Martyrdom Maybe

As a gay human in the United States Midwest, I’m too familiar with religious bigots and their attitude toward gayness. I know all about “Adam & Eve, Not Adam & Steve” and “Leviticus 18:22” and lots of other conveniently selected piles of bullshit that “prove” gay people choose to be who they are and love who they do. Earlier this week a Facebook friend’s contribution to my feed included his reposting a video of a gay young man (from GA, I think) coming out to his father, grandmother, and step-mother. It doesn’t go well. At all.

I’m including the video in this post as well as other links here and here that tell the story – although watching the video will make the story crystal clear. I’m not sure how long ago this fiasco actually took place, but I came across the repost on Thursday evening, and by Friday’s drive home from work I was hearing about it on the Michelangelo Signorile show on SiriusXM satellite radio (the Progress channel). It had, indeed, already gone viral. You can see the video just below.

There are a few things I found interesting about this whole unfortunate scene.

1) I found it interesting that the woman speaking in the beginning of the video starts the process of kicking him to the curb by assuring him she loves him and that she’s known he is gay since he was a little boy – and then almost immediately after accuses him of making the “choice” to be gay, which is followed later in the video by the adults in the video pummeling him for disagreeing with them. Literally nonsensical hypocrisy at its finest: “I know you were gay since before you even knew what sex is, but you’re definitely making a choice in who you have sexual attraction to.”

2) It was typical and revolting and just plain ignorant when she said she stands by the word of God, meaning the Bible. Newsflash: Jesus cured the young male sex servant of a grown man who approached Jesus asking for a miracle. Jesus fully knew and understood the nature of their relationship, and while even commended the man on his faith. There’s that and a number of other nuggets in that book that would indicate the Bible says very little against homosexuals. Clearly Daniel’s “Christian” family are neither true Christians nor true family.

3) After watching the video on Facebook, I almost immediately went to Daniel’s Facebook page to check out whatever might be happening there. This is where things look odd to me. Without looking at older posts, I can see the video was posted there on Tuesday the 26th and for some reason again on the 27th. Also on the 27th, Daniel posted a status update starting with, “What a day….” wherein he admitted he thought being late to work would be his biggest struggle of the day. He also thanked some people for their support and indicated he enjoyed seeing some other people. And then on the 28th, which is when I first came across the ordeal for the first time (late evening / early night) I found a status post where he said he’d be deactivating his page but that we all should look for a fan page soon. In his video an agreement was reached indicating that he’d be out by midnight on the 28th… supposedly only hours after I first saw the video. If I had to guess, I’d say he probably got out before then – I can’t imagine anyone with enough spine to stand up to their own family and be disowned would likely stick around a few more days until the deadline. I imagine the 26th, 27th, and 28th were very busy, miserable, and exhausting days for Daniel. What keeps standing out in my mind, though, is that he was planning a fan page before he technically was homeless. I understand now that he’s gotten a lawyer and will possibly be prosecuting those family members who assaulted and battered him – which I think he should do. But how actually horrible was this for him if, before he even had to be on the streets, he is planning on fame?

I remember being very scared of telling my parents and even fearing that what happened to Daniel would happen to me. And I recall immense gratitude that my parents didn’t react in that way. I was actually younger, with less life experience than Daniel has already, and I stood to lose more than he apparently does. And when considering my option should I end up homeless, it never once crossed my mind that I would, or even could, get “fans” out of it all. I just find it a bit strange that fame would ever enter the picture when survival would seem the top priority so close to the tragic event.

But what do I know? Not nearly enough, I can tell you that.

It’s my sincerest hope that Daniel’s support (boyfriend, friends, the YouTube community, etc…) keep him safe and that his “ignernt kin” are able to become the good people they think they already are.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti




The Hindu Dharma possesses a concept that, like so many concepts in Islam, has been separated from its origin and twisted by the progression of the local human culture. A huge complication here is that humans tend to be too proud of their cultures and change in a better direction is often unfortunately slow.

However, Indian culture in many (most?) instances sets a great example for other cultures. Like the Hindu religion, Indian culture provides a number of ways of supplementing one’s current path (either religious OR cultural) and the result is virtually always improvement. No joke. Christians who become “a little bit Hindu” are able to strongly maintain their Christian identity, but in the process of becoming “a little bit Hindu” actually become better Christians. This is applicable in a number of contexts. Hinduism is a religion – that is to say, a spiritual way of life. Its immensity and depth is unmatched by other world religions and simultaneously allow one to be a devout Hindu, with his own strong Hindu identity, and for a non-Hindu to develop into a better non-Hindu.

