Interloper at home

Everyone who experiences themself as a woman is welcome. So I went over for a chat, and am now on the constituency party women’s forum Facebook page.

And looking up at her, beside her friend in the “I am a Feminist” t-shirt I felt like an interloper. What do I have in common with these women? It is just nervousness, but I am wondering what it could be, a shared experience of upbringing, unwanted sexual attention or even a female body that locks me out, makes me Other. The trans are welcome thing is policy, not these women’s choice.

It is just nervousness but it feels real.

A few days later, to the Tate. In the Members’ room I hear two men talking of what makes you the same person as you were years ago and what if you could be uploaded to a computer. They are transhumanists drinking Schiehallion lager- drinking rather than climbing or dancing- and I say I think of myself as a process, rather than a being. I do not understand object oriented ontology, but I like the idea of no hierarchy of objects- no order of importance between quarks, individuals, biosphere. Transhumanists are individualistic, and he says the culture is. They go on to Fermi’s paradox. I say aliens are likely to be social. It is worthwhile passing on how to make a flint axe, or smelt iron, only in a social species. If they have developed space travel and not wiped themselves out they will be collaborative. If they have not destroyed themselves with weapons or climate change, they will be altruistic.

He tells me that does not follow. Just because it has happened with us that we are co-operative, does not mean aliens will be.

We are sharing ideas, but also competing. I tell them how interesting it has been talking, and go to the Farrelnissa Zeid exhibition.

She was married to an Iraqi Prince, who served as an ambassador till the revolution, when he took a rented flat. Aged 57 she cooked a meal for herself for the first time.

It is quiet. Which of these huge canvases is “My Hell”? I ask the security guard, who asks another worker. She has graduated from art school, like most people here. The security guard goes round the room looking at the captions, slightly embarrassing me, as I could do that myself. Rose and I follow at a more leisurely pace. I only asked as it is named on the introduction.

She wants to know what I think of the last room, so we walk through. The Princess’s style changed dramatically. I love those oblongs of resin, with things embedded- they seem so fragile.

What are you working on now? This is a personal question, don’t answer if you don’t want to. She is doing embroidery, of Lisa Minelli as Eva Peron. Lisa wanted the role but never played it. Eva had cancer, but still went campaigning- she had a thing made so she could lean but appear to stand. It is about stories we tell about ourselves and others- Eva’s ability to stand, Lisa’s about Eva, Rose’s about Lisa and mine about the picture. All untrue. It is taking her years.

Oh the sunshine is glorious! Outside is a work of art, that word repeated. I ask a woman to take my picture in it, and she is happy to.

To the pub. I get a pint and look quizzically at the front step. The door is narrow. Can Efrat get in,  in her motorised wheelchair? An Irishman asks if I would like to sit with him. He calls me “Darling.” I say I am waiting for a female friend. I go off to blog. Well, it’s a nice enough place to sit, and the live music is good. He goes to the toilet, and says to me, “Your friend not here yet?” No, she isn’t.

Efrat wanted to come here because it had an open mic, and she wanted to sing. Actually the blues band did not like her song so did not let her, and played boringly but at huge volume. Rather than talking, we typed on my phone. She was born in Beersheba, and though her English is good it is slow for her. We got onto whether people could live in peace in a state of anarchy, when it was time for me to leave for my train. She wore a ballgown decorated with classic tattoo designs which she bought in Camden.

I fit well enough, and know which sex I prefer.

ВПЕРЕД

That nervousness with women could be my pansy sexuality, the soft male deferential with women, wanting to attract the strong woman. It might even work! This couplet I find extremely sexy:

Boys are like rules they were made to be broken,
girls are like guns you better run when they’re smoking

Heat

Sweat beads between my breasts, trickles down my cheek, glistens on my shoulders.

