Don’t out me

He has held the core of the atomic bomb in his hands. “What? You touched plutonium?” Well, it was behind a screen, with insulated gauntlets bolted to the glass. And he had a radiation monitor. He wants to tell his stories. His Bentley has the gear shift on the right of the driver, which is unusual in a British car. Someone remarked on this to a friend of his, who had the perfect riposte-

“You mean, other cars have it on the left?”

He waited years to use that line, G tells me. He also tells me what he told the Archbishop he would say to St Peter if he was wrong to disbelieve in the afterlife: “I have lived my life as well as I can, and if that isn’t good enough for you, I don’t want in to your Heaven.” We agree. Of course. And he met John Paul Getty, who was a fascinating conversationalist.

I really like this gentleman.

As we are getting up to leave, P says to me “Say, ‘I want to be a vegetarian’, like you did last week. You sound just like Miss Fritton“. Which would be less objectionable if just after introducing me to his friend Sophie today he had not said the same thing. I am angry, and turn to G: was he aware that I am trans, I would ask. But G has turned about and walked quickly, about ten yards away, so as to be not part of this conversation.

I am particularly peeved at this because G is a humanist and P a Creationist, and Richard saw fit to bring that up. I disapprove of Creationism. It makes Christianity ridiculous. But we all know the arguments on both sides, and are not going to convince anyone to change their mind today. Bringing that up is shitstirring, so I rebuked Richard. I do not want a pile-on, I want a civilised conversation over tea and cake in the sunshine. I could have brought up P’s idiosyncrasy. That was a peculiarly autistic cackle he emitted, high pitched, loud, utterly unselfconscious. And this lack of awareness of others’ feelings is pretty autistic too- yet one can learn social rules. Don’t out people. It’s not difficult.

Probably G was aware that I am trans. I sound like Miss Fritton, after all, and he has been engaging me in conversation for half an hour. He is a highly intelligent man.

I want P to laugh his autistic laugh freely and without anyone objecting. I want people to know that his autism is part of the glorious diversity of humanity, and that it is nothing to be ashamed of. I am sad these things need to be said: when I say, “I am not ashamed of being trans”- needing to say that shows that I have been, and have worked to free himself of the burden of shame. Part of getting there is consciously not remarking on these things- P is autistic, I am trans, deliberately we think to ourselves, No-one should mind. Eventually, no-one will.

The church is beautiful. The misericords are 15th century: I taught Sophie what a misericord is. She looked at them and we chatted, friendly-like. She did not snub me because I am one of those people. Being trans is not a bad thing. The rood screen is 15th century too, and there is a Chantry chapel adjoining. I don’t think she had known what a rood screen is. Richard told me that one of the crests facing the nave is Thomas Becket’s, and that the stained glass showed the nine orders of angels from Pseudo-Dionysius. After they had gone, I waited in the churchyard for the sun to come round, to shine on the barefoot warrior. Perhaps coming back on an overcast day would show greater dedication to photography.

Weird London

It is always lovely to go into London. With time to kill, I wandered down south of Euston Road towards the British Museum. First to St Pancras Church, which has two huge sculptures temporarily displayed in the narrow patch of grass between the church and the pavement. One appears to be two men wrestling, with Rodinesque muscly bodies, until you see they share the same head. Inside, the church was dim, like a hall, but has two organs, one against the West wall and one, moveable, near the Sanctuary. There is a notice, do not touch the organ without express permission. In a chapel in the north-east corner, there was a Madonna icon in which the child was off to her left, and low down, and tiny, and seemed odd, but it was the only thing in the church I found beautiful. Some men passed through the chapel, glancing briefly at me. In the nave, a man stood, then ran suddenly a few yards west, then stood again, then ran back. He was still there as I left.

South through the University. I wandered into The English Chapel. It was built by the Catholic Apostolic Church in the neo-Gothic style in 1851-4. I like fan vaulting, but find it pointless- church architecture should have moved on by then. They believed Christ had appointed twelve further apostles, and were a worshipping group until around 1905, when they did not appoint a successor apostle. So now it is a trust owning property, and part of the church, the West chapel, is let out to Forward in Faith for daily services. There are no pews. A man knelt near the west-facing altar. The priest came in from his office and spoke to me, though I said I was half-touristing, half-praying: using the beauty as an aid to contemplation. The stained glass windows, replaced after being destroyed in the Blitz, are lovely. He explained that around the stalls carved into the walls are the heads of English monarchs. One wears a wimple. They were out of fashion when Mary became Queen, and I asked him who she was. Matilda, possibly? He did not know. I spent some time contemplating the carvings, then walked on.

At Friends House I met someone about Outreach, then had lunch downstairs, where I recognised several people. Should I say hello? Someone I know, to my shame, only as “X’s partner” said hello, so I joined her. She has been researching in the Friends House library, and came across a 19th century classification of beauty in three classes: active sublime, passive sublime and “sprightly”. “Your necklace would be ‘sprightly’,” she told me. Well, it is irregular blobs of blue/green glass, so yes. A certain kind of tree is “active sublime”, a certain kind of owl “passive sublime”. Possibly “active” in the kinds of feelings aroused in the beholder. I don’t want to know the classification, it would just be another way I judged myself- I must spend more time with Active Sublime, even if I preferred Sprightly.

A paid worker was kindly eating with a volunteer.

A man talked at me for half an hour about something which stressed him, which was not really why I had wanted to see him, though I had wanted to get to know him a bit. Because I was trying to get a word in, I was much blunter than I would otherwise have been: “Why did I not get an interview for that job?” He gave what would have been an off-the-peg defence to a discrimination claim- because I did not fit a particular essential criterion. Because of discrimination, the selection has to be completely objective and it was, he told me. But, I was not making a claim, just asking.

