Possessions

Trilobite 1

trilobite 2When I was on holiday, my mother had the dog put down. Arthritis in her back leg made it difficult for her to stand up, though I would still like to have been told beforehand. But it might have affected me even more that when I was at University, my parents moved, and without telling me my mother took all the books I had left at home to a second-hand bookshop. I told Gregor, and he was shocked: “Sixty Doctor Who books! Sixty!” Gregor had got cable TV because it was showing old Doctor Who each night, had a notebook with the names of the actors writers and directors of each serial, and was busking to pay off his overdraft at £5 a time, never knowing where his next Doctor Who book was coming from.

One needs to practise with small losses.

What do your possessions say about you? I was proud of my hi-fi, a Mission amplifier and speakers, and Marantz CD player, and my TV, small and black-and-white, which all proclaimed that I am a cultured and educated person, at least in my own mind. That might be why I keep so many books. I am pleased to have read On Becoming a Person, it was life-changing, but I won’t read it through again, and I have not even dipped into it for years. On the other hand, a friend recognised its distinctive spine and we discussed it.

Through and through th’ inspir’d leaves,
Ye maggots, make your windings;
But O respect his lordship’s taste,
And spare his golden bindings!

But books do not need golden bindings to show off taste.

You might think this net-book my most treasured possession, the time I spend with it, but eventually I will replace it, and chuck it away happily. It is a tool. I value it for what it lets me do, rather than for the thing itself. Only a few books are tools. The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations is more reliable than the Internet, and the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary-

-Ah.
There’s something I can prize in a possession, I who thought myself too practical, Roundhead, rational to relate emotionally to things, and at the same time too Spiritual to idolise them.

At £70 in the Nineties, it involved some sacrifice to get it. It is not beautiful exactly, but imposing on the bookshelf, two volumes 11¼x5¼”. It has had practical use at least monthly, hundreds of times since I bought it. And it does say something about me, to anyone who might find out something about me from looking at my bookshelves.

I am proud of my quirks, and have an 18th century edition of Barclay’s Apology for the True Christian Divinity, still the pre-eminent work of Quaker theology. I could not afford a 17th century edition. Rufus Jones’ histories, and my 19th century Books of Discipline, alongside recent Swarthmore Lectures, give a definite message to other Quakers. But generally, books are disposable. I value the experience of reading them, but afterwards there are others to read; the message a visitor gets from one s/he might get from another, and after, they are so much dead weight, to carry around if I move. Better to have an e-file.

There is the piano. I would not be without it, but do not play it much. However, what I value is the experience, not the object- if I look with pleasure on my bicycle in the hall it is because I imagine riding it.

I have mementoes. That picture of a camelSphinx by the Sphinx-

-will it scan? Yes. There it is. The colour is not right, and I did not take it out of its frame-

I remember where it hung, in my grandparent’s house, but it is not, usually, a madeleine for me. I do not find myself back, there, looking at it. Keeping it may be a way of honouring them, but perhaps it is more that throwing it away or selling it would dishonour them, or something. It is the same with my mother’s silver teapots. I have found out what EPNS stands for, but they were created to be valued. They have the look of something designed to be looked at, but I don’t quite get it, and I don’t keep them polished, they tarnish too quickly.

These family bonds are something to free myself of, at the same time as something to venerate. Something which matures in my mind as I mature, part of me which does not limit or define me. Those things, the symbols, relate to them somehow, and I need not know precisely how. The photograph from my parents’ wedding reception, though- as I journeyed from dependency to loathing and resentment of them, then back to Love, it was a tool for me, to see them at their brightest and happiest, and it touches me when I look at it.

