Monday, September 17, 2007

Much to mull

I get into these modes periodically. Reflective, overly analytical, perhaps too self-indulgent. Many thoughts and ideas percolate, I always carry a mini-journal with me. So I jot things down throughout the day as I read or observe or reflect.

I was reading the life-journal/biography of a now elderly man who "came out" publicly and on television in the early seventies in Toronto. A professor, well respected, an activist, husband and father. It took enormous courage to do what he did. I admire such bravery and wonder if I could have done the same in his shoes and doubt it. His book is almost heart-breakingly personal.

He has a fetish for younger men that consumes him in tandem with a fear of being alone. His childhood was sad, he and his brother abandoned to foster homes by a drug addled mother. His whole life is about finding that perfect younger companion who, along with being sexually stimulating, is his intellectual equal. A herculean goal, never to be met, of course. So he has a revolving door of a life. So many men being test driven for the role of lover and companion.

But it is in the failures and the hurts and the savaging of his heart that I find inspiration. To this day, he never gives up. Mid seventies now. Still hopeful. He cherishes his friends amongst whom are his ex-wife who remains loyal as do his ex-in-laws.

I think he does not quite perceive his own heroism as he is full of self-doubt at times and touchingly grateful, so grateful, when his birthday is remembered. This man was and is an icon of gay liberation in Toronto, a hugely successful author and talking head, revered professor, activist, well-known, and yet takes sleeping pills on Christmas Eve (and feeds a small measure to his dogs) so he (and they) can sleep through Christmas and wake up on Boxing Day, bypassing the day completely. He succeeds. That is how terrifyinly lonely he is.

But he drops many nuggets and quotes on the way to a conclusion of his lifelong desire - the belief that serenity trumps loneliness. And finally - I like to think - embraces it.

Some thoughts of his: The world's not made up of atoms but of stories.
And this: There is no duty we so much under-rate as the duty to be happy.
And this: Loneliness and love create each other.
And this: A person is not best known by his abilities but by his choices.
And finally: We are what we want to be.

This last on the surface almost too simplistic, but quite profound.

Thank you, John Alan Lee, for giving me much to ponder over the course of reading your book. Gay, straight, asexual or whatever, our lives have such common threads, not the least of which is the eternal search for that perfect soulmate who will know and understand us like no other.

Here is the link for anyone interested in reading this groundbreaking work, though I need to warn you that the sex (homosexual)can be quite graphic so avoid if squeamish.


  1. Sounds like a very poignant and anguished life. I'm impressed that he's made so much of it despite all the frustrations and heartache. It must have been incredibly difficult and brave to come out at that particular time. And I was astonished by his habit of sleeping through Christmas. I like his thought that a person is best known by his choices not his abilities. Very true.

  2. thanks Nick. I guess what I got out of it as well is that in spite of/because of? these frustrations and heartbreaks we can still create quite a wonderfully successful life, as he did. I was truly inspired.


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