Entanglements

A man of twenty five
kissed a woman of forty-five
climbed into her heart
and went whistling on his way

At Midsummer Camp, I had unrolled my tent, and was thinking about what to do next, when M came up. From behind, he would see my sandals, silk skirt and silk top, and my wig would not look too wiggish. He said, “Would you like some help?”

I turned and said, “Oh, thank you. That would be kind of you.”

His face went white, he said something about having to be on the other side of the campsite, and hurried off.

So I had little cause to like him, and when W told me how he had kissed her and bowled her over, I disliked him more. She wanted to go two hundred miles to see him, even to make a life with him. Eventually they met with others in a pub, and he said that he had no interest in further contact but the kiss itself was a good connection for both of them. She left the pub, but was so angry that she went back and threw his beer over him. Later I told U of this, with the intent of engendering respect for W- it is an empowering thing to assault a man who wrongs you- and she said, smiling, “Oh, I heard about the beer-throwing incident”. So perhaps W’s entanglements are a matter of common knowledge, and source of innocent merriment.

P was going to have lunch with Bjork, but she stood him up. He would have waited another two hours to see if she would turn up late, but the CIA were hunting him. So he imagined what he would have thought in his former life. In his former life, he would not have thought that Bjork would have lunch with him, or that the CIA were hunting him; and he would have thought that his employer might object to a three hour lunch break. So he acted as if his beliefs were the same as in his former life, and in that way could have all the excitement and wonder of his delusions with less of the evil consequences.

P also spent some time as a student as a Born-again Christian, and wondered what it would be like to not be one. So he got a book by Bertrand Russell, and tried to imagine what it would be like to be Atheist. After a while the pool of his Christian beliefs was shrinking, and the pool of his Atheist beliefs was growing, and he stepped from one to the other.

—————————————-

My No is powerful and beautiful
and I have used it to protect myself
in a way which has been necessary
and my No grew
until I said No to experience
No to my reaction to it
No to life
I still need my No to protect myself and
I will value my No, and I will not fear to use it.
And I will practise my Yes.

Quakers and marriage

HomeIn 2009, the Religious Society of Friends in Britain minuted,

we are being led to treat same sex committed relationships in the same way as opposite sex marriages, reaffirming our central insight that marriage is the Lord’s work and we are but witnesses.

That means, in the way we celebrate them and recognise them. We decided to lobby government so that marriages celebrated in that way should be recognised as legally valid without further procedure.

In the Government’s current consultation on equal marriage, this is part of our submission:

Since 2009, Quakers in Britain have sought a change in the law so that same sex marriages can be prepared, celebrated, witnessed, reported to the state, and recognised as legally valid, in the same way as opposite sex marriages. Quakers consider that life-long committed relationships between a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, should be celebrated in exactly the same way as the marriage of opposite sex couples. To us, marriage is a celebration of the committed relationship of two people who have found love for each other. Our testimony to equality demands that it should be available for all committed couples who seek it.We consider that any legislation for equal marriage should include the liberty of Quakers to conduct marriages in our Meeting Houses.

We have been moving towards this position for some time. In 2007, my own area meeting minuted,

We agree that Monthly meetings should allow meetings for worship to recognise and celebrate same sex partnerships.

We would wish our meetings to be prepared, as appropriate, to work with same sex couples to prepare them for life-long commitment in the care of the Meeting.

This Monthly meeting believes that we should be sensitive to the needs of same sex couples, and, in consultation, would support them in their efforts for the law to be changed to allow such partnerships to be legally registered in the context of worship.

What of other Yearly Meetings? Friends General Conference, representing 832 congregations in North America, has provision for a marriage certificate for a gay or lesbian couple.

We are clear that it is God’s Will that we move in this way.

I rather like what Edgbaston Quakers had to say in the latest Government consultation:

The meaning of marriage as an ancient institution has changed many times in many cultures over the last several thousand years, be it religious marriage or civil marriage; indeed, until the last century the meaning of marriage in *any* culture was basically about the male partner owning the female partner as a possession, in the same way in which he owned his property, his land, and his livestock. So our contemporary culture has already redefined marriage in our own time.