All of that is neither here nor there, though, as far as this post is concerned. The concept I began referring to at the beginning of this piece is that of caste. The modern manifestation of caste is miserable and mean. In India, people are born into one caste or another and usually are trapped therein. Here in the West, an equivalent might be the notion of being born into a family of uneducated janitors and never being allowed to become anything but another uneducated janitor – and not being able to marry or otherwise associate with anyone who isn’t also an uneducated janitor. Sounds lovely, eh? There are varying versions of this that do occur here in the West, also, although a bit more abstractly. People here often bemoan how “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” Much of our political system is horribly skewed and often what results is that the rich do get richer and the poor, while they may not actually get poorer, they certainly struggle to become “less poor.”

Of course, one benefit to anyone living in the West is that even if you’re born into a dirt-poor family, many times the biggest obstacle in the path of your life’s betterment is your own resolve and dedication to that betterment. Personal responsibility can’t be overstated in this regard.

Currently, myriad castes are recognized in India, although I think original “Hinduism” recognized just four varnas. These are called Brahmin (also Brahmana)/priests/philosophers/scholars, Kshatriya/military/rulers, Vaishya/merchants/farmers/average workers, and Shudra/servants of the other three varnas. The original idea, as I understand, is that a person has a certain internal makeup that designates them as one of these four “types” of people. Technically speaking, there is a hierarchy to these (I mentioned them in order from “highest” to “lowest”), but one is able to essentially change caste according to his personal developmental evolution or devolution. Of course, as previously mentioned, this system of order has been abused through the millennia and now is a monster that hardly, if ever, fulfills its original intent.

While pondering all this fanciness, for some strange reason, my mind turned to my family. To be clear, I don’t see or speak with much of my family anywhere nearly as often as I’d prefer. Still, if ever my heart experiences a swell of bhakti/devotion, it’s usually in response to thoughts of my family.

And so, thinking of my (immediate) family recently, something dawned on my brains. I’ve mentioned before how crazy and wonderful my parents are. My siblings are no less wonderful. And truth be told, for the purpose of this post, when I refer to siblings I mean only two of the four that I have. (I consider all my siblings to be part of my immediate family, but growing up, only two of them lived in the same household. Two brothers.) What I’ve come to realize is that part of the reason my family kicks as much ass as it does is because of the balance we have.
To speak in terms of varnas, we were far from the Shudra existence, but my parents worked their butts off at jobs that were certainly in the service sector of our culture/society. We’re familiar with starting at the bottom and striving. Around my teen years, we became merchants – now owning a group of jewelry stores. The youngest brother in that household seems neither particularly philosophically inclined nor inclined toward the life of a protector. Surely, he’s happy fitting in with the rest of the family as a Vaishya, as he’s never really been prone to a life too far from “home.” The next sibling up the totem pole (again, just in that household) has, since his childhood, dreamed of becoming Rambo. As soon as he was able, and partly because he had no better choice, he entered into a military existence and seems happy living the life of a Kshatriya. Lastly, yet first in line of said totem pole, is myself. If there’s anyone in my family who’s “deep” or philosophical, it’s me. This is a blessing and a curse. I’m the one who has always been more internal than external. If any of my parents’ progeny would be destined to become a monk, you’re looking at him. (In fact, that’s very nearly happened more than once.)

And so, you see, the entirety of life’s stations can all be found in my family’s wonderful life expressions. We’re just the right amount of crazy, and stern, and normal. Very religious and also very not. Many people love coming to the Jordan house for a visit, and I can’t help but think they subconsciously know that regardless of who’s home they’re likely to find an element of life that is tougher to find in other places. At times this has made our gatherings more interesting than not, but it also – for me – is the source of so many smiles.

Om Shanti


A concept that has been a part of my life since before I knew what it meant, or even what it’s called, is that of the boddhisattva.

A boddhisattva is an entity who has vowed to stay on the wheel of samsara from the beginning of their moksha/liberation until the end of all yugas/time cycles and through the Mahapralaya, or Great Dissolution at the end of all material existence. This sounds all lofty and esoteric and, fine, it is. But it’s also very basic: Love and compassion for those hurting drives the rare soul into Guardian Mode and they embark on a nearly-eternal journey to help others raise their own life state and find their way back to the Source we’re all from.

