Awakening in the academy
And I didn’t even know I’d been asleep. But after coming out while at Taylor University, after waking up to myself and the world within, the world around, then I could understand how fast asleep I’d been.
The late American poet Wallace Stevens wrote a long poem, “Notes Towards a Supreme Fiction,” that I recently stumbled upon and through. Some of his thoughts and expressions jarred some thoughts in me.
In one section of the poem Stevens might be talking about the coming out process. He says:
Perhaps there are moments of awakening,
Extreme, fortuitous, personal, in which
We more than awaken, sit on the edge of sleep,
As on an elevation, and behold
The academies like structures in a mist.
—Wallace Stevens, from “Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction”
Oh, yes. Moments of awakening after a long, long sleep. A nightmare of self-loathing and struggle, of prayer and fasting and flagellation. Of pleading and praying and trying anything that might offer release from incessant sinful desires.Beating oneself up. Being willing to beat God up if one could reach heaven. Why won’t God take this away from me? What did I do that was so wrong? Why must I kill myself in order to save myself?
And then to awaken. Extreme. Fortuitous. Personal.
To come out to oneself as gay. To begin the process of embrace rather than erase. To more than awaken . . . to live, to breathe, to be, to begin.
For me, to stand on a new height and look at the academy—academia, the university, the Christian evangelical liberal arts college that was/is Taylor University—to see it there in the mist. To see beyond it, almost for the first time. To see that there is more than I ever imagined. More than I ever could have imagined. To take the first tentative steps in that direction. Towards the life that is truly life.
About the photo: “The Awakening” at Hains Point, East Potomac Park, Washington, D.C. by damieneklund at flickr.com