Damned and saved

I’m sure his opinion of me didn’t change very much and he remained entirely unconscious of my being, as well as largely delusional about his own, but my new found confidence in myself, and my egoless respect for his right to simply be did bring about an unexpected change and, crucially, an easing in the anxiety I had always felt in my dealings with him.

From The Rivendale Review. I find the story inspiring and illuminating, but how many of us, do you think, are like that? Delusional, or aware?

I have been conscious of healing and maturing since February 1999. “Spiritual journey” and “spiritual growth” are other useful metaphors. Around that time I read Scott Peck’s work, who posited four stages: selfish and amoral; rule-observing; intellectual- working things out for onesself; and spiritual. The first time I read of his stage four, I did not

understand it at all; the second time, I thought I did, and decided that meant I had progressed, though Peck says that his “stage four” is only the beginning. I also read “Awareness” by Anthony de Mello, and got the idea of becoming awake, which at the time I linked to being aware of the spiritual journey and now link to Bren√© Brown’s “Vulnerability”. The “Saved” might be the people on the journey, or might be all of us: we heal and grow whether we are aware of it or not.

And yet, I am still groping towards seeing other people rather than projecting onto them. Perhaps this is impossible, perhaps one can only see in another what one can admit in onesself; so it helps to be able to admit the diversity and variety in onesself, in order to see others better. And I think that I do react badly to that in other people which I deny in myself- in any case it is all about me, but insofar as I can accept myself, I can see and accept others better.

Such a long path, this healing. How many are on the path? How many are further on it than I am?

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Within the process of living, we are meant to heal our energies, to make them more strong and more expansive.

From Omni Vision. So much mysticism on the web! Ordinary blogs which I happen across teach me. I almost see things as Omni Vision does: my difference remains my agnosticism of spiritual reality. My perceptions are valid, but I distrust any doctrine or dogma explaining them. And so I could follow OV’s prescriptions as valuable, even if convinced of Atheistic materialism.

Vulnerability and-

Many times I have seen Bren√© Brown’s first TED video circulated, on Facebook and email lists, and I am endebted to the ever-wonderful¬†Judy¬†“Twoblogs” Wall¬†for her second. I also recommend Dr. Brown’s blog.¬†Vulnerability is a good thing. Vulnerability is the bravery which speaks to people, which elicits the Yes, the Yay, the true connection. What other words apply?

Strangeness. I get the feeling of being more alive, more real, and this is a strange, heightened experience. A good one, I want more of it, I want to play in it, get to know it, get to trust it, and that needs time. (Not necessarily effort. Let go the effort. Let the experience bed in in its own way, I tell myself.) And “strange” may be a better word than “good”, because I still name some emotions unpleasant, or difficult, and I can find those there too. This does not make it “wrong” or “difficult”.

Authenticity. I link these experiences¬†to¬†my first sense of the Real Me. This is a word Dr Brown uses at least once in her videos, and I prefer it to “vulnerability”- because how vulnerable are we? We are not being Defensive when we are being Authentic, but how many people want to attack us anyway? And if someone does, perhaps it is easier to block an attack¬†in a state of¬†relaxed aware authenticity than of fearful, clenched defensiveness. Or the block may be proportionate to the attack, whereas an attack out of the defensiveness may be too violent.

Bravery. Dr Brown also says this is brave. Trans women habitually deny bravery- I transitioned, we say, as a matter of survival, not because of great courage. I feel like that here. My masks are just too constricting. I cannot live like that any more. And yet, OK. Why should I deny a good quality in myself? Yes, it is difficult. Yes, it is brave. Moving forward in unknowing, where I may feel even illusory fear, is brave.

Openness. This vulnerability makes us open to others and to experience, which looks beautiful and inspiring, and invites connection.

Receptivity. Not monitoring so much in myself in order to hide it, I am more able to see what is around me: opportunity and beauty, and human beings more as they really are.

The word “vulnerability” is scary. It may be a way in to the state I crave. The rewards I may get from it encourage me to seek that state out.

I love this photograph, public domain via Wikipedia, because I do not see foundation or other makeup on it. If there is, it is subtle. That is a vulnerability many women find testing.

