The fulfilled life

What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace?

This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.

I had heard of the God-shaped hole, but found the quote at this comment. I must read Pascal.

Quakers would say there is that of God in everyone. It is one of our creedal statements. For us, it is not a matter of inviting God in, but letting God out. However that inner God made demands upon people, and when one demand was fulfilled, God asked more. I cannot remember enough detail to google- if Quakers remember the story, perhaps they could say the name- but recall a man asked to be truthful in all he said, including in his business, and not wanting to go so far along the road, because it would hamper him in making a living, he thought. Then he went that far, and was truthful, and God asked more.

He found the blessing in it. Not ducking and diving and trying to trick others, we found that our reputation for honesty was an advantage in business, and when we could not go to University, we could still make a good living.

I have decided. I am not altruistic. I am not good (you do not have to be good…) nor do I want to be. I love helping, reconciling, because I want to build community. I want my nice, safe Support Network. I got that jargon from Service Users, as the mental health support teams call us. If I imagined I was “good”, I might imagine that was the way to be good, and resent others for not being “good” in the same way; if I imagined I was “altruistic” I might resent others for not being grateful enough. Building connection in the insane world I find myself in is hard enough, coming to this understanding has been hard enough, through different understandings which may be better or worse, and I may move to other understandings. God is not in my understanding expressed in words but in my knowing, as the goose’s honk communicates without words.

I want to survive, I have never felt safe, I feel pulled in different directions, I judge my acts so am divided against myself. A house divided cannot stand. The verbal understanding, where my judge lives, cannot overcome the feeling animal.

In that comment thread, Sonel also said, Men think logically. Women think through emotions. And I thought, Yay! Affirmation! I am a woman! Then Roughseas went and spoiled it. My neurotic judging and questioning does not help.

If there is a fulfilled life-

you see here am I postulating it. I name my desire. I pursue my desire, from the heart of me, and that is fulfilment. And stuff gets in the way, and I get peeved and resent being peeved, for I should be fulfilled. Would not it be nice? Er-

I write here of subordinating rational thought in words to emotional response. Possibly reconciling them to work together is the answer. Or something else. I am a work in progress. If it were easy, it would not be so interesting.

I wrote this on 5 January, before my last two posts. What a way I have come in a week!

Murillo, The Immaculate Conception of the Venerable Ones

The root of Catholic transphobia

We should listen to each other, not talk at or past each other, says Leticia, so reasonably. Every Catholic is to respect the dignity of every person. She seems so nice that it is hard at first to put my finger on her transphobia.

Leticia has had a hard time. Brought up Southern Baptist, she was sexually abused aged 5, and carried guilt for that for many years. She started having sex aged 14, and now calls her promiscuous self a “hoe”. Christians were keen to be “clear” about particular sins, and that made her hate herself more.

Then she found God’s Love, and wants to communicate it. That is the Gospel. People do not need to be told particular actions are Sin, they know already, and have a conviction they are not good enough. Loved, they may begin to heal of their sin: the first message is Love. She cites Vatican II in support of this idea.

So, she says that she is happy to “respect” Caitlyn Jenner. She would use Caitlyn’s real name, and the correct pronouns. How loving and generous of her! She has been reading St Augustine, and with him believes that all human beings search for happiness. She assumed, wrongly, that I had not read him. “I should find happiness only in Thee!” cried Augustine in his Confessions, one of the quotes I remember.

One ghastly man, Edward, does not understand what she says. She struggles with her own sins, with the help of Jesus and her priest, too much to condemn another. He says he must “stand for what God has ordained” by referring to trans women with male pronouns. He compares us to SS officers, which makes a change from paedophiles. He then complains of her using the word “fuck”, which in context was beautifully vulnerable of her.

