Train conversations

Taking the train up, I sat next to Emma who was happy to chat. After drama school she was in a musical on Shaftesbury Avenue, and now works for Barclaycard. She rarely visits London but is going for a Sherlock convention: the actors will be there, and she will have her picture taken with “Benedict” [Cumberbatch]. Myleene Klass visited her office, and she shows me a picture of the two of them, one poised, one embarrassed but happy. I would find it interesting, but not enough actually to go.

Going North, I sat by a proud mother and her 19 year old son who had just done the London Marathon. She is head of customer relations. The man sitting by us had done ultra running, and told war stories: his main knee injury was on a 5k run in the North-East, where he had not checked out the course and there was a steep hill down just at the start of it. His knees had not warmed up. She saw her son at 12 miles, and he looked “anguished”, then at 22 miles and he looked much better. “Only four miles to go” said the man. “You were just behind Chris Evans”. People had their names on their shirts, and spectators encouraged them by name. Some had not put on vaseline: their shirts rubbed their skin, and drew blood. The exhausted son thinks his toe-nail will come off. He put his feet in his mother’s lap. “They’re sopping wet,” she said, and removed the ankle supports then rubbed them happily.

Peter, the tenant from whom H sublets, was in the house. He had been at a pipers’ meeting. I said something about crunlooers (he can’t pronounce crunluath either) then we talked of the Jacobites. They should have gone on to London, I said, knowing he would have an opinion: he says they could have taken London, but not held it. Cumberland was in Stone, Staffordshire, not knowing where the Prince was.

Jamie said some people have huge ups and downs, and need hospitalised; some have small ups and downs, and can cope with ordinary life and work; and some have larger ups and downs and are arty types. I suppose he knows his market, I suppose we are. The course is Transforming Shadows, looking at those parts of ourselves we suppress. People tell us not to be that way, and we take it in. Some over 45 will have been told not to be that way with a slap round the head. We are all terrified of rejection, desperate for approval, so behave in the way we think will be approved. We all contain all human possibilities. We seek comfort, but all art and life comes from the edge of the comfort zone. When we are uncomfortable, we are juicy, visceral, potent. Feel! Be visible! Life is precious, and there is the Real person underneath the masks. Just as we breathe and digest without thinking of it, so we heal, mentally as well as physically.

Life continually sends us challenges, to show us our uptightness. We manipulate, control and condemn to avoid feeling. When angry, all our old anger comes out, disproportionate to the stimulus. Even if the other person is wrong, my reaction is still the product of my own life: rather than reacting I should pause and feel, then choose the action. When willing to feel, to know what (not why) the feeling is, we can heal.

He talks of “full body listening”, being present in the moment with myself, or wu wei, active non-doing.

His way of accessing the real person is by writing with the non-dominant hand.

John Lavery, Portrait of a Lady, thought to be Mrs Ralph Peto

Reassured

Rules are made to be kept. That way we all know our place and some of the scary confusingness of the world goes away. I state this because I know it illusory, yet so want it to be true. I need to recognise the desire in order to let it go.

Jamie writes, I want to remind you to be especially gentle this week and beware falling into fights this week with people who ‘don’t get it’- don’t frustrate yourself, go slow. That is not quite how I experience it, atm. I don’t feel a huge change in my outlook. I have had a fillip from the workshop, doing emotionally charged things with supportive people, and feel reassured rather than hugely changed.

Based on “Pop Idol”, we played Victim Idol. Six of us went to the front and told our woes, and the one who got the biggest “Awwww” won. I came second equal, starting “I’m transsexual. No-one has suffered more than me” and ending curled in a foetal position. I was there, already: I would rather tell of my steps forward than my Great Sufferings; and the game reinforces the lesson. It is wonderful to laugh at it, a good lesson, a step forward. We have made Suffering our main currency. The Crucifixion is at the centre of every church, and martyrs are honoured.

As Jamie says, we have stuck old emotion which we have not properly digested from long ago. I became conscious on Sunday morning of my shame and resentment from babyhood: I felt I am all shame and resentment, and it is alright. Increasingly I feel my feelings as they occur. But the main problem remains my distress and perplexity at my current situation: what shall I do, now?

Also, six people in turn went to the front while we shouted our hatred and contempt at them, like baddies in a pantomime. They reported that this could be energising: they could reflect it back. The exercise needs held well, with clear boundaries and judgment that we can cope, so I respect Jamie for holding it. He offered us the chance of leaving for an early lunch. I found myself wanting to stand to shout, but that would have escalated. I shouted “Worthless”! or “You disgust me” repeatedly, and Paulina gave me the prize for “Die! Die! Die!” I realised I was shouting at myself. There is the judge and slave-driver. Such energy, if only I could get all my horses pulling in the same direction. Annik thought I had London energy rather than country energy.

