Tolerant, accepting people

Before I started to live full time, I went for dinner after work with colleagues, expressing myself female- testing the water-  and after dinner we went to the meat market, aka the Eighties disco. Divorcees on the pull were bopping away, and I sat in a corner with a drink. A man came to talk to me on the subject of how liberal, enlightened and tolerant he was. He was so liberal, he could even tolerate people like me. Back then, I was lacking in confidence and in need of having my consciousness raised, but even then I thought this was a bit off.

I told my vicar I could no longer worship God disguised as a man, and he said that he would try to stop me being driven out of the congregation. He did not realise that it was his own discomfort with me he was projecting onto other people. When I returned to the church for a wedding a couple of years later, I was welcomed by the congregation.

Since starting to live full time, I have come across a couple of people who have explained to me how liberal, mature, tolerant, accepting etc etc they are, but how not every woman is as tolerant and enlightened as they, and how they need to protect these less enlightened women from me. So, no, I cannot join this women’s group (or whatever).

If you read further on this subject here, you will see that English law permits discrimination, but this permission is limited. So, if you feel the need to protect Other People from me, do your worst, but I will not condone or collaborate with such action. And ask them if they think I am less than other human beings, and therefore I should be treated differently. They might be insulted by your “protection”. As for me, I do not want to be tolerated, I do not even want to be accepted, I want my acceptance to be as taken for granted as it is for any other woman.

What Jesus said

Jesus and his disciples came across a dead dog in the street. They said, “How it stinks!” He said, “See how beautifully white and sharp its teeth are!”

The internet has added a new layer to attribution difficulties. I have read that this comes from an apocryphal gospel, then from a Hadith. I like the challenge in the saying, the different perspective (whether or not that is a behovely perspective). So it does not matter whether it happened, only whether it is True.

Though when Legalist (ie, fear based totalitarian) thoughts are attributed to Confucius, it is good to see that they are not his thoughts.

Gospel of Thomas saying 37:

His disciples said: “When will you appear to us, and when will we see you?”

Jesus said: “When you undress without being ashamed and take your clothes and put them under your feet like little children and trample on them, then you will see the son of the Living One, and you will not be afraid.”

When I first read this, I thought an apocryphal gospel was less reliable than a Biblical gospel. That allowed me to distrust its sayings, and at first I thought this one was just gibberish. And then it made sense to me, and I found it wonderful. And now I do not want to interpret it for anyone, lest my interpretation limit it. Now I can play with a Jesus saying: what might it mean? What might it mean for me, now?

Conversations

Inspired by the challenge of talking to people I do not know, I persevere. Fortunately, I am a Quaker, which makes it much easier.

I went to a meeting I had not attended before last week, and on entering I met S. We were soon chatting away, not on anything deep, just the absurdity of having the heating on when the weather was so warm, but I felt we were making a good connection, lots of eye contact, lots of agreement, enjoying each other’s stories, smiling. It was really nice. After, I talked with J, whom I had met before, and she told me of having spent some time learning Shiatsu massage, and we shared our delight in human touch.

It is easy enough to bend down to pet a dog and so start chatting. I caught up a man with three beautiful black Labradors in the field, and we progressed from him finding the wind too strong (I said it was bracing) to talking of him having a weekend away courtesy of his wife’s employer at a place with wonderful golf courses, wasted on him because he does not play golf. As there was no queue at the petrol station, the woman easily got on to her holiday in Turkey, where she might buy an apartment as an investment for holiday lets.

At one point I was volunteering on a help line, and felt privileged to hear peoples’ stories. Sometimes I simply gave information, sometimes I sympathised as people opened their hearts. Though I would keep those stories confidential, I was disappointed on those evenings when I had few calls.

Biggest challenge for starting a conversation with strangers: the doctor’s waiting room! “Er- what are you in for?” I could have remarked on the architecture, I suppose, that atrium is rather nice, but forebore. I had to content myself with people-watching.

The Gender Diamond

We asked to be treated as women. So they told us how we should think and feel, and judged us on our appearance. And now it is liberating to see the Gender Diamond.

An end to binary understandings of gender! Where are you on the Gender Diamond? As well as the spectrum male to female, there is the vertical axis, from polygendered to agendered. Remember that these  matters may be distinguished from sexuality.