Unfortunately, Leticia is unable to love us, because she is unable to see us or hear us. “Dialogue requires listening”, she says correctly, she wants people to hear each other. I am happy to hear her talking of herself, and when she calls her former sleeping around sinful I can value that. I see no value in what she has to say about trans folk: though some of her best friends are LGBT, she still imagines that blocks our way to God.

She has the experience of having desired something, a promiscuous lifestyle, which now she finds unfulfilling. Chastity with her husband as commanded by the church fulfils her. She imagines that other things her church vilifies, such as transition, are similarly unfulfilling eventually: we think we want them but we must be mistaken, just because she was.

This is the root of her transphobia. She believes in “Objective truth”. I believe there is one truth, too, but it is so complex it can only be known in the mind of God. We see through a glass darkly: we can only know a small part of the truth.

She believes her church knows the truth, and unfortunately that includes evil rubbish the fuckwit Maledict wrote about being gay and about transsexuality. It is hard to bring her to know the truth, because she imagines she knows it already. Human beings do not just seek happiness. We heal. Just as my body heals without my conscious will, so does my psyche. My healing journey has taken me towards self-actualisation through the long process of transition. Thanks be to God.

Murillo, two women at a window

Winsome Evangelicals

The heart of the Gospel is the Love of God. Rather than going on about Hell, like so many Evangelicals, Joel Osteen, among others, embodies loving acceptance of all, as all kinds of sinners cross the threshold of the Church. As Paul says after enumerating really really bad people, And such were some of you. Here the weary, scunnered and flummoxed by the World, may find rest for our souls. And here’s the collection plate.

Here’s past0r_r0bert, coming from much the same place. He gets much of his argument from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, but rather than being horrible about outsiders, like Evan Lenow on trans women, he attempts to portray their false understanding of masculinity as some sort of ideal to which men should aspire. He goes over the story of Adam and Eve as if it were literally true. He welcomes every man, as Christ would- no matter what mess you are in right now, you have great value because you were created in the image of God– but then gives this masculine ideal:

A godly man is not ruled by his passions, but rather conquers them
– does not harm his family, but protects them
– does not neglect his family, but nurtures them
– does not abuse his family, but cares for them
– does not rule over his family as a tyrant, but serves them like Jesus
– does not see women as objects, but as image-bearers of God

For those who can fit themselves to it, this may seem attractive, though no-one fits it perfectly. r0bert sticks with the procrustean idea: married women should Allow your husband to lead and meet his failures with support not criticism. And While all men are unique in their own way, they all share a common design.

He is nasty about gay people on the way: when we use labels such as wimp, gay, loser, we dehumanise him. Gayness and transgenderism have resulted in confusion about men and women.

r0bert is not quite as vile as some Evangelicals. It is so much better to present your understanding of the Christian life as a positive ideal than to condemn outsiders as Al Mohler, say, does; but still his message only fits the small group who can just about conform to his idea of normal. He would let the rest twist in the wind. However welcoming he appears, he denies the variety and beauty of God’s good creation, calling it “confusion”. Perhaps he has not read that in Christ there is no male nor female.

Osteen said that while the Bible condemns gay sex that would not be the first message he would emphasise. But while it is in any part of his message, he is an oppressor, driving people from God.

Is not Mary beautiful with the Moon? One might almost think her Artemis or Diana.

Murillo, Immaculate conception

Happiness II

Happiness is dangerous. It is a threat. I might do something in spontaneous joy, and it would be silly, and I would look a fool, and that would be a complete disaster!

It is strange that when I drag the Foundational Truths of my Existence into consciousness, and examine them, they appear so wrong. I don’t think I have exaggerated this. I would far rather be right than Happy.

And yet recently I have had moments of Happiness, and- the world did not end.

The heart of the human is Love, and love is simple. It is unaffected. It is effortless. It is me.

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, the mystical marriage of St Catherine

“Rather be right than happy.” Mmm. So “right and happy” is possible in some situations, but we are discussing situations where it is not; and both “right” and “happy” have to have some meaning.

