Extinction Rebellion IV

Marsham St, off Horseferry Road. “Are you arrestable?” asks a man. Er-

“Are you going to be staying?” asks another man. “It’s ok, I am a legal observer.” Well, I say I would move if told to or else. There are a lot of police about.

“Have you got a bust card?” he asks sympathetically.

I have. It’s got an expert solicitor’s number on it.

“You look comfortable,” says a woman. Yes. I have a back support to sit on the road. Any fool can be miserable, as the soldier told me.

“If you want to eat could you go up now, as the police might confiscate our equipment,” says a man. When I get there the cooking is closed but someone paid for a delivery from Pret and I take a chocolatey bite.

Now it’s the People’s Assembly. People come up to a microphone.

This is the End Times.
This is the real meaning of democracy.
One reads Oriah Mountain Dreamer.

I heard the faith groups were supposed to be in Marsham St but when I got here there are a lot of police about. Various groups came to camp here. A woman sees my Quaker sign and says Quakers should give people a place to keep their stuff so that it won’t get stolen by the police. There was a Buddhist leading and teaching meditation.

At 12.43 there is an announcement: we will be having a people’s assembly in about twenty minutes as a closing ceremony on this beautiful site, in love and compassion for the police who are massing.

There is a much bigger crowd chanting. Chants include

We are unstoppable
Another world is possible!

I meet a woman who was arrested on Monday. There are no bail conditions, she can be here. She was held for 18 hours in a cell overnight by herself and may be charged through the post later.

I decide to go to Trafalgar Square. The police are accepting people there, and my Friend wants a meeting for worship there. I meet a woman who tells me the churches should be involved, supporting us, and I agree. She used to love singing in the choir but does not Believe the creed; but she finds communion, even reverence, in her women’s group. I give her Advices and Queries.

I am pleasantly surprised by my trip. Whitehall is car free.

There are speakers and a sense that another world is possible. I get my hot vegan lunch, and sit in the sun chatting to a Friend.

I am listening to a talk on the crisis- a million species at risk of extinction, we use up resources the Earth can replenish by 30 July in the year. In 1969 the equivalent day was 31 December- when a call goes round that the police are trying to clear the roads and will take our food prep tent if we don’t shift it. I go to help move food and equipment.

The police have taken people’s tents off the road and chucked them in a pile like rubbish. It reminds me of Totes Meer by Paul Nash. I passed it this morning when I went into the Tate to see Bacon’s studies for the base of a crucifixion.

Police are trying to clear people from Whitehall, so I go to support.

I love the kangaroos. I give one a hug.

A man is going about with a large amplifier playing jigs. I wondered if we could get a Strip the Willow going, but he is not with us: he has a sign saying “Christ will soon come and set up his own world government in Jerusalem”.

Unfortunately a drunk man starts chatting to me and sticks to me. He wants to go to the police lines, but I tell him XR requests people not to drink before action. He wants to start a fight and I say we are non violent. He follows, touching my arm and talking (“are you a boy?”) as I meander between police lines, then back to the Square, and only leaves when I join two Friends.

Extinction Rebellion III

It was a bit of a shock to find Lambeth Bridge clear with traffic flowing freely. The police have been harsh. There are a few of them standing around on the corners. One says “Hello” as I come past, and there are some behind me now, with their night-sticks hanging. Someone said there were armed police about.

There is art work:

At Great College St they are trying to clear half of the road. People are sitting on a tarpaulin and every so often one is carted off, hanging floppy in the arms of four or five police officers.

My Friend gives me an XR Quaker banner.

We chant.

First Demand
Tell the Truth
Second Demand
Carbon Neutral 2025
Third Demand
Citizens’ Assembly!

We sing, leader and chorus repeats:

Power to the people
People got the power
Tell me can you feel it
Getting stronger by the hour

The woman with a strong clear voice leading this sits on top of a post box, until she is brought down. I thought she was arrested, but heard after she wasn’t. Others replace her, singing and on the post box.

In the afternoon, there are more of us, but half the road is cleared. We drum, and after I took the picture of the dancing, I joined it.

