Gratification

On Friday, during the partial eclipse I was tempted to look at the Sun.
I had heard the warnings.
I looked at it, and my eyes smarted.
I was still tempted to look at it.
What’s this deferring gratification thing? Weighing a glimpse of the sun as a crescent against the chance of permanent damage to eyes, I am still tempted!!

I then spent much of the day with the Three Guardians puzzle. Before I came up with the right questions, I spent hours with wrong questions and what various answers to them would mean. I am very pleased with having the right answer, and having thought of a fourth guardian which answered randomly, like a coin-toss, could answer that more complex problem with between five and eleven questions. Probably I should have done my washing, and in the beautiful sunshine a walk round the lakes might have been more relaxing, but working on that puzzle was the immediately gratifying thing.

A hug felt sexier than an ordinary friendly hug, and was followed up with an email addressed “Dearest Abigail”. She would be in touch, she said. Over a week later, I am on tenterhooks and wondering if she is messing with me, which feels cruel: that “dearest” touched my heart. I create theories of why she might deliberately hurt me, which feel possible but unlikely; but likelier the longer time goes on. Why would she would want to mess with me? Becoz I is trans, or because I had irritated her in some way I cannot imagine, or randomly without reason. The thought that she might not be in touch because of shyness or vulnerability in her came to me only later.

In The Last Battle, the dwarves go into the barn which is actually the gate of Heaven. The children see Heaven with its beautiful scenery getting more beautiful as you go further up and further in, but the dwarves see only a derelict barn with stinking old straw. So the children pick flowers for the dwarves, and the dwarves react angrily: Why are you shoving straw in our faces?

I came across “thetruthisstrangerthanfiction” on Violet’s blog. He is creationist. I find the complex, interlocking explanations of all the evidence of the age of the Earth fascinating and beautiful, and he finds them repellent: the desire to keep a meddling God with His meddling “morality” and call for “repentance” etc., is the real motivating factor at play behind the scientists’ rejection of young earth creationism, rather than the search for Truth which I perceive. Then again, his flowers- a literal interpretation of Genesis- are mouldy straw to me.

I want to persuade him. He is not persuadable, because he is immovably convinced that he has something better (as, mutatis mutandis, am I). I put long comments on his blog, rather than walking by the lakes or doing my washing. I wrote on facebook, to acclaim, I do not need you to be other than you are to validate who I am but one benighted stranger on another continent and a woman who may be hostile seem to indicate otherwise.

What I want may not be what is best for me.

Alte Pinakothek, Munich

Fit for work?

The Limited Capacity for Work test assesses whether a claimant is entitled to “Employment and Support Allowance”, the benefit paid to some people who are most clearly unfit for work. Should the State support those who are unfit for work? Yes- but Great Britain does not. People fall through the cracks designed for that purpose, and some of them die as a result.

This is because the test is so restrictive. You need fifteen points to qualify for benefit. Someone who requires a wheelchair will not get any points at all for that if they can self-propel the wheelchair two hundred metres over flat ground without severe discomfort or repeatedly stopping.

Someone who is profoundly deaf will not because of that score any points, if they can understand a simple message by reading it.

Someone who is registered blind who can use a guide dog on familiar routes, but not unfamiliar routes, only scores nine points for this. That is not enough to get the benefit. Where it says a guide dog “could reasonably be used” this may include where a guide dog is unavailable.

On mental health, someone who not only Cannot cope with minor unplanned change (such as the timing of an appointment on the day it is due to occur), to the extent that overall, day-to-day life is made significantly more difficult but also Engagement in social contact with someone unfamiliar to the claimant is not possible for the majority of the time due to difficulty relating to others or significant distress experienced by the claimant only scores twelve points, insufficient to get the benefit. Clearly people incapable of looking after themselves are found fit for work.

The test is restrictive. However severe your disability, if it does not fit under one of these headings it will score no points.

The concept of a three tier scheme is a good one. There are people with such great difficulties in working that they are not forced to look for work, though they are offered help to look for work. Most of those who score fifteen points on this test are considered fit for some work, and are sanctioned if they do not co-operate with seeking work. However far too many people- profoundly deaf, registered blind, confined to a wheelchair or incapable of living independently because of mental health problems- are put on jobseeker’s allowance, and subject to the full range of sanctions. Their money will be stopped if they do not apply for enough jobs. They have to sign on every two weeks.