Possibly-

My GP took me off the hormones as a back-covering exercise. Hormones increase risk of cancer and thrombosis. Giving hormones is a positive act for which one might be liable. Not prescribing hormones is not. I have been as if premenstrual for about six months, and it gets wearing. A month after cold turkey I did not know what was going on with me, but I attributed it to the hormones and went back on a lower dose. On 19 February I decided to up my dose to the one I had taken in the summer, and having given myself a month for levels to stabilise I am still weepy and emotional. I am on triple the normal dose for HRT, so it is not clear that further changes in dose will reduce my lability.

I do not know if this is a good experience, I lack the requisite comparator, but I am determined to find value in it, and I may have done. Friday 16th I was weeping over that. I phoned K, a mainstay of my support network, next morning, she asked if I were ruminating, which is hard to deny, and when I said I did not want to go back on the anti-ds said that people were often “resistant to medication”. Oh, right.

Then Sunday was Mothering Sunday. M¬†was in Meeting. What will he minister about today, I wondered, as I saw him come in. He ministered on it being Mothering Sunday, and how Margaret Fell was a prime organiser of Quakers and of how we had been committed to women’s equality from the beginning. I am sorry, I make it sound far more prosing than it was, partly because I was irritated by it. There are significant differences in the Queries for the separate men’s and women’s meetings in the Book of Discipline 1861: we valued equality, but did not achieve it. Also it seemed, in my emotional state, to be too much for categorising, explaining and understanding reality.


I know enough not to minister out of irritation. I did want to minister. I spoke, on the Hockney exhibition, on how evanescent light and shade can change a scene utterly, on how we must perceive in the moment. Which I now feel is more complementary to M’s view than contradictory. Categorising is the foundation of understanding, from which perceiving can leap higher.

After, I sat, spine erect, still, calm and peaceful, feeling-

Present.

But it was yesterday (21st, as I write), feeling nearly in tears in the office- again- being moved before I knew why. And I thought, it really is alright. I wept on Friday evening, and the feeling passed- that it does not is the main problem with rumination, which is to useful thought as an ear-worm is to musical appreciation. And now I may feel like that, and it is alright, I have had such fear of feelings, and now I may just feel them, without fear. And they pass. Learning that is worth a great deal of discomfort. I have feared discomfort, too, very much, and discomfort is not to be feared.

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It was difficult illustrating this post without breaking copyright. Googling for “woman crying painting” gives me lots of 20th century paintings, in copyright, of the abandoned weeping I sought. Rachel, my first illustration, looks up to Heaven over her dead child, and whether it is dissociation or self-control holding her back hers is not the letting it all hang out abandonment I can get to for lesser woes. I did not really want a nude, and I find Jules Lefebvre faintly ridiculous- consider La Verit√©– but she has that congruence and authenticity- or loss of control- which¬†we prize,¬†which was so much less valued in 19th Century Europe.

No- that is not it-

I need the congruence, authenticity, perception of what I feel: that changes my control from a cage, a restriction, into something empowering.

Just as I finish, I get the new post from Allison Grayhurst. And Daniel Kingsley’s experience may be related.

Antinomianism

Antinomianism has had a bad image in Christianity.

If God is eternal and all-knowing, God must know everything that happens within time. Therefore God knows already who is damned and who is saved. Therefore, we are predestined, either to Heaven or to Hell. This is a perfect illustration of how linear thought and the refusal to accept paradox makes an idiot of the religious person, for what room is there for a God of Love who predestines men to Hell before they are born? It makes no sense. In the mild form, the believer has to behave well, because that makes it more likely that he is one of the chosen.

In its virulent form, this Calvinism leads to antinomianism: if we are saved by the sacrifice of Christ, nothing that we do can take that from us. This gives permission to undertake any immoral act. This is what James Hogg satirises in “The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner”.

Taking my Christianity very seriously, and having a deep desire to be Good and do Right, I decided that I am antinomian: my yardstick for morality came from within me, rather than from any outside authority. I wanted to transition, and so I would, despite what the Catholic Church or the Evangelical Alliance or any other Christian authority might say.