If “right”, I am in a place of intellectual understanding which I can justify by rational argument to myself. It’s not what works, because we work with other people; rather it is what ought to work, what by my own moral judgment ought to be accepted. That is, my right is judged by others to be wrong, but that is OK, because they are wrong.

I would rather be right. I would rather be alone with an understanding which no-one else accepts, with a plan which does not work, than surrender my understanding and-

I am working this out as I go, here. The alternative to my rightness is shadowy, I can’t quite picture it, but I know my rightness is Wrong. It is treasuring my comfortable resentment. It is what I have always known, it is where I am now, lonely yet keeping myself to myself, retreated to my living room.

Or-

Stupidity is doing the thing which you know does not work. Yet if I have an idea of how to achieve something and it does not work, I would be happier doing it again, like Sisyphus pushing the rock up the Hill-

for Sisyphus defied the Gods, sought Control in defiance of Reality-

so I try my plan again, and though it does not work, again, it is my plan, it ought to work, I am safe in my comfort zone. Happy enough, or as happy as I can be, even though miserable.

I would rather be Right, because Right is what I know. Opposed to this is the strange, shadowy concept of-

Happy-

Godric

If we are to create an alternative to exploitative oligarchical capitalism, we have to learn to value things differently from how capitalism values them. The generosity of Ernest Bader in dedicating his company to the Scott Bader Commonwealth ripples out today, still affecting people. As when another driver lets me pull out in the rush hour I feel gratitude, and am more likely to behave generously to another driver, but scaled up to affect the world.

I am privileged to know his son Godric, now aged 91, and yesterday to visit the headquarters in Northamptonshire where there is a research division and production plant. Previously I have seen Godric’s faults more clearly than his qualities, or perhaps seen his good qualities as faults. We are having lunch with his daughter and wife. Hansi cajoles him into choosing, and finally chooses for him. He notices the macaroni cheese. “That’s on the ‘little angels’ menu. Still, you could be a little angel. It would be a small amount, to suit your appetite.” Eventually, watching his reactions, she proposes egg on toast and he assents. He pinches the cucumber from my plate, and looks at me roguishly. I move to consume the other piece of cucumber.

He was keen to get me to Scott Bader at Wollaston, and I was reluctant. What possible good could I do? I do not want to distract these people from their jobs. I understand what a catalyst is from school chemistry but-

I feel a fool- so nervous of these people

He introduced me to one, and I talked with her, and she showed us a new film about the Commonwealth. We saw film of the company being signed over to the Commonwealth in 1951. Godric’s mother signed, and her look as she stood up, after, is a family myth- She didn’t want to! agree Godric and Hansi. We went down into the cellars, now storage for documents, where Godric shovelled coal into the old heating boiler. There is a tunnel to the church, goes the story. There is a tunnel to the coach-house, where we find old vacuum-tube computer monitors and other stuff, including a large bottle of Optrex for emergencies. He is like a child exploring.

-I’m my own monster, I told him.
Yes! I Know! he enthused, whispering, even though I only found out last Friday.

He was managing director. The company has production on six continents.

There are tensions. This is not an ordinary employee-owned business, like the John Lewis Partnership: the idea is to be something more, for the good of the world. In 1951 the ratio of the highest to lowest paid was 3, then shortly after 5, and Ann had some difficulty finding out what is now though she is a guardian trustee. What that something more is, I am unsure, though there is an agreed need for workers to get it before becoming members of the Commonwealth.

The gardens could be kept better. That pool with the fountain is so cloudy. I see the hyperbolic paraboloid of the Commonwealth Centre: at two opposite corners the roof is high, at the other two corners it is low, and this shape enables it to extend over a great area only supported at the corners. The lawns are huge.

My fear was of an illusion. He respects me, and they respect him, so they welcome me. He was terribly tired when we drove away: my visit mattered to him. I feel valued, and his childlike beauty may free me- if I could be like that!

Murillo, The Good Shepherd