"Are we prepared to promote conditions in which the living contact with God can be reestablished? For our lives today have become godless to the point of complete vacuity. God is no longer with us in the conscious sense of the word. He is denied, ignored, excluded from every claim to have a part in our daily life." - Alfred Delp, S.J.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Dead people's stuff...

Theater people. - Edward Gorey

That is what I used to call stuff in junk-antique shops.

Yesterday I went to an estate sale of a well known costume designer.  He worked in Hollywood and came to fame as director of costume design for the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis for many years.  A flamboyant and theatrical character, I met him a couple of times at event 'openings' over the years.  He always dressed the part of a Maestro, capes, jewels, Tudor-style, with attitude.  He was quite a snob, very much an egotist and hedonist, although - and I hate saying it this way -  he always impressed me as sort of 'dirty' and 'greasy' - physically and morally.  Not long ago, he had a retrospective of his designs at a local museum.  He had been feeling his age and ill for some time, and died last year, no funeral from what I understand, although a memorial of some sorts may yet be scheduled.  'Friends' who later surrounded him in his weakened state, held the estate sale, which ended yesterday.  I went to the sale hoping to find art materials or European style frames, but found nothing for my use.

Needless to say, the Maestro - which is the only way I want to identify him here - was obviously gay and obviously non-religious.  It was a strange feeling looking through his possessions at the sale, which was held in the banquette room of a local German restaurant, the walls fittingly decorated in Bavarian style trompe l'oeil.  Some of his design sketches were for sale, amongst which was a male nude study, a young man masturbating.  The curator running the sale, feigning lecherous amusement, asked me what I thought he was doing.  He facetiously protested that it must be gay!  He then rather lasciviously described another large painting from the Maestro's collection, a large nude male, oil on canvas, by an unknown artist.  He wasn't so much trying to be provocative, rather I think he believed he was being entertaining and friendly.  I was polite and friendly, but never played into his game.

The visit haunted me however.  I got the impression I was indeed going through a dead man's possessions - very much like the scene from A Christmas Carol, where Scrooge looks on as scavengers go through his things.  I had the impression or intuition I 'knew' all about his life. 

Every once in a while, the man running the sale shouted across the room to customers, "I can take more off that if you are interested."  The Maestro had tons of junk, endless CDs and DVDs and VHS tapes, fabrics and trims for costumes, weird Neapolitan style angels he crafted for a Christmas shop in a local department store - they were never purchased BTW.  Everything at the sale was just a portion of all the stuff he had accumulated in his lifetime.  Later in the day, another friend told me the designer had a room full of books, mostly pornography and gay erotica.

In fact the deceased was quite obsessed with young men, call boys and hustlers, therefore the one drawing by him was most likely some kid he hired to entertain him.  I don't have words to express the level of desolation I felt over what impressed me as vain emptiness.  All the precious possessions, now dilapidated, currently on sale to the lowest bidder, objets d'art once most likely so coveted, luxurious possessions which the owner surrounded himself with to enhance his status and impress his fans... now useless to the owner and to some extent, the curator of the estate.
If a man is fundamentally egotistical, his intimate conversation with himself is inspired by sensuality or pride. He converses with himself about the object of his cupidity, of his envy; finding therein sadness and death, he tries to flee from himself, to live outside of himself, to divert himself in order to forget the emptiness and the nothingness of his life. In this intimate conversation of the egoist with himself there is a certain very inferior self-knowledge and a no less inferior self-love.
The intimate conversation of the egoist with himself proceeds thus to death and is therefore not an interior life. His self-love leads him I to wish to make himself the center of everything, to draw everything to himself, both persons and things. Since this is impossible, he frequently ends in disillusionment and disgust; he becomes unbearable to himself and to others, and ends by hating himself because he wished to love himself excessively. At times he ends by hating life because he desired too greatly what is inferior in it - Garrigou-Lagrange

I've been to other important estate sales of antique dealers, my own gallery curator, and other local personalities in the arts I've known or was acquainted with.  I've usually had the same disquieted feelings.   They all had their 'collections', their social circles - public and 'private' - think Tina Turner Private Dancer.  Their celebrity, their status, such as they deemed important, all come to nothing at death - to some extent, demonstrating the sterile separation of their existence.

I get the impression young gay men today think they are different - more pure - in the sense they can handle gay sex, gay relationships, be monogamous, and so on.  Hence they become more respectable, appear more centered, insist they are more integrated - and accepting of themselves.  No doubt, some of the more religious types really do project a more respectable image and lifestyle, but gay is gay, and gay men will be gay men.  "All their plans come to nothing."  The facades crack and fall apart sooner or later. 

