Softness II

Leafleting for Labour. Such is politics, where I am- doing what I can to achieve what I want. The first house I come to has a stiff brush inside the sprung letter box, and I push the leaflet through. As I have my hand inside, a dog bites the base of my finger, drawing blood. I try not to bleed too much on the leaflets, or get them scrumpled pushing them through. I have a heavy bag of leaflets to empty. Saliva on skin makes a natural antibiotic, so I suck and lick the wound. The dog must be a Conservative.

Then I notice the mail box on the wall.

These houses have long drives. There is intermittent light rain. I plod grimly on. In a front yard I cadge a plaster off a man. He has a first aid box in his car, so gives me a wipe to remove the dried blood, and asks if my tetanus is up to date. As we talk of what happened, I note myself explaining. I wanted not to scrunch up the leaflets, but push them through neatly. I am a perfectionist. I start to cry.

-Perhaps you should go home and finish off another day, he says.
-Oh, I am emotionally labile, I get like this.

On. I note the self-talk. I would, perhaps, rather not cry in that situation, but I do not rebuke myself as cruelly for it as I would have, once. It is how I am. When I permit my weeping rather than fighting it, I can stop. I was doing my best, and I was hurt. I resent these long drives, and how the breaks in the fences to give the postman a shortcut between doors have often been blocked up. I note myself grizzling. I am peeved at the blockages, the residents are mean, why have those stiff brushes anyway? Houses need ventilation, do they want to accumulate argon gas? Again, I might not want to be heard grizzling under my breath like that, but find it tolerable. I sympathise with myself- what a skill that is!!- allow my whinging, and can laugh at it when it gets out of proportion. I don’t like people walking in front of my front window either. How lovely to find that man! How lovely, his kindness!

It feels great to empty that bag of leaflets. I note where I got to and will continue later. I phoned up the GP: Americans should note this is the NHS, paid for by taxes, free at the point of use. British people should note the NHS is still paid for by taxes, free at the point of use, and not yet privatised, and should vote accordingly. The GP is of Polish origin: how wonderful that EU citizens come here and work in our NHS! Her computer was not working this morning, but is now. She tests function of my finger, which is all OK, and gives antibiotics; the nurse washes out the wound and gives a tetanus jab. The bandage is only necessary because the small wound is at such an inconvenient position.

Other people III

The argument that it is likely we are in a computer simulation is that they would be so useful. There is one real existence, and perhaps billions of life forms creating simulations to test how things would work out in particular situations. Our chance of being in reality is slim. We might be in a simulation, in a simulation, like the central Matryoshka doll.

How can I emerge into reality? asked H determinedly, delighting me. But the simulation might be better: imagine if the Big Crunch will be in less than a thousand years, bringing all to an end, but in our simulation time goes more quickly and this universe has billions of years to go. Our simulation feels real: why should living a life or affecting others’ lives be more meaningful, outside it?

Maybe it’s just that I forgot my pill last night and took it this morning, but feelings are heightened today. I wanted to go into the garden and read, but instead am arrested by the beauty of the leaves on that tree. I am in Presence, which I decided was not a “spiritual state”– but it is, you know. It is not Enlightenment, but it is Heavenly. I find the garden-bird, and the squirrel, entrancing. As I left the Meeting house, a woman arrived on an electric scooter. “Oh, hello” I said as I walked out. Now the scooter turns, and she scoots away. Someone chases after her: “Do you want me to open [the other door with the ramp]?” she asks. No, apparently. “But I would like to talk to you!” I feel a pang. Did I insult her by not attending to her need to enter by a ramp? How horrible that would be! Even though I am a visitor and did not consider I might be needed to let her in, I feel worried remorse.

Then I notice a plastic toy on the bench, a brightly-coloured rotor on a launcher with a spring. There is a loop to go round a tiny wrist. I try it. I try it again. It is delightful!

In the meeting I am in delight looking at the other people here. I love them for what I know of them, and their complexities and wonders I do not know. And I am abashed at how I do not know them. One ministers on “Post-truth”. I minister:

I was glad when they said unto me, let us go unto the house of the Lord. There is a streak of reckless generosity in our religion, heedless of the future or common sense: when the woman poured perfume on Jesus, someone said “it could have been sold, and the money given to the poor”. In the gospel those words are placed in the mouth of Judas, because he wanted to steal it. I am delighted being with these people, and Mr Trump tells people what they want to hear, reassuring them they are good, and the Outsiders are bad.

