Finale of Seem

There is a poem by Wallace Stevens, The Emperor of Ice-Cream, that I memorized during a poetry course at university. The message of the poem, in general, borders on hedonistic with its encouragement to enjoy life while one can. I wouldn’t consider myself a hedonist in really any sense so the poem sits a little awkwardly with me though I thoroughly enjoy it.

There is one line that came to me as precisely appropriate for this week. The narrator commands us: “Let be be finale of seem.” We are urged to let reality shine through illusion; to truly be who we are and relinquish, as much as we are able, the seem in our lives.

In preparation for Seattle Pride on Sunday, I finally got around to binging Queer Eye on Netflix. I knew, through the grapevine, that I had to get through at least the whole first season and the first episode of season two so that was what I did last Saturday (I have since finished season 2). And I was not disappointed.

The show is not at all my style. Though I have no qualms about watching awful television, my tastes strictly exclude reality TV of any sort. But I thought I’d make an exception for this, seeing as I still haven’t seen any Drag Race (my gay culture now is a strong desire for Antoni). The show is indeed worth a watch and I’m glad I got around to it.

Though not every episode made me tear up, it is consistently not about superficiality or selfishness or vanity (though it’s hard to avoid them altogether). It is about learning to love yourself, to value yourself, and let that then pour out of you into others.

Anyway. I did go to Pride and let me tell you, I was not adequately prepared by the Korean Queer Culture Festival last year. I brought my Korean/French rainbow fan from last year (it being the only rainbow thing I own) and met up with a friend who lives in Seattle. I also happened to run into a couple other friends by chance, which was fun.

Here’s the thing: I am no longer in the closet; I have no problem reconciling my faith and sexuality. Even so, there are plenty of moments of fear and anxiety. Times when I’m not sure how someone will react to something I’ve done (for example, getting a manicure and having rainbow nails) or something just feels awkward and you let it slide (for example, if someone asks whether I have a girlfriend, I typically answer ‘no’ instead of ‘I’m gay’).

Pride is what gives a time of freedom from that. Some people use that freedom to bicycle naked in a parade, which… you do you. For me, I just stand there, sometimes smiling wildly, feeling all fluttery when I see people holding hands.

Honestly, the parade wasn’t that interesting. I don’t know if it’s possible for me to be that interested in a parade of any kind. But the pride, the Pride, was what I came for and what I felt. What I feel. It’s less about what happens and more that it happens. Less an event and more a feeling. A collective sloughing off of seeming, if you will.

Someone put it this way, loosely: sometimes, pride is the opposite of humility but sometimes, it’s the opposite of shame. And that latter is worth celebrating.

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Hearing Voices

Getting political this week, I’d like to present just a couple (insufficient) thoughts on the repugnant things happening around the US border. I’m definitely the kind of person who rarely clicks on hyperlinks in the things I read but I think that these are truly worthwhile. I say that the thoughts I offer are insufficient and so I present the words of others and I encourage you to read them as well.

(As a side note, this executive order does not help those already separated and the zero-tolerance prosecutorial attitude remains.)

First and most obvious, separating innocent children from their innocent parents, and then to keep them in unacceptable circumstances, is awful in every way. Children. Not migrants, not illegals, not criminals–human beings.

No human is illegal and beyond that, offering asylum is a very straightforward way to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. I do not think God cares one iota for obeying earthly laws; I’m pretty sure the Bible is clear that he cares about administering true justice and expressing infinite mercy.

You may wish to become better acquainted with the facts of the situation here, here, and here (and lots more besides), or with the history of this very American practice here.

If you feel like you want to take some direct action on this incredibly pressing issue, I can recommend contacting your congressional representatives here. You may also wish to contribute directly by looking at links here, here, and here. I don’t really know what to do to really make change happen but surely something is better than nothing and there are lots of different ways to give support.

If you do decide to donate, I would also urge you to consider donating monthly or annually, if you’re able, since these organizations will continue to need help far into the foreseeable future. Having a secure funding stream independent of the news cycle is often critical for organizations like these.

To say that this singular issue is symptomatic of a larger social and political ill is woefully inadequate. There is neither mercy nor justice in the actions of this administration and, unfortunately, it is not confined to this country. It does not take much time abroad, or looking at international news, to see this quite clearly.

Though I feel like on the scale of history, we are moving in the direction of diversity and freedom, the short term sure seems to have a different idea. As people, communities, and nations turn inward, I am hereby reminding us (myself included) that all people have inherent dignity and worth. It is in giving that we receive. As churchy people sometimes say, love the last, the lost, and the least.

Also, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

My place is pretty much exclusively to love people compassionately. That’s really what God’s about. It is also important to remember that loving oppressed and marginalized people tends to mean standing with them, rather than for them. Lending expertise or means as necessary, but mostly just amplifying their calls for justice.

Indian author Arundhati Roy put it well when she said, “There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.”

Let us, then, hear their voices and be moved to action.

The Wide World

Hello and welcome to the middle of June, where current temperatures in Gig Harbor are currently peaking around 63°F and in the next few days might exceed 90°. Also, here are some pictures of Bubba, notoriously difficult to photograph satisfactorily. He held still for a second and you can even see his face!