I'm not fooled.  Homosexual acts are disordered, immoral and gravely sinful.  Fill your life with whatever you want, project the cleanest, most well ordered conventional lifestyle - it doesn't make it right.  There are no compromises to be had.  You can't serve two masters.  One cannot do evil, condone evil, promote evil, and remain in the state of grace.
[P]ride is a bandage over the eyes of the spirit, which hinders us from seeing the truth, especially that relative to the majesty of God and the excellence of those who surpass us. It prevents us from wishing to be instructed by them, or it prompts us not to accept direction without argument. Pride thus perverts our life as one would bend a spring; it hinders us from asking light from God, who consequently hides His truth from the proud. - Garrigou-Lagrange


  1. "I get the impression young gay men today think they are different - more pure, more respectable, more centered, more integrated and accepting of themselves, and no doubt, some of the more religious types really do maintain a respectable image and lifestyle, but gay is gay, and gay men will be gay men. All their plans come to nothing. The facades crack and fall apart sooner or later."

    It's funny, because I get the feeling that "ssa" Christians feel that they are "different, more pure, more respectable, more centered, and integrated"-- but gay is gay.


    1. Thom - I know you know I wasn't condemning the man or the others whose estate sales I attended.

      I know you don't believe that I think I'm "more pure, more respectable, more centered, and integrated".

      If you really want to view the 'type' I'm discussing, and the depth of weirdness - watch "Christopher and His Kind" The BBC film on Christopher Isherwood - especially his Berlin experiences. You can watch on you tube here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hjidIaTYiE

      It captures the atmosphere of the men I refer to.

      It isn't a look into the past.

      Amongst the sales people yesterday were some of the most extraordinary characters, one might see in a bar, in Paris or LA, on the Sartorialist blog - no different from Warhol's Factory, really.

      This was his milieu. It will continue to exist, no matter how Stepford people try to make their lives out to be.

      I think you get what I'm saying.

      I'm not judging/condemning any one.

    2. I know that. I was only being sardonic.

      The world looks really black and white from afar, but up close it appears quite grey.

    3. (Although, I do fit the "religious types.") Meh.

    4. Thanks Thom - I rephrased it a little for clarity - not that is cushions the impact however.

    5. You shouldn't have-- I have broad shoulders. ;)

  2. Thanks for the great meditation. The first Garrigou-Lagrange quote describes so many lives in the West today. His words become a mirror where the vain see themselves reflected back--no wonder the modernists hated him. The most unsettling thing about the story you told is that God used every single tiny opportunity He could to offer His mercy and truth. All the maestro had to do was begin to respond--however timidly--to these graces. One night he could have told his young "date", "Why don't we just talk tonight? Remember when you were twelve, what did you want to be when you grew up?"

    A few years ago an icon in the Portland art scene, Laura Russo, died, and her memorial was a testament of selfless love and integrity. And so not all movers and shakers in the art world lead vain lives. Whenever I pass Laura's photo in the hallway I always feel she is watching me, and so I smile at the image and commend her to God. My wife has worked at the Laura Russo Gallery for more than a decade.

  3. haunting Terry. I could feel the coldness, the lack of the signs of love that live on after death- Signs of love, which is all we really can leave behind. One may mistakenly believe that the secrets one lives remain hidden after death, but so often, they spill out of the grave with time.

    Thank you for the palpable image that what we do must be for God's glory but that we all fall short of it and need His tender mercy. I wonder how many people (good Catholics) had the courage to reach out to this poor soul and speak truth. We are so careful these days not to offend. But who knows that one of our brave little moments of speaking truth with love might be the at the very last breaths of life, the very hope that cries out towards Mercy Who Waits.

  4. Thank you, Terry, for being a voice crying in the wilderness for the sake of the truth.

  5. Reminds me of another movie, Love is the Devil. And that Francis Bacon character.

  6. Terry,

    You can pull out any hundreds of people, gay or straight who were/are miserable people, and that is because they choose to be miserable...has nothing to do with their sexuality. As for the "Stepford," thing..well, living a life out in the sun, in the community, taking care of your kids, your house your family your career and just happen to be gay..well, that doesnt mean a gay or straight person is trying to be something they are not, it means they are living a life they chose, not living in a gay ghetto cause they are told that is where they belong, not living a sad life because society and apparently their own Church tells them they are disordered, wrong or weird and deserve to live a life less "well lived," then someone else. God gives us free will, its up to us to use it in a positive way.

    It does seem you are judging, the only person who can see into this person's heart and soul is God..maybe he was a wounded person (most gay people I meet who assume that snotty, bitchy persona are people who truly were picked on, put down, never accepted and that is their way of creating a wall around and putting someone down before they do you..not that it is right) maybe he did quiet deeds of generosity that no one knows, maybe he was there for someone at the lowest point of their life and he helped them, who knows..only God does.

    1. Mack - My intention is not to offend you, but from the sound of it, your life may be more like the Truman Show or Desperate Housewives. It is not based on truth - it is an imitation of an American domestic ideal, an attempt to replicate conventional family life. Rather convincingly, I'm sure. However, no matter how well intentioned, "One cannot do evil that good may come of it." Homosexual acts are intrinsically evil.

