Actually, perhaps the intensity this year has come in the form of reading Dennis Cooper's novels. In reading the novels in the George Miles cycle, I was able to see something perhaps more clearly than I had before in any other literature: namely, that there is a particular high that goes along with being friends (or lovers), not just with younger men, but with seriously fucked up younger men. Cooper's novels are populated with hustlers (some of them teenagers), heavy drug users, and people dealing with sexual abuse. There are ways in which such people tend to create alternative family environments in their attempts to satisfy basic needs for protection and affiliation, and this can be powerfully emotionally compelling. People from the suburbs who have not grown up under those conditions, but who nonetheless feel isolated, disconnected, and disaffected, can easily get drawn into that kind of atmosphere. In a sense, reading his work has provided me with a way to safely revisit some of my memories of those situations. Definitely, that's part of the "education" I received as I came out during the latter part of college and in the period just after college, when (unlike most young people I'm aware of now) I had moved out of my parents' house and lived in an apartment with roommates. In reading interviews with Cooper, it seems that there were family dysfunctions that he found seriously disturbing and isolating when he was a teenager, so it's not surprising that his work has so often revisited that time of life. There's also rage over unsatisfied needs, and that comes out in his work, too.
The novel that I'm reading now is called God Jr. It's not about gay characters, nor is it about teenage males, except in absentia, since it revolves around a married man's attempts to come to terms with his teenage son's death in an accident that the man survived. At the beginning of the novel, the man notices several times in the course of his dealings with other people that he is angrier than he thought he was. This reminded me of difficulties I've had on campus since my mother's death. For a while, it seemed as if I had been getting beyond becoming upset over snarky comments on teaching evaluations, or being extremely frustrated by student, faculty, or administrative behavior. Perhaps going through the tenure process successfully in 2006-07 calmed some of those issues down slightly. At least I could explain to myself that my prior insecurities may have had to do with not having my employment status as clearly determined as it would eventually be. There must be some truth to that. On the other hand, my tendency to express my anger more directly after tenure at first seemed to be a response to having a more secure status within the institution. And there may be some truth to that as well. But recently it has begun to seem to me that there has been a constant background "hum" of grief and rage that I've been in constantly since 2008, just after my mother's death. It's different from the earlier grief and rage I went through because of my friends being fucked up. Those feelings were "hot." These feelings are stony and cold, on a deep, elemental level. There was a time when I guess I tried to head off anticipated feelings of loss by fusing with people and groups. Shortly after my mother's death, however, I began systematically severing ties with people, and I'm still doing that. In this culture, it may seem pathological to do that, as if it is evidence of some kind of unhealed state. Well, duh, it doesn't feel perfectly "healed" to feel a need to sever ties with people. On the other hand, differentiation and selectivity may be necessary parts of a healing process, as opposed to continuing attempts to "bond" with people from a place of naivete that has clearly run its course.
Speaking of groups, I reviewed my memberships in Yahoo groups yesterday. There aren't that many, but I deleted those that I no longer felt were useful. I did, however, rejoin GLBTQ Sufis. It was interesting to re-read the welcome message that I wrote back in 2001 when I originally formed the group.(It has not been changed since.) I also reviewed a couple of the messages from 2004, when I decided to leave the group. Not a whole lot has been going on on there recently, and that's fine, because I don't have the same kind of need for that sort of outlet as I used to. But as I look back to that group, and to the Atlanta Nur Ashki Jerrahi group that I set up, I'm reminded that I have--in some small way--contributed to the formation of gathering places for people that are still in existence. For some reason, I was able to do that in the context of Sufism, but not of Hinduism or Christianity, or anything else.
There is a larger issue of "belonging" that has come up for me repeatedly within the last few years. Although there may have been times when I seemed to be making some progress along those lines, there have also been plenty of situations when I have deluded myself that that's what I wanted or needed ahead of other priorities in my life, and those situations have wasted tremenous amounts of my time and energy. It appears that it is just not something that is meant to work easily for me in this life.
OK, I guess that's all I really needed to write for now.