There are other things, which have meant so much to me at one time, and after, not. The full-fed beast shall kick the empty pail. I went to see the psychiatrist in London, and bought a silver bangle. I was moving forward towards transition. This was something I wanted to symbolise and celebrate. That bangle became invested with all the meaning of my coming liberation. Then it got a bit battered, and vanished in a burglary. The symbol loses meaning when reality comes; it was a cup of water in a desert, and now I have high-pressure taps in a temperate land. I can invest a thing with meaning, then it has that meaning for me. Then I need that meaning less, and the echo of it dwindles, and I think Oh! Yes, that. But I could not throw away this old battered plastic key-fob, the first gift from my greatest friend.

Rublev Trinity: Angels at MamreI have things which I bought for their beauty. Those crystal wineglasses which I got in my first home make a wonderful rich sound if I flick them. I still get pleasure from them, though it has changed as I have changed. Beauty varies. I have a trilobite embedded in slate, 450m years old. I love the detail of its segments, but it symbolises for me three centuries of effort to wrest meaning from such perplexing stone, and 450m years of coincidence, that it still exists.

And I have a copy of Andrei Rublev’s Angels at Mamre. It is hand made with gold leaf on aged wood on Mount Athos, so it is a record of centuries of self-sacrifice and reverence. So I must treat it with respect. In a sense, though, it is just a thing, and if I no longer owned it for some reason it would be no great loss for me. That practice in loss has freed me from some pain. The icon is never of greater value to me than when someone notices it and comments on its beauty. Like the net-book, it is a tool, to make a connection, to another person or to God. The connection matters. The tools are replaceable.

What of The Rake’s Progress? There it was on the wall of The Foundling Hospital in London, and people came up close to it to examine it, for it is an art-work to hold in your hands and appreciate each tiny detail, ideally over a period of months. But if I owned it myself, and showed it only to visiting friends it would be wasted. It is too great for me. It deserves to be seen, by all the people who can gain from seeing it. I felt excitement in the gallery which I might not feel, if it were on my wall. There is no need to possess a thing to treasure it and take delight from it.

I treasure, too, the Quaker meeting house; but it would be almost nothing but for the people who meet there. And if I moved, there would be another meeting house, and even another community of people. This is a world of abundance, beauty and wonder, none of which needs be possessed.

Breathing

Pieter Bruegel Babel detailI kneel in the ritual space, and breathe. I count breaths for ten minutes, then observe them for five. I am breathing quite regularly and deeply, and immediately I judge and question that. Is it “natural”? Is it some imposed or habitual thing? Previously my breathing has varied. Such a strong feeling in me:

This is new

and therefore to be resisted.

So strong. Perhaps not ideal, to be that conservative: if everything new is a threat, I am stuck with what has not worked before. Oops, positive: if I am wary of everything new, I may stay with what has worked in the past, I will not run after silly fads (it is hard to be positive both about conservatism and New-seeking).

Conservatism. Something I have to change in myself, something not in my interests, something indicating I have bad habits. Yet another thing to fear. Or- one voice in a multitude of voices, within me, all worthy of attention.

So much of culture is designed to affect how we see things, how we judge or perceive them whether by thinking or feeling: this is the right or normal way to see that particular thing. That is what a “spin-doctor” is for, to manipulate perceptions, and those who work against equal marriage are distressed that not everyone is as disgusted by gays as they are. On the bus, a man moaned that he had not had his heating allowance (jargon: winter fuel allowance) yet. “They begrudge paying it, that is what it is.” Either he would moan about anything, or a short delay has made the government look worse than it need to.

There is not only no right way to feel about something- someone dies, so you should be grief-stricken, and anger is just weird and horrible and no way should you feel that- but no one way to feel about something. I meditate, and pay attention to my breathing, and as well as the suspicion there are other feelings, which my conscious mind may give attention or not: they are all me.

I used a thing until it was beyond worn out, and its replacement has just cost me £6. Here is abundance-world. I bought a printer, with two ink cartridges included, for £10 more than two ink cartridges, and it has a scanner/ photocopier function. So my scanner is not unnecessary. If I can’t give it away I will throw it out, and that feels wrong, wasteful, yet is a reasonable response to the circumstances.

Being positive about positive thinking

or, what positive thinking is not.

