Resisting

If I was courageous, I was wonderfully rewarded for it.

Peter drove me to Swanston, feeling a little put-upon, and I took the train to Reading. I started a conversation by complimenting a woman’s black fedora. She had worn it for her little brother’s 18th birthday party, a family affair, but would not wear it in the street. I told her what I was intending, and she was impressed, smiling, eyes widening, voice getting warmer: she wished me well. I walked to the Meeting house, where I met-

How circumspect should I be? Circumspect with other people’s stuff. One man I met there wore a mask all the time. When asked his first name, he said “My name is Anon”. I met- people who impressed me, but do not want to say why. One suffered from ——– syndrome. One had a name which was ————. These small-talkish details which I would put in, normally, are not mine to share. “Don’t be on a database if you don’t have to,” I read. Yet when asked to find what we had in common, Anon remarked that his group all had degrees. At the Meeting-house, I met people rather like those I would normally expect to meet there, though even scruffier than normal- committed, believing or atheist, intelligent.

I am glad I went, and I can’t decide whether it was a failure or not.

 ♥♥♥

We went on Monday to Burghfield, where the warheads for Trident are made. There are three gates to the factory: the “Construction Gate”, and the North and South ends of The Meerings, which sounds like any other picturesque Berkshire lane, except that it is MOD property. There was a green line painted on it. Cross that line without permission, and you have committed a criminal offence under the military by-laws.

At 5 am, groups of more hardened protesters went to the South end and the Construction gate, and blocked them. By 7am, the Christians and some others were at the North end, surrounded by police in yellow hi-vis jackets, apart from the Liaison officers in blue. There, we blocked half the exit. We had a worship service led by the Rector of Burghfield parish church, on the roadway but outside the green line, surrounded on three sides by police officers. We committed the criminal offence of blocking the Queen’s highway, but only the left, exit side: the right lane, for entrances, was closely guarded by the police.

So we caused some disruption. There would not normally be so many police officers there. Workers at the base, and supplies- we saw a van marked “gardening services”- could enter and exit by one gate only, rather than by three as usual. Those blockading the other gates might even imagine that they were being successful.

The police were reasonably friendly. I saw a woman attempt to sit on the right lane of the road, and be lifted out of the way. Had we attempted to block the whole of the North gate, they could have arrested us for it. We caused a small amount of disruption and expense, but not a great deal.

More tomorrow.

Tiepolo Neptune bestowing gifts on Venice

Extremism

I am a Fundamentalist. My religion is fundamental to my life. I am an Extremist. I take an extreme view of the importance of my religion, and of the obligations it places on me. Indeed, the accusation of the conservative evangelical that the liberal Christian does not take the faith seriously is the one which most riles me.

One example: if I take non-violent direct action against the Trident nuclear missile programme, I would claim to follow the example of Jesus: “Blessed are the peacemakers”; “He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword”. I am quite aware that some Christians hold opposite views, believing in the balance of terror, and that deterrence by mutually assured destruction has saved the World from major war, but pacifism is a long tradition in Christianity from its earliest times and particularly now in Quakerism. Atheists may hold to either side: I think of Bertrand Russell in the Aldermaston marches.

I take religious obligation seriously. Generally, it makes me a better citizen, neighbour and associate. In some things it makes me more stubborn and unmoveable- if God is for me, who will be against me?

Abortion also divides Christians. Does the murder of millions of helpless babies where they should be safe, in their mothers’ wombs, not cry out to Heaven for vengeance? I find the woman’s right to choose a saddening necessity, and could produce religious arguments there, though most on my side are secular.

Religion may motivate different types of action, some widely seen as objectionable. Therefore, the words “religious fundamentalist/ extremist” are not of use in preventing actions we disapprove. Reports that the 9/11 terrorists visited a strip club and drank alcohol might indicate that they were not pious Muslims, but would not necessarily prevent some people from supporting their actions. Tempting as it is for some to divide Muslims into “good” and “bad”, from a Multiculturalist desire to welcome the majority as British or to get them on side against the enemy, it is not that simple.

The question whether Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the Caliph of Islam is a religious question, but part of the answer may depend on whether you are enraged and wanting a fight, and at the same time searching for a simple ideal to make sense of life. Some Muslims who have made a successful worldly life in the West may consider those religious arguments and wonder, should I give up everything I have here for God? Some may. That Atlantic article says most Salafis, while extremist by any definition of religion, are quietist, seeking personal purity not war for the Umma. Again, we should consider whether real crimes such as incitement to murder have been committed, rather than whether someone is a religious “extremist”.

