This morning I received an email from Susan Munson letting me know that Tom died yesterday afternoon. I know that all of you who read his brilliant, irreverent and hilarious comments here will grieve this loss with me. Although Munson kept us posted on his illness and his prognosis, I realized when I heard of his passing that I have been waiting for Munson to come back and begin writing again. It’s devastating to imagine this blog without him, and he leaves a vast hole in the space he filled with his intelligence and kindness.
Munson lived in Boise, Idaho. He was a prestigious lawyer, a devoted husband and dad to Paul, 23. He was so much larger than life – he was a reader, a philosopher, a brilliant observer, an astute historian and an incredible character. He embraced every experience to the fullest, including mental illness and his own final battle with cancer. (Don’t miss Living With Tom for a compelling account of the former.) His death at the age of 60 feels like a theft.
Munson seemed to have an encyclopedic knowledge of many things, but when he found HUS in November, he introduced himself as a neophyte and set out to learn what he could about hookup culture, and to share whatever observations he might from his own experience. Here’s how he burst onto the scene:
@ EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU
I was feeling pretty confident about commenting on this site, then read today’s rather cryptic (to me anyway)essay and the 62 (62!-and counting) comments that followed and realized….I don’t really have that much of a clue. I knew being married for 30 years, my last date having occurred in the middle of the Carter administration, and my complete lack of computer skills and nomenclature (beta guys? Who’s gviing out pills?) would be a drawback. But I’m playing standard chess, y’all are playing 3 dimensional. It’s the rhetorical equivalent of the scence in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”: I pull out a broad sword, you shoot me in the head with a .44 Magnum.
“Hooking up” sounds like something cooked up by guys, in fact it’s what gay dudes used to tell me they did pre-AIDS (late 70s). I said as much, and my son said in reality most of the chicks he knew reacted like they would have in my day-feeling ripped off, emotionally bereft, partially confirmed in their sexuality but paying a lot for it.
I said I wanted the basics SMV – is that a typo? HB 8 – what’s that?
I was NOT trying to be normative – I was just trying to see if I UNDERSTOOD the general tenor of the discussion. I have not had a date since the middle of the Carter administration, will never have another one, but oddly like to follow and drop in on the discussion. There are dozens of terms tossed casually around and many have been explicating the situation for a long time. If I can just see the dust from the ponies ahead of me I’ll be ok.
It’s hard for me to choose my favorite comments of Munson’s – he wrote nearly 800. For me, these two stand out:
There is a prominent place within our spirit that contains our sexuality. It goes so far beyond need, ego satisfaction, craving-the sex itself is only a pebble tossed into an immense lake; the ripples extend from here to eternity. Deny it and ultimately you will feel bereft. Deny it long enough and you will lose forever the capacity to know it. It’s called consequences. Every moment of your life and every act you do or forbear carries them.
I will be dead in a year and I would not trade places with any one of you. I would not bet that I could find again the love I found, lived, have and will have to my last dying breath. My regimen has nearly destroyed my body; I look like ET or the first pregnant man you ever saw. I am swollen, distended, irritable-yeah, pregnant except women don’t lose their hair. And when my Susan looks at me I KNOW she sees none of that, she sees the man she loves and wants to keep, as long as she can, and I her, whatever the cost , however the losses mount up.
And I will tell you this. You will never find that, or even come remotely close to it, none of you, in gratuitous anonymous hookups, narcissistic meaningless seminal discharges, or whatever the hell else you want to call these vulgar bestial couplings that are even worse than the meanderings of barnyard animals. It doesn’t even rise to the level of disgusting.
So keep at it. Keep at this long enough and you will leave this world never knowing what I’ve known. Forget what I’ve written here; it will be a blessing that you do not know what you’ve missed.
But I can’t resist. Look on the end of that hook you’re using to “hook up” with; what’s on it?
If you cannot answer that, even Uncle tom cannot help you.
I think the end goal of all religion, philosophy, psychology, anything that is designed to lift the spirit of man is to instill a deep and abiding sense of gratitude. On all levels, as to all things. I think it is the unifying concept of our existence, that which makes all of the events in our lives by turns wonderous, ecstatic, endurable, surmountable. Without a sense of gratitude we become unmoored, unhinged, we want more and more, are never satisfied, and as we succeed in our obtaining we don’t get the “payoff” we expect, in fact may not even achieve satiation, only a dull pause before the itch rekindles. I think gratitude does for the human psyche what creativity does in the arts: it is a unifying capacity that, once developed, can manifest itself in as many ways as we see fit, expanding and adding to our experience.
I see gratitude playing an unlikely role in the very topic of this site-initmacy, how to achieve it and nurture it into a strong loving relationship. Gratitude restores our balance. It gives our innate humanity a blueprint to follow in our interactions, a core sense of ourselves that helps vitiate the worst effects of monsters like the SMP, where people are rated (“a 5, maybe a 6″), games are played (“shit test”-Lord help me), where manipulation is extolled as a virute rather than condemned as the utterly contemptible practice that it is. I’m getting too florid; I need to give you an image.
