Viktor Frankl, in his monumental work, “Man’s Search for Meaning” (1946), drafted in a concentration camp to become a seminal contribution to two decades of post-World War II progressive moral suasion, identified man’s inherent pursuit of meaning in life in three areas – in work, in love and in courage. Discovering what these mean for gay people constitutes our path forward for an altogether new and pioneering basis for gay identity, values and culture.
They represent the vantage point from which, like a prophetic founder of a newly anointed tribe walking away from the burning ruins of a self-imploded village and not looking back, we can catch a glimpse of a bright horizon, freed from the shackles of degraded radical anarcho-hedonism, obsessive habits and addictions and the predatory rape and objectification of persons valued as nothing more than stimulants for insatiable lust.
Indeed, such a pilgrimage seems at present still more like stepping through a minefield in the midst of such collapsing conditions, and there also appears a seamless continuity of this distress through all contemporary culture, distinguishable only by matters of degree.
So we gay people are having to do this for ourselves, using the likes of Frankl for guideposts, pioneering as well, perhaps, a rehabilitation of our entire culture. Such, in fact, has been our role through history.
In the grand scheme of things, we are here for a very important reason. Our same-sex erotic attraction is a creative binding force of nature as strong and purposeful as any in all creation, rooted in the empathic buffering glue that preserves, protects and advances civilizing influences, effectively steering evolution in the right direction.
Our awakening from the sheer degradation and chaos mainstreamed into American culture by the social engineers of the “sex, drugs and rock and roll” counterculture of the late 1960s is a prelude and precondition for a revival of beneficent global culture, generally.
A fresh impulse for attaining and affirming enduring, personal hard-fought-for, face-to-face intimate human relationships, involving but not limited to the notion of gay marriage, reflects this awakening. Becoming significantly more self-conscious, this process can become socially transformative.
By providing meaning through loving human connections, in Frankl’s formula, marriage and intimate relationships inclusive of family and friends, grandmothers and lovers alike, function as stable platforms for enhancing the kind of empathy and kindness that reaches beyond comfort zones to uplift humanity generally. But they don’t come easily. Our culture’s demand for instant gratification notwithstanding, they all take work.
But they are the cure for victims of sexual objectification, breaking through barriers imposed by lust-aroused mental, including electronic, fantasy images to see and engage real people and not just their “looks.”
In San Francisco in the early 1970s, I walked passed an attractive young man leaning against a storefront. Behind the storefront was one of the countless “peep show” joints where impersonal sex took place in the back. He gave me a typical “come hither” stare, but as I kept walking, I smiled and said, “Hi!” His face was instantly transformed by a huge grin that made his eyes sparkle. “Hi!,” he beamed back.
In that memorable case, a barrier of sexual objectification was broken to reach the real person inside, which as it turned out for him, was still right near the surface.
In too many other cases in gay ghettos those days, however, such real persons had receded to hard shells deep within. Everybody viewed everybody as a sexual object, and that was preached as the way it was supposed to be. Friendships were superficial, and in cases where “coming out” alienated family and old friendships, as in my case, leaving little in the way of genuine connections.
Religion was no help. There were only two kinds: that which condemned homosexuality and that which affirmed it by uncritically endorsing the radical anarcho-hedonism dominating its culture. So, despite my seminary training, I found no place for me there.
But now, 40 years later, the push for gay marriage has embedded within it a potentially transformative, constructive affirmation of the meaning of persons generally that could save the very institution of marriage, itself, in our wider culture.
It is not just about equal rights. Far more important is the relentless insistence on a social recognition of a sustainable relationship grounded in trust, faithfulness and commitment that goes to the very core of what it means to be human, and applying that to all relationships, marriage and beyond.
Reactionaries hate gay marriage for more than its “same sex” aspect, but because it represents the notion that marriage should be a socially-affirmed bond and commitment of equals, and not composed of a dominant male and subordinate female and children.
The reactionary’s notion of the “nuclear family” is, indeed, sorely threatened by gay marriage. But theirs is destroying the institution because it undermines truly human intimacy for the sake of male dominion, to the detriment of everybody.
(To be continued).