Tuesday, June 01, 2010

What would total freedom be like?

“After the Rainbow Ceremony”, photo © by Peter Grahame of ironic-horse.com 
(body painting by Jack Ellis)

What would total freedom be like?
No restrictive concepts.
No definitive beliefs.
No stigmas.
No repressions.
Only the very essence of equality.
In flaming color.

If we can imagine, indeed,
what it would be like...
we can make it happen.
-- Peter Grahame

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This photo and text come from “Contemplations of the Heart: A Book of Male Spirit” by Peter Grahame, a gay photographer and writer living in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The 96-page hardcover book features transformational, spirit-centered male nude images, plus brief poetic text to go with each image.  Full disclosure: these are nudes who bare all -- the images on this blog are cropped for a general audience.

“The book is about self image, and its intention is to help alleviate self hatred and internalized homophobia,” Peter says. “The images are sensuous but not overly erotic and present guys of all shapes, sizes, colors and ages (all over 18.).”

We are posting art by Peter Grahame every Tuesday in June as part of our celebration of GLBT Pride Month.  Click here for the Peter Grahame series.

Click the titles below for previous posts with more of Peter’s gay male photos and commentary.

Gay spirituality versus everybody spirituality: A new closet?

Image: “After the Rainbow Ceremony,” detail, by Peter Grahame

Exploring Jesus the Bisexual

Image: “Saying Goodbye to John and Mary” by Peter Grahame

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pennyjane said...

that's a pretty "feel good" line...total freedom.

i'm a christian. i don't think i'd be interested in all to really have such a thing though.

i don't want to be free of God's love.

i don't want to be free of God's mercy and compassion.

i don't want to be free of the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

no...i don't think i would like total freedom at all.

much love and hope. pj

Kittredge Cherry said...

PJ, I don’t see any conflict between being free and being Christian. Jesus himself said in John 8:31-36, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free… I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin… If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Isn’t it total freedom to be one with and in Christ, where there is no male or female, no slave or free, etc? But do we really allow ourselves know what that total freedom is like?

I also see this text in light of GLBT pride celebrations this month. When I first came out as a lesbian in San Francisco in the 1980s, it was called Gay and Lesbian “Freedom” Day, not “Pride” Day. As a Christian, I feel more comfortable celebrating freedom than pride. But President Obama officially declared June to be LGBT Pride Month, and I do understand that it refers to self esteem and overcoming shame, not the traditional sin of pride.

Of course with freedom comes responsibility. Total freedom would mean total responsibility…

Trudie said...

Too much of the world confuses Freedom with License or even worse, Anarchy. Kitt and PJ, you're both right of course. True freedom is being free for Love, not free from it. And of course we're only free to say yes when we have the capacity to say no and turn aside from our negativity into the genuine positivity of openness, honesty and Truth.

pennyjane said...

hi kitt. i take your point, and it's a good one indeed.

i guess it's the "total" part that i balk at. i guess i see myself as a pretty weak and unfocused person. left to my own devices i don't think i could keep myself on the right path....even actively seeking divine guidance i can get lost pretty easily.

paul often describes himself as a slave, even Jesus said He was limited do doing only God's will.

total freedom might work, and is surely a laudable goal, for the spiritually strong and those of uncorruptable will....i guess i just see it from a more personal point of view...that of a weak and half blind seeker.

total freedom would, it seems, equal total responsibility...wouldn't that also necessitate total justice? one pays the full measure of all transgession? no mercy, no forgiveness?

it is indeed truth that makes us free....but only God knows the whole truth in all circumstance...so isn't He, in the end, the only One who could know total freedom without screwing it up?

just one perspective. much love and hope. pj

Turtle Woman said...

Total freedom also comes with responsibility. I think people miss out on the joy of total freedom, because they don't want to be a part of total responsibility.

We had total freedom in the mid to late 70s. Some people abused this, others, like myself did not. I don't need authority figures breathing down my neck to show up on time, get the job done, or be a lesbian feminist in the world. The people who often want the most freedom are the most responsible. We don't need supervision or coercion or even church authorities bossing us around.

This is a trie example, but there really is a huge difference between self-employed entreprenurial people and employees. Compare the hi tech industry to postal clerks. What drives human progress is freedom and the desire for it. What drives feminism is the desire to be free of male domination of all kinds. Lesbians are free of male control in our own homes, and don't go in for male definitions of authority, which to me is patriarchy, my arch enemy.

Kittredge Cherry said...

I’ve been surprised by the turn that this discussion has taken. Thanks PJ, Trudie and Turtle Woman for shedding a sometimes scary new light on the concept of freedom.

Trudie, you’re right that we can only say yes to God (or anything) when we are free to say no. We already DO have total freedom in that God gave us free will, the freedom to make our own choices and reject God if we choose.

Trudie also makes an excellent point when she says that freedom is often confused with licentiousness and immorality. I experienced that false kind of “freedom” when I was a college student living in the freshman dorm. Many kids went wild, getting drunk, pulling fire alarms every night and enjoying the “sexual revolution.” They were living without external rules for the first time, and had not yet developed an inner sense of rules to live by. They seemed unhappy and unfocused… perhaps this is the kind of “total freedom” that PJ balks at.

