Si, Se Puede
I had a wonderful day with my daughter yesterday. I have hurt her many times by referring to her as my “adopted” daughter. She offered to change her name to mine at one point. I did not respond to her. It is only now that I see how much this must have hurt her. Such is the way of Fatherhood I guess. Such is the way of being human. At least that is how it has been for me.
I think part of the problem has to do with the idea of “ownership” (a concept wonderfully explored in the movie Rise of the Planet of the Apes by the way). Whenever I refer to someone as “my” this, or “my” that I can easily fall prey to the belief that I have some special title or right over them. When carried to the extreme, I can quickly see myself as having a right to tell them what they “should” or “should not” do. When I think like this, I must be careful, I risk hurting those I claim to love. As I reflect on it, I have often been about as careful as a tap dancing elephant.
MY daughter, MY wife, MY country, MY life; in each case, the word MY both comforts and frightens me. I am comforted by the security of ownership, the idea that I can claim to special care and comfort via legal property rights. On the other hand, I am driven to the brink of insanity by the thought that I must somehow control and direct the person or thing owned, or that I, I alone, am responsible for their care and well being. Clearly, I do not own the one called my daughter, or the one I once called my wife and I certainly do not own the ground upon which I walk. This last is a particularly ridiculous idea to me, since the ground is billions of years old, and I will only be here a few seconds by comparison.
Sometimes I am not plagued by this dilemma of “ownership”. I sense that none of us “own” anything, that all of us are part of one incredibly complex and beautiful whole, and that I have been granted the gift of being here but for a short time to enjoy life and all that it has ofter. I remember to show gratitude and respect, ever seeking to understand my life as being be a part of, rather than apart from the nature's wonders. I rejoice in the gift of life and know that nature neither understands nor obeys humans' claim of dominion. I can wryly point to a hurricane's refusal to respect property lines as but one example of nature's blindness to our laws.
At other times, I am blind to any adverse consequences of believing that I own something or someone. I am not speaking of the issue of slavery, that dark stain and its insidious stepchildren - racism and bigotry are no longer welcome in my mind (although they have lived there in the past, and still beg for guest appearances on the stage of my thoughts). No matter how hard I try, I have and often still do fall prey to those little everyday dreams of ownership: my father “owes” me perpetual financial support; my daughter owes me perpetual respect no matter what I do; my wife or loved one, “owes” me love despite my refusal, or inability to act in a lovable fashion; on, and on, and on.
I experience great relief when I am able to lay down the weight of ownership, if only for a short time. I do love my toys. I do love to travel. But these can become burdensome and wearing to the point of destroying me if I turn them into an expectation about what I am “owed” or what is “owed” by me. Sometimes I despair...ah, hell, let me be honest, I often despair at the greed and chains of ownership I have picked up over the years. I despair at the expectations (I imagine?) others sometimes have of me, before they will grant me their friendship and love. There are days when the world seems to scream at me, telling me it owns me, that it owns my very life and how I must live it - “care for me and prevent me from harm or you are a failure”, “do not be bisexual – you are evil”, “believe in my god or go to hell”, “give me sex and money or 'dance'/do these things for me or I will not love you” and then, there is the most hurtful and difficult ownership demand of all, “hate these people and kill them or, I will hate and kill you.”
Yesterday, at lunch, around 2 pm in Chili's I wept like a child from the pain of all this fear and hatred, at what it is doing to me, at what it had done to my daughter, at what it will do to my granddaughter and grandson. I remembered that I was supposed to “be a man” and not weep and the tears came faster still. I reflected on the fact that my daughter and I likely were sexually abused as children. This came about in no small part, because of the idea that parents own their children, that they have a right to treat them however they see fit even if this means telling the child they are born “evil”, that they have no right to their own sexuality, that they are, in fact, nothing more than the extension of their parent's dreams – be a football player, be a ballerina, be this, be that...be what I could not be so that I may live on in you after I die. Immortality, that is what in the end I seek with my ownership obsession. Immortality through my children, my legacy, my namesakes. I give more thought to my lineage than I do my children. How sad.
I share about child abuse, not to harm anyone. I do not blame anyone. What was done was done out of ignorance. But, I must face and admit to myself that it was done, or else I will never be able to move past it. I must say it publicly for the sake of those who do not dare speak of it. I must say it for the sake of my grandchildren, even if speaking of these things hurts many people whom I love dearly.
There are moments, like the one I feel as I write this, that I do not know if I can go on, that I am torn between too many choices. That the world insists that I hate and judge others (and myself) in order to even deserve to exist, do I: Hurt one group of people I love deeply in order to perhaps stop future pain on the part of my grandchildren?, Hurt my straight friends by supporting myself and my gay friends?, Hurt friends of a particular faith by not participating in it with them?, Hurt people in general by using too many resources?, Hurt atheists, and be denied membership for not being a “true” atheist and attacking my religious friends?, Sully the clarity of science by clinging to my love of poetic expression? Hurt the world by not making maximum use of the talent given to me?
I do not have the answer. I swear I do not. If someone tells me I must have the faith that one will come, that there is an unseen being taking care of me, I believe the end will surely come very quickly. I have been down that path many, many times. It leads to the hospital more surely than any other. But I should not be so hasty, perhaps, just perhaps, that is where I belong. Maybe with enough Thorazine, Melaril and Haldol the questions will disappear. Perhaps, I will meet a kind nurse there. Someone who will give me a book and pencil to write and draw with. Someone who will... But screw that, I will do all in my power to stay out of the hospital, I will not give those who hate me, or simply cannot follow me on my writing and talking tirades, any more satisfaction. May the haters and greedy ones be hospitalized, it is their turn. Whoops. There I go, being hateful and judgmental again.
As I said, I do not have the answer. Perhaps, with kindness, one will come. If a network, or group of people is coordinating and trying to help, perhaps they will have the decency to say so. Perhaps, if there is a supreme being, he will have the courtesy to undertake a press tour to introduce himself, and not hide like some wizard behind a curtain. I will play the Tin Man, if the curtain may be pulled.
For now, I will breathe. For now, I will sit and watch the patterns on my wall, television (even the cartoons), is too annoying these days. For now, in the words of Cesar Chavez, a real native American, “Si. Si, se puede.”