The following is an account of a male-male wild olive baboon greeting.
“A typical greeting begins with one male walking upright rapidly toward another with a straight legged, rolling stride. The approaching male looks directly at his intended partner while making friendly gestures, such as smacking his lips, flattening his ears back, and narrowing his eyes. Often the second male maintains contact and smacks his lips in return. In that case, the animals get up close and personal. They often begin with a quick hug and or nuzzle. One then presents his hind quarters; the other grasps them, mounts the reversed partner, and touches his scrotum or gently pulls his penis. Sometimes participants exchange active and passive roles during a single greeting. After a completed greeting, which usually lasts no more than a few seconds, both males walk away using the stiff legged gait characteristic of the approach.”
I noticed a beautiful young man at the gym and later in the day another handsome young man walking on the street. Classic beauty. At first I thought it was the same person. I was wrong. Athletic men, graceful and strong, the young Gods are all over Manhattan on this summer day. The Gay Pride March is over. I didn’t go. Such events make me feel sad.
In the New York Times I saw a photo of two GI’s in army fatigues, in fantastic shape, two hundred pounds of muscle, embracing in a crowded airport after what appeared to be a long absence. One man lifts his lover in the air; the other man has his legs wrapped tightly around his partner’s waist. They are kissing. One thing is for sure. No one is going to call them sissies. A married couple? Maybe. It’s legal now to get married in New York. As I view this celebratory photo, an aesthetic pleasure arises in me like music from a very high altitude. Joy and envy mixed.
I find a mythic resonance, as Gilgamesh is reunited with his beloved Enkidu, a dream come true, an ancient promise fulfilled. My musing upon these handsome young men in the photograph is mixed. I will miss out on that experience. As I am an older man, I have the need to keep my envy in check. I can’t compete with them, nor do I want to. I breathe in my envy and breathe out their beauty. They will have the freedom to be who they really are, without the distortions I have had to live with during all the decades of don’t ask don’t tell. I fought for them before they were born but I won’t envy them. They will have battles that I won’t have. Hello young lovers wherever you are, I hope that you’re troubles are few!
Simone Weill said lust is when we try to eat what we should only look at. I think she got it right. I walked over to Washington Square with a pile of books I’d picked up from the library and browsed them as I was enchanted by the colors of the late afternoon. And many loners like me, sit with a book on an empty bench, in the gentle shade, enjoying the natural drift, while the musicians play, the dogs poop, the Frisbees fly, the kids squeal with delight. I breathe in the beauty and breathe out the beauty. I can never understand this moment for it isn’t an intellectual achievement. The Tao that can be said is not the real Tao. I know all that. And yet…
The beauty is beyond my capacity to catch, to hold all the tender, tiny details, the moving features of the landscape. How gorgeous they are today, my fellow creatures, so gorgeous that it hurts… and I have let go. I will never get it right. I know that and yet …this non dual shit… whatever it is… I can’t say what this feeling is…I can only say what it is like…This is feeling is like a male-male wild olive baboon greeting!!! I have found my own metaphor. I am happy.
Suddenly, I feel the presence of Walt Whitman for he was a lover of Manhattan and a great metaphor maker. He must have had a similar response to the Gods and Goddesses of his day as he worshiped too at the edge of infinity, seeing through the form into that which is beyond form and time and trying to turn it into language. I tune into his presence for he loved me as much as I love him, though I was unborn when he wrote his poems. I was his future and he knew that. This love is palpable, embodied, passed on from generation to generation. I am so happy it starts to hurt. Whitman’s way of loving is alive in me as I sit lazily at Washington Square, lifted up into a reverie without words.
History, poetry and life itself are happening all at once on this park bench as I puzzle over my book on Goethe Science. I enjoy this public solitude, even though I want to abandon it, to strike up a conversation with a stranger, but I have another chapter to read from the Goethe book and soon I will be finished.
I drift off again. I wonder if there are connections to be made between this lazy, lovely afternoon and the debates that Goethe and Schiller engaged in. What is the relationship between Archetype and Reality?Goethe thought the science he envisioned was in the future. Are we there yet? Or will we kick that bucket down the road? What is it that we are after?
Perhaps I will never know, perhaps Goethe was wrong about a science of the perceptual. And when my notes are gathered, the reflections shared, the conclusions reached, what happens next? Will some adventurer a hundred years from now come across the Magellan site and will she wonder what the hell we were thinking about so long ago in the ancient days? Will she wonder what a male-male wild olive baboon greeting could have meant to a middle aged gay man back in Manhattan before the waters rose and swallowed up the Big City? We can only imagine.