In our own time, the meaning of marriage is now defined as the public commitment of two people who want to declare that their love for each other is intended to be permanent, not temporary; therefore, in a fair and equal society it is not merely only natural that the opportunity for marriage is made equally available to all regardless of age, sex, and sexual preference, but it is an *imperative*.

Some beautiful portraits.

The Guermantes Way

de Laszlo, Elizabeth, Comtesse Greffuhle
Young Marcel starts by fantasising about Madame la Duchesse de Guermantes, walking the Paris streets in hopes of seeing her and catching her eye. He imagines he loves her, but

we live in perfect ignorance of those we love.

He ends in being so friendly that he can drop in on her when he likes, after a long dinner party at her house. She is happy to see him because he is highly intelligent, an intellectual, the friend of the painter Elstir and the writer Bergotte. However his friendship with her so enrages her brother in law, M. de Charlus, that he withdraws his patronage from Marcel- patronage which the Baron thinks priceless, but the narrator only wants as an entrée to the Guermantes salon.

That dinner party is described in intense detail, and the attitudes of the aristocratic Des and a token Von show through their words. They are completely facile, and fascinating to Marcel in talking of their noble names and relationships going back centuries as a seaman would be, talking of the tides. It is impossible to know another person:

in those days I supposed that it was through words that the truth was communicated to other people… it may perhaps be gathered with more certainty, without waiting for words and without even taking them into account, from countless external signs.

People do not, as I had imagined, present themselves to us clearly and in fixity with their merits, their defects, their plans, their intentions with regard to ourselves… but as a shadow we can never penetrate, of which there can be no direct knowledge, about which we form countless beliefs based upon words and even actions, neither of which give us more than insufficient and in fact contradictory information.

We bring to the feeling we associate with a person the many dormant elements that person awakens in us but which are foreign to the person in question.

Proust makes his Jew friend Bloch ridiculous, while showing the poisonous oppression the Jews lived under, where even those who know they ought not to be prejudiced feel distaste. People struggling with oppression behave in twisted ways.

the tone in which a Catholic lady might inform a Jewish one that her parish priest denounced the pogrom in Russia and admired the generosity of certain Jews

Friendship is a flaw in an artist, and time spent with friends is time wasted. Explaining myself, the only person I may know, is the purpose of art.

Friendship is totally bent on making us sacrifice the only part of ourselves that is real and incommunicable (except through art) to a superficial self which, unlike the other, finds no joy on its own; what it finds instead is a vague, sentimental satisfaction at being cherished by external support, hospitalized in the individuality of another person.

I note his transgendered character:

a young man in a black velvet toque and hortensia-coloured skirt, his cheeks chalked red like a page from a Watteau album, who with a smile on his lips and his eyes fixed aloft, tracing graceful patterns with the palms of his hands and springing lightly about, seemed so entirely of another species from the sensible people in conventional dress among whom he was pursuing his ecstatic trance like a madman

The Duchesse is intelligent, but

to be intelligent meant to have  a scathing tongue, to be capable of making tart comments, of not taking no for an answer; it also meant the ability to hold ones own in painting, music and architecture alike, and to speak English.

I laugh out loud as he shows his own stupidities:

in long monologues with myself, in which I rehearsed everything I was going to tell him with scarcely a thought of what he might have to say to me.

Dr Seuss

File:Dr. Seuss WikiWorld.png

Regularly, new Dr Seuss books would come through the post, and my sister and I would look at them with my father. The verses are simple for young children, and say worthwhile things. The wildness and unpredictability of real life, and its wonder, are here.

From there to here,
from here to there,
funny things are everywhere.

If you never did
You should.
These things are fun.
and Fun is good.

-One fish two fish red fish blue fish, 1960

I am a little disappointed to see in Wikiquote that two of my favourite Seuss quotes, which speak to adults, are misattributed:

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness — and call it love — true love.

Whoever said them, they are worth repeating.

