Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Building the Temple... In Our Hearts

I wish I could go to the temple... I really do. There was a time when the thought of going to the temple really upset me. Frightened me. Made me feel anxious and guilty. But there were also times when I really enjoyed the peaceful feeling I felt there. My favorite part of going to the temple was after the endowment ceremony, when I could just sit in the Celestial Room and rest, and pray, and feel at peace with God and with myself. One of the tragedies of my life is that -- as a struggling student at BYU -- the one time in my life when I most desperately needed that, it was abruptly taken away from me. And I almost didn't survive that... And I've been in exile from the temple ever since. But now I've acquired a larger understanding of life that puts those parts of the temple ceremony that once frightened me into perspective. So I wish I could go there again now, and re-experience it with that larger understanding. What would it mean to me now?

This morning I read the Book of Haggai. It's only two chapters long, and probably one of the most ignored books in the Bible. But it should have special significance to Latter-day Saints, because it's all about turning our hearts back toward the temple. Haggai points out how we allow ourselves to get caught up in meaningless, worldly cycles; chasing after things that keep us busy, but that lead nowhere; pursuing wealth and status and material well-being that somehow ultimately vanish; the proverbial stashing of coins in pockets that have holes in them. Turn your hearts toward something that has permanence and meaning, cried Haggai. Turn your hearts toward the temple!

There are, of course, plenty of Haggai-like cries echoing throughout the world today. But it bears repeating that building a tabernacle with the words "House of the Lord" blazoned over the entrance does not a House of the Lord make. There are millions of false temples and idolatrous sanctuaries. There are everywhere supposedly consecrated buildings that merely provide religious window dressing for the shallow chase after wealth, power and status -- or, for bigotry and hate. But even a true temple, even a pure and holy temple becomes impure and false and unholy if our hearts are not steadfast. Haggai reminds us of this. Something true and pure is so easily corrupted. All it takes is a touch, a breath, an intention.

The true temple can only be built in one place: in our hearts. Everything else physical and material emanates from that. So this is what I remind myself as I prepare to return to the temple some day, as I prepare to find myself again some day in that place of peace and light: it is first and foremost in my heart. The temple was right here inside of me all along.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Remaking Myself

I've been working feverishly the last few weeks to complete a series of animated short movies based on three (fairly recent) dreams, to present at Patrick's Cabaret on October 3 and 4.

The third and final animation I'm working on is entitled "Different Me's," and includes portrayals of Heaven, the cosmos, and a prehistoric (Jurassic age) earth. In the penultimate scene of this animation, a cartoon version of myself sits in a room at a work table (a room I've dubbed "God's workshop" in my script notes). In front of my cartoon self on the work table, hanging dark and lifeless on a model stand, is a realistic (photographic) image of myself, naked (except for briefs! -- representing my physical body), next to an identical, translucent, image of myself that is seemingly made of white light (representing my spirit). Surrounding these representations are a bowl full of blood (representing mortality), an oil lamp with a flickering flame (representing knowledge acquired in mortality), a key (representing mortal roles and callings), a small bottle of oil (representing priesthood), a glowing purple sphere (representing my intelligence), a glowing white sphere (representing the light of Christ, or conscience), and a small gold ring (representing family and eternity). In this scene I am working with God's assistance and guidance to create a perfect, future version of myself.

I set out preparing this scene for a very brief segment of the animation matter-of-factly. But as the scene gradually came together, as I slowly but surely assembled all of the animation layers collage-like together onto the same screen, I found strange emotions welling up. It finally came to the point that I was so overwhelmed with emotion I couldn't continue. At first it was difficult for me to put my finger on the emotions; I'm not sure I fully understood them. They were rich and complex. They mirrored the emotions I felt when I had the dream this animation is based on in the first place. It was a powerful dream, which is why I chose it to create a visual representation of.

Gradually I have been able to name some of this welter of emotions: deep satisfaction, joy, sadness, pain, regret, gratitude, peace, excitement, anticipation, awe, longing, fear! Strange, conflicting emotions! And so intense! Something about artistically visualizing this scene triggered these emotions with an intensity that just thinking and writing about it could not. I've never had an experience like this before!