Given that people are under pressure to find work even if they score fifteen points on this test, the test should be more generous. However, it is being continually tightened: it was not so restricted when introduced by the Labour government in 2008. The result is that it kills people. How many sanctions kill is unknown. One food bank trust alone gave out 913,138 parcels in one year. Here are some every-day horror stories.

Words II

Thought is the past living in the present, modifying itself and the present… only when the mind is uncluttered can the new come into being, and for this reason we say that thought must be still, operating only when it has to- objectively, efficiently.

-Krishnamurti

I have quoted that before.

I leave yesterday’s post as a worthwhile attempt, and now wanted to get closer. I quoted David:

We are all born in sin, everyone’s inclination is to sin. People are tempted in different ways. Homosexuals happen to be tempted with the sin of homosexuality. All of this is sin and can be redeemed by Christ. So were they born that way? Sure, because we are all born into sin.

He has a neat framework for the World. Part of it is that he is a Biblical Christian, and therefore Good, and that Gay people unless they try very very hard to avoid appearing even a little bit gay are Bad. He has brought together two ideas from the framework of words people have created, to make himself even more certain that gayness is Bad.

His framework is a barrier to understanding. He may still meet a gay person, and in the encounter learn to value the whole of that person, but his framework makes that less likely.

Last year there was some excitement when it appeared that BICEP 2 had observed patterns in the cosmic microwave background confirming the theory of Inflation; but the Planck satellite failed to confirm the observations. BICEP 3 continues the search. The observations themselves are described in precise words exchanged between those equipped to assess the evidence. This is “thought operating only when it has to” as Krishnamurti says.

Perhaps David’s expression, though it distances him from other humans, is also such thought. That framework protects him from challenge, which might be too much for him to bear.

However, as I passionately desire an encounter with a human being whom I already know to be Other, thought may get in the way. Is she like that archetype, or that character in a novel? I could decide that she was, and jump to a conclusion which was very slightly different from the Truth. There is a person, in the moment, so even my memories of her may not show me who she is now. If I try to translate them into words, they drag me even further from true perception. There is only Now.

Yet I try to get my thoughts clear, and create verbal frameworks for understanding, because they reassure me.

David, the death of Socrates

Words

I move away from reliance on words. This is hard, for a writer.

My ideal is to respond to a whole situation as I perceive it in the moment. I think of this as a continual meditative state. I don’t thereby assert that those assessed by Myers-Briggs as judging rather than perceiving are wrong, but that I wish to develop other ways.

This is counter-cultural. School-children write essays about what Shakespeare plays mean: crushing an art work into an understanding of it. There is only the art work. There is only reality. The map or understanding is always less. Understandings are a way of stopping thinking and excluding difficult facts, or troublesome people. I love the cleverness of this comment, a verbal trick to justify hate:

We are all born in sin, everyone’s inclination is to sin. People are tempted in different ways. Homosexuals happen to be tempted with the sin of homosexuality. All of this is sin and can be redeemed by Christ. So were they born that way? Sure, because we are all born into sin.

So clear! So logical! No need for equal marriage, because it panders to sin. God save me from people who have the Answers. Whereas those who find LGBT merely sinful might have felt a need to deny that we are “born that way”, this formulation neatly avoids that. So it seems to me to defend the homophobic position against the complexity of real life.

I was fascinated by this article on Genesis 1-2. Sometimes there are common-sense readings of Bible verses, but the writer observes there seem to be several items in the creation narrative for which the plain sense meaning does not make common sense. Amazingly, rather than seeking a different sense as the popular saying would suggest, people often choose to add to or modify the Scripture, forcing it to make common sense. Here are some examples of such items.

So, if there was a “morning” before the Sun was created, some would say it was because of the light of God’s presence, adding to Scripture, and some would not. Some pursue clarity and understanding, some pursue acceptance of strangeness and understanding. I find the latter way better, because it leaves me open to greater understanding as I mature.

That second writer calls verses which anthropomorphize God “figurative”. God became man in Christ Jesus. Comparing God to a human being is a way for me to grope towards understanding, knowing that my understanding- even the Biblical verse- is not sufficient in itself.

To be fair to Words, I give a scientific example: the separate orders of trilobite need a precise classification. The artist’s words can create a human being entire, such as Hamlet or Shylock.

Peace passes all understanding.

Oh, I can’t end this post so I will just stop.

David, the intervention of the Sabine women

Acceptance XLVI

I cannot accept the world unless I accept myself.