For me this has been helpful, helping me to imagine other ways of being, and so imagine such other ways within myself, and feel how I respond to the thought, and so discern how I might be in myself. I think I may be different places in the diamond at different times, not because this is a role or mask I put on, but because that is my authentic way of responding in the moment. I feel I am more adept at permitting myself my own authentic way of being, rather than getting hung up on what is the right way to behave. (Of course, another way to imagine other ways of being is to observe and to seek to empathise with other people.)

Is it also useful for cis-gendered (ie, non-transgendered) people?

Possibly, of course, the gender diamond is not useful, even for me. Possibly the Male in me, which I am exploring at the moment, is no greater than in other women, normally and naturally. And if anyone thinks I am a man because of certain characteristics, he is too stupid to be convinced by this graphic.

I would like to write about it for Wikipedia. The trouble is, a Wikipedia article is required to be Notable, and should not involve Original Research. Googling leads to no particular source, though two blogs link it to Raphael Carter, an author. As a published author, Carter may be sufficiently Notable, but I need a definite source.

I heard about the Gender Diamond here.

Transcending

The woman who works at the rape crisis centre does not like the term “Rape victim”. Yet I think many women raped will start out as rape victims, violated, hurt, unable to trust or open up, angry. No one need stay that way. With the correct support one might be a “Rape survivor”, having suffered this great injury yet still going on with life.

Human beings heal. While we are alive, however great the hurt, we tend towards healing, getting better. We tend towards maturing. The next, natural stage is the Recovered rape survivor, who has suffered this great hurt, and is now able again to trust and to open up and be vulnerable. It is not easy. It may take a long time.

There is the further stage, transcending the rape to a deeper maturity, where rather than being a continuing scar, always hurting, the rape becomes that moment of loss of hope which produces a new, truer hope,  a greater maturity, and a greater understanding of the capabilities and strength and resources of the woman. When every experience of life becomes Blessing rather than curse. I do not mean to minimise the trauma that the person raped suffers, but I do know that with sufficient time and support in community people can get to this stage.

There is a similar concept among those with mental illness, called Recovery. As this site says, the person may still have the symptoms, but

Recovery can be a voyage of self-discovery and personal  growth. Experiences of mental illness can provide opportunities for change, reflection and discovery of new values, skills and interests.

A high-functioning sociopath

The doctor began his remarks at Manchester by saying, “Respect for doctors is at a low ebb at the moment, due to certain unfortunate events which happened not far from here”. And I thought, my God, he’s talking about Shipman. He was the chief medical officer of the Department of  Work and Pensions, giving a presentation to welfare rights officers in the town hall.

Dr Shipman did his murders only a few miles from Manchester town hall, in Ashton under Lyne it was, actually. But calling a murder an “unfortunate event”, or thinking that it is appropriate to lament that this reduces respect for doctors, shows that this man does not think like most people do, and does not see the World in the same way. And, later, when he told a black lie, serving his interests and efficiently hurting my clients, my view was consolidated.

Naming and shaming

My friend John, who has experience of living in Community, calls Bicester spirit sapping and full of chavs, after I make clear that I find the word “chav” as offensive as the word “poof”, and then complains about name calling. Honestly, you would not squabble if I introduced you in my living room, so why squabble here?

The offensive word creates limits. It limits the user’s perception of the other, he just cannot see the good qualities in the other. It limits the person named, he lives down to expectations. It creates a barrier between people. And we do live below our potential, and yet with any light we may grow and heal.

John does not want the word Community devalued, yet while a weekend together with a facilitator can give us all a rosy glow of togetherness, and sometimes some real insight into self and world, actual communities often live in a state of unresolved conflict. And towns can be filled with people living below their potential, without connection; and so they need people capable of seeing the worth in others and inspiring them. Like a probation officer I met once (in a professional capacity, not as her client) whose sweetness, steel, integrity and clear-sighted care made a deep impression on me. So I build community one encounter at a time.

A US marine explained that you can train men to kill with hatred- the Vietnamese are gooks, sub-human, kill them- but this ruins their mental health. To save the soldier’s mental health, the US marines now train people to kill by convincing them that they are protecting something worth killing to protect. I would rather they did not kill anyone- but I see that this is an improvement. I can be the pebble, shining in the stream, building heaven in hell’s despair.

Andrei Rublev

Given that among the best searches leading to my blog are “agios oros” and “Pefkis Ikonen”, I present to you my other icon.

father-pefkis-the-angels-at-mamre-trinity

It is of the angels at Mamre, who represent the Trinity: the Greek transliterates as “Hagia Trias”, Holy Trinity. Again, it comes from Mount Athos. I bought it in the cathedral at Le Puy en Velay, where a pilgrim offered to pray for me (it is always good to know someone is praying for me).

