Sunday, 23 July 2017

Experiences Of Northern Pride From One Autistic, Trans Queer Woman

My experience of Pride was surprisingly good yesterday. Of course I never approached the main stage or the dance tent or the cabaret or the fair ground. With my sensory issues it's hard to be there at all. I have to miss out on some of what is on offer. And I admit that I miss out on some of it by deliberate choice.

I'd had a difficult morning. Much anxiety and tears and I wasn't going to attempt Pride at all. I was going to Durham - to give my soft toy a birthday adventure because I'm odd like that. But I decided we'd go and see if being part of the parade was possible. I had a look but it was too crowded and noisy and I wasn't coping. There was an opportunity though for the birthday toy to meet the mayor of Newcastle and to point out to a vegan that the flag she'd been handed was representing Nando's.

Later I found myself watching the parade. That's a new experience for me. I've never watched it before. Keep together next year guys! Too many big gaps were forming.

But about two thirds into the parade a friend from Spectrum Theatre - a group for autistic adults - spotted me and dragged me (I exaggerate) into the parade. So I paraded and wished I hadn't left my trans flag at home and had dressed more wildly for such an occasion. My soft toys paraded too of course and really enjoyed it. Because I'm odd like that. Everyone was fortunate. The weather forecast was for lots of rain but the parade was dry and much of the day remained dry too.

I saw more trans flags being toted than I've seen before. And noticed more of other flags too - I hardly saw them at all other years. Bisexual, Asexual, Pansexual, Poly. It was good to see. Pride events can forget to be properly inclusive and sometimes they've been known to actively stand in the way of proper inclusion. These flags had nothing to do with the organisation of the event but each one clearly stated "We WILL be included. We are here and are not going away."

I wasn't going to enter the actual event. I knew I'd want lunch and you're not allowed to take lunch with you. No more friendly picnics are possible at Pride unfortunately. I also knew it would be very noisy and that it's always hard work to be there. But I entered the event. Knowing there would be free pens inside.

I hastily drank my bottle of tap water on the way in knowing that it would be binned otherwise. The signs say "No alcohol" can be brought in but I knew from last year that my tap water would be confiscated too.

A couple of the delights inside:

The worst thing I experienced was the stalls - from relevant LGBT+ groups, local friendly crafty people, and corporates and unions. It wasn't the stalls themselves that were bad. But the gap between the rows of stalls was just far too narrow. It can't have passed the minimum width for health and safety by much. It was really crowded and it was hard to move or to see everything and I got pretty overwhelmed with it. I know a lot of people found it difficult, including the stall holders. Northern Pride need to take a good look at this because it's just uncomfortable and it's not as if there's no space to spare to make it a much more comfortable experience for everyone.

The most enjoyable thing for me was the youth and children's area and not being turned away from it by a grumpy security guard like happened a couple of years ago when I actually had a reason to be there. I knew that a woman who does lots of woodland and craft things was there this year so I went in and made a dream catcher with her. The main tent had lots of craft activities and also had a sensory area run by Sensory Spaces an excellent local charity working with autistic children. In that area I found friends who happened to be there. It was pleasant and relaxed. It was also at the point furthest from any of the different music going on around the site.

It was also good to bump into lots of people I've met in different places over the past four years. Only one of those places, Northern Lights MCC is directly connected with queer issues. I'm fortunate to have found safety and acceptance in so many other places and to have found good people almost wherever I turn.

I spent zero at Pride. One of the stalls had free bottles of water and I was able to finish off a cake at the Northern Regional Gender Dysphoria Service stall in the health zone. That was enough to get me through. Hoorah!

I left the event just before five o'clock. Others may stay until midnight and then go and party the night away. But five o'clock is a record for me. By that time I'd had enough and I was wandering round the health zone in a "Clare has quite an obvious learning disability" kind of way that happens when my brain has really had enough. I have an IQ above 150 and have many coping strategies. But sometimes autism becomes very, very obvious.

That was my Pride. I'd thought about going to a Pride service with the Unitarians this morning but they had to cancel unavoidably. I'm glad the local Anglican Cathedral offers a Pride service too and that it isn't the only church in the city centre to hang rainbows. I don't think I can make the vigil service tonight run by MCC. That's a shame.

The picture by the way is from last year. If I'd known I'd be parading again this year in dry weather I'd have taken my placard again. And left everyone wondering what the hell those flag colours might represent.

Living In Kansas Before The Cyclone

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Kansas. Before the Cyclone

This post could be subtitled "How I stopped listening to the message of Auntie Em with her constant words of love and bowed instead to the bitter words of Almira Gulch."  Almira was the character in the 1939 movie of The Wizard of Oz who tried to take Toto away.  In Oz she was transformed into The Wicked Witch of the West, played so memorably by Margaret Hamilton.

When I was fifteen a publication called “The Psychotherapist” published my poem. A simple triolet.

Why am I here?
I'd quite like to die.
If I did, people would cheer.
Why am I here?
Why don't people hear?
When I talk, I cry.
Why am I here?
I'd quite like to die.

