Uses of friendship

File:The Gates of Paradise by William Blake -3.jpgMy beautiful, talented and vibrant friend has emailed twice, and I have not responded. When we met last month, we hugged and I was delighted to see her, as well as reserved. She said, “Call me”, and I have not.

We met two years ago at a weekly drama improvisation. After, we went to the pub, and shared stuff, and said motivational positive-thinking wisdom stuff at each other. She came to see me at my stand-up gig, and we ate afterwards. Then we did not see each other again.

So her email in October was delightful, and yet I did not respond, by email or phone, and it occurred to me that I was ashamed to. I had been talking of performing, and all this wisdom, and I am in a cul-de-sac, not having given birth to a dancing star or whatever.

One gets the impression that Robert de Saint-Loup really cares for Marcel, and Marcel does not entirely reciprocate. Sometimes Marcel uses his friendship: he wants an invitation to the house of a woman; he wants a message conveyed to Albertine after she leaves him, and he wants to micro-manage how that is done, indicating a lack of trust in the messenger. He observes Robert’s love for Rachel as a writer might.

At one point I had two friends I saw weekly, and shared deeply. I have generally had one who would hear my woes, and now I have one 396px-The_Gates_of_Paradise_by_William_Blake_-1 who chunters on boringly about her issues, so that when I talked of my father’s funeral she moved onto another subject quickly, in great detail. Don’t worry, it isn’t you. She is pleasant enough when I have nothing better to do- most of the time.

So it seemed that I had been one particular aspect of myself with the Vivacious one (who is straight, unfortunately) and I would have to ease in to being other aspects of myself.

-How are you?
-Alright. You?

and deep conversation like that.

A friend could reassure me that one particular view of myself is correct. A friend could do many things. Perhaps I should explore.

449px-William_Blake,_painter_and_poet_(page_28a)Having finally got the idea of the Mega-me, I thought I might actually do it. The brain cannot tell the difference between doing something in fantasy and doing it in actuality- our mirror neurons fire off replicating others’ feelings, and if we can create feelings of achievement we can go out and do the thing in reality. So I thought I would ask Quakers to participate in an improvised drama, and imagined friends objecting because it was silly. Useful to have someone to project on.

By horrible coincidence, two people I knew through karate have also lost a parent in the last month. They announced it on facebook. I did not want to- but did, today. I have hardly been posting there for a month. Lots of loving, warming comments from people I rarely see, Likes because I said how wonderful he had been, and I walked in the park feeling Happy, perhaps because of the mild air and beauty of the place, perhaps because of facebook.

Job

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b5/Behemoth3.jpgSatan visits God. God boasts of Job, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil. Satan- not Milton’s character, or even anyone in Revelation- says Job only worships because God has increased his possessions: if God takes them away, he will curse you to your face. God allows Satan first to take away Job’s children and possessions, and then his health. They agree that being good and retaining integrity mean worshipping God. Job refuses to curse God.

There is a strong strain in the Bible saying that the good prosper and the bad suffer. Well, Basher Assad is richer than the refugees in Lebanon, not all of whom can be more wicked than he, but we read Deuteronomy 28: If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands that I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. Psalm 37:25:

I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.

It is echoed when Jesus heals the man born blind, in John 9. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus.

The book of Job refutes this view. Job’s comforters assert it:
‘Consider now: who, being innocent, has ever perished?
Where were the upright ever destroyed?
8 As I have observed, those who plough evil
and those who sow trouble reap it.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/37/Blake_Book_of_Job_Linell_set_14.jpgGod numbers the hairs on my head- a beautiful, caring image– but here, God will not let Job swallow his spit. God’s presence and constant interest becomes a threat.

Job’s dialogue with his friends descends from intuitive integrity in Job and sympathy from his friends, to embittered self-justification in Job and outrageous accusation from his friends at the end (ESV Study Bible). Dramatically, this sets the stage for the appearance of God: the Elihu passages, also asserting that

He repays everyone for what they have done;
he brings on them what their conduct deserves.
It is unthinkable that God would do wrong,
that the Almighty would pervert justice.

are probably a later interpolation, by someone who missed the point. In the end, God answers Eliphaz, telling him to ask for Job’s prayers, but does not mention Elihu.

