Wednesday, November 23, 2011


When I was in high school I discovered William Cullen Bryant's poem, "Thanatopsis." The poem which is a meditation on death became a favorite of mine. Though it spoke of death, it did so with a majestic acceptance of that which each of us must experience.

I was probably 14 or 15 years old at the time I first read the poem. Still very much young enough that I felt immortal and invincible. Death was only a remote terminus that I could hardly imagine. Yet, the seeming remoteness of my own death did not diminish my appreciation for the poem.

Almost five decades have now passed since I first read this poem. Death is no longer a remote possibility. Without the miracles of modern medicine, I would have faced it almost at decade ago. By the time one reaches my age, he has seen death many times. Classmates, friends, grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts, not necessarily in the proper order, have all had their one rendezvous with death. I find in the experience of all this death and the realization that my own death is not longer remote, the poem is a comfort to me.

While its subject is often seen as morbid, the poem is really not morbid at all. It is instead, a recognition of the inevitability of death; yet an urgent call to life well lived.

I have spoken often in my blog of the fact that living life well as a married bisexual man is a most difficult thing. Male sexuality is a very complex thing. In my opinion, bisexuality is the most complex sexual issue a man can face. As bisexual men, we must overcome the denial some segments of our society still harbor about our very existence. We must overcome the scorn of those who see us as cheaters and liars who are only concerned with our own needs. Even without the overt condemnation of society, most of us must live with our own guilt, shame and self-hatred for years as we attempt to grow into an understanding and acceptance of ourselves for what we are. Many of us never reach the point of acceptance and self-understanding. It can be very illusive in a society where even those who are supposed to forgive others their trespasses and treat each man as his brother somehow find a way to make an exception to that requirement in the case of bisexual men.

Never-the-less, Bryant still calls us to a life well lived as he reminds us of the certain approach of our death. As a blogger about married men and their bisexuality and as a moderator of a group for married bisexual men, I have come into contact with a huge number of married bisexual and married homosexual men over the past fifteen years. Most of these contacts have been via the internet. A few have been personal contacts.

In all the contacts, I have had, I don't think I have ever met a married bisexual man who did not struggle in some way with his sexuality. Some have been lucky enough that their struggle was brief and fairly easy to manage. Others have lived in clinical depression for years because of their sexuality. Still others have become suicidal over the issue.

Unfortunately, among the thousands of men I have talked to regarding their bisexuality, only a minority have found a way to manage it in a way that brings them peace of mind, personal fulfillment and a sense of being whole while at the same time preserving their marriages and family ties.

I see this as tragic because I know men, including myself, who have been able to accomplish all of that and more. The compounding of the tragedy is that so many men I have met simply cannot bring themselves to really even try. They are simply overwhelmed by their fear, their guilt and their shame and they make a conscious,  yet unspoken decision to live out their lives in a dark closet.

The truth is one cannot change the fact that he is a bisexual man. He can change the way he sees himself as a bisexual man and the way he lives his life as a bisexual man. It takes courage, it takes help and it takes a sense of self esteem, but it can be done.

I spoke this morning via phone to a friend who lost everything he had, including his wife and sons, because of his sexuality. He spent years trying to figure it all out and put a new life in place for himself. Now in his 50's he has finally managed to do just that. He told me this morning that his only regret was all the years that passed in the struggle that cannot be retrieved now that he has found himself and happiness. All I could tell him was to be thankful for and look ahead to the years he has ahead of himself. True he lost many years, but his is a story of success. At least he tried and he over came. Those who will not or cannot bring themselves to even try are the tragic ones.

"Thanatopsis" is a reminder that we are all equal in life in that we all face uncertainties and trials. Even more, it is a reminder that we are not all equal in death. Some of us reach a point where we can look death in the eye and embrace it knowing we have lived our lives well. Other are overtaken by death still burdened with their fears, their uncertainties, their trials and their failures.

I urge each of you who have not come to a reconciliation with your sexuality to vow to do so as quickly as possible. Find a way to live your life well. There is unfortunately no one answer for how to do that. Each man is unique and in an essentially unique situation. Each man must answer for himself as to how he must live his life well, but each man can find a way to do it. The good news is there is help for you. Men who have won the struggle are usually eager to help others win it too.

The You Tube video below was taken from the internet and is a school project of a high school student.  Please watch it and listen to it and let it inspire you to a live well lived. For those of you who prefer to read the poem as well, it is printed below in its entirety.

My sincerest wishes to each of you for a life of harmony lived well.