Having retreated from the world, little affects me. That was why I did it. I was befuddled and frustrated by work, so I gave up. Liz volunteers in a place with paid workers. She hears them complain about changes to their working patterns, and wishes they could just accept those changes. They might even embrace and enjoy those particular changes as Liz would- they involve working with children.

A change to my experience of WordPress angered and frightened me. Does that seem an extreme reaction? Well, I feel my anger was proportionate, of short duration. I started fearful thought of how it could presage further, even worse changes, and then started thinking of how I could cope with those changes.

As I felt my anger and fear, in the moment after the first stimulus of them, I judged myself. Anger and fear is a totally disproportionate reaction, I told myself sternly. (No wonder you can’t go out sometimes.) Whereas I can cope with changes to routine, if I gently explain them to myself. Part of my (over) reaction is bad experiences of change in the past.

First, I must accept my own reaction. It too will pass.

 ♥♥♥

My childhood way of Acceptance gets in the way. It was to suppress anger and fear and Get On With It. Mother Unhappy! Danger! Work out what she wants immediately and do it. However I felt about that in the moment would get in the way, then. My anger and fear made her unhappy and stopped me thinking through the right response. So I feared my anger and fear, which made my experience of them more painful.

In childhood that did the job. Now I have suppressed feeling too long and cannot suppress any more; and my feelings are a useful tool for perception. I know the current state is not eternal: these feelings and state of unknowing will pass. (I just have to realise that, in the moment.)

Chronic stress happens when stressors come along too quickly to deal with one before feeling the next. That was my experience most of the time I was working.

I feel there is a lesson here, and I want to be able to articulate it. Part of it is in my first sentence. If I accept how I react emotionally and trust the process, remembering such lessons as “This too shall pass”, I will be happier and better able to deal with the stressor.

Evelyn de Morgan, Cassandra

Logic problem

In The Pyramids of Mars, Sarah-Jane Smith is trapped. There are two switches, one of which will release her, one of which will kill her. There are two guardians,  one of which tells the truth, the other always lying. The Doctor can ask one guardian one question. He asks,

“If I asked the other guardian which was the life switch, which would it indicate?”

The liar will lie about the truth-teller, and so indicate the death switch. The truth-teller will tell the truth about the liar, so indicate the death switch. The Doctor presses the other switch and Sarah is released.

John Finnemore did a sketch in which the guardians are fed up because everyone now knows what to ask- so they introduce a third guardian who strictly alternates, lying in one answer then telling the truth in the next. You will not know whether the alternator will lie or tell the truth, because you do not know which it did last time, to the last intrepid explorer. It will only change from lying to telling the truth if asked a question. There are still a life switch and a death switch. The only permitted questions are those which can be answered by a guardian pointing at a switch.

If you ask the first guardian, which is the Life switch, then ask the first the same question again, and the answers are different, you know that the first is the alternator, and you can ask the second guardian the Doctor’s question about the third. If the first’s answers are the same, and you ask the second guardian the same question twice, if the second’s answers are the same the third is the alternator: ask the first the Doctor’s question about the second; but if the second’s answers differ then it is the alternator, and you ask the first the Doctor’s question about the third. So you can always identify the life switch in five questions, and sometimes with three.

However, I can always identify the life switch with three questions.

What questions do you ask so that, whatever the answers, you can always find the life switch with three questions?

Call the guardians 1, 2 and 3 and the switches X and Y. Kudos to anyone who answers this. If anyone asks, I will answer it in a week, in the comments.

I have no idea if anyone else has worked on this puzzle. It seems likely someone has. I thought I had answered it, then found a flaw in my argument, and scheduled this post for 1 April; but now, I am clear that I have answered the puzzle.

Pyramids of Mars guardians

Bullying succeeds

Bullying works. That is why people do it.

The first letter the employer’s solicitor sends on receiving an employment tribunal claim is to the claimant, saying that the claim is without merit, but the employer will agree not to pursue costs against the claimant if the claimant agrees to drop the claim immediately. This is usual, whatever the merits of the claim. They seek to terrify the opponent into submission.

Bullying is applauded. I heard on the BBC that the gallery staff and security guards at the National Gallery had gone on strike, because their jobs had just been contracted out. The journalist commented that the unpopular outgoing director had been “doing his job”. Contracting out means steeply reducing wages and worsened working conditions. This is seen as normal, rather than doctrinaire extreme right.

