Spirituality * Culture * Self-Expression

Category: Secret Journey

Refugees

Cyprus-map

When I was a kid, my father thought it would be a good idea for us to visit his homeland of Cyprus. There was some political uncertainties being discussed in the news at the time, but there did not appear to be any real concerns. We took a lovely cruise from mainland Greece to Cyprus across the Aegean and Mediterranean seas and spent a day or two in the city of Larnaca.

larnaca_4

Then it happened. Turkey invaded Cyprus and the U.S. put up a blockade preventing Greece from sending support troops to the island. We should have evacuated at once, but my father didn’t want to abandon his country. Instead we fled up the mountains to the little village in which my father was born.

village

As a child it was a thrilling adventure. But I could tell the adults were fearful and sad. Still we made the best of it. Other relatives from the cities also fled to the villages. There were plenty of young people to talk to. At night we would stand on the edge of the road and look down at the cities below and watch as bombs fell on them. Scary – but in a weird way lovely as well.

cyprus newspaper

 

bombings

In time hordes of city dwellers made their way up the mountain roads, mainly on foot, bringing with them only the possessions they could carry in their arms. Refugees.

cyprus 1

The native villagers accommodated them as best they could with the understanding, I suppose, that the refugees would be moving on as soon as possible looking for their own families and friends in other villages. It was not a situation anyone liked, but there was nothing that could be done about it. The strangers couldn’t be abandoned. They needed help.

cyprus 2

As I watched one clutch of families that had sheltered with us for the night move off to join the long train of people seeking more lasting safety, I noticed one man’s face. He appeared to have been a proud man, perhaps someone of means back in the city. But now he was just one member of the desperate population escaping the violence below. He looked angry and ashamed at the same time; resentful but resigned to his fate. This was the face of someone who, through no fault of his own, had lost his old life yet retained defiant hope that the future would be better.

cyprus 3

I’ll never forget the face of that man. I see it sometimes in news clips of the new batch of refugees leaving the violent past and moving with some flicker of hope toward a calmer future.

keep-calm-and-welcome-the-refugees

 

Choices

vegetarian

I’ve always been a mystical, spiritual person with a deep respect for all life forms. However, meat eating  seemed like such a natural and integrated function of society that I never really considered giving it up – at least not while I lived a work-a-day urban lifestyle. Wasn’t it true that our ancestors in the ice age had to eat meat to survive? And wasn’t it true, as scientists tell us, that meat eating contributed to, if not actually caused, our brain’s dramatic growth, thus making us a dominant life form? Other animals eat meat and humans are just animals so why shouldn’t we eat meat as well? And then there is the fact that plants are living things too – so why would it be ok to kill and eat plants but not to kill and eat animals?

 

vegan_21

There are a lot of interesting questions that can be raised around this subject – I admit, however, that I didn’t really think too much about them. I just did what everyone else did around me. Meat eating was, and is, a highly convenient way of life. Meat is available everywhere and society strongly encourages its consumption.

As I grew older, I became aware of certain health concerns around meat consumption – mostly related to the various additives, hormones, steroids and whatever else was used to turn animals into efficiently processed food products. And I found that there had always been health concerns associated with excessive red meat consumption. So I cut out red meat and most pork products and stuck to only lean chicken and turkey breast. I’m not convinced my health measurably improved with these choices.

 

ive-cut-down-on-red-meat

Over time, however, I became aware of a much more serious issue – the “factory farm industry.” I watched several videos that exposed the rampant abuses of these food production businesses. Seeing the way animals were treated in the name of profit margins deeply upset me, and I determined that I would not support these industries at all. That’s what finally made me decide to change my diet.

 

ff2

I didn’t become a vegetarian for the sake of my health, but for the sake of the health of the cows, pigs, chickens and other animals horrible abused by the State sanctioned factory farm industry.

At first I was somewhat ok with people who raised food in what might be termed a more humane manner – and even with some hunters who actually ate what they killed. I thought at least in these circumstances the animals had a bit of a normal life before meeting a swift death. But I have come to realize now that there really isn’t any right or humane way to kill something that doesn’t want to die. And animals, like people, don’t want to die.

 

no right way

It’s safe to say, I think, that people online are not living in the ice age or in a nation that is so desperate for food that almost anything is consumable. We are living in the 21st century, in a fat, rich nation. We have choices. Humans are probably omnivores, meaning we can eat a lot of different things. And as omnivores eating meat is not an obligation it is a choice. For myself I choose to refrain from eating animals and animal products out of regard for their suffering. It’s a matter of compassion. This choice works well for me based on my observations of the world, but also with my long established mystical and spiritual sensibilities.

