Policing the boundaries

Haakon VII av Asta NørregaardS resigned her membership of Quakers, but I was wrong to say she had left the Society. How hard it is to avoid assumptions! I had seen no difference, but she wanted to continue attending, and was angry when I suggested there was a difference between an ordinary attender, who was approaching us, or a long term attender who just did not want to go through the membership procedure, and someone who had resigned membership. This got it clearer in my own mind.

There is the community of people: you become one of us. There are those keeping the practice alive- the crew of the ship- and the passengers. And membership shows commitment to the Ideal of Quakerism. Resigning feels like a step back. We accept that many do not clearly fit any category, and we have individual relationships. S feels at the moment she will continue to attend the Quaker meeting. Since we would generally assume that resignation means leaving, S has to make it clear that it does not.

She might cease attending at any time. I would like my community to have continuity. It remains a pain when it does not.

M came to Charney Manor after attending only three Quaker meetings. On the Friday night we sat in the Solar and I heard from him how once he is in touch with The Real, which is inside him, questions of “acceptance” of reality or “forgiveness” fall away. Fair enough, I suppose. A bit dogmatic. Then on the Saturday morning in silent worship he said “Should we not use the true name of God, which is Allah?”

Over lunch, I confronted him. “Al Lah” means “The God”. It adds nothing to understanding, and why should we use Arabic? We got heated. I told him his views were worthless, and he insisted he had uttered a question rather than an opinion. I asked if he knew what a double question was, and he said “No”. He said my utterances were meaningless, I asked if he was Logical Positivist, he said No. “I’ve never seen Quakers argue before,” said Tia.

Later, he said to me “I’m sorry if you were upset by my opinions, but I am entitled to say what I think.” So I asked him a question: “What makes you imagine I was upset by your opinions?” He answered a different question, saying he could hear it in my voice, though I repeated the question, saying, “What makes you imagine I was upset -by—Your—Opinions?” I was upset, by childhood trauma, the complete inability to communicate.

We manage to contain widely differing views in the Society by giving primacy to the Practice of stillness, being careful how we describe it and far more how we explain it. A church where all are expected to accept Substitutionary Atonement has different pressures, but we show respect to each other’s views, and come to share them rather than to teach others. In sharing, we gain understanding. In teaching, we gain only a form of words.

Some day I will be old

Women, birds and a star, 1949, oil on canvasHere’s Bert, peering through thick glasses, two hearing aids, a wee bit breathless, complaining how Quakers have changed in the last sixty years. “You’re a Christian, aren’t you?” He asks. Yes. So that is me safely boxed, one of the less threatening ones.

I had a lovely time with Tia, walking in the garden. She does not like English literature, it is boring to be told what a book or a poem is about. She likes writing. She writes poetry, liking rules which restrict what words she can choose, which can make the poem better. Like haiku, with seventeen syllables. So I tell her one of mine:

Blossom like snowfall
Sunshine like a ["lover's"- oops, internal censor comes out- "loving"] touch
The Supermarket

She laughed at that. It’s about nature- as we understand haiku- then something boringly everyday. It is called “bathos”. High-flown, then crash to Earth. Though- why should we distinguish “lovely places” and “boring places”? I walked in the sunshine from the High Street past some trees  and grass to Morrisons. You respond to the verse, and you can put your response into words. In Creative Writing she wrote a poem about me wanting an apple so we went to the trees, but found only cookers.

Circus Horse, tempera on canvas, 1927We walked between the hedge and the wall, up to the other wall.
-Oh, we’ve come to a stop.
-I was wondering when you’d notice.
-OK, we could climb that wall, go back, or go through that hedge.
So she went through the hole in the hedge, and I followed.

She is just starting GCSEs, but I am old enough that my children, had I had any, might have graduated and got jobs. People that age think differently, see the World differently. Now, the World is mine, but soon it will be theirs, so I should learn how they think. When Bert peers at me he sees someone two generations younger, nearly. I would not like to be so puzzled by the World, that people two generations younger owned it, but I wanted it to be as I had made it and had not thought to learn their ways.

Though please realise this is not Bert himself. I have no idea that such a desperate plight might be his, merely that it might be possible, and I should strive to avoid it. It was an inkling I got when I happened to be looking at him, which is not the same as a true understanding.