Then God speaks. Initially I wrote that he starts with his creation of the world, and then his operation of it, but he does not. Instead, he asks questions. Did you create the world? Do you rule it? This so masculine God, yet with a womb, bullies Job with irony: Surely you know, for you were already born! You have lived so many years! Job is silent. But that is not enough for God:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5b/Blake_Book_of_Job_Linell_set_16.jpg

Unleash the fury of your wrath, he says.

I am God.

I can do what I like.

Who the fuck are you?

Have you ever prayed, God, what are you playing at? This resonates with me. This is a God I recognise.

Job submits and repents.

Probably the writer believed the world did not move- of course it doesn’t, if it did we would fall off, how could we not feel the world moving? How could he imagine the world moved? That theory started with Aristarchus. Job is restored to prosperity- God does it– though there is no suggestion that mitigates his loss, or the deaths of his children.

Oh, Violet, your target is so puny! Biblical literalists, forsooth, who may indeed believe Job is historical, even that his conversation with his Comforters was couched in precisely that poetic language. Read the book. It is beautiful. Faced with the ludicrous idea that good people prosper because God rewards them, it refutes it utterly.

Questions

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/92/Behemoth_and_Leviathan_Butts_set.jpg/756px-Behemoth_and_Leviathan_Butts_set.jpgLiebster award from Purple Gloves, a witty and lovely man from Ghana who writes about Life in a universal way. What I like about these chain-letter thingies is the questions.

Cats or dogs or other? If other, please specify:

Actually, that snake was lovely, and feeding her is not much of a problem, but given that I can hardly keep a pot plant alive I am not sure I want the responsibility. A cat might just walk out and find someone more congenial.

Talk about one thing you have done or didn’t do that you regret:

Je ne regrette rien might either be really wise and mature and generally wonderful, or borderline psychotic. It either means, I know that I have done absolutely the best that I could under the circs, and it has been alright, really, so far; or it means Everything that went wrong was someone else’s fault. They’re all Bastards!! You are not certain which of these I fit.

Name one travel accessory you cannot do without:

This year, actually, a tent. My holidays are under canvas, though I expect a day or two visiting friends in the UK, who will have all the conveniences I could wish for.

If you could live anywhere in the world for a year, where would you pick and why?

Oh, you have read all the “three wishes” tales. That is not http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a9/Blake_Book_of_Job_Linell_set_3.jpgenough. Buckingham Palace, I say, and find myself working as a cleaner, terrified my illegal immigrant status will be discovered.

What is your favorite type of music?

To say “Classical” is inspecific. It has a range from full orchestra to unaccompanied violin, at least five hundred years of music, every single human emotion, pieces lasting from less than a minute to five hours- all human life is reflected here. Yet I cannot choose among it generally, only depending on my mood.

Name one hobby

Is personal growth weekends a hobby? Facilitators market these things as teaching us the secret of Life the Universe and Everything, and we just go away for the weekend, relax and have fun. Even the agonising and “learning” is fun.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be and why

I would like a uterus.

So far, what has been the high point of your WordPress blogging experience?

It is all good, actually. I love comments, and am not alone in this.

If you could go back to any period in time to experience it or change it, what time would you choose and why?

I would not change anything because I would be frightened of making it worse. To experience, I would like to become an intimate friend of Marcel Proust.

Why do you blog?

To practise writing, to amuse myself, to reach out to others, to find out what I think, to give me a reason to find things out, to record my life and prove to myself that I exist, to educate people about transsexuality from my own perspective, to start a religion: everyone, in 500 years time, will be a Flourishian.

Thank you, DC. That was fun. I hope you enjoyed it.

Secret Revelation

File:Blake - AlbiĂłn.jpgIs “Gnostic” a useful term?

The problem with the word is that it leads one to think of orthodox Christianity opposed to monolithic Gnosticism. There never was such a thing. It is a term first used in the 17th century, and not used again until the 19th. Instead, there is overlap and diversity, and development of spiritual understanding, among those who would see themselves as followers of Christ.

In the Secret Revelation of John, 22:17, Yahweh and Elohim are demoted to two separate beings, sons of Yaldabaoth. Yahweh is the Unrighteous one. So the Hebrew scriptures, of the worship of Yahweh, are worthless. Christ, of the True God, rescues us from him and them.