Robert Peston’s programme Quelle Catastrophe! was billed as a report on the rise of the extreme right in France, but was the exact opposite. It was not an argument, but mockery of the French employment law code, which was portrayed as preventing French economic growth by preventing small businesses from expanding. The Front National wishes to reopen factories, for the benefit of the workers. That is a left wing policy, critiqued from an extreme-Right position which the BBC characterises as balanced.

In Britain, Nigel Farage appeals to the racists by calling for the repeal of race discrimination provisions in the Equality Act. He says British employers should be able to prefer British workers. The effect of this would be to erode the British workers’ rights, which is Farage’s real purpose.

This is not quite the #1000speak post envisaged: we were supposed to write of recovery from bullying. There may be uplifting tales of personal growth and increasing maturity and power on the link. But I have not recovered. I have not got over the bullying. Sometimes, as now, I am aware of futile, enervating anger and frustration.

More equal societies are healthier and happier. Now economic growth is the only aim, and all its proceeds must go to the wealthiest, and all services for others must be cut or extinguished, and schools must mould pupils in this ideology: and that is centrist, normal, obvious, rather than some insane Ayn Rand fantasy-

Here is the link to the 1000 voices speak for compassion posts on building from bullying.

Fortunately my inner voices are not bullying me as hard as they did.

Essence Process

Menis Yousry, the most empathetic person I have ever met, showed me something at the heart of me which I have been running from all my life, and so gave me self-respect for the first time. That was in November. Another group did the Foundation earlier this month, and fill Facebook with delight and wonder, and write of the emotional rollercoaster thereafter. I want to create this in my every-day life.

Menis gives complete acceptance and is wonderfully perceptive. He helps us untangle the problems which have been besetting us forever. He helps us forgive our shame and guilt. He leads the group so that we are all supporting the person sharing. This brings us together: it feels a wonderful close bond. Yet I do not foresee forming any lasting friendships with this group, and that is OK: they are far away, and of different backgrounds, and there are lively stimulating human beings nearby.

That line “What do you want the others here not to know about you?” is a way into self-absolving, yet that by itself even in a group of Quakers might just be dangerous and ineffective. I have my shames, still. The ones I brought up then are not shameful for me. Possibly that I do not know them, and will not see them again, helps us into this completely supportive way of being together.

Others besides Menis can create this atmosphere. He does it particularly well. Counselling works, an hour a week, though I like the intensity of five days.

Perhaps I cannot create this in ordinary life. I have retreated for my personal growth for years. It always feels that I see further from the mountain-top, but when I return to the valley I never lose all which I had seen. Each time I retreat, I see more clearly.

I maintain my self-acceptance through affirmations, mirror exercises, and meditation including metta. I have not meditated for some time. I fear it and avoid it, yet when I did so this evening it felt good. It does me good when I do it. But the heart of the Essence experience which I value is the acceptance of others: as a social being, it does me good.

I wondered, when with Community Building in Britain, whether the acceptance of each other depended on being with a group one did not know before, and would not know after. When we sought to do things together, suddenly the disagreements we had, and the judgments on how effectual another was, mattered. I don’t think it an absolute barrier, but when we work together in the long term it is a continual effort to create that acceptance.

I have not seen Terry for nine months. I told him “I have self-respect for the first time” and he said I had always seemed to have self-respect.

I-

Thursday. The counsellor and the client sit in silence. The counsellor pays attention to the client, wanting the client’s good. She can sit like this for days, if necessary. The client does not look at her, but is curled up in her large soft winged chair, looking at her hands folded in her lap, comfortable enough, silent.

I have no idea what the surroundings are like, the two are what matter.

I-

That again.

I-

I-

I-I-I-I-I-
eye, Aye
I-

I- want

I- want

I try to prompt, but can only think of prompts which are wrong. Fame? To hide? A job? Company?

I want-

I want Love-

I want to surrender

When my friend phones later, wondering why I have not gone to his house as arranged, I am dumbstruck. I can apologise but not explain. I have five, or seven, words, and nothing more. I have only just got up, at 2.15pm.

I should, I suppose, have gone into my ritual space, to meditate, to meet the silence where truth is, but- did not. Something in me stopped me. Yet I want to hear this deep unconscious. It might not be good for me: Licia’s was the most accomplished confidence trickster, wasting her life chasing illusion-

As I wanted, I am in that soft sweater and long soft skirt. I have Use of Weapons on my e-reader, something entertaining enough but unimportant. I have five words, and no plan of action, nothing further, only where I am now in the process, no light for the next step until I take it.

evelyn de Morgan, Earthbound