What you choose is up to you.

 

what to eat

 

compassion

Someday

lion-and-lamb-lie-down-together1

I was chatting with some associates about the crazy weather fluctuations and one of them said, “If it gets any colder I’ll have to start wearing my furs.”

I said, “Yeah, that’s ok. I have a can of spray paint here – I can decorate them for you.”

She gave me a weird look and then said, “Oh yeah, you’re one of those people who care about animals. Well tonight I’ll have myself a big steak with bacon strips and smile as I think of you eating your bowl of lettuce”

I said, “Yeah, that’s ok.”

Trapped-animal

Earlier that day I was on the subway and there was a little baby in a carriage on the train. He seemed happy and comfortable just staring at everyone around him. Then the train jolted and I guess his carriage strap dug into him a bit. He started crying. His mother shushed him gently and tickled him a bit and he stopped for a second but then the train jolted again and he started wailing and would not be comforted.

baby-crying

I admit it was annoying hearing him cry. But, you know, he was just a little tyke stuck in a very stressful and confusing situation with limited responses available to him.

Telepathically I said to him, “yeah, that’s ok, little guy, it’ll get better. I’m sure you’ll figure out what’s really going on in the world … someday.”

enlightenment

United With Pride

love not gender

In a long-sought victory for the gay rights movement, the Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled by a 5-to-4 vote on Friday June 26, 2015 that the U.S. Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage.

Last month voters in Ireland overwhelmingly chose to change their nation’s constitution, becoming the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage through a popular vote.

On July 20, 2005, Canada became the fourth country in the world, and the first country outside Europe, to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide with the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act which provided a gender-neutral marriage definition.

Other countries throughout the world have also made changes to their laws and constitutions to accept same sex marriage.

Last year at this time the 10-day World Pride festival was in full swing in Toronto – the first time this international event was ever  held in North America.  Celebrations of this kind around the world honour the history, courage, diversity and future of gay communities everywhere – but also strongly emphasize the importance of human rights concerns of all kinds. We all need to thoughtfully consider what it means to live safe, free and joyful lives without fear of persecution or censure.

Human Rights

Things have certainly changed in the world since the days of the Stonewall riots of June 28, 1969 – the spark that ignited the whole Gay Rights / Gay Pride movement – but the changes have not been nearly as great as they could have been. Although there is now more sexual openness and equality for most people, violence and oppression still exist – and not just in far-flung “backward” parts of the world – right here in cities like Toronto. Despite the annual parades and marches violence is still a daily factor in many people’s lives. It still requires a great deal of courage to declare yourself openly lesbian, gay,  bisexual, transgender, intersex, two-spirits, queer, asexual or anything else that might conflict with 17th century Puritan sexual morality.

Back in the summer of 1971 – totally oblivious to the New York riots of 1969 and totally unaware of the mass protests that were to come following the Toronto bathhouse raids of 1981 – I lived in a section of Toronto not particularly known for its tolerance or acceptance of alternative life-styles. It was a violent community filled with underemployed people – some desperate to escape their circumstances but many resolved to remain forever in the under belly of society.  Known as Corktown, Cabbagetown or Regent Park, in those days the neighbourhood was a place where the “respectable folk” of Toronto wouldn’t be caught dead, unless they had “shady business” to do. Of course there were a lot of nice people living in Regent Park – hardworking, honest people just hoping for a break in their lives – people that watched out for each other and the neighbourhood kids. And yet there really were nasty people around that it was best to stay away from.

Regent_Park_map

map_cabbagetown

Aside from individual nasty people, there were whole streets and blocks kids were warned to avoid for various reasons. And we whispered to each other about what might be going on in those areas. For example, Toronto’s “Red Light District” was within Cabbagetown’s borders – just along Dundas Street between Sherbourne and Jarvis.  And there were notorious pick up joints and criminal hangouts like Spot One, Norm’s Open Kitchen and the New Service Tea Room. But the worst place of all, we were told, was the St. Charles Tavern at Yonge and Wellesley.

St. Charles Tavern with its famous clock tower

St. Charles Tavern with its famous clock tower

The Tavern is closed but the tower still remains

The Tavern is closed but the tower still remains

If a kid was dumb enough to walk past that place alone, even in broad daylight, the story was that he might be snatched off the street, dragged into the back room and have all sorts of unspeakable things done to him by sexual deviants and perverts.

