Reducing suffering

Amrita: Many people, http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f3/Buddha_sukhothaistylb.jpgparticularly people who have been active in causes of one sort or another, are concerned that if they awaken they will lose their drive to reduce suffering in the world. They are afraid of losing who they know themselves to be. One needn’t worry about this, or even have concern. There may be a period of readjustment where certain activities are reduced or cease altogether; that’s a needed time of reorientation. The very cells of the body are undergoing a powerful transformation.

I have done a power of good, and that has been a way for me to tolerate myself. And, I am not, at the moment. I have given up on the CAB, and spend my time in my flat. I thought, I do nothing- but I still give regularly to a particular charity, and I attend the Quaker meeting.

“‎Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.” – John Stuart Mill. God has no hands but ours, but there are seven billion of us, and enough other people are doing good at the moment. It is not all up to me.

I am struck how little I know myself. I phoned a company, and failed to get through their security check. When I phoned again, I started by explaining that sometimes my voice seemed male over the phone, and was amazed how distressed I became. I had repeated phone calls for James Sims, whom I have not heard of. I said it was a wrong number, and eventually with my male voice pretended to be James Sims, demanding to know who was calling. My anger amazed me.

So what seems ridiculous and weak and worthless in me is a different perspective. I can just about believe that I am healing, even growing, though it feels like a retreat.

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A blogging friend asked “What is the good life?” of her many regular commenters, and I went off on one. Quietly, you know, I am alone, my mouth purses and angry words gush through my head. NOT MINE! is the first thought. My temptation is to define the Good Life in terms of what I want and do not have.

The thought came,

I want to be cherished.

Oh! The wedding-vows word! I am cherishing myself, as best I know how, now.

The good life is in a good community, where each person is nurtured, and their talents developed and used for the good of all. Now, you know! You read it here first!

Personal questions

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e3/Brooklyn_Museum_-_One_Hundred_Children.jpgIf you were to start your life all over again, what things if any would you do differently?

Wow. If I had my current knowledge, in a baby, I would be a strange creature. I would use that to gain fame, then proclaim that this miracle was a sign that I am the Messiah.

If I was simply back in my original situation, probably something completely random which would send my life in a different direction, but not necessarily better than now- because I would not know better.

If my parents were to give birth to me in 2013, they would not have grown up during World War II, they would be entirely different people, and so would I.

What are the things you enjoy?

I enjoy making people laugh. Today a friend painted my nails for me, and that was lovely. I love conversation and hugging.

What is your worst habit?

Ignoring personal questions. Watch.

What do you value the most in life?
What do you want to do with your life?
What are your dreams and goals?

Or, not ignoring, but- how old are you, exactly? These are young people’s questions. I don’t know, is the answer: I am middle-aged, but I am still doing teenage in many respects. It is like being forced to repeat a year at school, when you flunk it first time round. There are still useful lessons to learn.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/13/Michelangelo%2C_Creation_of_Adam_06.jpgWho is God to you?

The Creator who made me in God’s image, loving, creative and powerful. A series of stories. A curse-word. The inner promptings of my heart.

Which human being do you admire the most?

Oooh. Kingsley Belton or Ann Forsyth. Maybe you should have asked Why, or even, who is that?

What is your favorite quote?

How could I choose between, say,

Why should your face so please me
that if one little line should stray
bewilderment would seize me
and drag me down the tortuous way
out of the noon into the night?
Yet so, into this tranquil light
you raise me
(Edwin Muir)

and

We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender
(Winston Churchill)?

Quotes can amuse or inspire or teach or exasperate. I like quotes which elegantly express ridiculous ideas, and even are meaningless but mellifluous. Lots of quotes have delighted me.

What are your passions?

Ah. What grasps me, so it does not seem like me acting, but something acting through me? At the moment, my great sulk, my withdrawal from the World, which prevents me from doing anything much, but then gives me time to blog. Your first question was:

Why do you blog?