We were going to hold a Quaker meeting but at 2pm far more people arrived, so I did not see the Meeting happening a short distance away. Now I am sitting in the road. When someone with a loudhailer offers it for anyone to give a message, I read out parts of Advices and Queries.

  • Remember your responsibilities as a citizen for the conduct of local, national, and international affairs. Do not shrink from the time and effort your involvement may demand.
  • Respect the laws of the state but let your first loyalty be to God’s purposes. If you feel impelled by strong conviction to break the law, search your conscience deeply.
  • We do not own the world, and its riches are not ours to dispose of at will. Show a loving consideration for all creatures, and seek to maintain the beauty and variety of the world. Work to ensure that our increasing power over nature is used responsibly, with reverence for life.

Alex Sobel, a new MP, comes to encourage us.

We are organised despite police attempts to disrupt. There is free Vegan food and tea, and a sound system. Singers and poets entertain us, and when it rains like Jeddart staves we have a tarpaulin to shelter under.

Going home, I roll up my banner but feel enabled to greet a police officer as I pass. Then on the train, I wear my banner. Someone asks what are Quakers, and others stare.

Extinction Rebellion

At last, there is something I can do.

I hope to spend as much time as possible on Lambeth Bridge in the coming week. I will worship God. There is Quaker worship planned every day at 2pm for half an hour, and there will be other worship: I will sing hymns, join prayer, if I am allowed worship with Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and join their call to God. There is a spiritual reality binding humanity and the biosphere. I call it God. Others may have other understanding of spirituality, but it is the still small voice that calls to every person, the Truth and Good in every heart, the source of courage and inspiration in the darkest places.

Even if you do not call it God, you know what I mean. It is the thing all humanity has in common. When we come together in Love, humans are powerful.

There is an emergency. I could reel off any number of horrors, but the Bahamas hurricane will do. I will not give you statistics- you can find them if you want. Nor do I want to justify climate science- CO2 has been recognised as a greenhouse gas since the 19th century. I have seen the wilful lies of the climate deniers, and their duplicity for financial gain repels me.

Democracy is under threat from a Prime Minister who promises fantasies- Get Brexit Done- heedless of the risk to the population. Now is the time to act.

I can give up meat, and that is nothing compared to the Amazon fires, encouraged by the Bolsonaro government, or the emissions from private jets (I am tempted to link to George Monbiot’s article, but would be tempted to go on, and just be linking to horror after horror, promoting despair.)

Instead I will say what we, the people may do. We can say No. We can act in the strength of the Spirit of God (or of Humanity, if you will). We can come together.

I love Extinction Rebellion’s simple demands.

Tell the Truth.
Act Now.
Beyond politics.

Beyond politics- they want a citizen’s assembly, to decide what can be done to save our planet separately from the manoeuvring of party politics, and the influence of big donors and propagandists.

I love their principles, in particular no. 9:

We are a non-violent network

This is the heart of my Christianity. Jesus said,

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons and daughters of God. . . . You have learned how it was said, “You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy”; but I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. In this way, you will be daughters and sons of your Creator in heaven.

As Richard Rohr says, we can live by this now.

These are my strengths. I worship. I connect to What Is, and to God within me. I am soft, gentle, peaceful, loving. In this way I can form connections with the others worshipping on the bridge, and with others who approach us. I want to meet people heart to heart, talk, listen and connect. The action may be a silent retreat amid the noise of London.

My great niece was born in 2017. If she lives as long as my father did, she will still be living in the 22nd century, when the current level of CO2 has wreaked its full effects on our climate, melting the ice, raising the sea level, killing off countless other species. I must mitigate the effects of CO2 as far as possible, for her, and even for myself as I may live past 2050. We will find a way.

Correcting yourself

Do you have an inner critic that persecutes you, or does it help you improve? When I think of the inner critic I think of it calling me Worthless, so the idea that it might correct me, or give valuable criticism, surprised me. And yet I notice when I do something not as well as I might, and how I might do it better; and the realisation is not always kicking myself. It could be rueful, and it could even be hopeful, seeing a chance for improvement.