I may learn what is good or right by studying texts as well as by thinking, but the decision remains always mine. Knowing that allows me to respond in the moment to a situation as it is, rather than try to apply moral laws which I imperfectly understand. It also allows me to respond in Love rather than judgment.

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I am surrounded by birds, tweeting, chirruping, crying, singing. Several pairs of geese fly low overhead, honking, as if for the Joy of it (I anthropomorphise). A duck repeatedly takes off from the river, flies a few yards, and lands in the water again. A drake follows her: each time he lands near her, she takes off.

David and Jonathan

I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother;
you were very dear to me.
Your love for me was wonderful,
more wonderful than that of women.
-2 Samuel 1:26

So. Was David bisexual? We know that he was attracted to women, not merely as a matter of dynastic need but of sexual attraction: his murder of Uriah the Hittite in order to take Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon, shows that. We also know that though David was a servant of the Lord, and blessed, not everything he did was admirable, or suitable for the Sunday School bible story: the way Abigail’s husband died in mysterious circumstances after she bowed down before David is a striking case in point.

It all turns on the meaning of the Hebrew word Ahab, and there we encounter difficulties. There are many gay websites which explain that this is sexual love. A conservative website, which unfortunately I cannot find again, says that while 20% of the Biblical uses of the Hebrew word refer to the love of a man for a woman, far more refer to those of God for God’s people, and therefore the word cannot be used to mean sexual love. However when the Church is referred to as the “Bride” of Christ, this is a curiously physical metaphor.

Gay Christian websites say that this “ahab, ahabah” means sexual love. Conservative Christian websites say that it does not, and even if it did David is not a good role model for Christians. Both seem to be arguing backwards from the result they wish to achieve. Why would the conservatives wish to show that David could not possibly have had gay sex, despite the clear evidence for it, even though they are clear that he was a great man who did a lot of bad things? Because they find gay sex disgusting. Here is one I found when looking for non-copyright images: the sniffing disgust at “homosexualists” comes out in the painstaking analysis of individual words.

It would be nice to persuade the bigoted Christians, but I am not sure it is possible- even, in some cases, where their own children come out as gay. It would prevent their virulent hatred persuading gay people that we are less than normal, that our desires are disgusting and sinful and must be suppressed.

It is good that people may come to accept our homosexuality without rejecting Biblical Christianity, but for me it is preferable to reject the idea that nothing can be good unless it is accepted in the Bible, or that things the Bible condemns are necessarily bad. That idea asks more of the Bible than the Bible can give. It also places the moral code outside the person, in another authority.

Gay marriage

The Government consultation on equal marriage has been launched.

Marriage is between one man and one woman. If two men or two women are allowed to marry, the fundamental nature of marriage as an institution will be irrevocably and completely changed. So straight people will be unable to marry, and the human race will die out.

Marriage is an ancient institution, as old as civilisation and older than any existing society. So the laws of any current society should not change it. Or the death penalty. Or war. Or prostitution.

Marriage is a sacrament. God hates queers, who should be denied access to the sacraments, because Jesus says so, and all Jesus’s true servants agree.

Here’s an interesting one. Marriage is a matter of power and property. Gay people, being equal, should use civil partnerships instead, because they¬†symbolise true equality. No woman can marry without vowing to “love, honour and obey” her husband and lord. And the Married Women’s Property Act 1870 should be repealed.

It is the top of the slippery slope. If we allow gay marriage, people will want to marry their siblings, their cars, or their dogs. And if marriage is open for a woman to marry a woman, it cannot be limited to prevent a woman from marrying her dog. Or if marriage is open to people whom a tiny, shrinking minority find disgusting, it cannot be restricted at all.

Oh yes, and marriage is for the procreation of children. Infertile people should not be allowed to marry. No-one who does not want children should be allowed to marry.

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Weird, isn’t it? The Republican party in the US is an alliance of rich people who want to cut taxes on rich people, who promise to persecute gay people and restrict women’s control over their own bodies, to please poor people who say that these “family values” are more important than economic interests. Newt Gingrich is prepared to say his own sister is the end of civilisation as we know it, in order to gain power and, er, reduce taxes on himself and his cronies. At least Dick Cheney does not betray his daughter in the same way, but Mr Cheney is no longer running for office.

