Friday, June 26, 2009

Pat & the Lad

I had a nice rant the other night after I saw this:

It provoked potent, immediate reactions in me. I expressed those feelings, and knew I'd want a more considered response to something that triggered me so hard. Watch the video, and then come read my story, the considered response to what I saw and felt.

Pat and the Lad

Once upon a time, there was a peaceable world where people of all colors, shapes, sizes and identifications lived in harmony with the land, each other, and something else that nobody fully comprehended, despite claims and best efforts. On this world, there were many tribes of folk who had chosen to occupy the same time and space because they derived pleasure, comfort and joy from the company of like-minded folk. Not everyone in each tribe, let alone the tribes themselves, agreed with all the others. Oh, no. Some people called common things by different names, and this did tend to cause disputes. But the people knew how to communicate without taking differences personally, so they worked it out. Harmony and individuality within a group are not mutually exclusive.

One of the most common disagreements--so common a disagreement, in fact that there were jokes about it that made everyone laugh--was what to call It. Consciousness, Divinity, Spirit, God, YHWH, Jehova, Allah, Krishna were some of the names that had glibly marched down through history like a whole parade of clothes without an Emperor. After a very long parade, the people agreed that there was something Else, that it seemed possible for individuals to interact with it directly, that time spent in Its company could provoke astonishing feelings of love and balance and that the rest was pretty much up to interpreting breadcrumbs left in the woods of ignorance by the denizens of the forest themselves.

After that long parade, it was pretty easy to just go ahead, agree to call it It, and to agree that the individual was free to decide what relationship one wanted to It--if one wanted a relationship at all (which some folks in the pub up the road thought was enormously amusing because to choose to not have a relationship is a relationship).

Though it was usual for the like in mind to congregate, the people did a fantastic job of getting along in the form of collectives almost as well as they got along as individuals. But one day, a very poor arguer decided that in lieu of proof of stated beliefs, assertions of faith and heart-feelings was enough, somehow, to make the other people involved wrong.

Just plain wrong.

Though a poor arguer, this person (whose name is lost to the shadows and time but whom we'll call Patricia McKinney just for the sake of convenience) was terribly charismatic. Her beliefs and her faith were so very, very strong that people who lacked their own strength of conviction came from far and farther to borrow some of hers. And all it cost to borrow conviction was a little bit of soul. Only a small bit, and for a thing as spacious as a soul, it didn't seem like much. Thing is, though, when you don't know how big your own soul is, a small piece can seem like a whole lot. When one pays for something with soul, they tend to treasure their purchase because, somewhere, even if they don’t know it, they understand that they have paid dearly. Once you have something that cost so much and is so cherished, holding on to the thing becomes more important than holding on to what one paid for it with.

Eventually, Pat had enough friends to make a tribe. They all got on famously, holding the same faith and borrowing from the same branch office for their conviction of belief. Oh, sure, that kind of externally-originated imposed homogeny caused some trouble behind the scenes, but that was to be expected.

A child was born into this tribe. He was raised by Pat's folk, parents who loved him, and a community that held its children to be precious and who educated them thoroughly. They loved him. But then he entered puberty, and things began to change.

Some of the changes happened on the outside--like hair in new places, and a funny croaking voice. Some things happened on the inside--like realizing he didn't want what he'd been told he should want if he wanted to be a good man and a good lover and servant of It. Having been so taught, the lad assumed that there was something wrong with him (even though if he'd walked up the road a spell to meet Harvey's friends he'd have learned he was perfectly normal and that the messenger, Pat, sent to deliver Love and Compassion had gotten the message a bit skewed). The lad took matters into his own hands and set about to change his ways. But he couldn't. Every thing he did to combat his rising terror of wrongness was just that: an action. It in no way expressed him, his nature, his being. You see, changing what you do gives others the impression that your insides have changed, But if it doesn't come from your insides, the outside only changes in appearance.

The lad despaired. He went to Pat. He begged for succor and aid from the hideous plague of longing for the proscribed, aligning with the forbidden. He got down on his knees, a supplicant to a human, a human just like him. Pat's heart swelled with love and pity for this child of her tribe. She had to help him, she knew it. But how? She turned to one of the rare books, one that had been transcribed through at least 6 languages and copied by many different hands to the point where one could easily value it as an exquisite work but knew better than to interpret literally. She looked into the book, searching for something to help her help this child of her tribe. Her tribe. The tribe that had come to her. She began to think of her tribe as beginning with a capital T. Then her thoughts turned back to the book. She found something that seemed suitable, and then some other pieces to weave together and before long, she had it. She knew what to do for the lad.

"Child, I will help you. Come to the Grove at dawn, just before the sun is born, and we'll fix you right up. Then God will love you again."

The lad beamed, kissed the back of her hand with the enthusiasm of a swashbuckler offered 10% more free booty and skipped from the room.

He entered the circle in the Grove before dawn. Thin light trickled through the mist. He felt like the world was a ghost and he was the only real thing in it.

Pat told the lad what was to be done. Gaining a shade of pallor with each revealed detail, the lad nodded his head once at the end, too weak to do much more from loss of blood to the head. He assented to the torment, in the name of love. The circle closed in, and they began.

There was yelling, shouting, flailing, poking, puking and proselytizing. It was traumatic. Pat told the lad that he had a badness inside him and they were going to get rid of it. The lad was dubious, since how he felt seemed so thoroughly natural and organic to him.

When it ended, the lad was tired. He felt bruises in places that weren't of his body--at least that part of him was relatively unabused. He searched around on his insides to see what was different, to see if he could find an empty spot where the badness had been, but there were no empty tables in the diner of his mind; no empty stalls in the restroom of his soul. It didn't seem like anything was gone, or different. He was just tired. They took him home, fed him warm broth, wrapped him in a soft blanket and put him to bed, promising they'd come see him tomorrow. They left.

Outside the lad's window watched one of Harvey's folk who went by the name of Mary. Mary had witnessed the whole thing in the Grove and was stunned, appalled and pissed right the fuck off. Making sure the lad was alright, she went home to seek the collective wisdom of her tribe. Some were just as appalled as she was and even more outraged (because they felt that being more outraged than the outrager gave them more cachet, somehow); some stood calmly, hearing the whole tale from one perspective and choosing their relationship to the story they were hearing. They discussed it. What should be done, if anything? How to choose?

They thought back into their own tribe's past. They could remember well-meaning folk with extra shares of conviction to sell that ended up doing not so good of a job at running things. From there, they were able to find their compassion, and see Pat as no different than they were--just carrying a few extra issues. They could see that Pat was just as much a part of It as they were, no matter what either of them called it. They decided to go talk to her, to truly hear her side of the story.

She was not moved. They talked to her some more. She still was not moved. They asked her how she would feel, needing to have her badness removed just because she was around people who didn't share her values, ideas and worldview? They kept at it for hours, with no sign of a dawning of recognition anywhere in the sky of Pat's eyes. Even though they disagreed with her actions, then knew that Pat deserved the same love and justice as anyone else. Unable to sway her conviction, they at last decided to leave her in peace but with this caveat:

We congregate out of love and affection for one another. Love need never make another being wrong or bad, so the next time you see one of your tribe suffering, direct them to those whose actions as well as words will be a compassionate gift and an act of love that aligns with the nature of the sufferer’s being, not yours."

When Harvey’s people left, the lad went with them. He's there to this day, with Harvey's tribe on the other side of the Grove, manifesting the glory of love, harmony, and authenticity. His husband comforts him at night when he wakes with bad dreams.

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