Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Square 36: All you need is love

Square 036

An interesting aspect of this blanket (at least for me), is that one story suggests another, leading me down particular paths. The title of this blog becomes even more apt as time goes on. It is certainly the case with these last two squares. Square 35 with its reference to Montreal and my idea of polyamory, "loving different people in different ways," suggested the story for Square 36.

2004 was an interesting time in the history of same-sex marriage in Canada. This country became the first in the world to have a same-sex marriage legally recognized (in Toronto on January 14, 2001), which began the movement toward legalization throughout the provinces. Same-sex marriage became legal in Ontario in June 2003, in British Columbia in July 2003, and in Quebec in March 2004, with the rest of the provinces and territories following by July 2005.

It so happened that Gala Choruses, an international association of queer choruses, held a festival in Montreal in July 2004 with several thousand delegates from around the world. I attended with the Rainbow Chorus of Waterloo-Wellington (RCWW). It was a heady, exciting time. Several of our members had recently married. Many couples from other countries, particularly the United States, took the opportunity while in Montreal to undertake marriages recognized by the state, though not their state.

It so happened that our program, which RCWW had taken to perform at the festival, was entitled "All you need is love", with a variety of songs leading up to a climactic Beatles medley. The theme and songs had been selected more than a year earlier, with no foreknowledge of the precipitous political events around gay marriage in Canada. Our choice was coincidental, perhaps prophetic, because marriage is supposed to be about love between people. Who has the right to deny love between two people of different races or the same gender, or for that matter a love relationship involving more than two people?

As a polyamorous person, I have had reservations about the institution of marriage. An unhealthy or abusive one can be a trap. Legal marriage sets up a hierarchy of relationships, bestowing validity on some and not on others. I believe there are many colours and shades of love, and it should only be restricted to two people if that is their mutual, respectful choice.

But I also believe in the right of lovers to celebrate their relationships however they choose, and to receive recognition and support from their families and community. To this end, I suppose legalized same-sex marriage is a positive step towards universal human rights.

My favourite song from our performance in Montreal was King's Singers' a cappella version of "All I ask of you", from Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber. To the theme of political change at that time, it spoke:

All I want is freedom
A world with no more night

To me, night is the pall of repression that caused me to reject my own feelings for so many years. The song's potent words remained with me long after.

Two years later it inspired me to write a poem entitled "Agape", the Greek word for unconditional love the New Testament commands and Christians attempt to embrace. In my experience love is at once lovely and broken, powerful and fragile. Vulnerability itself opens us to love. The legalistic love of religious people is no more valid than two adolescents groping in the dark for shared pleasure and belonging. As the fallen star, Yvaine, says in the 2007 movie, Stardust:

But when I see the way that mankind loves—you could search to the furthest reaches of the universe and never find anything more beautiful. So yes, I know that love is unconditional. But I also know that it can be unpredictable, unexpected, uncontrollable, unbearable and strangely easy to mistake for loathing.

And here is part of what I wrote in my poem, addressing the hypocrisy of those who declare my love not good enough:

I do not want your sympathy.
All I want is freedom
to love as far as I understand it
and grow cosmic as can be.

Earlier this year, RRWC selected this poem as the text for a new choral composition to be commissioned for performance at a national festival in Winnipeg in May 2010. The piece will be written by an acclaimed Canadian composer. Isn't it exciting how threads spin together and the yarn continues?

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