I’d never go around telling people that I’m a boddhisattva, indeed I’m almost certainly not. But there are times when I wonder how close I might be to taking the vows of the Boddhisattva and embarking on my own journey of selflessness. I mean, moksha is just about all that’s on my mind for great stretches of time, my favorite thing in the world is to seek after things of a “higher” nature and then to share whatever I might discover. Friends and strangers alike all respond to me similarly, strangely enough. And at times, people have come to me for solace or security for reasons as varied as offering strength after experiencing personal loss or angst over HIV testing. And certainly one of the greatest sources of pain that I fall victim to is seeing others suffer -even when I’ve lost a loved one, my only real concern was for my relatives who were also hurting at the time.

But whatever…blah, blah, blah. Right? I mean, how much can one talk about his self, in any context, before readers begin to think he’s just tooting his own horn? Ridiculous. I suppose I might say now that anyone who actually knows me, can vouche that horn-tootery isn’t what this is about and that I’m simply calling a spade a spade, and I could (and do) speak similarly of a number  of others in my life.

Something also known about me by those in my life is that I’m married to Alanis Morisette – have been for years. We’ll never be divorced and I’m thrilled that her music has taken the turn that it has during the last ten to fifteen years. One of her more recent productions, a song titled “Guardian” really resonates with me. I think the lyrics do well at expressing the theme of my life and certainly they do well at expressing how I feel about my “kith and kin.” I’ve posted the video below (with any luck) and hope you find it encouraging. Find the Guardian within yourself, and help It work in your world.

As always, all the grace that is mine to give I gladly give to you!

Small Town Deity, or God of the Bumpkins

three-wise-menVirtually every year, almost since I was born, my Christmas holiday season involved just about as much travel as it did actual family/fun time. We’re a little spread out, not bad though, and my birth parents divorced when I was very young still, so… this business became the norm for me early on.

Part of this yearly routine involves going to my father’s parents’ home on Christmas Eve where the rest of my extended family from that side would also convene. We had food and lots of it. Always a traditional Christmas show on TV. And, of course, lots of chatting with relatives I don’t see nearly often enough.

This year my beloved and I arrived a little earlier in the evening that usual. My laptop was on the fritz and a cousin had agreed to look at it for me. However, those plans began to fall through and instead we found ourselves at my parents’ home waiting for the time that everyone was due at my grandmother’s. After piddling around for some time we decided to head to my grandmother’s and, as it happened, we beat her to her home.

As we arrived and exited our car, my parents motioned me and Wayne to follow them as they walked up to the front door of my grandmother’s neighbor. This happens to be the home of a good friend of my father and his new wife.

I was instantly uncomfortable. Forgive me for not being okay marching up to, and into, someone’s home unannounced on a holiday. Maybe it was just because this wasn’t the home of my best. Maybe I’m just uptight. It’s hard to say. I was everything but thrilled to have followed my parents right then.  My spouse and I found ourselves awkwardly standing in front of these folks’ television, while brief introductions were made and then a whole lot of nothing happened. Of course, the friends of my parents didn’t act bothered in the least.

All of this aside, something happened that I’ve never seen before in my life. Ever. There wasn’t much room in the house to begin with, but even with a huge lack of free space the missing Christmas tree was conspicuous. These people had no Christmas tree! Aside from the homeless and the Bah-Humbugs, I’m not sure when the last time I encountered people who celebrated Christmas, but had no tree. Care to know why?

The wife is a Christian.

No joke. My parents just about immediately began joking, “Where’s your tree?!?!” The husband, my father’s friend, is the quintessential “small town Indiana man” that people like John Cougar Mellencamp sing about. Not exactly a redneck, not exactly a country man, not exactly educated –but a little of all of them. This man’s new wife went on to explain, very briefly, that she refused to have a Christmas tree because not long ago she’d learned that it was of pagan origination.

I’ll tell you right now, she gave her explanation with no regard to respecting the possibly diverse religious backgrounds of the numerous other people present –typical of the Christian variety. All religious arrogance aside, I should commend her for celebrating a “scriptural” Christmas.

Oh wait –there’s no such thing. Christmas isn’t in the Bible. Jesus’ birth? Yes. The holiday? Nope. Any command to actually celebrate the birth? Nada. Literally everything we know about the holiday, in fact, the holiday no matter what form it takes isn’t scriptural. And as this woman pointed out, the Christmas tree is no exception.

Every year I gag when I hear pitiful whines of evangelicals as they lament the ever-growing “war on Christmas.” As the Christmas season (perhaps) becomes less Christ-centric, it’s just becoming more and more of what it was originally: Not Christian. Truthfully, if the Christians want to re-establish Christmas, they should shift its celebration to April or August when Jesus was most likely, actually, born.