Dear Sister Agnes gave our class the following example of Heaven and Hell. HELL: a large dinner table with the most sumptuous food imaginable. Seated are people near starved to death; they have very long spoons, so long that they cannot insert them into their mouths. Each spoon is piled with food, but they cannot get to it.
HEAVEN: exactly the same scene, only here everyone is healthy and well-fed. Their spoons are the same, but they reach across the table to feed each other. They are happy, satisfied, at peace, probably a little overweight. I would posit that a sense of gratitude gave the second group the power to avoid the pitfalls of the first.
Ok Munson, so what does that have to do with us this Friday at the local Hookin’ Up place? Thought you’d never ask. What, you can’t apply the spoon analogy? When you look across the room at someone, do you think “What have they got for me?” (i e looks, sexual appeal, etc.) Well, how’s about “What is in me for them?” Hold you spoon out. I’m not expecting you’ll become a bunch of St. Francis of Assissi’s, but your heart will start in the right place-’cuz it will be where your soul is.
Don’t expect any help from our culture. It is based on the pursuit of luxury and comfort, near mindless materialism, and a literally mindless hedonsim. It tells you if you acquire all the right pieces, you can assemble happiness like a tinker toy. Nope. Never worked, never will. First of all, happiness is an ingredient, not a result. You put happiness INTO your life, not the other way around. And the main ingerient of happiness is gratitude. Think about it; you’ve never met anyone who is happy who is not grateful.
To start you on your gratitude project, I’ll leave you with this: 399,999 other sperms were in the mix to create you, but you won. Be grateful.
Munson was diagnosed with his illness in February. Three of his comments from that time moved me deeply:
My wife and I have been of course crying and consoling today, but she has told me “I don’t care if we live in an apartment or a tent by the Boise River, all I need is you.” It doesn’t matter what I lose-my hair, my colon, my liver-I will never lose her, nor she me. The image I have of us is (a little corny) two rocky outcroppings joined together against the ocean; though wave after wave assail us, we’re still there. I hope each of you in this noisy point in your life finds that, finds someone who lives the vows of “for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.” I wish for you:
To know the pain of too much tenderness
To be wounded by your own understanding of love
And to bleed willingly and joyfully
“The Prophet” Kahlil Gibran
I wrote about what Susan and I went through a week ago today. It was big, eventful. But you know what really captures out marriage, what truly encapsulates it, is something that goes on almost everyday for the last 17 years, or at least ever work day. We moved into a 2 story house then. When I come home from work she is usually upstairs; she can’t hear me come in so I yell “Hey hon’!” And ever time, every time, she hollers “HIIIIIII!!!!” in a voice so full of joy and delight, so glad I’m home, so complete in its unexpurgated happiness that I’m touched EVERY TIME I HEAR IT! I soar hearing it like a UFO in an Ed Wood movie (ref”Plan Nine From Outer Space”; “Ed Wood”).
She just called from the gym; it’s 9:40 p m here. I had recently expressed a renewed preference for boxer shorts, and I have my biopsy scheduled tomorrow morning. She was calling me to inform me that Shopko is still open and if I wanted she’d drop in and get me some boxers (I have a dozen pairs). I told her no, it can wait. Those are the things that comprise day-to-day love, not the balcony scenes from Romeo & Juliet.
God I love her.
Many people have been telling me, in reference to my condition, to “rage, rage against the dying of the light”. Dylan Thomas epic lines are certainly moving. But I am called to remember God’s response to Job when he questioned God’s running of things, and specifically His undeserved punishment of him. I can’t do it justice, but God comes out of a whirlwind and says to Job Where were you when I created the universe? Tell Me how I did it, if you have the understanding? Did you give yourself life? Have you so many days you can tell Me how to move the stars of the Pleiades, or scatter the ones of Orion? Who gave you undertstanding of your own heart? Who gave you wisdom? Can you even perceive the breadth of the earth? Do you water the deserts where no man has set foot? Do you feed the lions? Do you keep the waves at bay, or know how light is created? Do you know how to make rivers, that the denizens thereof have homes? Where have you such understanding that you can question anything I do? Who gave you this responsibility?
I am not Job. I have been blessed with abundance.
I am working on assembling Munson’s writing into a PDF of his wit and wisdom and will offer a download here soon so that you can all have a copy.
Munson and I were only a few years apart in age, and he referred to me as his “sister from another mister.” He also addressed me as Cheerful on the blog, short for Cheerful Sadist, which he felt captured the expression of my avatar photo. I will miss Munson so much. My heart goes out to his family and friends.
What are your favorite memories of our beloved Munson?