It's been several years (or nearly four years, which does not actually add up to several, but is more than a few) since I updated this journal. I've had other blogs, and Facebook updates, and marble notebooks, and letters to myself on Gmail. But I haven't had much in the way of public diary entries. Perhaps I'll enjoy it again, or perhaps it'll be short-lived. Time (however measured) will tell. I don't know; neither do you.
But I'm going to start by telling you a story. And it will unfold over several entries. Here we go. Are you ready?
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I'm sitting in my New York apartment, with a bottle of Sam Adams next to me. I'm in my pajamas with a soft lamp on. I have a paperback copy of Tom Stoppard's translation of "The Cherry Orchard" (which is currently my favorite play) open on my desk. I have a one-week vacation ahead of me. We have nothing but time.
I want to tell you a story, but first I want you to close your eyes and imagine a small tropical island somewhere south of Florida. It's well-populated. It's diverse and progressive and gay-friendly. People like to travel there. It has a few colleges, and a booming economy based on tourism and business. It's paradise.
That's where we meet our guy. He's gonna be my alter ego. "Alter," because I've never lived on a tropical island south of Florida. This guy has just moved there. His name is Kelvin, like the guy who invented the temperature scale that includes absolute zero. We're gonna follow him for some time now, so get used to him. I think you'll like him. He's 25, about to turn 26.
Kelvin just moved to the island, because he wanted to find a job, and because other cities weren't working out (he'd lived in a few of the major ones), and because he'd ended a relationship (though he remained good friends with the ex), and because if you can't move to a tropical island and start anew when you're 25, you probably won't ever do it.
Seems rather perfect. From Beliefnet's "What kind of Christian are you?" quiz:
Bishop Spong Christian (Biblical Revisionist)
You think the Bible is a powerful metaphorical narrative and believe that Jesus was a heroic figure similar to Gandhi. You believe in God as a loving creator and that She will forgive you for just about anything. You're willing to admit that you don't believe in the resurrection. You go to church for the sense of community and the music and because you like to hector your fellow Christians about their backward ways. You watch "Touched by an Angel" but don't cry (well, OK, except that one time when the boy with leukemia met his real father). You read Toni Morrison, Deepak Chopra, and Bishop Spong, the controversial Episcopalian prelate. You ardently support gay rights and feel guilty that you yourself are not gay. (If you are gay, you're in a loving, committed relationship). You live in a leafy university town, order Chai at Starbucks, wear hand-blocked clothing, and subscribe to The New Yorker. You watch TV so you can talk ironically about how bad TV is. You give to charity, preferring the local homeless shelter to those bureaucratic national charities. For you, the crux of Christianity is Jesus' revolutionary message of empowering "the least of these."
I suppose "Forrest Church Christian" would be even more approriate.
Bridget came back today. I drove over to see her. Her mom made my favorite meal, and a scrumptious version at that: thin, thin spaghetti with homemade sauce and meatballs, salad, and garlic bread. God bless simple American joys.
What a special person. She has such humanity and grace and intelligence, but also a free and joyful spirit. I hope to see her almost as much as I did before. And we'll see--- we'll really see--- about moving in together somewhere down the line.
It sounds a lot like Universalists were, historically, better people than Unitarians.
Thomas Starr King summed up the difference: "Universalists believe that God is too good to damn people; Unitarians believe that people are too good to be damned by God."
I'm going to now try and construct a historical timeline of the two faiths for my own study, cobbled together from a variety of sources I'll list below.
(1) Origen of Alexandria, who lived from 185 to around 254 CE, wrote on the unity of God and Jesus' love of humanity. He argued for no Hell and for a benevolent God who would offer a universal salvation. This would be the foundation on which liberal religion was built.
(2) The Nicene Creed, adopted 325 CE in what turned out to be in many ways a political, not religious, act, codified the Trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). The people who rejected or questioned the Trinity, Unitarians, were then considered heritics.
(3) In 1553, Michael Servetus was burned at the stake for his pamphlet "On the Errors of the Trinity." He stands as the most famous Unitarian martyr.
(4) Unitarian ideas began to spread across Europe in the late part of the 1500s. The first official Unitarian church was established in 1568 in Transylvania, where the seeds of religious doubt had been sewed by a Unitarian king named Sigismund.
(5) Anti-Trinitarians gained steam in the 17th and 18th centuries, and by the end of the 18th century, 20 Unitarian churches existed throughout England. Milton, Newton, Locke, and Nightingale were all thinkers who expressed support for the Enlightenment principles of religious freedom and tolerance.
(6) In 1759, the Englishman James Relly published "Union," which claimed that all would be saved, a refutation of the Calvinist view of salvation for the few. This was an expansion and definition of the Universalist doctrine.
(7) A Relly follower named John Murray brought this Universalist vision to the United States (which, actually, didn't exist yet under that name.) 1779 saw the establishment of the Independent Christian Church of Gloucester, Massachusetts, America's first organized Universalist church. Later, Hosea Ballou, a devout Universalist, wrote "A Treatise on Atonement," a strong argument against Hell and miracles and a contemptuous God.
(8) Joseph Priestly, best known as the discoverer of oxygen, also helped bring Unitarianism over here. He was a Unitarian minister who'd been harassed and nearly killed in England for his views, and in 1796 he opened the first Unitarian church in America in Philadelphia. By then, liberal religion had gone beyond a mere rejection of the Trinity to a more widespread and serious skepticism about fundamental doctrines of the Christian establishment.
(9) People like Clara Barton, Julia Ward Howe, and Susan B. Anthony were guided by their liberal faith to champion such social justice measures as abolition, women's rights, and prison reform. Thinkers like William Ellery Channing, Theodore Parker, and Ralph Waldo Emerson preached the liberal gospel in sermons across America. The two paths of liberalism had grown even closer.