But whatever. Arrogance and all, it was actually – almost – refreshing that this woman was somehow more aware of what actually pertained to her religion… and what didn’t. She’s certainly rare among her breed.

Shivohum and Same to You, too.

namaste-sanskirtOne of my favorite publications is a Shaivite magazine, “Hinduism Today.” I’ve had a subscription for years and have purchased a few subscriptions for others as well. Whether one happens to be a vaishnav, shaivite, shakta, or smarta, this magazine is invaluable. It’s been instrumental in my own growth, for sure. One thing I repeatedly adore about it is that, although it is technically sectarian, it differs from most other sects in its openness and inclusiveness. As such, while it’s definitely a Shiva-oriented source, it does great work in covering the broader picture of Hinduism and the Hindu diaspora.

The most recent issue has a focus on Swami Vivekananda, which has been really great for me. His lineage appears to be from the Shakta denomination of Sanatana Dharma, his own guru being a priest for Kali at one of Her temples … in Dakshineshwar, I think. Along with this focus on Vivekananda and all he did for our faith, there are various other articles. One of these deals with the Namaste greeting, and is what this post’s primary focus is meant to be.


The article begins in pointing out the differences and immensely varied implications to be found in the Western handshake and the Anjali Mudra (Namaste greeting). For the sake of brevity and keeping focus, from here out I’ll use bullet points to list what I think are the main talking points of the article.

  • The handshake originates in medieval Europe. Weaponry on the person used to be a more common sight, and so was fear. The resultant “accidentally retributive” attacks were sometimes thwarted by showing the other guy your open hand (“I’m unarmed, don’t stab me!!!”). Later, with a little cultural evolution, the open hands were joined upon meeting or passing, and we now have the handshake.
  • The anjali mudra is highly symbolic: “Anj” means to adore, celebrate, honor; the pressing of the hands together symbolizes the bringing together of spirit and matter; the hands coming together symbolizes the self meeting the Self.
  • Three main forms of the Namaste greeting exist: 1) Simple meeting of the hands, vertically at the solar plexus; 2) Same as before, plus the addition of raising the hands until the upper fingertips touch one’s third eye; 3) Same as before, plus the addition of taking the joined hands to a position above the head at the aperture in the crown chakra known as brahma-randhra. These three variations are progressively formal.
  •  The handshake is an outwardly conquering gesture. It hints at Western man’s desire for conquering and acquiring. An overly strong handshake can be meant for purposes of intimidation, and a too-weak handshake is also very telling.
  • Western culture is summed up in the handshake: reaching out horizontally to greet another; we reveal our humanity; we convey how strong we are, how nervous, how aggressive or how passive. Namaste reaches in vertically to acknowledge that, in truth, there is no “other.”
  • It’s more civilized to Namaste instead of shaking hands. Popes never shake hands. Kings never shake hands. Even mothers don’t shake hands with their own children. Namaste is cosmically different: Kings do namaste, Satgurus namaste, mothers namaste their own families, we all namaste before God, a holy man, or a holy place. The namaste gesture indicates our inner valuing of the sacredness of all. Namaste is also more practical: A politician or performer can greet fifty-thousand people with one Namaste and the honor can be returned.
  • The gesture has a subtle effect on the aura and nerve system. The nerve currents of the body converge in the feet, the solar plexus and the hands. To balance this energy, and prevent its loss from the body, yogis and meditators sit cross-legged and bring their hands together. The anjali mudra is a simple yogic asana.
  • An increasing number of celebrities and others around crowds are adopting the Namaste greeting as a polite means of avoiding the transmission of contact diseases. The Namaste greeting has become a veritable icon of Indianness, although an ever-increasing number of non-Indians are also using the greeting.

I’m not sure that all of these points do justice to the practicality, intuition, and value that the Namaste greeting holds versus the handshake. Hopefully these points, as highlighted from the article, hint at some of this.

Om Shanti


Life is about learning. No? From the lowest level of conscious life on this planet, learning is a must – and it’s a blessing. In life forms that are “below” the human level, consciousness of differing degrees is found. And, in many cases in direct proportion to the degree of consciousness, there are degrees of learning capability.

