Beyond Your Peripheral Vision
We live in Hawaii, where civil unions between same sex couples have been a hot issue. I wonder what drives our collective resistance to gay and lesbian marriage these days. To avoid nonproductive anger at the seeming ignorance of the masses, I attempt instead to understand. I must remember a time when I was afraid of everything.
Coming from parents who carried their share of post-Depression era/post-WWII jitters, I spent most of my youth in deep distress. A fundamentalist religious upbringing did little to assuage conflicting emergent points of view. I was not very broadly informed, as few of us were at that age unless our parents were university scholars. Perhaps not even then. I did observe however, that religion seemed to give folks an excuse to practice the most un-Christ-like behavior.
When I was fourteen I stopped going to church. I began to question everything, began searching. I bought beautifully illustrated books from the Hare Krishnas at the airport, went to the Good News bible classes with my friend Margie. I read The Desiderada, e.e. cummings, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Anais Nin, Lawrence Durrell. I listened to folk poets Phil Ochs, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Joan Baez. Later I cruised transvestite bars in Laurel Canyon with a friend. I was eager to immerse myself in alternative culture such as it was, always looking for the stretch, the shock. I don’t know what compelled me, except to seek out the opposite of everything I had been taught. There was no logic, only feeling – as for me, the discomfort came not so much from hatred but from lack of exposure.
Years later and well into my thirties, I prickled in certain circumstances when forced to choose a course of action, a word, an emotion, a reaction to something or someone that was different. And although I well knew what it was like to feel like the odd one out, it was still easier to poke fun at differences in people rather than to accustom myself to feeling anxious in their presence until I got to know them better. Until I was able to reflect deeply enough to ascertain what the real issues were, those authentic sensations behind my apprehension, I was not at ease in my own skin.
Now that I have lived awhile in this world – now that I’ve experienced a full enough range of human responses to love, lust, joy, greed, envy, fear, grief pain and sorrow – I find too little time in life for anything but seeking and practicing absolute and unconditional love. It is the one power I can exert with moral and spiritual impunity. For all people, all sentient beings, all the wondrous and diverse forms of creation that seek its expression, deserve no less.