Masks II

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d7/COLLECTIE_TROPENMUSEUM_Houten_dansmasker_gedragen_tijdens_feesten_voor_de_zaaitijd_van_rijst_TMnr_391-162.jpgI talked to Yvonne about masks.

I pretended to be male, and people did not guess I am female. Then I transitioned, and I was still doing the benefits tribunals, and I kept the same mask. The same way of being with people. I don’t think it works. Being without it, though, feels naked and vulnerable and confusing. If you have worked this one out, please let me know.

I had a rare opportunity to come over all professional yesterday. C asked me to come to a meeting. He had five of us there, and stated the problem in a way I found tedious and long-winded. I have no idea how big a problem it is, from minor inconvenience to life-changer, because it is not C’s problem: he was lending R a hand. Can we help R? Oh, OK, I would think that worthwhile, but first I want to know what help R thinks he might need, rather than impose my solutions on him like Lady Bountiful. From giving R particular help for one afternoon, we have somehow taken him on as a client or protĂ©gĂ©.

At the time, I wondered at C, thinking he was just not understanding and making heavyFile:Java Maske Panji Museum Rietberg RIN 204.jpg weather of something trivial. Now I see his generosity, including coming from the other side of the town to give me a lift in, an extra 14 miles. Foolish, or sweet? Two conflicting strong impressions of which I have been certain at different times.

Or there are A and B, a lesbian couple. B and I can be quite friendly, when we bump into each other. A stands slightly apart, monosyllabic. I could construct all sorts of stories around that. I am comfortable with B, and embarrassed with A, though wanting to be friendly.

I became aware of my mask or shell, and in February 1999 it appeared suddenly as if I was just me, without it. So strange. What of friends? Sunday afternoon I had lunch with S, and she was chatting away all the time. I really enjoyed it. I felt immediately at home with J, and have seen her since the snakes at the museum, for coffee. This is a friendship I could like. And- what really concerns me, bothers me, worries me, my midnight thoughts, I do not want to share with them because I fear they will judge me. Which may just be my judgment on myself.

I have met two men, beside the Polymath, who have seemed to me unsuccessful but fiercely intelligent. One actually stank- a bulk of resentment in a long black coat. But I have too big a heart to end up like that, surely, friendless without anyone to converse on their level.

Ghent Altarpiece

What? No Jan van Eyck here? Must put that right.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/14/Genter_Altor.jpg

First, Adam and Eve, originally separated by the work, here together.

Adam

Eve

Such claustrophobic trompe l’oeil alcoves, and Eve lets her fig leaf hang down, as if it is no longer worth the effort. Her right hand holds a citrus fruit.

Next, the so-human angels from the side panels, with their human musical instruments.

Right panel angels

Left panel angels

John the Baptist and Mother Mary

Upper central panel John the Baptist

Upper central panel Mother Mary

And The Almighty: Not one person of the trinity, but the whole trinity.

Upper central panel The Almighty

 

 

Christian politics

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c1/ParadiseLButts2.jpgFor “The Shrewd and salty dove“. There is no Christian politics.

CS Lewis in an essay called “Commandment” published in 1941 suggested three sincere Christians, one authoritarian, tempted to ally himself with fascism; one denouncing riches and speaking for the poor, tempted to ally himself with communism; and one conservative, for the status quo. It is hard to be charitable towards Lewis, as late as 1941, saying a Christian could work with fascists; those Spanish Catholics who supped with Franco besmirched their Christianity, and it is unChristian to vote BNP; perhaps he was exaggerating the width of Christian opinion about politics. Certainly a Christian can conscientiously vote Labour, Liberal or Conservative, or in the US Republican or Democrat.

What about individual issues, such as abortion or homosexuality? I think an abortion a dreadful thing. What made me pro-choice initially was the thought that as a sin it was not by itself, and without cause, but the end of a long chain of sin binding the woman, her partner, and her society. The Christian response is not to enforce a rule on the woman, that she cannot have an abortion, but to ameliorate her situation so she need not. That has to be done before the need arises.

I find it hard to imagine a woman who would have an abortion lightly or frivolously. If http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0c/ParadiseLButts8.jpgsomeone so broken exists, you do not make her a moral being by constraining her from without, but by teaching her. If the teaching merely consists of a lecture, then it is unlikely to get through to her.

Christians disagree about homosexuality. I find the Bible writing approvingly of gay relationships, and only condemning gay sex in contexts we would also condemn straight sex. Quakers in Britain lobbied to be able to celebrate equal marriages, and I am proud of that.