This is a rebellion. The writer rejects Scripture. Possibly this was part of a conflict over the Mosaic law, whether Christians need obey it. Now, Christians are happy choosing what parts of the Torah to find binding, and perhaps the Secret Revelation was part of the process leading to that position. I dislike the violent rejection of the Hebrew scriptures, and value the insight that we are not bound by them. That insight first comes in rebellion, and enables us to reach a sober valuing of the old testament. The document has value as part of a process though it is not the end stage.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/ca/Illustrations_to_Robert_Blair%27s_The_Grave_%2C_object_11_The_Descent_of_Man_into_the_Vale_of_Death.jpg/593px-Illustrations_to_Robert_Blair%27s_The_Grave_%2C_object_11_The_Descent_of_Man_into_the_Vale_of_Death.jpg“Matter is evil.” I am affected by matter: the wine that makes me slow and erratic, the pheromone that turns my head. I disagree; but what value might it have to split matter from spirit? Emotional resilience rising above physical pain and deprivation is a useful characteristic. The idea that my immortal soul is unaffected by the evil done by my fleshly body might either be licence to indulge, or a way of living with my natural animal self- though I prefer believing that animal self is healthy enough. A straight man told me he had been perplexed and bedevilled by his sexuality ever since his teens, and was still, though he was happy with his wife of forty years- and never told anyone that, before me. Straights have difficulty too.

I like the femaleness of God: The all, beyond everything, is surely beyond gender, and its perception and thought is Mother. From the All, at the request of the Mother-thought-Providence came Foreknowledge, Incorruption, and Eternal Life. These are the highest Æons of the All. Foreknowledge, or Predestination, has been the devilment of the Reformed church, sending ane to Heaven and ten to Hell. Incorruption divorces whatever is meaningfully “I” from matter, and eternal life- either makes me ignore this life for hope of another, or makes me live as if in Heaven now.

The next generations are the Son, Mind or Thought, and Will, then Grace, Understanding, Perception and Prudence. Attributes of God are different from Is-ness, though united with it in the highest realm. This may have value in contemplative prayer. God is both the Deist All, perfect and distant, and the Mother and Son, intimately involved with Creation.

I would like to know how this account fits with other accounts of the first Æons: which story came first, and how do the stories differ?

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 naĂŻve 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.

Christian politics

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c1/ParadiseLButts2.jpgFor “The Shrewd and salty dove“. There is no Christian politics.

CS Lewis in an essay called “Commandment” published in 1941 suggested three sincere Christians, one authoritarian, tempted to ally himself with fascism; one denouncing riches and speaking for the poor, tempted to ally himself with communism; and one conservative, for the status quo. It is hard to be charitable towards Lewis, as late as 1941, saying a Christian could work with fascists; those Spanish Catholics who supped with Franco besmirched their Christianity, and it is unChristian to vote BNP; perhaps he was exaggerating the width of Christian opinion about politics. Certainly a Christian can conscientiously vote Labour, Liberal or Conservative, or in the US Republican or Democrat.

What about individual issues, such as abortion or homosexuality? I think an abortion a dreadful thing. What made me pro-choice initially was the thought that as a sin it was not by itself, and without cause, but the end of a long chain of sin binding the woman, her partner, and her society. The Christian response is not to enforce a rule on the woman, that she cannot have an abortion, but to ameliorate her situation so she need not. That has to be done before the need arises.

I find it hard to imagine a woman who would have an abortion lightly or frivolously. If http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0c/ParadiseLButts8.jpgsomeone so broken exists, you do not make her a moral being by constraining her from without, but by teaching her. If the teaching merely consists of a lecture, then it is unlikely to get through to her.

Christians disagree about homosexuality. I find the Bible writing approvingly of gay relationships, and only condemning gay sex in contexts we would also condemn straight sex. Quakers in Britain lobbied to be able to celebrate equal marriages, and I am proud of that.

A woman wrote of her weeping on discovering her daughter is lesbian, and I offered sympathy. If she works through this, and accepts how her daughter is, sympathy is unnecessary, and if she works through it and reaches the wrong answer, believing her daughter is in sin, I feel horror, and sympathy is more complex and difficult. Yet for someone working through that, now, I feel sympathy. The rejection is the sin of her society, and not wholly hers.

However my point is wider. Jesus told us to go out and make disciples of all nations. He did not tell us to construct a moral code from Scripture, either already written or to come, and enforce it on people whether they are Christian or not. Murder and theft are clearly harmful to the victim, and to the wider society, and there is a civil need to make these illegal, even in an atheist society. The lovemaking of consenting adults, except adultery, is not, and alleged harm to the participants is no ground for making it illegal, or treating gay unions differently from straight unions: such laws make Christianity a hated oppressor.

