Empathy III

I hate common sense. Here we are, pontificating about giving. You have to do it sensibly, or you can do harm, he says. For example, if you give to a beggar, you enable them to continue in that lifestyle. Charity can produce dependency- in Africa, people from the village say “That pump you gave us broke down. Fix it.”

This produces nods and noises of assent round the room. Am I the only one disagreeing? What makes you think those Africans are dependent? They might have any number of ways of dealing with a broken pump, but demanding that the NGO do something is surely something worth trying. And- You are not my tribe, if you want to feel you are Good by doing Good for me, you should at least do me some good rather than giving me a pump that breaks down.

And- giving may enable the beggar, but not giving does not incentivise them to become independent. If they could see a better way open to them, they would take it. Spurning them reinforces their worthlessness. That is why Francis says you should give generously, look them in the eye and smile. Benefits sanctions are not the kick up the arse which someone needs to get on, but the kick in the teeth which will crush them.

I hate common sense because you can make these Rational Arguments, making you feel good about not giving- for, what is the purpose of Rational Argument if not to make you feel good?- and not fit the actual thing happening now. Rules never do. Love does.

Though I have only ever dealt with individual cases. If you deal in policy, you have to consider the bigger picture.

I don’t know why Quakers talk so much. Maybe we should not be talking before going into meeting. It does not aid centring down. Isn’t it lovely to see all these people? That man has the look of a man who is Looked After. His jaunty straw hat is someone’s way of protecting his pate from sunburn, I feel. It’s his way of looking down at the floor, or something about his face- it’s a feeling I get from lots of stuff, some of which might be unconscious, and it may be mistaken. I hope he is comfortable here. If he is embarrassed about being dependent, I hope he is not made to feel that.

One reason for talking is to increase understanding of each other, but this morning we produce more heat than light. It is not true that no Quaker can be a Tory, but there are not that many of them. I have been leafleting for Labour, I say.

“You’re not saying you want Jeremy Corbyn negotiating Brexit?” he asks, as if Jez and Donald Tusk would arm wrestle then Britain would be sunk. Trained negotiators we do not have and cannot afford do the negotiation.

“I want a Brexit for all the people, not a Brexit for Billionaires” I say sententiously. This adds nothing. It is a sound bite. It will not bring us together, it is a way of shutting down communication. Would a Tory Government trample on all rights of workers, consumers and the environment as I suggest? I can articulate arguments. He says if people do not vote for strike action, they should not strike. I say 40% of those eligible voting for strike action is an impossible target. A 50% turnout is unusual. We were unclear about the rules, so I have just looked them up. All we are doing, here, is stating the arguments of our own side, even in words which are other people’s.

I say I need ESA, and F. tells me of being dumped on her own resources in her teens. The iron entered her soul and she realised how capable she is. I hear this as a judgment. I do not trust myself, or the World. Bad things will happen, and I will be incapable. I am delighted that she bounced back, but that is not relevant to me. “Do you have any relatives?” she asks. I say my sister refused to let me see her children after I transitioned in 2002. We are not in contact. She tells me how her brother spurned her generosity, and how she is going to try to see him again. He accused her of rubbing his nose in the fact that she was better off than him when she gave him a gift. “I’m no taking that!”

I can empathise with him. It’s not a constructive position, but I see where he’s coming from. And that does no good at all. Then she tells me how she hates the Nationalism and Catholic/Protestant sectarianism in Glasgow. She wore a green coat and someone spat at her.

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.

Bill

Why do violent men want to tell me their life stories? He started talking to me at the cycle stands, so I said good morning to him. His name is – he reeled off at least eight names, including “Ulysses”- What’s your name? “I’m Abigail,” I said. “You are named after the love of my life, who lives in Southampton,” he said. He asked if I would like to go to his girlfriend’s birthday party, on 5 May in the ——– pub by the ——— centre. Come between 8 and 9 and he will give me an invite. He then told me he had read me as transgendered, because of my voice.

“But I don’t care about that,” he said. “I don’t mind if you want to be transgendered.”

No, I did not say, “Gosh! Thanks! That’s really kind of you, permitting a stranger to do this harmless thing.” Rather, I said that I don’t care either, and I don’t mind people knowing. That’s why I do this- I took off my helmet, and put on my wig. “My friend said I should go to the toilet over there and change in private, but I don’t care,” I said.

He can do anything, because he is going to prison. He’s just been cycling in the Arndale Centre, which is against the law. He kicked the soft tyre of the bicycle lying on the ground- “I’ve got those inner-tubeless tyres”.

-It’s great to be transgendered. You can be a man and have sex with a woman, have sex with a man and get pregnant
-We don’t have womb transplants.
-You could adopt…

Someone has dropped a letter from the Council. An award of benefit, a demand for payment, something more personal- he picks it up, reads it, says “Interesting” and stuffs it in his pocket. A woman on walking sticks picks her way, slowly, resentfully, past the bicycle lying across the usual path round the corner.

He showed me his T-shirt, and explained it. It is black, with pink Gothic writing. “Real men wear pink!” I said. “Yes, because we’re not afraid to show our heterosexuality. ‘Gay’ used to mean happy,” he said. On the front, it reads,

United
Patriots
that
Hammers
Excite.

It’s an acrostic. Up the Hammers. On the back, it says FTW then ADGD then there’s a pink silhouette of a seated cat. What do I think FTW stands for?

“Fxxk the World,” I said. He did not demur. It could be Floreat the Wombles, I suppose. GD is Gail Dawson his girlfriend, and AD is their daughter, the most wonderful thing he has ever created. The cat is he himself.

Anyway, he’s been charged with disobeying a policeman who told him to stop and put his hands behind his back, and breaking the wrist of that policeman. The policeman put him on the ground and caused this- he points to a graze on his forehead. He’s been in prison twice, but only [slang term].

-What?
-On remand.

He has studied Jujitsu, a bit of Karate, a bit of Akido. Jujitsu is soft power, go in soft then hit hard. “Use the energy of the opponent against him,” I say. “No, that’s Judo,” he says. He could have really hurt that policeman and he didn’t. He shows his stances. You bend the front knee, or your opponent could break your leg, he says. Yes, kick the knee. If his front leg is bent he can’t be pushed over. Go on, push me as hard as you can. I push him, and he indeed does not fall. But if the front leg is straight and the rear bent he can be pushed over. He rolls on the ground. “It’s always OK to fall, because you can roll into a break-fall,” he says, “Just always keep a guard and be ready for a scissor-kick”. He mimes it once or twice, then takes my arm gently and shows how he could break my wrist.

He is a soldier of fortune, but the British Army rejected him. He used to live next door to some Provos, and they were friends with a real IRA man who taught him all he knows about soldiering. Like, how to make a Molotov cocktail, with whisky or other alcohol, a light-bulb bomb- drill a hole in the metal base, fill it with paraffin, fill the hole with wax, they switch it on, the wax heats up and melts and boom. He showed him how to make a fertiliser bomb, a matchbox would be enough. Bleach bomb-

-Yes, bleach in the toilet, something else in the cistern. [I want to keep up with him.]

No, a bleach bomb. Someone blew up his garage in Southampton with a bleach bomb. He came home and there was this hole blown through the back wall. The other garages did not blow up, because there was thick ice and snow on top of the garage.

-Absorbed all the energy.
-Exactly. Anyway, they had rigged up the garage so a brick swung down and hit him on the head. He rigs up his garage with booby-traps.

-Fishing line with hooks?
-No, you don’t need hooks, just twine at neck, waist and ankle level as a trip wire, a brick to swing down and hit the head, then you’re in the dark tied in the twine. You have to let policemen postmen and bailiffs onto the curtilege of your property but not over the threshold. He sets up his booby traps when he goes out- when he is in, he is the protection.

-I can’t remember your name.
-Just call me Bill. Do you like to be ‘Abi’ or ‘Gail’?
-I like the whole thing. I am Abigail.
-All right then. Come to the party. Bring £10 to pay me so I can pay for the drinks, because charity begins at home. And bring me a present, something Hammers related, maybe a keyring with a hammer on it, I’ll get lots of those, not that Lionel Messi thing because it’s £350, you don’t have to spend that much. He’s been a Hammers fan since his aunt took him to a game, she had a spare ticket, she asked him if he wanted to go, he said who’s paying? she said You are.

I thought the party was for his girlfriend.

I have to go, as I am late for tea with my friend. I wonder if he has tried stand-up. He is highly intelligent with wonderful felicity with words. He may be going to prison. See also Ben.

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.