It is not, denial of reality. As things stand, I can’t afford to pay my rent all year. Ignoring that, or denying it, is not positive thinking, however I “vibrate”. I need to do something about the issue. Positive thinking involves noticing things I might do.

It is not imagining that things are as they are not, that at Christmas I am having a wonderful time with people who only give me joy and no heartache, for that creates resentment against things as they are.

This dreadful straw man argument (do read it- the last thing I can do after attacking it for setting up a straw man is summarise it) says some useful things, but also sets up false oppositions. Norman Vincent Peale, who wrote The Power of Positive Thinking sixty years ago, is quoted: During holidays, Peale once suggested, you should make “a deliberate effort to speak hopefully about everything”. That does not mean, lie. I would like to have a good enough relationship with S. Peale is not suggesting I should say that I must or will have that good enough relationship, setting myself up for disappointment, but saying that it is possible, rather than concentrating on all the things which might go wrong.

To overcome a fear of embarrassment, [New York psychotherapist Albert] Ellis told me, he advised his clients to travel on the New York subway, speaking the names of stations File:Friendship positive signal.jpgout loud as they passed. I’m an easily embarrassed person, so I took his advice, on the Central Line of the London Underground. It was agonizing. But my overblown fears were cut down to size: I wasn’t verbally harangued or physically attacked. A few people looked at me strangely.

That is seeing things positively rather than negatively. Negative thinking would be, “I cannot do that, because I would be totally embarrassed”. Positive thinking is, “People do not care that much about me, and even if they do disapprove it does not  hurt me”. Positive thinking enables. Negative thinking concentrates on possibly illusory bad consequences. Positive thinking says, well, even if people do “look at me strangely”, I will cope with that if it happens. I have done makeup on the tube: I found it empowering. “What will people think?” is a bad reason for not doing something, unnecessarily restrictive. People rarely think what I imagine they will, in reality, and if they do it does not matter. Do I feel moved to do it? Do I really think it wrong or shameful?

The WSJ attack on setting goals (I told you, read the article) is classic negative thinking. Setting goals has bad results in some situations so is a bad thing to do. (I am paraphrasing, read the article to see whether I am accurate.) Positive thinking says, bad results can come from goal setting. Be aware of that, and seek to avoid them.

I love the idea of effectuation. Rather than choosing a goal and then making a plan to achieve it, they took stock of the means and materials at their disposal, then imagined the possible ends. Effectuation also includes… the “affordable loss principle.” Instead of focusing on the possibility of spectacular rewards from a venture, ask how great the loss would be if it failed. If the potential loss seems tolerable, take the next step. That is positive thinking, considering all the good in a situation. Equally, I may criticise the thrust of the article, and still gain from it.

Forgive-

U, passing behind me, runs her hand lightly across my back. “If you do that, I may demand more from you.”

“Demand?”

Well- if you do that, you have my full attention- and for you just to move on-
It is not Kind of you-

Later, I went over to U and D, and U proposed a group hug. I was uncomfortable enough in the arms of both of them, but when she kissed and nuzzled my cheek it messed with my head so much that I got myself a mug of wine and stuffed my mouth with chocolate biscuits. Yet when I told her I was upset by it, just as D was approaching from behind me, she brushed it off- well, I would not claim that it had permanently harmed me.

Friday I found wearing. The wind whips at the tents, and I worry that rain will get in (drips got through to the inner tent while I slept, and I did not at first realise how heavy the rain had been to achieve that). My e-reader is broken so I have nothing to read. Some people are off site, and I have no good conversation. The vegetarian diet is a pain.

The previous night I sang my song which I had written at 5am that morning, and had a large role in the group performance and in devising it. After such experiences previously I have had a downer. Thinking of the Life problem and, oh, you know, Stuff, I bend over and weep, and C consoles me.

