Things look so bad everywhere
In this whole world, what is fair
Bring me a higher love
-Higher Love, Steve Winwood and Will Jennings
As a Denver DJ in the mid-80s, one of the last new songs I spun was “Higher Love,” a tune performed by Steve Winwood. The AIDS epidemic was raging all around me, and its lyrics seemed to express my fears with uncanny accuracy. But where was a gay man almost 100 percent assured of dying to find that higher love—a love I interpreted as the love of God?
God… Has any word been used more by man to massacre and damn queers, to abolish our culture with the intention of obliterating our future? Doubtful.
Queer life in America is shackled to God. We are bound to his commandments and definitions of morality and immorality through our nation’s laws and social standards. Early colonists immigrated here to escape religious persecution in Europe, and eventually became part of the First Amendment to the Constitution: a guarantee no decrees shall be made “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
But, America was still founded as a Christian nation, and the politics of religion still loom over the fate of the queer community. We have paid and will continue to pay the price of prejudice introduced by the pilgrims 400 years ago.
Raised Lutheran in farm town Fort Lupton, Colorado in the late 50s, I soon learned Leviticus 18:22: “Thou shalt not lie with man as with woman; it is an abomination.”
I witnessed the AIDS epidemic in New York. We were told it was God enacting his revenge, and his minions cheered him on.
With my gay buddies, we made sex and drugs and dancing our holy trinity. Discos became our churches, DJs our priests. Drugs and alcohol replaced the Last Supper menu of bread and wine, affecting a transubstantiation no less magical or holy, no less a “higher love.”
As AIDS killed my tribe, we learned to minister among ourselves. Fearless queer and straight women became our nuns who offered us much -needed succor.
What happens when you survive a deadly plague?
You live. I had my health, career, car, and condo. But something was missing, and inside me, some “thing” was urging me to investigate.
Collectively, the queer community has carried the burden of shame, still religion’s powerful force that continues to haunt and bombard us. But millions of us have overcome that lie. Laws, standards, and definitions are fluid; injustices have been righted. The queer community has survived, thrived, and flourishes today with indomitable resilience.
But, in life, everyone responds to their unique urges. We confusdly stumble or stomp cock-sure toward understanding our world and our place in it. We choose beliefs prescribed by religions (or lack of them) from our cultures and families, our childhoods and education, our relationship with money, our unique experiences, and our physical bodies.
God makes us feel inspired or insignificant, peaceful or terrified, ecstatic or just ‘meh.’ God is for no one or within everyone. We meditate in the mountains or desert, by a lake or ocean, on a yoga mat downtown. We embrace a pagan past and dance naked like fairies in the forest. Our god is masculine, feminine, neither.
My path led me to a spiritual life and to study New Thought teachings. This American spiritual movement began in the mid-1800s. It incorporates metaphysics, positive thinking, affirmative prayer, creative visualization, and personal power. Its prime tenet: Oneness. We are all one with the Divine, and all of life is united.
I define it as doing my best to be of service to my fellow beings, to forge a deeper connection through prayer and contemplation. I try to be kind, generous, grateful, and forgiving. I strive to do no harm and to live from a loving heart.
Who am I to write about Higher Love?
This solo act is not for everyone. I have not intended to proselytize, because who am I to write about God, such an intimate subject, fraught with opinion, embarrassment, and conjecture? But I know what it’s like to feel rudderless, that life is hopeless and pointless. I know that it doesn’t have to be like that.
Somehow, I, we, find our place in the world and decide what we will do while for a second we occupy a spec of space on the planet. My last breath may be the end of my story, a slip into the abyss of nothingness. But, while I breathe, I have a curiosity to explore what it means to be human, what the Divine is, what happens after death. I don’t need drugs to look inside my heart and discover stars. I believe in a presence within me that is greater than me, yet inseparable from me and all of life: Love.
Think about it, there must be higher love
Down in the heart or hidden in the stars above
Without it, life is a wasted time
Look inside your heart, I’ll look inside mine
Higher Love, Steve Winwood and Will Jennings