In virtually every sub-human existence, pain in some form is an absolutely necessary part of the learning process. 12-stepping addicts everywhere would agree that this is true in every instance, never mind sub-humans. Most of the animal kingdom operates on a majority instinct level, and learning happens as a matter of survival for the most part -either to avoid pain altogether, or to lessen current pain. When learning for survival provides an organism (or a population of organisms) enough of an “edge” in its existence, sometimes consciousness begins to expand. I have a feeling that this is a foundational element of nature’s evolution, and is also a huge part of why evolution is, typically and literally, painfully slow. In “A New Earth,” by Eckhart Tolle (a book everyone should read, at least once) this “blossoming” of consciousness was first evident in flowers. His words on this, which I think I recall coming early in the book, are very eloquent and powerful, and enlightening. (Through his own dedicated effort, Tolle is certainly a modern living Jnana Yogi. Believe it.) There are many sub-human forms of life on Earth that don’t learn ONLY in this way. Many mammals and some bird species (among an entire host of other life forms) are known to have “deeper” components to their lives. These components point to a level of consciousness much closer to that of humans, although these beings are still primarily governed by instictiveness.

Human life, on the other hand, has allowed its animalistic components to atrophy a bit in favor of a more developed consciousness. An unfortunate aspect of this trade is a simultaneous increase in ego, but that’s for another post. One of the biggest benefits of this swap, however, is the developed capacity for humans to learn without the aforementioned pain so often necessary for other animals. In truth, there are a number of animal species who have been discovered to have this capacity, too, but only in humans is this particular evolution of consciousness so well-developed and potentially (depending on the human individual) so finely tuned. Here, precisely, is where human consciousness has one of the greatest gifts. We can learn by the usual and common method of pain, but that mustn’t be the only way we learn. Indeed, we’re one of the only animals on the planet who are able to learn solely by observation, and we’re certainly the only organism on the planet to be able to learn so thoroughly in this way.

At this point, I’m recalling a common saying among my Nichiren Buddhist friends. I think it comes from the Daishonen’s sayings somewhere, but the idea is that through chanting we’re able to tap into “Myoho,”  and transmute our karmas into something more, thus elevating our life state. I’ve known these great and optimistic humanists to be fond of speaking about “turning poison into medicine.” To me, this points at even deeper component to the human existence. We’re not only in control of our learning, but we’re responsible for it.

As we find ourselves in the middle of the yearly holiday season, many of us would do well to take a look at our “poisons” and search how we might turn them into medicines for our betterment. A poison might be defined, superficially, as anything that seems to rob us of happiness. Anyone who’s followed my writing at all, might be aware of how deeply I adore my parents. For me personally, few things in my current existence are likely to be as painful (…potentially poisonous…) as the eventual death of either of my parents. Certainly, I anticipate very few things with as much dread and immense pre-emptive sorrow as either of these two events.

With this in mind, my heart and thoughts go out to anyone who’s lost a parent, and faced such (potential) poison. Sadly, I’m able to list a number of acquaintances who fall into this group, from this year alone. For this post, and for sake of a wonderful example, I’d like to mention someone who is perhaps surprisingly, and definitely increasingly dear to me. And that’s my mom’s brother’s wife, Wendy. What I know about Wendy tells me that she’s a truly great human. Without spilling everything about her, I can surely say that she loves her family and friends and is loyal to them. She works hard in her career, like so many others. She does her best to enjoy life. And she fights her battles as best she’s able and keeps moving, knowing she has to be strong for the next. One of these battles, recently, was the loss of her own mother.



Three days from now will be Wendy’s first Christmas holiday without her mother. Without a doubt this season will be a trying time for her. Certainly, Wendy has experienced ups and downs in her time managing her grief. You can find her story about the poison she faced here.

One thing I’ve noticed is that she’s consistently able to “turn poison into medicine.” She could easily be paralyzed by her loss. I know I would be. She didn’t have much time at all to prepare for the poison she was about to face. Instead, she continues moving forward. She still works. She still loves her family and friends. And she’s investing more of her time in pruning her internal landscape in very practical and hopefully effective ways, which will be the surest sign that the poison she’s experienced has been transmuted into very powerful medicine.

As humans, we don’t need pain to learn. Ideally, we’d be gifted with both the foresight and the time to prepare and learn on our own so that the Universe and our karmas don’t have to facilitate this learning for us. For those of us, like Wendy, who aren’t allotted ample time for preparing for what we don’t want to come, it’s my hope that we can at least enter into such unfortunate experiences with a fully human awareness and, like Wendy, with the capacity to take that experience and turn its poison into our medicine.

As this year and holiday season comes to a close, my prayer is that your awareness and mine will expand and cause our hearts to swell. Realize what an incredible boon you have, being born a human. What an immense opportunity has been awarded to you to assume the responsibility for your own growth. Face the poison in your life, and let the divine with you change it into medicine for your betterment and healing.

In the coming year, all the grace that is mine to give I gladly forward on to you.