Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Religious Value of Love

The following post originally appeared in the Huffington Post on March 12, 2012. Of course few people actually believe in the story of Adam and Eve as an actual historical event, but even those who do should find this post informative if they read it with an open mind.

The story of Adam and Eve makes it clear that Eve was created as a helper and companion to Adam in his loneliness. The story in the Bible also makes clear that God tried other things to help with Adam's loneliness before coming up with Eve.

Is it so hard to imagine that somewhere not too far down the line one or more of the descendants of Adam and Eve found the only thing that could assuage his loneliness was another man to be his confidant and helper? I think not.

No matter how often the right wing Christians state that God made marriage for one man and one woman, it simply will never reconcile with the reality that the Bible does not back up this personal opinion. That some Christians would have it so, does not make it so.

Homosexuality and Bisexuality are natural. They are natural in the animal kingdom and natural in the human experience. That is just a fact.

the Story of Adam and Eve Is Right and Kirk Cameron Is Wrong: The Religious Value of Love
by Jay Michaelson

"It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve."
We've all heard the cliché, and we all know its meaning: that "male" and "female" are at the heart of God's plan for the world, and that heterosexuality is the only "natural" sexuality. Kirk Cameron, the former child TV star, made this point just a few days ago: that homosexuality is unnatural.
We know, too, that this is not a scientific claim. Actually, homosexuality is quite "natural"; it's present in hundreds of animal species and in every culture in the world. Sexual diversity is the rule, not the exception -- the plan, not the deviation.
But there is that myth, that story, of Adam and Eve. No matter the scientific evidence, no matter the countless lives of happy, healthy LGBT people, there's that story, that binary, and that claim.
Well, I'd like to take that story back -- to reclaim it for all of us, not just those of us who find love in heterosexual, monogamous life.
First, let's set aside the parts about God, the Bible, the whole theological aspect of this myth. Let's treat it just as literature -- as a text, sacred to many, but first and foremost a story of human origins and human purpose. All of us -- religious, atheist, agnostic, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, progressive, fundamentalist -- should be able to agree on that.
And in that myth, the pairing of Adam and Eve was the solution to a problem. In the more detailed version of the Genesis story, they don't just appear on the stage; human coupling is the result of divine fidgeting. God creates the human being, but then has to tinker with the original plan, because of the first flaw God finds with all of God's creation: loneliness.
"It is not good for the human being to be alone," God says in Genesis 2:18. In context, this is a shocking pronouncement. Six times, God had remarked how good everything is: light, Heaven and Earth, stars, plants, animals -- all of these are "good." The entirety of creation is "very good." Yet suddenly something is not good. Suddenly, God realizes there is something within the world as we find it that is insufficient, something that all of us experience in our own lives and that we all strive to transcend: the existential condition of being alone.
Notice, too, that Eve is not the first solution God attempts to deal with the problem of Adam's aloneness. God first presents Adam with every animal in the world -- birds, beasts, even those animals that would later become domesticated by people. But none suffices. Only then does the story of Genesis 2 tell us that God took the rib from man to make woman. Only human companionship solves the existential problem of aloneness, the first problem our religious traditions set out to address. And, finally, notice that Eve is not created, in this narrative, to make children with Adam; this story is about loneliness and love, not procreation and progeny. Indeed, Eve's femininity is not even essential to be what Hebrew calls an ezer kenegdo, and what antiquated King James English calls a "help-meet": someone able to be with Adam on equal terms and be a companion to him.

In other words, notwithstanding the many problems with this particular myth (it's been used not just against gays, of course, but primarily against women, by those who read it as setting up a gender hierarchy), this is a tale about the importance of human love and companionship.
Now, for most people, this love is indeed experienced in a relationship between a man and a woman. For about 5 percent of people (we can argue about the numbers; the range is usually 3 to 10 percent), this love is found in a relationship between two men, or between two women. And for some others, love may be found in either kind of relationship, and sexuality may be experienced as fluid.
Personally, I am one of that 5 percent. During my teens and 20s, as I struggled with my sexuality, I had relationships with women and, as much as I was able, fell in love. But something was always "off," even though at the time I couldn't quite identify it. (Maybe I knew, deep down. I don't know.) It took me 10 years of wrestling, cajoling, self-hating, and self-judging, and finally a serious car accident, which shook up my body and soul, to finally admit that if I wanted true love, the kind that the Song of Songs sings about, the kind that the Genesis myth says is so important, well, my Eve would have to be a Steve.
This is about much more than sex; it's about love. And that is the most natural thing in the world.
Now, if we do consider ourselves religious, this point matters, and it influences how we understand our sacred texts and traditions. Surely, a loving God could not want the tyranny of the "closet" -- an all-too-cozy metaphor for what is really a life of deceit, loneliness, and alienation. The Kirk Camerons of the world can still pretend that homosexuality is some kind of choice, pathology, or worse. But I have known both the life of the closet (for 10 years of my adult life) and the life of companionship. I know that my life with my partner is not simply about lust. It is exactly as the Genesis myth describes: a life of sharing, companionship, and love. Sure, for most people, "a man... shall hold fast to his wife." But in some cases, a woman shall hold fast to hers. And in some others, a man shall hold fast to another.
Of course, I know there are other Biblical texts that influence what some people think about homosexuality. In my book God vs. Gay?, I spend a long, long time parsing them out and show that they are obscure and ambiguous, and that they certainly do not contemplate loving, committed relationships. But anyone can interpret Biblical text; that's the easy part. As Shakespeare said, even the devil can cite scripture for his purpose. The hard, and more important, part is deciding which approach to take: one that leads to more love, or one that leads to more aloneness; one that leads to more of the holy, or one that leads to more of the shameful. As I approach these sacred texts, the story of Adam and Eve helps point the way, by reminding me that it is not good to be alone -- and it is very good to find someone with whom to share your life.
If you are struggling with your homosexuality or bisexuality, you must make a real decision, your own decision about how you want to deal with it. It will not go away. It will not stop demanding resolution.
If you have religious qualms about your sexuality, you would do yourself a favor to remember that God is a God of Love. He is not a God of hate. God accepts you as you are and loves  you as you are, homosexuality and all. Given the chance He will help you do deal with it in a way that will bring you a new understanding of yourself and perhaps even a new understanding of why you were created as a homosexual or bisexual man.
Jack Scott

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

When Irresistible Force Meet An Immovable Object

I simply do not know the answers to all the questions I have about life and the universe in which we live. However, I have long since come to the personal realization there is no conflict at all between the spiritual realm and the scientific realm. To my way of thinking both realms are necessary for supplying answers to the human condition.

