A boy in a hostel asked me to accompany him to the Reina Sofia Museum. I’ve never been the biggest fan of contemporary art and for that reason I’d never actually gone, but there were free entries that day, and when he saw La Guernica in person he sat until the museum officials came to tell him to stand. I’d never understood it, don’t understand it now, but I do remember the first time I could have sat and observed a work for hours. It was when I saw La Fuente del Ángel Caído in Retiro Park.
“So farewel Hope, and with Hope farewel Fear,
Farewel Remorse: all Good to me is lost;
Evil be thou my Good; by thee at least
Divided Empire with Heav’ns King I hold
By thee, and more then half perhaps will reigne;
As Man ere long, and this new World shall know.”
“Paradise Lost” by John Milton
I fell asleep reading Paradise Lost by Milton, which is probably blasphemous to admit but true nonetheless. However, I know that the sculpture of the fallen angel is based off of Milton’s work. I hold no evil in my heart, at least none that I’m aware of, and have no desire to degrade myself to deceive others in some vengeful ploy. But it’s worth asking how many people with hearts that beat like mine would also prefer Earth over Heaven?
Salvation be damned, I’m past the age where I want my own choices voided. Past the age where I wallow in the anguish of who I am while kneeling in the pews praising a God I’ve been told hates me, and then going back home to stare at closet doors. Everyone has their own cross to bear they say, before going home to dance under the covers with someone they would not live without. Not really. Not honestly.
Empathy is all well and good, but can it truly exist when it comes from a place of judgment? They say they understand the difficulty of it, the pain of it, the constant temptation. They ask me, and people like me, to believe that ridiculous lie. Love is beauty, they say, but only in select circumstances. And in hearing this I can’t help but wonder if they even know what love actually is.
Perhaps my cross to bear is that I can’t comprehend the difference. I simply don’t understand how my love for a man could be holy and my love for a woman perverse when they feel exactly the same. Is it that lack of understanding that tainted my body before it was even touched? Because that’s not fair.
Yet what if evil is only whatever definition church leaders have assigned to it? In that case, my earlier statement is wrong; I hold pure, unadulterated evil in my heart.
“A fallen man is very much like a fallen angel.”
Preface to Paradise Lost by C.S. Lewis
The question of how to perceive Satan is right there in our own reflection. Milton knew this, it’s why Satan was so relatable. I can recognize the darkest parts of my soul, have no trouble admitting my own imperfections, and strive to do better and be better every single day. But I have a clear vision of what darkness looks like and what it does not look like.
So what if love is my greatest act of evil? That’s something that has no cure, something I know because I’m not the only one that has searched for it. There’s traits and habits that I can work on bettering, but if my damnation is inlaid in my DNA, how long do they expect me to play a game I’ve already lost? I hold nothing but the utmost respect for those that continue to worship despite the hatred they’re forced to face, but I also do not hold even the slightest disdain for those that have stopped playing a game that has done nothing but inflict violence on us since our infancy. And I see nothing to admire, no hint of inspiration in the victors who love their game, who would prefer to think we’re weak. I’m sure capitalists love to play Monopoly as well.
Not a single one of the friends I know that tried to impose a heterosexual label that did not fit onto themselves for the sake of religion still call themselves Christian. And the only question left is are we the fallen children of a Father who banished us from paradise or the victims of those who were the ones that were actually tricked into eating the apple? Oh, but right, evil is is not as evil does, but rather prescribed by people who only know how to read, but not interpret; point a finger, but not self-reflect; and who rebuke the dark, but don’t know how to differentiate it from light.
So maybe I’ve fallen from grace but does it follow that hell exists wherever I am?
“For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.”
Psalms 139:13 – 14 (KJV)
I’m past the age where I would have begged to become a different person if I thought it would work, yes, but I have not forgotten that this was not something I chose. There was no sense of envy for those higher than me, no sense of ambition to be something not fit of me, and no wish for vengeance when I realized the limitations of my existence. I wanted to be obedient, I want my presence in this world to be a source of good. And it was devastating to find that that was not the role that was intended for me, not according to the voices of church leaders, who didn’t even want to understand the mind of those who were different.
However, there is One who understands. One who knows. One who made me the way I am. One who made all of us the way we are. And if I’m meant to believe His word without doubt, then I can’t help but question who His fury is aimed at, me and those like me, or those who have showered us with hatred? What if we are the poor that went knocking for a place of acceptance and belonging in this world, but were refused? And if the serpent was able to slither into Eden and whisper in the ear of Eve, who had never sinned prior to eating the apple, then is it so impossible to believe that he slithered into a church and whispered to those intimately acquainted with sin?
I don’t truly know the answers to those questions. Only the answers hope provides. But the curse of being human is that we are all meant to be wrong so much of the time.
“Through me you pass into the city of woe:
Through me you pass into eternal pain:
Through me among the people lost for aye.
Justice the founder of my fabric moved:
To rear me was the task of power divine,
Supremest wisdom, and primeval love.
Before me things create were none, save things
Eternal, and eternal I shall endure.
All hope abandon, ye who enter here.”
“The Divine Comedy” by Dante Alighieri
I stared at the sculpture of the fallen angel longer than I was meant to and yet not as long as I would have wanted. Not so much for its artistry but trying to find a likeness. Wondering if I believed Lucifer was real. Wondering if Hell was real even though the way we imagine it was designed by Dante’s Inferno. And, if he was right, what circle of Hell I would be condemned to for being gay which surely couldn’t be as evil as some say it is?
But does it really even matter? The fallen angel was not able to escape his fate and neither am I. There’s a strange kind of comfort in being a hopeless case, even if that’s only true in the eyes of those who think they know where I’ll go when I die. However, they don’t know any better than I know. And I don’t know any better than God knows.
So is the feeling in my heart pure evil? Or is it love? Time will tell, or that’s how the story goes. But it’s worth reminding those who would condemn the LGBT+ community that if I am right, our damnation did not start at birth, it started when we had the misfortune of coming into contact with you. And if one us has to be wrong, I am betting my soul it is the side that has caused countless of young deaths and suicides for something that didn’t even affect them. That doesn’t look like love to me.
It looks like pure, unadulterated evil.