Secrets of The Forbidden Fruit

Family Secrets – and revealing them – have been an ongoing issue (obviously, the word got out about “The Forbidden Apple, Who Killed Abel and Other Secrets of The First Family”) and our family is no exception. And it is no far-fetched prophecy to predict that soon all secrets will be revealed, but probably still hidden amongst the more voluminous Fake News for a while, if not purposely hidden via clever obfuscation and more likely, the weariness of “who care’s” as we discover our secrets are common and merely pathways to our own enlightenment.

In response to my first blog, Cousin Mary emailed and wondered whether she’d already sent a blurb on Intelligible Religion (she hadn’t) and wondered if a long RFI* sent to distant cousins perhaps didn’t get a response because it contained TMI*. I emailed back and wondered if I had already sent a blurb on my own TMI (I hadn’t, but just did). Yet, prudence and caution also come to mind. I picture some naked yahoo dancing around the streets “I’m free! I’m free!” Yes, maybe you are, but maybe we’re not ready for the naked truth. The goal here, then, isn’t to air the family’s dirty laundry, nor to bleach it, but rather to wash it, wear it, watch it, learn from it. And importantly, I believe, to realize the bigger dirty secrets about our human family as a whole and learn to better deal with those.

In her cousinly letter, she specifically “wanted to touch on some delicate family history” and if the historical opening secrets are any indication, the first and most overpowering secrets are the negative, ugly ones. Betrayal, banishment and murder, in this first case. What secrets drove our First Family to such tragic drama; drama that affects us today, even if only via a finger-wagging narrative?

I think it’s easy to understand why the first secrets to air are the ugly ones. Biologically, it’s what can harm us that we need be aware of. One hungry lion is way more dangerous than a thousand snacking gazelle. We’re drawn to bad news and gossiping about it, rubbernecking at car wrecks, snapping pix at fights and riots, shouting insults and flipping middle fingers at bad driving and drawn to other negative newsy realities. The first words out of our mouths at the end of the work day are usually the “what went wrongs” and the “what I didn’t likes”. I’m no exception. And, alas, as innocent children, we lack the tools to see a larger perspective. We take negative energy personally and are harmed. Children are all about themselves and any negativity is direct negativity about themselves. Yet again, I’m no exception.

I knew my grade school custodian Grandma loved me, but recess in the early grades began with “Get out there and play with the other boys. Don’t be a sissy!” By other boys, she meant the boys that eventually went on to the jobs in the baking soda mines, the “normal” blokes; not my two boy friends who went on to become the doctor and the architect. What I didn’t know was Grandma had intuitively stumbled upon the Buddhist/Eastern concept of shame, which is equal and opposite to the Christian/Western concept. By my definitions:

  • Christian/Western Shame: a feeling of guilt, regret, or sadness that you have because you know you have done something wrong.
  • Buddhist/Eastern Shame: a feeling of guilt, regret, or sadness that you have because you know you will do something wrong.

What she knew was that I was going to be bullied and teased because I was gay, or in the parlance of my childhood and her voice, a sissy. Ironically, she did exactly what she was trying to prevent: she bullied and shamed me by virtue of me simply being my authentic self. I resented her for it. And as a smart kid, too smart for my own good, I learned to hate myself for being a queer sissy. I had found a simple solution to the query: there’d be no dissonance between us because my shame for myself would match your projected shame onto me. But lack of dissonance is not harmony anymore then lack of illness is not health.

As an aside, she was right by the way. I did get bullied and made fun of. What came to mind earlier tonight, while dumping family secrets into my cousin’s e-lap, was standing outside the dorm with my girl friend in awkward silence as my former fraternity-mates yelled from the second story window “LaWe is a faggot! LaWe is a faggot!” “Hmm,” I just now wondered, “what were they doing at Roble Hall on the second floor? It’s a girl’s dorm.” I had come out to my former fraternity-brother-roommate earlier that year with the consequence of him moving out of the apartment the next day and never talking to me ever again, “Bye, Felliott,” was followed by meetings with student housing, then mandatory psychiatric evaluation and treatment, and finally, sadly, the addition of “former” to my friends and fraternity. This is at Stanford, mind you, Junior year. And where were we coming back from? Our Campus Crusade meeting, with its loud absence of anything about homos … the deafening silence of shame. If shame didn’t find me, I found it.

Later, or earlier in this case, teenagers start rebelling. But, unlike the boys who went to the mines, I didn’t. Teenagers, for all their faults, at least learn to rebel and to fight against perceived injustice. I retreated into the external appearance of compliance and the internal world of secretive addiction. “You were so perfect as a teenager,” my Mom once said, confused, “what went wrong?”

