the very fight of our life.
I just watched my third midnight turn to January 1, 2000, and it's only just past 6AM where I am. The story of this century is the story of communications & travel shrinking the globe, and I witness it though glass windows set in a plastic boxes, one connected to data, the other to sound and pictures.
As it was about to go midnight in Auckland, the MC of the ceremonies asked the assembled crowd, which included me, half a world away, to look around and consider what their gift to the future would be.
It's a good question. It's a very good question. What we give to the future, I suspect, is the very fight of our life.
Every gift that a human gives is the result of their own battles against the challenges they see. Whether it is the courage we feel from other's fight against disability, the insight we gain from other's fights for understanding, the comforts we enjoy from other's fights to create, the survival we have from others fights to feed us, the love we feel from others fights to care for us, everything that lasts, everything that makes a change is the result of struggle and achievement.
We are given the gifts that have been won for us though millennia of human struggle. The struggle may be powered by love or the call for love -- a sense of ego -- but it is the results of that struggle which are our gifts to the future, which are the gifts we get from the past. This may only be a shared illusion, but it is an illusion where we raise our children, where we pass life and the quality of life to our children, to the broader base of our descendants and the society we live in.
This is the question I face this morning, as a new dawn sweeps around the world, one with portentous numbers assigned to it. What is my gift to the future? How can I give the results my struggle to an earth that has given me life, comfort and joy? What is my part to play in this global pageant that I glimpse in the electronic windows I peer though this morning?
The gift, of course, is a gift of myself, authentic & honest, singing the song God taught me. The gift is engaging the struggle, fighting the good fight, living with courage & grace, doing the right thing, the good thing, the bold thing beyond my own comfort in the world and into my own power.
Facing the future is facing my own fear of separation and discomfort, facing my own fears of how my power, my energy, my strength and my own bold struggle open me to risk, humiliation and denunciation.
Facing the future requires me to be strong enough to face the past and transcend it, to accept the fears and taunts of others and stay centered in my own fight, my own struggle to create what is in my heart. Persistence is the key, as it always is -- gifts to the future are always the result not of one great moment, but of the persistence and tenacity that brought the world to that moment, the perseverance and power that cemented the gains of one moment and made them a part of the future.
The dream in a heart is a fragile thing, but it is the dreams made flesh that change a world, that are the gifts to the future. Make no little plans, for the have no power to stir the blood, as Daniel Burnham reminds us. Be bold and make what has never existed be new, against the fights of those who resist change, who fight the fight of conservation (from concern or from reactionism) against you. It is the struggle that makes the result strong, which forces the dreams to gain the muscle which lets them live and grow, giving far into the future.
It is the fights of our lives that creates the gifts we leave, be those gifts the gift of rage, anger and the call for love, or the gifts of love. We go inside to find the peace, but then we must become an instrument of that peace, fighting in the world of flesh to make a mark and leave our gifts to the future.
May the new millennium be a time when you -- and I -- find the strength to give the world and our creator the very fight of our life.
My breath curled in the night as I peered though the tall paned glass windows cut into the colonial fieldstone church. I stood in the a floodlight which illuminated the flat gravestones around me, most dated before 1850.
Inside, it was New Year's Eve, and a small collection of worshippers had gathered. We have not yet reached Epiphany, so lit candles were mounted on tall staffs affixed to the doored pews, a light reminiscent of the century when this church was built.
In the window before me, beyond a welcoming pillar candle in its hurricane glass, base decked with evergreens, I saw the Anglican liturgy being played out. 2000 years of Christianity had come to this moment, one of many such moments being played out around the world. The call and response of alleluia, the ritual words all brought a tear to my eye.
This was the faith of my childhood, or at least the ritual of my childhood -- faith was not big in a home run by an engineer and a broken-hearted narcissist. The red and gilt vestments, the stance of the clergy and altar servers, even the organ music that filtered though the walls -- praise God from whom all mercies flow -- were threaded though my life.
Why did I stand outside, shivering in the cold clear night? It was because while I was dressed in my millennial finery -- black velvet, silver mesh, sparkling jewelry, and elaborate makeup, my face a work of art -- I chose not to enter.
My gloved hand touched the rough stones and I knew I could walk right though them -- after all, the door just around the corner was ajar. But I chose not to join the crowd.
Earlier tonight I spoke to Penny. I had to call her -- she missed our 5PM computer chat, a pep talk for both of us to talk about claiming our own power on this designated night of change. When she picked up the phone she was wearing an old shirt & jeans, making fudge and planning to settle in with a movie.
My injunction to her was the same as I gave her the past two weeks. If she doesn't claim her playful, feminine, dramatic energy, the flow that invigorates her, she will be crushed by the weight of a droning, grinding dreary life. A year after her genital reconstruction surgery, she is working to play normal, not draw attention, not let her spirit flow.
"Wouldn't you have loved to come downstairs at Christmas in a fabulous cocktail dress, immaculately coifed and made up like a 40's movie star, and announced 'OK -- unwrap me!"
"That would have been great," she smiled, "but I couldn't do that with family and all. They have enough problem with me, I have to be nice."
"Maybe you couldn't on Christmas, but if you can't do drama on New Year's Eve, when can you do drama? Let's face it, you never dreamed about being bland -- you wanted to be a ballsy broad, like Endora on Bewitched!"
I told Karen, a born-female friend about my chats. "My God! It sounds like you are talking to yourself!"
"I always listen closely to myself," I replied. "I often say what I need to hear."
This expression of my heart, of being a woman-identified person born male, is vital to my own life energy. Penny resisted dressing up for herself, because she thought it was "silly," but if she doesn't respect her own calling, her own power, grace and energy, who will? Everybody can tell her how to fit in, but nobody can help her soar on wings of spirit other than her.
I didn't walk though that wall because I feared what happens when I let my sprit show, let my spirit soar. It may be God from whom all mercies flow, but they flow though humans who have their own challenges and prejudices.
I know, though that what I tell Penny is true: unless we trust, honor, reveal and rejoice in the spirit inside of us, no matter how much that sprit may be too ecstatic and joyous for people around us, we die slowly everyday, drained of the life force blown into us by our creator.
I must both trust that sprit and walk though that wall, go in and be there, exposed and powerful. That's not easy, though. As I drove home, I saw the fearful look on Justice, the young lady who sold me a quart of milk to mix with my Drambuie, a woman afraid of what was hidden under this exterior I created to expose who I am. I felt the fear.
A woman is more authentic
the more she looks like
what she has dreamed for herself.
Algrado (Antonia San Juan) in Pedro Almodóvar's "All About My Mother"
If this is my world, then I am the host in it, right? It's my responsibility to make things work, put others at ease. That's a challenging task, which is why most people would rather believe it's someone else's world and just bitch about how lousy the party is rather than working to fix it.
Can I bring Justice into my world, bring my world into that Anglican church? Can I connect the worlds, or do I stand outside looking in, feeling both touched and distant?
On Letterman, Isabella Rosellini noted that it was a Roman tradtion to toss unwanted things out the windows at midnight of the new year.
She said that this tradition has been banned now, due to tourists who didn't know to get out of the streets and who were hit by flying furniture and other household debris, but the idea is still cherished by the inhabitants of Rome.
What would you throw out the window this New Years?
Happy New Year 2000.
(here is a link if the people from St. Georges show up: Me & Religion