PJ, I think you’re right that God is the only one who can know total freedom without ever screwing it up. But God does give us freedom to choose to follow God’s will or not. Being human, we will make mistakes and also be forgiven. Now we come to the nature of God. Is God outside us or inside? Both. My sense is that Peter was writing about how God is within us when he wrote, “We can make it happen.”

Turtle Woman, thanks for reminding us about the joy of freedom. I don’t think anybody likes to be “bossed around” and dominated by authority figures. It sounds like you are trying to actually envision what it means for you to live in freedom. That’s powerful. I wonder how spirituality fits into your vision of freedom.

This discussion has gotten me thinking a lot about Peter’s words and this photo of men in rainbow paint. I think he was partly talking about being free from preconceptions, free to see people as they are without stereotypes such as racial stereotypes or gender stereotpes. If we had no “restrictive concepts” based on people’s skin color, then we could see them as they truly are, as spiritual beings all made in God’s image “in flaming color.”

pennyjane said...

hi kitt, this is intesting. i hesitate to continue thinking about how this is right and that is wrong. two different pespectives can exist simotaneously without either being in the "right" or "wrong" paradigm.

they are just perspectives.

your comment, "freedom from" was provocative to me. it's just another level in the "total" freedom i conceived of.

freedom from preconceptions?

it sure sounds good. it's certainly utopian. i think it's a beautiful ideal, that we could all live our lives free from predjudice, free from bigotry, free from interference based on faulty preconceptions.

as a pragmatist, though, it's the "faulty" that gets my attention.

outside of fantasy, i can't really envision that kind of world. it just doesn't fit in with what i think of as the human condition.

we think
we feel
we discern
we're only capable of doing so much of these things at the same time.

we do catagorize things, we do label them and we are happy when the are neatly packed away in their boxes, not bothering us by intruding into our daily thoughts, the stuff that needs dealt with on a day to day basis.

it's a beautiful thought, an imaginary trip...comforting...and aescetic.

so...from my perspective, that of the non-artistic pragmatist...i can't see the whole paradigm, "total freedom from preconception" without adding my own "faulty" preconception.

so...that's what my brain focuses on. how can we remove the "faulty" from this or that preconception.

no quick solution to that one!

the best guide i have found, in my own life...the one that makes the most sense...comes from gandhi...

"you have to BE the change you want to see in the world."

a particular "faulty" preconception i deal with in the world is the one of transsexuals.

i can't address it from philosophy, or from writing books, or creating art, or giving speaches anywhere near as effectively as i can by BEING the kind of transsexual woman in my everyday life that challenges the boxed up, labeled misconception that exists.

we all address these things in our own ways...it's hard for me to think of them as right and wrong, they are just different

"each according to the gift"

so...with the art you present here, and thank you so very much for it...we are each taken to a different place...most are good places that put us on different paths through the same forest.

God bless with much love and hope. pj

Kittredge Cherry said...

PJ, I like how you remind us that we each address life (and freedom) in our own way, according to our gifts. You’re not the first to see me as an idealist, but in some ways I am a pragmatist, too.

You seem to imply that envisioning an ideal or utopia is a fantasy that artists indulge in. However, I do see it as an important part of following Christ. He did so many miracles that seemed impossible, multiplying the loaves and fishes, healing the blind and lame, raising from the dead. Some would say that believing these stories seems like a utopian fantasy, too.

But Jesus said, “With God, all things are possible.” He told us, “If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you can move mountains.” He said that we are the light of the world, and urged us to let our light shine. These are the words that give me life… and the freedom to follow Christ even when it seems impractical.

pennyjane said...

good morning kitt, and thank you for continuing this conversation...it is enlightening.

i think i need to rethink my use of the word "fantasy". it seems, even to myself, that i have used it in a negative context.

one of the smartest women i know, a woman in my bible study class, approaches her christianity through fantasy....the biggest c.s. lewis fan in the world.

she has taught me, and others, tons by interpreting these "fantasies" for us in class.

Jesus did, and through Him, His deciples, perform many miracles. just from the pure number of them related in the gospels...i don't think it unreasonable at all for us to come to "expect" a miracle.

and even as a pragmatist drowning in reality, i am aware of miracles happening every day and all around us. having had more than one "miracle" happen in my own life i do believe in them...but, i'm not sure i "expect" them.

i can't count on miracles. miracles are the stuff of grace, and grace belongs to God...He dipenses at His own will and for reasons i can't even imagine.

"in Christ all things are possible". possible, not necessarily probable.

so i guess i might think of fantasy as the improbable, but, through Jesus, certainly not impossible.

so...keep reminding us of the possiblity of fantasy becoming reality...it can indeed happen.

much love and hope. pj

Kittredge Cherry said...

PJ, your affirmation got my day off to a good start today. I do intend to keep reminding the readers of this blog that miracles can happen.

It’s appropriate that you mention grace, because that is the theme of another Peter Grahame photo that I will be posting later this month. And I’m also in touch with a theologian who may be contributing reflections on sin and grace for LGBT people as a guest blogger.

You wrote, “miracles are the stuff of grace, and grace belongs to God...He dispenses at His own will and for reasons i can't even imagine.” I think I tasted a bit of that grace through this dialogue.