Over the last few hundred years, we have come to know that we live in a rather benevolent region of our universe far from the violence of its central core. We also now know we occupy a position within our solar system which is remarkably benevolent and supportive of life. All around our small area of serenity, violence plays out on a cosmic scale.

What scientists and physicists are just beginning to understand is that this cosmic violence is cyclical and vital to life as we know it. Universes are born in big bursts of unfathomable energy. They expand and evolve for billions of years, then peak and begin to fall back into themselves and be consumed by black holes of enormous energy from which will eventually burst forth a new universe which will expand and evolve as well.

Strings of Matter
Other theories are beginning to augment our understanding of not just our own universe but of the multiverse which we now know makes up the totality of the creation. String Theory tells us the multiverse is full of billions of universes and like snowflakes, no two of these universes are the same. Some are large beyond comprehension. Some relatively small. Some are dark and cold. Some are bright and burn with the intensity of billions of stars (suns). Some are a mixture of bright stars and enormous black holes.

Each universe is a song that results from the vibration of strings of matter on a subatomic scale just like the song played by a string quartet of violins and viola in the visible world. Just as there are an endless number of songs that can be created for a string quartet, there are endless variations of universes which can result from the vibration of these strings of matter. What makes the strings vibrate? Physicists don't yet know. They just do. Perhaps they are the beat heart of the multiverse. Perhaps they vibrate at the hand of God. But no matter why they vibrate, they control everything and they make it what it is.

Perhaps it is fitting that violence, birth, destruction and rebirth are at the heart of both the universe and the multiverse since violence and struggle, birth, life and death are a part of each of us too.

I came to see long ago, unwillingly I might add, that struggle is vital to human life. As a boy, my father was constantly devising struggles to purposely introduce into my life. To be honest, at the time, I hated him for it. I thought he was just being mean. He's been dead for almost 30 years now; and when I look back, I thank him for those struggles he purposely saddled me with. Dealing with them made me what I am today. My life has been rewarding, interesting and filled with accomplishment beyond what I imagined possible. The reality is that it became possible through my Dad, sometimes harshly, filling my younger life with struggles to overcome and my Mom, always tenderly, guiding and encouraging me in in how I must face those struggles and overcome them.

Today, I don't purposely put struggles in other peoples lives. I did when my own kids were at home, but they are grown and successfully on their own now. I'm retired now. I know longer direct the work lives of a number of employees to whom I assign obstacles to overcome in exchange for their paycheck and their career development.

At this point in my life, my goal is to help those who are having problems dealing with the obstacles and struggles already in their lives because of poor choices, unlucky breaks, failure to recognize and accept realities or properly dealing with realities or varying combinations of failure in these vital life management areas.

I've mentioned my friend Pete in my blog before. Pete's a successful man in a very public job. Like all of us, his bisexuality gives him struggles with which he must deal. For him, learning to deal with his bisexuality is still very much a work in progress. He's making progress, but he has not yet successfully overcome the struggle.

He told me the other day he was talking with a friend of his about spiritual paradigms, a subject he and I had many discussions about. He said to the friend that paradigm shifts were like like the collision of two tectonic plates. He's right. That is an apt analogy. Any paradigm long established in our lives is difficult to change. Frankly, the church puts a lot of effort into brainwashing its members so that their religious paradigms will be impossible to change.

But Pete's friend surprised him when he replied, "Yes, but you know what happens when those two plates collide -- you get beautiful mountain ranges that provide all sorts of wonderful benefits; forest/timber, water for electricity, wildlife, beauty and many other things. Interesting huh?"

It is interesting and realistic. I might add that you get lush green peaceful valleys too. Too many people refuse to stop and think about the benefits of life's struggles and the joy and sense of peace overcoming those struggles can bring into our lives as well as the lives of those around us.

The truth is, behind every successful response to a life struggle, there is a paradigm shift. If our paradigms are already aligned as they need to be to handle a particular situation, there is no struggle. Struggle always requires a paradigm shift for it to be resolved constructively.

I told Pete I liked his friends analogy very much. I told him I had to admit that I always thought of the meeting of tectonic plates as resulting in earthquakes, volcanos and tsunamis. And these things do result from one tectonic plate scraping along side another or one plate sliding under another and being forced down while the other is force upward. But that is just the beginning of the struggle. Later, things calm down. Heat subsides, lava cools, scars are eroded by wind and rain and covered by vegetation. Volcanic rock and ash are broken down into the most fertile of soils.

So it is in our individual lives when we change our old paradigms and accept newer paradigms. The troubles with we humans are many when it comes to building new paradigms. We often want our cake left alone; but at the same time, we want to eat it. We often realize we are not happy with our current lives, but we are fearful of any new life. The devil we know somehow seems better than the devil we don't know; and so, we become stuck in inaction and unhappiness. We just give up on ever being happy. Sometimes we become martyrs telling ourselves we are sacrificing our own happiness for the happiness of others. But such sacrifice never achieves what we hope for it to achieve. Often we simply ruin our own lives and that of those around us whom we love.

I have dealt with a few people over the last two decades who have successfully built new paradigms and changed their lives in ways they could not have previously imagined. Some have found that contrary to what they thought, happiness was not to be found in the old paradigms but in the new ones.

Some came to have the insight to see that they can, in the end, only be responsible for themselves. They understand their paradigm shift will more than likely put a struggle into the lives of those they love. But at the same time the recognize it is not their obligation to make paradigm shifts for others though they can help others to make those shifts if the other is willing. If they are not, then one has to realize we are each responsible for how we react to the struggles life presents to us.

I said to Pete, "Your friends view of the process is definitely the brighter side of the process."