At fifteen I was broken. I had spoken of suicide with my mother and she didn't know what to do. Eventually her solution led to a child psychiatrist. Doctor Bjorn. Her diagnosis was quick and easy and her treatment regimen consisted of immediate hospitalisation in a child psychiatric unit in Sussex. I'd be there for a minimum of several months. Probably a lot longer. While there I would receive all the best drugs. And I would receive electro convulsive therapy.

I believe that if we had followed her advice I would be dead.

My mother didn't know what to do and I was in complete despair at the prospect of the hospital. If there hadn't been another path I know with total certainty that I would have at least attempted suicide at fifteen.

A few months earlier we had met some people from a natural health centre. In panic, my mother called one of the people we'd met and he recommended that we should contact a place in Kent called White Lodge. He said they might be able to help me. My mother contacted them and I had an appointment with a counsellor-therapist there the next day.

I believe White Lodge saved my life. I found people like me. I found hope. And I found much more.

Unfortunately I walked away from White Lodge and its nurturing environment.  Whether or not I continued to follow their spirituality I would have found healing had I been able to remain for longer.  I walked away from the teaching of my own wonder.

It turned out to be too late for me to properly accept that I was basically good - that the core of our being is love - so I embraced a faith that told me that I deserved to burn in hell for eternity and that it was only the love of a merciful God that meant I didn't need to burn. Everyone else deserved to burn too.  Sadly, I found solace in the confirmation of my own deep sinfulness.

It took me twenty years to begin accept the teaching of my own wonder again. Twenty years in which that very evangelical, conservative brand of Christianity was a core I imposed on my being. Twenty years of being a Jesus Freak. There were times in which I could pray for six hours a day. It was Jesus or nothing.

Eventually I found my own wonder. I walked away from Christianity. Lately I've been discovering that Jesus would have told me I'm wonderful if I met him. He wouldn't have told me I deserved hell at all and would have told me that hell doesn't exist. I've found Christians too who already know these things.

It was more than twenty years before I was able to set out to walk the yellow brick road and encounter the Wizard.

Twenty years. At least in part, wasted.

The wizard tells me that, however many years I may have left, they don't need to be wasted.

Walk with me along the yellow brick road. Together, we're off to see the Wizard.

Friday, 21 July 2017

The Magic Art of The Great Humbug

The Magic Art of The Great Humbug

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Final Words


The Emerald City of Oz

The Emerald City Of Oz

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The Field of Poppies Of Oz

The Field Of Poppies Of Oz

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The Field of Poppies

I want to sleep. Forever.
I want to lie down. Never wake again.
I want to take a blade to my skin, swallow the packets of pills by my bed.
I want to stand on a ledge, a cliff top, or look down at the river from Redheugh Bridge.
I want to jump. Fall. End.
I want to find a blessed, welcome relief from the fight.
I want to find freedom from the way my brain, my mind rebels against all that could be called happiness or contentment.
I want to scream as the old panic rises up again.
I want to give in to the darkness.

I want to let go, succumb to the poppy field and smile beatifically as the witch of mental illness laughs at her victory.

Today. Now.

I want to die.

I don't want to be told it will all be okay.
I don't want to be given a hand to rescue me. Not this time.

I want to die. Please. Oh God, please. Why not?

I want to step off that edge. Enough is enough. Surely it's enough. Haven't I struggled for long enough? I'm forty-six now. So many years of fighting, fighting. Each day. Often each hour.

Isn't it time for me to die? That's what I want.

Death, take me.

But death refuses.

I claim my heart again, my brain, my courage. I claim the possibilities of smiles. Of love. Of change.

I claim my future and proclaim that it will be better than my past.

I want to die. I choose life.

I want fresh rain. And I believe it will come.

This world has not finished with me. And I have not finished with this world.

There will be no suicide today, no fresh wound from the blade's invitation.

Somehow I will survive.

Somehow I will triumph.

The Cowardly Lion of Oz - Learning The Courage To Be Yourself

The Cowardly Lion Of Oz

This post is part of the results of a course taken at The Recovery College
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The Cowardly Lion

Bravado living:
Put 'em up. Put 'em up. You
Stay away from me.

I couldn't let people get too close.

They might have discovered me. Ripped of the masks I wore and found a creature I believed deformed, despicable. I couldn't bear that they might learn that my exterior manner of the mild mannered preacher, the smiles and a way with words that led some to wish I was ordained, hid a soul whose pain could not be alleviated through the platitudes and fine words of the Jesus he preached.

I couldn't let them get too close.

They might have forced me to discover myself.

They might have forced me to face all that I feared about myself. All that I had been taught to loathe.

So, apart from a rare few, I kept them away. I preached peace, a sound mind. And self harmed three times to get myself through the service. I spoke of God's love. And spent my days hiding the hate I thrust upon myself.

As a preacher I looked to the wizard in the sky to transform me. From sinful creature to child of light. From a man of unclean thoughts to one whose whole life was wrapped up in God.

It was only when I began to look away from the sky wizard that the transformation began.

Jesus said the kingdom of God is within, Christ is within, the very core of life and being is within.

I looked within.

The wizard waited there.

Hidden. Buried. Cast into the deepest oubliette. A forgotten prisoner.