I thought of the “inner critic” merely as a persecutor, so that I thought of this process of assessing my actions and ways of improving as a different thing. I still do. Though that could be a way of hiving off anger at myself, the most negative self criticism, and conceiving it as separate from me. I think it is introjected, so in a way it is.

A self-criticism scale has seven heads which are classified as self-persecuting, fourteen as self-correcting. Some are clearly persecuting- “to punish myself”. Some are clearly correcting- “to remind me of my responsibilities”. Yet I think that inner critic persecutor, which feels like a small child, if it articulated its purpose would claim to be correcting me. I experience it as always enraged and terrified, but it wants to improve my relations with others, just has no idea how.

Who can define “overconfident”? I feel Mr Johnson and Mr Trump have too great confidence, and it makes them act badly, but some risk taking is necessary. So “to stop me getting overconfident” could be self-restricting rather than self-correcting, holding me down. Who defines what is overconfident? Luck and hindsight can affect that.

I feel I have a fairly adult way of recognising that I could do better, see better, know better next time, with a proportionate regret, and separately an inner critic which berates me, turning my hurt into anger against myself.

That persecutor also brings strong feelings to consciousness. When I berated myself as an idiot for a comparatively minor mistake I became conscious of anguish I felt.

It is interesting to read the list. “To stop myself being happy”. I get happy occasionally. I tend to realise that it will pass, but I don’t think it makes me particularly self-critical.

“To stop me being lazy.” I notice that I ought to do cleaning and tidying, but do not do it. I don’t know I would call myself lazy. Lacking self-care, perhaps. I kick myself a bit about it, but it does not generally have the effect of making me do the task. Too rarely I feel desire to do it or an anticipated pleasure at doing it. These things can become habits, I understand, strengthening pathways in the brain through repetition. I have never done that, though.

“To stop me being angry with others.” That fits. I hold myself in.

“Because if I punish myself I feel better.” That sounds like self-harm. Cutting, one lets the feelings out. I feel pain I can only acknowledge as physical. Releasing and acknowledging the feelings brings relief. Again distress is turned inwards.

One, “to make me concentrate” seems to consider current action rather than past mistakes. Concentrate! I tell myself. That would be better as encouragement than criticism or correction. You can do it!

I can’t suppress the inner critic. I don’t think it a good idea to fight it. I feel a rueful acknowledgment is the best way: notice the anger, fear, hurt, desperation, consider that this is the negative inner critic speaking, and that I do not believe what it says. No, I am not a worthless halfwit.

Then notice and practise productive self-criticism. I could improve.

I went to the library to ask for The Testaments. I was in a poor quality t shirt and found myself patronised. The woman said they had not acquired it yet, and could not say if they would get it, nor take reservations for a book they had not bought. She asked if I had read The Power and suggested that I read Vox, a feminist adventure novel. Women are silenced-one woman fights to speak out. No, I don’t want a feminist novel, I want the latest Margaret Atwood. I am not reading occasionally, or hat trying reading as an entertainment, I know my own taste. Instead I got the latest Sebastian Faulks.

The self-criticism which might ameliorate that situation is too abstruse and wide-ranging to attempt.

A gender-free child

Anoush is being brought up gender-free. They can choose their gender later. At 17 months, they are a “lovely little human” who loves dolls but also motorbikes and machinery. Their parents are circus performers, who live on a house boat. They want their child to be who they are, not moulded by the unconscious bias of others into pink is for girls stereotypes. The grandmother found the child’s sex when she changed their nappy, but even other family members do not know.

Hooray! People want to know what genitals someone has so that they know what gender stereotypes to enforce. Even if they consciously desire to subvert such stereotypes and let the child be themself, they will unconsciously steer the child to “boy-things” or “girl-things”. That this is not happening in the first few years of life may be an invaluable foundation, even if when potty-trained and out in the world people will start caring what toilet they use, and nurseries will want to know. The stereotyping afflicts all of us.

So it was odd to read feminists opposing this treatment. Catherine Bennett in the Guardian strongly objected. People should be able to bring their child up free of gender stereotypes while acknowledging their sex.

