Language, truth and reality

Winston Smith wrote in his diary, Freedom is the freedom to say that 2+2=4. That means there is a shared reality, where we all know that 2+2=4, and each person has the freedom to state it. Someone riposted no, freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=5. Powerful people state what reality is, for example We have always been at war with Eastasia, and the rest of us have to go along with that.

People on the moderate left tend to believe in reality humans can investigate, where, say, climate catastrophe is being caused by anthropogenic CO2 emissions, and Mr Trump is wilfully denying that, but who knows what Trump believes? He really might believe something because it is in his interests to do so.

When I was a child there were nine planets, and there are now, as far as I know: but Pluto has been redefined as a dwarf planet and Konstantin Batygin’s planet nine has been hypothesised but not observed. I could not assess the weight of Batygin’s evidence, and I could not say whether there is some agreed need to observe it before declaring it exists though there appears to be. When I was a child, a kilobyte was 1024 bytes, and now it is 1000. 1024 bytes is now a kibibyte.

A sacked writer about taxation issues, echoing Winston, wants the freedom to say “Sex is real”. Of course it is, but not all the implications she wants to make from that follow. I don’t name her because her power comes from her notoriety and I call it notoriety rather than fame because I disapprove of her. Here I am, trying to mould reality with the words I use. I say “Trans women are women” and you agree with me, and freedom and human diversity and flourishing are enhanced, and she and her ilk say “transwomen are men” and they are not disagreeing with us, they are using language differently. It is a power struggle not a search for truth.

Michel Foucault said, We must cease once and for all to describe the effects of power in negative terms: it ‘excludes’, it ‘represses’, it ‘censors’, it ‘abstracts’, it ‘masks’, it ‘conceals’. In fact power produces; it produces reality; it produces domains of objects and rituals of truth.

You wanted to tell me something was going to happen that I would find difficult. You called me up and asked me not to tell anyone, and I said I was minded to promise but would not do so yet. You explained slowly and carefully why, and I agreed that was brave and possibly the right thing to do. I then promised, and started trying to explain something (I hope my allusions here are sufficiently nebulous not to have broken that promise). I was concerned I might be telling you things I had told you before, and I wanted to tell quickly a lot of information, and I became incoherent. A sentence might make sense by itself but not with the one before or after, then the sentences broke down. I don’t know what I said.

Richard Rohr says the myths of heroic sacrifice or redemptive suffering can prevent us from rebounding from rock bottom. I don’t know what keeps me here. Possibly the prejudice of others, possibly some error in me, wrongful desires or misperceptions. Evolution says that if we are more likely to reproduce if we don’t see reality, then we won’t see reality.

I felt that I wanted to play the Chopin A♭ major prelude, and wondered if it would be too much work, my wrist and finger strength, my dexterity having faded, even the brain structures necessary having atrophied with lack of use. (The plastic brain is another truth new since my childhood.) It is beautiful. Those leaps in the left hand when the first melody comes back fortissimo are difficult. Could I learn it again? Could I apply myself, which would mean trusting myself?

I have difficulty knowing what I want, especially when it makes no sense to me.

I wanted to write, just now, thinking this would get me somewhere. I was weeping while hand-washing my towels. I thought, and the thought seemed like a huge revelation, if I can realise when I am incoherent possibly I could realise when I was resisting the world, rather than acting to change it?

And, perhaps, if I stopped trying so hard to mould reality, I could see it?

After, I read in Richard Rohr: Humility is the truth. That is to say, humility is the capacity to accept whatever happens, peacefully. Then you can decide whether God is calling you simply to accept the situation, or to do something to improve or correct it. Humility is a constant and permanent disposition that puts one in tune with the universe and with whatever is happening in the present moment.

Spirit of Life

Am I safe? Yes- until I am not.
Am I good? Yes- until I am not.
I am powerful, until I am powerless.

I am not sure I fully agree with Paul, but what he says makes some psychological sense. What does he mean? I do the very thing I hate. I agree that the law is good. I will what is right, but I cannot do it. When I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. Who will rescue me from this body of death?

