A friend of mine thinks humanity is evolving at light speed ... literally. She speaks of dimensional shifts and galactic light and local solar bursts that alter human DNA in something called the Ascension Process. She says that old-guard conservatism is fighting change, tooth and nail, railing against progression and rallying for outdated paradigms. She says that old divisions will continue to widen during the course of the shift. Black-and-white dogma becomes more glaring and shades-of-gray compromise will become more rare. She believes this is the course of human evolution and that many of us feel growing pains.
I looked up Ascension Process and found dozens of posts. They offer glimmers of hope just when many of us feel all at sea, in need of life vests in an ocean of Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen, National Rifle Association and white nationalists, Breitbart and Fox. The Ascension Process, though incredible, is comforting. Chasms that separate Americans seem like they're widening, and the usual wedges -- religion and politics -- are pounded deeper with every 24-hour news cycle. Channel surfing from Fox to CNN to MSNBC feels more otherworldly than ever, and it's easy to wonder if the reporters and commentators are from the same planet.
Political systems are divisive by definition: us and them, insiders and outsiders, red and blue. That's the nature of the beast. And politics, like religion, has always been the La Brea tar pit of dining room tables, but for some reason politics and religion seem stickier than ever. Small talk about either is an oxymoron. There is no small talk when opinions are so big. Maybe those seated around the table have been properly vetted and if so, converse away. But if not, be prepared for a mini version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. That sweet little church lady or that bright young college student could morph into an evangelical Trumpster right before your eyes and ruin everyone's dinner.
So for the sake of digestion, keep your thoughts to yourself. Think, but don't scoff out loud at evangelicals' continued die-hard support of a philandering, nepotistic, bullying, braying narcissist. Don't mention that Jesus would roll in his grave had Christ not pulled another ascension 2,000 years ago. There's no grave in which he could roll, though I suspect he would roll his eyes gravely at Trump's newly embraced religion. And don't theorize about the furious prayer meetings and the thunder of thumped Bibles had Hillary Clinton's son-in-law been in deep financial doo-doo over a property with the address 666. Don't go there. Talk about the weather and the Academy Awards, because you never know if pod people are at table with you.
Of course religion and politics are obvious dividers. But these, some of the most basic human institutions, pale in comparison to what is happening to the very nature of relationships. #MeToo sparked a discussion that's utterly Promethean.
#MeToo scrutinizes the norms of First World sexual behavior, and how men and women, men and men, and women and women relate. #MeToo redefines flirting and courtship and relationships, and many folks are experiencing agonizing reappraisal as the norms reset. As with the unholy union of religion and politics, we're beginning to understand the consequences of blending sex and power, and for the first time in a very long time I believe the sexes are on the path to genuine equality. There's fundamental benefit gained by separating sex from power, and the payoff has just begun, and this makes me think of Wonder Woman.
Fiction follows life and life follows fiction, and I think the film depiction of a comic book hero was cosmically timely.
The film resonated for a surprising number of women and men because the portrayal of a beautiful, powerful, independent woman didn't feel patronizing or far-fetched. For once, and despite looking pretty glamorous in her getup, Diana of Themyscira projected a different kind of strength. What's different? The acting? The plot? Maybe it was the audience, primed and ready to perceive a strong woman not through the eyes of heterosexual men and the old guard but perhaps through the eyes of evolving humanity. Maybe we changed and are now ready to accept strong women and equality not as an entertaining anomaly but as a genuine reality.
A few months later, Harvey Weinstein plummeted from grace. Icons like Matt Lauer and Garrison Keillor and James Levine and dozens if not hundreds of high-profile men (and some women) followed, and while I suspect a few innocents have been swept up without the benefit of a trial, I also believe a paradigm is shifting right before our eyes, and there's no turning back. Another chasm widens. The union of sex and power isn't going to blend quite as easily as it has in the past.
It's an interesting time to be a gay man. I think about the times I've used sex for advantage or have been used for sex by someone I perceived as more authoritative, and I think of these times with no regret. I do so because I never felt powerless in those situations. My job wasn't at stake, nor my livelihood or well-being. I was lucky, and in that luck I recognize the plight of women and men who weren't so fortunate. I realize that thinking about such things seems different than it has in the past, and I wonder what is causing this shift in attitude.
Maybe my friend is right. Maybe there is an Ascension Process. Maybe humanity is evolving. Or maybe it's just taken so much darkness to see the light. Anybody who's watched a sunrise knows there is truth in an ancient certainty:
"It's always darkest before the dawn."
KURT NIECE is an artist, jeweler, and author of The Breath of Rapture and Mercury Fields. He and his partner, Gary live with their beloved feline in the crystal valleys of Hot Springs Village, Ark.