Pete replied, "Yes and it gives a longer term view to the benefits of the process."

Because it is so much easier to do, most people, never form new paradigms about their lives. They just continue to be unhappy, too frightened to change anything. It is a human tragedy in the making. That has always been clear to me. I have never been one to venerate the status quo. I have always embraced any change that is effective. I  have never seen the benefit of doing something simply because that is the way it has always been done. I have always lived in the real world while looking toward a new one.

I'd rather not have my cancer. But having it has cemented another paradigm within me. I live each day for today. I appreciate the here and now. I look forward to as many days as I have. I look to the past only in thankfulness for all I have been able to do and experience in my life.

Pete's observation is right on target. As far as we know for certain, we only get this one life on earth. Are you willing to give up happiness and everything that goes with it in the sort term fire, or are you willing to assume some risk for the benefits of the long term and the peaceful sheltering valley?

It's your decision.

Get it right for yourself!

Jack Scott

Friday, September 14, 2012

When Same-Sex Marriage Was a Christian Rite

I recently read a study the results of which surprised me at first. But after thinking about it, I understood exactly why the study results were correct. The study found that only a very small percentage of those who identify as Fundamental Christians had ever actually read the Bible!

At first this seemed counter intuitive to me, but then I started to think back on my own years as a child in a Fundamental Christian Church. The study results made perfect sense. 

For Fundamental Christians the Bible is a talisman, and not much more in reality. They wouldn't admit that of course, but its very much the truth. In Fundamental Churches people are encouraged, if not required, to keep their Bibles with them at all times. They are told the Bible is the answer to every problem. It is, in reality, like a good luck charm on steroids. In every worship service the scripture is read and each member is encouraged to read along, and most do. But they read passively, because they know the next order of worship will be the preacher telling them exactly what the verses they have just had read to them mean. No thought is required of them, no study. All they have to do is hear the minister and believe what he has to say.

The same kind of thing goes on in the Sunday School classes of Fundamentalist groups. A scripture is read and then the members of the class are told what it means. The only discussion allowed is discussion that parrots back what they participants have been told and shows acceptance of the meaning of the scripture as related by the teacher. I first ran afoul of the system when I was only 10 years old when I dared to suggest the story of Jonah and the whale was only a myth. I was immediately labeled a heretic, and my teacher went to my father to tell him he had better get a hold on me because I was already on my way to Hell.

Most Fundamental Christians do not question what they are told; and if they do, more often than not, they choose to keep their questions to themselves rather than risk the almost certain censure of the group.

This dynamic leads to the findings of the study in my opinion. There is no reason for Fundamental Christians to read the Bible on their own. It will be read to them and they will be told how to interpret what is read to them. There is no need to read and study and think on one's own. Indeed, to do so would be dangerous.

Thus, reason is suspended. The unquestioned authority of the minister is accepted, and the Bible becomes nothing more than a talisman. 

Some may find it hard to think that large groups of adults could suspend reason in such an important area of their lives. But any study of human behavior makes it clear that the urge to be a part of a group is strong. The urge to be accepted into something bigger than one's self is also strong. The ability of even intelligent people to be brainwashed is also well documented. Adolf Hitler managed to bend a whole country to his will, and no one would suggest that the German people are not highly intelligent and well educated. The suspension of reason is a very dangerous thing, but it happens all the time and it happens continually in Fundamentalist Churches.

In the United States of America, our Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but that guarantee has been voided by the power of the Right Wing Fundamental Christians. One need look no further than the Federal Defense of Marriage Act to confirm this. The act is clearly a violation of human rights, yet it is the law of the land because the Fundamental Christians have the power to make it so. No one can run on a Republican ticket and win election in this country unless he or she bows to the Right Wing Christian Fundamentalists. They are very powerful indeed, and in the Defense of Marriage Act they have made their personal view of marriage the law of the land. The same is true of laws prohibiting abortion, and the distribution of birth control. Some state laws bar same sex partners from adopting children because Fundamental Christians believe it is better to shuffle children from one foster home to another than to let them be raised in a loving non traditional family environment. Such laws are clearly not in the best interests of the people of the United States of America, but they are of interest to the Fundamentalists and might makes right.

The only problem is, as in most beliefs held by Christian Fundamentalist, what they preach as truth and gospel is often controversial, sometimes even patently false. Contrary to the myth they would have us believe, Christianity's concept of marriage has not been set in stone since the days of Christ, but has constantly evolved as a concept and ritual.

Professor John Boswell, the late Chairman of Yale University's history department, was himself a very controversial historian and writer. He discovered that in addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies in ancient Christian church liturgical documents, there were also ceremonies called the "Office of Same-Sex Union" (10th and 11th centuries), and the "Order for Uniting Two Men" (11th and 12th centuries).
These church rites had all the symbols of a heterosexual marriage: the whole community gathered in a church, a blessing of the couple before the altar was conducted with their right hands joined, holy vows were exchanged, a priest officiatied in the taking of the Eucharist and a wedding feast for the guests was celebrated afterwards. These elements all appear in contemporary illustrations of the holy union of the Byzantine Warrior-Emperor, Basil the First (867-886 CE) and his companion John.

Some of those who dispute Boswell's conclusions do not dispute the ceremonies he describes. However, they dispute the purpose. They contend that the ceremonies were used for the blessing of men who wished to be sealed in a non-sexual bond. As yet there is no proof either way, but such an elaborate ceremony for the recognition of "blood brothers" seems far fetched to me.

The original article by Boswell follows:

A Kiev art museum contains a curious icon from St. Catherine's Monastery on Mt. Sinai in Israel. It shows two robed Christian saints. Between them is a traditional Roman ‘pronubus’ (a best man), overseeing a wedding. The pronubus is Christ. The married couple are both men.

Is the icon suggesting that a gay "wedding" is being sanctified by Christ himself? The idea seems shocking. But the full answer comes from other early Christian sources about the two men featured in the icon, St. Sergius and St. Bacchus, two Roman soldiers who were Christian martyrs. These two officers in the Roman army incurred the anger of Emperor Maximian when they were exposed as ‘secret Christians’ by refusing to enter a pagan temple. Both were sent to Syria circa 303 CE where Bacchus is thought to have died while being flogged. Sergius survived torture but was later beheaded. Legend says that Bacchus appeared to the dying Sergius as an angel, telling him to be brave because they would soon be reunited in heaven.