Life Loves Me

I continue with the Mirror Exercise. I look in the mirror and say “Life loves me”. And-

First I just feel pain and resentment. It is more as if Life, when particularly pissed off, relieves its feelings by giving me a kicking. Like God and Satan, down the pub with their mates, drunkenly boasting and betting about Job.

Then I feel judgment. Life loves me, and I do not respond in a loving way, hiding my light under a bushel, burying my talent and digging it up in an undeveloped state. Life loves me and I do not perceive that so fail.

I know I am loveable. Perhaps not particularly useful, I am at least beautiful.

Then I feel life loves me, in the gentleness of my life now, all the beauty, the minimal demands on me, and I see that less because of my fear from its fragility, for it may end at any time. That does not prompt me to Take Action but to cower. I feel incapable of what I perceive to be life’s challenges. Arguably I am incapable. And yet inexplicably I am all right. For now.

It is labour, it is my difficult task now to see all the blessings, name them one by one (this is old wisdom from 19th century Methodism not the New Age), so that I might-

What?

Life Loves me?

Morisot, Portrait de Madame Edma Pontillon, née Edma Morisot, soeur de l'artisteOn Monday 2 March, a convoy left the nuclear bomb factory at Burghley and drove to Faslane, to put the bombs in the submarine. This happens regularly, and there is regularly non-violent direct action (NVDA) outside the gates. There was an email printed out on the Quaker meeting notice board, and I was interested. I loathe the idea of threatening to kill millions of people and render vast areas uninhabitable. Who would not be tempted by the idea that “most” of the direct action roles would be “non-arrestable”?

When I told the Quakers that I might not be there to clerk the business meeting on Sunday, they were fine with that, and able to cope without me. I said I might “bottle it”- decide against going, through cowardice- and they said that would be fine too.

Now (Thursday 26th) I decide I will not go. Yes, it would be interesting, to meet the people, see the place and have the experience; and it feels like I wanted to go as a test of myself, or that this sleeping on the floor then standing in the cold and facing police officers and failing to prevent the bombs moving would be a worthwhile achievement, so I am worthwhile.

I do not need an achievement to justify my existence. So I decide not to go.

 ♥♥♥

What do I want? To nurture this organism. Nothing more than I did last year: staying at home, going out occasionally. I do not want to work, because I can only imagine work as miserific humiliation. I do not like my lifestyle particularly, but feel seeking any more is illusion bound for failure.

I want to nurture this creature, and wonder whether “fun” and “joy” are meaningful concepts.

al-Smite-y God

So there’s God, right, gives us free will, so we can either worship him (this god is definitely a him) or be wicked and depraved and homosexual and have abortions and stuff, and then he smites us with weather systems and floods and stuff, then sends us to Hell. He is not the nicest of Gods, then, even if he does it because he Loves us.

He is Pat Robertson’s God: he would smite Dover, Pennsylvania, because all the school board members who favoured teaching “Intelligent Design” were defeated when they sought re-election, or New York because of equal marriage. He is Mike Huckabee’s God, who will punish America for equal marriage. “If we reject His hand of blessing we will feel His hand of Judgment” says Huckabee, and I savour the rhetoric. Here is someone you haven’t heard of quoting “Vengeance is Mine, saith the Lord” about Hurricane Sandy.

He is John McTernan‘s God: The only issues that Obama is successful with are abortion and homosexuality. Everything else he touches is a disaster. This is because the curse of God is on him and the nation. The only reason he is successful about sodomy is that the nation died. The life of the nation is draining away and Obama is God’s judgment to finish it off.

Turning to the Authorised Version, there are 133 search results for “Smite”. After the Flood, God sent the rainbow and said, neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. Note the sneaky get-out clause: he would not smite everything, but might smite as he liked apart from that. Much of the smiting is done by God’s servants- Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass- but sometimes God does the smiting himself, as with the plagues of Egypt. Sometimes God smites individuals with illnesses, and sometimes all of Israel because they worship- shock, horror- a Goddess! God carried on smiting in the New Testament: he would smite the High Priest Ananias, but used two witnesses to do the smiting in Revelation. Rather than smiting Sodom, he “rained fire and brimstone” on it.

Archaeology gives no evidence for the Exodus. Why would the Israelites make up such stories? To ascribe to their God what had happened to them, blessings and curses. Civilisations rise and fall, enter decadence and suffer military defeat. Reality, rather than God, punishes those who take refuge in illusion.

God is Love, of course, and that precludes deliberate smiting- there are 731 search results for that.

Inspired by Violet.

Gustave Moreau, Jupiter and Semele 2

Fear and courage

Why should going to the supermarket need courage?