There was a lovely shrub in the park, with large mature leaves off the stem beside a new stem of baby leaves. I had not seen this before.

Others have gone back to work, I slept at the Meeting house to save a taxi fare and today (Monday) have been to the supermarket then blogged and watched TV. I feel reassured that the Real Me (more on this later) is there, and it felt like confirmation of what I have known before rather than a huge new discovery.

I would have photographed more murals, but had other things to do.

COL; (c) Rosenstiel's; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Flirting

I met a woman I found very attractive, and flirted a bit, dropping my eyelashes. She’s rather more butch than average, obvs. As I passed her she murmured, “Nice frock”, and I shivered. We went for coffee. I noticed how many murals there are along Old Street. On the Youth centre, there’s one where two windows have been converted into shades for a huge face, and a history of the area in pictures. A little further on, there is the word “CREATE” in huge multicoloured letters, where she took a selfie of us. From the coffee shop, I looked out at this, mural

which took the energy of heraldry, and set it in motion. She’s a photographer.

-Do you want a picture from out there?
-No
-Oh, you want it in context.

We probably won’t even fbfnd, but it was nice. I told a lot of my story, heard a little of hers. We formed into groups of four, and I looked at a woman’s insincere smile. As I stared, she kept simpering, and the eyes were not smiling. At the end of the workshop, she told me she had seen the contempt in my eyes, which brought out her placatory smile. I have rarely had such an instant, harmful reaction to another person like that, a vicious spiral. We hugged, but could have connected more.

Jacyntha is an unusual name, but I thought there were two there. There was the petite woman slumped at the end of the front row, and then there was the energised woman flirting at the bearded man. God she pissed me off. She came in late on Sunday, arranged her stuff, sat down, settled down, called out “Sorree, guys-” loudly and not quite winsomely. I of course had been there for half an hour, the good little girl ready early (As I walked the quiet Sunday streets, two geese overhead pair-bonded, flying slowly and honking) a little rueful, or possibly hugely resentful, that my Good obeying of the rules wins me no points at all. At least I realise it does not.

I should pick up some tips from Jacyntha. What a glorious animal way of being. I suppress sexuality and imagine I am not particularly highly sexed, and find sex difficult and embarrassing (yes, I know) and think of it disapprovingly. I saw again that advert for Las Vegas tourism and disapproved. What do you think? Well, they thought it quite funny, and meeting people is good. Yet on Sunday I enjoyed flirting.

It goes back to my first shame. I am feminine, yielding, and thought that completely Wrong. I felt the weight of it: I felt I was just a mass of shame and resentment. Clare said, “I think we all are”. Not as much as me, surely? Jamie, leading the workshop, said we are like a piece of paper screwed up into a ball, and at these workshops we unpick ourselves a bit- a metaphor I have long found meaningful- “and then show each other the creases”. Oh flip. Yes, I do. Compulsively. And the creases are not the interesting bit.

A woman married a Catholic, and when she was told of the church’s funny ways the group leader said she wanted her husband to have a vasectomy. My informer opposed this, saying she agreed with the church. No: you oppose the vasectomy because of self-determination, the church opposes it for self-abnegation. One has sex for ones spouse, for reproduction, for the church, for God, but never for pleasure or for self- which is the only reason for it.

coffee shop

My immorality

To see oursels as ithers see us…

I fear that your lawyer’s mind is far too supple and devious for me to cope with; it is, indeed, beyond my ken. Oh dear. So our friendship is over, and he does not want to see me again. He continues, his position was there were no absolute moral laws or absolute moral values. I think you agree with him. My contempt for him knew no bounds.

Our disagreement was about tactical voting. In 2010, at the election, the Tory majority in my constituency was 1,951. At the by-election, the Labour majority on a much reduced turnout was 7,791. I read somewhere that the likelihood of a Tory victory was 12%, a suspiciously precise figure and too high for my liking. The other candidates are unlikely to win. I proposed voting Labour, because the Labour candidate is preferable to the liar.

R resigned from the Green Party because he was considering voting tactically in the neighbouring constituency. He thought it dishonourable of me to consider voting for another party while remaining a member.