Because I enjoy it, and that is enough.

These questions were asked by A Gaytekeeper. All questions welcome. What would you like to know?

Outside

Fbfnd had an MRI scan, and asks alternative health practitioners for their thoughts on that. She really does believe this stuff, it is not just stage-dressing for placebo.

Thursday 24th. I have not been off Eagle’s Nest since Friday. Now I get hot hurrying over the snow that fell then, still crunchy underfoot as it has never thawed. There is a man at the bus stop with a huge dog, in jogging bottoms, a hoodie with hood pulled up, baseball cap and- a scarf over his mouth and nose. Does he want to look like a bank robber? The dog jumps up at the roadsweeper’s cart, and he holds it back, telling it off.

I treat myself to the upper deck, and he joins me at the front of the bus. Young dog, is it? Two and a half. It is an American bulldog; they do not have the same breathing problems as an English bulldog. He also has two Staffies at home, which have just had a litter. He does not breed them for money, he will have to find homes for them. This one did not cost him anything, the owner asked if he wanted a dog.

Most of the puppies were fine, but one was much smaller, and had poorly developed hind legs. They bent the wrong way. So, for a week after birth he held it and bent the legs the other way, and now it is fine. Mmm. Patience and kindness was not the first stereotype I had in mind. He moved to Marsley, which he finds so quiet, from the teeming metropolis of Zhuzhkov. He would find Landwart Magna, up the road, quieter.

I can be giggly-girly with Lizette. We hug, then sit together on the sofa in the coffee shop and she paints my nails. Even with girly types, I am usually far less physical, more intellectual. She wants people to correct her English, and English people do not. We are too reserved, and we do not want her to lose face. In Peru, there is no benefits system and you have to study and work hard to survive. So, she is more adaptable than we.

She showed her sister her living-room via Skype, and her sister told her the feng shui of it. It is important not to have clutter, especially in the corners of the room. Lizette has also spent some time with the Healing Trust in Nupton. A man there had such a calm manner, such beautiful eyes, she trusted him completely.

I can do that. I look into her eyes and tell her affirmations, and then channel Qi to her third eye chakra. People don’t believe this stuff- I don’t believe it! -and I love to do this with her. My experiences of feeling warmth come back to me, as real not impossible.

She goes to her training, I go to the supermarket. I decide to stay in girly mode for a moment, looking around me, noticing things. I divide myself. There are permissible ways of being, and I get permission or not from those around me- or imagine I do, whether they know it or not.

Desires II

This is the Hicks quote which bridges the gap between what I believe, and what I imagine the Law of Attraction to say. It is not just woo-woo, but a “spiritual-mystic” turning of ordinary understandings on their head, based in human psychology with a materialist-practical effect.

It is natural that by knowing what you do not want, you are able to clarify what you do want; and there is nothing wrong with identifying a problem before beginning to look for a solution. But many people, over time, become problem oriented rather than solution oriented, and in their examination and explanation of the problem, they continue the perpetuation of the problem. That which is like unto itself, is drawn—so tell the story you want to live and you will eventually live it.

Um. I wanted to make a man of myself, and I did not. I am not sure this is a refutation of Hicks, I think I did not really want to be a man, but something else. I do not really know what I want. A year ago I said I wanted to descend into, really feel, and work through my anger.

I held a discussion within myself when deciding to transition, with my male self, female self, inner rationalist and inner toddler. The toddler said “I want to wear skirts and I want to walk down the street and buy stuff.” I want to express myself female, for that is who I am, and I do. I want money, I am strongly materialist in that sense.

Other formulations I have do not work. “I want to be told what to do,” except when I am often I resent it and go my own way. Perhaps

I want to find a place where I fit

and that is a human thing, we are a social species.

I want to feel I am doing something useful, valuable and worthwhile

and I have managed that, in the past.

I want to be safe.

I want to protect myself, because I hurt.

And that conflicts with

I want to be doing things, moving forward, achieving.