Well, if I post daily, I have to have some filler posts, and quoting this humourist seemed entertaining enough, until I came across “Oh the Places you’ll go!” aimed at those leaving high school, and written in 1990:

Congratulations!
Today is your day!
You’re off to great places!
You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.’
You’re on your own.
And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go.

Until I got to this bit:

The Waiting Place
 for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come,
Or a plane to go or the mail to come
Or the rain to go or the phone to ring,
Or the snow to snow, or waiting around for a Yes or No
Or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite
Or waiting around for Friday night
Or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake, or a pot to boil,
or a Better Break or a string of pearls,
Or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or
Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

Oh God, is that me? Not applying for work or anything, not going out to meet Healers, writing a bit-

Everyone I meet, just about, can see I am TS and, I have such shame and anger and fear around that, and- am I working through it? Getting past it? Or just moping, so that the fear grows? I cannot be certain-

Picture. I would rather use Geisel’s own work, but given how Wikipedia tiptoes round it, it seems the copyright is important to folks. As is their right.

Hatred and persecution

Scott L Jacobsen in his blog The Wittenburg Door asks plaintively,

I guess you would have to define “hatred” clearly. Sin is not, in my opinion, something to ignore, accept, redefine, allow, promote, teach, advocate for, etc…

Is it hatred to say, with the Catholic bishops, that “homosexuality is fundamentally disordered?” Is it hatred to say that the norm for families should be two parent, monogamous, and heterosexual? It is hatred to say that anything else falls short of God’s standard?

The reason I am also interested in hate is that it is almost illegal to say anything contrary to very current opinion on these matters….Because I dissent, I have been labelled a hater, although I have never advocated the abuse or mistreatment of anyone guilty of a particular sin. I do not seek to withhold human rights from any individual. I do find that most of the suppression of fundamental human rights today, in Western nations, are coming from the liberal-homosexual/lesbian/transsexual/bisexual (etc) side of the aisle.

Then he asks a useful question.

So what is “hate,” and who are the “haters?”

Well, Charles Worley, the “pastor” videoed calling for concentration camps so we could die out is a hater. Many people feel disgust when they think of gay people, especially gay lovemaking, just as in past times many people felt disgust when they thought of black people. Evangelical Christians tell each other that condemning gay lovemaking is righteous, and so express such disgust and anger freely. I think they are haters, expressing those feelings. Disgust, fear and anger do not bring God’s children to God.

File:Basil&leo.jpg

I accept the argument that the prejudice of the powerful is most pernicious, and the resentment of the less powerful is not the same. The problem is that Scott Jacobsen believes the LGBT folks are the powerful now, the Evangelicals are the victims. So, what else is “hatred”?

I think “Defending traditional marriage” is hatred. Married straight people in the US have tax and immigration privileges gay long term couples do not share. In the UK, a “civil partnership” is “separate but equal”- the Government recognises that that is discriminatory, and the difference will be removed. Traditional marriage until the late 19th century meant a man owning his wife’s property, and in the UK she was not allowed to refuse sex until the 1990s. Traditional marriage subordinated the wife to the husband. The idea of marriage as a love match between equals is modern. Any act supportive of subordinating women to men, or refusing the privileges of straight people to gay people, is hatred. That includes speaking for or voting for “defence of marriage” legislation.

What of stating that the Bible states gay lovemaking is a sin, and that the person believes gay lovemaking is a sin? I call that hatred too. Usually, it is married people like Scott Jacobsen stating it. He is referring to a “sin” to which he has no temptation. Why? What business is it of his? Look to your own sins, Scott. How much time do you devote to condemning those who have divorced and remarried? It is the emphasis, the time wasted, on this, that makes it hatred. Keep your belief to yourself. Its validity does not depend on whether others agree. If you really believed it, you would know that.

What of a Christian running a hotel, who wants to refuse a double room to a gay couple?  The European Union, the European Convention on Human Rights, and increasing numbers of US states say that he should not. If he wants to keep sin out of his hotel, the only way is to keep humans out. Does he ensure that all straight couples staying there are married? No? Then why the emphasis on gay people?