I looked harder. Heard her screams and released her.

She said to me, “I do not grant you courage. You have it already. It took courage to look within for strength and answers. You, child of god-light, you are courage.”

I accepted her word.

I accepted the woman I already was.
I accepted what I'd been told for years, that I am autistic.
I accepted that I am a creative.
I accepted spiritual possibilities and in so doing walked away from the faith path that had been my meaning.

Every day is astonishingly difficult. Autism and my mental health conditions combine. Every day they present me with an almost impenetrable barrier. Every single day.

I am tempted to faint. Tempted to give up the yellow brick road to my own promised land, the emerald city where all dreams are possible and where life, love, and fullness of being are celebrated and experienced.

Sometimes I succumb to temptation. In despair I weep.

Healing and anointed wisdom are not grasped in a day. Perhaps that would be too easy. Perhaps we need to learn through failure and struggle just how beautiful we are.

And I forget. Often I forget. Though the goddess within spoke “You are courage,” I forget.

Often I still live in fear. And sometimes I give in to it.

Often I live in anxiety and panic too. That's part of the nature of mental health conditions that I still bear.

One day I will be the restored lion. I will cease to say “Put 'em up.” Instead I will say to all, “You are welcome in this place. Come, let's celebrate our inner god kingdoms together. Come, I am willing to give you space to discover your own inner god and the passion that will lead you to your fullest life.”

One day this cowardly lion will roar so loud that the world will see her, rejoice, and learn to roar too. One day this cowardly lion will show others that there is a water of life that will slay all the wicked witches we needlessly carry.

Is this bravery? Or is this revelry in ecstasy?

It doesn't matter.

Come, walk the yellow brick road of inner courage with me.

Look inside to the darkness and the light. Accept it all. Especially that which you call shadow.

Look inside and in the core of your being I promise you this:

You too are courage.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

My Pastor Gazed At Me And Said, "Wow! You Were REALLY Fucked Up!"

To begin, a photograph.  I've taken this from a Messianic Christian page about faith in God.   The page argues, through links to many articles, that atheists should become Christians because that would be the sensible thing to do given the "evidence."  On the right of the screen there's an offer for a free book.

It's called, "I Have A Friend Who's Jewish ... Have You?"  Sounds riveting.

Today I've been sorting some files on my laptop.  It shouldn't have taken long but I got quite distracted by my past.  In the process of sorting I've found myself looking at Christian books and documents I saved. I've been looking at some of my own writing too which covers much of my Christian life. I still have the text of sermons preached in the year 2000, all kinds of documents from when I was an enthusiastic Catholic, and some really strong Protestant conservatism I briefly clung to after leaving the Catholic church and wondering how I could survive without it.

I found a document containing my prayer diary through a week almost exactly ten years ago. During that period I was undertaking the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola in daily life, with one to one spiritual guidance from a woman who was part of the outreach team of Saint Beuno's Jesuit retreat centre in North Wales.

That particular week included this exciting day trip in London: It took in 3 churches, 2 cathedrals, a church centre, 2 Catholic bookshops and 2 masses.

In the same document I wrote about other days in this two week period in May 2007.

These days could and would include more hours spent kneeling in front of the "blessed sacrament", daily mantra and meditation prayers, praying the Office, rosaries, chaplets – including that of Divine Mercy, the triple colloquy, litanies, the Ignatian spiritual exercises, consideration of the "Mysteries", biblical meditations, Bible verses turned into daily prayers.

These were all happening on the same day.

You read that correctly. On. The. Same. Day. In my most ardent periods I could pray for six hours a day.

And what comments did I give? Many. They include these:

I wanted to enter more into the pain of Jesus. (Because some saints or spiritual writers recommend it.)
I asked of myself, "Could I be Judas?"
I said, "Not much progress in prayer."
I said, "Much need for change and for grace."

And the classic, "Not enough praying in the house."

Honestly. I wrote that. You read that correctly too.

I didn't believe I was praying as much as I should. I certainly didn't believe I was praying as well as I should. After all, hadn't I consecrated my entire life to Jesus? Hadn't I also made an act of total consecration to Jesus through Mary, in the manner of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort? Shouldn't I be praying more? Studying more?

That's what I thought anyway. Because I was utterly lost. Trapped. Despairing. Still self-hating. And when you self-hate it's hard to love others. Not truly and deeply.

As I've looked through some of the books as I've been clearing them out I find similar words from "heroes of faith" canonised by Rome. These men and women were also giving everything they possibly could for their God. And they still beat themselves up for it - mostly emotionally and mentally but sometimes physically too.

I was utterly screwed up. My ex-pastor from MCC used the phrase “fucked up.” But I was being reinforced in being screwed up and fucked up by the books I read, the spiritual writers, the saints.

Was there any hope for someone so screwed up when he was told that the grace to ask for that week included, “Shame and deep grief because the Lord is suffering for me.” And “Faced with the suffering of the Passion, I may have to pray even for the gift of letting myself want to experience it with Christ.”

I arrived screwed up. I left screwed up.

There were happy events.  There were some smiles.  But underneath it all I was screwed up.  Constantly.