Another ministers all truth is provisional- scientific theories are the best explanation.

Over lunch, I want to show off the issue of Quaker Voices, with the photograph I took on its cover. I want to show off, and be petted, rather than to see others and know them better. And I showed it to Peter, then forgot that he wanted to show me how well he could park, such a small distance from the barrier! Oh well. It is how I am.

In Area Meeting, the Men’s Refuge comes up. The need for a Women’s refuge is far greater, she says. I wonder how we might make this not a zero sum game, men v women, two sides in the Meeting. The voices here are for a Men’s refuge. We will proceed with it. What if there is no call for a men’s refuge, and it falls through? Will those who have given money be happy to have a house for some undefined charitable purpose, and do they want a voice in deciding that purpose? If residents can claim housing benefit or Universal Credit, or if they can’t, do we want an income from Women’s Aid managing it? So much unresolved- yet we will go ahead with it.

This friendship delights me. After, in the sunshine, we hug; before, she touched my bare arm, making me shiver.

The meandering route to recovery

I spend a lot of time with those who come under that “shirkers and scroungers” banner, and I often help them claim benefits. They nearly all have reasonable physical health – but quite severe mental health problems. What I see in them is not laziness and a desire to have others run around and support them – but rather that they are so damaged by life’s circumstances that they have endured that they have no capacity to help themselves. If they get sanctioned (i.e. benefits completely stopped) then they just lie down and take it – like a dog that’s been beaten one too many times…

People who are loved – and they may need that love for many years – can slowly start to believe in themselves again. With patient encouragement to take one step at a time, and constant support – lives can be rebuilt. And personal responsibility will then develop too.

-From a facebook thread.

Compassion is not at all weak. It is the strength that … allows us to bear witness to … suffering, whether in ourselves or others, without fear; it allows us to name injustice without hesitation, and to act strongly, with all the skill at our disposal. To develop this mind state of compassion … is to learn to live, as the Buddha put it, with sympathy for all living beings, without exception.

– Sharon Salzberg, Lovingkindness:
The Revolutionary Art of Happiness

I need to know my limitations, and they are hard to accept. I used to work with people after heart attacks claiming benefits, who would often say that sitting down, they felt completely normal, like before, so they went to get up and felt shocking breathlessness and pain. One imagines the default, the normal, often even after repeated proof of the lesser ability. Denial is just one of my blind spots.

I find my energy levels varying, and here am I even now thinking, “I can do that this afternoon!” When it comes to this afternoon, I won’t feel the energy.

Of course I want to see how to improve and build abilities. I am doing my best, all the time, because people just do. And, rather than writing this blog post about limitations or going out leafleting for Labour I am whiling away my time on heated facebook threads, about whether a Quaker can be a Conservative. Some who are both resented the challenge. I was going to write, “I went into my why can’t we all just get along? mode,” but really I sought to bridge the gap. I put my energy, care and expressiveness into explaining each to the other and finding common ground. Not all I wrote was perfect.

Whiling, or practising, or even engaging in a medium where feelings are strong, though transitory?

Menis said to me, Have mercy on yourself.

One Conservative voter messaged me, Thank you for coming to my aid on fb. You are a kind Friend indeed! When we got to 😇😇😇 I said It is extremely important to me to see myself as a good person! which provoked her 😄 😄 .

So, there. Self-nurturing, as well as thinking things through with words, and practicing writing. Not a waste of time at all!

I recognise myself in those first two paragraphs above. I knew I have to write about what my difficulties are, because without that, plans can never work. Plans which do not take account of difficulties will founder on those difficulties.

Everything I do is for my good; and not everything I do forwards those conscious plans. Some ways forward proceed unconsciously. Of course I know I must write of my difficulties. I must get to know them from patient observation of what I do, rather than imagining I know myself, or that I really am that normal default- because I am sitting in the chair, and not exerting myself to rise from it. And I get to know them, consciously and unconsciously. After hours on that facebook thread, thinking, writing, reading and re-reading, I showered at 1pm, and in the shower my Assertion surfaced, and I said, emphatically, insistently,

I am
I am writing it

I am writing my account of my difficulties. I was working on it then. Just, not consciously.

 ♥♥♥

The road to recovery lies through a full and complete understanding of limitations. I know that I am loveable. I love myself. I like myself. This is great progress. And, I have no trust in myself or others. I have experiences of my failure and others’ angry or hostile reactions to me, which matter to me, which affect my conduct, thought, anticipation and planning, and however much I think of my success and others’ favourable or supportive reactions to me, however many examples I retrieve from memory, they are insignificant beside the weight of bad experiences. I think,

It was ghastly!
It will be ghastly again!