Being gay is innate. Hatred for it is like hatred of people with a particular skin or hair colour. Being Christian is a large part of many people’s identity, but belief in the sinfulness of gay lovemaking need not be as important in it as it is in some churches.

So, who is the hater, Scott? You are. Stop obsessing about gay people. Think about something else.

This site says that the icon, above, is of Sts Sergius and Bacchus the Great Martyrs. This site says that it is the Emperor Basil I and his companion John, getting married.

Cupid and Psyche

File:Statua di Amore e Psiche.jpg

File:Canova-Cupd and Psyche 300degree view.jpg

Hear the myth of Cupid and Psyche
which tells of God’s lust for man
Can we all become a Goddess?
Say it baby: yes we can
you give me fever
fever in the midsummer light
Life is hot like a cauldron
Fast and sharp and painful and right

Cupid fell in love with a woman
Aphrodite just said No
Psyche became filled with the fever
Fever made her glow
you give me fever
Fever by night and by day
No, no, no I can’t fight it
fever carries me away

Aphrodite sent her to Hades
All Hell fell in love
Psyche was all woman
So she became God Above
You give me fever
everybody dances in flames
Fever burns inside us
Dancing unrestrained

Pictures from Wikipedia

Giving ministry

Shared lunch at Swanston meeting house. People from elsewhere in the area meeting came, and twelve of us enjoyed eating together.

In Meeting, G ministered, reading from the Friend:

All other religions have holy books, in which The Truth is held, immutable and unchanging. The Truth, we are told, Simply Is.

I disagree. To me, Truth is a vibrant, dynamic creature, never the same and always far beyond human understanding. It is less a rock to stand on and see further (or lean against in smug certainty), and more a wave to ride, carrying you on towards the future – where the Truth is just a Truth, because Truth changes; Truth here and now is different from Truth there and then. Quakers do not pretend to have the Truth. We have questions, in the Queries , and some possible answers, in the Advices. We change both, as with all the Quaker faith & practice, recognising that everything changes and we must keep up if we hope to help anyone. We don’t lead – we seek, and we hold that everyone can. That, to me, is the most important thing – to know, in effect, that we don’t really know anything, but to try and do the right thing anyway. That, to me, is what being a Quaker is all about.

-Leah Heywood.

I am delighted that a teenager should be conscious of her spiritual journey. After, L gave a reading she had brought from Thich Nhat Hanh: truth we can express in words is just a finger pointing at the moon, not to be treated as Truth itself.

I had thought in meeting that I would like to give ministry, around my current Spiritual work: to be Present more and more in the moment, away from habit and towards perceiving and responding to things as they are. We were chatting outside in the sunshine, and we walked into the meeting house, and I was about to say something to K- and I noticed in that moment that if I had, it would have been just a commonplace remark, a cocktail-party comment. I did not want to make such a comment.

In meeting, however, feeling Present, I started thinking through what I might say, as I have so often done. Even so, it may be inspired Ministry: but I did not feel moved to speak, however wise and valuable what I might have said might have been. I realised that I wanted to minister as inspired in the moment, without realising what I might say beforehand.

And I- relaxed. Presence has always seemed a state of alertness; and I think I can be present and relaxed as well. Comfortable in my Place. 

After- however bad things get, however under threat the economy seems, whatever wars and rumours of wars there are, however repressive the State becomes- there is hope, because more and more people see the world in this way: working from Love not fear, present in the moment, surfing the wave of truth rather than trying to cling to a concrete understanding. Once you do, you never go back, because you know this way is Better. And if someone else sees you, they see something different about you, and they Want it. And so the Truth spreads.

Photos by NASA.

