The Buddha talked a lot about leaving the householder life behind, about “going forth” to follow the path to release. Hence, “going forth” became a euphemism for leaving the lay life and becoming a monastic. The person taking up the robes was “freed” from the constraints and distractions of lay life despite the fact it often meant taking up a regimented life in the sangha. There were so many new things to learn, new rules, new expectations, new ways of behaving.
Kind of like coming out of the closet, isn’t it? Very similar to leaving all those wicked little towns we grew up in to find freedom in the larger gay community. But, just as I wrote in my very first post, it doesn’t take long for our new-found sense of freedom to be overwhelmed by all the games, rituals and shallowness we encounter within the gay community: instead of being a refuge, it turned into another fetter.
That’s not to say there is no refuge in the gay community. There’s plenty of refuge for us to find. But there are plenty of thickets to become ensnared by as well – thickets of views.
Many of us come from “wicked little towns,” like those portrayed in the movie “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” I remember while living in West Yellowstone, Montana, someone warning me about the town. “Be careful about this place,” he said to me. “It will swallow you up and you’ll never get out.”
I know when I graduated from high school, which was located near a town with a population of about 800, I couldn’t wait to get as far away as I could. “They’re pious, hateful, and devout, you’re turning tricks ‘til you’re turned out, the wind so cold it burns, you’re burning out and blowing ‘round.”
Not everyone escapes. Remember Jonah Blechman’s character, Arthur Gayle, in “This Boy’s Life”? But despite his realization that he may spend the rest of his days in Concrete, Arthur helped Leonardo DiCaprio’s character escape.
The thing is many of us create new wicked little towns, and they reside in our heads: “You’re running up and down that hill, you turn it on and off at will, there’s nothing here to thrill or bring you down…”
Often, when I listen to this song, I can picture the Buddha (or maybe Rahula cuz he was such a hottie!) singing to me the refrain. “And if you’ve got no other choice, you know you can follow my voice, through the dark turns and noise of this wicked little town.”
There’s always refuge to be found.
The video is Tommy’s version of the song, sung to Hedwig near the end of the movie. I love the line, “There is nothing you can find that cannot be found.”
Tommy sings to Hedwig
Photo is courtesy of my friend Jimmy Huang
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