National Commentary

‘Extraordinary Hearts’ As Best Seller, Part 1

nfbenton-mugI am heartened by the continued success of my book, Extraordinary Hearts, on the Best Seller rankings for LGBT-themed works. Twice in recent weeks it has gone as high as third in that category, and it continues to hover around the Top 10.

This is important because the content of this work is not just a narrative history or memoir, but is designed to introduce a “paradigm shift” in the way that LGBT persons self-identify, beyond just the association with a sexual orientation, but according to a heightened sensibility that most of us share.

It takes its cue from a comment by playwright Tony Kushner in an introduction he wrote to the 2000 reprint of Larry Kramer’s 1978 novel Faggots. “The liberation of sexuality from the bonds of moralism has left in its wake a crying need for principled, intelligent, vigorous explorations of how a genuine morality can be introduced into our newly minted freedom,” he wrote.

With this mission in mind, I authored a collection of 100 short essays that were published on consecutive weeks under the title, “Nick Benton’s Gay Science,” in the Washington, D.C.-based gay magazine, Metro Weekly, from October 2010 to 2012. My purpose was to go directly at the heart of the LGBT community in the nation’s capital, and my current book is a compilation of those essays.

The perspective I introduced was honed from my younger days as a seminary-graduated pioneering gay activist and philosopher-theologian in the earliest Stonewall era of the modern movement. I co-founded the “effeminist” current of that movement, calling gay men to share the theories and objectives of the feminist movement.

My 100 essays were called “Gay Science” because I took off in my first entry to call out the book by the same name by the 19th century philosopher Frederich Nietzsche. In his case, “gay science” meant poetry. Still, I wrote that “he had his gay science, and I have mine.”

My starting point was the deeply flawed epistemology, and the derived flawed sense of self that developed in Western society, that Neitszche pioneered in his day. His philosophy informed much of the social corruptions of the subsequent 150 years, including the rise of fascism in Europe and its ugly stepchild, postmodernism in the more recent era.

Many balk at my taking postmodernism to task so harshly, especially in the form presented by the late French gay philosopher Michel Foucault, but that current’s vile negativism, its denial of the viability of ideal or romantic notions of love and service by insisting that power is the only morality, has deeply corrupted our society in general and notions of gay identity as derived from it.

My work’s major “discovery,” as it were, lies in what I call the revival of the ancient Greek notion that associated same-sex passion, as a natural component of creation, with the archetypal image of the Greek titan Prometheus.

The post-Stonewall gay explosion marked the first time since the days of the ancient Greeks that an open discourse and assessment on what it means to be gay has come to the fore.
In ancient times, the Greeks did not feel the need to explicitly identify same-sex orientation with Prometheus because the notion was so pervasive in that culture.

Today this idea is now rediscovered. It is a “third way,” correcting the deeply flawed Nietzschean duality that sets the Apollonean archetype, as lawmaker and law abider, against its antagonist opposite, the Dionysian archetype, the anti-Apollonean pursuit of pleasure for its own sake.

Freud replicated the false Apollo-Dionysus dichotomy in his theories of psychoanalysis, which formed the basis for the modern notion that homosexuality, fundamentally, is an expression of a Dionysian pleasure-seeking impulse that can either be tolerated or rejected on grounds that it is a rejection of Apollonean law.

The Promethean notion of the same-sex impulse overthrows this false dichotomy. The Promethean archetype is one that loves and serves humanity, gives humanity the gift of fire in defiance of Zeus. This, as I argue in my book, is at the heart of a special role for gay persons throughout history.

(To be continued).