A woman wrote of her weeping on discovering her daughter is lesbian, and I offered sympathy. If she works through this, and accepts how her daughter is, sympathy is unnecessary, and if she works through it and reaches the wrong answer, believing her daughter is in sin, I feel horror, and sympathy is more complex and difficult. Yet for someone working through that, now, I feel sympathy. The rejection is the sin of her society, and not wholly hers.

However my point is wider. Jesus told us to go out and make disciples of all nations. He did not tell us to construct a moral code from Scripture, either already written or to come, and enforce it on people whether they are Christian or not. Murder and theft are clearly harmful to the victim, and to the wider society, and there is a civil need to make these illegal, even in an atheist society. The lovemaking of consenting adults, except adultery, is not, and alleged harm to the participants is no ground for making it illegal, or treating gay unions differently from straight unions: such laws make Christianity a hated oppressor.

God is Love, and Love is the way to win people to God.

Harm. Mmm. My moral judgment is mainly based on results, whether an act is creative or destructive, and I believe adults should be able to learn by harming ourselves, for constraint does not make us good.

No pat on the head

He drove us home, and even sitting in the car behind him I could see his presence, his solidity. His spouse had told me three things of him, any one of which I would have found impressive. I had a moment when I compared myself, and felt I had achieved nothing, and was upset. Only a moment which passed. He is a nice bloke, too, as I would have expected.

What do I want? To hide away and not get noticed. And that’s it. To be useful, to do something worthwhile? Only so’s not to be noticed. Can I think of any motivation? Anything at all? It won’t last, of course, this, I can’t pay the rent unless I do something, and, well, I don’t defer gratification.

Yvonne asked if I had celebrated this great effort, this great achievement, of transition. Well, no. It was so difficult. There was all the fear, the fear it was wrong, the end of the slippery slope for the hopeless pervert. Autogynephilia. It was difficult before, and then after, being abused in the street, and with work difficulties, and other difficulties since.

Here is something that pleased me. I spoke in meeting on the 14th, about the homelessness initiative. “What could possibly go wrong? Lots of things, and we can deal with them.” Then R spoke in meeting on the 21st, yesterday, and said she had been thinking of that all week. So. Even if it were not “ministry”, even if it were just me thinking out of my own thoughts, something to say, it had value. It had value for her.

A positive contact.

One thing I wanted from seeing Yvonne- six weekly counselling sessions at the GP surgery on the NHS- was a pat on the head. I have done so much of this sodding personal growth stuff. Forgiving my Mother, for example, it was particularly difficult and I did it. Mmm. I want to be told it’s alright, I’m alright, that’s very well done. I had seen that in myself, and thought I had grown out of it. It is the heart of low self esteem. And, perhaps, not to be challenged to go further, which of course she did.

Why would I want to come back? Er-

To break the pattern. To get out of the house. That was enough, we arranged to meet again, before this post is published, actually, but there you go.

How do you go about developing positive self-esteem?

How do you feel?

Well, how do you feel about that?

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e1/Dante_Gabriel_Rossetti_-_Salutation_of_Beatrice_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg/614px-Dante_Gabriel_Rossetti_-_Salutation_of_Beatrice_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg-Pleasurable anticipation.
Mmm. Yes, the right feeling, we must feel the right feeling. It feels like you looked it up in a book, came up with the right feeling, decided you felt it.

-Anxious, worried, all the things that could go wrong-
Always with the negativity. No, I won’t be in control. (I never am, but sometimes I can pretend that it seems that way.) Don’t worry, it will be alright, and worry does no good. Does harm, even- it makes you watch out for the wrong things. Another way the Law of Attraction might work.

-Excited. Interested. Joyous.
Ahh. Good, innit.

Ask me in that moment- earlier today, and I could have given those answers, all of them true. And it appears that each were different aspects of me, feeling what they felt. I could engage each in dialogue. The third is the one I like, perhaps with just the slightest tincture of the second to make it a little dangerous, but pleasurably so: we know, really, that we will not spill out of the rollercoaster.

I anguished about it from four yesterday when I had the invitation to nine this morning. I will regret it if I do not go. What else will I do? Karate in the morning like I can do any Saturdayhttp://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/94/Holygrail.jpg morning, and hing aboot like a bad smell in the afternoon. And the worry almost kept me away. It is so finely balanced, until it isn’t. Will I accept the invitation? Will I get up now, at 7.15am, for karate and silence, or fiddle with the net-book until breakfast time? That balance, when I could do either.

 Window open for

morning kata and silence.

Birdsong is constant!

I did do a bit of karate, just in my living room, before putting on last Spring’s dress and going to meet this woman I had not met before. Her husband could not come, so she had a spare ticket. No-one else is in a dress, but that is fine by me.