I cycled to Meeting in the sun, in air brought from Spain by weather currents. It seems to me that I should calm my breathing, so I make that effort. If I can slow my diaphragm and heart, they will make less heat. Still, when I get there, my face is scarlet. It is as if a birthmark quite covered it, and I went to run my head under the cold tap. H runs marathons, I will ask her. Half marathons, at the moment, she corrects me. “I felt I was going into a panic.” You make a rhythm, of heart, breathing, stride all together. I like the island climate, a comparatively small range between our hottest and coolest. Today is 29°, which is unusual, and it is rare for several nights together to be below freezing.

Facebook. “I don’t like the heat,” she says. What? Why were you in Tunisia? “He does.”

So I wondered, do I like the heat? I don’t know. Yes could become a pissing contest- nothing lovelier than noon in Riyadh in July. I take precautions to keep my flat cool, drawing the curtains on sunward windows, closing the windows against warmer air outside. I could be happy on holiday, going round tourist attractions or jumping into a pool, enjoying time away from routine with friends. Or, it is pointless to complain about the weather, and I will not indulge in that. But the sensuous experience of being outside in the heat, simply for itself?

You could like the light. The sun at its highest, the brightness on the water of the Lakes. That it is also beautiful washed through mist, land across the valley getting steadily less distinct, does not mean the colour and the contrast of full sun is not glorious too. I could take my camera, but do not want to be thinking of framing images; I want to perform the experiment on myself. Do I like the heat?

I walk down and round the lakes. The mud is dry and cracked. The corn is still green, its long stamens turning into seeds. I don’t want to walk so quickly or so far as usual. I pause several times by the river, and try to connect with the experience, shorn of words or ideas about it. Do I like the heat? It is bearable; there is just enough slight breeze now and then, wafting my light summer dress, though the wig is a pain; but bearable is not pleasureable.

Going into shade of trees suddenly, I know that I like the shade.

I suppose I like experience. I understand life with words. I plan, analyse, conceptualise with words, and it is good to lay down the burden of words- I! a Writer!- for unmediated experience. I am here, by the river, sensing with eyes, ears, skin, open and not judging, and I like that.

It is good to be open to experience. I am in the heat, and it is not a horror I must shun, but an environment I can flourish in. I do not run from it, and that is empowering. It might create problems which I would deal with, different problems from colder months. I don’t particularly like to sweat. It is good to appear to be civilised, above that sort of thing, and it is a status symbol to not need to be troubled by it; but then I am an animal, and sweat is natural. I need not appear out of sorts.

I don’t see many people in the park. There are a few cyclists, and some families by the adventure playground, picnicking in the shade of trees. I will ask this woman, walking towards me by the hedge.

Do you like the heat?
-Hmmuhh? she says, surprised by the question.
-Do you like the heat?
-Yes, I suppose. Better than being cold. (I had her exact words in my mind, all the way home, but forgot them before writing them.)
-Thank you.
-Have a nice day! cries into the distance.

Defiant

I have lunch with my friend, who is slowly and steadily making the preparations for transition: telling people of her true self, appearing in public, laying the ground. I notice the imperfectly shaven hair beneath the make-up. To my mind, her face, the size and shape of it, jowls and brow ridge, appear male, and the wig is wrong: its parting shows a cloth lining rather than a scalp. The clothes suit a woman of her age, but the dress sense is slightly off.

And this is me, not her. How often I have looked in the mirror and thought, “Oh God, I look like a man!” and at other times thought, well, actually, I don’t look too bad; and I looked the same, it was just the way I was looking at myself. I thought of telling her- “Don’t do it! It isn’t worth it!” but what would be the point? I do not know that it is not, for her; and I really want to tell my two decades younger self, but I can’t, and that younger self might not listen anyway. S/he had her heart and mind, her reality and nature, and if s/he would not listen to them s/he would not listen even if someone came back from the future. Or, perhaps, she is right and my doubts now are wrong.