The depth of my hurt amazes me. I cannot quite believe it. So my desires conflict, rather than working together.

I want to heal

but I am not sure how, and I can’t quite trust that I am doing it naturally. Am I just ruminating and fading away?

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I do not speak to my father for weeks, because I want something from him that he cannot give, and I cannot relinquish that desire. There. A nice formulation. I have several answers to that, I must accept reality, I forgive for my own benefit not for others’; and I do not. So I sit with the difficulty in unknowing- inner critic laughs, but I do- and I realise I have this voice in myself which stops it. That voice, which sounds very like the one I declared war on, says-

It's not right it's not fair he she they should have cared, thought, seen, acted-

Note the pretty script, for it is hard for me to respect this voice, which resents the world, lots of individuals and groups, and myself. For I should have seen things coming, acted otherwise, avoided particular consequences-

I need to listen to that voice. I need to hear and respect that in me. Not with the thought of taming it- certainly not at first, hold that thought at bay- I want to hear it, and worship with it. Or, I want to know what I am forgiving.

Sir Alfred Munnings

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/85/Alfred_Munnings_-_Charge_of_Flowerdew%27s_Squadron.jpg

Munnings said, “If you paint a tree, jolly well make it look like a tree.” Some people still say that, and I disagree. That is not art, but craft: it has been done before so often that it is no longer worth doing. I want a work of art to say something new, in a new way.

Though it is ironic that I express this commonplace sentiment, and cannot make even the expression remotely original.

Dr James Fox in his BBC4 series “British Masters” said- “I disagree. Of course I do. But given that he believed that, I love him for saying it.” It was a view widely attacked in 1949 when Munnings said it in a drunken speech which he had perhaps forgotten was broadcast on BBC radio. He was President of the Royal Academy of Arts, which still has the clinging odour of philistinism.

Munnings could paint a horse to look like a horse. This, in 1918, was “the last great cavalry charge”- the Polish cavalry against German tanks in 1939 does not count, apparently, and I find myself wondering what on Earth the Germans were doing. Had they no machine guns?

Original sin

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0c/BoschDeathOfTheReprobate.jpgThe loathing of Evangelicals for gay people is not some add-on which can easily be amputated leaving creative service of God. It sits at the heart of all that is wrong with their Christianity.

Consider the comments here. Michelle Lesley summarises her doctrine beautifully: You’ve [sinned]. So have I. So has everybody else. The issue is that we are all -homosexual and heterosexual- sinners who must admit that we have offended a holy God, realize that there is no way we can appease Him on our own, and throw ourselves on His mercy for the forgiveness of our sin. We all sin, God must punish us, God sacrifices Jesus to himself for our sin. To benefit from that sacrifice, we turn to Christ. We are then justified. We then fit ourselves to God’s commands, including that most important one about no gay sex. If we do not so fit ourselves, then we obviously did not really turn to Christ or get saved in the first place.

It is not just Love that is perverted in us, in her view. It is all human instincts, which lead us to sin. We are, unsaved, monstrous Ids, with no superego to hold us back. But that does not fit with human beings as we observe them. Atheists and Hindus are good people.

It is more horrifying that she does not know whether she was saved or regenerated when she was 12, though she went to church. She thinks it does not matter, but it does, for it matters to other children like she was- is there a mean God with a get-out clause- “No, not committed enough- damn her” or not? Again, that does not fit with the God we observe: loving and creative. Of course you can ascribe other characteristics to God, as Michelle would- righteous, or wrathful- but that takes away from the Love.

(Doesn’t. Does. Does Not. Does Too. I doubt I would persuade her.)

She could cite screeds of St Paul to justify her position, before she turns sorrowfully from me, and I cite just one verse: by their fruits shall ye know them. The fruits of Michelle’s way are voluntary commitment to the torture of ex-gay programmes, rejection, bullying, despair and suicide: and people leaving the Church.

