Not all followers are congenial. A.L. Luttrell followed me, so I checked out his blog and found “Should Obama be impeached or tried for treason?” No, I would say. Simple enough question. Commenters divided on whether he should be hanged- hanging a black man, after all the Lynchings, looks bad- but I had difficulty discerning what was the purported treason. “Argus” thought he might suspend the constitution and rule as a dictator, a paranoia too far. Jimbo complained of people spending billions in campaigns- I agree that is a problem- but he thought the solution was to limit government power, not campaign spending. Nootkabear accused the President of “destroying our beloved nation”: perhaps everything he does is as hateful as treason to them.
“Aiding and abetting terrorists”, said wanderingtruthseeker. Luttrell agreed. Was it the prisoner swap of five Taliban for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl?
Harley said that Jesus was not tolerant, and we should not be tolerant of Obama’s disregard for the constitution either. “Render unto Caesar”, “Go the extra mile”- Jesus was completely tolerant of Roman arbitrary power, unlike many of his countrymen.
The vice-president would succeed, and they don’t think that would be an improvement.
Nanarhonda commented there, and revealed she believes Obama was not born a citizen of the US, so was not eligible to be President, and that ISIS have found Saddam’s WMDs in Iraq. This appears to be untrue, yet another partisan scare story.
I had a look at Nanarhonda’s blog, and found Matthew 24 NKJV- unfolding before our eyes? It depends what you mean by unfolding. Isaiah used apocalyptic language about Babylon’s conquest of Jerusalem, and to me Jesus’ language refers to the Jewish wars. Jesus saw the uppity Jews and the increasingly oppressive Romans, and prophesied this would end in war. This does not mean the end of the laws of physics, but the upending of society as we know it. And ever since the gospels were written, somewhere on Earth a society has been being destroyed by war. Always, somewhere, there are sorrows, tribulations, betrayal and deceit. This does not mean the coming of a Kingdom of Heaven in the “Left Behind” sense: insofar as it exists, the Kingdom of Heaven is the way of life of Jesus’ followers.
So I agree with Rhonda that the Islamic State persecution of Christians fits this, but not that it portends a Second Coming. In her comments she says some seem to think that God is American, even Republican, “And he is SO NOT!”
If I saw her merely as a Birther, so deluded and ridiculous, I would miss this point. God is of all people, not just her kind. I agree. That is a huge step towards empathy and respect for all people.
But there is more. She reached out to me in this comment. We have been emailing. It seems to me that she feels her society is threatened by gay pride, yet she met a lesbian for whom she had great respect, and now she wants to understand. She has told me something of the work she did, and I am sure if I had seen her there I would have liked her and respected her for it.
First I heard the fear anger and (I think) delusion- Obama is president through deceit, a traitor- and find this ridiculous and horrible. But then I see the person, and like her. I love her reaching out to me, in an attempt to understand.
I am happily theist, or at least Protean: that every hair on my head is numbered is valuable, and feels true to me. And David Boulton is bordering on anti-theist: he asserts as a matter of certainty that there is no God, that the promptings of love and truth are simply (not merely) our own evolved primate processes. He has a wonderful turn of phrase, for example “The Republic of Heaven”- that there is no God, no King, does not mean there is no Heaven, nor that we cannot be in it.
So I thought, I am glad he is a member of the Religious Society of Friends, because his extreme position makes room in our Society for others to join too. People like Mark. And there are others like Sarah, who pisses me off a bit, saying that “I was a theist when I was immature, and when you are mature like me you will be non-theist too”, but that is OK because we share these experiences.
And I thought, here am I, the Good Person. I am Eirenic, seeking ways we can come together, in our shared experience of God, or those unconscious processes, whatever it is, and where the words we use to explain our experiences, though different, do not get in the way. And Sarah, though she is polemic, speaking up for Her Side, the process is big enough to cope with our differences, and neither of us can do great damage to the Society even though it behoves us to take care to do good.
