct. People have been fighting for centuries about what it means to be ‘Christian’. I self-identify as ‘Christian’, even though it seems less as less popular to do so these days. The same can be said about mysticism.
As to being a poet, that is a similarly slippery slope. Who really is a poet? What really is poetry? Can I call myself a poet without being pretentious?
Of course the combination of these nebulous terms creates something even more nebulous. Can some of these terms even be used together or are they contradictory?
With this, I return to the idea of coming out. When my classmate talked about coming out as gay, many people already seemed to know. So, can I call myself a Post Structuralist Christian Mystic Poet? Will some of you say, “Well, of course. That’s what you are. We always knew it.” Will others say, “No, those ideas are contradictory.”
What do you think a ‘Post Structuralist Christian Mystic Poet’ really is, and do you think it applies to me?
Earlier today, a friend posted on Facebook
What do you think? Yesterday I said, "racism makes "good" people do "hate-filled" things." I believe there are different kinds of racists -- some are conscious and focused, cruel people (whom I can't do much with) but many are oblivious and unaware. Yes, some of my "friends" are naively racist. They are good people raised in non-integrated environments who go to church, try to do right, but have absorbed dominant culture ways around people of color. They have lived an unexamined life when it comes to race and might hold their purse tighter when the unknown black man gets on the elevator. Do you think good people can be racists? Perhaps I need to hold on to hope.
In my news feed, it came right after a link to an article in the Hartford Courant, 17 Arrested After Blocking Hartford Road During Rush Hour.
Police arrested 17 protesters who blocked Central Row during rush hour Monday afternoon as part of a Moral Monday demonstration.
The protest began at 4 p.m. as protesters locked arms and stood in the street. Many held signs saying "Black Lives Matter."
Immediately following my friend’s post was a link to Texas Cop Caught on Video Going on Violent Rampage at Pool Party.
Here is the comment I left in response to my friend’s post:
I tend to think that racism, and other 'isms' is part and parcel of the human condition. To speak in theological terms, of being sinners, of being fallen people. To speak in psychological terms, the fear of the 'other'. Who is like me? Who is different? Who is a good person? Who is a sinner? Who is a racist? Who is deeply loved by God?
To me, that last question ties it all nicely together. I strongly believe that God deeply loves me, in spite of things I've done. I strongly believe that God deeply loves those I would consider racist. I strongly believe that God deeply loves that that would consider me racist. In that, no matter what your skin color is, your reaction to other people's skin color, your gender, your sexual orientation, your reaction any of this, at the most underlying level, you are no longer 'other', you are just like me, deeply loved by God.
Perhaps, proclaiming this radical nature of God's love is core to combating racism and other 'isms'.
(Preface) I set up Orient Lodge over ten years ago as a place where I could consolidate much of my writing. My writing has changed style from time to time, and currently, I’m writing in a more personal style.
This weekend, I attended my college thirty-fifth reunion. They’ve always been strange events for me, since I never graduated. The college required an ‘Independent study’ (IS) thesis. My thesis was not accepted and I was told if I wanted a degree, I could write a new thesis. Instead, I left, saying that I had come for an education, and not necessarily a degree, and I had gotten my education.
When people asked for details, I would talk about a great course I had been taking on Virginia Woolf and how I had gotten very interested in stream of consciousness writing. I wrote my thesis in a stream of consciousness manner maintaining we needed to view Socrates as an anarchist. Neither the style nor the content was deemed acceptable by my advisor.
Of course like any story, that’s just part of it, and another aspect became more obvious to me at the reunion as I listened to the college president talk about the reframing of IS.
To me, IS was a test, an ordeal. Yet the college is now reframing IS as ‘mentored undergraduate research’. If my advisor had been a mentor, instead of an adversary, which might have happened if the professor that led me to becoming a philosophy major hadn’t of been on sabbatical during my senior year, things might have been very different. If there had been courses on post-structuralism things might have been very different. But that’s not what happened.