None of this was true, of course. I walked past that particular building hundreds of times on my way to movie theatres or record stores  and never even knew the place was notorious. I never connected the actual building with the scare stories told about it – I mean, I was a kid and hardly knew the name of the street I was on half the time 🙂

Anyway, the St. Charles was probably the best known gay bar in Canada at the time. It was frequently raided by the police because in those days there were all sorts of possible crimes connected with homosexuality. Strange as it might seem today it was, at that time, against the law for a man to wear women’s clothing, so the police could just stop a man in the street on suspicion and search him. If he was found to be wearing women’s underwear, or something other than white cotton boxer shorts, he could be arrested or just plain beaten up.

Regent Park tough guys might also hang around these places with the intention of passing the time by beating up a few “queers” or “faggots.” And the police were never too concerned about investigating such crimes. As I said, it was not a section of Toronto particularly known for its tolerance or acceptance of alternative life-styles.

I lived on the southern border of Regent Park around Queen Street east of Parliament – and all these “no go zones” were more west of Parliament and north of Queen – far from my everyday stomping grounds. But that didn’t matter to the haters and fear mongers.  The patrons of places like the St. Charles Tavern, just by existing, were a psychological threat even to the low lives of Regent Park.

There were, of course, cases in which a certain type of person might wander into Regent Park with immoral intentions. Perhaps they thought the people in my community were easy prey. I, myself, was confronted several times by deviant individuals and literally had to run away screaming for help. And perhaps some were that particular sort that actually wanted to be beaten up. In Regent Park they got their wish and these people did not make return appearances and certainly did not live in the community.

Now, I’m describing all this because there was a particular young man who did live in the neighbourhood and who used to ride his bicycle along Queen Street towards Parliament.  There was no doubt in the mind of anyone who saw him that he was heading for one of those well-known dens of iniquity. How did we know? First, he was a thin, haughty looking youth, who proudly rode his bike down the centre of the street with his head held high and had rainbow tassels streaming off his handle bars. The rainbow was not yet recognized as the symbol of gay pride but even then we knew what it meant. Boys DID NOT decorate their bikes with frilly tassels. And if that wasn’t enough, he wore puffy sleeved, brightly coloured shirts with a long lavender scarf around his neck that fluttered out behind him in the wind. Probably emulating Quentin Crisp.

CrispLifestyle

As far as I know, he was never accused of doing anything other than being “queer.” He never tried to hurt anybody. Kids weren’t afraid of him. But his appearance and mannerism was enough to make him the subject of scorn.

Rainbow_flag_breeze

Now, people said things as he rode by as you might imagine. He was laughed at and openly mocked; an easy target for the most childish of insults. Yet, what stands out most for me was the way he held his head up: proud and defiant. Sometimes I would see him riding by with black eyes and bruised face; sometimes with bandages. As I said this was not a tolerant neighbourhood. And seeing his bruises, some people mocked him even more as if he somehow deserved to be beaten. Sometimes people claimed to know the guys who beat him up and would smile as they spoke of it.

I don’t know who that young man was. I don’t know his name. I don’t know what happened to him. He rode his bike along Queen Street all that summer: rainbow tassels streaming off his handlebars and his lavender scarf blowing in the wind. He rode with his head held high, seemingly indifferent to the abuses hurled at him and the violence he endured. Was he brave? Was he courageous? Or was he just stupid? I don’t know.

More than 40 years later I still remember that man and wonder what his life was like. And I think about all the other men and women of that time who chose to be defiant and stand up for the simple right to be themselves. They were not deviants, perverts or sexual predators – they were just people with different desires. It takes courage to stand up for your sexual preferences today but it must have taken ferocious bravery to do so back then. Imagine what it would be like to have your whole life be a protest against intolerance. More than just marching in a parade once a year or waving a rainbow flag – it was living in constant rebellion. Imagine a world where you could be beaten up for wearing a puffy shirt or even killed for holding hands with someone of the same sex. Not in some far off Middle Eastern country where we think all intolerance now resides – but right here at home – places like Rome, Jerusalem, London, Toronto, Madrid – these are cities where World Pride has been held and will be held in the future – the intolerance and hatred that man felt in 1971 still exists in all those cities and in other cities around the world. And the courage it took for that man to ride his bike with its rainbow tassels is still needed today.