Then I thought, I have a lot of experience of being excluded. The last picked for the Volleyball team at school, because I was useless (Oh- was that you, too?) The queer, deviant, pervert. Here am I, the Good Person, making sure everyone is included and no-one is cast out, and I am that out of my own experience of being excluded and fear of being excluded again.
My fear produces a constructive and creative and Loving result.
Of course fear can be good. I skid on the wet road, that makes me frightened, I take care not to do it again, I don’t die in a car accident; but it seemed my fear was of everything, and it was merely harmful, merely holding me back; and now that overwhelming fear, the Ache, the Scream, the Desolation, can be part of me which produces life and delight. The grit in the oyster. As long as I don’t take it too personally when someone leaves, for whatever reason.
I have my stories off pat. I was bullied at work. I was right and management was wrong, and these are the facts to demonstrate both assertions. I tell them for my own sake, of course- it was not my fault- because I need to assert that to myself, and another’s guarded assent helps me. If I have self-confidence, I can say “I have had some difficulties, and currently I am on the sick” and not anticipate “Well, you don’t look unfit for work to me” or be hurt by it if it happens.
“Goals” said Yvonne, insistently, for the umpteenth time. At last I said “Yes”, hands folded in lap, imagining them both behind my back with the fingers crossed. Yeah, right, I did not say- “In five years’ time I want to have some sort of a job”. It’s like chess, innit, I explain to myself. While there are strategies, and you have to see three moves ahead, in each situation there is one best move. Rather than having goals, I will look out for Opportunities.
-How do you see yourself?
– A dancer. A poet. A beautiful, evanescent thing. I can be rational too, I suppose, it is good though not the only good. I no longer wear the leaden cloak of Dante’s hypocrites.
You have given yourself the nurturing self-love you need to become an adult, she said. Gosh, she is being encouraging, though a sting in the tail. Adult. Um. S’pose. Well, yes of course, but it’s difficult.
I think it has been of some use. Acknowledging being on the floor, curled up like a baby or a traumatised soul blocking out the World; and sitting on the floor, looking up, engaging but not taking on adult responsibility. I am a Benefit scrounger, I say happily. Plans include approaching Dr Lorimer if my ESA gets reassessed. I was in a state when I just procrastinated. Deadlines had no effect. Anything I do would fail and make me look bad and feel bad, so I did not do it. Had I been sacked, it would have been fair. The bullying had ended by then, I had been under a different line management for 30 months.
I have done the work. I no longer see myself as worthless and bad. So I can see things differently. That claim where the Respondent forged documents: the claimant got her money in the end. She was capable of more than I had thought. The system worked, and the scoundrel got his just desserts. I did my job well. It is a matter of reframing. When I was worthless, I took in the wickedness of the employer’s lies, so the nastiness of the world; the suffering of the client; and the great difficulty I felt in proving it- by luck, eventually. So evidence of everything being utterly ghastly becomes evidence that the world is sort-of-OK, or OK enough; and I am OK.
If I see myself as OK, and my parents as OK, having done their best under difficult circumstances- losing your dad in 1934 aged 9 and moving in with your grandfather just as he gets sacked is traumatic- and just take all my rage terror and resentment at my Worthlessness and turn it against the world-
-then the World becomes shit-coloured, unrelievedly, irremediably Bad. So I hide in my living room because it is too horrible to go out. However, increasingly I can see my past differently. I had achievements. I had opportunities. I had even breaks. When Kerry from the jobcentre checked my capital, on Monday- the letter threatened I may need to suspend your claim to benefit- she was OK.
Seeing yourself as OK, you can walk along with your head held high, Yvonne counselled. Mmm. Yes, possibly. I wanted to be in a dress, and here is everyone in trousers, and my dress is still OK.
I was late, and on Station Road a man asked directions to Station Road. “It’s one of these side-roads on the left”, I said, in complete certainty. “If you drive me along I will look out for it”. So he drove me through Marsby to where I wanted to go, and I realised Station Road was not where I had thought. This does not make me Completely Utterly Bad. I will not be punished for it.