God is Love, and Love is the way to win people to God.

Harm. Mmm. My moral judgment is mainly based on results, whether an act is creative or destructive, and I believe adults should be able to learn by harming ourselves, for constraint does not make us good.

Fear-based Christianity

File:Blake The Blasphemer.jpgIt can be terribly difficult to be Christian, navigating between the power of Satan and the justified wrath of God, with eternal damnation the risk and a serious possibility if you fall away. This, quoted with approval by Nathan Bickel here, showed me the full horror of it: “We are not showing authentic love unless we are intolerant of all the popular perversions of love.” So other people are pretending to be loving, but they must be corrected. Even Love is perverted by the Devil, for the damnation of souls.

Jesus is a liar. “My yoke is easy and my burden is light”, he said, pretty confusing after he tells me to pluck my eye out. God, his thirst for blood not slaked by the Amalekites and the Jebusites, or even the Flood, sends hurricanes to kill Americans for their failure to get this impossible task right.

A commenter here said paedophilia is wrong because the bible condemns sex outside marriage. The Bible also condemns residents of Crete, which I hope no-one follows now.

“God’s Will” is the iron moral law for society. So morality cannot change as society changes. Homosexuality is condemned because it was, 2500 years ago, in a subsistence farming society in an area the size of Wales.

Messages of love:
Love your neighbour as yourself
Love one another, for love is of God
Perfect love driveth out all fear
are negated.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d2/1795-William-Blake-Naomi-entreating-Ruth-Orpah.jpg

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File:Blake-Höllensturz.jpgYesterday (9th) I was weeping uncontrollably in the shower, thinking of- something eighteen months ago. Think of it now. Mmm. Slight pang, but I am not overwhelmed.

I want a short paragraph I can say truthfully about the incident and the people involved. An Understanding. That was that, and this is how the world is. I cannot create it. I can hardly create it about the incident itself, involving human reactions, leave alone the World now, or myself.

I want it, and I cannot have it.

I have these Spiritual Tools- Acceptance, Presence, Meditation, Positivity– which really ought to sort such problems out, with the result which has been my lifelong goal, that I never feel emotions that make me uncomfortable. Possibly I have to learn better how to use them. (Writing problem- should I state specifically that I am not getting it yet, or leave that implied?)

That period of weeping. Whether it was about that particular incident, or my inability finally and conclusively to Make Sense of everything, I was overwhelmed. I find such weeping very painful, and I want to avoid it. Recursively, I can’t make sense of the weeping- it was not about the incident, was it?

Can I use my own weakness to empathise with others?

Five rhythms

Flowing

Staccato

Chaos

Lyrical

Stillness

Jack explained them like this: Flowing is “feminine”, in the moment, following feelings, going with the flow- beautiful, but if I stay there I get nothing done. Staccato is masculine, taking action in the world, and Chaos is the union of the two. Perhaps I should read the book, deepen my understanding.

I reached, last night, a state of rage and hatred at myself. Stupid, useless, worthless, nursing unacted desires, without motivation, weeping constantly, incapable of self-care. Now (Wednesday) I feel the same, with added incomprehension and terror. What am I going to Do?

I went to the dancing in part because I wanted to go to Jack’s party. U would be there. When I entered the house, she was in the corridor. I stood a yard away, and she took me by the shoulders and pulled me in for a hug. Actually, as far as I am concerned, it is U&D, one item. We had another hug when she left, and barely talked. “We have hardly talked.” “If you came over [yeah, right]- Oh, come to our New Year’s party.” I may do, actually, though I loathe my obsession. That ridiculous command- in April!- “Go and play the piano”. Her Control. And my loathesome, vile, ridiculous, disgusting, false, self-destructive desire to be controlled. Why with all this can I not just “snap out of it”?

In À la recherche du temps perdu I have reached “The Captive”, and even the titles are a lie. “La PrisonniĂšre”, La Fugitive“, when the narrator has no control at all. Albertine is living with the Narrator, who seeks to control her. He is an invalid, so he uses AndrĂ©e, who may be Albertine’s lover, as his proxy policeman. He asserts clearly that he and Albertine do not copulate, but they cuddle: they are terrified of the servant Françoise seeing her in his room at night, though she lives there, apparently without his parents. So young Marcel, or whatever his name is, does not understand, but possibly the older writer does not understand either. He understands more, but has not learned that he can only see part of the picture, even though he realises that he saw less of it before while thinking he had a complete understanding.

