Bigot of the year

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I believe the allegations against “Cardinal” Keith O’Brien because of the Moorov doctrine. Moorov was a shop owner, who sexually assaulted his shop assistants. Because there was no evidence other than the word of the woman, denied by Moorov, for each incident, there was no corroboration as previously understood: but the similarity in the women’s descriptions was held to be sufficient corroboration. You can say “It wisnae me, Ah didnae” once and be given the benefit of the doubt, but- four times?

The priests making the allegations may be assumed to have the priest’s commitment to integrity, and those still in orders will know the harm the allegations may do them.

O’Brien won the Bigot of the Year title because of this striking article, in which he compares the introduction of equal marriage to the reintroduction of slavery. What? Keith, babes, really- marriage is not like slavery. Really, it’s not. Or perhaps I have an idealistic view, never having been married. Onywye. He calls it the abrogation of a universal human right, rather than the acknowledgment of one.

I do not think he is a hypocrite, though. I think he has proper Catholic guilt about the priests he made passes at, and especially those who succumbed to him. That idea that gay relationships are harmful to mental and physical health: he really believes it.

That a man gifted enough to reach the top of such a vast organisation-1.2bn people- should hate himself as he is made so much, because of the doctrines of that “Christian” church, appals me. This vile and pitiable man, preying on those he had power over because he could not find a partner his church could recognise-

Some in the Catholic leadership will take the wrong lesson from this. They will say that it is even more important that no gay man enter their seminaries. Which is a shame, because as they have excluded women, contrary to the example of Jesus and Paul, gay men are their next best source of the gifts of pastoral care.

Outside the M25

File:M20, Folkestone, UK.jpgI have a terrible confession to make. I live outside the M25. That’s worse than South of the River, that’s worse than Croydon, that’s worse than Hillingdon, I live North of the river but that doesn’t count because I live- Outside the M25.

And yet my world is magical, Ladies and Gentlemen. I came down on the London Midland Trains service, and hear three chimes. Bing Bing Bing. They say, Mind the gap, get out of the way, we’re closing the doors, but I hear the three great chords at the start of Prokofiev’s first piano concerto and then the next grand chords flood through my mind and I am in Heaven.

But it is not just London Midland Trains. When I hear a car horn blasted repeatedly, I hear the start of Belshazzar’s feast by William Walton (I knew his nephew) and then in my mind the male voice choir sing Thus Spake Isaiah and- I hear car horns and the squeal of brakes quite a lot, come to think of it.

So I walk along the Embankment, down by the River, and I see- not the Millennium Wheel- Millennium wheel, meh, so what- but thirty swans floating regally along the River. The River, that is, the River Nene, in other places called Nene. And a swan is flying overhead, its great wings going Whoosh Whoosh Whoosh and it comes in to land on the water- yes, it lands on the water- and it meets its mate and they caress each other’s necks, and it is beautiful and strange and I am in Heaven, ladies, and Gentlemen, I am in Heaven, my world is Magical.

So I walk in the park eating blackberries which are washed by the rain, not bathed all the time in car exhaust fumes and I see a dragonfly and it sees me and it looks at me. There it is, hovering, and then it shoots sideways and hovers again, still facing me. And I look at it, and its beautiful iridescent colour, and its wings moving too fast to see other than as a Blur and it is beautiful and wonderful and maybe yes I should get out more- cos I’d see more dragonflies

And my world which is Heaven which is Magical is full of poetry. Poetry floods through my mind as I walk in the park or by the River- the River Nene, ladies and gentlemen, there is more than one River, this one’s outside the M25- and poetry floods through my mind-

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveller,

Not being a Photon-

I’m not a photon, I’m a Neutrino, I’m faster than a photon, travelling through rock sixteen nanoseconds faster- that’s a lot faster than light and light does not go through rock, and the scientists say did we get it wrong did we measure it properly let’s try again let’s try more to make sure we measured it right and I say No because I’m a Neutrino and I’m faster than light whatever you say and  if you say you got it wrong and no, neutrinos are limited to lightspeed then I am an imaginary Neutrino and I am Still faster.

My world is magical, Ladies and Gentlemen, outside the M25.

My world is magical, ladies and gentlemen, because there are no rules.  You look at someone for the first time and the first thing you notice is what sex they are. And if you can’t work it out you get worried. A two month old child looks at someone for the first time and the first thing he notices is what sex they are, and I am Both. I am male, I am female, I am Transsexual. I break this most fundamental rule and therefore there Are No Rules! Freedom! Magical!