Clemmie Millbank, in the Independent, also a parent of a baby of seventeen months, observed the gendered treatment given by her fellow Millennials, and the way her husband told their son not to be a wuss when he banged his head. Boys are rebuked for lashing out, but there’s a rueful “boys will be boys” tolerance which would not be extended to girls. Yet she says,

Every time we tell a little girl she’s pretty and a little boy he’s clever, we need to stop ourselves and consider our actions. The only way to tackle gender bias is by confronting it head on, not by hiding it.

Conscious incompetence here would be painful. Always you would ask yourself, am I cuddling this crying child because she is a girl? Am I not cuddling out of a rebellion against stereotyping when I really should? You tell someone to “grow a pair” and feel instantly ashamed.

Bennett claims that the parents are placing gender above sex. The gender-neutral extremist must be continually patrolling their own narrative, whereby gender, a matter of choice and chance, eclipses human biology.

I don’t think they are. There is nothing to indicate that they will alter the child’s body, or ignore their genitals later, just that they want to prevent gender bias now.

Sex is physical, gender is cultural. That is my observation, that of many others, and the basis of feminism opposing women’s oppression (and to a lesser extent men’s) by stereotypes. Actual humans do not naturally fit gendered boxes. So taking action to prevent forcing a child into those boxes is necessary. Some people feel the forcing is natural and appropriate – boys should be boys- some do it thoughtlessly.

I am sure Catherine Bennett would not buy a pink princess shirt for a toddler girl relative. She may even be able to cuddle crying children equally, whatever clothes they wear. Does she despise an unmanly man, or unconsciously reinforce femininity ever? The social pressure to do so is strong.

She is so hostile to concepts of gender neutral as a way to subvert the culture of gender, so hostile to trans people, that she cannot see the value of hiding a child’s genitals. It makes it impossible to stereotype! Is that not obviously a good thing, especially for a feminist?

No one fits the rigid gender boxes. Some people get along with them more or less. Some of us are so tortured by them that we must escape them by any means. We transition, or we change pronouns, or we self-consciously try to give off the signals of the other sex, to change others’ expectations and treatment of us.

None of this is acceptable to some feminists. Only their way is allowed. You can only subvert gender while being clear about sex. They even ally with the far right to oppose transition.

We have to accept all tools to subvert gender, and celebrate everyone fighting it. There are too many people who actively support stereotyping, who think boys should be that type of boy, made to man up, ashamed of showing emotion, and girls should be gentle and caring. Unless we are allies against that our cause is doomed.

A “Christian” site was confused, and in part progressive. This is the progressive bit:

As Christians we love the variety of gifts and personalities God has given to males and females made in his image. We do not want to restrict God, if indeed that were even possible, and narrowly define gender roles and behaviour in ways that are not supported in the Bible.

It seems they think stereotyping can be too restrictive. However they also think “gender is programmed into our DNA”. It is “deeply disturbing” to think Anoush might choose a gender identity different to the one their genitals indicate. But, how could Anouch do that, if it’s against DNA programming?

I wish the parents well. Anoush has a chance to find themself. It would save a lot of angst if everyone else had too.

Diversity, or uniformity

Amos Oz speaks up for freedom to be yourself with Jewish examples, because he was Israeli, crafting an argument to apply to everyone. He argues for a Jewish identity separate from the Law of Moses and all the commentaries accreting to it since the destruction of the Temple. Adherence to the Law should not rank how good or authentic a Jew one is.

I understood where I had come from: from a dreary tangle of sadness and pretence, of longing, absurdity, inferiority and provincial pomposity, sentimental education and anachronistic ideals, repressed traumas, resignation and helplessness. A Tale of Love and Darkness, p472. From that unprepossessing start, he reaches One person is equal to the whole of creation- quoted in Dear Zealots, second essay, “Many Lights, Not One Light”, p48. Each of us is in the image of God, unique.

The oldest inscription in Hebrew is on a potsherd from Khirbet Qeiyafa, over three thousand years old. It reads, Plead for the infant, plead for the poor and the widow. Rehabilitate the poor at the hands of the king. Protect the poor and the slave. Support the stranger. In Hebrew, charity (tzedaka) is close to justice (tzedek). Oz calls this the core of Judaism.

