Niagara and Vesuvius

I wait for R at the bus stop. A woman at the end of the shelter says, loudly, “No heating or hot water! How are we going to live without heating and hot water?”

I thought, I can tell you this, and got out pen and paper to take notes. The man near her seems to be phoning quietly to sort the matter, but she, despairing and angry, cries out in response to his quiet tone, inaudible to me. Then she takes the phone and harangues the other, possibly her mother.

It’s because I am racist. It’s because I am fucking English. We cannot judge the depth of wickedness of her racism, but clearly she does not know words to mitigate or conceal it, and possibly does not understand the charge. She listens a moment. I told them all that! I can’t have the baby there. She [social worker? Landlord’s rep? Housing officer?] says they want us out. I don’t know why they’re doing this. They wrote down all I said and I signed it. I don’t know what I signed. They reported us to the landlord before. They said we didn’t share the fridge. They make up bullshit and report us for nothing. They smoke in the room! £480 a month for that one room! No heating and hot water as well. They have come in to Swanston in an attempt to sort things out but apparently it has not worked. He takes her by the hand and pulls her away, along Church St. She does not seem to be resisting, only dilly-dallying.

I have lunch with R, then go to get the bus home. I am to talk to Tina at 4, but the bus does not come at 3, nor at 3.30, and though it should go the other way from the same stop, it does not. So I go for a taxi, which costs £11.50 plus 50p tip. I am pleased with this. My increasing frustration with a little anger moves me to solve my problem. I can afford the occasional taxi. I treated myself to the bus because when I cycled yesterday I was really cold, and this morning it was drizzling. I get the only taxi at the rank; another comes just after, and is taken almost immediately.

The frustration moved me to sort my problem out, making a clear judgment of the situation- no bus will come in time- but anger is pointless. At whom? It is not the driver’s fault. There is nowhere to express it and no fight or flight to use it on.

And then I talk to Tina and it seems pointless. I cannot see a way of bettering my situation. The standard ways- get a job, get voluntary work to give me something worthwhile to do, repulse me. I like writing for my blog, with minimal editing, minimal judgment. I cannot see a way of bettering my situation. I do not want to write for publication elsewhere. At the bus stop frustration drove me to action but my frustration now makes me miserable without action. I beat myself up- I should be able to find something better- but forgive myself as well. I am miserable and inactive. Is it a “sense of entitlement”?

I had a moment of joy, seeing trees through the taxi window.

I quote Modern Love XXXIV by George Meredith.

Madam would speak with me. So, now it comes:
The Deluge or else Fire! She’s well, she thanks
My husbandship. Our chain on silence clanks.
Time leers between, above his twiddling thumbs.
Am I quite well? Most excellent in health!
The journals, too, I diligently peruse.
Vesuvius is expected to give news:
Niagara is no noisier. By stealth
Our eyes dart scrutinizing snakes. She’s glad
I’m happy, says her quivering under-lip.
“And are not you?” “How can I be?” “Take ship!
For happiness is somewhere to be had.”
“Nowhere for me!” Her voice is barely heard.
I am not melted, and make no pretence.
With commonplace I freeze her, tongue and sense.
Niagara or Vesuvius is deferred.

I am both these characters, locked together in my misery. Rage and flooding tears are alike useless.

-Can you remember when you first felt these things?

I can remember first being conscious of them, but not of first feeling them, presumably in childhood. So I say, No.

-Can we just stop and fix another time?
-Certainly.

-Then, tell me more about the dark side. “Contradictory chaos” sounds human. Not managing feeling but allowing it. I know you strive for gentleness.

So, what? Gentleness is not who I am? Not all I am, or not me at all (so being trans, “feminine”, is illusion)? I hear, strive for gentleness and think of ways in which that could be a bad thing.

 ♥♥♥

I do not want to be judged
because I cannot imagine myself not being found wanting
Even though others say things like, you have been a breath of fresh air and I realise the difficulties that you have faced and overcome.thomas-lawrence-mary-anne-bloxam

Desire and achievement

Our problems are intractable because they are solutions.