Bert told a story where I would admire him. He was in logistics, though that was not the word he used. A driver thought he had planned the journey badly, and was so angry he raised his fist to hit him. Bert, believing his pacifism should start with personal relations, did not defend himself, and the other’s fist stopped just short of his chin.

When I retreated to the monastery in the 90s, the Guestmaster told how men remained, to an extent, as they had been in the World- there were 70s men there, 50s men, even one or two with 1930s manners and mannerisms.

Controlling the plebs

VIII hate the word “hysterical”, derived from the word for “womb”, but it has no precise synonym. Irascible and neurotic together fit the circs. I had a letter from the landlord’s agent, about the safety inspection for my gas boiler. “It is imperative that the appointment is kept.” In Bold at the bottom, it says,

If you have a card/key operated gas or electricity meter, please ensure that gas and electricity is in credit, as the plumber requires both to carry out his tests. If there is no gas or electricity and the plumber has to call back you will be responsible for the call out charge of £25. It would be far better to arrange another appointment, than incur a bill for an abortive call out.

XVIII wonder how often that happens, that people have no money for gas or electric, the paltry Emergency Credit of £5 runs out, most of the money they have paid in has gone to past arrears, so they are cut off at the exact time of the annual safety inspection. Possibly only once, or possibly the agent has thought- oh help, what if that happens? A hectoring WE WILL BLAME YOU AND YOU WILL SUFFER!!!! paragraph is necessary.

What about this, from the friendly DWP, requesting information? If I have not received this information within 14 days from the date at the top of this letter then I may need to suspend your claim to benefit [stop paying your income] until this info has been received.XIII

Stop paying my income! Plunge me into crisis! Crises come regularly. I was in the surgery when a woman wanted a prescription the following day. “We need 48 hours’ notice,” said the receptionist, and the woman had a melt down. The receptionist relented.

I can still pass for middle class, my underclass status comes out later, and Phil told me how unpleasant it was to work in the jobcentre. When she joined a few years ago it was about supporting people to find work, but now it is about bullying and threatening them. Pete said that people were bullied into any sort of job- zero hours contracts, minimum wage- rather than found jobs fit for their skills.

When the DSS stopped paying giros on the sick weekly, making them fortnightly, I had people complaining that they could not budget for a fortnight, the money would run out two or three days early. The DSS would send a special giro book paying weekly in only exceptional circumstances. Now, they are starting to pay benefits monthly, in arrears.

Though now I read that if it is more likely than not that one’s health will be adversely affected by having ESA stopped, it should not be stopped. Brilliant! I record this, for my next struggle with ATrOciouS and the Department for Withdrawing Payment.

Comfortable words

Nasturtiums with the Painting Dance, 1 MatisseTibago has been reading “How to defend the faith without raising your voice“. I challenged him in a comment to state Catholic doctrine on homosexuality, and he did so, rather well, I thought, putting it positively. His church is against discrimination, though when I googled “Catholic school dismiss lesbian teacher” I found Barbara Webb, Lisa Reimer, and this case from Italy, then gave up in dismay. Gay people can have “rich, deep, intense and fulfilling” same sex friendships without sex, and it is a shame that people seeing such friendships think the people are gay says Tibago- so JH Newman Wasn’t Gay!!

These are comfortable words. A straight Catholic could mouth them and feel good about himself, believing them reasonable and loving. I unpacked them a bit in the comments, saying what we hear is a demand that we never have a partner, and a statement that our expression of love is worth less than that of straights. To feel good, that straight Catholic has to lack empathy. And not everyone uses such apparently loving words: another site is happy to use words like “abomination”, “sodomite” and “hell”.

I had a look at what the Catholic Bishops had to say to parents finding their children were gay. They refer to prejudiced language offensive to gays as “humor”. They say that on finding out, parents might feel anger, mourning, fear, guilt, shame and loneliness. They tell parents to seek out therapy, and perhaps fake conversion “therapy”, though the Bishops do not require this in all cases. Parents should challenge their Matisse Lilacschildren if they have a partner, urge them to return to the Church through the sacrament of penance, and join up with other anti-gay parents. Such children could not have any sort of leadership or service role in the church if anyone thought they were having sex. But again there is lots of blah about Love, Respect, Compassion and Nature to make them feel better about themselves. Gods Grace is available to and sufficient for anyone open to receiving it, so if the gays are having sex it is entirely their fault.