The anger is with myself, always with myself. I should be better than this. I have to be better than this.

Memory is a strange thing. I think of a student I knew at University, from Aberdeen, and when I remember him I remember him with a Newcastle accent. Geordie, not Doric, wrong north-east. I remember a satire I wrote for the student newspaper, which pleased a hundred Dip.LP students: our delicate young consciences had not had all the love sucked out, yet, and the lectures on legal ethics offended us. I still have a copy, I put a cutting in my diary, and I clearly remember that someone put it up in the Law corridor at Kings, and another congratulated me on it- can’t remember the accent, though.

I want to be rescued. No-one will rescue me. How fucking useless is that?

Or, I am an elf in the world of men. Like in the Silver Chair, the Queen has convinced me there is no fresh air, only the caves where the money is and the work is.

I have not gone into the CAB again today.
Angry and bewildered, I hear my

NO

but cannot hear any Yes.

I took some wonderful pictures at the party, though they were wiped from the chip when downloaded on Will’s computer. A bit like this one- in a portrait, the face is the interesting thing, why take extraneous matter? It is comparatively rare that the body-language of a single person is worth capturing. I am seeking to take pictures of the face without relating to the person, in order to capture a different aspect, perhaps relating to someone else.

Real self

I have the idea that there is somehow a- Real Me, and if I can only liberate her I will achieve all I want to achieve and start to flow, gracefully- be all you can be, work where your deep gladness and the World’s deep hunger meet, etc, etc.

.

And yet there is all this stuff in the way. Anger. Fear. That stupid weeping.

The Monkey mind, the Id monster, the Inner Critic or Dark Side-

File:William Blake 007.jpg

File:Malevelence.jpgOh!

 FUCK

Christianity,

FUCK

those useless shards of Buddhism I have picked up,

FUCK

the wisdom-bollocks spewed on facebook-

If I could get Mr Putin’s nuclear codes, Ha! I would do it!

File:Tiriel plate2.jpg

There is energy there...
and if any of this stuff made sense,
it would not be my Stuff...

Sometimes, kneeling in my ritual space is a Delight. I do not think to meditate, to listen to my breathing, I seek to Perceive. I knelt, and felt delight this evening. Welcome, Anger. You are welcome here. Tell me what you want me to hear. Teach me what you want me to know.

Five degrees

These two changes, if I may practise them and make them my own practice, may be liberating. If I can accept my own feelings and not be angry and fearful that I am feeling them, then I may be fully aware of them without nearly so much pain. And if I can forgive myself for arriving in the place where I find myself, then I am freed to mourn for it. If I am upset that I am stuck in my own room, and blame myself for it, that just loads more guilt on myself. If I am upset that I am stuck in my room and I forgive myself, then I can express how unhappy I am being in this position in life, and mourn for it, and work through that pain. It is all liberating. I hope.

I look at the world slightly differently, as if I have just turned my head five degrees, and my perspective is utterly changed.

Ever since my operation, I have suffered slight stress incontinence, just the odd dribble, and the pelvic floor exercises were slow to work. And on Thursday I did not have a pad, so went without. I have gone without pads since. You can imagine how I feel: intensely self-conscious, worried that I will leak, and smell, and have visible damp patches- and increasing delight, scarcely able to believe it, that I am OK. The physical cause for that shame seeming to have left, I feel able to mourn how painful it has been for me. While I had the problem, I had to endure it, and could not mourn.

File:William Blake 006.jpg

I love P’s meditation technique. He becomes aware of his physical sensations, first in his feet: what is under his feet, whether grass, carpet, socks, whatever. Then his legs, and slowly up the rest of his body. Then what he tastes and smells. Then what he hears, first the nearby, loudest sounds, then sounds further away, and then beyond them the silence. Then he opens his eyes and becomes aware of what he sees, which can be an intense experience. He then repeats the process. He can do this anywhere: in this field, under the Skylark-

The Skylark! I had not heard one before, and found it amazing, flying so high, singing louder than a smart-phone-

or on the Tube. He goes through the procedure twice: the first time might take twenty minutes, the second is much shorter. Some people say that is not proper meditation, he should be keeping his mind still, or paying attention to his breath, but he likes it. Sounds proper enough to me.

File:Alauda arvensis 2.jpg