For those looking for icons, I recommend Icons Explained, a voluminous site including details of hagiographers (icon painters) from all over the world. The link from there to Fr. Pefkis no longer works. When I came home, I did some Googling but could not find a source for the Mount Athos icons, and it seems to me that, possibly, these handmade icons are sold for far less than they might fetch as a service to God and the community; that they are devotional tools seeking devotional use, not the home of the collector or even the connoisseur. In my last flat, this icon hung at the end of the hallway, visible as I came in the front door or went to the kitchen. I sat meditating on it. Now it is on my shelves, and I glimpse it when I look up from the television.

It appealed to me because the figures look so feminine, and so reassure me that I, too, am made in the image of God.

I still want a Pantocrator. I think it is worth the search. Perhaps in some cathedral shop I will find something so beautiful: or perhaps see one in a church somewhere, and find that seeing it is enough, I do not need to possess it.

My community

There is a plaque outside the pub which says people have been drinking in this inn for over 350 years. That is quite a sesh, I think, someone should tell them to go home. Walk up the hill north towards the cenotaph, and you pass some lovely buildings, some half-timbered. In the shopping mall there is Dorothy Perkins and WH Smith, and here there is a shop selling speciality teas and a hardware store. Or you could turn off past the fifteenth century barn and the sculpture of the swans in flight. On the river you may see dozens of swans, I had not seen so many together before coming here. It is beautiful.

You will get quite a different story about the town from a certain website which tells of “chavs”, which means oiks, or lower class people, in British towns. I noticed that website, talking of shell suits and jogging bottoms, which I rarely see. “Chavs” is an offensive term for my neighbours. Not a word I would use. Not really how I see the town at all, my town is beautiful. Not the way I see my neighbours. Look at these trees, gardens, open spaces. My next door neighbour taught me my two words of Bulgarian. Perhaps I should try to remember more: Dobre, meaning well, but also translating the word Uhuh, as in I understand, yes, go on, is a useful word. Like “Acha” in Bangla. My other next door neighbour fixed my dehumidifier, and I helped him with a question about benefits.

It is as if the person who wrote in that horrid, mocking site and I see two different places, different people, different worlds, parallel universes. Not all of us are well off, indeed Ofsted wrote in its report about the Children’s Centre that some parents studying school-age qualifications were doing these as an end in themselves and not as a route into employment, as there is little in the area. This writer sees an oik, and I see my friend M, and we go for coffee. It is important to me to see the beauty in the place I live and the people I meet. Fortunately, that beauty is easy to find.

The Farmington Prophecy

Licia Kuenning prophesied that God would turn the town of Farmington, Maine, into Heaven on Earth.

I first came across Licia on Quaker discussion groups including Quaker-B. Through the Quaker Heritage Press which she runs with her husband she published complete works of early Quakers such as Isaac Penington. She preached a conservative morality, transphobic and homophobic, at odds with the liberalism of Britain Yearly Meeting. I left Quaker B partly because of her.

And then she was filled with joy when she perceived a Revelation, which she thought was from God. She had been aware of her prophecy from the 1990s, but in 2005 she was vouchsafed a date for when it would be fulfilled. The town of Farmington in Maine would become changed by God, such that any person with an illness or disability going there would be cured within three days, and no injury could happen there. It would be changed on 6 June 2006. Some of her responses on email lists about this were, she said, inspired by Jesus.

She publicized this on billboards locally, and on the net, where she met hostility, scepticism, or the kind of careful speech one uses when one does not want to upset delusional people. Of course it did not happen, as she admitted when she went to Meetinghouse Park on the prophesied day (showing some courage, or perhaps self-belief).

The shock of disappointment did not liberate her from her delusion. She still believes her prophecy comes from God. Only the date was wrong.

This remains a challenge for me. How do I test my own leadings? My own certainty is not enough. I could blame the LSD she took for damaging her brain and causing the delusion. In the end, I have to test my leadings with the discernment of other people, and hope that if I have a genuine revelation which is wholly new, it will strike a chord with others. I will not give too much weight to the Inner Critic, which works so hard to find reasons why I am wrong. I will seek to remain open to new light, from whichever source it might come, whatever challenges it makes for me.