And this is dissatisfaction, a nameless unease rather than a clear understanding of what might be better. If that’s all there is, let’s break out the booze and let’s keep dancing. In Tesco’s, two small children, below waist height, stared up into my face and said “Are you the bikey man? Are you the bikey man?” “I’m the bikey person,” I said weakly. Such clarity and definiteness from two so young is depressing.

Possibly the thought of defiance is the kind of illusion I would jump at in this mood. I shake my fist in the face of encroaching Night. It feels as if it might be energising. The febrile energy would be heat not light. What would I be defying? What would be better?

Possibly dissatisfaction is better. I am dissatisfied. Things are not as I would wish- this is the impetus to find what might be better. I would be defying the expectations of others, or what I imagined those expectations to be.

If-

If that really is all there is, it is good enough, actually. I try to be a Real Man, and fail, because that is not who I am, and learn about transition. It fits me better than anything else I can imagine, so I do it. I could fit in, take a role which is almost acceptable. I could be me.

Years later, I look down at that child. It would be nice not to be laughed at, not ever, but it might not be possible. Good enough: I work out how best to be me, and now am still working on that, but more precisely.

Now I decide it does not fit, so create a new role. This takes a long time, but I get there. I see more clearly who I am, accept that, and can live it; less conflicted, resentful, but incrementally. Would that the work was done!

After meeting I drank with H, and told her I was populating the word “pansy”. It means effeminate male, but has no other baggage I dislike, unlike “sissy”. She said, so, you are identifying with masculinity? No, maleness. Definitely not masculinity. Masculinity is cultural, maleness physical. I should have asked her why she used the word.

Being a soft male is OK.
Being a soft male is OK.
Being a soft male is OK.

I don’t know what defiance would look like or what I would defy. I am happy with the names I use and the way I dress. If I can admit I am a “man” would the pointed scrutiny of that small child have less effect? What she sees, thinks, even says is part of the world I cannot control, which does not hurt me really.

In the pharmacy, I ask for “Prescription for Clare, please”. It makes me sound like a disease! To see it another way, I could be an elixir or universal tonic, inspiring merriment everywhere.

Pansy

After the election, where I anticipated an increased Conservative majority, I am overjoyed. At the station, that woman asked how I was.

“I’m delighted,” I said.

“I can see that. It shines out of you. It’s beautiful” she said. I offered a hug, and she accepted.

I was already overjoyed, and my cup ran over. I spasmed with it. Feeling happy, walking along, I have sashayed; sometimes I turn my wrists outwards, as if the Qi in me needs to flow out; now muscles tense and flex expressing it. Joy ripples through me like aftershocks, on the train. I don’t tend to notice other adults doing this sort of thing. I am still doing teenage, but here going right back to being a toddler, a different kind of toddler-hood which teaches me to integrate rather than suppress feeling.

It seems to me that I could call what I am a “Pansy”. The word has little baggage, unlike “Sissy”, co-opted to describe non-penetrative sexual services offered by some discreet older women. I can make of it what I will, add my own baggage to it. I am a pansy. I like viragos.

We went to the Giacometti exhibition. Man and Woman, which he created in his late 20s, fits this idea.

You can’t see it from the photos, but that sharp point is not touching the female. She bends backwards, but does not retreat, and a flower opens to accept the point. It is vulnerable and proud. There is a meeting, and a balance, between the two.

Sexually, I identify with the flower not the point. Yet calling me transwoman, trans woman, woman, whatever, is only an approximation. That vulnerable flowering is overwhelmingly seen as Female, but rather it is feminine, and I am a feminine male. A pansy. I should not need physical adjustment to actualise myself, just to find how my body can work with my spirit.

This is not normal, but “normal” must be resisted. It is a cultural creation of powerful folk who cannot conceive that anyone could be other than they, or that what is best for them might not be best for everyone. I don’t fit the norms, or rules, so have to make my own rules. It might have helped if I had not been so indoctrinated so strongly into the value of normal. Discretion protects the abnormal, it can be good not to be noticed, and one can take that too far.