Pride Weekend starts with the Gay community where perhaps courage and organized protest is still needed most. But it extends to all people who wish to express themselves freely, creatively, artistically, romantically and joyfully but cannot because of the fear, ignorance and intolerance of the dominant forces of a community.  Is it possible for people to live safe, free and joyful lives without fear of persecution or censure? I hope so. But we must all stand together – men and women; gay and straight; rich and poor – we must declare loudly and openly that the peaceful pursuit of love and fellowship is the right of all human beings in all nations at all times.

we all belong

 

I’ve Seen Things

weird shit

 

 

I found this picture of Alice from “Alice in Wonderland” talking to Dorothy from “the Wizard of Oz” circulating on Facebook. Both of these girls have seen some “weird shit” and really have no one to talk to about it – except each other. Unfortunately, their world’s never crossed so everyone they shared their individual experiences with thought they were crazy or just victims of over active childhood imaginations.

As a mystic I can relate to this image. No, I’ve never been to Oz or Wonderland but I have experienced “weird shit.” Most people on a mystic path will eventually encounter something strange and unexplainable. Some of the strange things such as body tingles, lucid dreaming, euphoria, open mindedness, acceptance, and a weird sense of joy are common. After these experiences, when the senses are somewhat attuned, it’s possible to start ‘seeing’ things around you that go unnoticed by others – usually more vibrant colours, more depth in objects, a peculiar sensing of people’s moods and intentions. Occasionally objects or beings from other realms might be perceived as intruding on your space. Communication with people from distant places or times might also occur. There are also various exercises and practices that allow you to deliberately seek out new experiences through activities such as out-of-body travel or merging with universal intelligence. Anyone who has travelled awhile on the mystic path knows about and accepts these occurrences. However, there are other experiences that are unique to each individual, or at least uncommon. One relates to the actual content of any communication with other beings. If you encounter a spiritual master on the path the words and images shared might only be for you. There is a gospel song called “In the Garden” that expresses this concept – the chorus is:

And He walks with me

And He talks with me

And He tells me I am His own

And the things we share as we tarry there

None other has ever known

 

master and disciple

There is also a uniqueness associated with how you initially push out of the normal world and into the world of mystical enlightenment. Lewis Carroll and L. Frank Baum, the authors of the Alice and Dorothy stories, seem well aware of this idea – perhaps because they both had mystical sentiments. Dorothy reaches Oz by various means – the most well-known is by tornado, but in other stories people get to Oz in other ways, such as by going up in a balloon, through a cave or by diving under the sea. Alice gets to Wonderland by going down a rabbit hole in one story and by stepping into a looking glass in another.

Long ago I was associated with a particular mystical lodge group and I was giving a presentation on the enlightenment experience. I described it as being like turning off Niagara Falls, then standing at the bottom and turning the water back on – a terrifying, crushing sensation that at the same time is exhilarating and liberating as one merges with the deluge and then emerges into the eternal sea.

mystic under water

After my talk, one member took me aside and said he didn’t agree with my image. Not having been through the experience himself, he said that if enlightenment was to occur it must be a peaceful, loving process. But another, older, member was walking by and overheard the statements. He said I was correct in my image – the move to enlightenment can sometimes be a frightening, even painful occurrence.

I was young at the time and did not realize that I should have latched onto that older gentleman and pumped him for more knowledge and understanding of the mystical path. As it is I have not met another person in the flesh who shared my revelations (though I have read about similar events in people’s lives). And I fear that many of the things that happened beyond the waterfall can never be discussed openly with anyone. Like Alice and Dorothy, most mystics in the everyday world must walk their path alone.

lonely road

 

#mysticism

#metaphysics

Master – Less

 

bruce lee pose

 

This weekend is the anniversary of Bruce Lee’s death (July 20, 1973). Bruce Lee is one of the most influential martial artists of all time. Many people, including myself, began martial arts training as a direct result of hearing about him and seeing his movies.

So it was that I found myself studying Tae Kwon Do at one of the largest schools in Toronto taught by one of the best known instructors in the world.

I wasn’t a particularly good student physically – but I thought I had a good grasp of the philosophy. One night, after a late class, I was sitting alone in the small break room having a Coke (that’s how long ago this was – a health club offering Coke as primary refreshment). My plan was to just chill out for a few minutes before getting on the subway and heading home. As I sat there, sipping my Coke, the Master came into the room. He looked at me and I felt like I was caught in a trap. I really didn’t want to engage – I just wanted to finish my drink and go. He looked at me intently and then opened a closet and pulled out a mop and bucket. He then proceeded to mop the floor.

I have said many times that I don’t really have any masters. There is no individual or group that has influenced me to the point of guiding me along any particular path. I take knowledge and inspiration from many sources and I admire the teachings and systems of many schools. But on the whole, I walk my own path. This tendency does not seem to be something I worked out over time. It does not appear to be a well thought out strategy. I think I just don’t have that urge to discipleship. And I see the first recognition of that tendency way back then in that martial arts school.

Philosophically, I believe I should have jumped up and said “No, Master, let me mop the floor.” I think a part of me even wanted to. But another part of me thought, “hey, this guy’s rich why doesn’t he pay someone to do this.” I remember even thinking back then that this might be part of some test – a test I would fail – because I did not get up and offer to mop the floor. I quickly finished my drink and beat it out of there.

And I’ve often wondered how different my life would have been if I had mopped that floor. When I was younger I speculated that I might have been made a favorite and given special training. Or maybe I would have been introduced to some new martial art way of life. Would my reaction have been different if it had actually been Bruce Lee mopping the floor instead of just some highly trained teacher that I paid for lessons?

Bruce-Lee-Meditating1

 

Today I wonder if maybe allowing myself to be a disciple then I would have more easily accepted other masters. Perhaps I could have specialized in some religious or spiritual path and grown to become a leader of some school or system. I’ve certainly been part of many valid paths, and I’ve been offered many opportunities to commit to some powerful people and organizations. Occasionally I’ve even felt as though “This is it! This is the way.” But the feeling never lasted. All the schools and teachers I’ve encountered have shown themselves to have clay feet – at least in my estimation.

And so I walk alone. And follow my own path – one that is hidden until I reveal it to myself.

Bruce Lee said:

“Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what is uniquely your own.”

“Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.”

“When one has reached maturity in the art, one will have a formless form. It is like ice dissolving in water. When one has no form, one can be all forms; when one has no style, he can fit in with any style.”

 

 

brucelee

Pride and Courage

WorldPride_2014

 

The 10-day World Pride festival is in full swing in Toronto.  This is the first time this international event has ever been held in North America. The celebration honours the history, courage, diversity and future of gay communities throughout the world – but also strongly emphasizes the importance of human rights concerns of all kinds. We all need to thoughtfully consider what it means to live safe, free and joyful lives without fear of persecution or censure.

Human Rights

 

Things have certainly changed in the world since the days of the Stonewall riots of June 28, 1969 – the spark that ignited the whole Gay Rights / Gay Pride movement – but the changes have not been nearly as great as they could have been. Although there is now more sexual openness and equality for most people, violence and oppression still exist – and not just in far-flung “backward” parts of the world – right here in cities like Toronto. Despite the annual parades and marches violence is still a daily factor in many people’s lives. It still requires a great deal of courage to declare yourself openly lesbian, gay,  bisexual, transgender, intersex, two-spirits, queer, asexual or anything else that might conflict with 17th century Puritan sexual morality.

Back in the summer of 1971 – totally oblivious to the New York riots of 1969 and totally unaware of the mass protests that were to come following the Toronto bathhouse raids of 1981 – I lived in a section of Toronto not particularly known for its tolerance or acceptance of alternative life-styles. It was a violent community filled with underemployed people – some desperate to escape their circumstances but many resolved to remain forever in the under belly of society.  Known as Corktown, Cabbagetown or Regent Park, in those days the neighbourhood was a place where the “respectable folk” of Toronto wouldn’t be caught dead, unless they had “shady business” to do. Of course there were a lot of nice people living in Regent Park – hardworking, honest people just hoping for a break in their lives – people that watched out for each other and the neighbourhood kids. And yet there really were nasty people around that it was best to stay away from.

Regent_Park_map

 

 

 

map_cabbagetown

 

Aside from individual nasty people, there were whole streets and blocks kids were warned to avoid for various reasons. And we whispered to each other about what might be going on in those areas. For example, Toronto’s “Red Light District” was within Cabbagetown’s borders – just along Dundas Street between Sherbourne and Jarvis.  And there were notorious pick up joints and criminal hangouts like Spot One, Norm’s Open Kitchen and the New Service Tea Room. But the worst place of all, we were told, was the St. Charles Tavern at Yonge and Wellesley.

