“Alright, where do you want to start?,” I asked Gary “Which came first, the whippings or the sex abuse?”
“Well, the whipping happened to both of us for years. When he got mad or if we crossed a line, he’d get out his belt that that was that. I guess it was just punishment for doing bad stuff though, right?”
“Not necessarily, Gary. Punishment is appropriate under certain circumstances, but there’s a difference between a reprimand and punishment. Then there’s the matter of what circumstances, what punishment, and punishment for what behavior? And those are separate from misusing punishment because you’re cruel or want to inflict pain or control someone. Where do you think it fell with Bud?”
“It started if we didn’t do our chores or smart mouthed Mom, stuff like that. But later it felt like any excuse to whip us, or if he came home angry, or whatever, it was an excuse or something.”
“Let’s talk about you, not you and Jackson, just you. Would you say most of the time the punishment happened because you did something wrong or broke a rule, whether Bud was angry or not or lost it and went too far or not.”
He was quiet, like he was thinking, and finally said, “Probably most of the time, at least a lot of the time. I’m sure I was pushing his buttons and being difficult and stuff.”
“Okay, then we can say that a lot of the time you deserved some sort of reprimand or punishment, but maybe not a whipping, and when he lost it or was over the top you almost certainly didn’t or at least didn’t deserve what he did. Is that fair?”
He nodded. I went on, “Alright, but the key part there is that a lot of the time you were doing something to warrant punishment, like you said, you did something bad or broke the rules, right?”
He nodded again. “Okay, then let’s just say some of that was punishment justly deserved. Not all but maybe we can say most. Is that fair?”
Again, he nodded. “Okay, Gary, if that’s the case, then most of the time some level of punishment was justly deserved, why would that give you nightmares?”
“Well, a lot of it was over the top, right?”
“Sure, but the amount of punishment is different than if it was deserved, don’t you think? If you’re having nightmares wouldn’t it be more like if it wasn’t deserved, like you didn’t do anything to make it happen? Gary, is it all about the punishment, about the whippings?”
He was quiet for a while, and I let him think. Finally, he said, “No, it’s about the sex stuff too. That’s what I see, that’s what the nightmares are about.”
“Do you want to tell me about them or about what happened?”
He was quiet again for a while. “No, I hate it. But I guess I have to. I came over here to talk to you, so I guess that means I knew I had to tell you, or maybe wanted to tell you. Wanted to tell somebody.”
“I think you’re right. You just tell me what you want to tell me, what you’re comfortable telling me, Okay? This is heavy stuff. Just tell me what you’re comfortable with, Okay?”
“Most of the time in the nightmares I’m getting stuffed in a well, or falling down a well, or something like that. It’s all black and horrible. I guess you know I told the CPS person about the sexual stuff?”
I said, “She only told me that you had, no details, and also said there was no evidence and that’s why it didn’t become part of the charges against Bud.”
“Yeah! So, he gets away with it! How screwed is that?”
“I know how you’re feeling. You need to try and separate the feelings from the facts. The legal system is based on facts.” He was looking down at the ground. “Gary, look at me. You need to know I believe what you said happened. You need to know that the CPS lady believed what you said happened. The problem legally was that it happened in the past and there was no hard evidence. The allegations were still part of why he got a five-year sentence in jail, Okay?”
“Really? I didn’t know that. Okay, then I guess that makes me feel better. He didn’t get away scot free.”
“Nope, he didn’t.” We’d paused while he processed this new information. Finally, I said, “Do you want to go on, if there’s a logical explanation about part of the whippings, and you said the nightmares were mainly from the sex stuff not the whippings, then where are we on the nightmares?”
“You’re right, it’s the sex stuff. Can I tell you; you won’t be grossed out? You won’t hate me?” He was looking especially pained as he asked.
“Gary, I’ll never hate you, no matter what you say. On top of that, you’re my best friend’s brother, so there’s no way I could hate you. Jackson would never talk to me again. Got it?”
He kind of smiled at that. “Okay, so when it started it was usually after a whipping. He’d pull out his cock and wave it in front of my face and talk about it and then make me suck it. He’d say that I deserved it for the same reason I got the whipping, and because he was horny or whatever. A couple of times he said Mom wasn’t having sex with him. Then it got so it would happen by itself without any whippings. Not all the time, I mean, but when it happened it was all by itself. He’d haul me out to his workshop and make me give him a blowjob and say I deserved it. Then he started making me bend over and screwing me in the ass, and it hurt, and I was crying and when I said ‘Why’ he’d say because I was a bad person and I deserved it. I mean then I hadn’t done anything, but he was saying I deserved it. That’s what the nightmares are about. That I’m a shitty person, that I was getting screwed because I was a shitty person, and I keep getting it because I’m bad, and that’s why I keep getting stuffed into the well.” He was really emotional now and starting to sob.
“Gary, slow down. You don’t have to unload this all at once. Let’s stop for a minute and you take a few deep breaths, Okay?”
He quieted down after a minute or two, “Do you want to go on, or should we stop?”
He looked up at me and said, “I’m not done. I want to know why I’m a bad person. What did I do that was so bad? I mean I fucked up, and I was a problem kid and I did shit he didn’t like, but why did that make me a bad person? I heard you and Jackson talking to me about being a good person, but he kept telling me I was bad. And because I was bad, I deserved it and he could do that stuff to me. Why?” There were tears in his eyes again.
“I think I can answer that question, but before I do, can I do something? The same thing we did the other day. Can I give you a hug?”
He didn’t look up, but he was nodding his head. I stepped over to him and held out my hand and pulled him upright. “Come here, Gary,” I said, and pulled him into an embrace. His head was on my shoulder and he was sobbing. “Gary, you’re not a bad person. Listen to me. You’re not a bad person. Quite the contrary, you’re a good person.” He was hugging me back now and I whispered, “I want you to say, out loud, ‘I’m not a bad person,’ can you do that?”
He was quiet, like it was a really hard thought to formulate in his mind and then push out through his throat. “Gary, say to me ‘I’m not a bad person.’ Between sobs he finally got it out.
“Gary, this isn’t all going to come together in your head today, Okay? But I want you to remember this. You just told me you’re not a bad person, right?” I waited till I felt his head nod on my shoulder. “Now, what goes along with that is that I’m telling you you’re a good person.”
It was quiet. “Gary, tell me you can connect those two things. You just told me you’re not a bad person and I just told you you’re a good person. Right?”
He nodded. “Gary, I need you to say it. I need you to tell me that. Can you do that?” It took a minute or two, but he finally did squeak out “I’m not a bad person. I’m a good person.”
We stood there quietly for another minute or two, in a tight embrace, me rubbing his shoulders trying to calm him down. Finally, I said, “Can I tell you a story?”
He acted surprised, then pulled away to look at me with a quizzical look. I said, “This is for real, this is important. Can I tell you a story?” He nodded, and I told him the story I’d told Jackson about my friend in seminary with the puppy that peed on the carpet and how he’d fallen into the trap of calling the puppy a ‘bad dog’ instead of a ‘good dog that did a bad thing.’
He kind of smiled, like he got it, but like it was too simple to really believe.