I commented on some ridiculous priest’s blog, and he said my striving for the Organismic Self showed I was far from the Gospel. So the Catholics are as bad as the Evangelicals. I wonder what experience they have of conscience, or the promptings of love and truth in their hearts. I seek a Biblical Christianity which recognises the goodness of creation. Only then can anyone believe in a Loving God.

Like water

Best to be like water,
Which benefits the ten thousand things
And does not contend,
It pools where humans disdain to dwell,
Close to the Tao.

-Tao Te Ching, 8, trans. Addis and Lombardo.

When you do not-doing
nothing's out of order.

Tao Te Ching, 4, made verse by Ursula LeGuin, who comments that wei wu wei, Do not Do, act without acting, is the heart of the book; the whole book is an explanation and a demonstration of it.

Saifa and pictureThe kata Saifa has violent bunkai. It is one thing to hit a man and let his natural inertia make his body absorb the energy of the blow; it is another to hold a head so that it takes that energy. After Saturday, I am encouraged to get out my kata DVD at last and do some serious practice. I started in pyjamas, but putting on the gi felt fitting, as did tidying the room, already my ritual spiritual space, as my dojo. One hour yesterday, one hour today, I have practised Saifa and studied the video.

And I am tense. This is Fighting, so my muscles tense and I think about the force of my blow; and that takes away from the force. In the bathroom this morning, 7°C with snow outside, I first tense in the discomfort then relax. I do not want to be in this cold for long, but I can be here, just letting my body cope with the temperature. Practising kata without any tension at all is difficult- it is a blow, it must be tense- and making the move in a relaxed doing-notdoing way with the snap, the tension, only at the last moment is particularly difficult. And it means taking the ego-mind out of the equation, so that the body does what it must.

Tao te ching 5: Wise souls aren’t humane. To them the hundred families are straw dogs. LeGuin comments that this “inhumanity” is not cruelty, for cruelty and altruism alike come from the ego-mind. “Followers of the Way, like the forces of nature, act selflessly.” I seek to strip away my socialisation, which constrains me, and rely on the creativity and God-ness of that inhumanity to be sufficiently good. I imagine cracking a skull not because I want to do that, but because I want to do what is necessary.

And- U, falling in love with me, saw the warm humour of my left eye; and falling out, noticed my right eye, its cold watchfulness. These are visible in the picture. She said it out loud as she thought it, and I heard the sub-vocalisation, which hit me in the throat. It is a reason, to go along with all the causes, that I do not trust my unself-ed being.

Sepai

Six of us stand in the snow, waiting for the janitor to open the community centre. I expected it would be open, so have no coat: Chris lends me one he has in his car for use on building sites.

We practise kata, beginning with the first. We break it down, without the arm movements at one point: Place the foot, then turn. My temptation is, instead, to fling the leg and arm round and let the body follow: this is one of the points I work on. In blocking, I need the muscle tension at the moment where my fist blocks the blow. We have long preparative moves before the effective part, and those moves should be made in a relaxed manner, without tension. The temptation is to be tense throughout, which inhibits the move; if I do it relaxed and freely, it flows better. We practice with the whole of each move relaxed, and then with tension at the end where it is needed.

In this class I am an orange belt, and the other adults are brown belts. I am glad to be here, and hope Sensei need not teach only at my level. In Saifa, he tells me hints- the back leg comes up, then you turn following the raised leg- and says “Your body knows it. Don’t overthink it, trust your body to make the moves.”

Much of the bunkai (purpose explanation) of the kata Sepai (watch here, it is beautiful) relate to breaking free of grapples. Sensei Andy demonstrates with Chris, who grasps him from behind, his hips up against Sensei’s. “Chris remembers I have told him this before: in a fight you do not lean in like that, you bring your whole body close to control the opponent.” It is like the more intimate hug, I think, rather than the leaning in, touching shoulders only hug.

And I am triggered.

