I Danced with Adam Lambert and He Set Me Free
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One might not at first believe that a contestant on a reality show could be the catalyst that transforms someone’s life from the prison of hate to the freedom of love, but that is exactly what happened to me when I first encountered Adam Lambert on American Idol. Very recently, as a student in a college Philosophy class, I was asked to write a paper based on Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, and in doing so, I told the story of my first dance with Adam Lambert and how it changed my life. To understand it, an understanding of the cave allegory it's based on is necessary. For those who aren't familiar with Plato's Allegory of the Cave, here is a very brief summary:
Plato uses the cave analogy taught by Socrates to represent the world the vast majority of humans live in, with levels of knowledge ranging from ignorance to perceived truth or belief. Outside the cave is the world of reality lived out by humans who have searched for truth and found it. The surface world outside the cave represents the highest level of pure reality/truth/knowledge.
Inside the cave are prisoners shackled to the floor since very early childhood, their heads immobilized so they can only look ahead at the back wall of the cave. Behind and above them is fire, and between the fire and the prisoners is a walkway on which unshackled humans still living in the relative darkness of the cave present their perceptions of life, truth, and reality, likened to puppeteers. Their puppets cast shadows on the wall the prisoners see. To the prisoners, those shadows are the only truth they know. Socrates then describes the experience of a prisoner dragged out into the sunlight of the surface world and the stages of painful adjustment to reality, with eventual grateful understanding of the highest knowledge of truth.
My professor asked us to briefly describe a similar educational experience in our own lives that illustrates the journey out of the cave of ignorance. What follows here is my answer.
Being a woman of years, I cannot recollect any educational experiences that might have resulted in the kind of illumination Plato speaks of in the Allegory of the Cave. My educational experiences are just too long ago, and to be honest, I don’t believe I had such an experience until well into adulthood. I spent most of my 57 years a prisoner in the cave, shackled and unable to turn my head, eyes always fixed on the shadows moving before me on the wall, which was the only reality I knew. And my enlightenment came, not from any educational setting, but rather from a reality show of all things.
I was raised in a conservative Catholic environment, studying Catechism from an early age, educated in the dogma of Catholicism. My earliest recollection of Catechism class was the lesson of “God is Love”. Considering the level of dysfunction and loneliness in my life with my family, that lesson was internalized and stuck with me till this very day. No matter what was actually taking place around me or done to me I believed with my whole heart that God loved me, that his very essence was love. But so much of the rest of my learning was filled with anything but love.
I was taught to be afraid of God and his punishment of sinners, and my former vision of his loving nature eventually became intertwined with my experience as I came face to face with various forms of unkindness and even hatred in the name of God. In particular, my family was vehemently anti-gay, and I was raised hearing various expletives and adjectives directed at “homos”. They were “disgusting”, “depraved”, “degenerate”, and had an agenda of preying on young minds to turn them towards depravity. They were the worst of the worst. Those shadows played on the wall of my cave life for many decades as I was indoctrinated into this love=hate world of God by family, friends, church and community.
As I entered adolescence something within me yearned to find that loving God I’d glimpsed that day in Catechism class, the one I’d sensed in my small New York City church as a young girl as I gazed devotedly at the statues of Jesus and Mary, seduced and entranced by the smell of incense and awed by the silence and reverence the altar demanded. Looking back, I realize that my deepest and purest self was already beginning to question the shadow world of my cave dwelling, but wasn’t the slightest bit aware of it.
At the age of 14, my family thoroughly engulfed and drowning in the rampant alcoholism and drug addiction of the late 60s and 70s, I began my formal individual search for God. But being still shackled and under the influence of the shadow world, my quest led only to places that strengthened my captivity. Though I was beginning to feel the pain of it, I neither questioned nor fought to free myself. I studied with Jehovah’s Witnesses, got books out of the library on every Christian denomination I could find, jumped from one church to another searching for the Jesus of pure love. I never found him, and returned to my Catholic roots for a brief time. At least those shadow beings were comfortingly familiar.
It wasn’t until my first son was born and developed one of the most serious and complex cases of Tourette Syndrome the experts had yet encountered and, newly divorced from his father, he and I moved in with my tortured family, that I once again began to seek the elusive God of Love. It was there that life, in all its cruel ravagery, awoke in me a fury that began to weaken my bonds as I struggled to free myself and my son. One day, as the demons of drug addiction and religious fanaticism in my oldest brother rose in the form of a psychotic rage to strike my son, I broke free and ran with him, my shackles breaking from the strain. In the years that followed we lived within the passageways between the light and the dark cave, searching, searching for a new way to live. But I was more terrified of the light than of the darkness. The light was painful and harsh. So I settled into the dim world between the two. I got “saved” during a vision I experienced while studying another book which promised to lead me to the Love God. And in my search for those like me, those who had touched the face of God, I made the mistake of looking once again for a church and found it. And once again, I was immersed in the world of Love/Hate/God, the fundamentalist Christian church. There, we all lived together in the dim passageways of delusion, convinced we were the only ones who had found THE light. I lived in that world for 22 years, always full of crippling fear but confusing it with truth. Here, sex wasn’t disgusting, it was a spiritual bonding that mirrored marriage to Jesus. What a concept! And men and women existed in a world in which women should delight in their submissive role since only men were mandated by God to lead. Never mind that it made you irrelevant. The old “homos” being “disgusting” was replaced with a “love the sinner not the sin” mentality. So now, not only did I know the love of God, but I could save those “homos” from their sinful ways, which was an act of love approved by God! But along the way, still living with blinders on to keep out the blinding light, Albert came into view.