“Gary, it all hinges on this. When Bud was punishing you, he was telling you it was because you were doing bad things. Whether he was right or wrong about the punishment he chose, he said he was punishing you for doing bad things, right?”
He nodded. “Then when the sexual abuse started, he was telling you something different. He was telling you that you were a bad person. That’s a big difference. He was doing it because it allowed him to demean you and make you less than him. He was able to dehumanize you, and that meant he could justify doing something horrible to you. Because you were a ‘bad person.’ Do you understand the difference?”
He finally got out, “I guess.”
“Look at me.” He did. We were looking at each other eye to eye. “What he did was make you something other than his son. Think of something totally bad. In his mind he made you that. He made you into something worthless that he could abuse. Can you see that? More importantly can you see that it was in his head? Nothing changed about you. You were just his son, on the receiving end, the same the day before as the day after. It was in his head, it had nothing to do with who you are.”
He was really quiet, but the tears had stopped, and his expression was clearing. He’d looked down at the ground, but finally looked back up and me and said, “It’s him that’s fucked up, not me, right?”
“Yes, Gary. It’s not you. You’re the good guy in this story, the good guy that had bad things happen to him. You’re going to have to work on that because you’ve been telling yourself that somehow, it’s your fault for so long that you may believe it. It’s not true. He’s the bad guy. You’re the good guy.”
There was an ever so slight smile on his face now. “Jackson told me you’re a good guy. That I could talk to you, that I didn’t need to be afraid or embarrassed, and he was right. Can I hug you now? I feel like you were hugging me to keep me from losing it, and I want to hug you to thank you.”
“Hey, I’m into hugs. You can hug me anytime you want to.” And he grabbed me in a bear hug that I thought would break a rib.”
Eventually I put my hands on his shoulders and pushed his back to arms length so I could look him straight in the eyes again and said, “Here’s what I hope comes out of this talk we’ve had, and it’s something Martin Luther King said in 1963. ‘Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty we’re free at last.’ He was talking about civil rights, but I want you to be free of this clinging guilt that you’re to blame. That you’re at fault. That you’re the problem. That you’re the bad one. You’re not, and you need to be free of that stuff. So, promise me you’ll think about that seriously, will you?”
He nodded. I decided it was time to lighten it up a bit. “See Gary, that wasn’t hard at all was it? Now, it’s not going to clear in your head in an instant, like some magic act, you’re going to have to work on it, but based on what you just told me, you’re on your way to be free of this guilt thing.”
He kind of grinned and wiped his eyes with his T-shirt sleeves. “Right, it wasn’t all that hard!” I gave him another hug and he thanked me again and headed home for the evening.
I went back to reading The Joy of Gay Sex that evening, but though I read a lot and looked closely at all the illustrations again, I had a hard time concentrating. I was still too emotionally caught up in what Gary had told me that confirmed what had happened to him. How could a father do that? How could any adult do that to a child? To essentially re-program them to believe that they were bad, fundamentally bad, let alone abuse them sexually. That’s what Bud had done to justify himself, and that’s what I needed to make sure was corrected.
When Jackson came over that night, after he’d undressed and slipped into bed and we’d hugged and kissed and then it dawned on me and I said “What are you doing here? I didn’t think I’d see you till tomorrow?”
He kissed and nuzzled my ear for a while and then he whispered, “I couldn’t wait, and I want to know what you did this afternoon?”
I was still trying to figure out why he was in my bed and said, “What?” He went on, “With Gary, what did you do. He came home walking tall, like with his shoulders back, not slumping around. He’s been quiet and I decided to give him his space, but I want to know what happened.”
“I told him the puppy story,” I whispered back in his ear. Now it was his turn. “What?”
“Remember I told you about my seminary friend who yelled ‘bad dog’ at his puppy who peed on the carpet? I told Gary that story because Bud was telling him he deserved to be sexually abused because he was a bad person. We talked about the difference between being a bad person and a good person who does bad things. I hope it helped.”
“Well, Rev, the first signs are positive. Is that all you really talked about?”
“Pretty much. But, you know, pastoral counseling is confidential, don’t you?”
He snorted at that and said, “Yeah, right! Either you tell me, or I’ll eventually get it out of Gary.”
“Jackson, that’s really the heart of what we talked about. He’s been carrying a lot of guilt, like it was somehow his fault, and it isn’t. Bud told him he was getting what he deserved because he was a bad person. It went on long enough he started to believe it. Don’t press him, Okay? It’ll take him time to process all of this. It’s heavy stuff. Just give him time. Give him the opportunity to talk to you about it when he’s ready, Okay? You’re not old enough to remember the Hollies song He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother, are you? Did you ever hear it?”
He shook his head. “I can only remember the first couple of verses,” I said, “but they go like this.”
The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows where
But I'm strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain't heavy, he's my brother
So on we go
His welfare is of my concern
No burden is he to bear
We'll get there
“So just think about that. This is heavy stuff about him and Bud because of the sexual abuse. Heavier for him than it is for you. So be there for him, be strong for him. Carry him, Okay. It’s your turn.”
He was quiet for a while and pulled his head back from me to look me full in the face. “This is why I love you, David.”
I tried to demur, “It’s what any human being with the slightest amount of compassion would do and say. I didn’t do anything special. On a more positive note, guess what we’re doing tomorrow afternoon after you’re done mowing?”
“What?” I could feel the curiosity in his voice. “We’re going kayaking. The bike shop owner turns out to have some he rents, and I’ll pick them up in the morning and be ready to go, and we’ll roll as soon as you get back from mowing.”
“That’ll be so cool,” he said, “but I’ve never been in a kayak before.”
“I haven’t either, though I did row in high school, and kayaks are stable. You’ll do fine.”
He giggled, “Does that mean I have to make sure you’re not tired in the morning? Like not do much to you tonight?” His fingertips were already dancing around on my abdomen.
“No, no. I think I can arrange to get enough sleep. As I’m learning, nothing prepares you for a good night’s sleep like some love making with the right person.”
“I’m taking that as an invitation,” he said, and he dove for my lips and reached down to take hold of my cock. His tongue danced on my lips and slipped in my mouth, actively seeking. His kissing was more passionate than ever and soon we were really making out, beginning to express the deep feelings we had for each other. I could literally feel the affection he had and was passing across to me, and I responded in turn. His left hand was under my neck, his fingertips stroking the hairline, and I was holding his face to mine with my fingers in his hair. We were pushing and pressing, our breathing intensifying as our tongues darted in an out of each other’s mouths.
He broke off and moved down to nuzzle my neck, and he began licking below my ear and down my neck and I could feel the wet and the slickness of his lips sliding back and forth as he licked, creating more and more stimulation. I whimpered at the feeling of it, and he moved back up and the kissing started again, his tongue going deep in my mouth, both tongues fiercely playing with one another. It was intense, and I felt him pull off and slip his hand out from under my neck, and turn downwards as he kissed by nipples, then licking them, then nibbling them, each delivering a little more stimulation than the last. I wasn’t thinking any longer, rather responding to the sensations that were rolling through me. Then I felt him move down again and he kissed and licked my navel and then was kissing and nuzzling my pubes.