If I can win my own trust, I need to develop trust of others. I might delve into why the bad experiences have so much weight- perhaps they are from early childhood, where it really was as black and white as it seems now.

So I retreat, and I fiddle, and I don’t do what I obviously must do to improve my lot

even while I work to improve it, in unimaginable or ridiculous ways

I follow my heart, however much my head knows it is right.

Self respect V

Mr Trump is only not a traitor because he is incapable of emotionally comprehending the concepts either of a moral obligation on himself or of loyalty. I pray that his sacking of Mr Comey is the desperate act it appears to be, and that enough honour is left that his fall is inevitable: that he has won himself more weeks, not more months, in the White House.

And yet I love the way he fights for his own selfish interests, his single minded, rat in a corner determination to do any damage necessary, that he might be free. There are times when a human being is alone and must do all it takes to survive.

Mmm. Which human being do I mean?

-Why don’t you want to work?
-Because I can’t see any good in it except money for bare survival. I don’t want responsibility, because I can only imagine that turning out badly. Walking back and forth in a warehouse bleeping barcodes as required by an automated system sounds ghastly. I would be required to walk faster than I reasonably could for eight hours, sacked after a few weeks for not walking fast enough, then sanctioned for being “voluntarily unemployed”.

And I don’t want to be told what to do.
-Why not?
-Because I will be told stupid things.

I have not dug down into this particularly, but in Newport I was in anguish because I thought what I was told to do was stupid, merely missing the point; there was something of that in Swanston, the complete lack of planning of the job I was given to do such that it became impossible to do it to any useful standard. I don’t trust or like people. Possibly I could work in a coffee shop. I could pull into my shell and not be noticed. Cleaning a table could be OK.

-You’re very bright.
-It’s a curse!

Or, it has not given me all I might want it to. And I see my friend not getting her way even though she is right, because others do not see that they are wrong- and her surprise; and she has approached the matter in an unpersuasive way, because she has seen the truth they have not.

I lack energy. I typically sleep in the afternoon, wake two or three times a night, can rely on myself to undertake a task in the morning, but not necessarily both the morning and afternoon, and the intellectual effort of writing a blog post tires me. I wonder if that makes me in any way “ill”- I lack a diagnosis for it. Many people like that have supportive families.

I have the gift of focusing tensions on me. Expelling me from Wellingborough local Quaker meeting was not a solution to a non-existent problem, but it did enable people to lash out at something, diverting their attention from their real problems. How marmite am I, that I can even rile Quakers?

On Saturday morning, I left home at 5.45 to cycle to Swanston, to get the train to London and arrive at the Tate at 8. Members can enter then, to see the David Hockney exhibition, and I was rewarded by sitting with five huge couple portraits, over 3m x 2m, including the wonderful Pool with two figures.

-Did that energise or exhaust you?

I loved the Pool. I loved the sunlight on the surround, and the cool forested mountains beyond. I thought of getting a poster-print of it for £25, but after the original it was not enough. And, after about five hours in the galleries, I was tired. So, both. I got to that room with those pictures, with just five other people in it rather than the scores who were there later, and thought, I can tell people of this experience. “I left home at 5.45 to cycle…” I was and I will be ran in my mind until I rebuked them, and settled into I am here. I am proud that I could concentrate on Fred and Marcia Weisman and wonder at her expression, the high neck and the way she seems to snatch her robe around her, yet it is slit…

I want to spend time with beautiful things.

And I am starving for a deep emotional link to People!

Canvassing

I was out canvassing this evening with Beth Miller, Labour candidate for Corby and East Northants. I want to avoid a Billionaires’ Brexit: we need a Brexit for Britain. Vote Labour! It was wonderful to canvass, with so many enthusiastic voters. Of course they will vote Labour, they have always voted Labour. Or, yes they will vote Labour, they do not like the current MP, a Conservative who “volunteered” for a Brexit campaign then paid himself £40,000 from it. Yes, they want posters.

On 8 June, we might get rid of this weak, chaotic government and their huge increase in the National Debt, and their Back to the Fifties policies with Secondary Modern schools, fox hunting- what next? Hanging? Labour is our chance to reverse the destruction of our welfare state, all the things we do together for the good of all.