His universal moral imperative comes from the fact that all people suffer pain, and know when they hurt another: Cause no pain.

Jewish culture is based on argument and dialogue to reach the best understanding- the Talmud on the Mishnah, the Mishnah on the Torah, even within the Torah. The Talmud is the record of a process of debate and discernment between differing interpretations, an age old game of interpretation, reinterpretation and counter-interpretation, doubt and disagreement, creativity and spiritual renewal. Follow the majority view but do not oppress or silence the minority. The Jews did not create spectacular monuments, but living texts. If you want to construct a building for future generations, write a book.

Disagreement is not a troubling state of weakness, but a vital climate for the growth of a creative life. The world has many lights, not just one. Abraham argues with God to save Sodom, Job demands justice and God compensates him.

Oz quotes Isaiah Berlin: is political liberty negative, “live and let live” or positive, as in “live correctly in order to be truly free”. For me, the first. The way I live would fit noone else.

Yet the Hasidim have one, incredibly complex understanding of God’s law, the Halacha- the Torah and all the customs and commentaries. Nothing is ever deleted from those commentaries. The space for freedom or original thought reduces.

When Jews live among communities which also primarily identify with a religion, with Christianity or Islam, this is an identity which can withstand temptations from outside. However liberal secularism is more tempting, and Jews might seek religious reform or assimilation to the wider culture. The orthodox responded by excommunication and tougher enforcement of law. They cannot even cope with Zionism, as the new Jerusalem was supposed to be founded by the Messiah, not some secular movement.

Oz’s Jewish identity includes that secular political movement, and a reinterpretation for new circumstances of old Jewish ideas, in modern literature. Did God hide his face in the Genocide? Like them I have yearned for God and poured out my wrath and resentment at God.

The Jewish people have survived because Jews have chosen to identify with it, separate from surrounding peoples, paying additional taxes or suffering persecution. Jewish culture is not just the Law, but all literature, ideas and customs. Perhaps a certain type of humour and a tendency to wisecrack. Perhaps a blatant inclination to be critical, sceptical, ironic, self-pitying, self-righteous. Pragmatism tinged with fantasy, ecstasy diluted with scepticism, melancholy cheerfulness and a profound, healthy suspicion of authority. A measure of stubborn resistance to injustice. He makes it so attractive! Choosing to identify as a Jew is then a positive choice, not a stubborn and counter-suggestible way of responding to persecution.

The Haredim, the ultra-Orthodox, cannot accept the State of Israel as it is, with non-Jewish citizens and with a different authority deciding who is Jewish so entitled to move there. They could live under non-Jewish, even hostile, government more comfortably than secular-Jewish.

The Law is sophisticated on relations within a small community but not relations with other peoples, viewed as either oppressors or victims. You must be like us or we will not recognise you- an imbecile to be guided, or a rebel to be suppressed. Oz, in contrast, finds a Jewish character in the country separate from the Law: in modern Hebrew literature, and in Jewish towns and institutions. These are new, for new conditions, not reproductions of ghetto or shtetl. A Jewish state following the Law would be oppressed and frustrated.

When outsiders, including Jews in other countries, see the suffering of the Palestinians, they find Israel and Zionism oppressive and extremist. That makes Jews wish to dissociate themselves. The Law becomes part of that oppression and the young seek spirituality elsewhere.

Who then is a Jew? Oz can justify his seeking peace with Palestinians with Torah and Tanakh texts. His Judaism is humane, merciful, seeking justice for the oppressed.

Whoever saves one life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world. That is in the Talmud. People are more important than property. Rather than stultifying Law, following the rules of centuries before, Oz seeks continual renewal.


What are your values? Acceptance, Adventure, Assertiveness? Safety, Sensuality, Skilfulness? A choice of 58 with helpful explanations of each might help self-knowledge.

Authenticity: to be genuine, real, true to myself. That fits. Ploughing my own way, now, seems the most important thing in my life. And yet, Conformity: to be respectful and obedient of rules and obligations fits too. Only when under pressure, I think. I use fitting in as a way of seeking safety. Safety: to secure or protect myself or others. I seek that a great deal. Can I claim Courage:to persist in the face of fear, threat or difficulty? Sometimes I have shown courage, sometimes I have run and hidden.