I am immensely glad to become free of all that horror.

I am also glad that on my way out of the faith I discovered some Christian spiritual writers who didn't beat themselves up and who had a Jesus who could and would smile. Some people even have a Jesus I like. I recommend someone like Jim Palmer – a Jesus follower but pretty much an atheist. Or the writings of someone like Gretta Vosper – a Jesus follower but an atheist. There are even some theist Jesus followers I can cope with and dip into.

I'm glad they've found a faith around Jesus that's full of good things. No original sin. No exclusivity. No false gods. A view of the Bible that doesn't try to justify it having plenty of horrific things in both Testaments but just says, “The writers tried but got it wrong.”   I even know very happy Christians.  And I know Christians whose love and service to others is a big example to me.  I am glad they have found inspiration for that in the versions of the Jesus story people once wrote.

As for me, the pain is too deep, too long-lasting. It's hard to find any comfort at all in the Galilean preacher and peasant who was elevated to the sky by his followers with the accretion of pagan myths and superstition, a man whose very words were mostly put into his mouth by his followers and whose miracles were inventions. Yes inventions. Arising from the way religion was done then and often is now. In the quest for the historical Jesus, which some say is doomed from the outset, the New Testament narratives are in many places worse than useless no matter how many fine words they contain.

As for me, my question is what inspiration there is to be found in what is true and in the wonder of being - and the wonders of this cosmos, this earth, and humanity - without appealing to a very faulty ancient book that tells of a man who we can't know much, if anything, about.  As such I plan, after six months of putting it off, to attend a humanist meeting tomorrow night.  I want to see what answers they give.  I want to see too whether they offer new ways of questioning.  I'm looking forward to it and the talks at the meetings always sound fascinating.

It's pointed out to me that Jesus said (or is alleged to have said) some very good things. I can only agree with that. But I don't see that as any reason whatsoever to follow him or call him Lord.  He said (or is alleged to have said) some rather more problematic things too.  In addition, lots of people have said very good things. I've met some of them. I don't call them Lord either and some of them aren't holding onto and speaking with an ancient world view and in words arising from primitive superstitions and ancient pagan blood sacrifice cults.

Why would I want to be a Jesus follower – whether a red-letter Christian or an atheist without a sky god – over and above any other guide and inspiration? Why? I don't see a reason. I certainly don't see any unique claim of salvation power being valid. And I don't see the Jesus way as superior to all other ways although I recognise the inspiration and excitement many people find in him. I am told Jesus is about growing into freedom. I see that some people manage that. I missed the boat on that one!

For me, I need – at least for the present – to keep any version of Jesus at arm's length.  Any version. Even the Jim Palmer inner anarchist version. I was hurt in the churches, hurt by the Saints, hurt by Scripture.  Hurt in self hatred and there being enough in that faith to justify my self hatred even while talking of a God of love.  The second biggest selling Christian work in history is The Imitation of Christ.  In it we learn the call to despise ourselves.

I couldn't see it then. I couldn't see how damaged I was by my faith because my faith was the reason I clung to for continuing to exist and my hope that there was a better future if I would only persevere in faith until the end.  I believed in mercy.  And I was thankful because I believed that without the blood sacrifice of Jesus that mercy wouldn't be given to me who, like everyone else, deserved hell - either in fire or separation eternally from God.

I couldn't see how my faith strengthened my despair for this life.

I see it now.

I see it increasingly clearly the more I explore outside of my old faith.

At this time I am grieving for all the lost years.

But I am rejoicing for my future, wherever that may take me.

Outside of the certainty and shame of my Christian faith it may take me anywhere.

And by his lack of stripes I find I am being healed. (Isaiah 53)

If you pray I would ask you not to pray that I return to Christianity. I would ask that you not hope I return to the flock.

I would ask, if you pray, to pray that I may find the way that is right for me, the way that leads me into the fullest life I can live. If there eventually turns out to be some Jesus in that then so be it. If not, that's great. And I would ask that your hope is that I will be free to be myself, to grow in myself, and to rejoice in living and learning to love in ways that were impossible when I was trapped in religion.

At this point I am an atheist. I have no sky god to pray to.  That picture again.

But the statement “I am an atheist” tells you as little about me as it would tell you if I said “I believe in God.”

I apologise for this: I'm not going to expand on the statement any further today.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

The Magician, Her Hat, Tea Leaves, And The Shadow of Byker Wall

A post about the reading of tea leaves.  This is the fourth and final post of short pieces that were written in Writers' Cafe sessions this week.

Personally I don't believe in the power of the tea.  I believe in the power of the reader of the tea.  Not to read the tea of course.  But to see into a situation and form ideas and pictures based on that situation and upon human psychological skills to instinctively see or cognitively analyse and comment based on what's in a person's head rather than what's left in their tea cup.  I believe the same about other methods of divination and analysis too, from palmistry to tarot to numerology and the roll of dice.  Feel free to disagree and ascribe power to lines and cards and leaves or to a mystical, prophetic guide who places the leaves and cards in the right order for a situation.