Instead of being the goody two-shoes that I seemed to be to others, I might have been more successful as a long-haired bad-boy I secretly wished to be. Had I been a more rebellious teenager, I might have said with a snarky tone, “Thanks a lot, Grandma. You’re a peach,” and flauntingly pranced around as I sissied my walk. As ninth graders during our swim team hazing, my friends and I were subjected to the most perverse sexual deviancy (at that time anyway, and for the record, I secretly liked it) that I could imagine by two of the long-haired bad boys. The next year they were expelled, their deviancy having finally caught up with them. I was shocked a few years ago while talking to a former classmate whose older brother was one of the two. “You know, my brother & LaWe have been gay lovers for 30 years now!” No, I didn’t know. Now I do. Now it makes sense.

In time, I thought I forgave my grandmother, and could say lovingly, not snarkily, she’s a peach. The familial, semi-private side of her was a lot more fun and loving. That is the Grandma she wanted me to remember. “Remember how we used to play Kings on the Corners and sing 10 Little Indians?,” she asked near her end. The grandma who made a killer Mac and Cheese dish, wholly unlike that fat-bomb most others call Mac and Cheese. That was the Grandma who one time told a fun and naughty story of how much she enjoyed her parents’ hard apple cider. Grandad, the scary teetotaler, who I’m so much alike, was angry with her. Not surprising. We knew him to be a staunch Nazarene. Even the American Baptist church (and Missionary Alliance Church) of his wife was too liberal for his tastes.

As adults, we may come to realize the secrets beyond the public secrets – those public secrets that damage children and that teenagers rebel against – and begin a path to compassion towards our elders. After my Grandad died, I inherited his journal, an amazing document if only for the penmanship written in the early days of the depression. Here, for instance are two entries, from October of 1929, each day no more than ½” in height … text about 6 points:

Screenshot - Grandads Journal - 1929.1002

Family Secret Spoiler: our teetotalling, strict, “just say no to alcohol”, grandpa once upon a time was a late-night poker playing, beer drinking boy in the army. He was tall, skinny, smart, religious, angry like me. And he played clarinet in the Army Band. I used to play his Clarinet in our band. I wonder about him. Was Grandma’s shaming of me a secret shaming of he?

Of course, Grandma’s issues are her own and her effect on me and my issues, my own. And who cares about that? I’m just one person and one life, but are we just One People and One Life? Yes, I’m talking about growing up as one person, but also growing up as One People. I did read my early channels, some of them, and remembered what I was thinking when I wrote Cousin M a prequel yesterday. The memory I had was about learning from our forebears and honoring them, but rightsizing for us their message by realizing and accepting their limitations, errors and mismessages. I remembered a phrase that we needed to put their Bibles, our Bibles, on our shelf of important reference books. I found the quote from Channel Z0135.

We have our channel guiding us. The Bibles and Korans of yesteryear occupy the proper place on our shelves of things our parents have taught us. We have gently and lovingly laid them to rest and endeavor to embrace their spirit and their lessons. Our parents taught us best they could and didn’t have all the advantages we have had. Indeed, they created the many advantages for us that have brought us to where we are today, and we thank them deeply and lovingly for what they have given us and what they have taught us. We remember the Golden Rule, we remember the beauty of Genesis, we remember the ancient chants, we consult the I Ching, the wisdom of Confucius, and we know The Tao.

But we grow up. We write our new books with the new guides. They are our giants and we stand on their shoulders peering deep in to the universe and the universe calls to us and we hear its message. We forget the failings of our parents. Their petty squabbles, their bitter wars, their murders, their rapes, their lawsuits, their intimidations, their suicides, their prejudices. We let them go. We become the body and we choose peace. We are a democracy without laws or rules, because the rules are our democracy and written on our hearts. We know in time the unneeded scaffolding of a constitution or world law will be unnecessary, we work from within, we accept these physical boundaries as temporary scaffolding upon which the law is written. Our channels are many. Some make sense only to ourselves as single cells within the entity. Others may not share our understanding. We, we who have failings, will have egos out of control, and manifestations of the old testament. We will lose our tempers. But we let go, forgive ourselves, make amends, and go on.

To become the new elders, we must transcend our own elders. Christianity is to be praised in that week-after-week and sin-after-sin, we can be forgiven and redeemed. Shame motivates us to seek forgiveness. But Christianity is to be faulted in that week-after-week and shame-after-shame, sin-after-sin, we do not grow and learn. Why should we stop sinning, if we’re eternally forgiven? I despised and was angry as a teenager with the sibilant s’s that peppered our Anglican prayers, knowing that the so-called adults would sin again and again. The former is Intelligible Religion to me: religion as a tool to free us, in this case, from past sin. The latter, an issue we need transcend.

Buddhism is to be praised in that week-before-week and shame-before-shame, we can perceive our future selves and our future transgressions and prevent the very sins we experience prescient shame for. Shame motivates us to seek {insert new word here}. But Buddhism is to be faulted in that week-before-week and sin-before-sin we are karmically bound for eternity on end, never freed, karma ripening, sin made not begotten. Why should we stop sinning, if we’re bound eternally by karma? The former is Intelligible Religion to me: religion as a tool to free us, in this case, from future sin. The latter, an issue we need transcend.