While the pairing of saints, particularly in the early Christian church, was not unusual, the association of these two men was regarded as particularly intimate. Severus, the Patriarch of Antioch (AD 512 - 518) explained that, "we should not separate in speech they [Sergius and Bacchus] who were joined in life". This is not a case of simple "adelphopoiia." In the definitive 10th century account of their lives, St. Sergius is openly celebrated as the "sweet companion and lover" of St. Bacchus. Sergius and Bacchus's close relationship has led many modern scholars to believe they were lovers. But the most compelling evidence for this view is that the oldest text of their martyrology, written in New Testament Greek describes them as "erastai,” or "lovers". In other words, they were a male homosexual couple. Their orientation and relationship was not only acknowledged, but it was fully accepted and celebrated by the early Christian church, which was far more tolerant than it is today.

Contrary to myth, Christianity's concept of marriage has not been set in stone since the days of Christ, but has constantly evolved as a concept and ritual.

Prof. John Boswell, the late Chairman of Yale University’s history department, discovered that in addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies in ancient Christian church liturgical documents, there were also ceremonies called the "Office of Same-Sex Union" (10th and 11th century), and the "Order for Uniting Two Men" (11th and 12th century).

These church rites had all the symbols of a heterosexual marriage: the whole community gathered in a church, a blessing of the couple before the altar was conducted with their right hands joined, holy vows were exchanged, a priest officiatied in the taking of the Eucharist and a wedding feast for the guests was celebrated afterwards. These elements all appear in contemporary illustrations of the holy union of the Byzantine Warrior-Emperor, Basil the First (867-886 CE) and his companion John.

Such same gender Christian sanctified unions also took place in Ireland in the late 12thand/ early 13th century, as the chronicler Gerald of Wales (‘Geraldus Cambrensis’) recorded.

Same-sex unions in pre-modern Europe list in great detail some same gender ceremonies found in ancient church liturgical documents. One Greek 13th century rite, "Order for Solemn Same-Sex Union", invoked St. Serge and St. Bacchus, and called on God to "vouchsafe unto these, Thy servants [N and N], the grace to love one another and to abide without hate and not be the cause of scandal all the days of their lives, with the help of the Holy Mother of God, and all Thy saints". The ceremony concludes: "And they shall kiss the Holy Gospel and each other, and it shall be concluded".

Another 14th century Serbian Slavonic "Office of the Same Sex Union", uniting two men or two women, had the couple lay their right hands on the Gospel while having a crucifix placed in their left hands. After kissing the Gospel, the couple were then required to kiss each other, after which the priest, having raised up the Eucharist, would give them both communion.

Records of Christian same sex unions have been discovered in such diverse archives as those in the Vatican, in St. Petersburg, in Paris, in Istanbul and in the Sinai, covering a thousand-years from the 8th to the 18th century.

The Dominican missionary and Prior, Jacques Goar (1601-1653), includes such ceremonies in a printed collection of Greek Orthodox prayer books, “Euchologion Sive Rituale Graecorum Complectens Ritus Et Ordines Divinae Liturgiae” (Paris, 1667).

While homosexuality was technically illegal from late Roman times, homophobic writings didn’t appear in Western Europe until the late 14th century. Even then, church-consecrated same sex unions continued to take place.

At St. John Lateran in Rome (traditionally the Pope's parish church) in 1578, as many as thirteen same-gender couples were joined during a high Mass and with the cooperation of the Vatican clergy, "taking communion together, using the same nuptial Scripture, after which they slept and ate together" according to a contemporary report. Another woman to woman union is recorded in Dalmatia in the 18th century.

Prof. Boswell's academic study is so well researched and documented that it poses fundamental questions for both modern church leaders and heterosexual Christians about their own modern attitudes towards homosexuality.

For the Church to ignore the evidence in its own archives would be cowardly and deceptive. The evidence convincingly shows that what the modern church claims has always been its unchanging attitude towards homosexuality is, in fact, nothing of the sort.

It proves that for the last two millennia, in parish churches and cathedrals throughout Christendom, from Ireland to Istanbul and even in the heart of Rome itself, homosexual relationships were accepted as valid expressions of a God-given love and committment to another person, a love that could be celebrated, honored and blessed, through the Eucharist in the name of, and in the presence of, Jesus Christ.


Although I was a history major in college I make no personal claim as an historian. Further, I make no claim as a Biblical expert. However, I point out to those reading this article that there are hundreds of denominational churches, each with their own view of what the Bible purports to be and to teach. Actually, most of these denominations are a unique product of America. Many saw their beginnings on the American frontier which was isolated from the traditional churches of Europe by the Atlantic Ocean and an ever broadening expanse of territory as the American west began to be settled. As Americans moved ever west they became more and more isolated from the educated clergy of the traditional European churches. Inevitably, the resulting vacuum was filled by those who had their own personal views on scripture and were more than willing to share it in spite of any formal designation as a preacher, or more often than not any seminary education.

Thus, the many and diverse denominations of this country were born. The Fundamental Christian movement which is so powerful today in this country is, itself, a product of this evolution, while the more liberal churches of America are those which maintained closer ties to their European roots.

My point is, I don't know that Boswell was correct in his view of Christian history. Neither do I know that he was wrong. Neither does anyone else at this point. It is a matter of controversy just as is almost every dogmatic issue of the universal Christian church.

Those who insists the loudest they know the truth are the least likely to know it in reality. In matters involving individual human rights, the wise man would do well to err on the side of caution and individual liberties.

Jack Scott

Monday, September 10, 2012

An Interesting Development

My friends and colleagues have always thought of me as the go to guy. If there was something they wanted said; but for some reason they were afraid to say it, they would bring it to me. Their theory was that I'd say anything to anyone.