I delivered leaflets for three hours today. Getting Beth elected motivates me more than anything else this year!

Motivation II

I continue to get to know myself as I might get to know another, by observing myself. I know lots of sensible stuff-

-Strike when the iron’s hot
-A stitch in time saves nine

I would tell you that it is good to start a task plenty of time before it needs to be completed. This is obvious. I would brook no argument. Except when it comes to it, often I don’t. This morning, I knew I had to do something, and thought, ah, I will cycle to Swanston for a food shop first. Then I thought, if I do that I will be too tired in the afternoon, and put it off until the evening; then I will be too tired in the evening, and put it off until the following day. And I also have leaflets to deliver for Beth Miller, the plucky Labour candidate standing against the nasty Nationalist, liar and destroyer of the public services. I will do all I can against the Tories. I got the leaflets yesterday.

There is never a great deal on my to-do list, but I still manage to not do it. Even, my teeth feel a bit yuck, but I do not clean them. I observe dirt on the pad when I cleanse, but do not cleanse. My living room is untidy. (I leafleted for the local elections last week, and went round to the candidate’s house. We chatted in her yard, but she did not want me to come in as her house was a mess. It may be fairly common, people tidying for ten minutes before someone else arrives, except in my case where the place is too untidy for ten minutes to do.)

There is that task which I must complete even though it may not do any good. I am terrified. Homelessness is not completely impossible. I have not started it. I thought, ten days ago, that buying the CPAG Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook might be a good idea, and today I phoned them to order it, a week after I could have done. I am glad I did it today. The sense of foreboding is fended off a little by doing something about the threat.

I thought also of speaking to the GP. Am I in any sense “ill”? I lack motivation, I am happy enough watching TV all afternoon, I cannot see a better way of looking after myself than what I do. Do I lack energy, am I traumatised, should I take anti-depressants or counselling? I thought of it but have not arranged it.

And, on Sunday, I thought of taking a photograph to advertise the Quaker meeting for the Greenbelt festival. I did it without any care, because- well, better not say in public. Even though x will make it almost unusable, I could still have taken more care over it to make it less bad. I took ten and looked at them and thought they are all dreadful, worse because I did not y.

Or, I was so unhappy at x I stopped caring or thinking of it. Well, that one is probably the best.

I know how I respond; how I do not do something because I must do something else first, except the something else never gets done. Well, this time I sent the email about Greenbelt before going off to Swanston. I just did. I know the wisdom, and I know myself, and I defied my own expectation and did the sensible thing. I do sometimes. Or, I might be getting better. There may be hope for me yet.

Softness

I will celebrate my softness.

I went with H to the Royal Festival Hall, where the Four Last Songs moved me to tears; and she put her arm round me, and consoled me. I went with a different H to A Quiet Passion, the film about Emily Dickinson, and again was weeping helplessly; and H held my hand, and consoled me.

I have called it “sensitivity”, and thought myself not entitled to the word. It seemed to me that “sensitivity” could mean emotional responsiveness, but needed to include sensitivity to others’ feelings, and care for them. I observed that sometimes I would be deeply insensitive and judged myself for it. You don’t always realise, immediately, and realising later may be too late. Repressing my own feelings, I took refuge in analysing. I wrote a verse of a man and three women, in the first person, and someone observed that he could not imagine that a man who would feel in that way could write such a poem.

And so it felt merely like weakness and unmanliness, likely to prevent me from doing what I had to do, merely a problem. And even now it frightens me, as I imagine toughness might look like something quite different, and is necessary to achieve useful goals, or feel less distress.

Yet that aspiration to “toughness” judges and criticises my distress, so that I resent it, fight it, strengthen it and fail to process it. Tough does not mean unfeeling, and if it does I am not tough like that. Softness is only a liability if feeling strong emotions is a bad thing.

It is still hard to find something positive to say, though. I was weeping. I can at least be neutral: there is nothing shameful in that.

I don’t feel either H thinks less of me because of it, or wants to spend less time with me for it- even if I isolate those instances of weeping instead of imagining how I appear to them overall. I like to be kind, and while this characteristic may be elevated in me, I think they have it too. Softness and kindness together produce closeness.

Weeping is not the only manifestation of softness, but at that moment, the character “Emily Dickinson” revealed her dependence on her family, her fear and isolation from the World, and her apparent inability to improve her situation. I was keenly aware of that, and while I was responding to a dramatised portrayal would resonate similarly with real people in real situations. And I did. I met with CAB clients and expressing sympathy and fellow-feeling, and thereby reducing some of their distress, and after I found ways of recovering. If, later, I needed to protect myself from clients that was not my fault.