My hands were roaming over his shoulders and back, feeling his beautifully smooth skin, loving the weight of his chest laying across me and the warmth I felt radiating from it. I was starting to wonder how it could feel any better when he crawled up on me, swinging one leg over so he was straddling my chest while he nuzzled and kissed my pubes. I felt his cock pressed against my collar bone—that couldn’t be comfortable. I slid my hands up and down his back, reveling in the smooth contours, and ripples of the vertebrae in his spine, and up and over his smooth bum.
I felt him wiggle back just an inch or two as he brought my cock toward his face and licked the head. He was holding my cock with one hand and reaching around and stroking and massaging my balls with the other, and the sensations were electric. He slowly licked around the head, and I found myself squeezing his buns, reveling in the softness overlaying the firmness beneath. As he slowly took the head of my cock in his mouth, I thought I’d gone on sensory overload. He slowly moved up and down, sucking softly, obviously still adjusting to the size. I felt him lift his hips to adjust his position, allowing his cock to swing up on my chest, under his belly, and I realized he’d needed to reposition his own beautiful cock. As he settled back down, I opened my eyes and his scrotum with the perineum above it was just in front of my face.
I momentarily started, then remembered what I’d read this afternoon. I banished from my mind all thoughts of dirt and shame. This was the body of my lover, and I know we were both clean inside and out. He was making me feel like I’d never felt before. I wanted to love him back as I could. I squeezed his buns and tilted up my head and licked his scrotum. I felt him shudder and took that as a good sign. I licked it again and then licked his perineum. It was so smooth and as I licked it and it became wet and even slicker. My fingers roamed over his bum and into his crack and spread his buns apart and his beautiful pink anus was suddenly visible, so attractive, and I found to my surprise also tempting. I couldn’t reach it with my tongue in the position we were in, so I wet my fingertips and stroked it while I licked his perineum. I heard him whimper on my cock, and increase his pace, and I carefully pushed a finger against his anus as I licked him. I could see it relax and my finger slip in and it was so hot to watch, accompanied by the sensations his mouth was applying to my cock that I started to cum. I groaned in ecstasy and tried to keep stimulating him and suddenly I felt him buck and cum on my chest, groaning loudly as he did. We kept licking and sucking till we couldn’t take any more, and I felt him pull off and rest the side of his face on my upper thigh, and I dropped my head back on the pillow, utterly spent.
In a couple of minutes, he swung around and lay down beside me, hugging himself close and kissing my ear. “Where did you learn to do that? What you just did to me was unbelievable. You made me cum with your tongue, without even touching my cock!”
I didn’t know how to answer. Just the terminology was still a struggle. “I’ve been reading the book you gave me, and I guess I’ve already learned a thing or two”
“Yeah! I’d say,” he whispered in my ear.
“It started with giving up on the dirt and shame part, and you set it up a week ago talking bout being clean inside and out. So, when your ass was right there in front of my face, all I could think about was how to make you feel good. Was it good?”
“Good god, Rev, it was unbelievable. Feeling you tongue on my balls and my…what do you call it, the place between the balls and the anus?”
“The perineum,” I supplied. “In case you don’t know, you have a wonderful perineum. It’s so soft and smooth.”
He giggled, “Careful, David. If you keep this kind of kinky talk up, I’ll get hard again. But go on, tell me more, I love it.”
“There’s not much more to tell. Well, actually there is. You have a beautiful pink anus, in case no one’s ever told you or you didn’t look! You’re still just enough shorter than me that I couldn’t reach it with my tongue. If I could have, I would have, believe me. So, I did the next best thing and used my finger. You know, like you did on me last week. I certainly didn’t expect that you’d cum from just that.”
He giggled again, “Well, it was like stimulation overload, you know. I’m sucking your cock which is pretty stimulating by itself, and I’m grinding my cock on your chest, and you’re licking my perineum and rubbing my ass hole. What a package! It felt amazing, but especially because it felt somehow like I was cumming on both sides, in front and back. I don’t know how to explain it.”
“Well, the book points out that the anus is just another organ, but that it is filled with nerve endings because it’s part of the area where the penis and prostate are, so it makes sense that stimulating front and back would deliver a double whammy.”
He was quiet for a minute, then he said softly, “I’m sorry I’m not tall enough that you could reach my cock, that we couldn’t do a sixty-nine.”
I kissed him. “Stop it, please! You’re growing, for god’s sake. I’m older than you. You’ll be there soon. Stop beating up on yourself about your body. Remember what I said about seeing yourself through my eyes. I never would have dreamed two months ago that I’d be telling another guy that their anus was beautiful. Would you have thought it possible? No, but I did, and I did because it’s true. And it’s part of you and I love every bit of you the way you are.”
He smiled. “Yes, David. Message received! By the way, is it Okay for me to tell you how beautiful your cock is, and how wonderful it is when I take it in my mouth? I’m getting better at it, and I’ll grow into being able to take it all. But being able to rub my nose in your pubes is so fucking sexy, and to hold your gorgeous cock and to lick that beautiful head. You have no idea!”
“Now I’m getting hard listening to you talk about me!” We both laughed, holding onto each other’s cocks, the objects of our discussion.
“Have I told you how much I love you in the last ten minutes,” I whispered? I heard him whisper back “As much as I love you!” And the next think I remembered was Jackson kissing me goodbye in the morning.
I had the kayaks in the back of the El Camino when Jackson arrived. He’d eaten lunch with Gary on the job and was ready to roll. It wasn’t hard to find the gravel road that ran south from Dundee to the river, and it was obvious that originally the road had gone to a river landing because the shoreside of the slough was peppered with old pilings that had once held a dock of some sort. Not far from the end of the road was an exposed and manageable slope that ran down to the slough, and we carried the kayaks down to the water’s edge, left them there with the paddles and life vests, and I parked the El Camino on the road.
The bike shop owner had been right. This was perfect for a first outing for Jackson because the current was so slow in the slough that I could give him the basics of paddling and balance and maneuvering without fighting the current. The slough ran almost a mile upriver so that made for a lot of slow water to practice on before we got to the main current. Jackson had pretty good natural balance from so much time on his bike, but it was hilarious to watch his first entry into the kayak. He’d asked me if there were any tricks to it, and I told him it had to be pretty much the same as getting into a racing scull or four-man racing shell—you stepped in and immediately transferred as much weight as you could to the hull on the sides of your seat, as opposed to putting all your weight down on the floor. I told him go in low, low center of gravity, reach for the sides of the hull. He grinned like he had it down, then stepped in too high and the kayak tipped away from shore. I grabbed him as he leaned back to shore and the kayak tipped back my way. I could see just a little panic as I grabbed him and said, “Got it down, sailor?” He gave me a wise ass grin and sat down.
By the time we left the slough Jackson was feeling confident and was actually paddling well and was quite stable in his kayak. It was a rush to turn into the current and suddenly double our speed, adding the current flow to our paddling efforts. The slough was small and close, so that meant paddlers were quite near the shore and most wildlife were cautious enough to stay away. As soon as we entered the main channel of the river it was much wider and more open. There were two Great Blue Herons on the bank straight across from us. They looked at us, but were not disturbed, and went back to hunting small fish on the edge of the bank. We weren’t halfway down Ash Island, and two large Red-Tailed Hawks flew over us. Jackson was enthusiastically pointing his paddle skyward to make sure I didn’t miss them. The only bad thing was that with the current the trip down the length of the island took less than fifteen minutes, but we were able to cut back into the slough and leisurely paddle back upstream and repeat the run.