That wasn't quite true, but it was true enough that it was a solid part of my reputation. While I wouldn't actually say anything, I'd say anything I believed needed to be said. And more often than not I would say it in a diplomatic way, though I was well aware that a shocking delivery sometimes had its place too.

I've said this before in other blog pieces, what really seemed strange to me was that my friends and colleagues never seemed to catch on to the fact that my willingness to say whatever I thought needed to be said never once hurt me. Did I get called on the carpet once or twice? Yep sure did, but it was always just a formality. One time what we talked about when I was in the woodshed with my superior was how much and how often he'd wanted to say just exactly what I had said.

But my friends and colleagues never caught on to the fact that being the guy who would "say anything" actually gave me more  power, authority and appreciation within the company throughout my career. It actually helped me get to where I wanted to be. There was value in being able to think clearly and also being willing to speak up about what I was thinking no matter the circumstances. No one ever had to wonder what I was thinking or what I might be saying behind their back.

The same type of appreciation has generally accrued to me from my friends. My friends know I will, more often than not, give them a true report of what I think. Most of them appreciate it. There are times, though they are rare, when my candidness costs me a new friend. Such was the case in the blog piece I wrote a few weeks ago entitled "A Tale of Two Men." I lost the friendship of a relatively new friend by talking to him candidly. But the friendship with the other man who was the subject of that blog continues to be a vary close and valued friend. In fact he paid me sort of the ultimate compliment last week. I told him I had to ask him a very rude question. His response was, "Between you and me there are no rude questions." I thought, how great is that? I realized he was right. There is nothing he could not ask me and nothing we can't discuss. He a true friend.

But here's the thing. Sometimes, actually, I'd rather not tell the truth for one reason or the other. And more than that, those of you who have been reading my writing for a while know very well I do NOT believe one should always tell the truth. The truth is,  truth can be wielded as one of the most terrible of weapons. Usually, that is the wrong thing to do. I don't have trouble not telling the truth in those situations. Usually I don't lie. I just say what I can and leave out the rest. Some would call that a lie of omission. I guess I'd call it strategic conversation. It's true, the truth can set one free. But wielding the truth as a weapon can cause severe trauma and anguish. What good is it to be free if one is traumatized into another kind of bondage?

I often debate whether or not to tell the truth in situations where I could get away with saying nothing at all, where nothing or very little is at stake; but my natural bent to say what I think. What I know as the truth is always pulling on me to speak it.

As I've told my regular readers many times, helping married homosexual or bisexual men and their wives understand each other and find a happy compromise in their lives is an avocation of mine that has become almost a full time job since I retired.  But here's the thing, even when your goal in life is to be of help to some one, free help, I might add. You have to sell it. My wife, on the other hand, charges $175.00 an hour for her time as a professional psychotherapist. And that's a deal compared to what she could charge on the east and west coasts. She doesn't have to sell her help to others. They seek her out because they know in order for her to practice she has to be educated, credentialed and regulated. They know she is backed by other professionals and resources as well. It inspires confidence in her patients that she will be able to help them.

In my case, I don't have all that supporting infrastructure. It's just me and my life experience along with my life which has turned out exceptionally well in spite of and even because of my bisexuality. And its my early experience of hating myself that I want to help others mitigate or avoid in their own lives. After all,  the years I spent hating my bisexuality accomplished little, and the process through which I came to see my bisexuality as me and to love who I am was actually pretty simple once I figured it out. It certainly wasn't complex. Anyone could do it. It's just that most people don't think of it and if they do think of it they sometimes don't have the willpower to do it.

So, the truth is, when I started this blog, I thought I needed a hook to pull people in. Who among you can guess what the hook was? If you said it was my picture blog at give yourself a pat on the butt and advance to the head of the class. You're one smart dude. That is exactly what the hook was and is. Now, its just my opinion, but I think my picture blog is one of the best picture blogs out there. It's posted on a consistent twice a month basis and it unfailingly has red hot pictures of some of the best looking men that ever pulled down their jeans for a photographer. For those of you who like XXX pictures of men, it is no secret to you there is a lot, I mean a whole lot, of trash out there, poor photography of some of the ugliest men anyone has ever seen. Some of the pictures floating around the internet would be enough to turn a bisexual or homosexual man straight, I kid you not! Well, maybe a little (grin).

In order to find a hundred or so exceptional pictures twice each month, I go through thousands of pictures. It's a time consuming and unfortunately, mind numbing process. But I do it for two reasons: (1) men will respond to pictures and sometimes when they see the link between my picture blog and my written blog, they'll take a look at the written blog too. (2) When I started looking at pictures I liked them a lot myself although I hated all the trash I had to go through to get to the ones that turned me on. But the turn on of finding the great pictures was reward enough for the work.

However, I've got to say, I'm living proof pornography should and must be a managed part of a guys life. If you look at it all the time, it looses its ability to excite you. Pictures that would get me hard as a rock a few years ago don't phase me now. Yawn, just another guy. But even now, pictures do come around that instantly turn me on. It's like discovering gold in Alaska. It makes all the work worthwhile. So I continue the picture blog because some of those pictures personally turn me on, and I hope they attract more guys to reading this blog.

Perhaps telling the truth about that will turn some of you off. I hope not. And there is a reason I wanted to share the truth with you. When I first started this blog and the picture blog, the picture blog was pulling in almost 100 viewers for every one viewer this written blog pulled in. That huge gap has been steadily closing, and for the last few months this written blog has been bringing in almost 20% more readers than the picture blog is bringing in.

Actually, I've been shocked, but pleasantly surprised to see the trends. I know my style of writing is not for everyone. We live in an age where people want their communication to be in short text messages, tweets and soundbites. That's just not me. I don't even have a Facebook or Twitter account. My writing is long, rambling, often apparently disjointed unless one looks closely for the connection. But my thought is one can't change lives with tweets, text messages and soundbites. One can only do that if others come to know and trust the blogger.

So, I wanted to share this interesting development with all of you. Don't worry I'll continue the picture blog. I like doing it for the one picture in thousands that really stirs up my juices, and I like doing it for all of you.  I want to say thanks to all of you who read this blog regularly. It means a lot to me when I get a letter from one of  you saying, "we've never met but I feel like you're a friend I know well and can trust." It makes my day.