I am loving and gentle. I am still wary of that, and my wariness makes me not appreciate my softness properly. My softness is like a cat in the darkness, pressed into a corner. I do not see her properly, and she and I do not trust each other properly. If I can pay her attention, I will find how beautiful she is, and she may let me pet her, and share our warmth.

My softness is a way of being with others and knowing them, of bonding with them and nurturing; and it may yet nurture me.

What we know about global warming

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. The more of it there is in the atmosphere, the more heat will be retained, leading to warming. This has been known since the 19th century, and this is true though the proportion of CO2 in the atmosphere is relatively tiny, now four hundred parts per million, and though plants require to breathe CO2 to survive.

Burning fossil fuels produces CO2. Heat is released when the fossil fuel reacts with oxygen: for example, methane, CH4, plus O2 produces H2O plus CO2. Children are taught this at different ages, but a fifteen year old who will never be capable of a university degree will be capable of understanding this.

Volcanoes produce CO2, and a lake in Cameroon belched forth a vast quantity of it, killing all animal life nearby; but the amount produced by industry is orders of magnitude greater.

The Earth’s climate and atmospheric CO2 levels, have changed in the past. However, now, both are changing catastrophically quickly, with results such as increased bleaching of coral, species migrating to cooler habitat closer to the poles or higher up mountains, alterations in climate such as rainfall patterns, and species extinction.

Sea levels will rise as ice on land melts and warming water expands.

Most people are capable of understanding these facts, but some wilfully deny or obfuscate them.

There is a great deal of doubt about how the world will be affected in the future. How quickly sea level will rise and how climate round the world will change are uncertain, though scientists get better at making predictions as more data emerges. However, the basic facts, showing that climate change is a threat, are clear.

Burning fossil fuels has been an abundant source of cheap energy, fuelling the Industrial Revolution and producing a huge improvement in human living standards. Making the equipment to get energy from other sources, such as solar, wind and tide, has an environmental cost, and often that energy is more expensive than fossil fuel energy, especially if environmental degradation is not factored in as a cost. Obtaining energy in different ways causes other environmental damage, such as pollution, as well as CO2 release. There are complex political and economic arguments to be made, and for these decisions we need the best possible data.

There are political and economic arguments that humanity should continue burning fossil fuels for the energy. I would have more confidence in them if those arguing for fossil fuel use did not feel driven to lie about the basic facts.

There are climate-change denialists, who would claim there is doubt about the basic facts, or minimise the damage that fossil fuel use will do. Human beings are often selfish and irrational, failing to defer gratification, or denying facts which they find uncomfortable. However highly paid and educated people, or politicians, should be able to acknowledge the basic facts.

Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. II

This film has huge charm and light humour. Groot is now a mascot, a sweet, toddler-sized shrub with huge luminous eyes, constant cheerfulness and a quiet child’s voice repeating “I am Groot”. Our heroes overcome overwhelming threat- vast armadas of spacecraft, a God who has made his own planet (“only the size of your Earth’s moon,” he says modestly) and a skyscraper sized Being from Another Dimension, which like all Beings from Another Dimension has lots of tentacles and teeth, and oceans of gloopy slime.

Spoilers.

A ten year old boy will love lots in this, such as the penis jokes, indeed the many repetitions of the word “penis” in that segment. Characters played by adults, presenting as adults, flirt together like giggly ten year olds- “You’re disgusting! No, that’s good.” She does not understand, being alien, and he is horrible, then pretends to be nice then is horrible again. There’s a bomb that is going to destroy a planet, with a digital countdown mechanism whose countdown is used, straightforwardly, to increase tension.

The hero flirts in a more adult manner, but I feel this is aimed at a pre-pubescent audience who would not really understand. Eventually they decide the gang of Guardians are Family.

Yet there is a moment where a cubit-long missile flies round and back and around, going through the hearts of all the pirate crew in turn. Some we see as shadows with a bright red chemtrail passing through them in turn, but some we see with surprised looks on their faces, falling over, after the missile emerges from their chest. Even though I am used to mooks dying- they come round the corner guns blazing, the heroes shoot them- I was queasy after that. How would that ten year old see it? Would he cheer on the ally of the heroes, defeating his enemies? I did not enjoy all that death, and would not want him to, either.