I've been to a place sometimes and we've drawn cards to represent our lives.  Everyone goes "Wow!" at the interpretations given.  The next week we're there again.  We draw different cards.  Everyone goes "Wow!" again.

Have all of our lives changed so drastically in the course of a week?  I don't think so.

Divination, I believe, teaches us of ourselves.  It can be useful - or it can be dangerous.  Sometimes it's just a bit of fun.  And on occasion, a rarity, it can be a writing prompt.

So it was at the Writers' Cafe.  Each of us had our tea leaves read.  With mint tea because the leaves were more varied than those of the tea tea in the cafe.  The woman who runs the group read us.

Here's my cup.  I ask you.  What do you see?  A friend just saw a cup that needed cleaning.  Another friend saw Jesus - but she is a Carmelite lay sister so she sees Jesus in many things.

Our group leader saw a magician with a wand.  She decided that the magician had lost her hat.  She said other things too but as a writing prompt the magician appealed.  Can you see too?

Here's the writing, the same words as were freely written in not many minutes at the end of our session.  I gave myself a D minus for it.  People seemed to like it though.  That, I suppose, is magic.

Byker, for those who don't know, is a district in Newcastle Upon Tyne.  A children's programme was set there but not filmed there.

Byker has a wall.  The wall contains 620 flats and homes and encloses the Byker Wall estate.  The whole place is architecturally famous and is now Grade II listed.  Fame doesn't imply beauty of course.  Some very ugly places are listed.

Some will speak of the estate in terms that say "Abandon hope all ye who enter" and imply that just walking into that estate will lead to a consequence somewhere between losing your possessions and losing your life.  Others speak of the estate in terms that say "I really like it here.  There's an amazing community and loads of artists."  I find I have friends there.  It's not a rich estate.  The millionaires live in other parts of the city.  And it's had its problems.  Every impoverished city estate does.  We were told when moving to the city, "Don't, whatever you do, move to Byker."  We were taught to fear a dangerous ghetto behind the Wall.  It must be admitted that crime levels in Byker are higher than those where I currently live.  The crime map for that area has more than twice as many reported crimes as the map for this area.  But most people of course are just getting on with their lives.  And there are loads of good people in the area too.  Yes, including artists.  Including friends.

It took me six years to enter the estate.  And at that moment I fell in love.

The magician lost her hat.
But somewhere, under the shadow of Byker Wall,
Her magic will be returned to her.
In the Wall is life.  In the wall is death.
In the Wall the elemental gods play together.

Under green wood and rainbow rooftops,
Among addictions and artists,
Within the underclass and dispossessed -
The purest of humanity.
Above Tyne waters returning to ocean,
Full-felt, full-flung source of Poseidon's blessings.

Through sacred seclusion, close community,
The magician will not find her old hat.
But she'll weave, spin, breathe a hat
Fine enough that the original may be gladly forgotten.

Replaced, reborn under Byker Wall,
The magician will learn to speak.
In the new beginning was her Word.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Living Under The Wisdom Of Guru. All Praise To Guru.

This is the third of four pieces written in writers' groups this week.  Most weeks during school terms the Writers' Cafe meets on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.  If you're in Newcastle Upon Tyne look it up and come write with us.  All are welcome.

The prompt given for this related to the origin stories of different types of tea.  But we were allowed to write about our favourite drink if we weren't so keen on tea.  We were also allowed to be very liberal with the truth - origin stories being, after all is said and done, just stories.

What follows is what I wrote.  Free written.  With only one word crossed out on my page.  I haven't changed a thing when typing it up except to alter the spelling of the drink.  Adding an "h" somehow made it seem more spiritually appropriate.

The drink in this picture was real.  An actual product.  Sold as seen.  And blessed by a priest.  It's not the drink in the story.  I was thinking of quite a few spiritual leaders, scams, and odd beliefs while writing including some products and people that friends of mine believe in and continue with undented belief even when contrary and sometimes conclusive evidence is given that the products don't work or the people are liars.  The story uses the word "manifested."  As I wrote that the image of Sai Baba came to mind.  He's faked a lot of miracles through basic conjuring skills.  That's been proved - and the evidence for his paedophilia is pretty damning too.  But people still believe.  Just as in this story.  I thought of Millerites and Jehovah's Witnesses and other groups whose followers continue to follow even when the prophecies and "clear word of Scripture" goes wrong.  I thought of spurious health claims and how we need to be a lot more careful with who and what we grant the assent of faith to.  I did a lot of thinking in that ten, possibly fifteen minute writing period.

Guru was wise.  Guru was just.

Guru could read your soul and work miracles.

Guru manifested gold dust and once caused the tigers to roar and retreat.

Guru convinced me in his smile, in the way he opened Scriptures.  Or left them closed.  His words were as much life as anything from Vedas or Christ.

So I moved to guru's commune, gave up my life of chasing the world.  I lived alongside Guru.  Or at least in the same town.  I was hardly worthy to walk in his divine light footsteps.

Guru's blessing was sold to the world.  We all knew the story.  How as as child he had discovered his holy well, deep in the tunnel beneath his bed.  Guru was guided by Lord Krishna himself to dig through his floor and the spirit of Lao Tzu lit his way; showed direction through the antediluvian passages to the spring.

