Loneliness and Faith, my version
Jay Michaelson

There are so many walls in the social world. I thought when I came out of the closet, to myself and to others, that the weights would be lifted off of my shoulders and the boundaries lowered. This did happen. But what also happened is that I became aware of dozens of nested closets which maintain themselves in my life, and maybe other people's lives also. Even if it was okay to be openly gay in my religious contexts, I found it was rarely okay to be openly religious in gay contexts. It might have been okay to be bisexual to my ex-girlfriend (though it probably wasn't), but it definitely is not okay to say to a man I love now that I really loved her (must be self-deception). And the closets are wider than sexual ones. I realized that I was a closeted rock & roll fan at trance parties, a closeted (ex-)lawyer at Rainbow gatherings, a closeted contemplative at poetry slams. I began to see that I had internalized dozens of lines of demarcation, of "appropriateness," even ones that probably didn't exist outside of my own insecurity.

By far the tightest-shut closet door is that guarding my religious life. No one wants to hear about it, and I don't want to talk about it. Words devolve into cliches – love of God, the unfolding now, Be Here Now, awareness of what Is. Or they slide into alienating conceptualizations – immanence, transcendence, radical amazement, a dwelling place for the infinite in the finite (or, perhaps, a recognition that the finite is only illusion). I believe in, and I feel, that all of these concepts approximate a reality that is real and that is a central part of my consciousness as an entity in the world. I believe, and feel, the sacredness of eating, and believe - when I remember - that my patterns of diet cause that sanctity to be heightened in my mind and in my relation to the substances, supposedly other-than-me, that I choose to make part of my body. I think there is not only Quality but also holiness in the delights and loves and arts that humans are able to create and experience.

But I try not to talk about it. After all, that is ‘private.' Too intimate, like the parts of our bodies that we hide and call ‘privates,' as if acknowledging that whatever matters too much for us to share in the ordinary exchange of human pleasantries, whatever is too close to our essence, must be hidden.

And yet, as I experienced last week at a silent meditation retreat, the unfolding of God is most freely experienced when it is open. There is nothing but God. Our acts of concealment are God too – but they are acts that can lead to the only thing that is evil (which, of course, is also part of God): namely, the illusion that there is anything other than the one reality that is. Our "evil inclination" is that error that believes that something we are doing is not connected to now, that, for example, the world is okay but I am not, or the world is okay but I know better, or, these thoughts, doubts, fears, loves, forms that I have are mine and not a part of the vast emptiness.

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July 2002

jay's head