At the start of it the missile came out of the 3D screen, pointing at the viewer. That was not the moment when the 3D made me flinch. I resent flinching. I know it is a film. I am too sophisticated to flinch.

They neither defer gratification, nor consider the down sides of their impulsive acts. Immediately after hearing the high priestess or queen or whatever of the gold-coloured people declare eternal enmity for someone who stole their “batteries”, one steals some batteries, just because he could. Sure enough, they are pursued with implacable hatred, which gives an excuse for the first space battle. Ships dart impossibly curvy courses with impossible near misses and bright coloured death rays. It is pretty as a firework display is pretty.

The bad guys are not difficult to identify, though one turns out to be a good guy who made some bad decisions, and the hero is misled and tempted by one for a while. I found the stardom of Chris Pratt more inexplicable than his presence in the otherwise hilarious Parks and Recreation.

I went with J to Hail Caesar, and when she came out she said “That was the weirdest film I’ve ever seen,” with her usual equanimity with a tincture of enthusiasm, which I took as positive. However, today she said it was dreadful, despite my praise of it. She is delighted by particular trailers, and GotG is not the most childish. Possibly The Mummy, whose trailer has a great deal of plot exposition, might suit us both, or possibly we should stop seeing films together.

Spiritual states

Walking down to the town in the sunshine, with the wind, vegetation, clouds, birds, I am not in any sort of spiritual “state”, but I am aware of my surroundings far more than I would be most of the time indoors. Previously, feeling this awareness or presence has felt like a spiritual state. A mere leaf could produce in me a sense of wonder. It felt completely different from ordinary life, and felt like something I wanted to cultivate.

It is worth cultivating, I have cultivated it and if it feels more routine and less exalted that is because it is a quotidian skill not a rare blessing for me. Now I am merely pleased not overwhelmed with delight, like the person who after walking across a desert carrying strictly rationed water returns to Britain where water flows abundantly from taps- and remembers drinking less than she might want. It is a state it is good to be in, in the Quaker meeting, but as a means to the end of sensing leadings within rather than an end in itself. And still I can recognise that it felt spiritual, simply for itself, close to the feeling of being aware of this wondrous universe and my part in it. It’s not quite feeling one with the universe, but is close.

I met Angela, who felt the need to explain her coat and thick fleece in the sun. There is a slight sheen of moisture on her forehead. She explained that she did not know it was this warm. She likes being outside, she said.

I noted that the sense of joyous awareness applies just as much to the shape of that roan pipe or the colour of the asphalt on the roads as it does to a roadside flower. The joy is in my awareness not what I am aware of. It’s not that everything is beautiful, but that really looking at something is a joyful experience. I remember feeling bored on the train if I could not read. Now, I can sit with equanimity noticing what is around me or in a reverie, and wonder if this is me increasing in wisdom, or merely changing desires and responses as I age.

The reverie, though. Sometimes I think through something for the first time, and more often I think something I have thought before. The sense of awareness of surroundings is less important in the civilised world. As I sit with my computer in the dark, I know exactly what is behind me- printer, hi-fi, wi-fi, piano, chaise longue- I do not need my senses alive to perceive changes. Outside, so much more is going on. There could be a balance between awareness of outside and cogitating on problems; we ruminate because we do not need so much to be aware of sensation.

I walked from Tate Modern to the Royal Festival Hall to meet H for dinner. The tide is high, and I loved the sound of the water slapping against the wood and stone of the banks, the steps, the piers. I looked over the rolling swell and loved the light brokenly reflected from its fractured, constantly changing surface. There is a busker. Here, the delight is in the things perceived as well as the heightened perception. I have found art galleries have been able to put me into my state of heightened perception, presence, awareness, whatever, and it takes less and less effort. In Awareness, I have wanted that “state” to persist when I am involved in a task, but my concentration on our conversation, with some attention left for the food, is close enough. As I speak I cogitate, but listen to her rather than plotting what I might say.

The concert at the Royal Festival Hall was Bach arr. Schönberg, Hindemith, Parsifal put into a symphonic suite by Stokowski, and the Four Last Songs. I found the singer’s voice ravishing, and the third song moved me to helpless tears. H puts her arm around me to console me. I am “in a state”, and my state pleases me.

This whole recording is worth listening to, and at 15.15 it introduces Lauren Marks, who after an aneurysm lost her internal monologue. She was simply aware of her surroundings, not chattering to herself about anything.