I have control in my living room. I can be in control. Or, I can be not in control, and it will still be alright! More or less. In the station, I take my wig off. No-one minds, possibly no-one notices, but it is good to be reminded of it.

Last time I passed through London I tried that trick, of announcing the station names as the train pulled in. It got me into conversation with the woman in the next seat.

Spiritual growth

Karate goes beyond the dojo

Karate is a lifelong pursuit

File:Funakoshi.jpgOn 14 February 1999 I was born again, and since then growing spiritually has been important to me. At that moment, my view of the world changed, from people suffering and dying, always Wrong, to people doing our best under difficult circumstances, and God being in it with us. I can think of milestones since then.

Now I read of karate-do- the same word as tao in tao te ching- that I am at the beginning. Genwa Nakasone, in his commentary on Funakoshi’s 9th principle, says training never ends. At the first stage, there are no positive results and one holds onesself and others in low esteem. For most people, there is a final stage, taking pride in accomplishments and holding others in high esteem. Some move beyond, to a higher Tao where there is no pride or humility, but working day by day to gain victory over onesself.File:Funakoshi Makiwara.jpg

Inside and outside the dojo, one trains mind and body.

I see myself at the beginning. Karate is aerobic exercise, and I feel some heightened sensation practising it, but my strikes have little force and I do not notice the deficiencies of others. So spiritual growth, rather than one thing, is many things. I have done well on Forgiving my Parents and Getting to Know Myself. In karate practice particularly, I notice my self-consciousness, and work on that. There, I am at the beginning. It is good for me to see myself as needing to develop certain skills and ways of being, because I need to develop them.

Apply the way of karate to all things.

Therein lies its beauty.

Nakasone writes, one blow or one kick, given or taken, can mean life or death. This concept forms the soul of karate-do. If all aspects of life are approached with this spirit of seriousness, all manner of challenges and hardships can be overcome.

Kane and Wilder in The Way of Kata write that if people are not regularly being hospitalised from the dojo, then there is a flaw in the training which the sensei (“one who comes before”)  should inform the students about.

Love, abhor?

“Love the sinner, abhor the sin.” Okaaaay- what does your “love” actually mean? Love is an ever fixed mark, which looks on tempests and is never shaken. So not an emotional response, possibly a restraint of an emotional response.

I find it easy to mock people who say this. They “love” me by knowing exactly what I need to do and avoid, and telling me that. I think I am a better judge of it. Before I transitioned, I thought I might be reverted within five years, trying to live male again- but I needed to go this way in order to find that was right. Walk a mile in my shoes before telling me what to do: one is flat, the other high-heeled. Loving me means treating me as an adult, independent person and allowing me to make my own mistakes; and for them, loving means wanting an ideal, unchanging Best for me.

My exercise, then, is to find value in the Love- and the abhorrence: for I loathe homophobia. Can I Love the person while abhorring the sin? Can I separate out my own emotional reaction to the sin, bracket it, and love the person? That would mean restricting the ways in which I opposed the sin.

Someone called “Ann Coulter said “Liberals always think of Christ as some pantywaist”. It means, effeminate person. The world is divided between those who emphasise “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” in Jesus’ words, and those who emphasise “Go, and sin no more”. But Jesus said both. So the liberal can construct from Jesus’ words a Jesus who looks like him- forbearing, self-sacrificing- and the conservative can also find a congenial Jesus. I can find ways of explaining away the bits of Jesus I do not like, but it might be better to live with them, allow them to be, and not rush to an understanding of them.

Ann Coulter quickly repels me; and I want to see her spirit, intelligence and articulacy, and delight in them, while despising the causes to which she devotes them.

Gustave Caillebotte

Simply because I had not heard of him, I give you some Gustave Caillebotte:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c0/Gustave_Caillebotte_-_The_Floor_Planers_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg/1024px-Gustave_Caillebotte_-_The_Floor_Planers_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

I heard of him through Waldemar Januszczak’s TV programme, and the first two pictures are those he chose to discuss. I love the light on the backs of the men: while peasants had been shown before, these are the first urban workmen in a painting.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d4/Gustave_Caillebotte_-_Jour_de_pluie_%C3%A0_Paris.jpg/1280px-Gustave_Caillebotte_-_Jour_de_pluie_%C3%A0_Paris.jpg

I love the buildings, but more the Haussman spaces between them which lets me see them. I love the great city at evening with just one wheeled vehicle. Wikimedia Commons has the handy category of Paintings of the Seine by Caillebotte. I find these comparatively dull. What do you think?

