/ Fellowship of the Phoenix

Words of the Explorer

I am not who you expect. Or what you expect.

I am the child of the starry sky and the murky depth. I am the child of wonder and the parent of courage.

I am not brave, and I am not bravery. I come into this world with the bright eyed gift of wonder and the ability to see this existence as a never ending bounty of beauty. And because of this, I am curiosity. I cannot help but look at each of you, see myself in the mirror, gaze through the clear air into the distance, and ask "why?"

I'm no great philosopher, and I'm sure many of you will not be surprised to hear this, but I am on a constant journey to find the truth. And of course, curiosity asks the question, "but what is truth?"

I have no answer for that.

But I know that if we were to step outside into the crisp air, we'd hear sounds from blocks and blocks away, ringing like a bell. Well, more like a garbage truck most likely. Or a jet engine. But still, clear sounds from far away.

If we were to look into the distance through the crystaline night air, it would seem as though we could see forever. The world laid out before our senses, there for us to explore.

And I know that if we were to step outside six months from now, the air will be hot and humid. The sounds that we can hear clearly tonight might vanish entirely in the thick air, or be more garbled and confused. And if we look into the distance, we'd see the heat of the air distorting our vision, making it difficult to focus as far as we could tonight. Our world would be smaller.

My point, obviously, is that summer is a lie.

Not really, although I'll confess that it's not my favorite time of year. My point is that, as you should already know, the world we behold is not always as we expect it to be. The things we see and hear; the things we feel, taste, or touch; these are influenced not only by what we are perceiving, but by the relationships we perceive them through.

Many people might say that our senses lie, but that's not really it. They tell us faithfully what they observe, but the world we're interacting with is full of wondrous variety that is constantly changing and shifting. And we can only perceive what our relationships and expectations will allow.

And so, I am not who you expect. I am not the divinity you see before you. That is part of me, but it is the part of me you permit yourself to detect. Your expectations of me and my expectations of you shape the world you relate to.

We are here, gathered, queer folk in a queer space. We are queer because other people have told us we must be. Because we have been turned away or cast out or othered in hundreds of big and little ways. But still, we yearn to be long. To be accepted. To be with others who are like ourselves.

We are the ones who do not fit in, so we have made for ourselves a place where we fit. A place where we can be safe. But even here, we perpetuate that othering. How many of us have professed a hatred of sports because it's expected in our social group? Or laughed at a joke we didn't find funny, or perhaps didn't get? Or smiled and tried to make a joke, because making other people laugh will make us feel like we belong. Like we are accepted?

Even we, the queer ones, will reject and cast out those who we deem not to fit.

And so, none of us here is who the rest of us expect. We do not see each other, and we are not seen by each other. We are invisible, whether we stand in the center of this circle or off to the side, because we show and see only what will make us feel safe, only what will let us fit in.

But each of us is different from the others. We are not actually the same. We share many things, but we are also part of the wondrous variety of the universe, and that variety is beautiful. And in my enduring curiosity I can't help but wonder:

What if instead of a community held together by our sameness, we were a community of individuals who choose to see and be seen by one another? What if our hearts were open to embrace that which sets us apart instead of only that which makes us the same?

Everybody deserves to feel seen and heard. Everybody deserves the chance to see and hear. We do not need to find our sameness. We need to celebrate our differentness.

And so your work for this season is to practice these three things.

First: See yourself as you are. What are the things that set you apart from others? They do not need to be good or bad things because those judgements have no power here. How are you different?

Second: Practice listening to each other. No matter how well you know someone else, there is always that which you do not see or hear. Release your beliefs about the people around you, and listen to what they are really telling you about themselves. Open your heart to them and to an expanding relationship with who they really are.

Third: Practice telling and showing each other how you are different from one another. Tell someone close to you about something that sets you apart. Open your heart and let each other see the real you.

That is how wonder gives birth to curiosity, and curiosity creates courage, and courage opens connection, and connection leads to love.