I wondered for whose benefit this was. Celibacy freely chosen might be a spiritual discipline doing good for a person; celibacy enforced by others with backsliding and fear is not. God is love, and God’s commands are for our good- so how does enforced celibacy benefit us, when it is not good for the man to be alone, and better to marry than burn? God’s commands are for our individual good, not merely the good of the Community- though it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed, every hair on my head is numbered, which appears to show individual care. How would celibacy benefit me? Googling found me Celibrate, which says that sexual abstinence is healthier and more fulfilling than acting on homosexual urges, but does not say why.

Why Matisse? I did not want my post to be entirely depressing.

Whoosh! BANG!!

Syrian refugeesRussia Today publicized the anti-war demonstrations- well, Russia is against British military action- but what does the British Right have to say? Shashank Joshi of the Royal United Services Institute writes supporting “action” but indicating the arguments against in the Telegraph. In their poll, 65% of 1800 people had voted for bombing.

Joshi says that bombing Islamic State, which he calls ISIL, will help Iran-backed Shia militias in Iraq, who are not our friends. IS cannot be destroyed, only weakened: US airstrikes in Pakistan and the Yemen for over a decade have resulted in the “jihadists” controlling territory in those states.

He wants local troops doing the ground fighting. Well, if Scots troops funded by America were peacekeeping in England, I would be nervous, and if English troops were peacekeeping in Scotland I would seek to resist them. I don’t like people with guns. Anyway, he says the local troops are weak, mistrusted, small in number and divided. Iraqi troops ran from IS, leaving their new American equipment behind. If they were better trained, why would they never turn on us?

Given that Sykes-Picot and a century of Western meddling resulted in a Shia minority ruling a Sunni majority in Syria, and a Sunni minority ruling a Shia majority in Iraq, perhaps we should return to that policy if we really believe they might attack us: they would be too concerned to repress their own population.

The Daily Mail had some striking military porn: close-ups Syrian refugeesof fighter planes, that sort of thing. Its factual reporting was all of calls for war, alleged danger to Britain and the British, and vague descriptions of “evil” and “fanaticism”. The Defence Secretary has warned strikes could take 2-3 years before we gave up having only made things worse (that last bit was me, obviously). They say Mr Miliband supports airstrikes, revealing that Labour has ceased to be a left-wing party. Nick Clegg said Britain must “play its part” against what Mr Cameron calls “evil”. Well, no. The question for military action is not whether we dislike the military forces we would be bombing, but whether any military action could achieve any useful result. Past experience shows that it will not.

We are facing an evil against which the whole World must unite, said Mr Cameron. Asked what he would like to happen to Jihadi John, he said, ‘I’m not sure I can describe in words what I’d like to happen to him. He should see justice one way or another. Well, I can. He should be tried, and if found guilty, punished according to law. If the PM wants more, I do not want him in that job, letting emotion call for bombing and killing where rationality would call for restraint.

God have mercy. They have voted for bombing.

Feminine me

Maria Naeff-Dalp by Felix Maria DioggI divorce “feminine” from “womanly”, because arguably I am male. But these are my nature, not nurture- my nurture was to make me masculine. You might argue that I grew up learning that these qualities were feminine, but that would be too weak to inculcate them in me. My femininity is innate. Because of it, I express myself female. What of these “feminine” characteristics do I claim?

Sensitive, empathetic, compassionate. Doing something to serve another is one of my greatest pleasures. After I was sacked as a solicitor, the third partner had left her keys behind. Working my notice, I was given little to do, and was sent to drive after her with them. When I handed them over, I felt a rush of delight. In the CAB, I gave people the space to open up and express their distress, not because I am an emotional vampire, but because I felt it made them feel better, and because I could earth their pain rather than take it into myself. So I am communal, unselfish, supportive, motherly, nurturing, gentle, forgiving. Caring. I care.