In the garden

We are finished our business, and will soon settle into Worship. People look out, into the Garden. I did not go there yesterday. I must go there now.

“Escaping early?” asked the Friend in Residence. I explain, briefly. They can be a chatty lot. Through the door, onto the terrace. That new building fits beautifully, outside. The paved area is extended. I walk down to the lake. On my left is the Labyrinth, a place for contemplative prayer in slow movement. There are trees by the lake. I notice one stump, of an aged tree with branches truncated which had twisted out, thick as trees themselves, now black. There are green shoots. Is it another plant, or is there life in the stump still?

I am pleased by the low fence. I note its purpose: everything is beautiful and fitting, now, all is well and behovely. This tree has no leaves, but the branches are covered in russet leaf-buds. I contemplate one, finding it beautiful. By itself, it is sufficient for my full attention. Then I extend my attention to other branches beside it. I tap my branch, and note how all of them tremble at its movement, though their join is so far behind me. Such suppleness and strength!

Back to the main house. There are younger trees, higher up the slope, surrounded by stones, in circles cut from the lawn. I heft a stone in my hand, enjoying the feel of it. I toss it and catch it, and then drop it: it makes a satisfying Clack against the others. A man tamps down a circle of earth, using a plywood square: he places it down, then stamps on it. A robin hops out from under a bush: on this grey day, all colours muted, its breast is shocking.

He asks me what course I am doing. “Being a Quaker clerk.” I explain what I am doing now: I have dropped into a meditative state, and seek to escape words and concepts into direct perception: and my aim is to have this heightened state of perception not only in ritual contemplation, but in action and interaction: (I tell him! With words! They flow differently, this is a truthful moment, no need to persuade just to express.) Oh! The bird! Too much sensation. I interrupt myself.

Will you plant another tree there? No. There was a tree there, and he has had to take it out. He will plant a tree somewhere else. He has just taken the stones away. He noticed children playing with the stones, building them into sculptures, so has ideas about other places for stones. “I want to be in this contemplative state in action, and move from words as rigid concepts to words as stories,” I say. “And you are going to be a clerk? You will be a gift as a clerk.” We hug.

Back through the walled garden. I pluck some parsley, and rub it between my fingers, for its scent.

Everything is alright

There is beauty in the buildings
The cracked brick, the stained concrete
-shaped stain, stippled stain
The tree growing on the roof, by the chimney
And the mark on the wall, where the roof once was
It takes effort to spawn ugliness,

Effort of which few are capable-
Here there is purpose and strength
And in ruins, purpose fulfilled,
And the constant purpose of the plants and animals.

Emotive argument II

It is an odd feeling, at the refectory: that goes with that, but is not what I want. I do not feel revulsion, exactly, I was eating it only at lunchtime, but I am quite clear that it is not what I want now. D remarks on the odd combination on my plate, bits meant for the other main course, bits from the salad bar, some for taste and some for need- something carbohydrate- and more from impulse or instinct rather than the usual learned habitual response. I normally have a cooked breakfast when I am away, and this morning I did not want one. Someone comments that is “good” of me. Strange that we think of impulses as harmful, and restraint as moral. For me, then, it was instinct and desire rather than conscious restraint, and I think of self-care as morally neutral, just what one does, rather than virtuous.

So I am happy with emotional decision-making. What feels right? What calls to me? What hunch do I have about what will enhance my life, rather than what arguments can I create? Often the arguments feel like post hoc rationalisations not reasons.

We communicate these emotional decisions. It feels good to be with others who feel the same way, and I follow those feelings. A dominant person expresses feelings to mould the feelings of others.

Empathy seems to be a good way to make group decisions.

I want to please people. This shames me, it feels like part of my hiding away, and also pleases me, as a way of getting closeness I desire. Strange. It is what I want.

Emotive argument

This picture with the caption This is what we all looked like at 12 weeks in the womb. Legal to kill in all 50 states. Anyone think its not a person? Pass this along. It literally might save a life is circulating on Facebook.

Actually, that is not what a 12 week foetus looks like. This is an actual 12 week foetus: I will not copy the picture out of respect to the pro-life mother.

So the photograph here is a lie, designed to create an emotional effect. The size is wrong, the skin is wrong, both made to look more baby-like. It is an exaggeration: there is some truth there, and the liar may not even realise that they are twisting and embellishing the truth.

