Monday, March 7, 2011

What Really Inspired Me

Yesterday, Jon Lindley, in his post on (, titled  Inspi...(breathe)...ration, asked what inspired people to be liberal.  I answered by listing the anti-war movement of the 60's, Watergate, AIDS, the Bushes (especially W), and my education.  All true answers.

Last night, it occurred to me that I had omitted one of the most powerful influences on my thinking:  music.

I have an unusual relationship to music.  Almost everyone I know loves to listen to some kind of music as they drive, work, relax, eat, whatever.  I don't.  When I listen to music, and I love to listen to music, I do nothing else.  I get wrapped up totally in what I'm hearing and go to a better place in my mind.  Music is and always has been the best therapy for me.

I am a mostly self-taught church organist.  I love playing music.  I've been playing in public since I was 14 years old.  I love it especially when I am playing with other musicians or when I am accompanying a congregation or choir.  That to me is music, the making of music.  I have had a few experiences playing music that have been more intense and more physically satisfying than sex.   It is when I am playing the organ that the "real" me comes out.  All my emotions, beliefs, sensitivities, and desires are there on the surface.

By the time I graduated from college, I knew in my soul that most of what I deeply felt wasn't acceptable to my family and friends.  I had grown up keeping my affection and desire for men tightly under wraps.  I had developed an alter ego, a version of me that I thought would be acceptable to the people whom I loved and/or wanted to impress.  Until I was close to 40 years old, no one-not one single human being-knew what I really felt or desired.  That's pretty sad.

During all those years, though, I played the organ.  I made music.  And all the stuff that I couldn't tell people was there in my music.  Beni, the first night she met me, went to Midnight Mass where I played the organ.  She told me later that my playing was the first time she really liked organ music.  Another time, years later, I was organist for the Metropolitan Community Church in Washington, D. C., a mostly gay and lesbian congregation.  A lawyer who was a member of the church told me one Sunday that he wished he had the chance to get to know me more, but, he said, he felt that he knew most of what there was to know about me by hearing me play.

I put everything I have in my music.  I am disciplined enough to know that music has to be played with nuance and color and control, but, within those bounds, I blossom as a person when I play.

When I was 26 years old, I bought a pretty good electronic organ for my own.  I learned so much by having that instrument available only for my use 24/7.  It occurred to me one day close to Christmas, as I was preparing for the seasonal music I would need to play, that a perfect world would allow me to be as open in my personal interactions as I am in my music.  I got a glimpse then for the first time of the damage that I was doing to myself by trying to hide who I am.

From that day on, I have wanted the world to be as welcoming of all kinds of people as music has been welcoming to me.  I want the world to enjoy the unique expressions of life that each person has to share.  I want a free and open and friendly world.  I want a world where friendship and family and all kinds of relationships are as full of self-expression and honesty as my music is.

Music inspired me to be a liberal.

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