I don't completely understand why this particular part of my project moved me this way. I feel slightly crazy, more out-of-control emotionally than usual! But I am glad I did this. I am glad I am working on this project, because I realize that I have tapped into something important, something I really need to approach. I feel above all a deep sense of satisfaction that I have portrayed some spiritual reality that is fundamental, something I need to come to terms with...

Friday, September 19, 2008

My World Premier as an Animator

The last few months I've been doing something I have always wanted to do ever since I was a little kid.... I've been creating my very own animated cartoons!

I will be presenting my very first creations to the public on Friday, October 3 and Saturday, October 4, at Patrick's Cabaret. The show starts at 8:00 p.m., and the Cabaret is located at 3010 Minnehaha Ave S, Minneapolis. Tickets are $10, and you can buy them at the door, or you can make reservations.

My presentation is called "Night Visions," and will consist of 3 animated shorts between 2 and 5 minutes in length. Each short will be a representation of one of the many bizarro dreams I've had. "Revolutionary Filmmaker" is about my relationship with strange, mechanical objects. "Hitler Scholar" is about Adolf Hitler's repeated attempts to assassinate me. "Different Me's" is about... Well, it's just strange. I can't describe it, you'll just have to see it.

For those of you who can't make it to the Cabaret all the way up here in Minnesota, I eventually plan to publish my animations on YouTube.... But the rest of you, I hope I'll see you at Patrick's in October!

Monday, September 15, 2008


Last night I had a peculiar dream....

Göran and I were in the back seat of a car. We were being driven; I was not at the wheel, not in control of where we were going. The person at the wheel was V.W. the (former, though in my dream still current) choir director of Lyndale United Church of Christ. She was (naturally) taking us to a choir rehearsal. She drove us to the parking lot of a church, and then we began the search for a parking place. Not any parking place, but the parking place that was specially reserved specifically for us. We couldn't find it, so we knew this church was not the place where we were supposed to go to choir rehearsal. So we went on to the next potential rehearsal site, a school. Similarly there we could not find our place, so on to the next place, and so on and on. In my dream we never did find the right choir rehearsal. But before waking up, I found myself explaining to Göran that almost every church choir rehearsal in the world always took place the Wednesday or Thursday before a particular Sunday.

There is a dawn coming. There is a certain bridegroom coming to receive his bride. And we are waiting. For us gay Christians, waiting for the bridegroom, and waiting to find our rightful place, the place reserved for us, the place that designates us as rightful heirs to the kingdom along with everyone else, for us those two waitings are the same. And woe to those who would keep us out, because the bridegroom is coming.

Göran and I were not in the driver's seat in my dream, because, as is true for every human being, as is true of the human condition, we are not fully in control of our destiny. All we can do is prepare ourselves. We can make sure we're in the car, on the road, on the search, doing the best we can to get there. But there's only so much we can control, and then we must learn to patiently wait. There's a peace that comes from learning that. (About which I want to post more later....)

After recording my dream and saying my morning prayers, and reflecting on my place in the Universe... As I do every weekday morning I knocked on Glen's bedroom door to make sure he was awake for school before I left. Glen was already awake, which was unusual. As I wished him well for the day and gave him a hug goodbye, there were tears in his eyes.

"Is there something wrong with me?" he asked, his voice cracking.

Talk about a way to break a parent's heart.

I stopped. I thought about the question for a moment. Where was this coming from? "Nothing that's not wrong with every other teenager in the world," I replied smiling.

"I had a terrible dream..." he said. And then he recounted to me a dream of the fulfillment of his worst fear, his fear of losing everything. It was the nightmare that he has been living over and over again for the last three years of his life.

"Nothing's wrong with you," I said, "You just had that nightmare because that's your worst fear. But that's not going to happen. Göran and I will never let that happen."

We hugged again, and this time he was comforted and there were tears of gratitude. "Thank you," he said, "Thank you!"

That was amazing too. A teen saying "Thank you."

"See you after school," I said.

I marveled as I left the house (just before sunrise now, thanks to the shifting seasons) how we are all waiting; how our waiting is reflected in our dreams. Waiting for fears to recede, waiting for the night to end; waiting for Sunday, waiting for the choir performance (no more rehearsals!), for the bridegroom, for our place in the kingdom of God....

Patiently waiting!