I feel Conformity and Safety are introjected values, I would show more Courage if less badly hurt. Courage calls to courage everywhere– odd, I remembered it as Courage speaks to courage, that is, courage recognises courage in others. “Calls” could have different, valuable meanings. I have shown courage and dedication. I don’t feel courageous, now.

Beauty: to appreciate, create, nurture or cultivate beauty in myself, others, the environment etc. Definitely. It makes my heart sing. I devote time and effort to it. Freedom: to choose how I live and behave, and help others do likewise. No question. These are what I observe in my actions, and feel in my desires.

Humility: to be modest, let my achievements speak for themselves. Hmm. Sometimes I am, sometimes the opposite- not Boastfulness necessarily. “Let your light so shine before men” does not sound modest. I don’t know if either is a Value I would claim, or if there is any consistency. Self-regard, knowing ones value and achievements, might just be arguable as a value.

Honesty? Um. If it were not so important to me I might not hate and notice so much when I lie.

Flexibility. I would like more of that, perhaps just to get me out of problems. I imagine I could have been OK, with hindsight, had I been “flexible”. Possibly that is a mirage.

Mindfulness: to be conscious of, open to, and curious about my here and now experience. Yes, I think, of course, and then reconsider Self-awareness, to be aware of my own thoughts feelings and actions and wonder whether I am so ignorant of the former I confuse it with the latter, so internally focused that the Outside seems illusory. With my mantra I am here. This is. I am I am turning outwards.

Spirituality: to connect with things bigger than myself. Being materialist, I think my Inner Light is myself, though a greater self than the ego or monkey-mind. And Spirituality is Here, This life, focused. I am Spiritual.

Open mindedness: to think things through, to see things from others’ points of view, and weigh evidence fairly. Definitely. I am certain of some things, yet eager to understand more, to see more clearly. This blog records growth in understanding.

Which on the list are not importantly to me? Adventure. Fun. Excitement. I get excitement from ideas, but am not seeking new experiences other than new encounters with different people. Equality. Fairness. Reciprocity. I am not now seeking equality. Do I value myself sufficiently? From seeing myself as worthless I come to value myself. These may be values I have not articulated to myself, or recognised, working unconsciously within.

Not Power: taking charge, leading, organising either. I know that proposing a decision can be a service, relieving others of responsibility, but I don’t want my way. Or perhaps I do, just don’t see attempting to take power as the way to get it. I don’t perceive myself as ambitious.

Not Skilfulness: to practise and improve, and apply myself fully when using them. I like to write. Yet my revision is only of the odd sentence, not rewriting the whole structure of a piece to improve it. I am not developing. So, not really, as it happens. I devote my energy elsewhere. I don’t play the piano any more.

Do any of these values speak to you?

Encouragement and discouragement

What makes you want to get out of bed in the morning? What makes you want to roll over and block out the world? When the necessity of getting up to perform a duty at a particular time is likely first to make you want to lie longer, and then curl up in shame at failure which purges your motivation completely, you are “depressed”. What can make you continue? For me-

Social media gives variable rewards, which are more addictive because less fulfilling. I find myself more keen to check the Guardian opinion section because I may write a comment, which may get up votes. There are four opinion contents pages, and this one indicates when comments are opened by digits. If “0” shows, there is the heady possibility of getting one of the six comments seen by most people, and therefore getting most up votes. I sometimes comment to “join the discussion”, and sometimes for the up votes.

At best, up votes give me a dopamine high, as nourishing as sugar, which might get me out of bed. At worst, hunting up votes gets me repeatedly returning to a page to see I have no more votes than last time. Or my blog stats page, to find no more views, especially after a day when I have had lots of votes or views.

Facebook is the worst. Clicking there might show a notification, but it might be a Like (Hooray!) or a disagreeable comment, which sucks me into a pointless argument. Or some bore has invited me to Like their page. Scrolling might show something interesting at first, but as I go on less and less interests me.