Jack Scott

545 X 300

by: William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878)
      TO him who in the love of Nature holds
      Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
      A various language; for his gayer hours
      She has a voice of gladness, and a smile
      And eloquence of beauty, and she glides
      Into his darker musings, with a mild
      And healing sympathy, that steals away
      Their sharpness, ere he is aware. When thoughts
      Of the last bitter hour come like a blight
      Over thy spirit, and sad images
      Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall,
      And breathless darkness, and the narrow house,
      Make thee to shudder and grow sick at heart;--
      Go forth, under the open sky, and list
      To Nature's teachings, while from all around--
      Earth and her waters, and the depths of air--
      Comes a still voice--Yet a few days, and thee
      The all-beholding sun shall see no more
      In all his course; nor yet in the cold ground,
      Where thy pale form was laid with many tears,
      Nor in the embrace of ocean, shall exist
      Thy image. Earth, that nourish'd thee, shall claim
      Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again,
      And, lost each human trace, surrendering up
      Thine individual being, shalt thou go
      To mix for ever with the elements,
      To be a brother to the insensible rock,
      And to the sluggish clod, which the rude swain
      Turns with his share, and treads upon. The oak
      Shall send his roots abroad, and pierce thy mould.


      Yet not to thine eternal resting-place
      Shalt thou retire alone, nor couldst thou wish
      Couch more magnificent. Thou shalt lie down
      With patriarchs of the infant world--with kings,
      The powerful of the earth--the wise, the good,
      Fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past,
      All in one mighty sepulchre. The hills
      Rock-ribb'd and ancient as the sun,--the vales
      Stretching in pensive quietness between;
      The venerable woods; rivers that move
      In majesty, and the complaining brooks
      That make the meadows green; and, pour'd round all,
      Old Ocean's grey and melancholy waste,--
      Are but the solemn decorations all
      Of the great tomb of man. The golden sun,
      The planets, all the infinite host of heaven,
      Are shining on the sad abodes of death,
      Through the still lapse of ages. All that tread
      The globe are but a handful to the tribes
      That slumber in its bosom.--Take the wings
      Of morning, pierce the Barcan wilderness,
      Or lose thyself in the continuous woods
      Where rolls the Oregon and hears no sound
      Save his own dashings--yet the dead are there:
      And millions in those solitudes, since first
      The flight of years began, have laid them down
      In their last sleep--the dead reign there alone.
      So shalt thou rest: and what if thou withdraw
      In silence from the living, and no friend
      Take note of thy departure? All that breathe
      Will share thy destiny. The gay will laugh
      When thou art gone, the solemn brood of care
      Plod on, and each one as before will chase
      His favourite phantom; yet all these shall leave
      Their mirth and their employments, and shall come
      And make their bed with thee. As the long train
      Of ages glides away, the sons of men,
      The youth in life's green spring, and he who goes
      In the full strength of years, matron and maid,
      The speechless babe, and the gray-headed man--
      Shall one by one be gathered to thy side
      By those who in their turn shall follow them.
      So live, that when thy summons comes to join
      The innumerable caravan which moves
      To that mysterious realm where each shall take
      His chamber in the silent halls of death,
      Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
      Scourged by his dungeon; but, sustain'd and soothed
      By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
      Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
      About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

"Thanatopsis" is reprinted from Yale Book of American Verse. Ed. Thomas R. Lounsbury. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1912.


  1. Your advice about what to do as a bisexual man can also be applied to a homosexual man. I finally realized that recently. While I haven't made the final leap, I am at least working toward that goal. I am coming out to those I am pretty sure will give me the support I need to come out to the others. With each person I come out to, it makes it easier to come out to the next one. That is important because the most important/scary one is yet to come. I have hopes it will be almost a non-event since she is and has always been the most important person in my adult life. And I do love her. I just realize that John Lennon was wrong. All you need is love isn't quite enough some times.

  2. This year at Thanksgiving, we were invited to a friend's house. He was having about 20 people and we were more than happy to be included in the mix. Joey, the host, rattled off all the names of those who would be there, but I only knew half of them. He assured us that we would recognize everyone there, and that we would have a good time. He was right! It was one of the best Thanksgivings I had in a long time. Pat & Billy were 2 of the guests, and I became acquainted with them, as well as this whole group about 12 years ago.

    When it was time for Pat & Billy to leave, Billy became a bit emotional. They were both the oldest of this gathering, both being in their 60s. It saddened him that each year, another friend was gone. He reminded us all to make our memories and meaningful moments NOW, before it's too late. All of this I thought, was sparked from Billy's recent hospital stay and health issues. He knows more than anyone how quickly life goes by, and how unprepared he is to let it go. You could see it in his eyes as he kissed us all good bye. "Poor Billy", I thought. He's scared and not ready to go.