In fact the only thing I don't like about both the blogs is that only a very small fraction of the viewers take the time to comment, actually only about four tenths of one percent. Almost 100% of the comments I do get are positive, so I guess it could be that all those who are not commenting are the ones that hate the blog, but if that were so, I don't think the number of viewers would be increasing like it is.

I don't know if the trend I've described will continue or not. I hope it does because the pictures are nice and often a turn on, but they don't give you much to think about that really affects your life. The written blog can do just that; and from most of the comments I do get, it does do that.

So, thanks to all of you who have made the blog a success. I appreciate it more than you can know.
And, while I'm telling the truth, there is another truth you should know. It is sometimes difficult to come up with material that will be interesting to readers month after month. The easy stuff, the things that were on my mind when I began this blog have all been said. The most viewed blog piece I've written was written over a year ago. "Frot And Frottage" has had more viewers than all the other blog pieces I've written put together. Try as I have, I've not been able to top that particular blog piece. So, if your dealing with a situation or a question that you would like to see what I might have to say about it, don't hesitate to write and tell me about it. I can't promise to blog about it, but the chances are mighty good that I will. Thanks to those of you who have already shared questions or ideas for me to blog about. I really appreciate your help.

Thanks again to all of you. I appreciate you all. Thanks to all who look at the picture blog. Thanks to those of you who take precious time out of your lives to read what I write. A special thanks to those of you who drop me an email or comment on line. Feedback, positive or negative is always helpful and always greatly appreciated.

Jack Scott

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Leo's Thoughts About When Friendships Fade Away

I know I'm not like other people, not only in my bisexuality, but in other ways as well. I've been aware of that since a very early age. For one thing, there has always been a restlessness within me that will never let me be. Since I was a young child, no matter where I might be, I've always been ready to be somewhere else. Then too, I seem to think about things, no one else thinks about. I have a restless curiosity about things I can never know. My curiosity is not like that of some old woman who sticks her nose in everyone else's business so she can gossip all over town about what she learns. My curiosity is about the macro lives of people, the whole of them. It intrigues me when I meet a stranger, because I think about the fact that he has lived his whole life and I've never known him or anything about the days of his life and likely never will. But I'd like to.

My wife says it's because I'm the poster boy for the Leo male. I guess in many ways she's right. I am self confident. As a young man I was ambitious. As an older man I've achieved all I ever dreamed and more. My wife always gripes at me because she feels I am overly generous. I'm quick to pick up the check for lunch or dinner when we are out with friends. I enjoy giving things to others even more than I enjoy receiving things from others. I'm loyal to my friends and always encouraging to others. In fact, since my retirement, the encouragement of others has become almost my full time avocation through my blogs and my email as well as through face to face contacts with my friends. And then there is that cat like curiosity about people and what makes them who and what they are. Why is life so easy for some of us and so difficult for others of us? All of these strengths are common characteristics for Leo males.

On the other hand, even my very best friends describe me as having common Leo weaknesses such as being domineering, stubborn and even vain. I don't think of myself as domineering or stubborn, it's just that I'm hardly ever at a loss about how things should be done, and it's difficult for me to waste time with discussion of lessor ideas. It's even more difficult for me to go along with things I know could be handled in a better manner, but I do so often just so I won't seem to be so domineering. As for being vain, I just like to look as good as I can. What's wrong with that? (grin)

I readily admit I'm an independent person, yet friendships are important to me. I love being around my friends. I don't like being alone. But I don't see myself as being controlling. Can I help it if others hang back and don't speak up, leaving me to get things going and effectively bring projects to a successful conclusion? That is the way its been all my life. I've never had a job where I wasn't in control, and I've had a good life. I've even managed to do some good for others along the way too.

A Friend in Need Is A Friend Indeed
I've never had problems finding friends, even friends with benefits. They've just always been there for me and those sexual relationships have always been long term relationships measured in years. Even after the sexual relationships ended, I continued to be friends with each guy. We talk on the phone. Me meet for a beer or for lunch. In other posts on this blog I have often mentioned Mike who was my buddy for ten years. We no longer have a sexual relationship, but he is one of my closest friends. I visit in his home. He has a key to the door of my home. 

Some people don't like me of course. But some of my friends have been my friends for much of my life. I guess it's true. We Leos have the ability to lift up one's spirits and provide encouragement when times are rough. Our natural enthusiasm attracts people. Like other Leos, I guess some would say I'm a social butterfly, not because I want to be but because people always naturally gravitate to and surround a Leo. Leos are very difficult people to not like, they are usually fairly balanced, realistic people. They never dwell on the past and they think those who do are strange. Leo's hold nothing in regard just because its always been that way. Leo's are always ready to affect change to make things better. Some Leos might be too caught up in themselves and be very self-centered but I'd like to think that's not me. I'm never too self-absorbed to help anyone who needs it. A Leo is the ultimate friend. We do not hold a grudge and we are very forgiving. We have respect and understanding of people's differences. We understand that everyone can't be a Leo (grin) .

One of the ways I know I'm weird is the way I think about people. When I find myself in a crowd of people with time on my hands, I invariably begin to notice people. Our recent trip to Europe gave me several opportunities to observe people. When we fly out of Houston, I always like to get to the airport at least three hours early. It builds in time for adjustments to the unexpected; and after we're checked in, I enjoy relaxing and having a light breakfast and a Bloody Mary in the United Club. 

Observing people in the club is always interesting. Obviously, many of the people in the club are business men and women. They are well dressed whether in suits or casual dress. I find myself thinking that here are men and women who have much of their live behind them. They've lived those lives for years and our paths have never crossed and will never cross again. Some of the other travelers are obviously off to a holiday. Sometimes I spot a woman and child who are most likely off to meet a husband and father or perhaps parents and grandparents. I know everyone in the place is successful in one way or the other. They have to be to be able to pay the price for a first class ticket. But I also know that like everyone, these people have hopes and dreams, triumphs and tragedies in their lives just as I do. Yet, I know nothing of them other than that they are relatively successful people on a journey. I think it would be interesting, and probably beneficial to know the life stories of these people. What could I learn from them that would make me a better person. What could I teach them that would add value to their already successful lives. But I realize I never will have the chance to get to know them. From Houston's International Airport, they will scatter to the far corners of the earth and continue to live lives that will never intersect with mine again.