 

This week hasn’t held a great deal of excitement. I’m slowly starting to put things together to move. I’ve also put out feelers for buying a car which is gross because it’s way outside of my wheelhouse. I really wanted my first car to be electric but it’s not going to be feasible in my new circumstances, I don’t think, so I’m settling for a hybrid. Hopefully, that will just tide me over the few years until electric cars are much improved.

There was a second of news that caught my attention this week and since I have nothing else to talk about, I thought I’d consider it with you for a moment.

I don’t really care one iota about sports. It’s just not my thing. I am, however, obsessed with international sporting events–particularly the Olympics. While it was cool, when I went to Pyeongchang, to know that the people I was watching were the best in the world, that wasn’t really the main draw for me. I just really love international things. And since lots of people love sports but not international things, international sporting events are a good way to make people care about international things.

It’s competition, so it’s not exactly friendly in the strictest sense, but it’s not war. And I think generally there’s some camaraderie and learning that goes on. Certainly, international sporting events are not free from scandals and corruption and racism and whatnot. But overall, I think they’re pretty cool.

As an aside, having no conception at all of sporty things, yesterday I allowed myself to halfheartedly root for one team from each of the four pots and they are: Portugal (because I just read the entire Wikipedia article on the Estado Novo and it was interesting), Croatia (obviously), Costa Rica (because why not), and Australia (because have you seen them). I do not really care who wins but it’d be cool if one of them did, though I understand that it would be unlikely, except possibly Portugal.

Anyway. With all that in mind, it was with a deeply happy heart that I read this week that the 2026 FIFA World Cup had been awarded jointly to Canada, the US, and Mexico.

We forget so often but are occasionally reminded: more connects us than sets us apart.

Really About the Same

If you are not familiar with the artist Mary Engelbreit, I highly recommend her work, it’s playful and thoughtful and beautiful. She often accompanies her pictures with quotations or aphorisms that add greatly to the scene she depicts. One of my favorite of her works shows a traveler having just passed a fork in the road, walking down one of the paths. The sign at the fork points that direction and says YOUR LIFE and the other direction is labeled NO LONGER AN OPTION. The banner above the picture reads DON’T LOOK BACK.

This week had a lovely start at the Maritime Parade, a seasonal fixture of Gig Harbor. It’s officially summer, basically. Though we feared rain or at least overcast, the weather turned out to be warm and sunny, which was fabulous. It wasn’t much as parades go but it was fun and my brother was marching with the high school band so that was nice.

In the intervening days, I had several opportunities for catching up arise all at once. I felt very grateful to have time with old friends, catching up and passing the time. Waffles were made, games were played, and years worth of lives were recounted. Sometimes the routes we’ve taken surprise even ourselves. On that note.

One of my biggest poetry pet peeves (because that’s definitely a category of pet peeves that I have) is Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken. Robert Frost is in my top three poets of all time (with Edna St. Vincent Millay and Emily Dickenson) but come on. I cannot pretend to know exactly what he was thinking when he wrote it, but there is substantial evidence in the poem to support my titular thesis about that particular work: he did not, in fact, take the road less traveled because “the passing there / Had worn them really about the same.”

This, I think, is the crux of the narrator’s point: it does not matter whether you actually took the path that fewer took, it matters mostly that you chose a path. The title, you’ll note, is not The Road Less Traveled (as some erroneously believe), it is The Road Not Taken. The important point is that there will always be a road (correction: many roads) that we do not take. However we may justify the choices that we make for ourselves, good or poor, the important thing is that we chose. One cannot go back.

I could have gone to Columbia to study Russia instead of Trinity to study… whatever it was that I studied there. I could have stayed at home until I found something a little more suitable than a job in Korea which, to be honest, I did not really want. I could have come out a long time ago and probably saved myself a lot of trouble. I could have pursued any number of opportunities and avenues and possibilities and skills. But I did not and here I am.

A friend recently told me in a moment of incredibly clear and concise insight that my life has basically been a series of random choices with little coherent meaning. Except he said it in a kind way.

“I think your problem is that even though you have done a ton of incredible things it has usually not really been part of a plan beyond going abroad which means even when you do talk about it you feel insecure because when you have to explain why you do anything even to yourself you know the only real answer is that it is because you had to do something.”

A fairly accurate assessment of most of the choices I’ve made as an adult. It’s not even a bad thing, I don’t feel like I’ve made a series of mistakes (most of the time). I have directed the course of my life with very little thought to a grand plan which I sort of thought was going to be a plan when I was in high school. But at the same time, it’s not like I’m thirty and have been working as a bartender with broken dreams for the past ten years. I have actually done stuff with my life, plan notwithstanding.

My life would be very different if I had made different choices at some key intersections. I feel, though, that the roads would end up being really about the same. Experiences and things would be different but my general, overall existence would be approximately comparable. Having given life a go in a number of varying contexts, I think I really could have made most of those decisions work. I think I would be okay.

If happiness and life were simple, I should probably be seriously getting down to work being a Croatian orchardist. But they are not. So I’ll continue to make decisions that are just this side of random and have faith that mistakes are mistakes but mistaken choices are less mistakes and more just different paths that, in the end, are probably not that different.

All of this is to say: I have received and accepted a job offer. It is, needless to say, not quite what I had in mind. This post has dragged on long enough or I would provide some more details.

As it is, suffice to say that it is in Michigan. So there’s that.