Yvonne points out that all the active sculptures in the Giacometti exhibition- pointing, walking, even falling- are men. Some of the busts look childish in execution. One of his wife reminds me of a sex doll, or at least the cliché I have seen on TV: wide eyes, mouth like an O, flat caricature face. Before marriage she had worked in an office at the Red Cross. From the 1930s, here is a narrow sculpture (The more I wanted to make them broader, the narrower they got, he said) about four feet tall, her head slightly raised to meet the eye of an adult observer about a yard away. It’s not assurance, exactly, nor apprehension: she does not know what that viewer will do. She will respond appropriately, to whatever requires a response. The mind of that figure contains no story about what thing feared or desired will happen next, or what ought to be happening now, so will see what is happening and respond to it. I see capability in that standing figure.

Across the room is another standing figure on a plinth which would be chest height on her, if she stood beside it. This relatively huge imposing plinth supports her slender figure, which is an inch tall. “She does not know she is tiny,” I exclaimed, and a woman says “I would never have thought of it that way”: here we are open, so that talking to a stranger seems natural. It is one of the most moving works of art I have ever seen, and she has the same naturalness, lack of constraint, and capability.

I do not need to be constrained by Manliness. I can be a Pansy. If I relax and lose my stories of how the world is or should be, I may even be able to be myself.

We ate on the South Bank at an outside table, and I loved the Sun gilding the edges of the clouds. When it was a bit cool to stay there, but still light, we walked across the bridge. “Love the T-shirt,” I said of a passer-by. It was blue with an EU circle of stars and the words “Member of the Liberal Elite, established 2016”. He stopped to enthuse about the election.

accidental good

I’ve been listening to some Ariana Grande.

A little less conversation and a little more touch my body

It is not aimed at me, but I see good in it. In the videos, the singer dances around in her underwear, but is clearly singing for female fans. “Dangerous woman” might even have a slight lesbian vibe. She sings that her boyfriend better shape up his ideas and consider her wants and needs. I am all for Millennial empowerment. This seemed a proper response to the Manchester bombing, to hear what the dead had gathered to hear, to spend time with what they loved.

Ministry this morning had a perfect shape. One spoke of Manchester coming together. I spoke of racial tensions: the picture is more complex than the stories we tell. Thesis- Antithesis: the synthesis was beautiful.

I lift up my eyes to the hills
from where will my help come?

He says the hills were the dangerous places, where there were bandits and lions. You might die. I had not thought of the psalm, whose words I know well, that way before. Ah. Complexity, darkness, comfort- in the Meeting.

I can’t remember what she said because I was interested in how, rather than what, she communicated. “It’s —— 4 ——-, written —– 4 ——” and she gestures in the air, writing the first word, the 4, then the second word. She repeats the gesture. “Oh, —– 4 ——” says the other, gesturing. They emphasise the 4 in their gestures. But both write from left to right as they would see it, in the air- so from the other’s point of view it is less comprehensible, seen right to left. I watch, intrigued. I would always, gesturing like that, use mirror-writing to be more comprehensible, and expect to get my meaning over immediately. You could say “The 4’s a digit”. We ended up absolutely clear, except that I do not remember what it was 4 what.

It’s worth listening to Ariana to understand how Millennials think. After all, when I am eighty they will be running the country, and I would like to not be completely confused. And, try to find something good in it. That is like in education, she says: however poor the student’s attempt, you should start with praise. No, actually, a teacher should encourage students, but this is different: you should find good in it because that is a better way to understanding it. If you are simply dismissive you don’t see it.

I share my joke. I am disappointed with it, because it works beautifully from a linguistic standpoint- the last word changes the idea round completely- but the concept is too horrible. So it does not work as a joke. Here it is:

I scatter lots of bird seed on my lawn. I do love to feed the cats.

One laughs, one does not. I hurry to explain that I don’t think it works, and that is the first time I have shared it.