The only thing wrong with the Government’s marriage proposals is that churches who wish to do so, will not be able to celebrate gay marriages. Perhaps this is¬†to draw the sting from the churches’ objections: it is a civil matter, nothing to do with the churches. This does not stop churches objecting.¬†But Quakers, Unitarians and liberal Jews wish to celebrate gay marriages. I think that soon those churches who want to will be allowed to solemnise marriages.

No church which objects should be forced to solemnise gay marriages. I would not want the British National Party banned, and as long as they keep their beliefs among consenting adults in private, they should be allowed to hold them. Soon, the homophobes will have to retreat to the closet, there to gnash their teeth in rage and fear lest their peculiar beliefs become known.

I am sorry about the sarcastic tone of much of this post. Marriage equality is right, because people wish to celebrate and proclaim their life-long commitment to one another, and the State should support that. It makes a minority happy, and hurts no-one.

 

Acceptance!

Once more round the spiral….

Once more with the scouring pad, scour, scour away the dirt and detritus. Sandpaper for the blackened wrong and encrusted dirt. A chisel for the hardest bits. Or-
perhaps-
the emollient cream, for dried out, painful, scorched and blackened skin. Soften it, gently, bring it into the sunlight. It was made to be beautiful. That joint has been twisted in that position for a long time. Gently. Yes, it is painful. That is blood flowing down unaccustomed arteries.

Ten- Years!- after I forced my courage as hard as it would go, and gave up the unbearable male persona.

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Enough self-acceptance to get by. I still do not pass. I do not get insulted in the street, but if someone spends five minutes with me they probably read me. The voice, the height, mannerisms, hip to shoulder ratio, some things I can do something about, some things that I can’t. It matters, just as the beauty myth matters: no, every woman need not aspire to a perfectly toned, expertly fed and exercised¬†body with perfect bone structure and carriage, dressed in the latest fashions to show it to its best advantage, perfectly made up and then photoshopped- and¬†beauty is worth tens of thousands, over a lifetime.

Do I want to pass? I¬†could wear makeup more, do something about my voice, stop taking my wig off for effect. I might not “be me”, but then I am happy with different personae in the office, in the Meeting¬†house, in the pub-
depending on how I judge the social class of the person I am with- no this is not simple-

scour, scour, scour-

Actually I would like for my feelings not to be read on my face all the time, to be so sharp and overwhelming. A month after I went back on the highest dose of hormones, that I was taking before August, I am still “hormonal”. Should I wait a bit to see how it beds down? Should I reduce the dose again?

I get upset. I am still not over that. So I weep and it is not comfortable, and yet as my friend said it is like weather, it passes.

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So, there is no magical Moment of Self-Acceptance, after which everything is perfect. There are hacks:

I am the meat-eating vegan. No, really. Yes, I know that a vegan eats no meat or dairy produce, and I like vegan food. So labels are possibilities and opportunities rather than limitations.

And there is the continuing experiment. Who is this human being, with whom I am, now? Who am I? What, now I have decided that it is OK for me to want something, do I want?

Aurora Triumphans

Acceptance?

On this search for self-acceptance, I have still sought who I am innately. This is a hangover from the long quest to find if I were “really” transsexual, and if so, what should I do about it.

But then, ten years ago, I was 35, and now I am 45. Young people equate happiness with excitement, old people equate happiness with contentment, in the middle I equate it with both. I was actually noticing signs of ageing then, it seems I have more to notice now, they may or may not be more noticeable. I notice more changes in the world around me, and remember more how it was different at another time.

And in 2001 I started taking testosterone suppressants, and oestradiol. That changes me. I cried three times in 1996, sometimes I cry daily for a week or more.

The religious path is one of growth and change.

If I am really intuitive, feelings-based, rather than rational, why should that be life-long?

Underneath it all, the Unconscious influences so much of what I do, and my thinking on motivation is so often a post-hoc rationalisation, as accurate as a hurried journalist, not understanding and missing the point.

