Monday, June 20, 2011

Ritual Resources

A little over a year ago, I created Anchorhold to share my love of ritual. Since then, I've written here about its power to express what words fail to capture of our experience, our needs, our aspirations; about how it can help us rediscover and reinvent ourselves-as individuals and as part of a wider community of gay, bisexual, and otherwise queer men.

I’m delighted that this blog has logged over 5000 visits since then.

I’m also eager to hear if you find something useful when you come here. I encourage you to make comments and to use this site as a forum to exchange the discoveries, the wisdom, and the fun of your own practice.

Over the next weeks, I'll continue to write about specific topics in ritual practice, and then to archive these posts in the sidebar under their own heading of “Ritual Resources.” I hope you’ll use the comment function to share your own related experiences.

This July and August, I’ll serve as Ritualist in Residence at Easton Mountain, building a shrine to the community's collective erotic energy and hosting a laboratory space where men can play and experiment hands-on with symbols and practices inspired by a wide range of traditions. My Ritual Resource posts to Anchorhold will become hard-copy flyers for participants to take away as aids for the invention or enhancement of their own practice.

I also invite you to contact me one on one, if you feel I could be of use to you as a sounding board, as a facilitator, as a witness, as a participant in your practice. It’s part of my calling to offer myself as a companion on your journey of ritual exploration.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Brutal and Summary Dechachkefication

With the onset of Alzheimer’s, my grandmother’s lifelong habit of archiving magazines escalated into the creation of a shoulder-high maze in her bedroom, then the stacks’ consolidation into an impenetrable monolith that finally engulfed my deceased grandfather’s twin bed. Before it was over, termites were nesting in fifty years of National Geographic, Arizona Highways, and Audubon.

I could see the pattern recapitulate itself in my mother’s reluctance to part with anything that had once come into our house, and with the onset of her own dementia, a rising sense that the integrity of her life depended on the categorical preservation of everything she’d gathered around her.

My uncle left a suicide note explaining to his daughter how to install the storm windows.

I’ve labored all my life under the burden of hoarder DNA. I remember explaining at the age of four why the small and large scraps of paper on the coffee table needed each other in order not to feel lonely.

My partner and I spent the last six weeks preparing to walk away from our house in Toronto for fifteen months. Readying it for new occupants involved a brutal and summary dechachkefication.

I went through five boxes of memorabilia from my childhood home that ten years ago seemed like the barest tether to four and a half decades of memory and desire. Nine tenths went into the trash, or to the curio shop around the corner. I couldn’t bear to treat my mother’s favorite housedress as refuse, so I burned it. I hadn’t realized how splendidly cotton fabric flares up.

I sold a collection of vinyl I’d barely played in fifteen years, that as much as any artifact defined who I was in my twenties: hopelessly romantic and romantically hopeless aesthete; idolater of Bach and Mozart; incipient Wagnerian; dilettante in zydeco, alternative rock, and reggae, which represented for me the less mapped-out and rule-bound life I longed for but couldn’t choose.

What do you do with a shelf of twenty-year-old erotic videos that long ago lost their compelling allure, and have in any case turned to magnetic snow onscreen since you last beheld the divine Al Parker in all his gloriously ingenious raunchiness?

And on it went. With every carton removed from the basement; with every bag of unworn-for-a-year clothing donated to Goodwill; with every cookbook I hadn’t succeeded actually in using for ten years, there advanced a lightness that grew addictive. I found myself wandering around the house at night looking for something else I could do without. When it comes down to the choice, at least three quarters of what I hang onto bears almost no lived relation to the quality of my life.

It’s a gentle and very privileged middle-class version of renunciation that I’ve practiced since mid-April. But it’s been salutary nonetheless. What matters, it turns out, are a few dozen CD’s; a cat who spent the first six hours of The Big Shlepp from southern Ontario to the East End of Long Island screaming her head off; the altar objects now installed in a recessed niche behind my desk; some collage work in progress. Letting go of the rest is a taste of freedom, a chance to reinvent the soul and to be reinvented, a minor spark from Shiva’s ring of fire, Pentecost’s least dramatic tongue of flame.