The fact that returns are diminishing increases my compulsion to keep on scrolling. Surely there must be a dopamine hit eventually!

Reaching for my phone in the morning at best gives a sugar high which is short-lived, and distracts me to seek its repetition for the rest of the day, and at worst sinks me into a fruitless search for such a high. It’s not quite

Gnashed her teeth for baulked desire, and wept
as if her heart would break

but I cannot drive Goblin Market from my mind.

The idea of getting up a little earlier to have time for meditation always crosses my mind, seeming to be an attractive possibility, and never tempts me so much that I actually do it.

I am in the toils of seeking immediate gratification. Duty advances my goals, but so slowly! And are they my goals anyway, or introjected?

Possibly I could wean myself off the dopamine, I think, especially after a particularly large hit of it, and find myself always returning. The Guardian informs me, and gives me new ways of seeing, though often it just stoked my rage and frustration with the same old stuff. Facebook gives me the illusion of social contact, and insofar as it is attractive parasites off that need.

Find delight in acting appropriately, says Marcus Aurelius, Meditations X.33. I feel seeking solid joys and lasting treasure should inspire me, and I still pick up my phone in the mornings.

Sometimes I turn from the phone, my head feeling stuffed with dough, and wish for clear perception. Sometimes my mantra

I am here. This is. I am.

seems to hold out hope for that. I had hoped when starting this post it would be more positive, more about solutions than problems, but, oh well. Aurelius just nags:

At dawn of day, when you dislike being called, have this thought ready: ‘I am called to man’s labour; why then do I make a difficulty if I am going out to do what I was born to do and what I was brought into the world for? Is it for this that I am fashioned, to lie in bedclothes and keep myself warm?’ Is that the best one can do?

Dear Zealots

Amos Oz defangs zeal, undermining it, by seeing its roots in every human being. All of us have an inner extremist. Recognising that we can become more liberal. If that seems too incremental, partial and vulnerable a response to threat, a stronger response makes us the image of the extremist.

While “no man is an island,” no one should simply be subsumed by the community, collective, Volk Umma or People. That is the desire of the fanatic, who desires our good, says Oz: made exactly like him with his understanding and outlook, we and the whole world would be blessed. I disagree, here: some Muslim fanatics want to defend the Muslims against the domination of the faithless, who must be driven back. The fanatic in Pakistan wants the blasphemer, often a Christian whose neighbours take against them and give the uncorroborated evidence required, put to death. But in each case there is a single idea of the good life which must be enforced.

Through my own ridiculous desire to call myself female, and the Jew’s dangerous desire to worship separately from the surrounding peoples, I know that the rational, obvious normal way of being can be a poison, and that allowing people to plough their own way is necessary so that we will not sicken and die.

And the fanatic view has enough power to bind together a community or cell and to continue despite oppression. That Addiction to drugs and pornography not only infuriates God but destroys the lives of the addicts themselves has a grain of truth.

My God is in my image as the fanatics’ is made in theirs: their God agrees with them about what is abominable- gender diversity, perhaps, just as my God objects to its suppression in the interests of freedom for all.

With whom do we sympathise? Oz, remembering being a child throwing stones at soldiers- the British, at the fag end of the Mandate- sympathises with Palestinian children throwing stones rather than just his fellow Israelis pointing guns at them. As a child in Jerusalem I myself was a little Zionist-nationalist fanatic- self-righteous, enthusiastic and brainwashed. Possibly his experience of the siege of Jewish areas of Jerusalem, violence against himself and those he loved, could have made him an oppressor, but rather he realised that there were more than one way of seeing things, and that gave him his open heart and capacious soul. Now he points to the source of fanaticism in his fellow Israelis, European Jews wanting to create a New Hebrew, and ultra-Orthodox fanaticism seeking to defend itself against anything different within a walled ghetto. Anti-fanaticism must begin with those with whom you have most in common.

Fanatics live in a black and white world, of clear Good and Evil. They are conformists. They want a Hero, a prophet or guide, to absolve them of the pain of thinking. Conformism, where we blindly follow, is a road to the fanatic exclusion of the Other, following celebrities or celebrity politicians like ABdP Johnson or Donald Trump, who entertain their followers rather than propose a beneficial, possible programme for government. These followers relinquish their right to a rich and diverse life, their freedom to think, to consider, to make choices and change their minds.