I am an organism within a permeable skin, always changing, taking in and excreting. How could I, really, get a handle on any of what I am? How could I have self-acceptance, if that depended on any sort of understanding, anything I could categorise or name or define?

I- just- am.

Acceptance

Once more round the Spiral…

Jesus said, Whoever is not with me is against me. Whoever does not gather with me, scatters. He also said, Whoever is not against you is for you.

These two sayings, taken together, are one of the koans of the Bible: for how can they both be true? The world-view of Holy Willie:

Oh Thou who in the Heavens dost dwell
Who, as it pleases best Thysel’
Sends ane to Heaven and ten to Hell
A’ for Thy Glory

does not fit reality. People do our best under difficult circumstances. There is no obvious line between the Remnant and the Damned, and those who think of themselves as the Remnant generally do harm. They have too much need to Convert others. And there are good unbelievers, and poor believers.

From that, I decided that Morality is addressed to me, and me alone.¬† Compton Mackenzie had a character who read the Bible assiduously to learn her rights and others’ duties. My view was the opposite: I had no right to consider the morality of others’ being or doing, only my own. Judge not, that ye be not judged.

So, this put me on the way to accepting the World as it is. Unfortunately, having little self-respect, I did not do the work of self-acceptance. I had to be other than I am. I had to make a man of myself. I had to be rational, intellectual, thinking things through. Even changing from presenting male to expressing myself female did not let me accept myself, or what I want, or accept what makes me happy. That is the work I do now. That is what I need to do to survive in this world. I am a good person, not for what I do but for who I am, under the shell, under the masks, my authentic self.

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I am so politically correct, that I am a wheen chary of the phrase “her heart’s in the right place” in case anyone is dextrocardiac. Political correctness which is worth anything at all is respect and courtesy.¬†Any infelicity of language¬†can be improved: “fire person”? No, “fire officer”. “Non-sexist language” becomes¬†“inclusive language”, more obviously an improvement. ¬†

 This is excellent practice for a writer, and also for any human being seeking to use language to understand the World. Of course language cannot let us understand the world, but it can take us to those jumping-off points beyond language; and it can continually push the boundaries of understanding.

So, why talk of being “vulnerable”? That sounds frightening and dangerous. Talk instead of being “authentic” or “real”, which¬†sounds liberating and empowering. Talk not of being undefended, but of ceasing to be defensive. I have my defences if needed, but they are needed surprisingly rarely.

Trust the Spirits

It does not matter whether Spirit and Spirits are objective reality on a different plane, underpinning, suffusing and enveloping visible material reality; or stories, ideas and archetypes, helping human beings understand their material universe. Spirits are real. Actually, I tend to the materialist perspective: my inspiration comes from my unconscious mind, it does not mean that it is not in my brain just because I am not consciously aware of it; physically, perhaps it comes across the corpus callosum into the dominant hemisphere of the brain. (One Hundred subscribers! Does any of you know whether that has any basis in known physiology?)

Um. A materialist spiritual healer. Well, who am I to presume to understand? I know that two women have told me they felt heat, when I was not touching them but felt heat in my hands, and held the intention to heal. If I tell a story about that, what good does it do me? Harm, rather, if the story is wrong. Trust in unknowing, this is enough to make me want to take the next step.

So, spirits, either brain-phenomena, or ancestors, or angels, or independent beings, or for all I know Ainur singing the creation of Iluvatar. Should I trust them?

The story which bids me not trust all spirits, which looms largest in my own mind, is that of the Farmington Prophecy.  No, Jesus was not prophesying through Licia, and the spirit that did wasted her time and energy and money. Perhaps this had to do with her use of LSD. I do not know.

The tale of the Witch of Endor, who calls forth the dead prophet Samuel at the request of King Saul, and completes his tragedy, only tells me to treat spirit or spirits with respect: not that they are malicious, but that what they say may be too much in that moment to bear.

Right now, I want to respond to spirits as I might going out on the town for a night, in a place I do not know. If I trust the spirits, I may meet interesting people, and go to interesting places. If I fear, and hold myself aloof, I may be missing something. I trust in my own purity to keep me safe, enough.