We are in leaving mode. Some of us have left. Rather than eating together then sharing, people dip in the pot before we are all gathered, and I do not feel the sense of community I crave. It starts to rain. Others want a sharing circle, so we go into the geodesic dome and share. Normally we go round the circle in order, but when I weep again, S says “I think someone has something to share”.

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So I share. I say something of how miserable I am, I am lonely, I blame myself for where I am in my life. I am here because of my decisions, and the weight of being transsexual, and how I have reacted to that, has been too great for me. I can’t bear it.

And so-

I forgive myself.

I forgive myself for being here. I forgive myself for the choices I have made, the way I have hidden away and pretended, the way I have rejected myself, the way I have been so angry and frightened. It really has been a sair fecht, sair to thole, and I am scunnered. And I have faced life with all the courage and strength I can muster and I am where I am. And while I have not “ended up” here- you do not end up anywhere until you die- I am unsure how I may proceed.

And so I forgive myself for being here. I really have done my best.

Say it again, because I need to fix it in my consciousness. Say it again before this group.

I forgive myself.

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After, in the sauna, D makes a precise dissection of what I shared. U, who had been elsewhere during the sharing circle, was there too.

First, what do I mean by “deeper sharing”? Well, “I have had a crap day, the wind and cold is getting to me” is no deeper than “I have had a good day, I really enjoyed my walk by the sea”. I delve into my misery in order to transcend it.

Then, he says one may feel feelings, but then has a choice of how to react to them, whether to express them. Indeed, I have had the experience of a homunculus within my torso, and I imagine it weeping and screaming, and you would see me sitting still and possibly looking a little meditative; and I can hold the weeping emotional self. And- possibly it is the hormones, but just then my feelings were too strong for me to do that. He admits that S did put me on the spot.

He can see that it might be too much for me, and that I might leave the circle- indeed, I was not in a space to hear anyone else- and ask for someone to come with me to hear me. But when W stood up, and I said “Anyone but W” that was despicable.

Christ. Yeah. I cannot give my reason for that, and indeed my reason might in reality be no more than that W has chosen me for her confidante, and I do not want to spoil the good feeling that gives me by making it mutual. I thought after that I could have said, “I had a reason for not wanting W, which I cannot share with you, but ask you to consider the possibility it might be a full excuse”. Repartee a day later is no repartee at all. Actually, W was the perfect foil: I could not fantasise she was anything but a flawed human being, undergoing the same struggles as I am.

It is fully dark. U leads me into the dome and dances close with me to the drumming. D is the other side of the tent. U caresses my cheek. I starve for such contact, and here I am having it, and in this abundant world I believe I will have more…

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Next day B tells me she was working with S on accepting her feelings, and noticing them, which enables her to notice the feelings of other people and accept them and be with that person lovingly too. Mmm. She looks at me meaningfully. Indeed my own feelings have always been so overwhelming for me that I have had little attention to spare for those of others. And, suppressing my feelings and making such demands on myself, I have made similar demands on others. Perhaps I may be gentler.

That job

That job would be perfect for me. It is what I have done for years, it has its irritations but I can make something of it, achieve something worthwhile, probably please the funders, take pleasure in it. The salary is reasonable, and the location is good: living nearby I could get to convenient groups of healers, spiritual people, do a bit of stand-up. And they invited me to apply. I applied for a job with them in June, so when they advertised they emailed me to let me know: Dear Clare, attaching my application letter and CV from last time.

And- looking at it, I broke down in tears. I could not face it. I did a fair bit of avoidance activity, and put it off several days. Then I sat down to the application on Thursday, saying what I have done, what I can do, why I am good for them.

What got me to do the application was a law of attraction thing:

Specifically, “I am worthy”. “I am not worthy” has been holding me back. I am not good enough, I will be found out, I will be laughed at, I will be judged, where is it me doing the judging, and in anticipation, and far more harshly than other people would.

“Chatter” in the head is a concept from the common understanding of Buddhism, the Monkey mind. There was a debate on facebook whether “Abundance” here leads to greed: I consider it does not: a state of abundance has no threat, and it is from fear of threat that I snatch at things, fearing not getting what I need.