And there you have my philosophy of the day. I am both Christian and Buddhist, but new-age Christian and new-age Buddhist. Change comes from within, and I am proud to call myself both, even if unconventional. As Elder, I feel the need to truly grow up and show us all the way. Someone needs to steer Lifeboat Earth, and it is we.

Let’s be frank. Let’s be clear. Religion is a means to an end but not an end unto itself. Religion, like science, art, economics and business, is a tool that affects our life whether we like it or not. Religion as a tool can heal or harm, illuminate or obfuscate, free or shame. Like all tools it can be used for good or bad. As a singular human being, I get to choose how I want to use the tool personally. As a child, I’ve been harmed and helped. As a teenager, I’ve rebelled and sneered. As an adult, I’ve acquiesced and accepted, used and abused. But as an Elder I have a responsibility to show the power and potential of this tool used Intelligently and Intelligibly. It’s time for us to grow up as a species. Specifically, I accept the parts of Christianity that work for me (forgiveness of sins) and Buddhism (prevention of sins) and reject the parts that don’t. BYOR, right?

Okay, off the soap-box.

In time, I thought I forgave my grandmother, and could say lovingly, she’s a peach. But that really wasn’t true. A deep-seated resentment still lingered underneath. I forgave her, I told myself, but didn’t realize I was still acting like that shame-filled little boy now working on the adult playground of life. Yes, I needed to uncover that family secret of the mean public Grandma, but more importantly I needed to unlearn the so-called truths I learned so well. Honestly, this is probably not a single aha moment, but an ongoing process of self-discovery. Being on the path to wholeness is good enough for me today. And I can move on.

Today, the Grandma I choose to remember and love is neither the snarky nor the loving peach, but a pear. Pears are not a glamorous fruit. Their color is bland, their skin mottled. They bruise easy, they’re sticky and messy, they go bad fast.

The private Grandma, the Grandma that only I knew, not the custodian Grandma of the Grade School nor the story-telling Grandma of the Family Dinner Table, but the Grandma of the Canning Kitchen, was the Grandma that taught me how to setup pears and peaches. I, the Elder, choose to keep that Grandma in my heart. I work to unlearn the harsh lessons of the unskilled intuitive Buddhist and I choose to stop rebelling against the skilled, but shaming Christian Crusader Grandma. In our best private moments, we stood together, Grand-elder and Grand-son, where she privileged me on the secrets of her canning kitchen; her kitchen of unconditional acceptance, guidance and love.

When I made a breakfast of oatmeal this morning and decided to stir in a ready pear, I was a bit rusty, but I remembered her loving precision as she deftly sliced the pear precisely in half. I bungled it but halved it. This private Grandma didn’t scorn the gay, kitchen-centric, young cook, but loved him – there was no one to protect against, no one to prove to. Only love was needed. Remembering her lessons, I found a modern, if insufficient, paring knife to grab the end-stem. Like a zipper, pull just right and the fiber rib pulls right out, popping the core perfectly with it. My stem started right but I knocked divot from the core. Still, I could feel across the boundaries of time my Grandmother’s deep love and felt no shame or remorse channeled through her existent spirit. “I’d do better on the next pear,” she reminded me, “and this was a good first try.” I can see her smiling and give that encouraging nod for that last pear and I already sense it for the next.

A Dasterdly Divot? No Shame Here!
First pass, this time around, at a pear paring.

That is the Grandma who I gently and lovingly lay to rest, whose best knowledge still occupies a treasured place on my shelf, part of my pear tree-of-knowledge. That secret, the pear on the eternal tree of life, is the true secret worth sharing. “Yes, Grandma, you’re pearfect.”

The Ancient Family Secret of the Forbidden Fruit was never about Adam and Eve, we all know that story, but rather the hidden story in plain sight of the Forbidden Fruit, itself. Like the apple, I was raised knowing I was that Forbidden Fruit, I accepted infinite karma of countless sins past. I’ve spent a lifetime basking in the shade of shame and broadcasting my shame back loudly to the world. Cycles of sin and karma. Yes, perhaps, God and others can forgive us, but can we forgive ourselves? Truth is, all of us are a shame-filled Forbidden Fruit in some way. If we are to survive as One Living Being, we must grow up. We must become something new.

I’m thinking now and don’t have the answer I’m searching for. Yes of course I would like to end on a pear-fect note with a peach of a statement on the Lesson of the Forbidden Fruit, but this is working reality, not essayic ecstacy. We need a Buddhist word that is freedom from future sin equal and opposite to the Christian word that is freedom from past sin: forgiveness. This concept needs be fleshed out and symbolized and breathed and lived. Perhaps the story left out the partner tree, the pair to the Apple. Perhaps the real secret hasn’t been written yet in Our Book of Life.

She's Pear-fect
Thumbs up to pear-fection! (2nd time’s a charm)


* Glossary:

RFI = Request for Information
TMI = Too Much Information
BYOR = Bring Your Own Religion

2 Replies to “Secrets of The Forbidden Fruit”

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