We did three rounds, then pulled into the launch point and pulled the kayaks out and up to the road level. I grabbed a water bottle out of the El Camino and we went back down to the water level for a drink and a short rest. Jackson sat down next to me and took my hand. We just sat next to each other silently for a minute, then he lifted my hand to his lips and kissed it. “This is what I love about being out in nature with you. It’s not only beautiful, there’s no one around and we can be ourselves. I can hold your hand, I can kiss you, there’s no worry. It’s so great.”
I kissed his hand back and just smiled. “You’re absolutely right,” I said. “On your birthday we’ll pass the first threshold, but there will be more. This still isn’t really a gay-friendly society, so it won’t be a cake walk, but we’ll be past the first hurdle. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the book you gave me. I know it’s the way my brain works. You figured out you were gay years ago, and I didn’t. You’ve figured out ways to explore your body and pleasure yourself, and I needed you and a book to explain it to me. But I’m getting it, and last night sure proved the value of your gift.” I wiggled my eyebrows at him, and he grinned, his dimples flaring.
“Well, Rev. There’s more to that than you know, you know! I read the book too. Have you figured out there’s a whole new vocabulary? I mean I didn’t know a lot of it or that its how gay guys talk. You know what I mean?”
He was looking at me expectantly. I nodded, “I know what you mean, and it was eye opening to me too, and it’ll probably take me some time being a prude, but I’ll get there.”
His eyes were smiling now. “So, it’s Okay to use that new vocabulary? Is that what you’re saying?” I knew he was baiting me, but I was already in, so what could I do besides nod my head knowing he was going to say something to blow my mind.
He smiled charmingly, and began slowly, “Okay then, given that we have a new vocabulary presented and endorsed by Dr. Silverstein, meaning that it’s appropriate to use given who we are and what we do…” He paused, watching me carefully to see what I’d do. I was smiling, and slightly nodding my head. He went on, “then given all of that, we should acknowledge that when I was stumbling around a week or so ago talking about wanting you inside me or to take me, I should have just said ‘David, I want you to fuck me,’ right?”
I felt the impact of the words, the way I’d been raised to feel them for the last twenty-five years, but this time they didn’t hit with a shock. Now they were just words being using a new way for a particular purpose.
I knew I had to go with him on this, and that I couldn’t let him down. “You’re right, that would have been appropriate. And my response instead of talking about penetration and stuff should have simply been ‘Jackson, as much as I love you, I can’t fuck you till you’re eighteen.”
He grinned. I wasn’t sure if it was because we’d just had a breakthrough or because we were using forbidden language so casually. The grin got bigger, and I said, “Okay, now what? Go on.”
He was looking me straight in the eyes, still holding my hand. “Then what we almost did last night was a sixty-nine, except my body isn’t quite long enough yet, right?” I nodded my head. “You’ll get there before long, and maybe we can work on different positions to make it possible now.” That got huge grin out of him, dimples and all, and his eyes sparkling.
He wasn’t done yet. “And what you did to me last night was almost rimming. Except I wasn’t far enough back for you to reach, right?”
I had to grin now, because he was really pushing the envelope, but I understood his motivation was to get us to a new level of intimacy in our relationship. It had started being comfortable with each other’s bodies in the bathroom a week ago, we could now start being comfortable talking about it. Silverstein made that point: you need to be able to communicate, to know what you like and want and ask for it. Talk about a brave new world!
Eventually I said we needed to get going so he’d be home on time, and we loaded the kayaks up and headed back to town. I dropped him off, we said we’d see each other in the morning at church, and I headed to the bike shop to return the kayaks.
Sundays were now becoming somewhat routine, mainly due to Susan’s superb choir direction and organization. After getting the hymns from her, I’d previously prepared the worship service and printed it off, and we were ready to go. The Gospel lesson was again from Luke, the first few verses of Chapter 14 where Jesus visits the house of a Pharisee and among those present was a sick man with dropsy, and Jesus healed him. The first striking point is that Jesus was wiling to go to the house of a Pharisee, the most legalistic of the religious roles in Judaism of the time, and secondly that he was willing to heal the sick man on the Sabbath, and then make the point to all those gathered that caring for someone in an unfortunate position or condition is more important that keeping all the rules and regulations. The message was pretty straight forward: meet people where they are and care for their needs.
I chatted with Susan and Ellen for a bit at the end of coffee hour, and we compared notes on Lilly’s progress. The chemo treatments had left her tired enough that the Monday in-house therapy sessions were now moved to Wednesday, but the therapist and CPS were being quite realistic that she had to get through the therapy regimen and recover before anyone could have realistic expectations about the outcome of the therapy, and AA attendance was on hold. I asked them what their honest assessment was. Susan dithered, but Ellen was candid, “We won’t really know until towards the end of the therapy regimen and can see signs of improvement. I told you previously that liver cancer is essentially incurable, you can only hope to stop the progression. If it hasn’t spread and the progression is stopped, then she should start responding well soon. The problem realistically is that we’re not certain if the cancer had spread beyond the mass in her liver when it was detected. So, we still have to be patient and hope for the best.”
Not the most encouraging news. I decided not to mention it to Jackson unless he brought the subject up. We’d decided that since we had been on the water the day before, when Jackson came over in the afternoon, we’d have a relaxed time at home and catch each other up on the books we’d been reading. I’d finished The Symposium and was halfway through The Hero with a Thousand Faces. I knew Jackson had switched to The Last of the Wine, but didn’t know how far he’d gotten, so this promised to be fun. We debated taking a couple of cans of soda to the shade off the back porch but decided in the spirit of being very concerned about our public images that we’d stay in the house.
Jackson had his copy of Renault’s book with him when he walked in the back door. I called out that I was in the office and asked him to grab a couple of sodas from the fridge. He set them all down on the coffee table and we plopped on the couch in each other’s arms. It seemed like yesterday afternoon was so long ago! We were looking at each other when I started to grin. “What’s so funny, Rev? I thought we were being amorous?”
“Oh, we are, we are!” But I was still grinning.
“Well, I was thinking about yesterday and you starting to break me in on the new vocabulary we’re learning from The Joy of Gay Sex. You know, it does take some getting used to, doesn’t it?”
He grinned back. “Yeah, even for me, and I swear a lot more than you do. I could never say fuck in our house, and I never heard of rimming before, and I’ve maybe only joked with someone about blowjobs, but I supposed we’ll get used to it, wont’ we?”
“I don’t suppose there’s much choice, is there? At least when you think about it, it is more direct and practical than all the beat-around-the-bush language that people use. That illustration he uses about the ancient Greeks and the modern lawyer and doctor is so true. It’s a lot more direct and clearer to just talk about fucking when both parties understand the context is a loving relationship. And for the record, I’m up for changing my vocabulary, but not my timeline.” I started tickling him and kissing him at the same time. He was giggling in my lap.