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/39/Les_P%C3%A9rissoires_by_Gustave_Caillebotte.JPG/736px-Les_P%C3%A9rissoires_by_Gustave_Caillebotte.JPG

Here is a luxurious but claustrophobic bourgeois interior.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/06/G._Caillebotte_-_Int%C3%A9rieur.jpg

George Meredith:
Modern Love XXXIV: Madam Would Speak With Me

Madam would speak with me. So, now it comes:
The Deluge or else Fire! She’s well, she thanks
My husbandship. Our chain on silence clanks.
Time leers between, above his twiddling thumbs.
Am I quite well? Most excellent in health!
The journals, too, I diligently peruse.
Vesuvius is expected to give news:
Niagara is no noisier. By stealth
Our eyes dart scrutinizing snakes. She’s glad
I’m happy, says her quivering under-lip.
“And are not you?” “How can I be?” “Take ship!
For happiness is somewhere to be had.”
“Nowhere for me!” Her voice is barely heard.
I am not melted, and make no pretence.
With commonplace I freeze her, tongue and sense.
Niagara or Vesuvius is deferred.

Begin with respect

 

 Do not forget that karate-do begins and ends with rei.

First principle-first guiding principle of Sixth principlekarate, Gichin Funakoshi

In my kata practice, as well as turns, kicks, strikes I practice my karate face. My aim is that of St Michael.  I thought of twisting up my face when, say, unscrewing a tight jar- why on earth should I do that? Perhaps because I am harnessing my emotional being to increase my effort. But in opening the jar, I make a single muscular effort and sustain it until the task is complete. In sparring or fighting, I want fast fluid responses in the moment, to the actual strike not a single fear-based response to The Situation, which might slow me down.

We begin with rei, the bow, which is respect for my surroundings- the possible “million enemies”, and for myself in it, me in my place, where I fit. Sometimes I find that the bow itself changes my thought and perception. The sixth guiding principle is,

The mind must be set free

which is explained as searching for the lost mind, that new and old way of simply responding in the moment, and then letting the mind go free wherever it will, neither becoming attached to nor restrained by things. First find that way of perceiving, then permit it.

Possibly that was what Jesus was thinking of

Blessed are the meek, 

for they shall inherit the Earth

Meekness is not servility. I seek to take my part, my place, here, now, without distracting thoughts of my rĂ´le. I seek to respond to the world as it is, with Respect. Sustaining this in the face of the opponent is my challenge.

Swans

P1000740I could fritter my day with facebook and the telly, but I feel the need to spend time in contemplation. I have the bath absolutely as hot as I can bear, and feel the sweat running.

Think of that. There is so much in it to be grateful for. Round my transition, actually I was supported. I was angry and depressed and frightened, and my work looked after me: on principle, as equality and diversity are important. Yes, so much to be grateful for, and when I think of it I am angry and upset. I weep. Oh. Is that the emotion now, or retained emotion from then? It is an intense and unpleasant experience today, though I did not think of my recent lesson, to notice the emotion rather than resist it. That only comes to mind, writing now, in the evening. And, writing now, I can think of November 2011 with a slight pang only, but could get drawn in to my hurt from 2002.

Lunch with Strike Back Project Dawn on the telly. There is lots of shooting, but only bad guys die so that is alright. Mmm. Shall I go for a walk? I could fritter my afternoon, or blog about getting emotional, or I could walk in the suddenly warm sunshine, and think. Only a week ago there was snow lying! There is a time to explore in words, and a time to just be with it. I have my camera, in case there is anything worth photographing.

It is not that I do not fear too much, or suppress fear so that I fear too little. The thing I ought to fear, the threat I see rationally, I do not really fear, and the thing which rationally I see is no threat at all I fear. Strange. Well, I have a month-

I catch up a retired couple, and the man wants to talk. They wondered if I had binoculars: there was something in the water. It seemed too far out for a fish, unable to pull itself out, it appeared to be trying to pull itself out with arms. Like a frog. My camera, I say, can magnify- but seeing no binoculars round my neck, they have walked on. They often walk here. They ask if that pub is still open. They like the local pubs, just occasionally, for a meal. We heartsay how beautiful the park is, and they take a different path.

There are two swans, and I sit down with the camera. Digital: I click away more than two hundred times, in the hope of catching something. And when I almost get the classic two swans necks in a heart shape photo- often done, but nice to do it myself- the camera chooses to focus on that dry stalk. Boo. Oh well, it is such a beautiful sharp photo of the stalk.  They are quite happy, about ten yards away: they know people are no threat, and it is lovely to watch them together. And then one gets his neck over. I look forward to seeing cygnets. I am very pleased with my last photo here.

Evening to karate. We get the punch-pads out, and take turns hitting and kicking them. I get exhausted holding the pad, it is a good feeling.

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