Snopes has a useful discussion mostly from a rationalist point of view. Chloe says, It’s a little big and a little too developed, especially in facial features and the proportions of the head. Standard pro-lie tactics involve timing the pregnancy at conception, rather than LMP, as the medical world does. For them, a 14 week fetus is considered a 12 week fetus. I suspect this is what we’re seeing here. Mmm, Rationalist- though that phrase “pro-lie” is a lovely rhetorical touch.

That photo is “preaching to the converted”. Anti-abortion campaigners will look at it, and be encouraged by it. They will not be looking at Snopes: there are other places for pro-life and pro-choice to debate. So much of the rhetoric is only for those who agree already. Talking across the divide is more difficult, and the greater the divergence in opinion the more difficult it gets.

The disgust it arouses seems a less complex and adult emotional reaction than the empathy it seeks to kill, empathy with the plight of the mother. That requires imagination and judgment. As a miscarriage is a horror, so is a termination: we all feel that disgust; but the pro-choice advocate moderates it with greater understanding of the whole situation.

We can exchange information-gobbets, dates of formation of nerve tissue or the incipient frontal lobe, but the feelings, disgust and empathy, seem stronger to me as a way of persuasion. Reducing the disgust with facts is slow, patient work.

Moving back to my more usual LGBT issue, here is suffragan bishop Alan Wilson on his correspondence after he came out as sympathetic to gay people. Ninety of his hundred letters against were mere abuse. That disgust, again, for other people; for who we are. How could that be persuasive? The writer shows his disgust, and a weaker other may take the lead from it, feeling as the dominant human feels, for feelings of solidarity. Or, if the other does not come to share the feeling, the writer feels dislocated and disconcerted, because his feeling is not confirmed as he desires. There is emotional identification with the conservative side of these arguments.

If you have changed your position in these arguments, how did that happen?

Out of the Tunnel

I saw I was in a dark tunnel. On each side of it, there were doors. When I looked through them the impression of light and flashing colour was overwhelming and terrifying. So I stayed in the corridor, but (whether I walked down it, or back, or stayed still) it got darker and more constrained. I knew I had to go through a door, but it terrified me.

That was three years ago, on the Hoffman Process, which provides a sequence of crises and catharsis, and a number of ways to access ones own subconscious mind. So, I performed an exercise to hear my subconscious, and that was what it said to me.

Now, I feel I am through one of the doors, outside the tunnel. The colour and light remains overwhelming and painful, and so I lie curled up with my hands over my eyes, for as much darkness as I can gain; but I am outside, lying on the grass, not crushed in the darkness. And reality- myself, my feelings, other people, the World- though still overwhelming, are not so terrifying, so seemingly inimical.

I take this one step at a time. I am making progress. Everything is all right.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

File:Dalailama1 20121014 4639.jpgStandard blog-post: prejudices and a bit of googling. But- I will record my prejudices, then see where the Googling takes me.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a Buddhist leader, symbol of unity for the oppressed Tibetan peoples and their diaspora, and source of wisdom which I mostly access through Facebook. Gems such as My dedication is to serve the 7 billion human beings on this planet and the other creatures with whom we share it. If you can, help and serve others, but if you can’t at least don’t harm them; then in the end you will feel no regret. posted on Tuesday 12th.

And then I see that while he is against discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation, he has said Buddhists should only have penile-vaginal sex.

What of, We must be willing to be revolted when science — or for that matter any human activity — crosses the line of human decency.  Here, the wider context seems unobjectionable. The basic goodness of human nature, which Catholicism does not recognise, is a good basis for allowing people to make their own decisions and not rushing to judgment.

Then I remember my Chinese friend. Religion performs two discrete functions. It gives a simple world view with comprehensible rules, so that those who obey the rules, and act normal, are all right. This is the “mostly friendly policeman in the sky” religion that Benedict caters. And, it gives freedom through mystic contemplation and knowledge of reality. This does not necessarily mean the ultra-liberal religion I follow, it can be much more orthodox than that. Most British Buddhists are converts, and have the latter purpose, but C told me that when she was growing up Buddhism performed the former role, even if it did not have just the one policeman.

So, there. I planned one blog post, contrasting silly, out of touch Benny with the cuddly, lovely Dalai Lama, and end with two more nuanced posts. Tenzin Gyatso the Ocean Guru has to lay down the law for some people.