Finally, we got serious and I asked how we were going to do the book discussion, suggesting that since he’d brought a copy he should go first. He hesitated as if he didn’t know where to start. “Look, Jackson, this isn’t like an oral book report in school. This is more like a book club/study group where we just discuss it. You tell me what you’ve read, what you like and didn’t like, and that’s probably enough. It may go further, but you sure don’t have to do some literary analysis or anything like that. You can save that effort for when school starts!”
He grinned at that and said he like that approach and that his first impression in the first chapter was that the clerk at Powells (who he now told me he was sure was gay) was right. Compared to The King Must Die, this book was more accessible, the characters came to life right away and were immediately accessible. “I guess I liked it right off the bat because it’s kind of like us. Alexias is like me, younger, he’s an ephebe. Lysis is the older man, but he’s in his twenties, and they’re both students of Socrates. So, wow, it suddenly takes stodgy ancient history and brings it to life in new ways. Is that how you were thinking when you read it?”
I had to tell him no, because I was still out of touch with being gay and read it more as a historical treatment, though I had a hard time understanding now how I could have done that other than being in extreme denial! I mean, Alexias’ father tells him he’s too young for women and encourages him to seek honor, loyalty and courage in a lover—that is a male lover and he undertakes a relationship that includes educating a younger boy!
Jackson went on about being entranced with the descriptions of Athens, and suddenly being able to see it like a real place, filled with real people with their typical problems and relationships. He’d really enjoyed the teaching and instructional sessions with Socrates, who suddenly was coming alive as a person too!
“It’s cool that Alexias is a champion runner and that Lysis is a champion wrestler, so they had sport in common, and then even more in common as students of Socrates. I thumbed ahead though, and I can already see the bad stuff coming, the Peloponnesian War!”
“Well, that’s a central part of the story,” I said, “and it is a major aspect of Athenian history for how long it went on and how bloody it was. An important thig to keep in mind all the way through the book though, is that the life of the characters isn’t representative of Athenian society at large. Alexias and Lysis are in the upper class, aristocrats. The society, like most Mediterranean societies, ran on slavery and warfare. It was slaves that constructed all those great buildings, and conquest that funded much of the empires. I’m not going to say anymore, or I’d risk spoiling the story for you.”
We switched to my books and I told him I’d read The Symposium first and that was good because it was also set in Ancient Greece. I explained that the book I had was both the text of the book plus an analysis, which turned out to be great because I hadn’t studied the classics in college, and the Greek I’d studied was New Testament Greek, so without the analysis I probably wouldn’t be able to understand the whole thing. The set up is that what Plato writes about is an extended debate about the nature of love, and it has all these different people extemporizing on the subject, and then the wrap up comes in the form of the speech of Diotima who manages to tie everything together.
The speeches build on one another. Phaedrus opens the evening by calling Love the most powerful god in helping men gain virtue and blessedness. Then Pausanias follows by giving Love even more power by saying that love has a dual nature, both a vulgar side and a virtuous side. Then Aristophanes gets a bad case of hiccups, followed by Eryximachus who makes love all-powerful, saying that it directs everything that occurs. Then Aristophanes' who is over his hiccups makes the case that love is a desire for something that we lack: "Each human longed for its own other half." And we’re not done yet because Agathon introduces the idea that love is tied to beauty, employing the phrase, the beauty of the god. Finally, Socrates concludes by questioning Agathon and introduces the concept of beauty and brings all to the conclusion that Love needs beauty to exist.
I could see Jackson was struggling to track all of this, as I had been when I read it before reading the analysis. I said, “Don’t panic, fortunately Plato knows he’s thrown a lot of stuff at us, and he has another character, the woman Diotima who pulls it all together. She distinguishes the physical world from the divine, homosexual love from heterosexual, and elevates love of the body to a love of beauty itself. She makes this really strong argument that love should be defined principally as the longing to perceive beauty in its true and absolute form, an undertaking that one can only accomplish through philosophy. So, it ends up being a paean to philosophy!
“So, all that said, we shouldn’t be surprised that Plato is making the case for philosophy, but within it is Aristophanes’ terrific model of lovers finding their other half in order to be complete. You remember what I shared with you about Peter Abelard talking about whole souls—this may be where that concept came from. I also have to say that now that I’ve read what Silverstein had to say in The Joy of Gay Sex, we need to realize that homosexuality as presented here was the way it happened 2,500 years ago, and doesn’t directly tie to the way it now is today.”
We kicked around some questions but decided that was enough book discussion for now and settled down to snuggle on the couch. Make out sessions are much more fun than book reports.
Because Labor Day was on Monday, Lilly’s first therapy that week was moved to Tuesday. Her counseling sessions had been put on hold till she completed chemo therapy, and I was taking her to the hospital on Tuesday for her therapy. On the drive I’d asked her if it would be alright with her if Jackson and I went camping on Sunday night at the beach and I brought him home Monday evening on the 4th. She said she was fine with it, especially because if we got back before dark, we’d see the fireworks. I decided it was only right to talk to Gary about it, so he’d know where we were going, just in case. Tuesday morning, I called the Presbytery liaison and we caught each other up and I let him know about the added dimension of Lilly’s cancer, but that once we got past Labor Day, I could see things clearing. We agreed to talk then and agree on a date to meet the following week.
Gary was great. He came over to the house on Wednesday with Jackson. We were sitting in the back yard and Jackson had gone into the house to get some sodas when I asked him about going camping. Basically, he said that it was fine with him. I asked him if he felt left out because we’d be going camping and he wouldn’t. He didn’t answer immediately, but then he said. “We’re friends now, and can be honest, right?”
I nodded. “Would I like to go camping? Yeah. Do I feel left out? Yeah. But you know what? You’re talking to me about it like I’m part of the decision. That’s a big deal to me. Jackson’s got to start school next week and he didn’t get a vacation this summer. I didn’t either, but I’m not in school now, so I don’t have the school grind to worry about. So, you guys should go and have fun.”
I thanked him for being both thoughtful and considerate. Then he really surprised me. “You and Jackson are really close, aren’t you?” He wasn’t asking it in an accusatory way, more like he was concerned and trying to confirm something in his mind.
I was starting to feel embarrassed. “Yes, we are. I can’t lie to you Gary. He’s the closest friend I’ve ever had.”
He was looking straight at me. This, the young man who was also rebuilding the relationship with his brother. “Do you love him?”
Again, I had no choice but to tell him. “Yes, I do.”
“And you won’t hurt him, ever? Because I hurt him, and I still hate myself for it. I have to look out for him now and I want him happy, but I don’t want him hurt.”
Jackson wasn’t eighteen, so I had to be careful what I said no matter what I thought Gary’s intentions were. “I love him like a brother. You know I have an older brother too, and we were never that close. So, you can understand that I love him like the brother I never had. And I promise you, I’ll never hurt him.”
He had kept looking at me, not averting his eyes. Finally, he said, “Fair enough,” and stepped up to me and hugged me.
I hugged him back and said, “Thanks for being a great brother and friend and making it possible for us to go camping.”
Jackson came back out with the sodas a minute later, which seemed like unusually perfect timing. We sat and talked about the way the summer was starting to wind down, when the weather would change, and the rain start and various stuff like that. I asked Gary about the mechanic job, and he said it was actually looking better because the full-time mechanic wanted to go on some back-country road trip in the desert in September for a couple of weeks, and he’d probably fill in. That would be full time for those weeks.
