When I look back at the last twenty years of my writing, much of it available on-line, I see a ramp.
It’s me going through that spiral of enlightenment that takes one simultaneously deeper and higher, the kind of sacred immersion that lets you see personal details so close up that they reveal themselves to be the building blocks of universal experience.
It’s me getting closer and closer to the infinite, which lets patterns emerge and reveal their forms, truths that other people can identify in their life even though they have no words for them, having never been immersed enough to clearly outline their shapes.
The few other people who follow my work often comment on how they see their own challenges in it, on how they wish these ideas were out in the wider world so they could use them to explain their own struggles to others.
This ramp, though, is just like the process that built it. It isn’t one seamless thesis, taut and whole, rather it is created with thousands and thousands of little bits, ideas stacked like pebbles, words shaped like waves, concepts built like geological formations, built up here, removed there.
It is a ramp made of mental Lego bricks, placed together over two decades, one by one, a bit at a time. The shape is ramshackle and erratic, full of jagged edges and switchbacks, constructed not from a plan created of whole cloth but rather from the experiences and lessons of a lifetime.
How do you invite anyone to climb such a ramp? It isn’t the destination of the ramp that was the point, rather it was the process of building it, the revelations that come from the serendipitous and hard won connections made, the ways it mirrors and illuminates the challenges of the world in bits of created language.
“So,” people ask me, “tell me quickly what you write about.”
I build a vast ramp to understanding created out of bricks that, like adobe, bind together sharp thought and mushy emotions to reflect the revelations I struggled with on my journey though life.
It’s a great thing, my ramp, and for those who have the time and will and capacity to study it, I have shared everything I hold dear.
But I have no illusion that many people at all will want to study it. They have their own constructions to build, their own routines to follow, their own challenges to battle.
This is, of course, the essential challenge of the return of the gift, as Campbell describes of the the quest of the hero. How do you come back fundamentally changed and explain that change to people who have never taken that quest and fought those dragons with “Thou Shalt” on every scale?
I have a packet of essays from my journey, a literary construction of the ramp I followed, to get deep and get transcendent at the same time. I am very proud of my hard, wearing, costly work, very centred in my own understanding and construction.
But do I think anyone will believe it is beautiful and attractive enough to admire it, to want to examine it, to engage the twists and turns? Well, maybe a few will, someday, but they will only take what helps them on their journey of building and move on.
And this leaves me in the same world with everyone else holding a story, owning a ramp, that just puts people off as queer and ugly, leading to someplace they couldn’t possibly go if they want to be part of good and polite society.
Can I simultaneously stand at the top of the ramp, exploring and being where I have worked so hard to get and at the bottom of the ramp, cajoling others to take the first step towards a new a transformative understanding? Can I both be the graduate prof and the elementary teacher?
I have to admit that I find that duality very hard to achieve. To get pulled down to the base level every time I face someone who wants to reject the big, ugly ramp being built next door is the kind of wearing process that fundamentally creates the abuse of stigma. I may know how beautiful my ramp is, how strong and functional it is, and how it is the work of calling that leads me right past gender to enlightenment, but fighting the ugly fight everyday will just wear you down, take up your resources and bruise your heart.
TBB would remind me that other people’s concerns are none of my business. She is right, of course, you need to just live your own life and let your freak flag fly. We need to make the most of life, it isn’t a dress rehearsal. Still, everyone has neighbours, everyone needs community, everyone is just human.
Everyone needs. And women certainly need.
Welcome to my magical ramp. It explains itself, not in the bricks used to construct it, but in the meaning that they hold inside.
I am the shadow my words cast.
— Octavio Paz
You just don’t get it? You want me to simplify it so it doesn’t require accepting gifts from outside the norm?
I don’t know how to do that. And I’m fairly sure that I don’t have the strength or the will to find a way to make it easily palatable.
But isn’t it pretty?