I had a good morning. I enjoyed taking those geese photos. I have produced something more than a mere snap, which takes effort, thought, and spending £200 on a proper camera rather than just using a phone. I have experienced the birds flocking, and created something beautiful. I found C strong, resilient, intelligent, outward looking and spiritual. I want her in my Quaker meeting. You know how when you see a characteristic in another, it means it is in you- that does apply to good stuff as well, doesn’t it? Tina laughs, and confirms, saying,

Our heroes tell us who we can be.

My paranoid fear meeting her was that she was from the DWP, sent to assess that I am fit for work. This is ridiculous, but I could not get it off my mind. Saying “I am not fit for work” is frightening. I’m just resting. Honest. I take a moment to sense my misery, pain, fear, sadness, loneliness. One can have too little self-pity.

I have to tolerate imperfection. It is all good.
-In whose eyes?
– God’s

…or mine…

which comes to the Same Thing-

That gets a laugh from her. I am enjoying this.

-Seeking attention can be a disorder. (That disturbs me).
-All disorders are aspects of personality, and a matter of culture. Disorders stop the organism. It strives to be healthy. The disorder derails it from society and community and forces it to focus on itself, impairing its functioning. It causes harm- so we see bestiality as a disorder, because animals are not seen as capable of consent. Though a bestialist said, if you think you don’t need a horse’s consent you don’t know horses.

My funders for this counselling imagine that it will get me out of the house, engaged and working. I doubt it will.
-And that bothers you, because you are ethical.
I am not sure, actually. I want to be higher functioning, to desire something and do it, but not necessarily to be useful. It has to be my desire.

That brings me back to “problems are intractable because they are solutions”. I am dissatisfied. Yet I have time and freedom to go to the park and take those geese photos.

I am going to be in a magazine in November. Not paid for it, but in print. Yet now I am not writing for publication at all, possibly because I cannot imagine being published even after experiencing it. It is a matter of belief, perhaps. I like taking photographs or writing for my blog- it gets a few likes.

-Would you write if you could imagine publication?

I am avoiding disappointment. Or anticipating it, even creating it.

I want to manage my own feelings. This is my first goal. I want them to be bearable. We will discuss this next week.

thomas-lawrence-sally-siddons

Owls

This is my prayer, this my worship:

Hello.

At the Lakes, there is a display of owls: shown on wooden perches and happy enough to be stroked on the tummy. Children crowd round, at first shy, but seeing others stroke are emboldened to try too. It seems exploitative to me. “Owls to behold” rescues and rehomes birds. They are tame, so releasing them perhaps would be cruel, and the petting zoo funds their care; and the fact that I am disturbed does not stop me wanting photographs. He also sells owl pendants and tea-towels.

owl-balancing-act

Could you ask her to spread her wings? I asked. He lifts her from the perch, and explains that they do that in order to balance. He moves his arm to get her to spread again. “Did you get one?” I did.

owl-that-plays-with-finger

This one, when I stroke her tummy, “plays with” my finger. It is not a nip: the beak goes right round the finger rather than pinching flesh. It is playful, exerting a tiny part of the force that back-breaking, flesh-tearing beak could.

Beautiful plumage.

owl-settling-the-feathers

This one fluffs out her feathers before settling them again, I hope more comfortably.

It was an unexpected pleasure to find the owls. I was here to meet C., who has just discovered my Quaker meeting. We talked deeply of our lives and of politics, and then walked around the park. She asked of my trans experience. And I found that I was closing off discussion: she would say something deep, and I would say, “Look! An Iron Age hut!”

The hide is beautiful. That door is self-consciously rustic, with metal binding its edges even a bit steampunk. At its back, a wooden awning juts out like a prow, supported by a pillar. I have had a lovely conversation.

Thinking on the fifth circle of hell. Depressives, lying under the muddy stagnant water in marshes by the Styx, turning anger in on themselves- such a psychological insight for a Renaissance poet! Yes, I am there; and also open to new encounters, and new views. After, I walk home and have some of the last of the blackberries: lots are shrivelled but some are still ripe and round. Worship and prayer is where I, simply myself, unadorned, unpretending, look out and pay complete attention to- something other than myself, a person, or a blackberry, or an owl.

Hello.

Shrine co-ordinator

In the coffee shop, as we are leaving, S gets chatting to a woman she knew in the prison. Donna is a shrine co-ordinator. Oh, what’s that then? A great deal of work and difficulty she says. I press her.

She tells me of Our Lady of Guadeloupe. In 1531, the BVM appeared to Juan Diego, a poor man whose clothes were woven from cactus fibres. She told him to start a shrine to her, but the bishop said no. So she told him to go to the top of a hill, and pick flowers there. It was December, but he found Castilian roses, native to Spain rather than Mexico. As instructed he wrapped them in cactus cloth, and took them to the bishop. When they unwrapped the flowers, there was this image on the cloth.

our-lady-of-guadelupe

The image is miraculous. There are no brush strokes visible, and no identifiable pigment. It has been analysed by NASA. Cactus cloth would normally break down in fifty years, but nearly five centuries later it is pristine. In 1910 there was a bomb taken into the chapel where it is kept, in a bunch of flowers (Mexican revolution, I presume) which blew out the windows but did not hurt anyone or damage the relic at all. In 1979 the Pope ordered two hundred digital copies, one for each country in the world. They are- I am not sure of the technical term she used, something like “effective relics”- looking on the copy gives the same blessing as looking on the original. She hands me a small piece of card with the image on it. They also have prayer cards and banners. She could send me one.

The small piece of card is enough for me, I say. I am not into devotional objects. My Angels at Mamre icon is quite enough. I find the card, on my side-table as I type, disturbing.

Her friend talks of the nuns at Nupton: they ran a care home, but have just been disbanded and sent to other communities all over the country. She shows a photo on her phone of the Bishop in full garb standing in front of a group of nuns at their last mass together. She then was guided to the death-bed of a woman, who was able to reach out from under the covers and take her hand. Anyone would find this moving, but she finds it Providential. She has just been to Medjugorge, where the BVM appeared in 1981, prophesying a terrible war.

I say I know S from the Quaker meeting, but have no interest in devotional objects, and a Richard Dawkins objection to talk of miracles. This shuts her down, and is too strong- I am interested in people’s beliefs, and can see that the relic may give someone reassurance or consolation- but is a measure of how disturbing I find talk of such things, as if they were true.

Her absolute certainty of the miraculous provenance of the relic is like the absolute certainty some Catholics have of the wrongness of LGBT. I hear the certainty of the relic, and wonder at its spiritual value for her; but such certainty can be poison.

Monkey mind

I want to be cherished. I have to cherish myself.

I was thinking, I despise myself. But no: it is just that angry thoughts about myself cross my conscious mind from time to time. There is no “I” that despises, just occasional thoughts, anger in the brain manifesting as angry words in the conscious mind; there is no “I” that is despised, just some of my actions and thoughts. There is “I”, a physical animal, body including brain, which is one being, the despiser and the despised.

I want to be valued. I have to value myself.

Having someone who valued me would relieve me of the task of valuing myself at the cost of dependence on that other. Mutual interdependence is no bad thing, and it is good having wee top-ups of reassurance- or even appreciation!- now and then; and I can practise valuing myself. Notice the self-talk, and turn it round.

So I have to be valuable. Fortunately, I am valuable!

I would have liked to be any way but this; I valued other ways of being and not this. As I get to know how I really am, I see it is beautiful. More and more, I tell myself that, noticing other self-talk and turning it round. Cogito ergo sum does not mean that everything which crosses my mind is worthwhile.

I love putting things into words to provoke, persuade or entertain. I was chatting to the bus driver in the coffee shop. She was full of questions. What do I do. I told her of writing and being published, including my photographs. The first time I went into a supermarket dressed female I went in a ball gown with hooped underskirt. More questions.

-You’re full of questions! Tell me a story as good as the ones I have told you.