I am in my best ever state of self-acceptance; femininity is OK. I am still entrapped by fear of the world and despair. Leaving my front door can take courage.

Well, what could go wrong?

Something completely dreadful, inexplicable, incomprehensible, could strike out of the blue, and I would die. At least I would be humiliated and crushed beyond repair.

Clearly, I am back in very small child territory. The monster will get me. I am doing my thing, and suddenly THE ANGRY MOTHER appears, and the bottom falls out of my world. I can only approach safety by only doing exactly what she wants, and I cannot always work out what that is. Better to do nothing than cause (for I am responsible) her anger. So I did. My life was constrained by her complete control.

Anything I want to do is equally dangerous.

Oh Wow. That is completely mindblowing. Here am I writing and I wish I could convey to you how I feel. It means that

if I can go to the supermarket,
then I can do Anything!

Or, to put it another way, the false barrier in my own head is the same for whatever action I might want to perform. If I can distinguish it from rational considerations and predictions of what might happen which I can produce as a rational adult, then I can gently pacify that hurting child.

It seems to be affected by my confidence level. When I lack confidence, perhaps because something bad has happened, I start to feel the monster will get me- perhaps because it feels like it has already. This may be what others call “overwhelm”. Or my procrastination may be exacerbated, because nothing can ever please the Monster. Whatever.

 The monster won't get me. 
There is no monster.

I have been doing some mirror exercises by Robert Holden. The world is your mirror- as you see yourself in the mirror, so you see the world seeing you. We see things not as they are but as we are. The first exercise is to declare to myself in the mirror, “I love you”. Yes. That is a lovely experience. I don’t have any of the self-judgments which others experience, about which Holden warns.

(I will change that. Avoiding putting the preposition at the end of the sentence feels clumsy and wrong. Which Holden warns about. Language is a living thing, and rules change, and I take refuge in this analysis

I’m back. The second exercise is to look in the mirror and say “Life loves you [or, ‘me’]”. Life, Existence, Being, God, whatever, but he says “Life”. Well, I am loveable- and when I say it I feel confused. Not uncomfortable, exactly. I think OK,,, yeah,,,

God loving me could be just me and God in our bubble. Life loving me is the beneficence of the World.

He says, “see if you can find the place where you can accept that life is not criticising or judging you, but is absolutely on your side.” If it is too much, say “Today, I am willing to let life love me”.

Perhaps my confusion is that I do not know what that love might mean. He says it is not about changing the World, but about noticing how the World is.

“Complete the sentence, ‘one way life is loving me today is…’.”

Basic trust is the realisation that you do not have to do life all by yourself. Support is everywhere.

David, 'Madame Récamier'I look in the mirror and say “Life loves me”, and am overcome by anger and misery. Well, it has a fracking awesome way of showing it. All this pain and loneliness! And if it is merely a matter of my “letting the Love in”-

how on Earth am I supposed to do that?

Is porn wrong?

Is  pornography wrong, and if so, is its wrongfulness sufficient to justify legal restriction?

That anyone finds it disgusting is not sufficient to justify restriction. Some people find transition or gay sex disgusting, and even if a majority agreed- they probably did in 1967- that would still not be a justification. So to justify restriction we need to show that it causes harm significant enough to merit the interest of the law. Such harm could be done to those involved in making it, those who use it, or the wider society.

Even if it is associated with harm to those who make it- sex trafficking or abuse- the abuse or trafficking should be tackled, not the porn. Only if the very act of making porn harms the subjects should that be a reason for restriction.

It may harm users, but here it is like marijuana: if hash or skunk makes psychosis more likely, we should not prevent people undertaking a risky activity they find pleasurable unless the risk is extreme. Possibly it is. Or it may harm the wider society.

Bearing all this in mind, I did some research googling. I first looked at Your brain on Porn, which is secular and for information rather than legal restriction, and gives information to primarily male users why their self-interest is to avoid porn. It says that the sex drive and addiction changes in the brain cause the user to seek greater stimulus without a greater response, and that users suffer erectile dysfunction with real partners. Social anxiety, depression, lack of motivation, brain fog and withdrawal symptoms are common in all addictions. The solution it advocates is greater knowledge for users, who might then make informed choices about their actions, and be motivated to resist the primitive reward circuits of the brain pushing them to porn use. This essay describes physiological and psychological effects. The neurotransmitter dopamine causes desire, not pleasure, and so users feel compulsion to watch porn without any enjoyment. Users treat women like animals, capable of emotional but not complex reasoning.