Signs on the railings said “Please do not smoke in this area or sit on these steps.” Guess what someone was doing. And I saw this sign, which looks official but is a stencil, a graffito stating hope not reality. Those metal gates did not look welcoming. The area is beautiful, but not welcoming.

St Mary the Virgin, Burton Latimer

The church has a “Church Open” sign as I cycle past, so I pop in, and find the 13th century wall paintings. There was a cult of St Catherine here then.

Catherine challenged the pagan emperor Maxentius for his persecution of Christians. He brought the best philosophers to argue with her, but she refuted them all. He proposed marriage, but she declared herself espoused to Christ. Then he killed her. Angels carried her body to Mount Sinai, where her hair still grew and healing oil flowed from her body.

These pictures were covered in layers of limewash. It is amazing they have survived. They were restored in the 1970s. There has been a church here since the middle ages.

I have light conversation- mostly things we can agree on- with the woman who staffs the church on Sunday afternoons when it is open. We don’t know much about church architecture, but we know those arches further from the altar are Romanesque, those Gothic. We tend to like the altar brought forward West of the choir, so that the priest celebrates facing the congregation. She likes the 1662 rite, loving the richness and familiarity of the language she grew up with. You don’t have to try to understand what the prayer is saying, just dwell on aspects of it.

The Twelve Tribes of Israel date from 1600. I am surprised that the church would be so high as to have that decoration then. This was such a wealthy area, with so much to spend adorning its churches.

There is a tiny face in the bottom corner of one of the St Catherine paintings. Is it later? It is in Mediaeval form, but very clear.

The Kin-dom of Heaven

The Kingdom of Heaven is here. All we need to do is recognise that, and then we will live the eternal life fitting in God’s kingdom, and help others to do the same.

God saw what God had made, and behold it was very good. God made us all male and female, each a complex mix of both, in God’s own image: loving, creative, powerful, beautiful. God knit me together in my mother’s womb- God’s works are wonderful, and I know it well.

Christ came as the seed which brought forth a hundred-fold, the seed which grew into a tree in whose branches the birds nest, the yeast which worked through all the dough. He told us not to worry what we will eat or wear. He told us to go out and make disciples of all nations, and promised to be with us as we did.

Jesus told us our neighbour is every human being, even the despised foreigner. He chose Paul “to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel”. All will be made alive in Christ. He is our great example, a light to the nations, that [God’s] salvation may reach to the end of the earth.

Death is real in the Bible, but there are many deaths before our hearts stop beating. We die, and are born again. We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love abides in death. Our redeemer lives, here, now, and so shall we: we have eternal life! Eternal life, life partaking in the life of God, here, now, not after we are buried, not in a place where the laws of physics do not apply. To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

I had not realised that “The lion shall lay down with the lamb” is a misquote, though preserving the sense: but these animals are people, ceasing to be predatory on each other, but living together in love and unity here on Earth, led by the child Christ, by his great example. We are all kin, children of God.

We must take up our cross, if needed, and follow him. He did not resist when arrested and executed, but healed the ear of the man sent to arrest him. Non-resistance, the way of Peace, here, now, opens the eyes of all to the Kin-dom of heaven, for everything that was made by God is kin.

This is the Kingdom of Heaven, here, now. Open your eyes and see it. Love, and enter it.

The painting is by American Quaker Edward Hicks. More on peace, shortly.

Edward Hicks, the Peaceable Kingdom

For Michelle Lesley, with whom I had a long discussion. And, because I can find no better place for it, here is the alternative view of Biblical Christianity:

Biblical Christian Principles

It is all the more striking, in that if you image-google Dixon Diaz you see how right wing all his other cartoons are.

By the lake

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/38/Cadell_Florians_Cafe.jpgThe decking is suspended above the water, and between the planks I see sun sparkling on the surface, and making ripple-patterns on the muddy bed below. The corner of the decking is an acute angle, like a prow, and the building behind also has an acute angle- the prow-look is accentuated by wires like horizontal shrouds around it, and a triangular mesh like a sail. We enjoy tea, in the sun.

I was walking to the corner shop, and two young women- I would say late teens- came out of a side street ahead of me. They kept looking around, back at me, and then they stopped at the bus stop- and I only thought later, but the bus doesn’t run on Sundays. They were examining me, and I feel they have read me- and that is a threat, after my experiences. I try not to be too frightened by it.

-Well, teenage girls, especially two together. At that age you are interested in everything and everyone, what they look like, how they walk, how to live and be…

That is reassuring, actually. No-one wears skirts here, not below the knee at any rate. They are not necessarily hostile. And- I wasn’t, at that age. I had life completely sorted, and even though I was completely wrong about it that did not detract at all from my certainty.

-You do illustrate however deep the suppression, freedom is always possible.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d0/Edgar_Germain_Hilaire_Degas_038.jpg-I heard of a tax scam. It is no longer possible, but the idea was to import mobile phones, sell them round a chain of seven or eight companies, then export them again. In fact there might be no phones at all, just bricks, or paperwork unrelated to any physical object. The company exporting would claim VAT back from Customs, and the company importing would not get round to paying VAT on the imported phones before going into liquidation.

-Such energy and creativity people put into being parasites! And- imagine being completely alone, only able to manage an armed truce with your partners in crime, unsure when they would stab you in the back-

-How awful it must be to be them!
Though they would probably say the same about us, and between them and our pacifist co-operation there is a huge range of human behaviour and character.

-Oh, the Carousel scam, said Ian when I talked of it later.

I was thinking of cycling there, one day, and photographing the church. But I have only just become politically aware, and think, how awful that the masses lived as subsistence peasants and labourers while the surplus was used to build this huge, useless thing.
-But beautiful. It is still beautiful. Value that.