Yet I still greatly value the education I received there and the friendships that were established there. My two older daughters have both received their undergraduate degrees. One has received a graduate degree and the other will soon be applying to a graduate program.
In this twenty-first century post-structuralist world, the nature of institutions, like those of high education and religion are being rethought. They are being challenged. Some of this comes from a materialism that values careers over a liberal education.
I’ve watched as the president and board of Sweet Briar College attempt to shut it down, and I hope those trying to save Sweet Briar are successful. I’ve been tempted to contribute to Saving Sweet Briar, but funds are tight. We still need to save for my youngest daughter’s college education, and, at least as far as I can remember, I never donated to my alma mater.
However, this year, my classmates who are very involved in the college urged everyone to donate. The percentage of alumni donating is an important statistic for those analyzing colleges. So, I made a small donation when I signed up for the reunion.
At the alumni association meeting, they talked about millennials being more involved in volunteer activities than their parents were at the same age, and I thought about fundraising for millennials. A popular idea is to ‘pay it forward’, and colleges seeking to attract young donors might find this an interesting approach. Instead of donating because of what you got out of college, donate to ‘pay it forward’ to future generations of incoming students. Pay it forward to help keep expenses down. Pay it forward to build up funds available for scholarships.
I doubt my youngest daughter will attend Wooster. She seems more interested in her mother’s alma mater. Yet if we were truly a pay it forward society, and money wasn’t so tight, instead of saving for my daughter’s education, I’d be paying it forward to my alma mater, to my wife’s alma mater, and, for that matter, to my elder daughter’s alma mater and to Sweet Briar.
It seems like the same could or should apply to churches, but that’s probably a different blog post.
It is Sunday evening and I should be in bed by now, but we’ve just gotten home from my college reunion. There is so much to reflect on, smiles in selfies, paying it forward with colleges and churches, Ingress updates, coming out as a post structuralism Christian mystic, transformational presidential politics, time lapse photography using security cameras, and Miranda’s Tiny House project.
These are mostly notes to myself of blog posts I need to write. But for tonight, I will keep it simple. After a long drive, we are home. I’m tired, I’m hungry, and I’ll start digging out from all that’s piled up during my past few days while I was mostly offline, mostly thinking and talking with friends, but not writing much.
Kim and I sat in the beautiful new auditorium. At least if was new since I attend the college thirty five years ago. On the stage we’re women attending their fiftieth reunion, talking about the challenges they faced as women in college in the sixties. These were students that had marched for civil rights and to end the war in Vietnam who went on to become prominent doctors, lawyers, and Foreign Service officers. They talked about the new opportunities that opened up to women with Title IX and expanded graduate school options. They talked about the hurdles they faced as women were expected to be sex objects to stay in graduate school, or good wives supplementing their husband’s work.
Things are so much better now, as we prepare to welcome our first female president of the college, right?
Before the next event, Kim and I stopped at the student snack bar and talked about a non-profit organization we are helping. We talked about addressing bullying. We need to help bullies, as well as the bullied. The discussion shifted to the bystanders. As long as people stand by and allow bullying to take place, and allow injustice to stand, bullying and injustice will thrive.
The next event was a gathering of classmates. One classmate brought up issues where she lived where money intended to help struggling school districts, especially those torn by racial strife, was being diverted to meet pension obligations in a chronically underfunded pension system. Another classmate spoke of an overtly sexist and offensive senior prank and school she teaches at. Yeah, some of those issues member of the class of 1965 fought against still need to be stood up to today.
Earlier in the day, I listened to the outgoing president of the college talk about how it was positioned for the coming years as liberal education faces challenges. He spoke from a great marketing perspective and the value of a Wooster education. Yet I had to pause and wonder about the underlying beliefs. As we prepare people for the twenty first century, where does faith fit in?
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
What are we leaving undone when we when we don’t talk to bystanders about loving our neighbors as ourselves?