The “Gifts reserved for age” in Little Gidding have haunted me since I first read them. In Meeting, a pastiche came to me, which I wrote down after to ensure I could remember it:

Things done right, and accidental Good
to show your “thoughtless bumblings” are virtue

Sometimes you can go into things in too much depth. We tell ourselves stories about reality, we have words and concepts, because understanding everything is impossible. Trying to understand too well may paralyse action. Know just enough to make the next step good enough. I am a good person really. Totally failed at life? From an absolute standpoint, possibly I have- no family, no job, no savings etc- but from a relative standpoint perhaps I have done alright- I am still alive!

Internal focus

You never feel shy in a crowd?
-Never, I said. She was amazed and envious. Actually, I am not sure what the adjective was, but it was something around being glad to be among people. I was talking, hearing challenging things-

buses are not the best way of transporting people. A bus with only a couple of people on it, like those on Eagle’s Nest, uses a huge amount of fuel for little result. Buses took people to town centres. They were talking of “Orbital buses” but could not get them to work. Mmm. Not the kind of opinion I would expect in this social group. Collective action is our thing.

When I was living in South Africa, the Anglican Church named itself the Church of the Province of Southern Africa, and some people broke away, saying they were the Church of England in South Africa. Ridiculous, we agree, and harmful, like the “consecration” of the “bishop in the church of God” by the descendant of that church, the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa, who want to split the Church of England over equal marriage. It’s a bit odd to be that interested in the Church of England, but these are otherwise the kind of thing I would expect people here to believe. I like agreeing. It makes me feel safe.

Glad to be among people, feeling a pang when driving away, and yet today alone and doing nothing in particular, and quite happy about that. I should write, I was glad, etc. I was- I am talking of me, and so should use the word “I” for I am important. Right now I am happy alone. I don’t want demands on myself.

Then, though, I could express difficulty and experience sympathy. Am I unfit for work? This is how to prove it, she says trenchantly. As I need to doubt I am entitled to ESA- surely I could not be that incapable?- yet need an income I am glad of the reinforcement.

Three conversations. Who are these people? Who am I? How may we be together? It is fascinating, and-

one of my things is not admitting when something is difficult. Nothing should be difficult. So, do I know what I feel in any situation, or do different parts of my brain feel different things? “Ooh, this is nice, isn’t it?” I might say, imagining I really was enthusiastic. I am dissociated from feelings. I imagine I feel what I think I ought to feel, and under that feel anxiety.

And I am glad to be here, now, alone. Feelings may be strong, and strongly affect me, though I could not name or perceive them. If I could bear to be here only if I suppressed certain feelings, suppressing those feelings would be a useful skill. If I have mixed emotions, some positive, some negative, in order to feel good I might suppress the negative.

Here we are, smiling at each other, and is that a prelude to something else? Smiling is always a good start. I am a person of good will. I like you.

I am internally focused. I notice things in myself more than I notice other people. There are these façades- a person, being the person s/he ought to be, trustworthy, pleasant, reasonable- and do I see below? Could I bear it, if I saw them?

Being the Good person

I am cycling on the road slightly downhill with the wind behind me, and someone is cycling out of the park on my left, into my path. Surely he will stay on the pavement? I look, worriedly, at the back of his head and hope he will look round. I cannot evade him because of the oncoming car. I can’t stop, so I scream; he looks round and brakes.

I pedal on, and from far behind me I hear his aggrieved exclamation: The fxxk! Scream like that? And now, I am so envious of him: that reflexive self-righteousness, he resents me and my wronging him. He is the good person here. Whereas I am analysing the situation and after much thought, have decided that my conduct passes muster, though I wonder if I should have reacted sooner.

There are advantages to the worried assessment- “Am I good enough? Did I wrong him?” which seems a more feminine response. The cars I notice waiting behind me for a safe, courteous time to overtake are driven by women, the cars which breenge past far too fast and close are driven by men. The advantage is that you probably won’t be in the wrong, and won’t have a collision. It means I need approval from others, though. There are advantages to the reflexive self-righteousness: you never need to think about second-guessing yourself, and nothing bad usually happens because other people manage to clear up your messes or take evasive action before you smash into them.

