MyNextLifeJourney (MNLJ): Since you began as a poet and novelist, and Flights was your first non-fiction book, why – or how – did you come to write it?
Adrian Brooks (AB): My poetry arose out of journals shaped by my Quaker tradition of the examined life. And drugs, too, since I was a wild child. So it was confessional. When I began writing prose in 1977, I quit smoking weed since I had to have a level head.
The novels are shaped by imagery and Humanism but have strong plots. In Flights, I wanted to tell the absolute truth as I lived it – showing both sides of the 1970s: the amazingly powerful explosion of joyful energy as well as a dark underside. No one else ever had.
MNLJ: How is writing non-fiction different from writing fiction or poetry?
AB: Truth always comes through if it’s revealed. The act of creating always entails destroying the Known or Status Quo, while non-fiction has the advantage of an aperture that must be verifiable or provable. Still, if you know the facts, non-fiction is easier to write, especially if you aren’t trying to hide anything.
MNLJ: What is your feeling about the criticism you face doing that?
AB: Consider the source. Flights wasn’t slammed by anyone of importance. Mark Thompson praises my fearless truth-telling in his introduction; Michael Bronski recommends it at Harvard; Jonathan Katz, the former Head of Gay Studies at Yale, calls it an ‘utterly magical evocation of the era.’ And so on.
I oppose sanitized revisionism, as do Nancy Goldstein and Michael Bronski- eminent cultural arbiters who decry the commercial whitewashing in “Milk”, for example. Those who tart up the past or squat on it for profit do a real disservice to warp our history or appease self-anointed Guardians of Public Decency.
Whenever propaganda replaces truth a slippery slope leads to fascism. Gay culture may not always be pretty or pleasing, but it’s a record to be proud of, not deny or blur. Those trying to shift focus from its gritty essence to make it more palatable are just like apparatchiks erasing traces of the victims of tyranny.
MNLJ: Why do you think gay spirituality is particularly helpful or relevant?
AB: There’s no such thing as ‘gay spirituality,’ just as there’s no such thing as gay science. Gender, or gender preference, has nothing to do with Divine Truth. But to answer your question: spirituality exposes suffering as illusionary and removes the fear of death.
MNLJ: Will you still be writing?
AB: I hope not! But probably, yes. Seriously, I’ve been as deliberately low-key as possible for years because the only thing that mattered was doing the work, nothing else. And the attention I had when I was highly visible for a few years was disorienting. But now that I’m completing my work- or at least a big cycle of it- I’d like to be more engaged in some useful capacity, if possible.
MNLJ: Do you see yourself as a gay writer? Or a writer who is gay?
AB: I began as as gay writer so, certainly, my poetry and my novels are informed by a gay sensibility. In terms of my personal life, if that’s what you meant, I really see myself as just another person, one of eight billion at the present time. And putting aside the pretty unusual events of my life, not different from anyone else.
MNLJ: What do you think of the current state of gay liberation?
AB: Gay liberation is sooo over! Gay has now become a lifestyle choice. Really, that revolution ended in 1978.
But periods of social foment follow a template: a few years of intense agitation after which there’s a long mop-up job of social accommodation and gradual integration. Even Harvey Milk was all about assimilation.
And when it’s down to a choice between civil union and gay marriage, we’re not marginalized. Still , since gay kids remain at high risk of suicide, or being victimized, work remains… But even the GOP isn’t focusing on gay issues or abortion any more. The vast majority of voters under 30 don’t care. That speaks volumes.
MNLJ: You’re very forthright about being HIV+.. How has this affected you?
AB: Positively! No pun intended. After I found out I was positive in 1985, I decided to make the most of whatever time I had because there was no cure, or medication. So I went east to live on a beach. Being HIV+ in India meant being jailed and deported if the fact came out but I still did public performances where I talked about being HIV+… So I was never fearful. Awareness of a possibility of an early death from AIDS helped me focus.
MNLJ: What have you learned from all this? The life you’ve lived and your work?
AB: That the only real matter of concern is Consciousness.
MNLJ: How would you like to be remembered?
AB: I don’t think about it. But if I was remembered…? As a fine artist, an honest person. A brave spiritual writer.
MNLJ: How do you think you will be remembered?
AB: It doesn’t matter. What does matter is whether our planet survives. At the present moment, the prospect isn’t looking so good. I’d like everything I do- writing, art, life- to be in the service of spreading awareness.
MNLJ: Do you have any advice for young people today?
AB: Get in touch with your spiritual center and live honestly and bravely. After all, what do you have to lose?
MNLJ: And what about advice for older people?
AB: As my spiritual teacher said, “You serve the Truth or you serve the Lie and Truth is ruthless. But don’t blame me for that. It’s God’s game.”
MNLJ: What did he mean by that?
AB: My teacher was a woman. And she meant what every true teacher says: No one can serve two masters. So serve God, serve Truth. It is your own Self.
MNLJ: Is it true that you met the Dalai Lama?
AB: Not formally. He was in a crowd, our eyes met and he reached out and took my hand for a moment.
MNLJ: What was that like?
AB: Very nice. His hand is soft. And he has wonderful, strong eyes.
MNLJ: No I meant, what was he like?
AB: As His Holiness says when speaking of himself, he is a simple monk. A person. Sacred. Perfect. Just like you.
⇧ Note: The above interview was provided by Adrian Brooks in 2010 ⇧
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