Well, I don’t. I don’t want a Tory MP, so want to use my vote in the best way to prevent that. My reason for voting Green would be that I favour their policies, and want to improve their national vote share, not because I think I could elect an MP. I also support the party with my membership, being part of the “Green Surge” and such leafleting as I have been doing (not a lot) in a neighbouring constituency. I am unsure whether my favouring the Greens is Moral, in the interests of the Country, or merely self-interested.

So I looked at him on Tuesday, as he expressed his disgust for my considering voting tactically, and wondered whether to explain. He counselled against, as it might increase his disgust. He thought of walking out, there and then. I thought of lying by stating that I would vote Green, definitely, or even changing my voting intention, but something, whether pride or morals, made me dislike these ideas. His email ending our friendship came on Thursday.

I find this deeply hurtful and inexplicable. I thought of phoning my friend with the Aspergers husband, but that would do no good: it is not because of Aspergers, nor can she necessarily get me a handle on how he will behave. I want him to back down on this, but can’t see any particular way to make him so will not respond.

The considerations are so small. My vote will have negligible effect, and I am unsure I want a Labour MP: Labour needing SNP support would be better than a Labour majority. Yet it matters to me, and I do not want to be told what to do.

I emailed the woman who ended her friendship with me, and had a moderately friendly exchange of emails.

The green sofa  *oil on canvas  *65.4 x 92.4 cm  *signed b.r.: J. Lavery

All Hallows

The earliest parts of All Hallows Church date from 1160. It had an “arty vicar” in the 1960s, says a congregant in there, who commissioned the John Piper stained glass windows and the reredos in the side chapel.

John Piper
The blue and red light shining through that window is very beautiful on a Sunday morning, said a woman.
Side chapel through the archesSouth window West window 2 West window

Jesus Unmasked

I am grateful to Susan Ritchie or Sanderson for her generous gift of the book Jesus Unmasked by Todd Friel. It is a token of Christian love for someone only met through blogging- hooray for WordPress! Susan shows little sympathy or understanding for trans women, but wishes to reach out.

I feel talked down to by the over-simplified style. Few of us have the patience for waiting. Imagine waiting four hundred years for someone. OK, you’d be dead, but that’s not the point. It is all like that, which gets wearing. It has silly errors: it claims that the “devil” tempted Eve, rather than the “Serpent”. More seriously, it states substitutionary atonement as if it were true, and evinces a literal belief in the creation story, even in Job and Jonah: The Old Testament is actually a history book with theology in it. There are no true allegories… but there are actual events that are fuzzy pictures of something else. Whereas any understanding of carbon dating, ice cores from Antarctica, or the fossil record refutes that. My heart sank at the endorsement from Ken Ham on the cover. Literalism leads Friel to call 397-5BC “The silent years”, ignoring the fact that some of the psalms and the final Hebrew/Aramaic form of Daniel were written or edited in the time of the Maccabees.

Fuzzy pictures: it takes the OT as prophecy of Jesus. It says that the Ram caught in a thicket was a prefiguring of Jesus. That is a valid interpretation, but he should not exclude others.

Friel delights in cruelty. The first nine plagues failed to soften Pharaoh’s heart, so God sent plague number ten and it was a doozey. Susan left her card in the book at p81, where Friel claims God is exceedingly long-suffering and amazingly kind, in a section on the extermination of the Canaanites. He loves Hell: There will not be a trap door with a chute that leads sinners to hell like a water park slide. God Himself will cast them to eternal damnation… they will suffer eternal conscious torment.

Unable to criticise post-modernism, he produces a straw man. Even though we completely disagree, we are both right. Then he claims his account of Jesus is true and Revealed. But the Bible is a conversation, a series of unreconcilable stories. There are many interpretations.

His contempt for people prevents him from seeing them clearly. The Pharisees and Sadducees wore splendid robes and would never stoop to hug children and babies. No, they were people who attempted to do God’s will by conforming to a set of complex rules- like modern Evangelicals. Of course they hugged children. He claims the same crowds who welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem with chants of Hosanna one week later were chanting “Crucify him!” Ridiculous, there were a million people in Jerusalem for Passover.

What can I agree with? He says the Bible is a progressive revelation of God. Indeed. The culmination is Jesus.

Should conservative Evangelicals wish to show their love, I would rather they prayed for me. Whatever they desire for me, the Holy Spirit will translate their prayer for my good.

Another picture by Sir John Lavery, who delights me.

John Lavery, Miss Auras, The Red Book

Clarity of thought

pretending to be a journalWhat is going on here? Just look at that cover: it mimics an academic journal so well! I can dismiss it, of course: it is the journal for “Biblical manhood and womanhood”, but there is no such thing, and its writers believe the Bible is consistent, when it is not; but what do they imagine they are doing?

I start with “Biblical manhood and womanhood”. The Bible affirms examples as diverse as the man carrying a water-jar- Peterson Toscano suggested that this was such exclusively female behaviour, shameful for a man, that she was a trans woman; David, collecting wives by conquest and murder; Junia the apostle, and Mary and Martha, so there is clearly an acceptance in the Bible of a wide diversity of gender expression. A quick Google of “Junia the Apostle” reveals hordes of silly Evangelicals trying to weasel round her clear leadership role. So much for that.

Here is an “essay” by a “professor of ethics”, forsooth, affirming “biblical sexuality” (see above) but also asserting that “transgendered people undermine the public agenda of the LGBT movement”. Oh, Professor? How? He alleges that a trans woman’s conformity to female gender norms undermines the LGBT narrative regarding gender that any gender roles evident in society are the result of outdated cultural stereotypes.

This is merely silly. Arguably the word “feminine” has some meaning, though there are men more feminine than most women, and women more masculine than most men- even some who are cisgendered. I am feminine. If you accept the word “feminine” has any meaning, then “feminine” roles are for “feminine” people, whether men or women. TERFs assert that trans women reinforce gender roles by asserting that we are women, but so what? I am clearly subverting everything my upbringing and society says about gender roles, because my society formed me to be a man.

However it is silly in a different way from fools who say “God did not make Adam and Steve”. It is an essay of several thousand words, with a clear argument and examples, and even though anyone who knows anything about it will immediately see it is worthless, the writer and most subscribers will not. They will accept its academic pretensions, and may even squirrel away its arguments so that they can repeat them for comfort when their false world-view is threatened.

I am grateful that Evan Lenow states some of the arguments he attacks. Mandatory celibacy corrodes gay Christians’ capacity for relationship in general. But it does something else equally harmful: by requiring gay Christians to view all their sexual desires as temptations to sin, it causes many of them to devalue, if not loathe, their bodies. That might get through to his readers.

However reasonable the essay appears, I am tempted to reply to it not with a reasoned refutation but with an angry expression of emotion- Pah! Or Pshaw! if I am feeling particularly Victorian. An emotional response is too little valued in intellectual society. JBMW needs more than the appearance of argument to be worthy of anything else.

John Lavery, Anna Pavlova in part

My morality

Conceptually, my morality is a mess, but it works for me.

I had thought I was so Consequentialist that my response to, say, deontological ethics was, well, what good does the rule do? I have to define what is good: whatever promotes the flourishing of human beings and the good of the biosphere. As a queer, I have enemies and persecutors and I want them corrected; but assert that is for their own good.

My morality is about balancing conflicting principles. It is good to live in a State with laws to protect us, so I should obey the law; but nuclear weapons are abominable, so I would break the law to resist them, if I see a worthwhile opportunity. My morality is contingent. Yes, Universalisability; but circumstances will be so varied that I can always find something to distinguish my situation from another’s.

Thinking of deontology, though, there are rules which I accept. Formerly, it was important to me that my morality was my own: I choose rules and assent to them, rather than having them enforced on me. I tend to feel don’t lie, don’t steal are good rules. I am fascinated to learn of virtue ethics. I see that virtues may be developed as habit, particularly virtues of courage or persistence. I love Aristotle’s Golden mean, the virtue between two vices, though the only one I could think of was courage between cowardice and foolhardiness, and that was the first on Wikipedia too. Eventually I found this.

I want what is fitting and honourable, paying proper respect to myself and the World, partly as an end in itself and partly to see myself as a good person. “I am the kind of person who…” keeps me on the right track, or attempting, or pretending. Virtue and rules may affect me more in the moment of impulse, performing an act or making a choice.

Thinking of decisions, I am more consequentialist, though I have a sense of what is fitting, what is ugly or beautiful in conduct.

Quite probably I rationalise in favour of my self-interest; but that includes considering others.

You see? A mess. But then life is complex, not to be reduced to an understanding expressible in words.

John Lavery, Evelyn Farquhar

Pillow Christians

A ‘pillow’ Christian is soft and accepting of all people, no matter their lifestyle. The alternative is to love people enough, and respect them enough to warn them there are eternal consequences for their moral choices. I heard that from this man. He deleted my comment, but I said something like,

Others want us not to marry, but you want us not to have  homes. I pray that God hardens your heart, so that people see your hatred, are repulsed by it, and come to God’s truth.