I have an essay of 3500 words, made by tacking together my drafts. It is a mess. What should I do with it?
In places I have created scenes, attempting to allow people to visualise where they are set and empathise along with the main character. In other places, I explain things. From my middle-aged perspective, I write of seeing things in a new way and maturing, which for me has been a middle-aged experience. I am less defensive, now, of my point of view, knowing how it may change. The essay seems disjointed, but I don’t see how I can make it flow better. I don’t want to cut any of it, as all the experience seems relevant. How did I get to that moment, where my old way of being was found so wanted that I made such a complete leap in the dark? The whole week seems relevant.
I have changed it so one good line is not repeated, and I don’t change pronouns “she” to “you” mid-sentence. I have added a scene.
I could leave it. It is too ambitious, bringing together too much disparate material. I could rewrite it, first as an essay avoiding scenes completely, telling of my attitudes and ideas and not seeking to show at all. Or I could (try to) make it a series of scenes, with no explanation at all: I am not sure I could pull that off.
All suggestions would be very welcome. Any questions or comments are also welcome.
When do you change your mind? There was a time when I was absolutely certain of my former understanding. Now I know different. In between came a series of experiences challenging my earlier view and opening me to a different one, then confirming that different understanding. I have moved from right to left, Caliban to Ariel, rationalist to mystic, self-denial to self-expression, and in this experience my old way fractured from top to bottom, and green shoots of new life poked through.
Noticing everything is bliss and danger, distraction and- I notice everything. I see the marks on the floor from the wrong kind of training shoes, the bars on the walls and the ropes from the ceiling, the sound my footsteps make, Anthea’s footsteps though I do not see her, no, I glance at her then drop my eyes. The sports hall expands, its ceiling the sky, its walls miles away, and I sit on the floor, resigned to whatever might happen. The way of being in me which would have been dismissive, judgmental, denying any possible value in this is silenced by my pain, but I am not, yet, a believer. I fear, but have sufficient trust in Anthea’s good-will and ability to hold the process that I go along with it. I see no alternative.
Anthea creates a flowing circle of healing energy around me so that only the highest and finest energy may come through, and asks me to focus on my chakras, a concept new to me. What colours do I see? I have no mind’s eye, so if I close my eyes cannot see anything, such that if I imagine a room I will imagine a verbal description of it. She insisted, and I plumped for red.
“Imagine your coccyx uncurling beneath you, extending downwards into the Earth. It roots you in the Earth, in our Mother Gaia, and energy from the Earth flows up for your healing.”
I try. I really do. I imagine my coccyx warily pushing down into the Earth, but it pulls back, unable to trust.
I speak my pain. I am begging that psychiatrist. “Do you have any idea what I feel? What did you do to diagnose? Can you not see that I am female?” Then I speak my anger at my mother. I imagine her on her death-bed, in the middle of that sports hall, and I prowl round it screaming at her. The foam is on her lips. “What did you mean, you still have work to do? Did I ever smile? Did you ever smile at me or touch me?”
I hear the Carpers at the back of my head. There are three of them. Anthea tells me to sit them in a chair in front of me, then bring them into my heart and love them. At this moment I realise:
I can channel the healing energy of God.
The first is like a baby whom I can pick up and cuddle. The second has a chalk-board and chalk, to lecture me. The third is black, a mass of energy. I need to make friends with it, as with a wild predator. I need to integrate, love and calm these aspects of me.
God’s Love is intimate.
At Anthea’s suggestion I have a shower then go to bed. In the shower I feel the healing energy of God channelled through my hands.
Here is the whole piece, most of the sketches tacked together in more or less the order I want, but needing quite a bit of editing.
It is different for each of us, but our insights are collective: ours is a Do It Together not DIY society. Our discipline is difficult, for we must give over our own wills. We move away from a rigid demarcation of members from attenders. Most meetings use attenders to do particular jobs. Some attenders do not apply for membership out of a feeling of unworthiness, but none of us is Worthy in that sense (or all of us)- we keep learning. Some reject membership fearing the burden of the tasks of the meeting, and all those committees. We reject outward sacraments, considering the underlying spiritual reality, but we still have this process. And some, contrary to expectation, find joining transformative. Someone suggested a re-commitment act for members.
