In the church of the divine surprise, fascination is one of our key sacraments.
Fascination is the key to deep learning, the impulse that opens us to move beyond our own assumptions and beliefs, leading us towards knowledge and healing.
I am fascinated by stories, mostly the stories of growth and discovery, stories of people who were fascinated to the point of obsession, yearning to discover new ideas and new solutions that could make the world a better place.
Transcendence is rooted in fascination, in not just telling our story but in finding flickers of insight in the stories of others, the tales they tell of work and of journeys, the myths they use to store the the knowledge they have gleaned about the world that we share.
We pay attention to others, to systems, to nature, to the moment because we are fascinated by the moving shadows, knowing that they can move us beyond where we were to where we can be smarter, better, more enlightened, more actualized, more loving.
It is a treat for me to run across a fascinating person, someone whose stories hold the mix of sweaty work and sharp revelation which offer a new, different, bold and very personal way of seeing the world. People are fascinating to me in their own individuality, the gifts they have found and polished as they stumbled on their journey, the brilliance of their own creative and dynamic energy.
I was out for the day on Tuesday. I started with a lobby day at the state capital, a collection of activists from around the state.
The comments from supportive legislators fascinated me as they reflected the skills and determination of the committed pols they had to be to gain their seats. Their professionalism showed.
A mother of a trans child offered up her story of motivation, from inside her own family to her connection with another mother who lost her child to suicide just this month. She revealed her own collage of stories, bits that fascinated her, and offered them as shared motivation.
The trans leader, though, used cheerleader tricks to try and rev up the audience, offering only hack generalities about “going and getting them.” Without the heart of a mother or the professionalism of the pols, she fell back on cliches about trans rights being human rights and slaps at those who had opposed trans rights.
The crowd, though, were just cannon fodder for the organizers, bodies to be paraded around and shown to legislators and staff in an attempt to humanize the issue. When I saw the group of young people I would have to join, I knew that there would be no way to fascinate any of them or anyone else in this case.
If you can’t be fascinated, you also can’t be fascinating. The limits of our fascination are the limits of our attraction.
Later that night, I went to the only trans pride event of our local pride season. Pride is the financial hub and political key to the local lesbian and gay centre, the moment when they can use emotions to muster involvement.
Getting involvement of transpeople beyond those who are newly out, though, the young and the reborn young, is something so hard that they have given up on the task.
As I sat in a corner of a centre I was first in over twenty years ago, the lead staffer came up to me, showing interest, but nothing I could say really engaged them. They just wanted to appear hospitable without actually being fascinated by my rich content.
I know the way this works. I have been too challenging to be fascinating all my life, more compelling as a clown than at close range.
Luckily, one young person emerged from the crowd with her own energy and smarts. She so achieved the ultimate trans surgery, removing the broomstick from her own butt, that she stood out like a light.
As she chatted with her friends, I saw her noticing me. Because she was no longer trapped in her own story, out and working as a cosmetologist, she could see that I had my own energy to offer, my own feminine presence.
I let her find me, playing the classic woman’s game of being confident in the gaze of others until they are fascinated, wanting to know more.
Her story is fabulous. She was there to help other transpeople, but the ultimate frustration of every mother, every open hearted empath was making her crazy: people heal in their own time and their own way. As we fought to chat inside the space of other needy transpeople, I offered her my contact info.
I ducked out on her, but she ran down the street to find me in the car. She wanted to talk about how hard it was to deal with people who are stuck, how giving and giving and giving only seems to enable them, not to empower them.
Laughing, I knew the problem. The kids I deal with aren’t 3 or 5, they are 17 or 26 or 37 or 54. They need tough love from a mom, not coddling. Someone has to mirror their possibilities, hold high expectations for them, encourage them to let go of their neediness and claim their own power.
She will get there, because she is so intense and sharp, fascinated with the challenge of helping others grab onto their own essence and give birth to their own potent stories.
I wanted to get dressed and go out somewhere the next day, but I realized what I so often realize: there are few places I can go to find fascinating people and even fewer places to find people who are open and ready enough to find me fascinating. They don’t treasure their own growth enough to understand why they treasure me which makes it hard to explain to others why I should be treasured.
I spoke to a parent at that pride night, a big, working class guy who cuts wood and was worried his trans daughter would stay as hidden as she does at home. She didn’t, though, because she found the people at the session fascinating and they knew enough to find her fascinating, which made him happy.
“I have always been trying to understand,” he told me. “I have been around the world and learned everyplace I went. In the service, I was stationed in Hawaii, and there transpeople are just part of the community, well accepted.”
In that moment, he showed himself to be a traveller, someone who wants to be fascinated, open and learning from what he finds, rather than a tourist who only wants to be entertained with distracting sensation.
So many shut down their own fascination to stay protected, defending their own beliefs. They want routine more than surprise, avoiding the thrill of rebirth by resisting letting go of their armour.
I look for fascinating new stories that challenge what I know, opening me up and extending my understanding. That’s why I am a theologian.
And if I knew how, I would also look for a place where people could be fascinated with what I have to offer, too.