Then I found in Psychology Today an article from 2009. It claimed that 42% of “kids” between 10 and 17 had viewed internet porn, but that since 1990 rape, teen sex and sexual irresponsibility had declined. It concluded that men were at home masturbating rather than out raping.

This Catholic article gives the first harm as harm to your soul: use is a sin, which may harm your eternal salvation. It also harms your personal morality: act immorally in this way, and you will not resist unrelated immoral acts. The article cites a psychotherapist who has treated three hundred sufferers from “sexual illnesses” and makes observations similar to Your Brain on Porn. In 1985 the US Attorney General’s Commission found a link between porn use and sexual violence, contrary to Psychology Today.

Finally, here is Andrea Dworkin on how porn is used to oppress women.

Courage

I am a woman of courage, and I did something courageous today. But first I want to say where I am.

I have lived my life trapped beneath self-contempt so deep that until I was 33 I loathed and denied who I am: I pretended to myself I was something else so hard that I believed it. And I still have contempt for myself, though it lessens.

And in my years as a recluse I have moved from despising my femininity, to celebrating it. What keeps me here is my fear of the world, and my despair. So it would behove me to deal with those, as well as recognising and celebrating my achievement in accepting my own femininity.

I have always felt

that each success was only to be expected
so nothing to be proud of
but each failure was a
DISASTER
again proving beyond doubt my worthlessness.

Not particularly healthy.

One of the gifts of the Hoffman Process was to see how much we follow patterns ingrained in our parents, unfree whether we copy them or rebel. During that week I identified one of my patterns and called it “Shit-hoovering”- collecting stories about how threatening the World is, in order to justify fleeing it. Hoffman says that once one sees the pattern, one is freed and at choice whether to follow it or do something else. Um.

How great my fear is!

So, what was the courageous act? I cycled down to the shop in Marsby for groceries, a two mile round trip.

I was even frightened of that. The inner critic pipes up with the “even”, so I reject it. I was frightened of it. I did not want to go. I did not want to leave my house. I did not want to speak to anyone. So in the shower at 3pm I bigged it up.

Because I fear it, 
This is something 
COURAGEOUS.
It is worthwhile, because it is caring for myself. 
I have denied my courage for too long.
I will celebrate my courage.

Indeed I thought of boasting of it here.

A woman stopped by the kerb to let me pass before she crossed the road, and as I passed her started to sing “I believe I can fly.” The song circled in my mind as I cycled on.

I will celebrate every single ACHIEVEMENT.
I am where I am. 
Monet, Camille

Arabian Nights

The Arabian Nights are full of changes in fate and fortune. The bull finds the donkey in a clean stable with good food, and congratulates him. The donkey advises the bull to pretend to be sick when brought out to plough. The bull does, and the owner uses the donkey to plough all day instead. So the donkey tells the bull that he heard the owner say, if the bull is sick again he should be given to the butcher. So when the bull is taken from the stable next, he runs away. I love the cynicism of the donkey, and the way the outcomes baffle his objectives.

The wise man does a favour to the king, and the king distrusts him: for if he could do me good so cleverly, he could harm me as easily. “Betray him before he betrays you” advises the vizier, and they have the wise man beheaded. The head speaks, and advises the king to read a book: in turning the pages with his licked finger, the king ingests poison from the impregnated pages, and dies.

What is female beauty?

Bazille, Woman in moorish costume

He saw a lady of medium height, with jutting breasts, beautiful, comely, resplendent, with a perfekct and well-proportioned figure, a radiant brow, red cheeks and eyes rivalling those of a wild cow or a gazelle. Her eyebrows were like the crescent moon of the month of Shaban, she had cheeks like red anemones, a mouth like the seal of Solomon, coral red lips, teeth like camomile blossoms or pearls on a string, and a gazelle-like neck. Her bosom was like an ornate fountain, with breasts like twin pomegranates, she had an elegant belly and a navel that could contain an ounce of unguent.

Great learning may benefit you little:
-Do you know any craft by which to make your living?
I told him, “I am a lawyer, a scientist, a scribe, a mathematician and a calligrapher.”
-There is no market for that kind of thing here. No one inthis city has any knowledge of science or of writing and their only concern is making money.

So he gives the man an axe, and he becomes a woodcutter.

Inexplicable misery afflicts people:

By God, the Merciful, surely my affair bewilders me;
I do not know the source of sorrows that have surrounded me.
I shall endure until endurance itself cannot match mine,
Continuing until God closes my affairs.
I may be conquered, but I shall not show pain,
As a thirsty man endures in a hot valley
I shall endure until endurance itself learns
I can endure what is more bitter than aloes,
Itself the bitterest of all,
But bitterer than all this would be for patience to betray me.

