Deep down most of us want to be heroic. Not the public kind of heroes with accolades, awards, or medals…just the knowledge that we’ve done right for ourselves and others, that we’ve stretched beyond our comfort level to make the world a better place. For most men, gay or straight, wanting to be heroic is a hidden desire linked to our masculine traits that often manifests itself in our chosen careers and relationships, or simply the way we go about our business. We feel a great deal of satisfaction whether rescuing someone as a first responder at a tragic fire scene or as a stylist confronting a tragic hair scene. We want to fix things, make wrongs right, make life a bit easier for others. The greater the challenge the deeper is the desire to push through. That’s one reason some of my biggest heroes are ordinary gays and lesbians who have quietly but effectively changed the world for the better one person at a time by coming out and being their truest selves.
Yet the true hero is not always called to rescue or fix others. He often must simply acknowledge his is not in control and must suffer along with the wounded such as the parents of a bullied child or friends of the chronically ill. Sure, we can do something to help the situation, but our real heroic strength lies in just being there, fully present in the pain. In sharing that suffering the hero takes stock and hones his instincts for doing the next right thing, ready to react immediately as those on that fateful 2013 Marathon Monday in Boston.
What is the hero’s motivation? The source of this life-giving energy is found at our core; each of us has it. Some call it Chi or Kundalini. I like the term erotic energy. A lot of people think of erotic energy automatically in the genital/sexual context, but it is far deeper and more vital than that. Erotic energy is at the heart of the human soul and is the source of creativity, spirituality, and transformation. It energizes our impulse to love and shifts it from self-centered preservation to reaching out in service with the full power and uniqueness of our personalities in order to effect change. It motivates us to surrender our egos for the sake of a greater good in order to fight against the root causes of injustice, oppression, poverty, hate, and fear.
Yet many in our dualistic culture are afraid of erotic energy because it can be unpredictable and defies being tamed. We are familiar with those who think they’ve confined erotic energy in a safe box. They are like the walking dead, setting aside their erotic potential and the joy of heroism for the limiting chains of conformity rooted in reticence. They cannot look or act outside of the box.
But not so for the men and women who have found their erotic expression in heroism. They develop and maintain their erotic energy by their robust offer of life, their creativity, and their conscience self-care that helps them to identify the many counterfeit rewards promised by our culture and avoids them like the plague. Iconic GLBT heroes such as Harvey Milk and Gertrude Stein only show the way toward heroism for the rest of us. Their purpose is complete. Ours has just begun.
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All artwork is copyrighted by the artist Michael Parise