Friday, December 31, 2010
Bridge of Light: A Gay Winter Holiday
This is excerpted from writer Joe Perez's blog. Joe is the author of Soulfully Gay:
A Gay Winter Holiday
For each of the past six years, I and small clusters of people have lit six colored candles to bring in the New Year. They are the colors of the gay community’s Rainbow Flag; they are the colors of the chakras; they are the colors of the great evolutionary Spiral. And this year, on December 31, I will once again remember, honor, hope, and heal.
I’ve been reminded time and again by well-meaning onlookers that new traditions need to evolve organically and not by fiat. Since I published newspaper columns and blogged about the Bridge of Light, I’ve wondered if anyone else is lighting the candles. I’ve heard at times from dozens of individuals who have kept the tradition, and had my spirit lifted.
But at other times, I’ve felt this was a quixotic, virtually impossible chance at shifting gay culture into more mature and evolutionary practices as well as shift American and world cultures into fuller appreciation of the LGBT community’s spiritual dignity and distinctiveness. What am I really hoping to achieve? And what sort of crazy idea is this as a way of shifting culture?
Bridge of Light 101
Before I dive into these questions, this is what you need to know. The holiday was founded in 2004 as a winter solstice celebration called Yuletide and by the next year was renamed Bridge of Light and moved to the New Year. Soon thereafter it allied with the World Spirituality Day, an event founded by the San Francisco-based Integrative Spirituality about the same time. World Spirituality Day is imagined by some as “The Earth Day for the Spirit,” and Bridge of Light is imagined as the distinctive LGBT community contribution to the international holiday.
The central tradition for Bridge of Light is the lighting of candles in six colors, one for each color of the rainbow flag. According to followers of the tradition, each candle honors a universal spiritual principle. In 2009, with the assistance of Kittredge Cherry, the principles were defined as follows:
1.The First Principle: Red, the Root of Spirit (Community), celebrated on December 26 or the first candle of New Year’s Eve. The suggested practice is meditations on the first chakra.
2.The Second Principle: Orange, the First of Spirit (Eros), celebrated on December 27 or the second candle of New Year’s Eve. The suggested practice is meditations on the second chakra.
3.The Third Principle: Yellow, the Core of Spirit (Self-Esteem), celebrated on December 28 or the third candle of New Year’s Eve. The suggested practice is meditations on the third chakra.
4.The Fourth Principle: Green, the Heart of Spirit (Love), celebrated on December 29 or the fourth candle of New Year’s Eve. The suggested practice is meditations on the fourth chakra.
5.The Fifth Principle: Blue, the Voice of Spirit (Self-Expression and Justice), celebrated on December 30 or the fifth candle of New Year’s Eve. The suggested practice is meditations on the fifth chakra.
6.The Sixth Principle: Purple, the Eye of Spirit (Wisdom), celebrated on December 31 or the sixth and final candle of New New Year’s Eve. The suggested practice is meditations on the sixth chakra.
There is also a seventh principle of the holiday: the Crown of Spirit (Spirituality). It is not symbolized by a separate candle, but by the unity of the six other candles, kept lit past midnight into the New Year. The suggested practice is a meditation on the seventh chakra.
Unity in Diversity
So there you have it, the seven principles of the Bridge of Light. If your spirituality is evolutionary (as mine is), then you’ll also be inspired to associate each of these colors with a stage in the development of spiritual awareness and progressive realization of dignity and justice and maturity of the LGBT community.
What I’ve said before about the holiday is:
Bridge of Light is a symbol recognizing the hidden unity veiled by the many colors of the rainbow, the symbol most closely associated with the gay rights movement worldwide. As important as it is to appreciate the diversity of unique colors, it is also important to recognize our commonalities and dignity as human beings, he says.
The Holiday’s Reception
Today there is the obligatory underutilized and perfunctory Facebook group and dozens of written endorsements from LGBT dignitaries who (honestly) may or may not care a hoot about the holiday’s status as an ongoing enterprise. I haven’t heard from most endorsers in a while and can only guess whether they keep the tradition alive or if they’ve lapsed into non-practicing status.
Over the years, I have heard from dozens of readers of my book Soulfully Gay (which told the story of the holiday’s origin in its final chapter) who tell me they bring the Bridge of Light as a component to their solstice and holiday parties. While that’s positive, I think, I’m not sure what the lighting of the candles represents if it is taken merely as decoration not as a shared practice of communal solidarity and universal harmony.
I have sent news releases faithfully to the LGBT newspapers every year for the past five years, but mainly the mainstream Queer press ignores the holiday. I have blogged about the holiday, but feedback loop on a blog is insubstantial enough to leave me guessing as to the holiday’s notability. At times, it’s been a lonely journey; and then I feel shame at caring about the holiday’s reception in the world at all. Surely there are more important things to be concerned about.
Today I have sober ambitions but anything but a somber outlook. I am content to keep my own Bridge of Light candles burning and let the world know that the wisdom it bears is not forgotten. The holiday’s message, I think, is best determined by those who keep it alive and share it with others, not with anything that I’ve written, done, or left undone. With the passing of years, the holiday remains. Its message of spiritual unity, human dignity, and celebration of life is carried forward and continually renewed.
Keeping the Candles Lit
To anyone without an evolutionary spirituality, the idea of starting a new holiday as a way of shifting culture has got to seem futile or crazy. They say what is real is what is traditional, and Bridge of Light’s heritage is a slight seven years. They say what is real is what is conventional, and Bridge of Light gets little press. They say what is real is what is popular, but I say the fire of every tradition that is popular today was once a torch carried by a minority.
The World Spirit, by whatever name, is in our midst today, as real and manifest as anything else I know. But it is almost entirely unrecognized by the human beings too busy with what is traditional and conventional and popular to notice the divine spark flowing in all beings at all times. Spirit itself, like the Bridge of Light, does not require a page one article in the Advocate or a mention on Perez-Hilton. It is what it is, and that brings me hope.