It gives wise advice, such as these five injunctions:

Do not be on intimate terms with anyone, for in this way you will be safe from the evil they may do you.
Injure no man lest time injure you, for this world is a loan to be repaid.
Keep silence and concern yourself with your own faults and not those of others.
Be on your guard against drinking wine, for wine is the root of all discord and it carries away men’s wits
Guard your wealth and it will guard you. Do not overspend.

Carl Wuttke, Oriental streetSuch wisdom may bring acceptance, but not the happiness I find in trust and relationship.

Why vote UKIP?

Don’t, obviously- but I wanted to hear what they have to say for themselves, so bought Why Vote UKIP? written by Suzanne Evans, assisted by the chairman Steve Crowther and policy “guru” Tim Aker. Evans is a former Tory councillor and now deputy leader of UKIP.

The book is an angry whine of ignorance, without the self-knowledge to realise that. Evans confuses the European Court of Justice with the European Court of Human Rights. She appeals to the pub know-all: UKIP believes the government which is best is the government which governs least. To that end, she says the British taxpayer would not miss the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills so UKIP would close it, or at the very least scale it back. Whereas it fulfils the functions of the former Department for Trade and Industry.

If you sat with that pub bore and explained what DBIS does, he would accept it is worthwhile and should not just be abolished. Evans does not want to explain. She needs his ignorant anger. She feels he would also not miss the Department of Energy and Climate Change, though even she might think we need to plan what electricity generation we need, to avoid the lights going out. She is against wind and solar power, and in favour of fracking, whose proceeds she would invest in a “Sovereign Wealth Fund” rather than paying off the national debt.

She would also close the Department for International Development, which administers foreign aid. She mocks spending on children’s TV in Kenya or £80,000 on a study on the link between gender equality and growth in Nigeria. She cites the Daily Express, but this pdf might be the report she means: it is the kind of evidence needed for useful change.

“Green” is a term of contempt, and she would stop charities from lobbying government. That is political, not charitable. The charities include the World Wide Fund for Nature and Friends of the Earth, which provide “evidence” (her scare-quotes). “Green” is good only in “Green fields” which she claims the Government are wickedly turning into building sites. The effect of her policy would be to increase house prices and price more people out of decent housing.

She does not mention Trident, but “would keep out of foreign wars unless there is a clear danger to British interests or a strong moral justification for intervention”. This is typical of her pettish contempt: as if anyone would go to war except for that, or any politician calling for war since 1980 has not imagined that applies.

Multiculturalism is worse than environmentalism for her. She takes pride in Great Britons such as James Watson, and in our Empire ruling half (actually a quarter) of the world. Multiculturalism is hostile to British values like the stiff upper lip, and causes forced marriage and female genital mutilation. The answer is British values. Education should explain how we won [freedom] historically, how hard Britain has fought for it and why therefore it is of paramount importance.

You and me, we’re the good people, she croons. We are right to feel angry and frustrated and miserable. Vote UKIP to stay that way!

David, the Oath of the Horatii

Sufi story

I know nothing. Isn’t it Wonderful?

Sabina told me a Sufi story. A woman went to the mosque regularly, and her husband did not. She often told him that he should come. One day she returned home early from the mosque, to find him praying.

Oh! You do believe! she said.

He was so distressed, that he died.

Sabina thought of it this morning, and has finally understood it. I do not, and you are less likely to, as either of us might have unconsciously added or suppressed bits. I did not ask her to explain.

After yesterday morning, which may or may not have been a Profound Spiritual Experience, I was prompted by a phone call to progress one of those Problems, sent an email to progress another, and was prompted by an email to send another email which took me two minutes and which I should have sent in October. I have no idea why I did not send it before. After two phone conversations and two emails I was feeling unusually effectual, and then cycled in the sun to Swanston for coffee with S. I told of my experience, and she understood. She said that one can only understand Wisdom sayings such as in the Gospel of Thomas when one has had the life experience and learned the lesson, and I agree- once we understand the mystery, we understand the parable. It was lovely.

We have slightly different perspectives on academe. She met someone at Woodbrooke and discussed something, and was put off when the woman said she had done a PhD on it. She believes that academic analysis is the letter that killeth, but the spirit giveth life. I feel that David Blamires (to pick someone I know), a wise, spiritual man, can do useful academic work on Parsifal. I also feel that my understanding in words lags behind my real knowing, but that it increases.

She values togetherness without words: having taught all ages from 4-adult, she feels she has turned a corner- that is the completely wrong metaphor, she said something different which I do not recall- when all of them can laugh together. Yes.