Monday, May 11, 2009

Oz and What Comes After

I spent the night, not sleeping, thinking about the topic of a new book. A nonfiction book about two metaphysical spiritual counselors and healers who, at the onset of their adventure, live in the amazingly brilliant Technicolor land of Oz. Their life takes them on a dizzying ride to "Kansas": that bland black and white mixture of good old-fashioned hometown values mixed with mind-numbing conformity and minimal options. They go forward with integrity, attempting to open their minds to what this bleak and forbidding landscape has to offer. And they find lots to recommend in this "no place like home" land the locals love like life itself.

Mormon children come home here again and again. They go to Brigham Young University, go off on their LDS vision quests to poverty stricken foreign lands, intent on converting their neighbors. Some become famous, brilliant actors, authors, musicians. They make it big in some Technicolor Oz-like environment, and scurry back home to where their families live. Where life is so wholesome if you only follow the LDS gospel. You know just what to do if you're one of the brethren, all the roles are written out, so safe and familiar.

It's easy to envy them. We drive by the LDS stake houses, the wide flat church structures with the tiny steeples on top, and sometimes feel a longing to be part of one. Not really. Not for the religion. But for the sense of belonging, of knowing one's role and how to get there, having a map, a citadel on top of a mountain that can be seen as a guiding light like the Snowflake Mormon temple, a grey cement fortress with a steeple—-you merely need to believe in its power to get to the top.

We're not made that way. We're spiritual not religious-- Buddhist, neo-Pagan, Taoist, Christian-influenced and Jewish. None of the above, all of it, too. We're in a committed relationship like gay or lesbian couples. Not married, our union isn't recognized by any institution, but we depend on each other and carry each other through the trials and thrills of living this earthly adventure just the same.

The people here extend a helping hand. They welcome us here and express their desire that we stay and help the community grow. They put a metaphorical arm around us and say "There's no place like home and this could yours" again and again.

This never happened for us in other places we lived. It's touching. They mean it. We don't have to be LDS. They mean that, too.

But it's hard to see how we could accept the conditions of living here without it.

There are no metaphysical bookstores here, no Jewish synagogues. The art galleries are 45 minutes away up in Pinetop. All the movie theatres, too. There will never be a parade for gays and lesbians. The local economy is 100% dependent on cowboys and ranchers, a little bit of farming, and all the things that ranchers and farmers need to do. I sometimes think that maybe I could learn to love all that, to fit in, get a job on someone's ranch, literally learn the ropes. But Mormon families don't hire help, they raise their own. The old-fashioned way, the way all pioneer families had to do. It's hard to make a living if you don't fit the roles prescribed in such an environment. You don't have the right skill set, it can't be learned in school, and what we feel we have most to offer isn't obviously wanted -- not for pay that is. No way, no how.

Lately, a new "Oz" has beckoned to us. Santa Fe. It's at 7000 feet, that means it's a lot cooler than here (we're at 5579 feet which is still pretty high up). It's full of color and fun and eclectic values and culture."Gay and lesbian travelers are welcome here!"-- that's what the Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureau has to say. When would we ever expect to see something like that here? Wikipedia says Santa Fe is the 2nd largest "art market" in the United States, second only to New York City. It's also home to a wide variety of spirituality. It's a mecca for creative and spiritually-oriented people of all sorts.

But there's a nagging fear as I write these words today. We're interested, a little bit excited, too. But when it comes to feeling welcomed home, like we have been here, is a city really the right place for us to be?

Paul has been exploring themes related to "home", metaphysics and "The Wizard of Oz" for some time now. Two brilliant examples of his writing about this are on his blog: Technicolor Yawn and No Place. There's no place like Home?

Some people say Home is where the heart is. We know that. We can be at home with each other wherever we go. But there's more we're longing for now -- our home within a community that not only welcomes us just because we've arrived but gives home to all we want to express in our lives as well.

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