She is 46. She married aged 24, and has been married 22 years. She has a daughter who has graduated and is now working at the infants school, and a son who is an apprentice. She has been on the buses for eight years, and before that had several jobs. She made scotch eggs at —‘s for a time. She was a silver service waitress. So I told her I did that just once, when there was no-one else on. There was a couple eating together, and he won lots of brownie points with her. She looked on him with Love in her eyes, as he responded with infinite patience as I cocked it up.

Talkin’ bout my LGBT

I don’t want to talk to Joan. She is a bore, and other people avoid her too, I have seen them walking rapidly in another direction when she approaches. She can keep talking for ages, about her own stuff, but without any discernible feeling to which I can relate. So first I pretend to be interested, then I pretend less, and finally walk away.

But what I really resent is that she is interested in LGBT issues. She is an ally. She wants to be supportive. She came up to me and said she had seen the film Pride– isn’t it wonderful, those gay people and miners getting together. A real feel-good film. Then most recently she said she had the DVD for The Danish Girl. What’s it like?

Well, Einar discovers women’s clothes and soon wants to go out dressed female, except she’s terrified of everyone even the friendly people. Soon it overwhelms her and she sees doctors. One diagnoses her as schizophrenic and wants to lock her up in a loony bin, one wants to cure her by pointing radioactive sources at her privates, because Science, and because he’s got this expensive equipment with no idea what it might be used for, and one wants to call her a woman, cut her privates off, and create a vagina. After suffering the first two, she goes for the third, who kills her by putting a uterus into her without understanding anything about organ rejection.

“Oh,” says Joan, “Not such a feelgood movie”.

I don’t want to listen to your ideas about LGBT. I don’t want to hear that you are an ally. I don’t want you to ask me about it. This is my really really private stuff and it is not for small talk. That’s the real issue here- if you want to be authentic with me, ask me anything, I will try to help, because I want people to understand. But if you want to make small talk, and exchange superficial pleasantries exhibiting the feelings you know you ought to feel- sympathy for the poor queers, indignation at inequality and discrimination, admiration at how courageous we all are, etc- DON’T COME TO ME!!! Because it is real for me.

I have actually started telling her this. I told her I don’t want to talk to her about LGBT stuff but could not articulate why, so writing this is useful. Tell me who you are! Tell me what you love! Don’t pull me into your conventional lets all feel the same thing rubbish.

This is not, of course, my magnum opus but something I am just throwing off, now. I was up at seven this morning writing. I have a first draft.

On bullshit

That debate on abortion was utterly depressing. Some people are disgusted that anyone could force a woman to incubate an unwanted foetus for nine months, with all the physical and emotional pain that involves. Pregnancy takes a toll on a woman’s body. Others say that cluster of cells is a potential human life, and are disgusted that human life could be expunged. Debates on whether anyone can be “pro-life” without being anti-gun, anti-capital punishment and anti-war, or whether legal prohibition or better family planning services are the best way to avoid abortion, draw dividing lines little different from the main one on pro-life v pro-choice. This does not stop us hurling ourselves against each other. “I find you disgusting- and so should everyone else!” We try to win. Possibly, we will not even co-operate on having a useful conversation- finding any excuse to blame or condemn the other- but we can define what a useful conversation would look like.

Petter A Naessan: Speakers and listeners assume that the others abide by certain, predominantly unstated, speech norms. The cooperative principle can be divided more specifically into the maxims of quantity, quality, relevance, and manner. For bullshitological purposes, the violation of the maxims would appear to be relevant. So if utterances convey not enough or too much information (quantity), are intentionally false or lack evidence (quality), are irrelevant to any current topic or issue (relevance), and are obscure, ambiguous, unnecessarily wordy or disorderly (manner), then they make our conversation valueless, apart from giving transitory feelings of triumph or despair giving way to ennui.

The bullshit of politicians is a threat to public order and the public good. The disaster of Brexit is being achieved by bullshit. Both the liar and the bullshitter try to get away with something. But ‘lying’ is perceived to be a conscious act of deception, whereas ‘bullshitting’ is unconnected to a concern for truth. Frankfurt regards this ‘indifference to how things really are’, as the essence of bullshit. Furthermore, a lie is necessarily false, but bullshit is not – bullshit may happen to be correct or incorrect. The crux of the matter is that bullshitters hide their lack of commitment to truth. Since bullshitters ignore truth instead of acknowledging and subverting it, bullshit is a greater enemy of truth than lies.

Stephen Poole in The Guardian: Trump is merely the most energetic current exploiter of a fact that modern politicians have long known: the media is broken, and you can mercilessly exploit its flaws to your own benefit. (That, after all, is what “spin doctors” are for.) If you repeat a lie often enough, then that claim becomes the story, and it’s what most people remember. And a structural confusion between “impartiality” and “balance” undermines the mission to inform of institutions such as the BBC. To be impartial would be to point out untruths wherever they come from. But to be “balanced” is to have a three-way between a presenter and two economists on opposite sides of some question. Never mind that one economist represents the views of 95% of the profession and the other is an ideologically blinkered outlier: the structure of the interview itself implies to the audience that the arguments are evenly divided.

Petter Naessan reviewing On Bullshit by Harry Frankfurt in Philosophy Now.
Stephen Poole: “How we let the phoneys take control and debase the language of politics,” in The Guardian.

Blake, Pestilence

Coming out, as a father

He started talking almost before he got to the bus stop. He loves the heat. He works on a removal van, he’s got one job today then he’ll enjoy the sun. He hates the way people complain about the heat when they’ve been complaining about cold and rain the rest of the year. I agree. I like the heat, and this variation is fashionable among the English this year, who like to agree as well as talk about the weather. He is a sweet enthusiastic man, who says how lovely it is to go up through the Rec then the woods and down to S- Lakes. You don’t need to go away! I enthuse. Yes. The sun on the water, not a beach exactly but-

He goes there with his son. His son’s a really lovely boy. He’s not boasting, it’s not that he’s saying he is a brilliant parent or anything, but his son has a lovely personality. The bus comes and he starts the same spiel with another woman. He loves heat. He hates people complaining. He has a lovely son.

He’s got this bouffant thing going. That’s the fashion nowadays I suppose, says the father whose hair is short. She says she hasn’t seen him for years, would not recognise him now probably.

He’s-

I didn’t catch the next bit, but the boy is gay or bi. The father whispered, and if he did not want me to hear I am pleased that he did not read me but bothered that he would be ashamed. The boy said he looked at boys, and felt- The woman says you’re learning who you are, finding what you like, at that age.

“I tell him, ‘I’ve got your back’,” says the father, definitely. He repeats it.

I talk to learn what I think about things, to see how it feels to articulate particular opinions, and to find what others feel. He could be testing the waters, finding out whether others are homophobic, talking himself in to acceptance of a thing which disappoints or frightens him. “I’ve got your back” is how I would hope a father would be, and it should not need said unless the son is in trouble. There is such progress! And we still have a way to go.

Langrenee, Echo and Narcissus

What I want V

I want a mature industrial democracy, where the workers by hand and brain, in full control of their means of production, exercise that control freely and generously for the common good: where they may provide comfortably for their families, and then give from the abundance to anyone in need. Where their work is sustainable, and they live without exploitation, caring for the world and all life on it.

From each according to their abilities, to each according to their need.

-But that’s Utopian. “No-place”-ish.
-Well, I am a Quaker. We seek to build the Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth. And there is just a chance that I might be able to help build such an industrial democracy, by co-operating with those with that aim, who have taken steps towards it, not to be reached in my lifetime but with clear progress visible.

And- there is the ultimate goal, the full beauty, and the step to be taken now. It is difficult to see.

So they built as men must build
With the sword in one hand and the trowel in the other.

There are no rules here. If I said, Do not look to the final goal- stare downwards, so that you may see the next step- that might seem sensible, and you might miss the next step. “We have faith that way will open,” say Quakers: we don’t know how, but believing that it is possible to make things better is necessary, in order to get out of bed. If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him- for knowing is possible but fleeting and uncertain, missteps are a constant risk, panaceas against missteps are so, so tempting illusion. That was the title of a book I read about fifteen years ago, amazed at its wisdom and how I was learning The Meaning of Life- but if I had kept it to read again now it would not give me the same feeling.

He quoted Godel, Escher, Bach which I have not read: you may be conscious, and conscious that you are conscious, and conscious that you are con- in endless iteration. I counter with something I read somewhere, that you may either be conscious of a thing, or conscious of your consciousness, but not both: you switch your attention, and the thing outside yourself disappears, so that you are only thinking of yourself. This is philosophy and psychology: we build a picture and an illusion of perceiving it all, but pay attention to constantly changing small parts all the time, like the scanning of a cathode ray tube.

There is a science fiction novel- I heard this, I have not read it- where the Invaders take over the bodies of politicians, military personnel, business executives, and use them to further their invasion plot; and the original owners see all their captors see, hear what comes out of their mouth, unable to influence it. A vision of Hell.

What do you Want?

The phone rings. Fxxk.
-Can I speak to Clare Flourish?
-Who is it? (angrily)
-The Blood Transfusion Service. (I should not be unpleasant to them.)

So I told him that the reason I have given blood is that I want to imagine that I am a good person; that this does not work; and that therefore I want him to remove me from their records.

Chaos of thought and passion, all confused…

-That’s Pope.
-Yes.
-From An Essay on Man, III. (Actually I have just looked that up, in a paperback- I told him it was from “Know then thyself- presume not God to scan”.)
-You beat me. A quote I did not know.
-Oh! I did not want to beat you! (But I did, obviously, to show off my erudition and taste, or I would not have looked it up just now.)

What do you Want?

I don’t know. There are conflicting motivations in my brain and psyche, which may surface in consciousness or not; which I may misunderstand, which conflict, which may present themselves as something other to my consciousness. I want heughmagandie, and that part which wants it, wants it with no heed to consequence. Sometimes I find what I want when I see what I do: the want is too difficult for the conscious self-concept to admit.

“Let’s talk next week.” Oh, God. Only if I can get something from it. Only if I can feel slightly less desolate than I do now. What do I want? Impossible things, and the seeming of taking a step towards them; and if I seemed to move towards them, I would want more, so that I may never be satisfied. From the desolation of my dearth I offer illusion and false hope, distraction from the reality that we will all die, and are all alone. I betray myself, doing what seems to be a step towards WHAT I WANT, but it is delusion leading to misery.

This is good, actually- honest! I am understanding more, conscious more. Step by step…

Arshile Gorky, the liver is the cocks comb

Non-free media rationale: I wanted to pinch Arshile Gorky’s picture, so I did.

An Existentialist

-When I was working at the prison, I was teaching a man who had murdered his father. He had nearly served his sentence. So one day there was a group of us chatting, and I told them about following this man in a wheelchair along Railway Street the previous evening. He had gone over the kerb, his wheelchair had toppled over and he had gone sprawling out. I helped him get back into his wheelchair, and then he’d carried on one side of the road, I walked on the other. I did not do it to gain anything, simply to help. Maybe he could have crawled to his wheelchair eventually, even pulled himself in. He was in the road, cars would have had to drive round him.

And this man said I should not have done it. When I helped him, I was patronising him, and lessening him with my pity. He was an existentialist, he told me. That was not how people should behave to each other.

And I could not persuade him otherwise.

-No. Because he would not be arguing fairly. He would be seeking to win the argument, not caring about the truth or respect for you. He’s not an existentialist, he is a murderer. Lots of teenagers love caMoo and don’t murder their fathers. He is rationalising. He has done this thing, and he needs to live with himself. He has a Philosophy of Life!

-Or- he really does not understand. Any contact between human beings, even one as necessary to the person helped, from someone not seeking any reward, is an attack. All people are, at all times, in a state of nature with one another, without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal, in continual fear and danger of violent death. But he is a Philosopher, forsooth, and other people are fools and dupes. He can survive because the others are less ruthless and clear-sighted than he.

Paul Signac, In the time of harmony. the Golden Age is not passed, it is still to come