What is the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus [that] has set [me] free from the law of sin and death? What is that law of sin? It seems to me, wrestling with the passage in Meeting, that the law of sin is an external standard of Right- not just the 630 commandments of the Torah, but every external standard, every set of rules for conduct no matter how well-intentioned, every attempt to keep safe by telling others what to do. Every standard imposed from outside, even if I accept it and think it is a good standard and want to live by it.

The spirit of life in Christ has set me free. If I walk according to the spirit of life within me, I will do Good- for I am Love as God is Love. Any other Rule is impossible to obey. And yet we feel unsafe, and we feel threatened by the Others, so Christianity since Paul is filled with these sets of rules. A trans man I met had been subjected to “Heavy Shepherding”, where his church did not believe in his ability to make correct decisions for himself, so his pastor had to vet each one. That comes from Hell not Heaven. I am not safe, and no-one is safe from me. Or, I am safe and good, until I am not. Yet we are children of God, brothers and sisters, so we will act in love.

One ministered on decluttering- not just stuff, but relationships, ideas and memories. Why keep a memory and worry at it like poking a bruise? I said to her after, because it still has something to teach me. My mother’s lack of understanding had so wounded me from the age of nine to 44, when I accepted it. I recounted the memory. She had experience as a teacher, of parents driving their children to achievements they never realised. That’s close enough. I had accepted my mother’s lack of understanding, but today I accepted my powerlessness and inability to communicate my own feeling, which was a lack of confidence. I wanted to be confident.

I am powerful until I am not. Sometimes I am not as powerful as I would have wished. IT FEELS LIKE DEATH! IT SCARES ME! But it isn’t death, not really. I am still alive, even well-situated and happy. If only I could recognise that.

In the afternoon, in the Quaker business meeting, we considered whether we should become a Charitable Incorporated Organisation or remain Unincorporated when we register as a charity. This is fairly dry and technical. What makes it beautiful is the way we deal with it, in discussion before and in the moment of the Meeting. I am open to persuasion, and I am not going just to give in. So I talk to the former managing director of a company with factories in several countries, and feel somewhat abashed, the queer benefit claimant. He could seek to dominate, and I would defy him; instead, we respond in Loving equality.

Trust V

This is a strange mood.

I might think it despair, exhaustion, inanition.
It might be Acceptance:
seeing the real, and accepting it
though if I thought that would be a pleasant feeling I was mistaken.
Where ignorant armies clash by night,
I am like a weanĂšd child.

 ♄♄♄

By the river I saw two women from the Outdoor centre, lifting kayaks, wearing T shirts marked “Who do you trust?”
-That’s a good question.
-Who do you trust? she asked.
-I trust in the general benevolence of the Universe, I said. Who do you trust?
-I trust in God, she said definitely: I thought she would, as the business is overtly Christian.

Did we disagree- or rather, since we were announcing what we trust in, do we trust in substantially different things?

If so, does it matter?

 ♄♄♄

I was delighted to receive your email. My immediate response might be considered servile-

but it was the response my heart wished to make.

 ♄♄♄

I communicated with a snake once. It had its coil round the back of my neck, so it had a firm grip but avoided things like my carotid artery which I do not want squeezed. I felt it could hold on to slightly more of my neck, and somehow it understood, shifted slightly, and held on to slightly more of my neck. I was still safe, with this tame snake.

With R, I have such a sweet negotiation. I am concerned to communicate what I want, but more concerned that he will be comfortable with the outcome. I feel that he has a complementary feeling.

Gender counselling III

I feel completely powerless.
-There’s your power, said Serra.
Oh! Yeah.

There’s the hook. Details: I told her I felt completely powerless, and she referred back to an incident I had described. So, what happened? What did you see? What did you do?
-I did that. Well, I had to, for this clear reason.
-Uh-HUUH, she said, grinning. Okay, it was not just for that reason, though I was not clear on that at the time.
-There’s your power, she said. You make connections. Yes, I do.

That was Friday. Yesterday was completely wonderful. I shone. I may unpack this more later, but I clerked the Quaker Area Meeting, and did it beautifully, getting through business expeditiously, giving people space to express their hearts’ leadings, which they did: I have created a space at our AM where we can open to each other, which is what I have worked to create over the last two years, and it came together Yesterday. I wrote a minute expressing those leadings compendiously yet elegantly. Then after, I had a drink with H.

My ankle’s a bit dicky, so I did not cycle to Meeting today. Bit hung over, bit tired after the so successful Effort I put in yesterday, then the glorious encounter.

I had the thought, there are two completely wonderful, unlooked-for things in my life. Both could end at any time. (There are many other wonderful things in my life, and I suppose they could end too- like life itself! Yet these two are the things I have fretted most about ending.)

I had felt, I am not in control. They could end. The thought has horrified me, even paralysed me. Yet this morning I had the thought, I am still an actor. I am not merely blown around by winds, I am responding. Would I want to be moving other people like chess pieces? Tempting though it is- it is the theme of “The Captive” in In Search of Lost time- I have regretfully to realise that would be boring and unpleasant too. Serra asked, “What would you prefer?” It is hard to think of anything.

So, panicky stress- These Things could END!
then the realisation from Serra that I cannot control, but I can influence, respond, entice

I am beautiful. That is the key to it- I am worthy of life– these realisations calm my panicky terror like a Mother visiting her hysterical infant in the cot, and picking him up. I have seen myself as worthless, and now I am valuing myself. Things fall into place.

It felt like I only have power to push people away, to turn my face to the wall, yet Serra showed me my true power, to make connections, to turn my Love on people and charm, heal or move them. If I try this in terror, lacking confidence, and fail, it increases my confusion and immobility. In that incident, Serra said, “You were Open”. Yes, I was.

Boldini, profile of a young woman

Ingrained belief

I can never get what I want.

This is not true. I write it because it has been a belief ingrained in me, and even now I detect traces of it. It goes along with “There is only one way of getting what I want” and even “I do not deserve what I want”- I hope I have digested and passed out that last one, but it ate me for some time.

“You are so covered in scars!” said a counsellor once- but that was many years ago.

I still detect traces of it in my distress and disappointment.

One value of Affirmation is inculcating behovely beliefs. I needed “I am worthy of life” in November, I do not need it now. Delete. Substitute “I am a powerful woman”. Someone with integrity and discernment told me that, after all. Take it into my heart.

I am a powerful woman.

I went for my usual walk- across the fields, along the river, round the lakes- in wellies, as much of it is squishy mud now. I have blisters on the soles of my feet. I wondered if I was enjoying it, put the question to my emotional being, and decided I was. The sunshine was glorious. I love the green, and the birds; this is a primordial response in me, australopithecine or earlier. Even the hard work had benefits. Doing this walk for the first time in my new hair, I notice that just the slightest breath of wind comes from behind and the curtains close over my face. I look ridiculous! And- my heart is open. I am a powerful woman. I play with these thoughts as I pass people enjoying the sunshine. Once, I notice my cringe. I do not like my old cringe.

When someone asks God
"What does 'feminine' mean?"
God points at me.

I like that line. Conceivably, I am a bit high; I can see that just a bit higher for just a bit longer might frighten someone and their relatives, so that the Doctors come and make it go away with drugs. Then it becomes the shadow, the thing to avoid, and the slightest sign of it terrifies the Sufferer and the Carers, and is yet more proof of Sickness. Now, though, I am simply being creative. Delete “I am soft, gentle, peaceful” and replace with “I am Feminine“. Soft, gentle, peaceful is part of it; that word is mine, for me to colour in.

Boldini, Cléo de Mérode

Masks

j wrote of a conversation with a woman about experiences of Love, where she realised how alike we all are. It is not a new thought: the line in my mind was

the Colonel’s Lady an’ Judy O’Grady
Are sisters under their skins!

and I stick by that on looking at that whole poem. The auld sodger in whose voice it is slips away when Kipling says that. I am sure there is something Biblical on the thought, even if St Paul often articulates our different gifts. A quick search for “We are all one” yields this. “We are all brothers and sisters” yields Glenn Beck! For a British person, whose glimpses of Fox News are in satire showing how weird these Americans can be, with Beck the principal exhibit, that was a surprise. However, while it is a sentiment anyone may mouth, it is a truth each person has to see for themself, experientially, and ideally in the muck and mire of living, not just in meditation on retreat. Like j’s deepening conversation.

What gets in the way of the realisation is the masks each of us wear, pretending to be normal. The mask creates a feeling of inadequacy, and impairs our vision of other people: we think they are closer to “normal” than we are. I am taking mine off. All the time. The mask of being male was impossible for me, but when I transitioned to female I still kept a great deal of my reserve and silence, which is also too painful for me.

Quentin Crisp, gay when that was dangerous, said

What I want is to be accepted by other people without bevelling down my individuality to please them- because if I do that, all the attention, all the friendship, all the hospitality that I receive is really for somebody else of the same name. I want love on my own terms.

One friend says of my sharing, “it is so wonderfully surprising how open and vulnerable you are. I truly admire you.” I discount that less than I would have at one time. A reserved and private man, quite eminent in his field, who once told me of being very badly hurt by the dysfunctional Cardiff Quaker meeting, called my earlier effusions “cries for help” and counselled me against them.

It is important for me to state precisely why I am so open and vulnerable. I am not showing off my insecure spots to be rescued and validated by others, to have someone say “there there” and kiss me better, to be accepted so that I can accept myself- for that is what I wanted, and when I could not accept or value myself, no amount of validation expressed by others was enough for me.

I am taking off my masks because my aim is to accept and value all the bits which the masks hide, all the bits which I am self-conscious about. So that I can achieve the state in my tag line, “Open heart, independent mind” which I took from a strong-minded friend who I think is closer to that state than I am. Or Neil Peart’s Cinderella Man-

eyes wide open
heart undefended
innocence untarnished

This is the best way I can see right now towards my own flourishing and growth, and ability to survive in the world. I am taking off the masks, or the Shell, because I cannot live that way any more.

————————————————————————————————————–

I am a primate, and primates are social animals. So other people have great power over me. But the nature of that power and its exercise has changed.

All my friend did was touch me lightly on the arm- two fingers by the elbow- and kiss me on the cheek, but such is the state of my heightened sensibility at the moment that I was- the best word I can come up with for it is “Unmanned”. Moved to the core of my being. It was completely lovely. When I was trying to pretend to be a man, repressing all my feelings, that would have had no effect on me at all. I remain lonely, and starving for such connection- and now it is possible, and I will find it.

In the coffee shop, the woman behind the counter said “That is ÂŁ3.10, ‘s”. I was not sure I had heard aright. What did you say? “That’s ÂŁ3.10.” Did you say anything after that? She denied it. Then she said, “There’s your change, sir”, and this time admitted it. So, calmly, I took time to explain to her. “That is not the right word. What do you think the right word is?” With the sound of disbelieving questioning, she said, “Madam?”

So I explained to her that I am a woman, and I feel insulted by the implication that I am a man. She apologised.

Now, I am irritated. I do not have time for such petty games, and buying a coffee should be a pleasant experience, as I am sure Darcy Willson-Rymer would agree. But I am no longer subject to this woman’s power. I am not, now, lying curled up in a ball on the floor weeping, as I might have been ten years ago.

Shadow

There is a part of the self which is natural, spontaneous and free-flowing. She may be suppressed under a conventional conformity. When so suppressed, she appears evil, because she chafes against the conformity, and resists it, which the ego finds frightening. The ego has adopted conventionality under great pressure, and sees no other way. When she can be freed, the spontaneous self is powerful and beautiful, because she is loving and creative.