Don’t tell me the Rules

Doctor WhoDoctor Who is not science fiction.

I like science fiction. David Brin in Existence introduces talking crystals from Space, but explains what they are, what they are for, and how their makers are motivated to create them. He hints at a billion-year history of our galaxy and the interaction of different species, and the different artificially intelligent machines they create. All of it hangs together. I have no difficulty with suspending disbelief. The book also posits possible developments of the internet by the mid-21st century, and the effects of a great increase of inequalities in wealth. He even has an action scene where the hero thwarts an imminent terrorist threat, by exerting reason on diverse clues. I read it twice. The first time it seemed turgid, unnecessarily complex and drawn out. Her emotional reactions barely figure.

When a dalek eye-stalk emerges from a human forehead, it is magic rather than technology. The music changes, the face changes, the stalk grows. I happen to like the dramatic timing, it does not just appear, but does not try to milk the horror of the change too much for my taste. Then a woman overcomes her dalek implant by force of personality, egged on by The Doctor.

This makes no rational sense at all. We learned in an earlier episode that people died when so converted, and were zombified tools. Arguably, it makes no dramatic sense: everything is horrible, and then by magic everything is OK. It makes wonderful emotional sense: the strength of a human spirit triumphs over oppression and control.

tasha Lem

Doctor Who makes sense as myth. In The Time of the Doctor, he is able to resurrect his people simply by uttering his own name, but refuses to do so. He stands between his people, on the other side of a Crack in Time, and massed species previously seen as monsters or villains, now protecting our universe from the Time Lords. There are Goodies and Baddies here, but the former Goodies are made into baddies. Well, there are no Good or Bad people, only good or bad actions- perhaps not even that.

Generally, the Doctor arrives in a bad situation and makes it Better, but here he was unable to do so, merely to preserve the stand-off, and age to death over three hundred years. And then it all became all right: the Time Lords, who had wanted resurrection in “our Universe”, relinquished their demand and freed the Doctor, also resetting him to live another thousand years- which is OK because an episode thirty years ago said they could. The end was self-sacrifice by the tarnished ex-good guys, which delighted me.

The Day of the Doctor

The Time Warrior- SontaranMy earliest memory of television is of the Sontaran, Linx, removing his helmet. It was first broadcast when I was seven, and it feels like a child’s memory, shock burning it in. He is an ugly fellow. I found Sontarans terrifying, especially in The Sontaran Experiment, which featured a robot which captured human beings for torture, to test their resilience. When I saw the story again, this century, that robot which had so frightened me merely appeared camp.

I have been very much looking forward to The Day of The Doctor, and have watched the surrounding programmes and videos.  Below is the video of The Night of the Doctor. You need to have some knowledge of the programme to get anything out of it: you need to know that The Doctor travels through time and space in his Tardis, usually with a human companion, and when he is mortally injured he can “regenerate”, adopt a new, healthy body. This allows the actor to change and the programme to continue for fifty years.

But also, the video is set on Karn. In The Deadly Assassin, broadcast in 1976, it was established that a time lord could have only twelve regenerations, that is, thirteen incarnations. In The Brain of Morbius, broadcast the year before, it appears that there is no limit on the number of regenerations.

Dalek DressesSome Doctor Who fans say this is a matter of Canon, the rules of the Doctor Who universe, and so cannot be altered. This is expressed vehemently. Doctor Who is a programme about an immortal who drops in to bad situations, and makes them better. That is very attractive when the world is incomprehensible and scary. I am tempted to see Doctor Who canon as a thing I can understand and control, as a sop when I can control nothing else.

And- after fifty years Doctor Who has to contradict itself. The basic premise remains the same, alien with human companions makes bad situations anywhere in time and space better, but more arcane matters can be changed if the writers wish it. The canon-fanatic does not have control, even of that. It seems to me that fans accept this. “Is it entertaining?” is more important than “does it contradict a line from thirty years ago?” We let go of our need to control. We see the positive and the good, not the thing to whinge about.

As an introduction to The Day of the Doctor, here is The Night of the Doctor, set before all the Doctor Who broadcast this century, during the Time War between the Time Lords and the Daleks. He seeks to recruit a new companion, but she refuses because he is a Time Lord, as bad as a dalek (who are really, really bad). The Doctor, who has avoided involvement in the Time War, now in despair becomes a Warrior who will intervene in it.

The challenge for The Day of the Doctor is to produce a drama from all of this, which someone new to the programme can enjoy.

Don’t tell me the Rules is my review of The Day of the Doctor.

Sterbenfreude

File:Oliver Cromwell, Death mask (right).jpgHow much have you achieved, in your time on Earth?

