Visiting a long-time friend over the weekend, I scooped up a couple bunches of flowers at the farmer’s market we were checking out. She had stopped to admire the deep purple-blue of the lisianthus, and the peach of the gerbera daisies; I added the bright red globes of the gomphrena. Back at her house, I set to work, selecting a big, glass globe of a vase—you know, those are always a challenge–soaking the stems, then carefully clipping and arranging to get just that right look.
It took some time. My friend finally wandered back to the kitchen to see what had happened to me. “Honey, you can’t just leave a homo and a bunch of flowers alone in a room without expecting some effort,” I explained. “This is sacred stuff.”
Now, I can’t tell you why I get so concerned about the success of a bunch of flowers. Let’s just say I was born that way.
Gay men make things pretty—isn’t that the stereotype? The cliché—and one not always meant as a compliment? Let’s face it: there’s a lot of creativity not valued in the modern world—the creativity that can be relegated to women and gay men. (Dare I say it? Things not about power and control? Things that offer nurturing and upliftment?)
Even within the current gay political movement, which would like to say, “we’re just like everybody else,” don’t expect florists, hairdressers and interior designers to be the poster boys.
No, I’m not going to fall into the trap that argues gay men are more creative than the rest of the population. I’ve not found that to be true. But I do believe we are wired to view the world in a different way, and that offers much creative possibility.
Philosophers and biologists both have pondered and speculated how a human trait (same-sex orientation), which doesn’t reproduce itself, still keeps showing up in every race, every culture, every location, for thousands and thousands of years.
Easy guess: the species has a use for us.
Was it a hunter-gatherer gay man who said, “While I was off hunting over the mountains, I noticed there were a lot more berries and edible greens to gather there, ladies. We should move the tribe”? Dunno. Maybe it was a lesbian.
Was it a Neolithic gay man who said, “I was playing with this shiny metal, and found I could melt it into little pretty things. Makes a pretty sharp blade, too”? Dunno.
This could be a starting point for many posts and comments (who knows where it could go—there are volumes already), but that’s not where I want to go right now. I just want to throw out two ideas for contemplation:
1. We are wired to view the world in a different way from the majority.
2. The species—the group, the tribe, the collective—wants us that way.
So what’s the evolutionary logic here? Could it be that a species with so much invested in two genders (hardly an original idea) needed, with the rise of thought and emotion, to keep a bridge available in case things got too polarized? Or could it be that keeping a small group outside the main event (reproduction) offers a cadre to tend to other issues important to the group’s success?
Or maybe nature just likes pretty.
Have we, as gay men, lost sight of these ideas? Have we become so focused on the struggle for legal equality—and sameness– that we’ve forgotten our roles in helping the larger group survive and thrive? Have we succumbed to the self-isolation encouraged by commercialism and divisive politics?
Even in a modern, democratic, post-industrial capitalist world, the straights understand their genetic programming: reproduce and help their replacements to survive. Some may opt out, some may try and fail, but they understand the program.
What about gay men in modern society? You could make a pretty good case for how we’ve already forced society to reexamine its approach to individual rights, family, privacy, choice and control. We shake stuff up. The status quo may not like it, but there just might be more berries on the other side of the mountain.
What if gay men and lesbians began to discover our ancient, biological programming, and began to take it seriously? I mean, we know—perhaps better than anybody—that modern religion isn’t doing its primal job of healing, consolation and giving a sense of unity to the group. Maybe we can come up with something different, something better, something that works.
Maybe we could step back, point out that the economic structure isn’t doing its intended job: gathering the resources of the group (tribe, nation, world) and applying those for the benefit of the whole group. Maybe there’s a better way.
As for modern politics—well, who knows what could happen if enough humans took a different perspective to look at what needs to be done, and how we do it.
No wonder power hates us to such an extreme.
Anyway, do I have a shred of evidence to back up what this post says? No, not really. But compared with some of the “beliefs” being spread around these days (like entrepreneurs succeed in a vacuum, or women who are raped—well, you get my point) the ideas are almost plausible. Stuff to think about.
In the meantime, go forth and arrange some flowers, in a new and different way. Maybe make someone smile. These days, that’s an important start.