I used to see S every week or so, but have not for ages; but she has been to Woodbrooke and wanted to tell me about it. At one point I state something passionately, then half-apologise for it: “That was vehement,” I say, feeling her out. Oh, she says, that’s just the normal way of speaking, for her and her family. It is not for me. My passion is usually behind a diffident manner, which can be painful for me: I am restrained by my own fears. “Like an elephant with a-” I am miming a shackle round my ankle, but do not need to, because she got the allusion immediately.

“We need to be with others to know ourselves, because we see ourselves reflected in them,” she says. Yes. Of course. I am learning, now, from my interactions. I judge myself. I always ask, “How am I wrong?” I know this from interaction, but I am a recluse because for so long I judged myself reflexively and unconsciously, so I was always wrong, all the time, and when I was hurt too much by interactions and could take it no longer I needed to hide away. Right now, I am having the interactions I can bear.

From facebook: To state that zazen has a definite and particular form, and to cling to that position leads to one kind of trouble, while stating that zazen has no particular form sends one off in another confused direction. There is no logical resolution to this problem. And it is this illogical paradox with which a true practitioner of Zen must ‘sit’ both literally and spiritually. Yes. I reacted to that: it is seeking safety in rules- like I do. I am more or less happy cycling because I think I know the rules of the road, and what I am entitled to- it’s a formalised interaction. If I said, “Non-theists are not Quakers” it is an attempt to find safety in rules. In this future situation, I will act in this way, and I will be right. S said, “That’s why Quakers talk all the time”- because human situations are so complex, so making rules is difficult. She said this not because she had seen that in facebook, but a propos of something else. Perhaps I am in a computer simulation, where the same lesson comes to me repeatedly, or perhaps I am just open to it now.

Also on facebook, someone wrote,  Anyone who was abused in their formative years is likely to feel they are ‘a lesser being’ than all others and may live in fear of rejection and abuse; so they will continually seek and need the approval of others. And on-going approval will also help dispel their fears of engendering further abuse. I felt myself completely worthless, so I do need approval: developing my own grudging acceptance, just-about approval for myself is difficult. Here is David Brooks on another aspect of needing the approval of others.

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 Abolition of Man

As spending too much time on social media, or worse, clicking back and forth between sites for an elusive dopamine hit- has anyone liked my comment in The Guardian?- makes presence, stillness or spiritual awareness less likely, yesterday I decided to put my computer away all afternoon, and almost succeeded. Hanging out my washing, I got chatting with the lad from upstairs. He has been at the Outdoor Centre for over six years. In the winter, they concentrate on personal development, and he went whitewater rafting in Scotland, but now the centre is getting busy, and the teenagers have a bit of fun on our river, which meanders through a broad valley of lakes and ponds. He has always analysed his options for pros and cons, he tells me. We talked of Heaven and Hell. He believes in both, and is strongly Evangelical: he has a literal belief in the Day of Judgment after Death. “We will all face judgment,” he said, earnestly. I find him quite non-judgmental of my trans status: though I was wigless, just to do housework, I did not feel judged, and so felt reassured and comfortable. We looked up at the red kites circling overhead.

I suggested he read “The Great Divorce”, CS Lewis’s account of people from Hell taking a day-trip to Heaven. Most of them prefer their illusions, and go back down. He thinks Divorce a strange word for Lewis to use, and I explain it is a reference to The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. I lend him my large single volume of several of Lewis’s works, which has sat unread on my bookshelves for years. He is not a great reader, he says, but his parents liked The Screwtape Letters. My spirituality has changed since I read a lot of Lewis. I decided to read The Abolition of Man, which I have in paperback, to re-evaluate him. I would read it to try and find something I valued in it.