It was quite a shock when I realised I am older than the Prime Minister- only four months, but still. I could blame his privileged upbringing and education at Eton and Cambridge, but by middle age one really should stop blaming ones childhood. Now I am older than the leaders of the three main parties, the only reason I could think of for supporting Scottish independence would be that Wee Eck is still older than I am. It is a changeable fashion: my father retired before he was older than the PM.

These things can reverse. I have been older than the last two Doctor Whos, but not the next one, so I can start looking up to him again.

There are other ways of dealing with the achievement of others. I may not have written about fifty symphonies, 27 piano concertos, 15 masses and 12 violin concertos, and I could not perform one of those piano concertos, but at least I have lived longer than Mozart- though not, yet, Bach or Beethoven, and my father has not outlived Copland. I am now older than George Orwell, Jane Austen, Jack London, F Scott Fitzgerald, Albert Camus and Oscar Wilde, Billie Holliday, John Lennon and Freddie Mercury, Alan Turing and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, so if my name is writ in water, at least I am still alive. I got these names from Celebrity Deaths sorted by age, on the Simon Fraser University website. The only Simon Fraser I recall gained notoriety by getting away with killing his son: he told the judges he had been asleep, dreaming of fighting a gorilla.File:Beethovendeathmask.jpg

Ha! I need not dwell on their death to belittle someone! Only a little imagination is required!

———————————————

Well. That was a bitter little abortion of a post. The germ was noticing that I am older than George Orwell was when he died. It has some comic potential: the little man getting one over on the powerful, or that particular little man being deluded, clinging to something small.

Schadenfreude literally translates as “harm joy”, and my coining sterbenfreude as “Death joy”. I express my own bitterness here, allowed free rein and without any admixture of qualities I find acceptable to the imaginary Other, or comfortable to myself. That gives it its bite, but frightens me: this is me speaking, and I don’t like it.

———————————————

This bitterness is not the whole of me. I genuinely do not know which of these is true:

If I let it out to play, it will be stronger as it will become habitual

If I let it out to play it will not draw strength from my fear of it

My desire is to be Positive. Which of these two theories do you think more likely?

Thief of life

I travelled back in time from a derelict cellar to a bank vault filled with gold.
As my heart stopped,
I saw my leg submerged in gold bars,
Then my vision went black.

The Trifecta challenge is to write a 33 word story on time travel.

Here are pictures of Gold:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/35/Gold_on_display.jpg

and diamonds:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8e/ThompsonDiamonds.JPGI love time travel stories. Doctor Who sometimes plays with the idea of time travel: in the Pyramids of Mars, the Doctor shows Sarah an alternative 1980s, where the baddie of the week (I found Sutekh utterly terrifying) has not been defeated.

In “A Sound of Thunder”, a man accidentally kills a prehistoric butterfly, with unfortunate effects on history.

In “Making History” Stephen Fry’s character kills Hitler as a child, and the consequences are terrible.

John Wyndham! Pawley’s peepholes on the Past: tour-buses of future-folk, come back to laugh at the idiocies of the present. He also did Parallel Universes quite well.

Some of Michael Moorcock’s stories play with the idea of time travel. In one, a man travels forward in time, and finds overwhelming light and colour- there is Everything, none of it has happened- and then back, to find blackness- it has happened, and cannot happen again.

Time travel stories give us what any stories give us: wish fulfilment and wish subversion, the human being realising things and changing, or not, relationships, people with secrets and revelations.

There is also Spectacle- the sight of a place, changing through accelerated time, in The Time Machine lives with me from childhood like the Incredible Shrinking Man fighting a spider or the Id monster of Forbidden Planet.

What, if any, time travel stories do you love?

Nihilism

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/0a/William_Blake_-_America._A_Prophecy%2C_Plate_1%2C_Frontispiece_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg/734px-William_Blake_-_America._A_Prophecy%2C_Plate_1%2C_Frontispiece_-_Google_Art_Project.jpgHow do you prove that we exist?

I am not sure I do, actually. Given that my metabolic processes are constant, I am not quite the same object that got out of my bed this morning, and given that I am constantly taking in sense-impressions, and processing them, I am not quite the same mind or soul either. If the words mind, soul, prove, we, exist have any meaning.

What would “exist” mean? If I am part of a simulation in an alien battle-computer deciding whether to invade this galaxy I imagine myself part of, I still “exist” in the sense that it behoves me to imagine that I do. Resistance is futile!

So, I can’t prove that I exist, never mind that we exist, but it appears useful to act as if there is a sequence of entities with a certain degree of continuity, which might be referred to as “Clare Flourish”, and that it is in a “world” where there are similar sequences of entities. I act as if my sense-impressions register something other than myself, in a useful manner which allows me to make predictions and decisions- until it doesn’t. I behave like a naïve realist, in other words.

Klovax asked this. She self-identifies as a nihilist. My understanding was that a nihilist believed nothing had value- Oh, OK, then- but her identification moved me to read further: if she finds value in nihilism, it is worth checking out. I turn to my Oxford Companion to Philosophy which tells me that nihilist is more usually a term of abuse, meaning someone who believes there is no justification for values or morality. So when Klovax tells me I have dodged the question, which is true, I could reply that she has no grounds to object to that. I choose to act as if values had meaning. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/06/William_Blake_-_Jerusalem%2C_Plate_1%2C_Frontispiece_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg/848px-William_Blake_-_Jerusalem%2C_Plate_1%2C_Frontispiece_-_Google_Art_Project.jpgI find hers a wonderful question, and am grateful.

I then had a look at the entry for existence. It tells me that “exist” does not express a property of objects, as verbs like “shine” or “fall” do, but a property of properties- to say “God exists” is to say “the property of God-hood is instantiated”.

This is not a book I get down from my shelves often.

It goes on to say that David Lewis espouses an idea called Modal Realism, in which Pegasus- or, I don’t know, Doctor Who- has full-blooded existence in other possible worlds. Lovely as the thought that The Doctor exists is, Lewis admits he is not “actual”. You see what I mean about “it depends what ‘exist’ means”.

The biggest metaphysical problem is why anything should exist at all. I am unaware whether there is an Answer to this question. When I read that God, angels and demons have necessary existence, but this does not mean that they necessarily exist, I give up on the thought of proving existence.

I do not share enough William Blake.

To Edinburgh

“It is impossible to experience, and to think one experiences.”

The man’s refined and sensitive appearance was enhanced by his tattoo, of vines and handwriting round his bicep (I did not get a proper look at it). I was looking for an opportunity to start talking, so commented on that line. I said how fascinating I found it, and asked what he was studying.

I am not sure it is true. If I take a mouthful, and it grasps my attention with particular flavours and textures, the feel on the tongue and between the teeth, I can both be present in my experience in my mouth, and notice I am having a wonderful experience. Yes, you begin to classify it, to assign words to it, which distance you from the experience itself, but the point of the words is to bring me as close as possible to reality, so I may leap off from them into an increasing understanding of reality.

His perspective is the architect’s. He explains that if you walk into a building, you have an experience of that building. If you take a photograph of the building, you pigeon-hole that experience. There are conventions of how we see, we see what we expect to see, we construct a 160° or so view but can only focus on a tiny area. If you look at a ripe tomato you see red, but when people saw an image showing just the skin of it without the shape to show it was a tomato, they saw yellows and greens and other shades.

We are both delighted and fascinated by now. “What do you do?” I am seeking to get to know myself, my desires, feelings and hurts. I realised the most important thing for me was to avoid feeling anger and fear, I have a fear reaction to that primary emotion, so I seek to trust my own emotional responses. Later, the airline pilot asks the same question, and I replied “Nothing”. So he said, “What did you do?” He can still classify me. I think, to strangers, my former answer is better: those I respect will classify me as I wish to be classified.

The look of a building has too much importance, architectural competitions are won by the building which looks best rather than the most appropriate experience of a building. Can you convey that with drawings and plans? He thinks he can, though the problem is conveying that to the clients. Words, again. I would have asked him about whether he could design an experience of the numinous into a building, or convey it in a drawing, but he gets off the train at Sheffield, to see the city council about a contract. I am surprised, and pleased, that an architect meeting a client can wear a black t shirt showing his tattoo, rather than a dark suit, white shirt and tie. The uniform shows conformity. I am glad conformity need not be thought to be a prerequisite of quality.

I change at Sheffield, and sit beside an academic. She is going from Leicester to York for a meeting about a joint project on the influence on the development of dance of the African diasporas, between 1946 and 2005 (shamelessly, I read over her shoulder). I notice the beauty of her eyebrows, the whiteness of her teeth, the care she has taken over the foundation on her cheek. Why a co-operation between universities? To get a different perspective. She says how many of the trains have been cancelled, we go on a raised bank between flooded fields. See how high the rivers are!

When she gets off, I join Mick and Chrissie, Quakers from Exeter who are going on holiday, first for two nights in Edinburgh then to Aviemore- not for the skiing, too early, but to see wildlife. There are Highland red squirrels there, I say, they have a distinctive ring round the base of the tail. Chrissie tells of watching a cat getting low into pouncing position with a young nestling, and the bird, apparently unconcerned, tottering up towards the cat- “saying, have you any food?, please be friends with me”. The cat backed off, lowered itself again to pounce, and the bird walked towards it again. Chrissie thought of interfering, but the bird seemed able to cope, and soon its parents would rescue it, dive-bombing the cat. We enjoy the views of the sea. Are we in Scotland yet? No idea- oh, that must be the Tweed. The border is just north of Berwick. Chrissie is a Doctor Who fan, very impressed that I remember the name of the Guelf, from 2005.

How will Chrissie recognise her friend? She has not seen her for years. You will recognise her. Normally she recognises by her Scottish accent, but that will not work here. I say goodbye, and walk to the paper-shop, where I meet my father.

Jellie-babies

I am spending a vast amount of time on the blog, and I comment on other blogs to bring the page-views in. I go to the tag finder to find LGBT posts, and comment, as we share an interest.

Some of the posts are from Evangelicals, Jellie-babies as my friend calls them, who rant away that Jesus calls gay sex sinful. I respond, because I speak fluent Evangelical, and it is a way I have of expunging the last vestiges of my internalised transphobia. Years ago, I would have read their stuff and worried they were right, but now I read it and know it is crap. I like to wind them up. More and more straight Christians are taking Equality for LGBT folk as their battle too- this blog, that denomination– and the oppressors get more strident, for they know their time is short. (Rev. 12:12- see what I mean about speaking Evangelical?)

Here is a poor man who, though gay, believes that gay relationships are wrong. Movingly, he said that he was frightened to go to church, even though he is “side B”- he considers gay sex is sinful, and so eschews it. So the Oppressors should have compassion for him, if not for other gay men. The term “side B” comes from the Gay Christian Network- so he is exposed to gay Christians. There is hope for him. I said to him,

That you are Side B, gay, and terrified to go to church shows how far from Christ the churches you go to are.

Acts 26:14: It hurts you to kick against the goads.

I hope it touches him.

Then again there was this other blog, where they glory in their oppression, calling it Christian truth. They say we are not “born that way”- “how can one be born having sex?” They say that if people leave churches because of the homophobic bigotry, it only shows they were not “Saved” in the first place. They mock, and reassure each other of their rightness. So I go in and tell them they are wrong, and get ignorant, predictable and self-righteous responses back. But then I left this comment, which was published on the site:

Actually, having quoted Ezekiel and metaphorically shaken the dust off my shoes, I should really not come back, but I want to think through a verse which I have never understood. How is it that people can not have ears to hear, so that they cannot turn and be saved? Is this God being needlessly cruel? No. I think that person is you- and you have no ears to hear because you have no willingness to see things from another’s point of view.

Why do I dress female and use a female name? Because I want to. Because it is better than the alternative. Because being born this way is more important than being born with testicles. I too am “born this way”. But you cannot imagine that. You have no ears to hear.

Oddly enough, after a week the blogger has not responded. I dare to hope that what I have said might have made him think! But another commenter alluded to John 15:19:

As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

Misuse of that verse allows you to hermetically seal yourself from humanity and reality. The angrier people get with him, the more he knows he’s right.

The God Complex, part 2

How can I have faith in God, and be an adult?

The first reason is, this is my experience. Synchronicities throughout my life, moving me towards growth and healing. Every hair on my head numbered? It feels that way.

Second, it is the experience of others. Forgive me, but all that New Age stuff- the Golden Light project which I am now following and which blesses me, the Law of Attraction, a Reality Computer programmed by our thoughts, is moving towards a reality which was long before found by Quakers, Sufis, Baha’is, Franciscans.

Third, I have taken to heart a paradox. There is no God. God exists. As my psychiatrist friend said, he could help most people except the ones who vomited their problems onto his consulting room floor and said “You deal with it”. My idea of God fits my idea of Reality, my adult responsibility and all, and all my life I have received unlooked-for and unimaginable Gifts (often quite painful at the time) and Blessings.

What God is- Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, whatever- I accept as myth. I do not need to make a decision as to whether I believe in the Resurrection, for example; I am aware of the image, and I treat it with respect. It does not matter whether it happened, it only matters whether it is true.

I have faith in so many things I cannot understand, from the strange propensity of other drivers to drive on the left too, so we can all rush along at 70mph, or the amazing medical solutions to problems people I know have, the diversity of Earth and Universe, the force of Love and Life and Reality, and so I am happily Panentheist.

Oh, and I had a cliffhanger. How Doctor Who is that?

The God Complex

On Saturday, Doctor Who refuted religion. There was a monster like a Minotaur or Nimon (I recognised the reference, I am a mad keen long term fan) which terrified its victims into relying on their Faith. It then took their faith and fed on it, killing them. A gambler had faith in Fortuna, a blogger (not the most flattering portrait) had faith in his conspiracy theories. Amy had faith in The Doctor, so he had to destroy it (“I really am just a mad man in a box”) so that she could stand on her own two feet, like an adult, and the monster, cheated of its prey, died.

And I thought of the poor souls in Zone Six of Shikasta, pointlessly keening,

Save me, God,
Save me, Lord,
I love you,
You love me.
Eye of God,
Watching me,
Pay my fee,
Set me free.

And then they vanish into a whirlpool in the sand.

So. How can I have faith in God, and be an adult? Am I really just being childish, and clinging onto fantasies, avoiding responsibility?