One of the oldest monastic traditions is that of the hermit. It is a life “being alone with God, not just for your benefit but for the benefit of the church and the world.”
The hermit is the classic guru on a mountain top who chooses communion with the universe over conventional society. People come to the hermit to share in the experience.
The vast majority of people, though, don’t really understand this eremetic calling. They may be hip enough to go to an ashram, but a hermitage seems beyond any comprehensible sensibility.
Lots of people want to be an author, to have a book out that shows them in a good light, to be able to use that book as a platform on which to campaign, giving lectures, going on talk shows, getting approbation or at least notoriety.
Many fewer people want to be a writer, a modern ink stained wretch fighting carpal tunnel while facing a blank screen. You know how to write, don’t you? You just get out a blank sheet of paper and open a vein.
The writer’s urge is essentially hermetic, based in the demand to listen to the voices you hear in the universe and capture them for time. You cannot simultaneously be in the world of chatter and also be in the world of your own creation, telling your own stories and understandings in a distinctive, compelling voice.
The process of writing is meditative and poetic. Stephen Sondheim talks about crying after he has written something that moves him, or, maybe more precisely, about crying after being able to capture something that moves him in writing.
My calling has been essentially monastic and very individual. My practice has been centred around discipline and ascetic denial, focused on becoming more righteous and closer to truth. My life has been working to be of service, on basic levels and on higher ones.
I am a hermit, not because I don’t need human connection but because I need connection to the spiritual even more.
The Roman Catholic church position on homosexuality has been consistent. It is possible to have homosexual desire, but it is a sin to act on that desire. Gay people are required to a life of celibacy and denial if they want to be right with God.
While the church also demands celibacy from priests, they are able to make that choice when they take their vows, usually after a period of exploration of their own desires.
Gay people aren’t allowed that choice, aren’t allowed to explore. Their celibacy is required, imposed against their consent if they do not want to be bold sinners in the world.
My experience of my life mirrors this notion. My own celibacy was enforced, without a period of exploration in my formative days, a time when transgender had no sanctioned presence in the world at all.
I learned to deny expressing and exploring the passion of my heart in the world as a very young person, without the ability to learn the power of my own Eros. That time was lost.
Unlike other transpeople, though, who made other choices, I did have a nature that suited the monastic life. I did have the chops for theology and denial, for service and for exploration. That is an unusual thing in the world.
If I lived in another time, another culture, I might have found a religious order that venerated special gifts like mine, might have been taken in and found community with shared beliefs and goals. There were places where gynemimetic shamans were valued as part of the leadership, offering connection and healing past opposites.
In my time, though, the only life that seemed open to me was the hermetic life.
And so, even with my regrets from the exploration of vitality that I was denied, I learned the habits of a hermit, as incomprehensible as that is to most people.
That, I suspect, is calling.