How blessed it is, to see the value of independent thought, however challenging or painful it might be, however inconsistently or incoherently one exercised it.

A sense of humour, and the ability to make fun of ourselves, might be a way to escape fanaticism. Or imagination, seeing the reality behind a slogan. It is easier to say “The Jews must kill all the Arabs” if you don’t imagine yourself faced with an orphan baby to kill. Curiosity might help too. Oz, the writer, tells of making interminable meetings in cafes of his parents and their friends go more quickly by imagining stories about people he saw. But others than writers might want to peep behind their neighbour’s drawn curtains, to find how they think.

But in enforcing these ways to cure fanaticism one would become fanatic- as we know what is good for everyone, they must be forced into our mould.

No man is an island, but Oz says we may be best as a “Peninsula”- close, without being assimilated. Everyone wants to influence others, and that is OK as long as we don’t force them. That balance, admitting the difficulty of drawing the line between undue influence and selfish independence, is perhaps the best inoculation against fanaticism: to admit there are no easy answers.

The image is taken from Paintings in Proust, who wrote as in the radiance of intervening light of a half-opened door, Venteuil’s little phrase appeared, dancing, belonging to another world. I love how the child in shadow looks out into light unseen, and the way the mother’s face is picked out by light against a shaded background.

A stronger sense of self

My sense of self is stronger. I move towards health, strength and sanity.

A paradox: I find aesthetic, sensual delight through spiritual practice. My spirituality relates to my physical situation. It does not relate to a soul, being part of the human being, and rarified, heavenly concerns, but the haill human being, here and now. And that gives me a sense of exhilaration, as well as a stronger sense of where and who I am.

I am one creature being itself. That raised the question, am I ever not? Possibly when responding from introjects.

Two conversations after worship: in one I said something I could have said at any time in the last three years, yet it was relevant, the man thought it helpful, and I said it to fulfil my goal of being constructive. That is, I was myself, doing my thing, and I am in agreement with myself (that is, not conflicted). I saw what I had made, and it was good. In the other I was at the edge of my understanding, paying attention, and again being entirely myself.

Someone thought I would be disappointed to find all-age worship, and I said “it is important to me to emphasise the good in any situation”. My vehemence surprised me. The idea began in my late 20s, listening to sermons, that it is better to emphasise an idea I value than bits I dispute as a certain man did, and has widened out to much or all experience.

My doing emerges from my being. This is who I am, and it pleases me. This is new for me.

“You are in touch with your serenity,” says Tina. Yes. “The aesthetic and spiritual open different parts of you.” I’ll think about that, but disagree atm- both come from love.

I am concerned for appearances. That could be from Heaven- aplomb, authenticity, coming from love, or from Hell- pretense to conceal myself, out of fear.

I like commenting on The Guardian. It is not human contact, but the dopamine from up votes pleases me. I can get in early to get a lot of up votes, though I find I get more for a rhetorical flourish or a polemic point strongly made than for something more nuanced or complex. And someone told me I was wrong about sickness benefits, in such a way I thought was disinformation, a deliberate falsehood to deceive, though now think was just a mistake.

I know people deliberately spread disinformation. I feel repugnance. It weakens individuals, who cannot act well if they do not have proper information, and also trust between people, and therefore the community. It is destructive.

That is, others attack the community, a thing I cannot imagine doing. Imagining it is uncomfortable. It is close to though less than the discomfort I used to feel when I felt disoriented, the feeling that my belief or apparent perception was not evidence for or against the thing believed.

Or it is the discomfort at feeling at sea and out of the community, not getting what everyone else gets.

People imagine their understanding of How Things Are is correct, sometimes. I know mine is better than it was- yet that means it was deficient, and how could I be certain of it now?

Yet my deeds emerge from my being, or I am being rather than merely doing, or being and doing are one. It is not introject, or fear of being seen in a way I feel I am that is unacceptable to others; it is authentic.

This is a slightly different version of that Blake picture: