The Monster transfigured

The Monster is not Sulley, a friendly creature. It is angry, and it crushes me repeatedly. And yet- it is part of me, and therefore it is good. “I knit you together in your mother’s womb. God saw what God had made, and it was very good.”

The Monster is a self-protection mechanism. It rails at me, in a rage. It terrifies me. And I took that part of myself and made it my protector. The Monster shouts and screams that everything is fine, that I had a perfectly ordinary childhood, that I would be happy if I could only be manly, and not being manly is disgusting and spineless, weak, so impossibly weak that it must be the pretence of a cowardly malingerer, putting it on, acting, no-one could be that weak…

It was better that I froze, like Woody in Toy Story, who falls to the floor when a human approaches because he does not want a human to know he is conscious, than that I be hurt. Silent, compliant, uncomplaining, not protesting, I might be safe.

The monster is part of me. It might, like Sulley, stop roaring with the intent to terrify and be used for something else. I still freeze.

Sunday morning I do Richard Rohr’s exercise.

Identify the hurt.
Welcome it.
Stop fighting it.

There is the monster.
You are part of me.

He leaves behind the Master’s role
she welcomes him, and I am whole,

I wrote, twenty years ago. I am not there yet. What was I thinking?

The monster is an echo of my mother’s- I don’t know. It felt as frightening as a murderous rage, to a baby unable to walk. Possibly irritation. Possibly an anger all the deeper because it would be suppressed, held within, as she did her duty, possibly denied to herself- I do not know my mother, only glimpses of her that are apparently inconsistent or opposite but in reality different facets of a huge shimmering complex jewel, as complex as any human. She controlled herself as rigorously as she controlled me.

I am that baby feeling that terror. It is better that I freeze, showing no sign of resistance or unhappiness, than that I express my feelings and experience the terror of the external threat, my mother’s displeasure. So I internalise it. It becomes The Monster, seeking whom it may devour. And then it fades into the unconscious.

-What are you frightened of, she asked me, ten years ago.
“The Monster will get me,” I said. And it seemed bizarre, impossibly childish, unimaginable. It was all unconscious.

It is Cerberus, it is capable of such rage. And yet it is mine, in me, part of me, is me. It could be an Alsatian, joyously playful, bounding after a ball, or trotting to heel on a chain yet ready, able to growl at a threat, or even fight it if necessary.

she welcomes him

At least I know it is possible. Rohr’s exercise is different.

Welcome the grief.
Welcome the anger.
Transformation can begin.

I am not sure I am there. I have been weeping with the anguish of it, this Sunday morning. For Rohr it is feeling the pain of all humanity- which each human feels and so no human can escape except by denial. Others have other pain. This is mine. Now, as I write in order to analyse, understand, and possibly lay a trail of breadcrumbs others might follow (well, I do want to sell this story eventually) I feel terribly tired. I must get ready for morning worship.

Transformation can begin. This is my work now. To take that angry part of me to my heart, and transfigure it. It is all Light. It is only Light.

What is the ego?

The ego acts as a regent, ruling until the human person reaches sufficient maturity to rule alone. Then the ego becomes a wise counsellor, the Grand Visier or Lord President of the Secret Council, advising the inner light on its actions, though movement and repose increasingly come from the real self or inner light.

In the Real Me is my playfulness, creativity, intensity, Love, Joy, sexuality, gentleness- I am soft, gentle, peaceful- perception of beauty, spirituality, and

Life.

Here is everything that stimulates, delights, excites or motivates me. Here also is the Sulk- if the ego becomes a tyrant, the Real me becomes a grumpy teenager; and possibly any addictions, where I seek a brief dopamine hit if oppressed by circumstances, Tyrant-ego or the Monster. I hurt: the Real Me is where my deep sadness is.

Trans Gurus write, She is not in you, she is you. She is not weak, she is holding you together. She is waiting patiently. Let go and be you.

I called the monster Sulley, but that was a mistake. The monster exists still, submerged in the unconscious, able to hurt. There is my disproportionate self-doubt, my internalised transphobia, that which condemns and hates myself, old fear, misery, possibly addiction, suicidal ideation, the rage and terror directed against myself, and death.

What could be in a good ego, a good adviser recognising its subordination to the Real self or inner light? An urge to self-improvement, and consideration of where efforts to self-improvement might be usefully directed, perhaps. A more reflective, responsive “What will people think?” Consideration of past and future, which I do not seem to do well.

It is that image: I was in a dark, dingy corridor, with doors off it. Looking through the doors was overwhelming, with light colour and movement I could not fathom, and terrifying. Yet as I moved along the corridor it got darker and more constricting. The Monster is that corridor, and the Real me is through one of the doors into life and freedom. I thought it was in St Paul, but it’s Deuteronomy 30:19: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.”

It is tempting to view the US election in apocalyptic terms. If Trump wins, the 2024 election may not happen, or will not be an election in the sense we are accustomed to. The comments sections of the papers I favour are full of such misery, and I am likely to fall into the wailing and gnashing of teeth. For example:

The disastrous President Trump
On America, he takes a dump
Taken in by his lies
our democracy dies
or we flee from his covid death slump.

That is cleverly expressed, but it buys into the apocalypticism of the Republican convention. These people are asserting that if the Radical Democrats gain power they will not be safe in their homes. That level of fear and anger does democracy no good. It is a white privilege thing to imagine that democracy was working in 2016, or 2012: lots of Black people could not vote, then, or found their choices curtailed.

I want to turn away from that kind of misery, and the communal indulgence in it that is comment threads. I am pleased with the 45 upvotes my limerick got, but slightly queasy. I need a balance between keeping abreast of current events, and getting sucked into a storm of misery.

It is better to pay attention to possibilities, opportunities, and hope, than blackness. Again Philippians: “whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” I must keep returning to that verse.

Self-knowledge, accepted or declined

My name is Clare, and I am agoraphobic.

I attend several zoom groups a week where speaking authentically is valued, and wearing a mask is pointless. Making this AA-like declaration- actually I said I am “a functional agoraphobic” but now would drop the adjective- helps me. I admit it to others, and thereby admit it to myself. It is now part of my self-understanding.

Then on Monday I needed to go to Swanston, and sat, and didn’t. I could go on Wednesday, I thought. Aye, right. I would just put it off again. I still could not motivate myself to go. I had a shower, had a cry about getting kicked out of local Quakers in January, and then wanted to write. I wrote my pronouns poem straight out, and changed two words. It got 33 likes, seven hearts, nine cares and one cry.

Then I joined a zoom with a professional musician and an aspiring singer/songwriter, who both loved it. I was in heaven. Profoundly affirmed, I cycled into Swanston.

I would need an enabler to buy groceries, etc, to be a perfect agoraphobic.

A pitfall around spiritual lessons is that I can imagine I have learned them once I acknowledge their truth, and thereby avoid the hard work of taking them into my heart, but also any benefit they might bring. And, it seems to me that admitting I am agoraphobic has dented my agoraphobia. I find agoraphobia shameful, and I dealt with the shame by denial. How else? The pretence, “Of course I could go out if I wanted to,” would not fool anyone else who cared enough to form a view, and it did not really fool me, but accepting the word makes the idea concrete for me. It feels like a positive step.

It is frightening- what can I do about it? All this stuff seems insurmountable! And positive, as I am making progress. “What do I feel, now?” is a good question. I should ask myself that more often. Now I am enjoying the writing and analysis even if it is tiring. I don’t want to excuse agoraphobia. I know the reasons, but what to do about it now is more important.

Do you want to cure it?

Not necessarily. Going out, I would not necessarily be in a more comfortable position. I would like more control of it. How to control it I don’t know. Admitting I do not want to go out mitigates it.

Two years ago I identified fully with the “ego” that needs to cajole the Real Self into action. Now I identify with the Real Self. What might remain in the “ego”? The outdated “what will people think?” I inherited from my mother may have been jettisoned.

All this is in one brain, but it might be worthwhile developing Captain Sensible. The Captain thinks about things like “What will people think?” He knows that people think a lot of different things, most not centred on me, and some things disgust or delight some people. It is my own judgment I want to develop, not what I inherited, or adopted in a panic as a child. I would try to see real people, rather than my inflexible condemning judgment, and the hacks I used to get round it, finding things forgiveable where others might not.

Captain Sensible might consider medium term plans, leaving the Real Self to sing. That part of me which seeks self-improvement is only a bad thing when it starts beating me and screaming at me to Go Faster, however hard I am working. That would be a healthier ego, in balance with the Real Me.

Where’s the monster?

The image that comes to mind is of Sulley from Monsters Inc, an unfrightening monster who much preferred provoking laughter. Sulley becomes friendly and caring in the film. Again, I don’t want to imagine I have done the spiritual work if I haven’t, and The Monster could be biding its time, but right now it feels defanged, like the Woodlouse. The monster’s power resided in an ego it could terrify, that would slam the door on the Real Me and hide me in the dark.

Slamming the door is an extended metaphor. I don’t want to rely on it as a perfect map. “Fightings and fears, within, without” are not so easily overcome. Yet the monster seems less powerful.

It did not want me to be-
it is hard to get the word out. There are inner voices challenging that. I want to notice when I can’t say something, and overcome the refusal. The word is “feminine”. The inner voices say “feminine” is not a coherent concept. It means something to me. Possibly those inner voices still resist that.

Then the monster would be diffused. I would not panic and shut down-

yes. “I”. There is one brain.

I would not panic and shut down, but might still avoid places my old programming finds dangerous, which could be liberating.

And then, there’s the actual experience of other people, like getting bullied at Newport. I have told this story without weeping before. Now I want to get it out in limited time, and remember other details of the chaos of it, and weep. And I can say “I was bullied” without The Evidence, those facts that show it was bullying and not reasonable management of a recalcitrant worker- and I have to tell The Evidence as well.

I have really bad experiences of other people, over and over again, and great distress thinking of them or my situation now.

A pronouns poem

Jill Smith, she/her/hers
it says on her email signature
or her Zoom caption, huge in white on black
when her video is off, showing nothing of her
or the badge she wore when we met in person in another world.
“We invite you to state your pronouns,” they say,
showing how woke their allyship is.
“He/him” says Joe, “she/her” says Sheila,
and I am terrified.
“He/him”, I say, hating the betrayal.
Right now I can’t say “she/her”, because
I remember my father’s reaction,
my sister’s reaction,
or the moment she said “You know, I think he’s telling the truth!”
and I felt myself disappearing as I sat there
and they talked about me
then talked of something else.
Forgive me.
The hate looms larger than your acceptance.

So now I say my pronouns are obvious from my name
like a Free Speech, No Identity Politics, Fox News guest,
except I don’t.
They mean well and I am not going to be rude to them
though I hate my gratitude.
“She/her,” I say.
I like when straights say “he/they,”
it means man, but not too bothered about gender.
But “she/they” is too frightening.
“So you admit you’re not a woman” shout the accusers
pointing their fingers
and I collapse in misery
though they are only in my head.

“She/they/he/it,” I say.
You choose the pronouns.
If you choose “it” I know where you’re coming from.
My pronouns are “We/our/ours”.
If you talk about me
talk about something we share.
Talk about us.

Gender criticism and gender variance

I understand primarily through language, and wrestle with problems through words. The power to name concepts is the power to mould people’s understanding of reality. The power to change names is freedom to become who we truly are.

“Gender critical feminists” are oppressed by gender. Feminine gender stereotypes do not fit them. They would say those stereotypes are patriarchal, and fit no woman, but some people seem to live with the stereotypes more easily than others, and to me it seems the gender critical feminists are oppressed more than most women.

I don’t know how to convince them that some women are happy with the stereotypes. I could refer to the women’s anti-suffrage movement, or women’s campaigns against abortion or contraception.

I cannot work for the interests of gender non-conforming people, trans, non-binary and gender variant folk, without including the gender critical feminists. That means finding common interest, common goals, common things we can work for.

Patriarchal power structures tell us that the problem is each other, that “transgender ideology” prevents women from organising politically as a “sex class”, or that trans excluders stop trans people from living our lives in peace, but really the problem is the gender stereotypes which fit some people very badly, which trans men, AFAB nonbinary people, and “trans-excluding” feminists all deal with in different ways, however similar they might appear to outsiders. The oppression is the same, and we should be allies, not enemies, not demanding that others follow our ways, but accepting all the ways people cope.

My femininity is not the same as the gender critical feminist’s femaleness. Seeing ourselves as opposing sides prevents us addressing the real oppression and directs our energies against each other. This only pleases the oppressors, which is why Charles Koch and the Heritage Foundation fund gender-critical feminists.

Both sides spend more time obsessing than oppressing- messing about on social media and talking amongst ourselves, rather than taking action to exclude trans women, or frightening the people who see us in lavatories.

How does language divide us, and how might language be used to bring us together? I can think of two ways it divides us: the trans allies’ habit of declaring their pronouns, and inclusive language for trans men’s reproductive issues. This does not include the language around whether we are women, or whether we should be in women’s spaces. That is a more intractable problem. I want to achieve language that includes gender critical feminists among the gender variant, to emphasise what we have in common.

When I argue for the inclusion of trans women as women, my argument is that we are not some redefinition of what womanhood is, we are an anomaly, a few harmless people, asylum seekers not colonists, who can be included without so much fuss.

When I argue for inclusive language for trans men- pregnant people, people with cervixes, etc- I argue for their importance. Even though there are about 0.1% trans men and maybe the same number of AFAB nonbinary people, one in a thousand people with wombs, we should change the language to refer to people who menstruate.

I will not, in an attempt to reach out to gender critical feminists, leave behind trans men. And, better inclusive language may be possible. The American Cancer Society said “individuals with a cervix” but the NHS says “women and people with a cervix”. Possibly there is an advantage for all feminists in seeing “women’s problems” as “people problems”, things all people should be concerned about. Period poverty is a problem for society, not just women. Seeing women and men as people with people-gifts rather than masculine or feminine gifts helps all our gifts to be valued and used.

I do not like the term “gender critical” because it feels to me that all the criticism is of transgender- the idea that ones gender can differ from ones sex, or that gender matters, or that we have gender identities. “I don’t have a gender identity” say gender critical feminists. Well, I do. And I feel there could be a term that includes that position and also includes me. “Victim” and “survivor” have been suggested in other situations, and critiqued; possibly “gender oppressed” acknowledges the oppression. We cannot be free of that oppression, entirely. Others have expectations of us and responses to us based on our perceived sex or gender expression, even once we succeed in purging all the internalised self-suppression.

I feel some word- “gender rejecting”, perhaps- could unite trans and gender variant people with gender critical feminists, including all of us, and that would be a benefit. I am happy to call myself “gender critical”- I critique gender stereotypes, finding them oppressive too.

When cis people declare their pronouns in their email signature, their zoom name, or on badges they wear, they are declaring they are allies of trans people, and I would like this allyship to include the gender concerns of gender critical feminists. Robin Dembroff suggests that is achieved by adopting the pronoun “they” for everyone. It rejects gender stereotypes. So people could give their pronouns as “they/their/them”, “she/they” or “he/they”.

You might also put in your email signature “I oppose stereotyping”. Stereotypes are the basis of all of Kyriarchy, not just sexism. If we proclaimed that, we would have to live it too.

So much language divides us. The phrase “sex-based rights” excludes trans women, and even denies that there could be a possibility that excluding us could be remotely objectionable. The phrase “Trans women are women” works the opposite way. Each side can communicate only with its allies, honing its language to express its rectitude. If we are to converse we need a common language and to value each others’ experiences.

Now and not-now, Real Self and mask

There is “Being in the Now”. I am aware of sensory input now. I listen to what people say. I see their body language. I am aware of what I feel now, and it flows without overflowing. I speak what I need to say, now. And there is “Being in past and future”, thinking of what I will say rather than hearing the other, being with worries and ruminations, walking and barely seeing where I am because I am treading the old cognitive paths. Continue reading

The Story of America: Michelle Obama’s speech to the Democratic Convention

“I love this country with all my heart.”

Michelle Obama’s speech communicates the urgency of this moment, and the depth of the crisis facing America. I want to analyse how beautifully constructed her speech is, the soaring rhetoric which carries us along, reminding us of all that is good in America and in its people. Continue reading

Clare Flourish

Welcome.

Nine years ago today I published my first post here, and over nine years have developed a comprehensive trans blog. I have now published 2951 posts and 17 pages, and had 420,640 views, which is an average of 142 views per post, though one, on tucking, has had over 26,000, and my JK Rowling post had over a thousand views on its first day. I have had views from 199 countries, 170,017 from the US, one from Malawi. So if you know anyone with an IP address in the Vatican, or the Democratic Republic of the Congo, please get them to have a look. I had 4725 different visitors in June.

I started the blog intending to record my spiritual and personal growth, and I am a more integrated personality than I was then. I go round in circles, revisiting the same issues, and yet it is a spiral, making further progress on each new visit.

As I am British my blog’s principle focus is on Britain, especially as the hard right attack on trans people using “gender critical feminists” as dupes or enthusiastic allies is furthest advanced in Britain, but I consider trans issues and trans people from around the world, especially the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. I look at the law and proposals to change it, the response of churches, research on trans, and any issue of interest to trans people and our allies.

Commenters come and go, and sometimes the best part of the blog is the comments. My comment policy is “Don’t bore me”, and if people oppose trans rights, I will engage if they are courteous. I have less tolerance of those who abuse other commenters than those who abuse me, but often I let stupid or hateful comments through, as they show off the idiocy of the commenter. This is my space, but everyone is welcome here, especially if you can say something interesting.

I publish my photography here, and usually one painting a day, sometimes relevant to the post- obliquely or literally- and sometimes not. I like art. I am a Quaker, and publish things of interest to Quakers, most recently what God or the “inner light” might mean to an atheist.

I use my blog as a diary, as well as to communicate with whoever is listening. I have 2028 followers, but most of them rarely comment, or even look here. “Likes” are always welcome.

If you read all of it- I might be up to two million words by now, well over the length of In Search of Lost Time– you would know me perhaps as well as I know myself.

What is God?

I am an atheist materialist Quaker. I find meeting for worship, the Quaker business method, and the Quaker community work, and if I am right that the God as an independent entity George Fox, or convinced Quakers now, might have believed in does not exist, they would work in an accidental universe. Before, I have said “I am emotionally theist: I have a strong personal relationship with the God I do not believe in”; and now that does not work so well for me, as so many spiritual practices, such as attuning to the Now, seem utterly bound up in being a physical animal.

I don’t object to others’ conceptions of God. The idea of Panentheism, God in everything, is attractive as there is a life force. Life never gives up the struggle to survive, it takes in energy and produces action. The life force started on Earth when life started here and before then there was energy, movement and possibility. This life force produces healing, so that as a wounded body heals so does a wounded psyche. My proper attitude to things outside my skin is wonder and love, because this is the Kingdom of God or the Republic of Heaven, and that is what receiving it like a little child means to me. Spiritual writings which speak to people speak truth in metaphor if they are not literally true.

Working with my psychotherapist I identify a Real Me, where my motivation, desire, delight and creativity reside, and a guard which slams the door on it, as in childhood I learned that spontaneous self-expression was dangerous. That might fit the “ego” in this Richard Rohr meditation. I am unsure about the word “ego” as I associate it with Freud, and the id, that contains sexual and aggressive drives and hidden memories, and the super-ego, a moral conscience, with Freud’s “ego” mediating between the two. My “Real me” appears strongly pro-social, and that fits my idea of humanity as a social animal. I need my society to survive, let alone thrive. The guard wants to be sensible and safe, to fit in to external requirements, not to be individual.

Then there was the “Reptile brain” where the four Fs reside, feeding, fleeing, fighting and the sexual drive, but I think I read somewhere that reptiles, too, have hindbrain midbrain and forebrain. Neuroanatomy and neuropsychology are moving, and I don’t want to cling to half-remembered, imperfectly understood scientific ideas mediated by journalists, even if I am right to be materialist and all experience depends on neurons and dendrites. Reading that linked article shows Freud’s id and ego to be more complex than my conception of them.

I want to be sensible and safe, but more as well. I want to integrate myself better. It felt as if the guard or ego were a mask, that I moved through the world with the mask welded on, but that speaking without the mask could be scary, so I wanted to have it to hand if required. I can wear a face like the one Eleanor Rigby keeps in a jar by the door, if I know I can take it off, that I can use its attributes, or be playful as I desire, spontaneously.

Is that “Real me” my inner light? It seems to me Good, as Walt Whitman says “every part hearty and clean”, made by God to be “Very good”. I don’t want an inadequate understanding of what is good to hobble me, to deny parts of that self and hide them in Shadow or project them on others. Quakers might do that. New England Yearly Meeting query 6 makes a distinction that is not as rigid as Freud’s superego/id, but appears rigorous: “Do you recognize divinely inspired insight? Can you distinguish between divine leadings and your own needs or desires?”

The distinction, to me, seems to be between a desire which has life and fire in it, which might mean for me flirting with this particular woman now, or organising a Meeting for Worship where people who have not found Friends might be particularly open to trying it, and an idea which appears righteous, but is more going through the motions, and when it does not work we are discouraged. It’s between what is worth trying and what isn’t, not between what is divine and what is selfish.

That could be a fault in Quakerism, so that I should leave. So much of our language- “Inner light”, “That of God”, “Spirit”- could be used to mean what is righteous and pro-social rather than selfish. Or I could define “selfish” out of existence, caging the concept in: pair-bonding is good, so I absolutely should flirt with that woman Now.

That “Real me” contains the four Fs as well as my most pro-social instincts. Then again, if Richard Rohr’s Catholicism is big enough to contain “the unified field of life itself”, or “nondual consciousness”, surely Quakerism is. Perhaps Quakers are peculiarly communal. I know  psychopaths exist, but Quakers’ “own needs or desires” may seek the good of the community. Perhaps that query means the desires of my Guard or the non-Freudian Ego, to be Normal and to fit in, to Seem rather than to Be.

There is another Good that is split from Bad: my friend with a wonderful gift of expression wrote of her friend, who “moves through the world like light bouncing off water” yet can be “still, grounded, centred, warming others like a Summer day.” Beside that, anyone might feel “stuck to the ground, heavy, hopeless, forgotten”. To we who are depressive, our lack of energy can appear morally bad, and that harmful idea gets enough affirmation from society to keep it simmering.

What is God? I am is God.
I make mistakes, and I am is God.
I get hurt and have painful feelings, and I am is God.
I need the world, and society, to support me, and I am is God.
I will die and be a memory, and We are is God.
The words are merely words, and I am, We are.

All this comes from my experience. What comes from yours?

Coronavirus vocabulary

Words I wish I had not had the chance to learn.

First, “coronavirus”. I had heard of colds caused by rhinoviruses, but before December had not registered the idea of a coronavirus as a core of RNA with a lipid shell covered in protein spikes which can penetrate cell membranes. A lipid is not soluble in polar solvents, like water, but soap or alcohol rips the lipid shell apart making the viral particle nonviable. Had you not studied biology or biochemistry, the word “lipid” might have passed you by, as it had me. Each viral particle is eighty nanometres across. The virus is “zoonotic”, an infection originating in other animals. There may be others, far worse, just waiting their chance.

The particular coronavirus is SARS-CoV 2, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2, named after SARS, which was not only a syndrome, but a viral disease. A syndrome is a group of symptoms which consistently occur together, and I would say the viral disease should not be called a syndrome because we know the cause, one virus, and because its symptoms are hugely varied, from neurological disorders to “Covid Toe”. The disease is CoViD 19, Coronavirus Disease identified in 2019.

A “cytokine storm” occurs when your immune system, unable to contain the virus, goes apeshit. Much of the damage to your lungs, including the fluids which drown you or the substances which clog your lungs, making them like bricks, comes from your immune system rather than the virus itself. It is caused by the innate immune system, rather than the adaptive immune system which develops as you experience infections. I have read articles about T cells and B cells, but that is too much information, and I have forgotten it, even though I had heard of T cell counts related to AIDS, another syndrome caused by one virus. You can know the practicalities- wear a mask, wash your hands, limit in-person social activity, Trump and Johnson cannot be trusted to make worthwhile decisions about which risks people should take or where public money should go- without knowing about B cells.

How badly you are affected may depend on your initial “viral load”, the amount of virus you take in.

I started this post when I read that a test should be both sensitive and specific. A test is sensitive if it does not have too many false negatives. A test is specific if it does not have too many false positives. The two words together convey more information than “accurate”. Testing your temperature before you enter a building is neither. That reminded me of words I can never remember: the tolerability of a risk depends on its severity, how awful it is if it happens, and its likelihood or probability, producing a risk matrix. I hold the concept of the matrix in my mind, but not the words for its axes.

The new word I liked most was “fomite”. A fomite is an object which passes on infection: it could be a door handle, or a dictionary, any object where the virus may linger, still active, to be picked up by the next person to touch it. A huge variety of objects can be a fomite based on one specific characteristic which I never thought of before The Pandemic started. However I understand fomite transmission is unlikely, and most transmission occurs by breathing in droplets or aerosols- there is, I read, no agreed terminology– breathed out by an infected person.

The word “blog” comes from “weblog”, which was originally meaning a log of interesting pages the author had found. Here’s a page from Raphael Carter’s. Assiduous readers of my blog, who click all my links, will see that I have mostly linked The Atlantic. It’s a bit right-wing for me, and of course US-centric, but I find the range of articles fascinating, and it is at least “reality-based”, pouring scorn on the lies of the Trumpites. Would that everyone were reality-based! Lying and distraction are too profitable.

I depend on journalists. I read that initial research which showed that viral particles could remain on surfaces for days began with huge loads of virus, scores of sneezes per square inch, and the detection was based on finding the RNA, which does not indicate that the virus is infectious. As research continues, the consensus understanding will change. I am not even going to look at “pre-prints”, academic articles not yet peer-reviewed.

What new words have you picked up this year?