I am Worthy of Abundance. This does not lead to a “me, first” attitude, doing down others, necessarily: I am one worthy spiritual being among others. It prompts me properly to look after myself. I have taken so much in about my wrongness, so much false shame, and it does no good to me or anyone else.

The little people

Inequality in the UK declined steadily from 1918 until the late 70s, and since then has climbed, under Tory and Labour governments, until it is approaching 1918 levels. Having said that, the 1% are a large group, 600,000 people in the UK, and their income goes down to £120,000 a year. I have socialised with some. Some are friends of friends. Above £120,000, incomes and wealth shoot upwards exponentially.

When I consider the Leveson inquiry, it is striking that commentary and rhetoric I read come at the issue from the interests of the Powerful against the Little People. The Press should be regulated, because they are in the ownership of the Multinational Super-rich, like Rupert Murdoch. Or, they should be left unregulated, because they investigate what the Wealthy want to keep private, in the interests of the Plain Man. The Sun reports that the Ministry of Defence has spent £7,440 on medical treatment ancillary to gender reassignment in the last thirty months, (nod to Jane Fae). Their line is that blundering civil servants are spending money badly, and that trannies are ridiculous, our “sex swaps” fake, rather than that the MoD has spent sensibly, in order to retain the services of valuable employees. They claim a decisive influence in our elections. It seems to me that the “Little people”- ie, me- will lose out whatever Leveson does. And while Captain Francesco Schettino of the Costa Concordia has done dishonourable things, I dislike the focus of the media- BBC as well as the Murdoch press- on him rather than on the corporate culture and structures, or perhaps the sheer bad luck and accumulating circumstances, behind those deaths. I distrust journalists picking on the easy targets.

In other ways I am incredibly prosperous and powerful, compared say to those maimed by American mines in Cambodia, or choking on the fumes of the Chinese factories which produce the consumer goods I buy. If the 1% is not the 600,000 in the UK, but the seventy million in the World as a whole, I have far more affinity, resemblance, and commonality of interests to that group, or the lower half of it, than to the bottom billion.

While I may have that affinity, not everyone in the UK has. Worship on Sunday was interrupted by a homeless man. B. gave him a mug of coffee and listened to him, but did not have one herself or invite him to sit down. He had walked seven miles from the night shelter, which is always full. He had slept outside and had a sleeping bag, clothes and the mobile phone his brother gave him to keep in touch stolen, he said. His former girlfriend will not put him up, but does allow him to launder his clothes at her house. There is no night shelter in our town, so people have to go sixteen miles, and cannot afford transport.

I spoke to a few people, and none of us have seen beggars in our town. One Social Services department I came across wanted to shut down the charity soup runs in the city centre. They said such services made homelessness bearable, and so prevented people from using services to get out of that situation. Perhaps the lack of services here drives the homeless elsewhere.

We do have a day centre for vulnerable homeless people (are there any other kind?). Angela is going to do a sponsored sleep-out this month, and they have got funding from Lloyds-TSB bank for three years, corporate funding in this isolated case replacing the funding the government is cutting. They do hot lunches, provide showers, and people drop in to socialise. They are open four days a week.

Despite the cuts, the Government is borrowing for public spending in a downturn, classic Keynesianism. The percentage of GDP they would spend is only very slightly different from the percentage in the plans of the Opposition.

The blue pill

Using male pronouns to refer to me is as disrespectful, uncivilised, and wrong, as calling a black person a N*****.

This is who I am. To express myself female is what I wanted, against all common sense or rationality, against the evidence of my own senses, looking at my own body. Plunging into the nature of my being, that I am female is deeper than anything else, utterly impervious to change. Actually, the pill question: “If you could take a pill and be a normal male without these feelings, would you?”- well, I come out with the “right” answer, “No, because then I would not be me”, but sometimes it is a close run thing. Being transsexual has given me such intense pain that sometimes I do not know how I have borne it. I have been suicidal, just wanting to die, for months at a time, and twice I have undertaken preparatory acts, though not any actual self-harming physical act- I have formed the decision, then backed off.