Finally, Gary was ready to head home and Jackson told him he’d be along in a few minutes. When we were alone, he turned to me and said, “What was that all about with you and Gary? I was watching from the kitchen. It looked pretty heavy.”
I smiled demurely and said, “I was wondering about the timing. It shouldn’t have taken you that long to get the sodas, and then you reappear magically when we’re done talking. How did that happen?”
“Well, you know, I’m not dumb. I could see what was going on and didn’t know if I should be worried or just let you guys talk it out. What’s the deal?
“I talked to your Mom yesterday about us going camping on Sunday night at the beach, and she said it was Okay, and I told her I’d talk to Gary about it too. That’s what I did.”
“You did what? You didn’t have to say anything to him. Why did you do that?”
“Because he’s your brother, and you’re in business with him, and we’re all friends now, and I was worried he’d feel hurt or left out if he wasn’t included.”
“Well, he said he was. But you know what? He also said he appreciated being talked to and that made him feel like he was part of the decision and it was cool by him and he wanted us to have fun because you didn’t get a vacation this summer and start school in ten days, and he doesn’t have to worry about school. How about that?”
“Wow! That’s pretty rad.”
“Frankly,” I continued, “I think it’s more than that. I think it’s pretty great. Now, are you ready for this? He stared me down and asked me if I loved you. I told him I did, like a brother, like you were my closest friend. He said what he was worried about most was that he wanted you to be happy, but he wanted to make sure you didn’t get hurt. He made me promise I’d never hurt you.”
“No shit! He was that concerned about me that he talked to you like that? Wow!”
“Jackson, it’s important to know that he wasn’t confrontational. He was concerned. He was real and he was concerned. I think you have a great brother there!”
“I’m figuring that out,” was all he said. He was quiet for a couple of minutes, then said. “That’s pretty amazing. I mean we’re getting along and stuff working together but I’m blown away that he’s feeling responsible for me, like he’s looking out for me. That’s totally new. It never happened before.”
I just smiled. There wasn’t much to say.
“You know, Rev, once school starts, we’re going to have to shift the mowing schedule later, so he’ll start later, and I’ll join him when I get out of school. Then there’ll be dinner and stuff and I’ll have homework. I’m starting to worry I won’t see much of you.” He looked a little panicked.
“The thought has crossed my mind too, Lover Boy. We’ll be fine. You do what you have to do. Mowing will only go on so long, right? From what I’ve heard by mid-October it starts to rain and that’s that.”
“Yeah, usually. Every once in a while, it starts early and its wet and rainy in early October, but usually it’s somewhere in the last couple of weeks. That’s why we’re going to have the church Harvest Fair the first Saturday of October. So, we don’t have to worry about rain.”
“Is that right?” I smiled at him. “Fill me in. What are the details?”
“Well, I talked to Will and Tom, and they said they’d help me, and one of the first things we talked about was the weather. You know, it’d be hard to have it in the church parking lot if it’s raining!”
“So, what’s the plan? Have you got it figured out yet?”
“Well, not really. We started talking about it and decided maybe I’d check in with you and see what you were thinking.”
I smiled to myself. He was being smart, showing initiative to get organized, but testing the waters and looking for info while he was at it. I said, “The first thing I’d recommend is that you form a fair committee, and it needs a few more youth, and definitely some girls. And you need an adult advisor, and I’d suggest Susan because she knows and likes you for some strange reason.”
He grinned. “Okay, good plan. What do you think about the fair itself?”
I shared with him that I’d been lucky when our family moved back to Philadelphia from Egypt that the youth fellowship was well organized, and they did a fair each year. I’d helped the first year and then got elected President my senior year in high school, and organizing it fell in my lap. He was impressed. Mainly I told him it came down to four important pieces. Get the adult advisor to line up the women’s group to provide baked goods that could be sold because that made money. Organize the events, like carnival events with prizes because that made money and people had fun. Then have some kind of a raffle and get the prizes for the events and raffles donated by local businesses because people get excited about raffles. And get enough people volunteered to make sure it all happened!
He was listening intently. “It doesn’t sound that hard, but it does sound like a bunch of work.”
“Well, Jackson, half of it is planning. And if you get a big enough committee of motivated kids, then you can delegate a lot of the work.”
“How do you know that?”
“Well, Lover Boy, it’s not because I’m an organizational genius. Rather I had a father who was a business manager and I heard him say a hundred times that it all comes down to “Plan, Organize, Delegate and then follow up on Performance. He was right.”
“What,” I said, confused?
“POD-FUP. Plan, Organize Delegate – Follow Up on Performance. Yep, I can do that!” He had the beginnings of a wicked grin. Then he said, “I’d better get home and help with dinner. I’m going to come over later.” His dimples were flaring, and the eyes were flashing.
“Lovely,” I said, “but we can’t be up till all hours of the night because I’ve got to drive to Portland tomorrow for that lecture on mythology in Star Wars.”
“Don’t worry, my Sexy Man, you’ll get enough sleep. More than me, any way!
I didn’t know what time it was, but I awoke to a completely different sensation. It was dark and the bedroom had a lot of moonlight in it. I felt something down by my feet, and then as I started to wake up, I realized that there was something between my legs, something that had crawled up under the sheet from the foot of the bed. That something was holding my ankles and kissing the inside of my calves, then working his way up to my knees, licking and kissing along the way to my thighs and rubbing the tops with his hands as he inched his way toward my groin. Trying to wake up and process the sensations and feelings that were happening was a real challenge. I was used to a kiss and slowly waking up while we snuggled and hugged. This was more like a full-on assault.
I knew who it was and decided to go along with it, eventually reaching down and stroking his head through the sheet. It was shortly after that when I felt his tongue on my scrotum and the wet and slippery feeling. I could feel my cock getting hard, and realized Jackson had laid it on my stomach and was spreading my thighs further apart, his licking continuing, and then he took my scrotum in his hand and raised it up and to the side so he could reach my perineum with his tongue. I was fully awake now, and the realization of what he was doing combined with the sensations were incredibly powerful. I felt his head raise up and the sheet went off to the side, as he reached for my cock as he nuzzled my scrotum and then licked up my shaft. I was completely hard now, and I knew I was leaking because I could feel his tongue flick across the head of my cock. I finally looked down and saw his eyes glinting in the moon light.
It was getting pretty orgasmic. All I could say was “Oh, my beautiful Lover Boy.”
He smiled widely, the dimples starting to flare, and continued licking. I could tell he was on a mission of some sort. He was pacing himself slowly, languidly licking the head of my cock as if he had all night, then dropping down and licking up the shaft, then swirling his tongue around the head. All the time watching my face. He must have seen something eventually, maybe my eyes roll back, because I felt him lift off, and then he came straight down, taking the head of my cock in his mouth, enveloping it in an amazing mix of warmth and moisture that drove me to the edge. He pulled off, clearly not going to let me cum, waited seconds, then dropped down again, this time taking more of me into his mouth. He repeated it a few times, each time taking a little more of me in his mouth, and at the same time rubbing his finger on my anus. I was on the edge of losing it, and he knew it. I could see it in the glint of his eyes. He pulled up and began to softly suck and swirling his tongue around my cock head and slipped his finger into me, stroking what I now knew was my prostrate. I felt like I’d been short circuited. I started to moan, and cried, “Jackson, Ahhhh, I’m going to come……Arrghhhhhh….” I could see the pleasure in his eyes as I started shooting into his mouth and rolled my own eyes back into my head.
When it finally got too sensitive, I had to say “Stop, please!” He released me and slid up to wrap his arms around me, his face against my neck. “Good God, Jackson, what was that” I whispered hoarsely? He just nuzzled me, then whispered back, “It’s you, my Sexy Man, getting the sex you deserve.” At that he slid up and kissed me, pushing his tongue in my mouth, playing with my tongue and letting me taste myself.
We rested for some minutes. I frankly didn’t know if I’d be able to move, I felt so spent. Fortunately, though, as Jackson lay by my side. I’d been idly twisting my fingertips in his pubes, then languidly stroking his cock. I slowly realized that not only was his cock hard in my hand, but that it was slippery. “Jackson,” I whispered, “do you know what?”
“Remember what I’ve been saying about seeing your body through my eyes?” I felt his head nod. “Well, I’ve been laying here twirling my fingers in your pubes. Meaning you’ve got enough pubes to play with. As in a lot more pubes that two months ago. And I’m holding onto your cock and it’s all wet and slippery on top because you’re oozing precum. Do you know that?”
I knew he wanted to play it cool, but I could feel a little start. “Really?”
“Yeah, really, and you feel so sexy.” I rolled his on his back and kissed him, never letting go of his cock. “I’m feeling a lot of precum, and I’m going down there to lick it and taste it. Because I want to taste you. And then you’re going to cum in my mouth, and I’m going to taste the rest of you. And do you know why? Because you’re the best. You’re my Lover Boy.”
I slid down, licking my way to his groin, and I could feel his cock throbbing. I didn’t want to rush this, so I carefully stopped stroking him and held my hand still and softly and carefully licked the top of his head, catching the precum oozing out of his slit. It tasted warm and slightly salty and I loved it. I swirled it around in my mouth and then put a daub on the fingertips of my other hand and slid it between his thighs, slipping below his scrotum and as he spread his thighs, reaching his anus in one motion. I slowly stroked and easily slipped inside as he sighed deeply. Now it was my turn. I turned back up and watched his eyes, trying to gauge how close he was. He was watching me back but looked like he was losing concentration as I stroked his prostrate. It was just what I wanted, and I went back to his cock and took most of it in one movement. I felt him buck and his hips rise off the bed.
No gag this time, and I was able to hold his cockhead at the top of my throat and then slowly pull up the shaft, softly sucking him till I reached his head and then down again as I stroked his prostrate. I could feel him getting close now, starting to writhe on the bed. So, I drew back up and started swirling my tongue around his cockhead, remembering the feeling from the way he’d done it to me. He was moaning now and reaching for my head. Suddenly he started to cum, his anus clamping down on my finger and I could feel his prostate pulse as he shot in my mouth. It was glorious. His moan became a loud groan and then a cry of joy, and he dropped back on the bed. I released him and slid back up next to him to hug him to me. And we fell asleep like that, clasped to each other like we were joined together.
I felt Jackson wake and start to get up for his paper route and clasped him to me again. I kissed him and whispered, “That was magic last night. Pure magic.”
He replied, “It was. I love you, my Sexy Man.” And then he was gone. I woke up again at 7:00 and rolled out of bed anticipating the drive to Portland.
It was a pleasant summer day, and the drive was enjoyable. It gave me plenty of time to think about just how lucky I was to be in the relationship I was, to have found my soul mate, to be able to share such wonderful sex with each other. I kept seeing the image of Jackson laying between my thighs, smiling angelically as he began to kiss my cock. It made me shudder.
Lewis and Clark College was a beautiful campus on rolling hills above the Willamette River south of Portland and wasn’t hard to find. I was there in about an hour and easily found my way to the auditorium in the student union.
We’d all signed in and been seated in, and after a minute a man in a suit walked on stage and introduced himself as Howard Higgins. He thanked us for our interest in a subject that would normally be viewed as pretty esoteric but had thankfully been made relevant by a current film. He said he taught comparative religion, among other classes, and that sadly mythology was considered by too many religious professionals to be a subject dealing with heresy and falsehood, and that was not the case. “So, some of you may feel that way and only be here so you can understand or relate to or talk about Star Wars, and that’s fine. I do ask, though, that you all have an open mind and see if, in fact, there are not aspects of mythology that can deepen your own faith.”
“I’m going to focus on the two major aspects of Campbell’s mythology, that in my view, are raised in George Lucas’ film. There are other elements for sure, and we’ll touch on them, and some we won’t discuss because they are only touched on and aren’t really developed in the present in the film. Remember, the point of the talk is to relate the film to Campbell’s mythology and vice versa.”
He started with context, namely that Campbell’s book The Hero with a Thousand Faces was based on surveying ancient stories across cultures and the thesis was that all of them contain the “monomyth”, detailing the hero’s journey. He began with the seventeen fundamental elements of the monomyth, and just to make sure we weren’t swamped, he got practical. “Now that is a lot of terminology, and there are, in fact, a lot of elements. But we have to remember that mythology is complicated. It is the huge background story for the worldview of societies and civilizations. Most people don’t recognize the elements, and if they do, they tend to fade into the background and be overwhelmed by the scope and scale of the story, the myth, itself. But rest assured they are there, and myth is so fundamental to our worldview that it is often hard to pick out and identify the individual elements. So, let’s start with a summary of the Hero’s journey.”
“Campbell defines it as: the hero ventures forth from the common world of everyday life into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.’”
He then put a transparency on an overhead projector and showed a flow chart of the elements that constituted the cycle. He went on to discuss the elements of the journey, working from an illustration:
Having familiarized us with the operating structure of Campbell’s monomyth, he then turned to discuss the elements that were strongly developed in the film, pointing out that Lucas himself has said the film was part of a trilogy, and presumably the less developed elements would be further developed in subsequent films. His point was that it’s quite straight forward to see the major elements that are well developed. Luke Skywalker represents the hero archetype of the young man, called to adventure, the hero going out facing the trials and ordeals, and coming back after his victory with a boon for the community.
Luke lives with his uncle and aunt on a farm on the desert planet of Tatooine. The start of Luke’s movement toward his calling as a hero comes when he purchases the droids C-3PO and R2-D2. While examining R2-D2, he sees receives and views a message from Princess Leia. Then later, when R2-D2 goes missing, Luke goes out to search for the droid, and is saved from a band of Tusken Raiders by Obi-Wan Kenobi. Obi-Wan appears to be an old hermit but turns out to be far more than that. They seek shelter together during which Obi-Wan says that he and Luke's father were once Jedi Knights, and that his father was murdered by a traitorous Jedi named Darth Vader. Obi-Wan presents Luke with his father's lightsaber and offers to take him to Alderaan and train him in the ways of the Force, but Luke rejects his offer. Luke changes his mind when he returns home to find out that Imperial stormtroopers have killed his aunt and uncle. He and Obi-Wan then travel to Mos Eisley, where they meet smugglers Han Solo and Chewbacca at the cantina.