(10) In 1785, the first step was taken toward the establishment of the Universalist Church of America. Spring of 1825 saw the establishment of the American Unitarian Association.
(11) Finally, on May 11, 1961 the two faiths merged to form the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations in North America.
Okay, so this post turned out to be almost entirely a slight paraphrasing of Gary Provost's illuminating article for the UUA, "A Brief History of Unitarian Universalism." So I claim no original thought in anything above, but I do think it was a good exercise for me; now that I've written out the information, the odds seem much better that I'll retain it.
This week took me to employment, and to a certain understanding of, and peace with, some desires of mine.
I now work at Scarsdale Middle School, where my dad is a 'House Counselor,' and where I've visited occasionally for the past six years. I follow around a skinny red-haired fourteen year old autistic boy for most of the day, into Math and into Science, on and on until 2:30. In general it's an easy and peaceful job, featuring as it does many lulls and moments to myself. I'll be happy to keep it until June and perhaps beyond.
How could I possibly have lived in Middletown for ten months, especially with nothing to do? The difference between there and here is almost indescribable. People take comfort in things and ideas, people accomplish things, people are interesting. (Sure, it's not a cup of tea to drive on the road with these comfortable accomplished interesting people, because they also consume too much caffiene and work too hard in their offices, but there's a price to pay for everything.) The education system in Scarsdale brings me a great perspective on sound, progressive education and the hope and opportunity it can give.
The part of me that is disgusted by my thing wants to ignore Derek in the future.
That part of me also wants to embrace Eric.
Funny that their names rhyme. Life isn't usually so cute.
I don't know either of them well, of course. But both of them have obvious attractive qualities. Derek's unattractive quality happens to be that he happens to be in a happening relationship that he seems to have no intention of happening to get out of. A seven-year long one.
I'm not sure what Eric's deal is. He's still kind of a mystery: a computer guy with great skill at verbal jousting and an impeccable taste in movies? Life definitely does not often offer things like that. Let's first acknowledge that, and then let's also praise Eric for his best moment: he waited until we were on the street outside the theater to say a single word about the movie. God bless him for that, and let's hope he turns out to have other surprises too.
Yesterday I met David Flowers in front of the Anthology Film Archives. Once inside, we sat through Harry Smith's Heaven and Earth Magic, a piece of animated avant garde cinema which I had already seen in a film interpretation class, and it was okay beacause only lasted 66 minutes, but after that we ventured upstairs to a much, much longer Smith film, Mahagonny--- 2 hours and 25 minutes--- which at least had the good sense to be mildly interesting. Smith calls it "a mathematical analysis of Marcel Duchamp's Large Glass expressed in terms of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's opera Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny," which is either the most ambitious film project ever undertaken or the coyest synopsis in the history of art. I can't say I disliked it, though I did take a break of about a half an hour in the middle, running without my jacket to check on my car parked on Lafayette and 4th.
It was good to see David, though. And he has a girlfriend now! A Mexican girl named Serene. And he's moving into a house. It's like he's an actual person.
This morning I drove myself, along with dad, down to Mamaroneck to pick up a computer desk. It was a suburban jungle. The snow piled high, the parking lot narrow, a big tractor-type plow bullying our journey from the building to the car. On the way we heard Jonathan Shwartz' program, which featured (among other stuff) that "Irish Queen" song Jason Robert Brown originally wrote for TL5Y and a gorgeous Ray Charles rendition of "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning."
I would say my misery-nostalgia index has been pretty good lately, hovering perhaps between a low of 5 and a high of 9--- none so better than yesterday, when I actually heard from a potential source of an index plunge. Every time I actually speak to him I am instantly reminded of how little I want to have anything to do with him, and the reason that my experiences with him are long since in the past.
The next guy I date will have the following as central personality features: loving compassio, healthy devotion, and endless support. He will be the first person I'd call in a crisis, the one who knows exactly how to lift my spirits, with the right joke, the right comment. I will never worry how a piece of information will effect him; it will never occur to me to feel nervous around him. We will give each other friendship above all. And nothing less will even be considered.
And then there was a great storm.
Two days ago it was spring. Fuck, I mean, yesterday it was spring.
By the way, about yesterday: It was my 22nd birthday, and it was a pretty good one. I met with Josh at the Pick-me-up Cafe on Ave A, looking out into Tompkins Square Park (one of my favorite parts of the city), though this was after I'd driven into the city, deciding to get off the Henry Hudson at 56th street, and falling into an entirely predictable (though unpredicted) traffic disaster, and looking and failing to find any legal parking in a reasonable perimeter, finally ending up in a lucky spot on 12th and D. Josh was cool. After that, I met Albert at Cafe Reggio and we had a great session, as I slurped down a huge vanilla shake, mixing creativity with practicality. Albert is very impressive. And then I had my Prophecy meeting at La Salle, where Mike brought me free pizza and we all shared pages. That was pretty good, except I worry a bit about the quality of peoples' projects. They're very ambitious, but they may lack artistic merit. We'll see.
And what a day it became!
I drove to Westport and walked about, sort-of window-shopping until I gave up looking for spring jackets. While there I thought about these mangled and shaky new dramatic ideas I need to solidify and execute starting tonight. More on that soon.
Before that I went on a walk down to Cranbury Elementary and beyond, listening to the Velvet Underground and Nick Drake and a repeat hearing of a Forrest sermon.
Now I'm sitting on the deck, looking out into the garden. I didn't know the wireless would travel this far, and the lighting is not ideal--- I only have a vague image of what I'm typing now--- but this is a magnificient gift.