He emailed me. I am truly sorry, no one has had the courage to share these truths with you before. Well, people have. On the bus from Newport to Cardiff, a little runt of a man repeatedly evangelised passengers. He spoke to a woman and her partner threatened to thump him, and the driver threatened to throw him off. To avoid violence and out of interest, I talked to him. He rambled on about Christ, love, sin and hell, incoherently, in an impenetrable accent. And a colleague who believed all the rubbish which makes Evangelicals despised and ridiculed by reasonable, thoughtful people- creation less than 10,000 years ago, all that- tried to talk me into it. Fortunately, Christianity made me immune to such stuff.

I am a little worried at myself, shouting at the Internet like this. All that anger. Maybe it’s the election campaign. I would rather a useful outlet for all that energy, and found it in cycling to Swanston this morning: I was happy when I got there, with all that adrenalin used well.

I asked him, Have you any blog posts warning people of the eternal consequences of their choices, apart from gay people? Before he answered, I had a look, finding this insane comment about US Gun culture: God’s kingdom is within us, and the fruit of the Spirit within us are the strength and honor of this country. Self-control, meekness (strength under pressure), longsuffering, gentleness, patience. This is the heart of honor, the heart of the gospel, and the heart of America, that Jesus is developing in each of us. This is the love of God, and freedom worth defending.

This is the spirit of the 2nd Amendment, in right to bear arms. Should free citizens be allowed to own firearms to protect themselves, their families, and this country from enemies within or without. Emphatically, YES! He cites Jesus at the Last Supper, he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one, in support, and starts with a meme calling for armed guards in schools.

He also has a go at abortion, though only by reblogs: it is pre-meditated murder. He whines about the hypocrisy of the pro-abortion folks and the lengths they go to deny a baby is a baby but also says that Christians who have an abortion and repent will be forgiven. So that’s all right, then.

He claimed he had had a go against other sinners, listing ten posts. The first had nothing at all to do with bashing any particular sin, though it did have a vile picture of Christ on the cross covered in blood, and this silliness: Although the Bible says little about his first thirty years, the baby we celebrate at Christmas did not remain a child. Really? Amazing!

So I shout at the internet, and feel ashamed, but he feels he is being Christian and Loving. If it is loving to warn people of Hell, he can shout his hate at those he disapproves for ever, and call it Virtue!

The chief reason for not shouting at the unconverted about their Sin is that it does not work. It does not bring souls to Christ, it alienates them. It does not follow Jesus, who met people where they were with Love not thinly-disguised hatred. The sin will go as Jesus sanctifies the new believer, in His good time. Chris Walsh drives people from Christ.

Goya, fight with cudgels

Talking to the Bishop

I have a recurring fantasy at the moment. There will be a fringe meeting with a Roman Catholic bishop at Yearly Meeting. I think of quoting some of his catechism on us queers at him, then saying something like, if you are not doing all you can to get this evil rubbish expunged from your religion, then you are responsible for the suicides it causes.

WHY SHOULD I LISTEN TO YOU????

Considering such an encounter, normally I would repeat my question many times beforehand, to get it as elegant and expressive as possible, but here I just express my bitterness and vitriol. The bishop shrinks, as with Alice’s Drink-me, and I stamp on him then scuff my shoe repeatedly over him until he is just a smear on the floor-tiles.

Hazel quoted the Gospel of Thomas: Jesus said: if you bring forth what is within you, what is within you will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you. That translation is in Elaine Pagels‘ book; it makes it accessible and pungent. These scholarly translations do not bring out that meaning so clearly. It could be true, though.

I might go to Jamie Catto’s workshop at the weekend. Oh God, not more personal growth. At his TEDx talk, he gave this exercise: think of a person you detest, and one word to describe what you loathe about them. You are projecting. Label yourself with that word and act it out. Mmm. Arrogant. Camp. Striking. Forceful. Loud. I am feminine– soft, gentle, peaceful, and recognising that was the great gift of the Essence process, but I should not imagine I am consistent, at least until I can express myself. There may be consistency, beauty, whatever there, eventually, but I should not think that I can imagine what it would be. I do not know where I am going, or I would be there already.

1000 Voices speak for compassion is on about Nurturing atm. I suppose I will stick this on their link. I am nurturing myself. If you ask me about it, I make myself as unattractive as I can imagine possible- while still being me. You do not nurture if you want me to pretend to be otherwise, or if you simply want a quick whizz of feeling good about yourself by chucking me a crumb of niceness.  Here am I in my messy glory. And finally, a Koan.

I do not know where I am going, or I would be there already.
I know where I am going. I am there already.

How profound is that?
Nigeria, Ejagham headdress