Thereafter in the film some of the monomyth elements are touched on but not fully developed, for instance, Atonement with the Father, that he said we’d discuss after the break. Some of the others included: Master of Two Worlds, the step the hero achieves a balance between the material and the spiritual world, and the person becomes competent in both the inner and outer worlds; Freedom to Live, where mastery leads to freedom from the fear of death, which in turn is the freedom to live. The hero learns he is One with everything, forsaking his individual ego, and attains eternal life, literally becoming immortal. These were mythic elements that weren’t essential parts of this film.
He paused and then said, “I’m not here to challenge the beliefs that any of you have, but like I said earlier, I am hoping that this information and the discussion will help you think about the origin stories and enable you to deepen your faith in different ways. So, let me ask how many in the audience are Christian?” Almost everyone raised their hand. “So then, let me make a few points relative to Jesus and the Gospels to illustrate.
“Jesus experiences the Call to Adventure, he Crosses the Threshold and leaves all behind when he leaves his family and begins his ministry with his baptism by John the Baptist. The Belly of the Whale would be his being alone in the desert, and the Road of Trials the temptations from the devil he experiences.” He then went on to discuss a few more, such as The Meeting With The Goddess which would be the unconditional love experienced with the descent of the spirit and Apotheosis where he affirms he and the Father are One and forsaking his individual ego, and finally The Ultimate Boon where Christ rises from the dead and returns to the Father, attaining eternal life which he shares with others.
He concluded by saying, “Again, I am not here to debate these with you or to challenge your beliefs, but to use the film to illustrate these elements in Campbell’s writing and I hope you find this provokes your thinking.”
We took a short break, and they served coffee and cookies in the hall. I found myself talking to a young man named Fred who turned out to have recently completed his second year of seminary, and he was gay. We were both interested in the lecture material and agreed to meet for coffee when the lecture was over. When we reconvened, Prof. Higgins said “Before I go into the second major aspect of Campbell’s mythology, I want to ask some questions. How many of you in the audience today are ordained ministers? Out of the ninety or so people, over half raised their hands.
“Thank you. I’m glad to see that level of interest in this subject from our clerical ranks.” A chuckle went up from many in the audience. Prof. Higgins went on, “I’m not going to ask the next question for response by show of hands, because it’s personal, but I would ask you to think seriously about it. How many of you who are Jews or Christians were raised without a father, or had an estranged father, or an absentee father?” He was quiet again for what seemed like quite a while, and then went on, “That question equally applies to people who are Muslim, and somewhat but less so to those who are Hindu or Buddhist. Here in Portland we have quite small populations of those faiths, so I’m not aiming to leave anyone out as much as to speak specifically to those who are here.”
“Why I am doing that, because the Jewish, Christian and Islamic religions all contain strong father figures. You’ll all recall that Campbell’s monomyth theory has seventeen elements or steps that fall into three phases. The phases are Separation, Initiation and Return, and the mid-point in Initiation, as well as of the entire seventeen steps is ‘Atonement with the Father.’ This is another pivotal point, because as we see in Star Wars, Luke Skywalker lives without a father.”
He paused, then asked, “Who is Luke’s father? That is one of the unanswered questions with which we are left at the end of the film. Note though, that Obi-Wan presented Luke with his father’s lightsaber, so he now possesses a token of his father, though he and the audience not only do not know who he is, but we are told he is dead. We will have to leave it to Mr. Lucas to fill in the details in future films. As I said earlier, we know there will be more because we’ve been told this is part of a trilogy.”
He then went on to make some interesting points about mythology and heroes, noting that many heroes grow up fatherless and that countless stories pivot on the encounter with a father. Understanding Luke Skywalker’s quest for a father, touches a theme central to the hero’s journey, and thus our own personal journeys. The theme of father and son relationships addresses our own deep personal needs. Luke learns that his "dead" father wasn't a navigator on a freighter, but a Jedi Knight hero who fought valiantly in the Clone wars. Once Luke learns this, he takes on the task of becoming a Jedi like his father. It's his birthright. The legacy of the father being passed down to the son. But the father has been absent, and this leaves a hole in his life that needs to be filled.
Higgins summarized, “The confrontation between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, then, begs a question. Is there a relationship between them? This part of the story is very human, for the heroic image of his father would be tarnished if Luke were to discover that his father is not only alive but somehow associated with the very evil he is fighting against. Seduced by the dark side, Luke's father would not just be his opponent but also a figure of what Luke may in fact become. For Luke too has the same rage and darkness within himself which threatens to jeopardize his quest and turn him to the dark side like it did his father. As the saying goes, ‘the sins of the fathers are visited on the sons!’
“What we know from human behavior and social studies is that as humans we desperately need loving attachment with a father or father figure. Not finding this love can lead to disastrous results but receiving this love can transform the most broken people. And people, consciously or subconsciously seek out a replacement “father” to fill that hole in their life. This is a need so fundamental that it happens in many instances without us knowing it.”
He concluded by saying, “So, the point I would make is that the quest for the father is one of the great yet-to-be-resolved themes in Star Wars. Why? Because Luke Skywalker, like us, needs loving attachment to the father. On top of that, myths teach us we have deeper parents, who are more important than the people with whom we grew up. Hence, we need attachment to the deeper parents. Since we cannot have loving attachment with inanimate objects, or in the case in Star Wars, with a power like the Dark Side or the revolution to free the Empire, the deeper parents must be personal.”
Wow! The first part of the lecture had been very helpful in explaining Campbell’s book and illustrating the themes in the film, but the second part had hit me like a bombshell! When Fred and I sat down at a nearby café, we talked for a bit about the lecture, and he said it raised serious questions for him about the infallibility of scripture, if it essentially shared the same origin story with so many other religious myths. “Doesn’t that mean that what could have been a courageous and heroic undertaking by the person named Yeshua (he’d obviously completed Hebrew for he was saying Yeshua instead of Jesus) then got expanded by the early church into a supernatural cosmic myth?” I said I didn’t know, that it certainly raised that question. On the other hand, it also helped to understand the elements of Jesus’ life and ministry and what makes it so attractive to so many people. He asked what I found most interesting, and I had to say it was the section about Atonement with the Father since my father and I had a very distant relationship and he was essentially an absent father, and a lot of what Prof. Higgins had said rang true to me.
We talked generally about seminary life, living in Portland, and that’s when he told me he was gay. “I’m a member of the new Metropolitan Community Church, it’s a gay-welcoming church, and so I’m not bashful to tell you I’m gay.” I told him that level of candor was refreshing, and that having a supporting church like that in Portland must make living here very positive.
He said, “Overall, yes. But it’s not a bed of roses, you know, and yes—pun intended! This is the Rose City. Did you know that June 25 was our Third Gay Pride Parade, and Mayor Goldschmidt declared it Gay Pride Day?” I shook my head. “Do you know happened afterward?”
I shook my head again. “I didn’t move here till July 4th.”
“Well, within a few days a number of churches published an open letter in The Oregonian newspaper offering to help homosexuals repent! The phone was ringing off the hook in the Mayor’s office with negative phone calls and there was even a petition effort to oust him as Mayor. It failed, but that was just last month!”
I realized even life in Portland wasn’t a bed of roses for gays.