Monday, January 10, 2011

All Human Wisdom, a new series by Perry Brass

“All human wisdom is summed up in two words; wait and hope.”
Alexandre Dumas Pere, last words in The Count of Monte Cristo.

People often feel that wisdom is something associated with age. Not true. Some of the smartest people I have ever known have been young. In fact, they got dumber as they got older because thinking that idiocy was the way to survival, and needing the protective coloring of crowds, they put aside their own important and native beliefs and became as passive and self-satisfied as the rest of the docile masses. Therefore, hold on to the wisdom of youth, but take it with a grain of learning, patience, experience, and even cunning.

Life. What do we mean by life? Is it simply existence, or something deeper and more meaningful and, of course, more satisfying? Life does mean that period of time when we are occupied with sustenance, with existence, with being alive, and with surviving and even overcoming numerous daily problems. But more important life is about being aware, about being present in the moment of existence. If life has a religious significance, and most of us believe it does, that significance is certainly of being aware, being conscious of who we are, what we are doing, and how it effects others and the world. This consciousness is what puts God in life. Therefore life without consciousness is pretty dead, although strictly speaking all of us know a lot of dead people walking around.

My question has always been, not do I believe in life after death, but do I believe in life after life? And the answer to that is, in order to be alive, you need to be conscious of what’s going on. On the smallest level, and the larger one. With some luck, or even without some luck, many of us will find ourselves in that moment when the smallness of life and the largeness of it come to us. We will also see where we are in this process of being, and how limited is our role in it, and also how large it is. And when we have that moment, it is like light has been spilled upon us, and it is truly enlightening.

“. . . in contemporary America celebrity is not only a virtue, it is practically the only ideal we all share.”
Charles Isherwood, The New York Times.

I don’t think that it is particular to this time to categorize people by divisions and identities, not when you remember how horrible and even fatal those divisions have been at other times, for instance, being categorized as a Jew, a gypsy, or a homosexual during the Nazi period could you easily be a death sentence, just as being categorized as black or “colored” during the Jim Crow period of the South could get you lynched, raped, or subjected to back-of-the-bus poverty. Genocide still rears its head, although most of the time we pretend that it’s not happening. The Rwandan genocide of the early 1990s doesn’t seem to be completely over, and the Hutus and Tutsies are still killing each other, and spreading that killing to other countries in Africa.

But now it seems that we have divisions that seem to be almost convenient identities for people who have either lost one, or need to recast their identities on a more “modern” basis. Thus we have millions of people who would never speak to a stranger on a public street, but who don’t mind being a “friend” among two or three thousand to someone they barely know on a social networking site. So being in the “friend” division is important, even when this friendship means nothing. In fact it's simply a marketing tool, even if the market is not always easy to define. We are all part of the “market,” and now the market uses such convenient divisions as gay and straight, black and white, Hispanic and none Hispanic, or Hispanic-of-color and Hispanic-not-of-color, abled and disabled, senior and non-senior, Christian and non-Christian, very Christian and less Christian, fundamentalist-but pro-gay Christian and fundamentalist-all-the-way Christian, and of course, as ever, Jewish. In America, and especially in hypercompetitive New York, it always seems that no matter what division you belong to, all divisions seem to boil down to two: how satisfied and secure are you with a life that works, or how unsatisfied and insecure are you with a life that does not work, no matter how much effort you put into it. In other words, no matter how "elite" or "unelite" are you, what really works for you or doesn't work for you? That is why New Yorkers are so obsessed with style and fashion, because in style and fashion something has to work, and that means with the least show of effort, no matter how much effort you put into it.

Winner of national 3 Ippy Awards from the Jenken’s Group’s Independent Publisher, poet, novelist, and gay activist, Perry Brass has published 15 books including erotic classics like Mirage Angel Lust WarlockThe Substance of God, and Carnal Sacraments, as well as How to Survive Your Own Gay Life. As an activist, he joined the Gay Liberation Front in 1969, right after Stonewall, becoming an editor of Come Out!, the world’s first gay liberation newspaper. In 1973, he helped start the Gay Men’s Health Project Clinic, the first clinic for gay men on the East Coast, strongly advocating the use of condoms a decade before the onslaught of HIV. His newest book is The Manly Art of Seduction, How to Meet, Talk To, and Become Intimate with Anyone, which is a guide to leaving passivity and becoming active in your life. He can be reached through his website,

1 comment:

  1. Perry, I heartily agree with you when you say "And when we have that moment, it is like light has been spilled upon us". Living long enough to see things more clearly despite our stumbling about is an unearned bonus!