I often attend the Texans games at Reliant Stadium. The stadium can hold more than 60,000 fans. Most of these people never get close enough to really see their faces, but I do see the faces of other tailgaters in the parking lot. I see those walking up the ramps around me to enter the stadium. I see the faces of those in my seating section and the sections to either side and behind me. My seats happen to be right in front of Texans Owner, Bob McNair's personal box suite. Looking back into the box, I often see people I know because of their personal fame. In years past George and Barbara Bush were often seated in the box. Sometimes they still are but President Bush's health is beginning to interfere with his ability to get out and around. Sometimes a well known music and recording star will be there. Other times I will recognize a local or state politician. I know something about these people, but even they, have a life that is and always will be mostly hidden from me. But I know, even as famous people, they have their challenges and their problems to deal with. In most cases I'll never know about those things. I'll only know the public lives they present to the world.

In the crowd that surrounds me there are always interesting people. It's easy to spot those who are at every game. One comes to know them by sight. It's easy to spot those who are there because they came with someone who loves football even though they are not really a fan themselves. It's easy to spot those who had to sacrifice to buy a ticket. NFL tickets are not a bargain by any means. And of course, its easy to spot those who are such loyal fans of the opposing team that they've traveled hundreds if not more than a thousand miles to see their team play the Texans. They are always dressed in the accouterments of their team. Most of them are good natured and easy going, yet fervent in their support for their team. They have to be to sit surrounded by the enthusiastic Texans fans who spend the whole game razzing them, especially if the Texans are winning. Most of these people have lived their whole lives and never come into my sight. Even those I do recognize live personal lives I know nothing or very little about. After the game, they will all scatter and return to those lives which are unknown to me. Obviously, there are those among them who could have been close, even dear friends of mine had fate brought us together in a more personal way; those friendships are never to be realized. What have I missed from those potential friendships? Or, perhaps that is not the case at all. Perhaps, fate always brings us into contact with those who are meant to change our lives and those whose lives we are meant to change. Much in my life has convinced me that is really the case.

I spent a while this afternoon deleting names from my Yahoo! Messenger Contact List. Because I come into contact with so many people, I usually don't add a contact to my list unless I've talked with him a few times and have something in common with him other than my bisexuality.

There are people on my contact list whom I've never met face to face, but whom I consider to be personal friends. We talk often and in depth. There are other people on my contact list who became such good friends that I made a  point to meet them face to face and they have become regular friends who are very important to me.

But this afternoon, I was dealing with those who I once chatted with regularly, but who have since drifted away. Most of them I once knew where they lived. I knew if they were struggling to reconcile their sexuality and their faith or if they were struggling with the guilt that acting on their bisexual or homosexual desires caused them to have regarding their relationship with their wives. I knew those who had been laid off their jobs and were struggling to find new employment. I knew those who were struggling with health issues or the health issues of someone they love. I knew those who were struggling with loneliness. But all these people have drifted away from any contact with me. Most of them are now only names on my contact list. They have been so long absent from any discourse with me that their individual stories have faded from my mind.

There were two exceptions, the name Bill Wessenberg was one. Bill and I had been friends for many years. I knew almost all there was to know about Bill. Bill had lived a life no one would envy. His life had been a series of tragedies, most of them horrible tragedies. Bill had every reason to curse his life and to curse God for it, but he never did. He remained positive about his life, and he always made lemonade out of the lemons in his life. It wasn't that his life didn't get him down. It did. But he never stayed down for long. He always came back fighting and giving. Bill had several blessings in his life. He was a very wealthy man and he had grandkids whom he loved more than anything in this world. He spent his last years making sure that his grandkids were taken care of. In the process he set up a foundation to make sure that other kids who had little in life would be taken care of too.

This summer Bill's grandkids all went to London. Bill had planned the trip and had looked forward to it, but his brain cancer took him before he could make the trip. His young grandson contacted me to tell me Bill had passed away. He and the rest of the kids had scattered Bill's ashes in a place he loved in life, a beautiful place he would retreat to when he was dealing with the tragedies of his life. His grandson filled me in on the arrangements Bill had made for their care in anticipation of his death. He assured me they would all be fine and want for nothing other than their grandfather. But in a way they had him too because Bill had left behind his diaries chronicling his life with its great tragedies and its triumphs over those tragedies. Reading those diaries, his young grandson was beginning to pair the love he had always felt for his grandfather with the same admiration I had always had for Bill because he had done so much for so many when lesser men would have curled up and retreated from a cruel world. I find myself wondering though how his grandkids will fare. Will they use the great advantages Bill left them to build lives of service to themselves and others as Bill did, or will privilege turn them soft and spoiled? I'll never know, but I choose to think the influence of their grandfather will prevail and they will become productive and successful adults.

It was because of the kindness of his young grandson, that I knew Bill had finally succumbed to his cancer. I can't help but wonder how many of the contacts I deleted from my Messenger Contact list today have also passed on? Of those still living I can't help but wonder if their drifting out of contact with me is the result of them overcoming their challenges and beginning a new life in which advice and encouragement are no longer needed, or if instead it is indicative of their having been overcome by their challenges and drifted back into an unhappy and unfulfilled shell. I'll never know, but I hope they have found happiness. I know, in spite of my hope, that the likelihood is they didn't.

I guess it's the Leo in me because I do know I hate not knowing that all is well with these casual friends. I hate even more thinking the possibility they have simply given up on finding and enjoying life as it was meant to be. I hate the thought I might have failed to encourage them enough or that they may have fallen through the cracks of my busy life and felt I had deserted them.

The other exception is my friend Rick. I'm still in contact with Rick but we have long since begun to use the phone for our talks. Rick is a dear friend and a great guy. Rick is his real name and I know he reads this blog. Rick was once married and had two sons. He is a homosexual man. The time came when Rick decided to do what he thought was the right thing and tell his wife the truth about himself. She ended the marriage and his sons, unfortunately, ended their relationship with their father. Loosing his sons was a blow to Rick that he'll never really recover from, yet he made every effort to go on with his life.