To refer to me as “she” rather than “he” is a basic level of courtesy which I am entitled to, and fortunately receive from most people I meet. However, where I do not, I will not be sympathetic or understanding, and nor should you be, whoever you are. I so resent still having to work through these issues aged 45, ten years after getting the courage to express myself female at work.

It is the same for people with body integrity identity disorder. If someone is complaining about how difficult it is to get a wheelchair on a bus, “Well you could walk” is an answer just as disrespectful as using male pronouns for me.

It seems to me that humanity, now, is working through issues of otherness and respect, issues of living together, issues of accepting the full range of human diversity and the discomfort that currently engenders. I think we can get these things right, and that free, diverse humanity has far more access to blessing and gift than regulated, regimented humanity. For my own self-respect, I will assert my right to respect from others. I have been at the fulcrum of this issue, and have survived.

If I can assert my right without anger or fear, then I am giving an invitation, though one some people will be unable to hear: an invitation to see humanity in the full beauty and richness of our diversity, and to accept all those bits of yourself which you have falsely been told are unacceptable.

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It really matters to me to see humanity as progressing. Things are not as I might wish, but I do think they are getting better. A little group of Quakers, frightened of Peak Oil, climate change, and the Global Financial Crisis had a conversation where I asserted this, and people brought forward the Bosnian war and the Rwandan genocide, child labour in India, even female genital mutilation, forsooth, as evidence against. I could play the game: I have a good level of articulacy and rhetorical skills. I am interested in current affairs and history- and Life, in all its fulness and variety, even if more as an observer than a participant, so far- so I can come up with apposite examples and elegant argument. Instead, I disengaged.

Heaven is Here. I see it. That anyone does not see it is not evidence against its existence. So, I do not need to win the argument and convince anyone, I am satisfied in my own mind.

I can say to anyone, look around yourself. See the abundance and the beauty and the wonder and the Blessing. Look, at this, or this, or this. And if they cannot take this in, I may give up on them.

Gosh, that is pretty mature of me. Saintly, even. Or, since I am doing teenage at the moment: the argument going against me, I went into a sulk. Words….

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Am I boring you? Am I just repeating myself? I have been thinking about that last Pronouns conversation, three weeks ago. There are times when it is the other’s own stuff coming out, or they are just ignorant, and there are times when they want to push my buttons. Those two, they know, they have the intelligence, maturity and experience to understand completely. That particular time, it was deliberate. As if I have a big, red button, as big as my torso, and all you have to do is tap it gently and watch me implode.

I HAVE NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF.

Ah. Breathe it in. I am getting there.

I have nothing to be ashamed of.

You will not hurt me with this.

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I visited Belfast in 1988. There were soldiers with guns, and armoured vans with low skirts on, so no-one could roll a grenade underneath, and barbed wire protecting the pubs. I was pushing my bicycle through the station. That army officer will not walk in front of me- so I hurried, walking in front of him, making him pause. And- I felt his Love reach out and envelop me. That is the only way I can put it.

Rather than suppressing it, I am feeling the intense pain of decades of feeling that I am an outsider, that I am less, and I see a way through this.

TED, in praise of vulnerability.

Learning through Joy

Thoughts provoked by Wisdom Pigeon, who quotes Aeschylus:

He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despite, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.

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A good source of wise Internet quotes

So I asked, can one learn through Joy? And Wisdom Pigeon comments on learning through pain: joy is the reward after.

Liz asked if I would like some toast, so I put it under the grill myself because of her physical difficulties. I burnt it, because I was distracted, then I burnt the second lot; then she pressed me to do a third, and I demurred. I really did not want to. I would make do with the burnt lot. She pressed me, and eventually I accepted, and did not burn these.

