Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Spaceship Humanity

Monday night I had a dream that the human race was living on an alien planet. It was sort of like Mars – the land was orange, the sky was orange, and it was very arid. We were building a giant spaceship to return home to earth.

The spaceship was enormous. It was so big, it was impossible to actually see the entire ship from the planet's surface, where we were working on it. We were assigned to work on the spaceship by family teams. Göran and I were part of my father's team.

Göran and I were at the site – the portion of the spaceship – that our team was assigned to. I saw signs of sabotage. Somebody had poured some greenish black, sticky, oil-like substance into some of the machinery of the spaceship. It looked like it was acidic, like it was eating up and destroying the machinery, and like it would stick to and burn anybody who tried to touch it, so I avoided touching it. I tried pointing out the sabotage to some of my other co-workers. Some laughed it off, and thought it was nothing, but some were concerned, and thought we should bring it to the attention of our supervisor.

We were living in apartments – everyone had temporary worker housing. I wanted to talk to my dad, so I went to my parents' apartment. My sister was there living with them. It was the middle of the night. I entered the front door, and their security system started to beep. I needed to punch in a code, or else the security system would alert the police. I knew the code – Dad had given it to me. But it was dark in his apartment, and I was having trouble entering it because I couldn't see the keypad. I tried entering the code a few times, but the system kept beeping. I hadn't wanted to turn on the light because I hadn't wanted to wake up the whole family, but finally realized I had too, or everyone would be disturbed when the security alarm started sounding. I turned on the light, and saw that the keypad had somehow gotten unplugged from the system, and that's why my efforts to enter the code hadn't been received into the system. I plugged it in, and reentered the code.


I've been thinking the last few days about the meaning of life. Last night, while I was doing a bit of Internet browsing, I came across a debate between Marvin Olasky and Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens laid out his case fairly eloquently. It was, in a word, that if God exists, he is the worst totalitarian despot that could possibly exist -- watching our every move and our every thought, and punishing us for the least nonconformity. Every atrocity in human history can be blamed on God's self-appointed messengers, who claim to speak for God in order to aggrandize themselves. But the good news, says Hitchens, is that the messengers are liars, because if they were telling the truth, that God actually does exist, there would no possibility, no hope of true human freedom or happiness -- only abject slavery for all eternity. (Hitchens' image of God bears such a striking resemblance to the kind of God that, in the Mormon reckoning, Satan would have been, had he gotten his way in the Council of Heaven!) Hitchens didn't bother me, but it did get me thinking about how we find meaning in life. Why is it that some of us find such tremendous comfort in the notion of God, and others seem revolted by it?

I've also been running into lots of, for lack of a better term, anti-gay stuff spouted by religious folks. I know I'm kind of a sucker for reading it. Part of me thinks, "OK, I need to know what these folks are saying, so I can respond to it intelligently." Especially, since I'm ear-deep in the anti-amendment campaign. But this stuff wears me down. It all boils down to the reasons why these folks think I'm broken or my family doesn't deserve recognition. So part of me realizes, maybe, to be healthy, I need to not read that stuff. I already know all this stuff. No need to be reminded. At least I've confirmed that, no, they don't really have anything new or insightful to say.

And then, I was sort of fishing around on this site, about the documentary Kendall Wilcox is putting together on gay Mormons. There's a lot of really great, incredible stuff on there. Very uplifting and encouraging and hopeful stuff.

I had a moment, though, of some old junk coming up when I listened to the interview with Ty and Danielle Mansfield. What I realized is that in my early 20s (back in the early 80s), I was seriously wounded by the messages I got about how the only appropriate path for me was marriage to a woman. By my junior year, I was suffocating... It was factor in the spiral of depression that almost led me to commit suicide in the summer of 1986. This was also why, after I resigned from the Church, I actually considered the possibility of a life of celibacy as a kind of liberation! In the LDS Church, that certainly wasn't considered an option back then. That culture of pressure to marry was just really, really painful for me as I came to terms with my gayness.

I understand what kind of path Ty is on. He hasn't been reckless in this. He's been open and honest and transparent. I don't think -- at least I've never heard him say or even imply -- that anybody else ought to follow the particular path he's chosen. I have tremendous respect for the way he's working out his salvation, and I'm genuinely happy for him having found a truly wonderful, blessed marriage.

Still, there are voices in my head that say things like: "See, he can do it? What's wrong with you?" And that brings me back to a kind of despair that's always threatened to derail me. This is my shit, not Ty's shit, and I own it. The only reason I mention it on my blog is because I think this is something that a lot of other gay folks in and out of the Church struggle with, and it has resulted in a fair amount of on-line venom directed at Ty and Danielle, when they deserve, instead, our love and support.


My dream -- about getting off an arid, alien planet -- I think, was the Spirit's answer to all these questions, fermenting in my brain.

Realization number 1. We're all in the same boat. And there's no hope of any kind of individual salvation that involves leaving others behind. There are no individual ships, no luxury cruisers for the privileged. In my dream, if you want to go home, you contribute to bringing everybody home.

Realization number 2. I'm expected to contribute. I have a role to play in that salvation, which is really about establishing the rule of love, the "higher law" of the gospel. I have a role to play that requires me to stop feeling sorry for myself -- "Oh, woe is me! Why is life so unfair?" Learning real love, real patience, and real humility is not easy. It requires the death of the ego. It requires us to listen and be silent. To concentrate. It's a message God's been transmitting to us for millennia, and we for the most part still just haven't gotten it. And this life is my chance -- wherever I stand in life -- to work at it, to try to get it.

In my dream, the spaceship we were building to bring humanity home was huge... It was so large it stretched off far beyond the horizon. All I could see of it was my small corner, the part of it I was supposed to be working on. That didn't mean I could afford not to do my part on it.

Realization number 3. There is opposition. There are opponents, there are saboteurs. The true saboteurs are not necessarily those who disagree with me about certain issues. They are, rather, those who are so trapped in ego that they can't see any way to deal with the world except through contention and a supremacy game. There are lots of folks on both sides of any "issue" who fall into that category. At one time or another, most of us have fallen into this category. In my dream, this kind of contention was represented by the sticky, acidic poison saboteurs had poured into the machinery of our spaceship. I knew that I could not even touch the stuff, without it sticking to me and burning me, so I left it alone, and decided to let our "supervisor" deal with it.

I imagine that the "supervisor" in question in my dream was the Lord. That's who I report this stuff to, any way. I give it to the Lord and let him take care of it.

Realization number 4. In my work of salvation, I am part of a "team." My team is my family. It includes Göran. Göran and I, as a team, are part of a larger team that includes my extended family, and that was represented in my dream by my parents.

God does not require any of us to do this work alone.

Realization number 5. Because there is opposition, because there are saboteurs, there is security, there are safeguards. This was represented in my dream by the security system in my father's house, that was designed to alert the police and alert my family of dangerous intruders. Since I was not an intruder, I had been given a code that would allow me to pass through the security system and enter my father's house. However, like any humanly administered security system, it is possible for there to be false alarms. In my dream, I had a rightful place in my father's house, but I wasn't able to enter my code because the keypad had been accidentally disconnected. By turning on the light, I was able to see what the problem was, reconnect the keypad, and then enter the code and have it received.

In my dream, I had worried about turning the lights on, because I didn't want to disturb my sleeping family. Isn't that often how it is in the Church? Aren't we often afraid to "shed new light" on a problem, because we're afraid that to do so will be perceived as disruptive? Don't we often just continue to fumble about in the dark, rather than to "make a fuss"?

But then I realized, it would be far more disruptive to let a false alarm be sounded. So I turned on the light, and sure enough, in the light I was able to perceive the true source of the problem -- not that I didn't have a valid code, not that I didn't belong in my father's house -- but a connection problem. In other words, a communication problem. The security system was simply not receiving my data. Isn't that in fact the primary problem that gay and lesbian folks in the Church have had? We've been transmitting data, we've been trying to tell our stories to Church members and leaders, but the data just hasn't been received yet. We need to stop fumbling about in the dark, turn on the lights and find some way to make that connection. I think, maybe, that connection is starting to be made.


Trev said...

I really like your conceptualization of the "opposition." I've been thinking about that quite a bit lately and have to agree.

J G-W said...

Thanks, Trev. Yes, so, the interesting thing about looking at "the opposition" this way, is that the moment we decide to contend, or try to "beat" them, we've essentially become the opposition.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Glad to see you've been able to describe this issue a little bit better. Wish my parents would read this... or perhaps it's better that they don't.


Neal said...

You have the most amazing dreams!

I loved this post - so very spot on...