Though we are collective, we give space in which each person can work out her/his spiritual journey. We come together and maintain our cohesiveness not through all using the same words, but through mutual respect and care, which is more difficult. We share structures which permit our experiences to happen. We need something which can unite us: perhaps it is the power of God.
We issued a Statement on Gaza urging diplomatic recognition of Palestine. The clerks said that it was particularly carefully drafted, but some speakers from the floor quibbled, wanting more emphasis on Hamas rockets. They delayed our statement by only a few days.
I went to the “Jane Austen Dances”, which were on at lunchtime daily, once. I had not heard dances Jane might have done in Bath around 1805 called that before. It was crowded and enthusiastic and bodged, error-prone. On the Friday evening some people did a demonstration on the stage, but I did not find the chance to perform worth the effort of practising.
I found Ben Pink Dandelion giving the Swarthmore Lecture charismatic. He was eye-catching and charming. He waved a page of A4 saying it was his entire notes. After, a woman told me he was irked sometimes by female admirers sitting at his feet and looking reverent. In his question and answer session, I found his jokes not brilliant, and most of the laughter sounded feminine. But someone else said he is gay.
Thursday morning I was exhausted, and weepy, in misery around not being able to stay on the sick indefinitely, but not getting work either. I sat in the sun in the camp site with a novel, then wandered in to talk to an Overseer. Being heard, I could talk myself into calm. I had met the man at the clerks’ course, but did not recognise him because he had shaved off his moustache. Then I sat in the gathering tent chatting and joking.
Mark Smulian, an Israeli who had been part of a band with Palestinians talked, and led us in a workshop clapping rhythms and taking turns to improvise across the rhythm. Aged 18, he volunteered to be a paratrooper, and had to police a curfew. On patrol, he saw an “Arab” out, so gave chase, and when he caught her found she was 15, so let her go: his human reaction went against his training, law and duty. Thank God.
A filmed experience of YMG:
When I finally vanished into my living room last year, I had mostly completed two parts of the work I had to do, to bear going out into the world again. My bitter rage and resentment against my parents and myself had changed to acceptance, more or less. My parents (like everyone) did their best under difficult circumstances. My sexuality and gender identity was not weird and wrong, but part of human diversity. I did not deserve to die, after all.
But I still have my rage, resentment and terror for the World. I have the general complaints, of the war, exploitation and destruction, the squeezing of the British middle-class lifestyle in the gush-up economy, the relentless rise of housing costs, the precariousness of employment, the obsolescence of my skills. I also have my particular experience, of being bullied at work, of the lies and evasions used to subvert the rights of my employment tribunal clients, of my father being defrauded of more than £100,000.
Then there is the treatment of trans women, seen as ridiculous and disgusting, mocked derided and belittled, or frankly loathed. So my self-forgiveness- I should not be ashamed to be a transitioned sissy- necessitates blaming others and society.
By now I have forgiven myself. It is alright to be me, trans, only so far intelligent, timid and scarred as I am. I have forgiven my parents, who always did their best: my roots are not irremediably poisoned. But the World? I have been so badly, repeatedly hurt that I want to curl up as small as I can, as far from the Outside as I can.
I need to be able to bear going out. I have gained one essential tool for that- Positivity. I was entirely negative, a glass empty person, and with effort I can be positive. I need to see the World differently. Thinking calmly and rationally as I can, it seems there must be opportunities as well as the threats I see. It might be worthwhile to enumerate the blessings I have had, but when I look back the pain and terror looms much larger in my sight.
This is the work I must do, now: to see all the good I can in all my experience: the people I can admire and delight in, the beauty, the blessings and good luck. Outside my living room, the picture is not entirely unrelieved blackness.