Guru was enlightened in the drinking.  God granted him a special gift.  Later, Gautama led him in his earthly mission.  To bring not only the word of spirit but the liquid nectar of spirit to all who would hear.

And so, three years before I followed him into the communal seclusion, Guru revealed Kalamah to the world.  Drink each day and it would help purify you.  Body.  Mind.  Soul.  Spirit.  It would detox you.  And who knows?  Perhaps, were it in the beneficent timing of God, you too would be enlightened.  Just like Guru.

But Kalamah flowed from a single spring.  It was scarce.  It was costly.

In the commune we drank for free.  One sip a day.  And we praised Guru.  Bowed to him.  Our hope.

What remained was bottled.  Sold.  For a price befitting a product of such eternal value.

After five years in Guru's commune I advanced and was accepted into the inner sanctum.  Into Guru's confidence.  It was there I learned the secret of Kalamah.  At last, Guru led me to the spring, the source of Kalamah.

I learned this:  There was no spring.  All there was were cartons of pear juice, bright red food colouring, and tinctures of liquorice and rosemary.

Initially I was disappointed.  Until Guru showed me how God led him to sell Kalamah for the greater spiritual good.  Guru showed me how precious his blessing was.

He was Guru.  He was enlightened.  How could I not believe?

All praise the wisdom of Guru.  All drink from the spring.  Find enlightenment.

Guru's blessing is the Light of the World.

Friday, 14 July 2017

The Remains of the Life. Mister Cohen's Attic

This is the second of four short pieces written quickly in writers' groups this week.  This one finished in a completely different place than I thought it would.  It was all going so well.  Until that sudden change of direction that took it into a place I didn't particularly want to be.  You will see what I mean.

The line structure is as it is for one reason only:  I was writing on the right-hand third of a sheet of paper having filled the left-hand two thirds with the poem I posted yesterday.

Tomorrow I'll post the first of two pieces from the writers' group the following day.  The prompt given for that related to the origin stories of different types of tea.  I didn't stay within that box.  At the Writers' Cafe we're very good at leaving boxes behind and just seeing where the words carry us.  Every time there's something produced that leaves me in awe.

After the auction of the house
Of the late Mister Cohen
I found his forgotten family waste
In the loft of my new home.

Three torn cookery books.
A broken framed, scratched photo
Portrait of an unknown soldier.
Worthless antiques.
A pair of porcelain potties.
Souvenirs of holidays in Taunton.
Silver plate spoons.  Half a set.
Tarnished beyond hope.
Moth-eaten wedding dress,
Once white, once born of love.

He left me newspapers:
Bundled.  1960s Daily Mails.
A Victorian taxidermy display
Of birds.  Decayed, under broken glass.

And in the locked chest
I had to break, forced by chisel
I found my prize.

Coins.  Stamps.
And a collection of Herr Cohen's love letters.
Each one from the Fuhrer himself.
Each one sealed with his kiss.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

The Came From Darkness - Creatures In The Attic

I've enjoyed being with creative people in different groups this week.  On both Tuesday and Wednesday morning I was able to attend The Writers' Cafe.  Both occasions were a joy.  It's great to meet with the people there; to chat and to write.  It's great to be among people who are enthusiastic for the process of writing and who encourage each other in that process.  It's great to get feedback.  And it's great to hear the wide range of work we come up with, quickly written, from the various writing prompts.

Each session is themed and during our time together we will write from one or two prompts.  This week has given me four short pieces of writing.  Today I'm going to post the first of these.  Our topic was attics.  This remained the theme for the second piece.  I have homework to write about a cellar and a discovered place.  My confession is that I haven't done my homework yet even though the idea for what I will writer was already there in my head on Tuesday in the group.

Today I've spent the day with my little autistic theatre group.  Those people are great.  The radio play I've written there is complete with the exception of sorting out the files for sound effects and background music.  I've found it all but haven't been disciplined enough to download and convert it all.  Some more homework.

Here then is the first little piece from The Writers' Cafe this week.  In many ways it's the weakest of the four.  It needs more detail and perhaps one day it'll get it.  For now though here are the words, as free written in the session.  They're in 5-7-5 syllable structure, like haiku but not true traditional haiku themes or image structure.

Image from here.

They came from darkness.
Grinning yellow teeth; grey eyes.
Whispered sour nothings.

They came from darkness.
Slow descent of attic stairs,
Torn clothes, dead scarred chests.

They came from darkness.
Fingers: Beckoning.  "Join us.
Cursed, But not alone."

They came from darkness.
With one flick of loft light switch
They vanished from sight.

Glaring, naked bulb
Shone through my fierce fear haunting
Revealed only dust.

Later, I upstairs
Explored the memory space.
Boxes of other lives.

In the light, safety.
I smiled.  Relieved.  Began to laugh.
Then, they laughed with me.