Rick didn't want casual homosexual sex. What he wanted was a partnership with another man like himself. A couple of years ago, he thought he had found that partnership. He found a man he came to love and who professed to love him. They had a ceremony blessing their relationship. All was well for a short time, but Rick soon began to see indications his partner was cheating on him on a regular basis. At first he tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, but the evidence became overwhelming. He confronted his partner and he promised to stop having sex with other guys, but it was an empty promise. Soon the evidence of his indiscretions was mounting again. Rick left.

To add to his challenges, Rick had once had a high paying job but the economic downturn of 2008 had taken that job and all he had been able to find since was minimum wage jobs with which he could hardly make ends meet.

Rick's heartbreak over his partner was such that he felt he had to get away. He quit his low paying job and went to Europe to visit a friend there. He thought perhaps he could start a new life in Europe. He admits now that was the wrong thing to do. He's back in the states now looking for some way to start over.

Rick's story is one of those which challenges not only my view of the word but my faith. In my view of the world, if one is a good person, works hard, cares about others and plays by the rules, he is rewarded. In my faith I believe that God loves each of us equally and that He wants each of us to be happy. I believe God blesses each of us to the extent we are able to handle those blessing for our own benefit and the benefit of others. But Rick's story, his life, challenges both of those important paradigms I hold dear. Rick is an exceptionally good guy. He genuinely cares about others and he has much to give. Yet, he simply can't seem to catch a break.

I find the only thing I can keep saying to Rick is to never give up and to keep on searching. "You're never truly defeated until you give up," I told him. I believe that to be the truth but even the strongest among us needs at least a small victory along the way to encourage us to carry on. So far Rick has not had even the small victory.

A lessor man would have long since given up, but so far Rick hasn't. He's had time to think, to realize that though he loved his partner he did the right thing by leaving since he was being used. He's has a plan now that he is going to try to implement. God knows, he needs a break. I'm praying that it works out.

I hate that some of us seem to have it all while others seem to never have enough. It burns the shit out of me, to tell the truth, especially when it is a good man like Rick who deserves so much more. Yet I am wise enough to understand that like it or not, life is seldom fair in the hands she deals us. I cling to the hope and the belief that persistence will always ultimately be rewarded. As even the Bible says, the poor and the poor of spirit will always be with us. I get that because, frankly, people make wrong choices. They don't get an education when it is offered. They turn to drugs to numb themselves from their problems. They turn to crime to take more than they deserve, or they simply give up. I get why these kinds of people are poor and poor of spirit. I don't get it at all when great guys like Rick simply can't seem to catch a break in life. 

I do know the lesson my friend Bill, who recently entered into a civil partnership, taught me. I am Bill's friend. I encouraged him in changing his life for years. I offered suggestions about how changes could be made. I supported him in both good times and bad. But the one thing Bill did that I couldn't do was do his work. I got the easy job, giving him the benefit of my experience through advice. His was the hard job, doing the work to use the advice and change his life.

Friendships are such a great thing. I value all my friendships. There are friends of mine for whom I would take a bullet. They and their happiness mean that much to me. But there is one thing no friend can do for us. Friends cannot change our lives. We have to do that work on our own. Our friends can encourage us. They can offer suggestions, but each of us must do the work ourselves. We must always be aware that in the end, we can never choose what life gives us or takes from us. We can, however, choose how we deal with the challenges life brings us. We can even choose how we deal with the successes life brings us. Mismanaging our successes is just as bad as mismanaging our challenges.

I know this blog is read by many people who want to and need to change their lives. I know some have been waging an uphill battle for years to do just that and can't seem to catch a break. Honestly, in some cases, like my friend Rick's, I don't know why that is; but it is. My only advice is to never quit. Never give up! Never drift away from your friends. Strive to make new ones who might offer new suggestions and new advice. A man can never have too many friends, and one never knows just where he will find the key to fulfillment. Looking back on my own life, I find the key to a fulfilling life for me was really more like a code word and many people had a piece of the code word. My mother gave me a very important pieces as did my father. Important teachers passed on other pieces of the code word. My wife gave me vital parts of the code word, and then there were my friends, some of them friends I would have never met had I not determined to explore and come to understand my bisexuality. My friend Mike, is an example of that. Were it not for my bisexuality, I would have never met Mike and he has been one of the most important people in my adult life. Knowing Mike taught me so much about myself and he passed to me vital parts of the code word that led to fulfillment.

I believe each of us is created with a purpose, and I believe each of us has a part to play in life that will bring good to us and, just as importantly, to those around us. I don't believe the purpose for which we were born can stay hidden from us forever if we don't give up on finding it. I believe that each of us can find triumph in life no matter how great the challenge and no matter how long we have to endure the challenge.

I often think of the life of Winston Churchill. He was born into a life of privilege at a time and in a country where only the privileged became highly educated. But though he was born in one of the great palaces of England, he led a rather ordinary life until he was an old man. But as the dark clouds of World War II gathered around England and the country found itself in an existential struggle like nothing the world had ever seen before, Churchill rose to a position of power as Prime Minister of the war torn country. He used his considerable oratorial skills to rally the people in the darkest hours of their lives. He used his considerable military skills to out maneuver the greatly superior strength of the German war machine and he used his friendship with Franklin Roosevelt along with his considerable powers of persuasion to bring a reluctant United States of America into a war it wanted nothing to do with.

When victory was won after a struggle of many years, Churchill lost the Prime Ministership and returned to a private and rather ordinary life. It was as if he had been born for the sole purpose of leading the nation through its darkest hour. I believe that to be true.

We all have a purpose, some great, some small; but all vital to ourselves and to others. By fulfilling our purpose we pave the way for others to fulfill theirs, and through each of us fulfilling our part we ensure the triumph of life for ourselves and for others! It was my friends who helped me to come to terms with my bisexuality, come to accept it and eventually come to see it as a true gift. Work hard at building friendships with guys like yourself, and don't let them fade away.

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