      I found an interesting article which might explain my POV more intelligibly:

      "Conversely, the inability of same-sex intercourse to produce children explains why homosexuals cannot achieve the unity that is possible for heterosexuals. Their default response is mimicry, the imitation of a heterosexual union, replete with hijacked terms like "husband," "wife," "marriage," etc.

      A frequently heard objection from advocates of same-sex unions is that if childless heterosexual couples deserve the status of marriage, then homosexuals should be accorded that same status. But the answer to this is that heterosexual couples who are unable to have children can remain open to the procreation of new human life, to achieve the aim of marital unity, albeit not as perfectly as do those who have children.

      Nevertheless, they remain open, both in intention and action, to the possibility of their love-making resulting in procreation. Homosexuals cannot, in principle, procreate and their attempts at marital union will inevitably be frustrated by the brute fact that members of the same sex cannot complement each other to attain the kind of unity possible for heterosexuals.

      To reiterate, whereas the physical and psychological realities of homosexuals render them incapable of the unity that an openness to procreation allows, heterosexual couples using contraception suffer the same incapacity by virtue of their choice to separate formally sex and procreation. By that choice, they have de facto neutered themselves by making their maleness and femaleness irrelevant. The realities of biology will not be flouted." - Contraception and Homosexuality: The Sterile Link of Separation | Dr. Raymond Dennehy | Ignatius Insight

      I'll probably be posting more on it before the month is out - if I get more time or a break from my painting.

      As for the deceased gentleman I wrote about - there is no judgment on my part - his legacy speaks for itself.

    2. Permit me to add one other point, in reference to 'some good' someone may have done. Of course God is our judge and sees what no man can see - he sees the heart and our good acts. But we should do our best to avoid presumption and testing God's goodness, esp. if we advocate for evil, or promote evil as a good. For example:

      "If a man feeds the poor it would seem good. But, if he feeds the poor out of a desire to prove that society does not need religion to care for the poor and, further, that society is better without religion and that the Church should be suppressed – such a man commits sin by his very act of feeding the poor." - Fr. Erlenbush

  7. Terry, Don't ever think your offending me. Its your blog you may write what you wish and I welcome the opportunity to give another perspective, and thank you for your graciousness in allowing me to respond.

  8. LOL. Terry, thankfully no one has been murdered in our neighborhood so each season we have a mystery to solve so no Desperate Housewives..tho, I do have the day off and am wearing an apron as I make fried chicken...effete homo...naw, just a messy cook. Hmm, fried chicken and cold beer on a hot summer day! Anyway, I get what your saying, and that was what I was trying to say to you, saying that I or any gay couple who do that are not mimicking heterosexuality,I can only speak to myself and I have made a choice to reject the negativity from society and the church that tells me I have to live like a freak, in the dark, alone. To say that of ALL gay couples leading that life would be like my saying that maybe the SSA people who follow this have really internalized all the negative sexual phobias of culture and Church, and in rejection of some pretty bad sexual, social, family stuff that may have happened to them, gravitated to a very stern part of the faith which would allow them to live asexual lives to avoid dealing with some psychological issues which would help them to live a full and healthy life on their own terms. But that would be a blanket statement and I can't see into anyone's hearts, even if the Church leaders would attempt to make me see it their way.

    1. Now you sound like Nancy Pelosi.

      As you say, you made your choice.


  9. Nancy Pelosi..now your just being RUDE!!!

    And choices I did make my friend, using the free will I was given, a great deal of prarer and soul searching and listening to God instead of other people. Sometimes its not the choices we make in life its the reasons we make those choices, and that can be healthy or unhealthy. Sometimes we jump into what we fill is a solution but it just is because we don't want to deal with the issue at hand, we wall ourselves off. :)

    And while I do have the legs for those business suits Pelosi wears, I would look terrible in them and I really am squiked out by men in drag! I don't think its funny at all.

  10. Terry,

    I hope you have never found me rude or advocating for any point of view..I am not, we each find our way the best way we can, with God's help. I hope you find peace and have a great life, but your posts about homosexuality, your use of "talking points," from the Church on gay matters(I mean, come on, do you even believe and I am paraphrasing, that infertile couples.."heterosexual couples leave themselves open to procreation, though imperfectly." I mean, come on, anyone over 50, that is pretty imperfect, or that hetero couples using contraception make themselves "neutered,"??..that's theo-babble, to support teachings the Church, well more accurately the creaky older male leadership, wont turn away from. ) your postings on hoping for the rapture (I always thought people hoping for that were either ancient, crazy or extremely selfish.."Yea, I wish the world would end as I don't like it, forget about anyone else, or all the babies that would be born in the next century, its all about me.") and your postings about "other" people's sins and "evilness," just seem to me that you and some other posters are mining a different faith then the one I was brought up on, one of love, forgiveness and most importantly, comfort. I am being rude, overstepping my bounds and coming off smugly holier then thou myself and most likely banned but remember, its not about visions of hell, its about the promise of heaven.

    Take care of the Ivy my friend!

    1. No Mack - I don't find you rude at all. You help me understand another point of view.


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