The light dimmed to black.
Hands.  Breath.  My body held.  Squeezed.
They came from darkness.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

How Solfeggio Frequencies Are Leading Me Into The Deepest Of Rabbit Holes

Thoughts about a rabbit hole I've found myself exploring:

Friends of mine are very into solfeggio frequencies / Fibonacci frequencies. You know, the kind of thing that says 528Hz sorts your heart and heals your DNA. Sounds far-fetched, yes?  But they're my friends and I love them.  They say the frequencies add something good to their lives.  I'm happy for them.  What harm can it possibly do to them, to me, or to anyone else?
639Hz - It'll Sort Any Relationship Problems You May Have
I was very involved with new age people and learned a lot in courses 30 years ago (before rejecting it all for fundamentalist Christianity for too many years!) but nobody ever mentioned such frequencies. Not even the sound and colour healing practitioners I knew. Somehow in the intervening years they've become very popular. And I have to admit that some (some) of the music I've heard based on it is quite relaxing and good to fall asleep to.  I wanted to know why the idea was so prominent and how this development had occurred.

So I thought, "Why don't I look into this. See if there's ANY evidence outside of New Age sources and sites like Natural News. Some actual science. And find out the history of the idea. Let's not reject the whole thing out of hand but apply some very basic critical thinking to the theories and history."

That seemed a sensible thought.

And that's when an idea that sounds far-fetched became more crazy. And then I fell down a rabbit hole and crazy became bad-shit crazy. It just gets more and more bonkers.

I've learned interesting things about the history of musical notation and the reasons why the frequency of that A is mostly set at 440Hz. That's really very fascinating.

But my wandering in the rabbit hole has gone through selling snake oil remedies (to heal cancer and undo vaccine damage), vaccines causing autism, the US government inventing AIDS, Nazi conspiracies to move music frequencies and so muck us all up psychologically, the Illuminati, Tesla, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, mad codes derived from the Bible, symatics, Kenneth Copeland (honestly!), young earth creationism, secret laser guns and so many other things related by the guy who promoted the theory of the frequencies. His name is Leonard Horowitz. Research him at your own risk!  His official biography page claims he's a Levitical priest and co-creator of "The World's Most Powerful CD."

On a hunch I googled "Leonard Horowitz Andrew Wakefield."  Wakefield is the disgraced doctor behind the totally debunked study that claimed to have found a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.  There's no link.  And Wakefield wasn't just wrong.  He was fraudulent too.  People believed him thought and the take-up for the MMR vaccine fell with the unfortunate result that we've seen an increase in measles outbreaks leading to deaths and life-long health consequences for children in Europe and the USA.  I place at least part of the blame for that directly on the shoulders of Wakefield.

I wasn't surprised by the results of my google search.  Horowitz and Wakefield are pals.  Look up the ConspiraSea Cruise if you dare.  It's a whole deeper level of rabbit hole than the one I've been exploring.  Enjoy yourself there.  Here's one person's experience of the 2016 cruise.  Here's another person, relating their experiences of the 2015 cruise.  Both pages are very entertaining - at least for someone with my special interests.  Horowitz's relationship with Wakefield's Vaxxed movie is also of interest.
One of his books. I want a copy.

I'm very happy in my rabbit hole. It's a wonderful surprise. The only sadness is that I haven't found any aliens in the hole. Yet.  They might be coming.  Horowitz's four hour talk is on YouTube posted by UFO TV: The Disclosure Network.  So there may yet be aliens.  If you're as obsessive as I am about crazy spiritual things, mainstream and fringe, take a look at his talk.  Or as much of it as you can bear.  I'm only 70 minutes into the talk and have taken long breaks from it.
Horowitz is currently discussing how the frequencies were discovered encoded into the book of Numbers in the Old Testament - because offerings were made by representatives of the twelve tribes of Israel on twelve successive days and each day's offering is described in much the same way in six verses.  (In a verse structure that didn't exist until thousands of years later but Horowitz doesn't seem worried about that).  The conclusions raised by this six verse interval are far further than far fetched.  My own conclusions when I used to read through the Bible regularly and got to that chapter were that I was quite bored with it and that I looked forward to getting ahead a few chapters to Balaam and his talking ass.

I just wish my friends weren't into any aspect of this total junk, some of which isn't just daft it's dangerous. I wish there was something I could say that would convince them it was junk. Because all those friends are very lovely people. And some of this is very dangerous and damaging.
That's all I wish.  People can believe whatever helps them.  As long as they don't look down on those who disagree or claim that their belief is an essential for some kind of salvation.  But when that belief becomes dangerous and when it arises from and is connected when the kinds of things solfeggio frequency theories are linked to then that becomes a matter of great concern.

Believe a wafer is the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus.  Fine.  I believed that.
Believe your gurus inhabit a particular place in a temple because a book is there.  Fine.
Be helped by making an offering to Krishna, ancestors, God, guru, Buddha, or whoever else.  Fine.

But when belief becomes a danger I will be worried for you and equally worried for anyone you may influence through your dangerous beliefs.

If it wasn't for the dangers I'd say to my friends to believe whatever they wanted about the power inherent in these frequencies (which are only 440Hz or 528Hz or some other number of Hertz because we relate them to an arbitrary time period that in English is called a second.  639Hz in the picture at the top wouldn't be 639Hz if Hertz wasn't based on that particular time period so making anything about it being multiples of three - as Horowitz does - is without common sense.)