At the Children’s centre Lucy the manager was listening to my moaning, and she said she would make me a cup of tea. I refused, I should make my own cup of tea: and she was surprised by my vehemence, and insisted, and made me tea.

These two small acts of kindness last March, when I was finding life difficult, did not produce so much an immediate sense of joy as a niggling doubt, a strangeness- the world is not as bad as I then saw it. This was part of my movement towards my greatest learning of last year, moving from negative to positive, glass empty to glass full. So I think one can learn through joy, through glimpses of beauty.

As Wisdom Pigeon says, though the lesson is painful, having learned it is joyous. Much of my pain comes from demanding that the world be other than it is, and there is relief in the moment when I stop.

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I commented on the blog of a woman afflicted by suicide, and she valued it, saying, “That should be in the books.” So I offer to you what I said to her:

The suicide was not the most important thing in your father-in-law’s life. It is not the one thing through which you should see him.

I am tempted to write further about suicide, but that is my sole pretence to originality, so I will stop.

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British politicians say we are having a hard time at the moment, and appeal to the votes of the “Squeezed Middle” through our resentment, avarice, and fear. Hafiz saw how we are in Abundance, though so many do not see it. Daniel Ladinsky, again:

Dear ones
why let your winsome body act
As if it is living against a tyrant’s knife?

Why pretend your expansive existence,
Your Imperial Nature

Have all been squeezed
into a tiny red hot skillet

That is being kicked by a camel’s hoof
Over the dry sand?

For your friend Hafiz
So clearly sees we are all immersed
In the Soft Brilliance.

Faith can move mountains

What on Earth was Jesus on about? Was it just another way in which he was so much above us normal people, by faith making the blind see and the lame walk and the dead rise? Should I seek to construct in myself a belief that this mountain, or mole hill, is somewhere else, and, when I see it is not so, just account myself one of little faith, unable even to curse a fig tree?

Sometimes, I cannot know that I can achieve what I want to achieve, but I can see the first step I must take towards that goal. And so I take that step, even though I do not see the path ahead, and possibly it will not achieve that goal. So I have faith to take that step. Whereupon, I may see that another step is possible. Or, as my role model said, at one time she did not know that she wanted to spend the rest of her life expressing herself as female, but she did know that she wanted to investigate gender psychiatrists. So she did. She did not need, that day, to make so momentous a decision, just a comparatively small one.

Or, sometimes, I need faith to remain open to possibilities, when my goal seems impossible, and hope seems merely a painful, destructive illusion. Only if I have the faith to remain open to possibilities, will I have the ability to perceive them.

Abundance world

Have you seen people at the all-you-can-eat buffet, piling their plates so high? We take more than we want, more than we need, desperate to acquire and accumulate.

My parents were not particularly well off, and breaking things, or even rough use to wear them out quickly, was a Bad Thing. Though one day I was wrestling with a friend in my room, and I put my foot through the glass panel of my bookshelf. I remember his terror as I went to confess, and then his blank incomprehension as my mother just cleared up the mess and then said no more about it. And my bookshelf still did the job without glass.

It may benefit some people to relax more. To stop the struggle, put their heads up, look round and see what the World really is like. “No-one actually starves” wrote Philip Larkin, and while that is not true it is true enough for most of the English-speaking world, for most of the people who might read this if not all.

What do I Want? I want to know that I am doing something worthwhile. That is very important. I want pleasant company and conversation, I want to be able to go where I want to go, I want a musical instrument to play, and to work on perfecting my performance, when I wish. I want to spend time with beautiful things, but these need not be my own possessions: they can belong to people I meet, or be flowers growing wild.

If I am conscious of climate change and resource depletion and so reduce my use of things out of fear, that is another constraint on me, another pain. But if I can see the abundance and profusion which is all around me, then I will treat it with respect and care.

While nuclear fusion can be achieved, creating the conditions in which it may be achieved uses more energy than the reaction produces. However the BBC reports claims that this may no longer be the case, within two years.