It comes with strong recommendation. A quote on the back says if he were to suggest a book which everyone should read apart from the Bible, Walter Hooper would say The Abolition of Man. He writes, If any book is able to save us from future excesses of folly or evil, it is this book. I would read it to seek value in it.

I disagree with the first of three lectures, Men without Chests, in which Lewis criticises an English textbook. Coleridge heard two tourists at a waterfall, and endorsed the first’s judgment of it as “sublime” but rejected the second’s, “pretty”. The textbook says both are not a judgment about the waterfall, only the speaker’s feelings. I would agree. Everything is sublime, separate from me and the human world, simply and only of itself- a waterfall, a star, a pebble, Blake’s clod of clay. It is valuable to cultivate a sense of the sublime, though, and the most impressive things- such as the waterfall- are a good start. If something has the grandeur to remind me of sublimity, this concerns internal mental states, from cultural associations, my past experiences, my understanding and my emotional responses. And the waterfall is pretty: spray may create rainbows, or the water may glisten in the sun. It seems to me Lewis is attacking phenomenology, mocking what he does not understand; at least, he makes no attempt to explain it, merely attacking an attempt to explain some part of its insights to children.

Lewis quotes Aristotle: the aim of education is to make the youth like and dislike what he ought. Lewis’ example is Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, which in my own English class I learned to call that old lie. Lewis was writing 25 years after Owen’s poem. Sending men to die or kill is monstrous, especially in the first world war. He takes a conservative position that there might be some agreement on what men should value; I say that if we allow people to love what we love, society benefits. At least I agree that it is a good thing to see the waterfall as sublime, but Lewis and I praise and disparage different things, and I am tempted to say I know better than he, or at least that my concept of diverse systems of value better describes real life, and has more value, than his single, allegedly objective, system. Rather than a common understanding of what is good and valuable, I advocate a continuous ferment of discussion, learning better what to value. Lewis’ common understanding would justify colonialism, the White Man’s Burden of civilising lesser races.

So I was surprised that the book is still in print, and there is a book of essays about it, Contemporary Perspectives. I must not simply dismiss the book, but find value in it if I may- for then Lewis and I can communicate from our different positions, conservative or progressive. I claim to be the one who values understanding of other perspectives.

 

I know

I know I am a person of integrity.

This came to me this morning. With a minute or two before I want to leave for the Quaker meeting, I felt moved to go into the living room, then to affirm myself before the mirror. I like myself. Then, I know myself.

Then

I – know
I know

I know
I know.
I know.
I know.
I am a person of integrity.

This is lovely. I can tell the truth. I can know things in two ways, it seems, in words, for I have a great gift in the precise use of words, and by feeling- by knowledge of the heart in silence. This unites the two: what I know in my heart, I put into words; and that is Ministry.

I have a lovely ride there, with light following winds and occasional hazy sunshine, and I am a person of integrity running in my mind. I get to meeting early, chat for a bit, then settle into worship. This is a good place, and I am nervous, and self-protecting, and that is alright; and it is in my mind there, too- I am a person of integrity.

We are still discussing Quaker Faith and Practice, chapter 22 this week. What difference do we make in the world? Did you have a dream of doing some great healing work? My healing work is simply and entirely on myself, right now, I say.

(Oh, shall I say it? Saying it is frightening. I close my eyes so I cannot see them, and unprompted my voice goes softer and very high-

I am a person of integrity.

Someone I don’t think I met before looks at me- appreciatively? Evaluatingly?- and says, “How wonderful, to know that and be able to say it!” I hold her gaze for a moment, then say, laughing, “How cool is that?” And I am in self-protection mode, again, not realising others will accept what I say, trying to find a way to chivvy them along- and it does not work on her, I feel, and she still finds my statement wonderful. I note that others, who may have accomplished more than I, express uncertainty or even perhaps dissatisfaction with the good they have accomplished, it is only a little, and I am glad to be proud of my own achievement here. It is a real achievement.

I am a person of integrity.