 

St. Charles Tavern with its famous clock tower

St. Charles Tavern with its famous clock tower

 

 

The Tavern is closed but the tower still remains

The Tavern is closed but the tower still remains

 

If a kid was dumb enough to walk past that place alone, even in broad daylight, the story was that he might be snatched off the street, dragged into the back room and have all sorts of unspeakable things done to him by sexual deviants and perverts.  The St. Charles was probably the best known gay bar in Canada at the time. It was frequently raided by the police because in those days there were all sorts of possible crimes connected with homosexuality. Strange as it might seem today it was, at that time, against the law for a man to wear women’s clothing, so the police could just stop a man in the street on suspicion and search him. If he was found to be wearing women’s underwear, or something other than white cotton boxer shorts, he could be arrested or just plain beaten up.

Regent park tough guys might also hang around these places with the intention of passing the time by beating up a few “queers” or “faggots.” And the police were never too concerned about investigating such crimes. As I said, it was not a section of Toronto particularly known for its tolerance or acceptance of alternative life-styles.

I lived on the southern border of Regent Park around Queen Street east of Parliament – and all these “no go zones” were more west of Parliament and north of Queen – far from my stomping grounds. But that didn’t matter to the haters and fear mongers.  The patrons of places like the St. Charles Tavern were a threat even to the low lives of Regent Park.

There were, of course, cases in which a certain type of person might wander into Regent Park with immoral intentions. Perhaps they thought the people in my community were easy prey. I, myself, was confronted several times by deviant individuals and literally had to run away screaming for help. And perhaps some were that particular sort that actually wanted to be beaten up. In Regent Park they got their wish and these people did not make return appearances and certainly did not live in the community.

Now, I’m describing all this because there was a particular young man who did live in the neighbourhood and who used to ride his bicycle along Queen Street towards Parliament.  There was no doubt in the mind of anyone who saw him that he was heading for one of those well-known dens of iniquity. How did we know? First, he was a thin, haughty looking youth, who proudly rode his bike down the centre of the street with his head held high and had rainbow tassels streaming off his handle bars. The rainbow was not yet recognized as the symbol of gay pride but even then we knew what it meant. Boys DID NOT decorate their bikes with frilly tassels. And if that wasn’t enough, he wore puffy sleeved, brightly coloured shirts with a long lavender scarf around his neck that fluttered out behind him in the wind. As far as I know, he was never accused of doing anything other than being “queer.” He never tried to hurt anybody. Kids weren’t afraid of him. But his appearance and mannerism was enough to make him the subject of scorn.

Rainbow_flag_breeze

 

Now, people said things as he rode by as you might imagine. He was laughed at and openly mocked; an easy target for the most childish of insults. Yet, what stands out most for me was the way he held his head up: proud and defiant. Sometimes I would see him riding by with black eyes and bruised face; sometimes with bandages. As I said this was not a tolerant neighbourhood. And seeing his bruises, some people mocked him even more as if he somehow deserved to be beaten. Sometimes people claimed to know the guys who beat him up and would smile as they spoke of it.

I don’t know who that young man was. I don’t know his name. I don’t know what happened to him. He rode his bike along Queen Street all that summer: rainbow tassels streaming off his handlebars and his lavender scarf blowing in the wind. He rode with his head held high, seemingly indifferent to the abuses hurled at him and the violence he endured. Was he brave? Was he courageous? Or was he just stupid? I don’t know.

More than 40 years later I still remember that man and wonder what his life was like. And I think about all the other men and women of that time who chose to be defiant and stand up for the simple right to be themselves. They were not deviants, perverts or sexual predators – they were just people with different desires. It takes courage to stand up for your sexual preferences today but it must have taken ferocious bravery to do so back then. Imagine what it would be like to have your whole life be a protest against intolerance. More than just marching in a parade once a year or waving a rainbow flag – it was living in constant rebellion. Imagine a world where you could be beaten up for wearing a puffy shirt or even killed for holding hands with someone of the same sex. Not in some far off Middle Eastern country where we think all intolerance now resides – but right here at home – places like Rome, Jerusalem, London, Toronto, Madrid – these are cities where World Pride has been held and will be held in the future – the intolerance and hatred that man felt in 1971 still exists in all those cities and in other cities around the world. And the courage it took for that man to ride his bike with its rainbow tassels is still needed today.

World Pride starts with the Gay community where perhaps courage and organized protest is still needed most. But it extends to all people who wish to express themselves freely, creatively, artistically, romantically and joyfully but cannot because of the fear, ignorance and intolerance of the dominant forces of a community.  Is it possible for people to live safe, free and joyful lives without fear of persecution or censure? I hope so. But we must all stand together – men and women; gay and straight; rich and poor – we must declare loudly and openly that the peaceful pursuit of love and fellowship is the right of all human beings in all nations at all times.

 

we all belong

 

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén