The beauty of young people

As I grow older, I delight more in the beauty of young men. I am sensitive, and this is a gift for me; I would so love that it was a gift for others as well.

The British Museum has a grand plaza in front of its grand colonnade. Walking through it should be a delight and preparation, anticipating the wonders within. It is mine, a place of beauty and learning, of all the cultures of the Earth over five thousand years, to expand the mind, developing empathy as well as understanding. Even though much of it is plunder, and much of it is Orientalist, and that grandeur is a bit Imperial for me, it is still mine, for the liberals and not for the Authoritarians.

Unfortunately there is a suppurating sore at the south west corner of that plaza, the tent where we have our bags searched. The Tates make do with a desk inside the doorways, where two guards wave their useless wands over the bags, but the BM has a marquee, too permanent-looking for my taste, and we are made to walk down a path between moveable barriers. Other barriers are placed across this path so that we slalom gently as we walk there. It is ridiculous as well as humiliating, everything undignified is. I hated the searches at first, but now thought I was reconciled to it. Yesterday in the Tate I said good morning to the hapless searcher, and my bag was unzipped ready.

Outside the tent hieroglyphs instruct no photography or recording, and inside there is another zig-zag where we shuffle towards the two searchers. It is dim and unpleasant, but I would be glad of it were it raining. There are spaces for more behind a long bench, but only two searchers are on duty this morning. “Next Please!” they shout, commandingly, as soon as their last fellow-victim steps away. Behind me, as I approach them, is a young man whose short hair might be aiming for the Army lieutenant look, though he is a security guard. “Be ready for the bag check! Have your bags open!” he shouts, for all the world as if none of us were tourists.

Is there anything sharp in here? “No,” I lie, and they do not spot my Swiss army knife. No handbag should be without a Swiss army knife. I think I am done, but a woman directs me to the second of four booths at the north end of the tent. In it, a young woman behind a pane of glass or plastic recites a script about how the British Museum depends on donations from the public. She has a slight foreign accent. She could be pretty but instead looks worn down. “No,” I say, shortly, and exit.

That young man was beautiful.

Outside in the plaza I have to take a moment to collect myself. I am ashamed of being rude to the young woman, and ashamed of letting it get to me. I think of Etty Hillesum, feeling compassion for the Nazi behind a desk shouting at her, and wish I had her- control, actually, rather than compassion, I do not like letting it get to me. The authoritarians, having won Brexit, are trampling so much, tearing up our social fabric, but I have been living with this for a year. And they still surprised me, and they still got to me.

We won’t let the terrorists change our way of life, intone the authoritarians, solemnly. Ha.

Inside, I visit the Rodin exhibition. A friendly security guard goes and gets me a stool when I ask him, and I sit in various vantage-points around The Burghers of Calais, which has Rilke quotes about each one displayed on the platform. It is a Mahler symphony of an art work, worth twenty Henry Moores, and with it I forget the security. That man clutching his head- I think he is beside himself, Rilke sees him as taking a moment with his thoughts and feelings away from the surroundings. Rilke affords him dignity. I like that.

The inner child II

Rodin- Eve, from MetmuseumNot the easiest counselling session, but possibly productive.

In November 2012, I had my last job interview. At the end- Do you have any questions for us?- the woman said to me, “That is the first time I have seen you smile” and after I was smiling with every word I said, grinning like an idiot. Then I stopped going in to the CAB as a volunteer. I could not be bothered with it. I prefer my current lifestyle. I-

here I pause. I want you to react. I want you to make “go on” noises. I open up my body language a bit, crossing ankles rather than legs, hands loosely folded in lap rather than by my waist, but other than that stay still. Eventually she asks me to go on.

Another interviewer had told me that he had not thought I could relate sufficiently to their clients. Actually I could: with a client I sought to give power to the client, so got them to open up. People said things they found embarrassing, or said “I’m not explaining this very well”- evidence that they were concerned about their ability to tell someone but felt comfortable enough with me to try- but with a job interview all the power is the other way.

-Did you explain that in interview?
-Yes. Possibly not as much detail as there.

-Why did you go to that interview?
-Because I had not realised before quite how sick I was of it.

I prefer my current lifestyle. I read a bit, watch a lot of recorded TV (I would not want to watch daytime TV, but watch in the daytime) walk in the park. Last night there was a Quaker discussion group but I might go a week without seeing someone to talk to.

It seems to me that there might be something more to life than this, but I cannot see how to get it if there is. I like to think that if the benefits stopped and I had to change, I would, but I might not: people came in to the CAB with letters saying the bailiffs would evict them the following day, and I might stop paying my rent and run up my credit card, but the day before eviction I might just go back to bed.

Silently, I wonder if I could get any sort of job just for an income, and find some pleasure in a hobby. Or wean myself out of my shell, perhaps volunteering at the charity shop.

Oh, I want you to respond! I hunger for it! I take what I can- a slightly slower blink, a motion of the head-

That last speech therapist in Newport asked me what I wanted. I could not say, at the time, but I wanted
-to do Good, that I might be worthy of existing
-to see myself as a Good person, for some fragile sense of safety- I might continue to be worthy of existing
-to attract as little attention as possible, because any attention will be irritated, and will be unpleasant to me.

L'homme qui marcheIt seems to me that this is a small child response. (She asks me to explain.) This is me with my mother, very young, and taking that response into adult life. I blame my upbringing- not my mother, for she did her best, and I have seen a friend aged fifty express her live distress at 26 years before having a baby and not having a clue how to be with him. If she had realised she did not want me beforehand, and not had me, some delight would have been missed.

I curl up on the floor and scream. Even as I did the inner critic told me I was being theatrical, I was play-acting.

This is really painful. It may be useful, but only in uncovering my blind spots. I don’t think I have articulated this as clearly before. Do you think this is any use? She can’t tell me. I have to get wherever it is I am going, myself. Either she disagrees with Carl Rogers, or has been told to therap in a different way.

There is nowhere I can recover for a bit. She suggests the bench outside under the trees, which is covered in bird poo. I go to the children’s area, kneel, and “trace the spaghetti” with my hand. I ought to be past that developmental stage- perhaps I was honouring my inner child or something.  The beads make satisfying clicking sounds. Then I go to the butcher’s, and walk home.

Comment policy III

AdamDisagreement is welcome. Please don’t call me an idiot.

I admire Less Wrong. Rationalists will have a great deal of fun there, and I earned enough points to post articles. See also RationalWiki. There, I read “to agree to disagree is an expression of contempt”. People capable of rational thought and argument should be able to assess evidence and come to an agreed rational conclusion. Academic debate does not refute this: people craft their papers, which disagree, and continue until consensus emerges. But that occurs over years, not in the rapid to and fro of a comment thread.

One of my themes here is that the concept of God has value. The word “God” is a useful tool to describe human experience. Dogma is not a matter of certainty, for me, but story: what value has the story? The story may not have value, to you, and the Bible might seem an endless series of horrors perpetrated by a bloodthirsty Yahweh, but “this story is valueless” is a matter of judgment and taste in a way that “humans evolved” is not.

I spammed Arkenaten, after more than twenty comments on one post. I was fed up. I won the argument, because he chose the wrong ground, asserting that If you can find a single line of biblical or religious text that clearly shows the character Jesus saying I am God then I will retract my statement. I quoted “before Abraham was, I am”, and unpacked that. He did not choose to argue whether the person Jesus had used those exact words, but accused me of dishonesty in his second comment (though he was too cowardly to make that accusation directly).

So I asked My Atheist Life what he thought about the argument, and he said “Jesus never claimed to be God”. :facepalm: Facepalm. :facepalm:

You will not persuade me that THERE IS NO GOD, or that Christianity is an incorrigible monstrosity. Certainly not in the space of a comment thread. I am Christian because I was brought up Christian, I might not have chosen Quakers had I never been Christian, and still I persist in finding value in it.

I let almost anything through, have felt that courtesy obliges me to reply to acknowledge, and if the commenter comes back I usually give her/him the last word. But WordPress is an open forum consisting of a large number of personal spaces. This is my space.Fallen Caryatid carrying her stone

Wxhluyp wants to persuade me that I transitioned because I wanked too much, and to the wrong fantasies. If you want to see why her/his argument is completely worthless, consider this comment thread. And that one.

I could let things through, and just not engage. My silence does not demonstrate that, faced by the brilliance of your argument, I have caved in. Here, My Atheist Life tells me lots of things, including that my search for value in the Bible is a complete waste of time, a desperate attempt to deny the obvious truth that my Christianity is merely harmful, and that Christian = Hypocrite. Thank you for commenting.

If I delete your comment, it could be a sign that you have got under my skin. If you like, believe that means you have won. By all means, tell me I am wrong, even tell me I am an idiot- but if you comment again on the same post, add evidence or The Burghers of Calaisanother instance, or something. Please do not just keep repeating that I am wrong, an idiot.

Why do you comment on blogs? Why do you comment here?

National Gallery, Edinburgh

Dad needed a wee sit down, and where better than facing these three?

Diana and Actaeon

First, Diana and Actaeon. The Goddess and her entourage are bathing, when a hunter stumbles upon them. Ovid recounts how she turned him into a stag, so that his hounds tore him to pieces. Ovid probably also answers my question- was it worth it?

Diana and Callisto

Then Diana and Callisto. Jupiter seduced Diana’s nymph Callisto, and here her pregnancy is revealed. Juno, taking it out on the wronged woman rather than her husband, turned her into a bear, and Jupiter placed her in the sky.

In between is a copy by Poussin of The Feast of the Gods, which I cannot find on line, so here is the Bellini and Titian version:

File:Giovanni-Bellini Istenek Ünnepe (1514).jpg

I am particularly interested in Cybele, because her priestesses were women sharing my idiosyncrasy.

Onwards, for The Kiss, on loan from the Tate. Francesca da Rimini, who later met Dante in the outer circle of Hell, kisses her lover.

This is just at the beginning. I note how her pelvis is turned away from him, but her legs dandle over his. The detail I notice is his left hand: rather than being on her skin, it is relaxed, and rests on the rock on which they sit.

They are taking it slowly. They have all the time in the world. For them, it was worth it.

File:Le Baiser (musée Rodin) (4921057897).jpg

Toxic shame

I am dealing with my shame. I keep saying I have done it, and I just go deeper in, and I will deal with it. I was with a group, and afterwards one of us wrote about his experience. He referred to me as “One of us, a crossdresser…” which I find worse than discourteous: wilfully ignorant and intolerant, even though to my face he was quite polite. And that hurts, and I look at people with distrust: this educated, middle-class, arty-type, if he is like that anyone could be. He corrected himself to “transwoman”, though not to “trans woman”- “trans woman” is better because it is a woman, qualified by an adjective; “transwoman” is a thing apart, not really a woman. And why the adjective at all? Compare and contrast, “One of us, a Black woman…” John Terry is prosecuted for less.

I went into my ritual space, and wept over the shame I had felt at being transsexual, and the pain and effort of trying to make a man of myself. I accepted and felt that pain and shame which I have suppressed and which I will not suppress any more. I lived it, I was it. It is alright to feel this.

I am aware of the dangers of rumination, and I do not think that is what I am doing. It feels like working through my shame. I have cognitive techniques to deal with it- my struggle showed courage, something innate is not something to be ashamed of, it is blessing to empathise with both men and women; and I have an idea of what it might look like to be free of the shame, self-accepting, not hurt by thoughtless remarks of others. I would not need validation from others, so could accept them as they are, and see them more clearly. I would not be projecting onto others.

Practise. Practise. Practise.