Sibboleth

The word “shibboleth” comes from Judges 12:

4 Jephthah then called together the men of Gilead and fought against Ephraim. The Gileadites struck them down because the Ephraimites had said, ‘You Gileadites are renegades from Ephraim and Manasseh.’ 5 The Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan leading to Ephraim, and whenever a survivor of Ephraim said, ‘Let me cross over,’ the men of Gilead asked him, ‘Are you an Ephraimite?’ If he replied, ‘No,’ 6 they said, ‘All right, say “Shibboleth”.’ If he said, ‘Sibboleth’, because he could not pronounce the word correctly, they seized him and killed him at the fords of the Jordan. Forty-two thousand Ephraimites were killed at that time.

 Why should homosexuality be so important to Evangelicals? One reason is that it is for them a sibboleth of the Faith. They believe that they live by the Bible, and may have beliefs about its inerrancy and inspiration. They believe that they show respect for the Bible, and some believe that liberal Christians such as myself, who do not regard the Bible in the same way, are not Saved.

As homosexuality moves from grudging tolerance to general acceptance within society, this becomes an open sore for them. More and more Christians welcome gay people. The Evangelicals know this is wrong, and that it dishonours the Bible. So they get louder and louder, until condemning homosexual lovemaking becomes the most important article of the Faith, even above “God is Love”.

The other reason I think it is so important for them is that they find homosexual lovemaking disgusting. Even those who are committed to diversity may feel the same: David Blunkett, the former Home Secretary, said something like that. The answer is, “if you find it disgusting, then don’t think about it”. Mr Blunkett worked happily with Chris Smith, the first openly gay Cabinet minister. He knew diversity was an important value, and so kept his disgust within bounds. However the Evangelical knows that his disgust is Righteous, and so has no motivation to limit it.

I think they are bemused and discomfited when others do not feel the same way. One of the cosy certainties of their world is challenged. Can they really be right, if others feel differently? So they retreat into vociferous denial.

I sympathise with that, because I too find it difficult to validate my own views and feelings when others feel differently. Posts recently have been about living with the fact that other people think differently from me. Radfems, Rationalists and Reformed Christians all say I am Wrong! And yet I survive, more or less.

Picture credit.

Untestable hypothesis

Off round the blogs again, this time to Galileo Unchained, a Rationalist site. When I said I have certain experiences which might be explained supernaturally, a commenter replied,

 But they might ALSO be interpreted naturally, right? And is that what you prefer to do, or do you get kind of a thrill out of thinking you’ve somehow plugged into the great unknown spiritual realm? Or is it just possible that you’re willing to shrug and say “Who knows? Hard to tell.”

Another useful quote from the comments here is:

“Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons.”

 —Michael Shermer, founder of the Skeptic Society

A good variation on the Curse of Intelligence: clever people can make all sorts of screwed up ways of being in the world almost work, so that we do not improve on them.

At one point, I would have used Scott Peck’s four stage theory of personal growth to think, “I am more mature than they”- Rationalism is his third stage, explaining everything, and Mysticism is his fourth, involving inter alia living with things as they are without needing Classifications and Understanding. But then I found the wonderful Rationalist site Less Wrong, where much of the Maturity stuff I was taking in was espoused on a Rationalist basis. Oh well.

I could impute worse motives than thrill-seeking to myself, for imagining myself plugged into the Spiritual Realm. Hucksterism and charlatanry: I know, really, that there is no “spiritual” explanation for my Healing, and so I wilfully suppress that knowledge so that I can, in the long run, make money from it.

I know that God and Spirit is the Untestable hypothesis, which can be used to explain everything from the movement of the planets in the sky to the movement of the human heart, until a better explanation becomes available. And yet, I have my experiences, which are beautiful, and it feels to me possible that Spirit/ Lifeforce/ Whatever is involved. So I retain the possibility in my mind, along with the possibility that there is no God, and me waving my arms about in a particular way is something people might be willing to pay for.

And- I think that explaining things and distinguishing things and describing things and causal links with language is extremely important and can go a long way- and when I can go no further with that, I have to relate and perceive, and be open to possibility and different perception. And it is tempting to classify and describe when one does not have the knowledge to do so accurately, yet always necessary to push the boundaries of what is describable. Though I think many Rationalists realise this too.