I try to hold my feelings, and carry on, but they are too strong and I weep. I have to bow out. “Are you OK?” -Er, it’s my ‘stuff’ coming up- I wonder whether my jargon is understood. Andy sets the others up to practise the kata then comes over to ask how I am.

No, it is nothing he has said or done. But- unselfconsciously using the body as in that grapple to hold an opponent reminded me of a closer hug. The physical is so close to the sexual, and it brings up for me how I have seen my own sexuality as wicked and perverted. So I have controlled my body with inhibitions, fighting myself. I want that unselfconscious action which is so much more elegant and effective, in bodily movement, in relating and in conflict- in an office, as well as physically- and it is so hard for me.

I do not wish to act as if uninhibited, normally, but for my actions to be at conscious choice rather than fearful inhibition. How completely I restrict myself!

Last Saturday was tough on the thigh muscles. Chris really felt it next day. Moving with the knees bent all the time was a strain and my thighs eventually started trembling. They were weak and I limped until Wednesday. “Pain is weakness draining away,” says Andy happily. I am glad I have the willpower to hold a pose to self-harm.

Grace, schoolgirl brown belt, asks if I do yoga to deal with these feelings. No, I meditate. She is concerned and accepting. I would rather not weep in a karate class, but it is alright.

Upsetting scenes

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/26/Carpioni%2C_Giulio_-_Apollo_and_Marsyas.jpgTorture was broadcast, for entertainment, on major channels on Sunday and Tuesday evenings. I watched, and was mostly entertained. Why do we tell each other these stories?

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ac/Victorian_pillar_box%2C_Ramsbottom_-_geograph.org.uk_-_813899.jpgIn Ripper Street, on BBC1, a man had poisoned a batch of flour so he could become famous as a mass-murderer. The heroic and saintly policeman had his associates twist the man’s broken arm to find out where that batch was. In Utopia, on Channel 4, two murderers working for the shadowy, Powerful, Evil Corporation (SPEC) asked a question of a man who did not know the answer, and maimed him. There was a build-up to the maiming, and we saw it all. The torturer, conversationally, described what he would do and in a quiet, gentle manner said “Now, now, stop screaming” and “Can you speak?”

That gentle manner, with the threat of his accomplice, got two men to co-operate in breathing the gas which killed them- calm, apparently reasonable authority, requesting something and making it seem as unthreatening as possible.

Utopia is an unsettling programme. The murderers are camp, and there is black humour in their interactions. Only the feral boy, his voice harsh though not yet broken, gets it: when his head teacher calls him in, and introduces the murderers as policemen, he does not bother protesting “I saw them kill someone” but jumps out the first floor window and limps off. But he has no false, comforting certainties to challenge. Ours are challenged when SPEC corrupts a senior civil servant and shows it controls a Government minister.

The murderers do what they must, to achieve their goals, without compunction. File:Scuttler.jpgQuestions like- what will people think? Will it work? which restrain me, do not affect them.They kill people by reassuring them: the victim should see the threat, and take action, so they blind him to it.

The ridiculous, impossible thing to do, when it is the only thing one can do- well, try it. The blind man shoots the torturer. The torturer is not all-powerful, or immune to chance.

I did not like Ripper Street’s Edmund Reid as a hero initially because he seemed so Wonderful: a figure like Doctor Who that comes upon a bad situation, and makes it all better. This Victorian Whitechapel is recognisably us, English-folk, but in a much dirtier, darker world, of clear threat and difficulty we do not see. Reid has an angelic care for other human beings. He refuses to judge anything as unconventional, only as destructive: he is gentle with the habituĂ©s of a Molly-house, where the men dress as ladies. He is extremely intelligent, spotting connections which would not occur to lesser men. Torturing his prisoner makes him human- at his wit’s end, he does something vile.

Why do we tell these stories? Because the comforting certainties crumble, and those lessons about Action and clear-sight are the ones we need. Habitual conventional responses cease to work.