Wisdom at Greenbelt

An author, Linda Hurcombe, said to me in the volunteers’ tent,

Abigail you are an incredible person.

I breathed the words in. I am learning the depth of my gifts, and my difficulties. I kind of know that, but I asked her to write it down so I could absorb the affirmation, and she added,

I love you.

In that tent there were urns for tea, biscuits, phone charging and good conversation. Outside, loos and water taps, the shade of trees and a slight breeze.

Ilia Delio contrasted Transhumanism, a rationalist attempt to control the world, with Posthumanism, a way of seeking wholeness in an age of fragments. Matter and consciousness are two aspects of the same stuff. Love is the core energy of the Universe, which is undivided wholeness. We hope for the end of the liberal concept of the autonomous subject for a new subjectivity, integrated into the World and embedded in technology which extends us.

And then I went to sleep, because it was all too much for me.

The Revd. Rachel Mann transitioned aged 22, passed, and came out in her forties. Daringly she hinted Christ was like a trans woman: when Mary kisses the baby Jesus they “share this moment of their strangeness together”, their outsider status.

As usual I joined a group for the Communion, and after they invited me to share their picnic lunch. It was fun and moving. We sang,

Reality is sharp
It cuts at us like a knife
Everyone we know
Is in the fight of their life
We believe in a better way

Leunig said drawing intuitively was not ascending into cleverness but descending into something primal. Celebrate the elusive, fleeting and intangible. He does not like being slandered. He was called wrong like an antivaxxer or something. I think, I am in my own self-slander and criticism so that others’ seems unremarkable, but keeps mine topped up and simmering.

The need to possess objects and have experiences is crazy. Leunig has a poem, The Joy of Missing Out. He used to draw political cartoons, and one day included a duck. Why? Because it needed a duck. They have a rounded beak for dabbling. They seem friendly. Later he was told it was a psychoanalytic symbol of transcendence.

He seeks mature innocence, not naivete but wisdom. He can be the voice of voiceless people, and unexpressed grief. To end a world of Them and Us we need cooperation and forgiveness.

Nadia Bolz-Weber asked why does the church reach chastity when Love is so good for us? The Church preaches Purity culture, that sex is dangerous, you must suppress all sexual thoughts, as if God wants you disconnected. Sex is an energy infusing life, and the Church stops us finding our power. There is a hostile obsession with the sex of others.

Like swords into ploughshares, she melted down purity rings women gave her into a sculpture of a vagina. Hearing her, I feel rage and hope.

She wanted the first words her daughter heard from her about sex not to be fear of STDs or pregnancy but positivity. Learn how your body reacts, and what delights you.

She was freed from anger when she stopped thinking dualistically. With a Fundamentalist upbringing she still judged women preachers, even though she was one. A voice inside would say how dare you do that. So she made friends with the voice. Grace creates acceptance.

I find myself gasping with the strength of my feeling, my resistance to it. I need to accept the feeling and enter my power.

She wants church rules of Do rather than Do Not. She includes trans people automatically: she says to “brothers sisters and siblings, queer straight cis trans, bodies are holy.”

We move in the Church not from vice to virtue but from imagined virtue to Christ. I would say, from the virtues I craved to the virtues God created in me.

Later, she talked of the Song of Songs, of magnificent bodies, not of vanity but aplomb.

A man who spent time with “extremists” said how hard it is to be Tommy Robinson, with all the hate targeted at him, and how hard he works, making placards until 3am. We won’t convert his followers by shouting at them.

In the URC tent I took a card, hand-made with lace, reading True friendship comes when silence between two people is comfortable.

Outrage, pain and anger- the answer?

How can we bear the injustice in the World, without being overwhelmed? How can we oppose injustice effectively?

Nadia Bolz-Weber at Greenbelt said she did not pick the low-hanging moral outrage fruit. She did an interview about pornography, and a Conservative commentator used one line from it to publish an article with a clickbait title, Feminist “Pastor” says porn can be ethical. He did this to get ad revenue. Then his readers all click, and get riled, and have a pleasant feeling of righteous anger. Then The Federalist picked up the story. People are angry, because sites want clicks. The anger produces no good at all, no worthwhile change, just greater self-righteousness and division. So what to do?

She also says her husband was a wonderful human being but with her lover now she is truly loved and it has released her softness. She can still do acerbic stand-up Nadia but does not want to.

Michael Leunig drew cartoons on a wipeable sheet with a camera. He showed his little man and how simply he could show different emotions with a slightly different shape of mouth or eye. He says he draws intuitively. When he has a conscious idea of what his picture might be it often turns out badly. So he starts to play on paper and something emerges. He wanted his time in the Playhouse to be a conversation, and microphones got passed round, but he was not understanding the questions. Several times he would look puzzled and say, “what?” And we did not repeat ourselves.

I wondered if it was our accent- he grew up in Melbourne- and our politics, so I used an Australian example, Andrew Bolt mocking Greta Thunberg as autistic, but his face still showed incomprehension. I talked about anger and how there were people seeking to channel our anger for nefarious ends; so I was grateful for him making us happy. He wasn’t sure about happy. Be kind. Be like children. I got applause for my question. We need activist energy not sucked into the anger outrage machine.

After I got chatting and a woman suggested Leunig’s incomprehension had been about the miserable stuff. Many questions made a narrative: goodgoodgood positive possibility; but- angstangstangst; so- what? Or, Help! Except for the man who asked Leunig to draw a teapot, which he drew on the character’s head.

Mmm. Just tune the angst out- at least when it’s clear it is old anger, recycled, not doing any good. That could be a plan.

Thinking about this, I tried it. I walked past the Action for Children stall (she needed to explain it was formerly National Children’s Home) slowly enough for the woman there to call me over. She told me how AfC had their 150th anniversary, and marked it with a report on how childhood had changed over that time and the difficulties of childhood now. As she listed them, I allowed myself to feel the sadness and puzzlement and hurt they evoked in me, and as she went on I showed misery in my face. When I closed my eyes and bowed my head she asked if I was alright and whether the festival was too much for me, and directed me to the Haven where there was emotional support available. Then I explained what I was trying: allowing the feeling and emotion to flow in the moment without filter. It needs work. I am alright, just not filtering.

Extinction Rebellion did a talk, and as I walked past I heard of affinity groups. I believe I will not take personal action against DSEI, and am sad about that. I don’t know if it really is my leading and I am bottling it because I don’t believe I am strong enough, or I would like it to be my leading because that would make me feel good about myself but realise it isn’t. Or I am conflicted, part of me wants to participate and part does not.

I don’t have an answer. Knowing and accepting my feelings as I increasingly do is good. Being aware of the ways the internet can channel them harmfully and seeking not to be so caught up is a possibility. I might notice when I am caught up. Or realise that the wash of emotion happens, and sometimes I am feeling in the moment, knowing my feeling, and empowered by that.

Preaching joy may not work, though. I saw Vickie Cooper signing her book “The Violence of Austerity”. I went over to say that I can’t afford my rent and my savings are draining but- here we are in the beauty of the Field and the people! And she talked of how bad austerity is. She gave me her book without charge, signing it “Keep fighting the Struggle and don’t let them get you down”. So now I have to read it.

I get better with feelings. Practice helps. This analysis helps. What do you think, Friends?