The art of accompaniment II

Matisse, painted blue nudeI cannot encounter another human being without being open. Any preconceptions I have of them, and especially any demands I might make of them, get in the way. I am not properly encountering, now, of course: I do not walk my talk because I am in conscious incompetence; but I see the possibility, and sometimes try it.

What the Pope says is beautiful- approach the other with sandals off, as on holy ground- and helps me see that conservative Catholicism is completely worthless. It is a set of moral rules, and frightened, hectoring demands that we all keep them. It is not even of use as ascetic discipline, because the demands are made on others, and the demands one emphasises are those one may accomplish easily, from inclination or circumstance. It might give a fragile sense of community, all people believing the same way until one has to be Cast Out for Sin, but at the cost of preventing any meaningful encounter with another, or any understanding of oneself.

Liberal Catholicism sees the failure of conservative Catholicism, but is hardly better in the Pope’s definition, which states the “objective evil” of the other’s acts, even if not culpable for particular reasons. Thomas Aquinas adapted Aristotle for mediaeval Christians, and is now a “Doctor” of the church, one of only 33 (three of whom are women). His explanation is the orthodox belief, though superseded by newer philosophy. In the same way, contraception is seen as always wrong, though experience shows the evolved human baby-making drives are quite strong enough to overcome a person’s rational commitment to contraception.

So the Liberal Catholic seeks to encounter the other, with a set of preconceptions. When this other is healthy and oriented towards God, s/he will behave in the correct Catholic way, eschewing contraception, celibate if gay. That prevents the encounter, prevents the Liberal Catholic from seeing the value in the other’s ways of being. The Catholic is trapped into thinking only her/his way can be good. Even for the liberal, there comes a moment where the other who sees the world differently must be excluded, because that other is incorrigible. In trying to remove the speck from the other’s eye, the Liberal whacks her over the head with the log in his own. At best, the liberal will tolerate church attendance of the Bad person, but not any teaching position or participation in the Eucharist. There are the Good people, who eat the bread, and the Bad people, who may receive a blessing or not as they choose.

When Francis said “Who am I to judge?” he went on The problem isn’t this (homosexual) orientation — we must be like brothers and sisters. The problem is something else, the problem is lobbying either for this orientation or a political lobby or a Masonic lobby. He would welcome us in, and insist on his rules.

The Quaker way is to encounter the other without demands. Of course I make assumptions about how another is. I want things from people, and am perturbed or angry when they do not do as I wish. I project that as judgment on the other. This is contrary to the commands of Jesus. It excludes me from the Kingdom of Heaven. Seeing it, I have a chance of alleviating it.

Comfortable words

Nasturtiums with the Painting Dance, 1 MatisseTibago has been reading “How to defend the faith without raising your voice“. I challenged him in a comment to state Catholic doctrine on homosexuality, and he did so, rather well, I thought, putting it positively. His church is against discrimination, though when I googled “Catholic school dismiss lesbian teacher” I found Barbara Webb, Lisa Reimer, and this case from Italy, then gave up in dismay. Gay people can have “rich, deep, intense and fulfilling” same sex friendships without sex, and it is a shame that people seeing such friendships think the people are gay says Tibago- so JH Newman Wasn’t Gay!!

These are comfortable words. A straight Catholic could mouth them and feel good about himself, believing them reasonable and loving. I unpacked them a bit in the comments, saying what we hear is a demand that we never have a partner, and a statement that our expression of love is worth less than that of straights. To feel good, that straight Catholic has to lack empathy. And not everyone uses such apparently loving words: another site is happy to use words like “abomination”, “sodomite” and “hell”.

I had a look at what the Catholic Bishops had to say to parents finding their children were gay. They refer to prejudiced language offensive to gays as “humor”. They say that on finding out, parents might feel anger, mourning, fear, guilt, shame and loneliness. They tell parents to seek out therapy, and perhaps fake conversion “therapy”, though the Bishops do not require this in all cases. Parents should challenge their Matisse Lilacschildren if they have a partner, urge them to return to the Church through the sacrament of penance, and join up with other anti-gay parents. Such children could not have any sort of leadership or service role in the church if anyone thought they were having sex. But again there is lots of blah about Love, Respect, Compassion and Nature to make them feel better about themselves. Gods Grace is available to and sufficient for anyone open to receiving it, so if the gays are having sex it is entirely their fault.

I wondered for whose benefit this was. Celibacy freely chosen might be a spiritual discipline doing good for a person; celibacy enforced by others with backsliding and fear is not. God is love, and God’s commands are for our good- so how does enforced celibacy benefit us, when it is not good for the man to be alone, and better to marry than burn? God’s commands are for our individual good, not merely the good of the Community- though it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed, every hair on my head is numbered, which appears to show individual care. How would celibacy benefit me? Googling found me Celibrate, which says that sexual abstinence is healthier and more fulfilling than acting on homosexual urges, but does not say why.

Why Matisse? I did not want my post to be entirely depressing.


Across a crowded room 1

Across a crowded roomTo the Matisse exhibition at Tate Modern. I read that he first used cut paper shapes to work out the arrangements of objects in his paintings, but when he made maquettes for the book Jazz, he found printing “removes their sensitivity”, and began painting paper then cutting it to create art works in their own right.

The exhibition starts with a video, showing the artist cutting paper so quickly, then Jazz is exhibited, maquettes and finished book. A queue forms to go along the wall, and people puzzle out Matisse’s text with our execrable French. Concentrating on this is a bit too hard for me. I puzzle out that Flying gives an experience the imagination cannot give, and something about Love, God and Freedom. The lithograph “Shapes”, with one protruding slightly outside the rectangle, offends my stultifying bourgeois sense of propriety- even now, in the Twenteens- and I have an idea of the gift Matisse gave; but only with that gallery glimpse which I have photographed do I really get the delight and playfulness of this art. Rather than the usual display, one art work at a time for proper contemplation, the small pictures cover this wall, and I am delightfully overwhelmed.

Christmas EveHe may not have been a conventional Catholic, but it seems he had experiences one might call God, and I would like to see the Vence chapel he designed- windows, wall paintings, and robes for the priest. Here is a charcoal outline of the Virgin and child, his arms spread wide for the Cross or in delight and welcome, huge stars on her robe. Those chasubles will be gorgeous.

Blue nudes IV, the first of the set, is painstaking, with many cut shapes arranged to form the art work, but the other Blue Nudes have one or two cut pieces. The Acrobats too have lots of pieces of paper: we are encouraged to imagine the body in the work moving and flowing as the body of the subject did.

The first rooms are the most crowded, and after I can sit with the Large Decoration with Masks, a low hum of conversation behind me, where just nine lines form a beautiful face: one line is eyebrow and nose, two thick lines form an eye. This is ordered and symmetrical. In the Parakeet and the Mermaid, things- apples, hands, fronds of seaweed? surround both. The parakeet is one curve returning to make a point at its tail.

At the end, my attention is again caught by that stained glass created for the Time-Life building in New York; but here the maquette is round the corner, and I prefer it to the finished work.

“Obama as Hitler”

Never was there a post more needing illustrated by Godward- pictures of sane, beautiful people doing their thing to balance out the descriptions of madness. I did a google image search, but would not pollute my blog with the stuff that emerged. Do it only if you have a strong stomach.

There are pictures of the President with a toothbrush moustache, pictures of Obama, Hitler and Stalin, pictures of him waving with the subtitle “Seig Heil”. One picture compares calls for those other than the little people to pay taxes to Hitler inciting hatred of Jews. “Fiscally responsible achievers who paid mortgages on homes they could afford are responsible for your misery!”

Mmm. That is an interesting one. I do find Leona Helmsley hateful, but that is based on reason. The way the richest one percent take more and more of the wealth while others are squeezed is more a product of globalisation and the greater increase of people with skills than work for them to do- and if globalisation is the cause, that does not mean trying to prevent globalisation is the solution.

Mmm. Maybe I should take down that Leona Helmsley reference. It is an appeal to emotion. I am dealing with the whipping up of fear and hatred here, so should be particularly careful to avoid it myself. I leave it in to illustrate the matter, and, well, because this is a blog. I criticise it because Leona Helmsley is not typical. So we see a way of propagandizing: that cartoon seeks to widen the Good People to people who have paid off their mortgage, and people who still believe they can- place a divide just below them, to the scrounging improvident workshy. My allusion seeks to widen the Good People who should be on my side, and portray the bad people as the rich: anyone richer than you, perhaps. This us and them, they are the enemy, is so destructive- indeed disastrous.

It is so tempting. If you do that google image search- one of the main horrors of it is the exuberance, the joy of invention of it. It is as creative as tax avoidance schemes (Oops).

When a fbfnd described going to the post office and finding two men outside with an “Obama as Hitler” sign, who catcalled her, a commenter said that had happened to her too, again outside a post office. “But that’s insane”, I think. The reality of it is terrifying.

When some in Rwanda dehumanised others, they called them “cockroaches”. Dehumanising the President, some call him “a Muslim”. It is so hard to ascribe degrees of vileness to such hatred, but I think the American tactic is slightly viler. Not the people who employ it, though, as that is to fall into the same trap. When I am absolutely clear about abhorring the sin, that is the time to make sure I love the sinner.

That job

That job would be perfect for me. It is what I have done for years, it has its irritations but I can make something of it, achieve something worthwhile, probably please the funders, take pleasure in it. The salary is reasonable, and the location is good: living nearby I could get to convenient groups of healers, spiritual people, do a bit of stand-up. And they invited me to apply. I applied for a job with them in June, so when they advertised they emailed me to let me know: Dear Clare, attaching my application letter and CV from last time.

And- looking at it, I broke down in tears. I could not face it. I did a fair bit of avoidance activity, and put it off several days. Then I sat down to the application on Thursday, saying what I have done, what I can do, why I am good for them.

What got me to do the application was a law of attraction thing:

Specifically, “I am worthy”. “I am not worthy” has been holding me back. I am not good enough, I will be found out, I will be laughed at, I will be judged, where is it me doing the judging, and in anticipation, and far more harshly than other people would.

“Chatter” in the head is a concept from the common understanding of Buddhism, the Monkey mind. There was a debate on facebook whether “Abundance” here leads to greed: I consider it does not: a state of abundance has no threat, and it is from fear of threat that I snatch at things, fearing not getting what I need.

I am Worthy of Abundance. This does not lead to a “me, first” attitude, doing down others, necessarily: I am one worthy spiritual being among others. It prompts me properly to look after myself. I have taken so much in about my wrongness, so much false shame, and it does no good to me or anyone else.