“Fragile” is thought of as a feminine characteristic. Well, if I am open and undefended, vulnerable because my feelings are close to the surface, I will be hurt sometimes. Healthily, I will process that hurt immediately, rather than suppressing it up and getting more stressed. This may make me appear “fragile” sometimes. I cry, rather than preserving a stiff upper lip. So “Fragile” is an irremovable part of a good feminine characteristic. Duchess Maria Elizabeth in Bavaria

“Uncompetitive”- I see that decisiveness and ambition are good qualities, and I don’t have them. The world would be uncomfortable if everyone had. I am communal and nurturing, to heal some of the hurts from that ambition. This leads to being modest, demure, seeking to be charming and attractive to win that ambitious, go-getting female. It can seem passive. I would be tactful- asking the feminine question “Would you like a break?” rather than making the masculine statement, “We need a break now”.

Artistic and expressive? I like colourful, eye-catching clothes and I love to perform- I did “The Story of my Breast” again at Charney Manor. I love children, and seek to enter their imaginative world. I like to play. I would find it fulfilling to be possessed by a masculine woman.

Ours is a social species, and these characteristics need to be in someone, or we would kill each other- just as the masculine characteristics are needed, or we would never achieve anything. Feeling like this has terrified me. Slowly I come to value it. “Feminine” is beautiful and valuable. Why should I not be Feminine?



File:Helleu Paul Cesar - Portrait Of A Woman.jpgWhat does the word “Feminine” mean? If I can divorce it from “womanly”, has it any other meaning? Have any women an opinion on this?

Kat Powell writes on the Romantic concept of Sensibility, where virtue and emotion together produced the appropriate response. Appropriate feminine sensibility resulted in good behaviour: there are controlling aspects to this, which can be rendered powerless if we divorce the concept from “pertaining to women”. Or go with Mary Wollstonecraft, who proposed one standard of virtue and equal education.

Claire Zammit and Katherine Woodward Thomas say that to fit in a man’s world, women have followed masculine power. This is the power to create things that can be controlled, [while] feminine power is the power to manifest that which is beyond our control, including those things that our heart most yearns for–intimacy, relatedness, creative expression, authentic community and meaningful contribution. Women care about love, intimacy, connection, belonging, creativity, self-expression, aliveness, meaning, purpose, contribution and a brighter future for generations to come.

Vanessa Halloum writes of “five feminine power virtues”- Presence, Authenticity, Sensuality, Spirituality and Gratitude.

Confucius said that a woman should obey her father, then her husband, and when a widow she should obey her sons. Her virtues were morality, proper speech, modest appearance and diligent work. Modest appearance: it is her job to avoid men being turned on, and she must not use File:Wilhelm Trübner Dame mit schwarzem Halsband.jpgsexuality for power. That is why I am reading women. Myisha Cherry says the concept of feminine virtue is a tool of patriarchy- so we need to do better than her dismissive list, “chastity, modesty and obedience” as opposed to masculine “toughness, strength and ambition”.

John Gerzema asked people whether they thought certain attributes were masculine or feminine, and found eight feminine ones were in the top ten required for leaders: Expressive, plans for future, reasonable, loyal, flexible, patient, intuitive and collaborative. For my own personal femininity I choose to include resilient as well: others call it masculine, and well OK. Inc magazine says leaders need feminine traits: empathy, vulnerability, inclusiveness, humility, generosity, balance and patience.

Krystal Baugher celebrates feminine traits: thoughtfulness/nurturing; delicate beauty; empathy, emotional vulnerability, intuition, patience, sensuality and radiance.

The Buddhist Library says Having masculine traits primarily means that a person is independent and assertive. This related to high self-esteem and to success in many situations.

Having feminine traits primarily means that a person is nurturant and interpersonally oriented. Such people therefore, tend to experience greater social closeness with others.

Here is James Park’s Gender-pattern chart. He argues that all femininity or masculinity is cultural, and that both sexes may show traits from both patterns. Creative, expressive, tolerant, nurturing, gentle, spiritual, compassionate, warm- here I have a cultural concept of femininity which I love, and which fits me. More on this tomorrow. I am pleased with my dialogue yesterday, which has an original Churchill anecdote.


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