Albert was a young African American boy in my third son’s 5th grade class in our church’s school, rescued from poverty and sin and on the true path to holiness with a scholarship. Almost at once, something in me knew he was gay but didn’t acknowledge it till much later. As I watched Albert grow up in our church and school, completely immersed in its world of anti-gay teachings disguised as love, he just kept looking gayer and gayer. And no matter how many years of preaching he heard or prayers prayed for him, he just kept looking gayer. Even playing on the football team didn’t take the gay out of Albert. No one spoke of it, but everyone knew Albert was “the gay boy”. But we believed God would get the gay out of Albert, because, well, God loved Albert, and gay was sinful. God would save Albert from the sin of homosexuality. Only he didn’t.
Albert was a sweet boy, physically beautiful with a long, lean, slender and graceful body, and as he became more and more involved in the performing arts program at our school, it was apparent that Albert was a gifted dancer. Watching Albert grow up, sensing there was something inherent in him that made him gay but never talking about it, I found myself more and more hanging around closer to the exits leading from the dimness of the passageways into the light of the surface world, but I didn’t realize my eyes were getting used to the brightening light that I still feared. I began wondering what it must be like for Albert to be surrounded by people who hated what he was.
At about that same time my family had gotten into the habit of watching American Idol. I had pulled away from it. I mean it was a dumb singing contest, a reality show. One day at the beginning of Season 8, I was walking through my living room carrying a basket of laundry as the family was watching and I heard this voice. This amazing voice. I dropped the basket and said “ Who. Is. That?” It was Adam Lambert. And he changed my life. I watched every single night till the end of that season and fell more and more in love with this beautiful, brilliant, charismatic young man with THAT VOICE, exuding LIFE from every pore, with a fierce, single minded determination that screamed a confidence and self-possession that riveted me and took my breath away. His inner strength and spirit of love and goodness exploded from the screen into my heart. And with it the light exploded into my life. Completely caught off guard, I fell in love with Adam Lambert. Not a romantic love of course. But a powerful love that to this day, almost three years later, I cannot define.
Soon it became clear that Adam was gay. Pictures leaked to the media made it unquestionable. The love/hate game began. Preachers sent out word to their flocks not to vote for Adam Lambert and aid his evil homosexual agenda. Vote for the Christian worship leader contestant and show America that God is in charge! I was filled with such outrage and felt such pain for him as I watched this beautiful young man’s private sex life blasted onto the world scene, torn down and vilified and stripped of the title he had worked so hard to earn simply because his sex life was different than most. And I realized I didn’t care a bit how he lived out his sexual life. And I didn’t believe he was a sinner because of it. And it became suddenly crystal clear to me that I actually believed he was born gay and was meant to be gay and I had actually believed that deep inside for years because Albert had shown me. I loved Adam Lambert. And that love, which I had been taught so many years ago was the essence of God, lifted me and carried me out of the dim passageways into the fullness of light. As I watched and listened to Adam’s interviews, as he talked of love and acceptance of all people, as he so stubbornly refused to be confined in a PC box and made ashamed of how he was sexually wired, as he admitted how confounded he was by the way humans seek reasons to hate differences instead of celebrating our sameness, as he answered attacks with humility and dignity, I felt the rays of light and warmth and TRUTH on my face and danced with Adam Lambert out my cave prison, and I’m dancing with him still.
In the almost 3 years since I first encountered Adam, thanks to the awakening of the light of truth and love he lit within me, and his community of open-minded free-spirited fans helped flame, the resulting freedom fire in my soul that replaced the darkness of my past cave life has extinguished the shadows that once danced there as they fell one after the other like dominoes. Adam Lambert was the catalyst for a transformation that has freed me, my children, and changed the course of my descendants. I am learning not to fear the world but, like Adam Lambert, to love and embrace it and all who live in it, even those who still live in the bondage of the cave. My mission in life is to help them find their way out of the cave of fear and into the light of the true God - LOVE.
Albert is now a dancer in New York City, living an out and proud gay life, having experienced his own journey out of the cave into the light.
Adam Lambert is now a Grammy nominated artist with Platinum album and singles in many countries around the globe, headlined a wildly successful worldwide tour, the only American Idol contestant ever to do so off a debut album. He was recently granted the honor of being chosen to stand in the place of the late Freddie Mercury by fronting for QUEEN at the 2011 MTV EMA awards recently in Belfast, Ireland (see links below), singing to a world wide TV audience of over a billion people. He will front for the iconic band again this summer in Moscow, Poland, and the UK.
His sophomore album, Trespassing, debuted on May 15th at #1 on the Billboard Hot 200, making history as the first openly gay artist to have an album debut at the top of the Billboard charts.
"Love overcomes hate. Love has no color. Love has no orientation. All is love. :)" - Adam Lambert
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Watch Adam's Better Than I Know Myself music video and stunning performance with QUEEN at the 2011 MTV EMA Awards here (second link, scroll to last clip for HQ
- Better Than I Know Myself - Adam Lambert
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