    With only 6 of us left at the table, we started talking about Billy, his health, and how he needs to take care of himself. Eventually, they spoke of all the others who aren't around anymore. To my horror, MIKE'S name came up, and how it must be two years ago that he died! My heart sank, and here it is days later, and I still can't believe the news. [continue below]

  3. Continued:
    Within many people's circle of friends, there's usually someone who we really don't know. But we've noticed them. They're out there with friends of friends' friends, and we never have the chance to speak to them. But we notice them, and we admire them. Mike was one of those people to me.

    The first time I saw him I was in awe. He was bar tending and he served me a drink. I wanted to start some conversation, but the place, as well as he, was much too busy. Besides, I wasn't in his league. This guy was obviously a bar-bell boy, and a good ten years younger than me. We wore a crew cut, and wore it well--along with a fabulous, sexy five o'clock shadow that drove me wild. I wondered, "Who was this guy?" A cop? A Marine? Maybe a gym teacher? He had those all American, clean cut, MASCULINE good looks that any guy would want, along with a perfectly toned body. There was so much going on for Mike, that for me, he seemed unapproachable. True fantasy material.

    That was 12 years ago. I was newly divorced and had just come out as gay. I was somewhat naive as to what the gay community was all about. I was so unprepared for what the "competition" was like, as well as what the difficulties of finding my "set" of people would be. Eventually I learned that EVERYONE felt the same way about Mike, and that he was one of those guys who only seeks out those like himself. Yes--he was pretty much unapproachable to ordinary guys like me. They all knew him to be friendly enough, but only at a distance. People just accepted that and moved on with him, just as I did years ago. [continued below:]

  4. Continued:
    We all seem to place ourselves in an unspoken kind of hierarchy. We eventually think of ourselves as Billy does, as being the next possible missing person at the table. We never think it possible that people like Mike could possibly beat us to it. But here it is--they can, and sometimes do!

    As it turned out, Mike was a fitness trainer who tended bar on the side. He became obsessed with his body and eventually turned to steroids. With prolonged use, he developed cancer, and now 12 years later, he's gone. Such a waste, and it was all so needless!

    We all know of people like Mike who we secretly adore. We think of them as a constant fixture. Someone who will always be around for us to admire; someone who we always wanted to know. Once it happens, we find it hard to believe when they're suddenly gone, wiped away forever.

    I suppose that this is a lesson. If there's someone you know who brings joy or meaning to your life, let them know. Perhaps it's someone you meant to speak to or acknowledge, or maybe it's a friend who you simply take for granted. NOW IS THE TIME to let them know how much they mean to you. Tomorrow is assumed, but never promised.

  5. [Disclaimer of sorts:]

    I know, I know--I'm long winded and it takes forever for me to get to the point! I apologize for that, and I guess the post above points to this. But I hope you or someone can appreciate what I want to share. There are some things you just can't say in a sentence or paragraph. The meaning [and want] of friendship is one of them. I hope you can relate. Thanks!

  6. Great poem and advice for a life well lived. Thanks for sharing and hope I can take the advice a little more to heart. But we all do what we have to and as much as we can given our self-imposed limitations.

  7. I'm glad you enjoyed the poem Paul. I too hope you can take the advice to heart to live your life to the fullest.

    I admit, as Benjamin Franklin said, "I'm an idealist without illusions." There are real limitations on our lives as married bisexual men, its true. But we are not doing all we can if we don't reach beyond some of the constraints.

    Best wishes.

    Jack Scott


I deeply regret that I must reinstate the verification process for those who want to leave comments on my blog. This is due to the intolerable amount of spam that spammers are attempting to leave on the blog.

At the same time I am changing settings so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will not have to have your comments moderated. My hope is this will encourage more readers to take the time to comment. The fact is I want to read comments with those of you who disagree with me as well as those of you who agree with me. All I ask is that you keep your comments clean and non-threatening.

The only reason I take the time to write this blog is to spur your thoughts and comments. Please do not let the spammers cause you not to comment. I know entering the verification words and numbers is a pain in the ass, but I hope you will not let the spammers cause you not to comment.

I still very much look forward to hearing from you.

Jack Scott

Anyone can comment on what I write in this blog. Regretfully, the recent amount of spam in my email account as required that I reinstate the word verification process for comments which I personally hate.

But at the same time I have loosened the comment moderation process so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will no longer need to wait for your comment to be moderated. I'm hoping this will tempt you to take the trouble to comment.

The truth is I want respectful comments both from those who agree with me and those who do not. All I as is that you keep comments to the point, clean and non-threatenting.

I look forward to hearing from each of you.

Jack Scott