But with the dangers?  I'd love them to stop.  I'd love them to walk away from such nonsense.

You may say I'm over-thinking all this - rather than my friends under-thinking it.  You may be right of course.  Just in case, I'd better close by watching this video and listening to the sounds through my headphones.  That'll solve my problem.  One of the comments tells me to heal the world by listening to this while holding my crystals.  Yeah, that might work.  It's quite relaxing.  I admitted that right at the start.  I still freely admit it.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Consequential Loss - Notes On A Radio Play And Autistic Theatre

I recently took the plunge and joined up with a theatre group for autistic people.  It's a pretty new group and the people there are varied.  There autism is as varied as they are.  What everyone shares is enthusiasm.

The core group meet currently for one day a week, being joined for the morning by a group from a local college of ESPA (Education and Services for People with Autism).  We have fun and are supported in what we do by two paid staff members who work more or less full time for the Twisting Ducks Theatre Company which is run for people with learning difficulties and (now) autism.

I feel very fortunate to be able to go and have fun with the people of Spectrum Theatre - the autistic child of the Twisting Ducks.  It is hoped that in the future some extra funding can be obtained which would mean that the work of Spectrum could develop a lot further.  Also in the near future there's going to be an eight week creative writing course - which we're really meant to call creative storytelling in recognition that there may be people on that course who have amazing imaginations but who can't write or can't write well enough to set down their fantastic stories on paper.

I'm also very fortunate in that the current funding obtained for Spectrum means that the day that's laid on for we autistic people is free of charge.

I've met some great people in Spectrum, all autistic and all experiencing joys and trials that accompany our condition.  And it's just one more way for me to open up to my own creative possibilities and the possibilities of others.  For now it is a place I will stay.  I make no predictions for the future.

Almost the first thing the core group were asked to do was to write a radio play.  Each of us would write, with the idea being that we will record the plays and put them out on a local community radio station.

I've written quite a lot in the past year, though not as much I would have liked.  But I've never attempted a play either from scratch or from adapting one of my crazy stories.

I have now written a play.  And then it had to be edited - the censor's pen had to be used.   The broadcasts would be daytime and I accidentally wrote something with adult content and language including rather more swearing than families would appreciate.  I'd written a late night show or something to adapt into a theatre piece with a 15+ age warning.

I've been my own censor though.  The fruity language has been removed or toned down and I wonder in places whether I've lost realism.  I've adjusted quite a few lines.  Watered down sex references and some imagery that the BBC controller would have banned.  I'm glad the actual plot is unchanged.  There's still the darkness and light, the despair, the betrayals, the hope.  I'm glad I haven't been asked to make the plot insipid

There's also the matter of religion.  One of the characters is a religious homophobic bigot.  I can write religious bigots.  I know the subject first hand!  The character is quite extreme but I've known people who are equally extreme and equally nasty about it too.  I thankful I didn't get quite that bad myself in my own years of religious homophobia.  I think that the character worked as I wrote her.  She's still there too.  She's surviving the censor.  But her language and bile is a little mellowed.  I also considered the intended audience and wondered whether they would be up in arms about my attack on the Christian faith.  It's not really that of course, just an attack on a particular manifestation of the faith, the version that names people like me as abominations.  For a late night broadcast or a theatre I'd let it stand.  But not for this intended broadcast.  So I've taken pains to point out that not all Christians are like that.

Since the broadcast will be in Newcastle I've pointed to a few of the churches here in which being queer won't result in the preacher abusing you or consigning you to hell for your sexuality and gender.  Who knows?  Perhaps someone will hear it who is a Christian and is queer too but hiding the truth and fighting against themselves through guilt.  Just as I did.  Perhaps someone like that will hear and something will be planted in them that helps them seek out a place where they can live their faith in more freedom.  I can live in the hope that a radio play might do some good.

I've deliberately kept the scenes simple.  Deliberately linked them with narration from the main character.  I think, as a first attempt at writing a play, it has worked out well.  Unfortunately I now want to re-edit it to put some of the fruitier language and imagery back in and have two versions of it to play with.

Each of us in that core group has written a play.  They are as varied as we are.  I've ended up being the only one of us to include nothing from the realms of science fiction and fantasy.  Much as I love those genres - and need to get back to working on my post-apocalyptic dystopian novel - I've ended up firmly rooted in the real world.  The other plays are each filled with their own surprises and it's a good thing that they are such contrasts from each other.

My first scene was initially written at a Spectrum session.  We were all told to write a scene.  One simple idea popped into my head and it just flowed with hardly another conscious thought.  Two friends meet in a cafe.  One confesses to the other that she is having an affair.  She was having it with a man named Graham.  But as I wrote his name my pen paused, almost the only break it gave to my writing hand.  My pen considered its options.  Crossed out the word Graham.  And wrote the word Erica.

Since that day I haven't made any enormous changes to the scene - just a few, arising from details the characters gave me about themselves as they wrote the rest of the play for me.  It's always nice when people can hardly believe that I've just written something from scratch in a writing session.  That happens sometimes.  Other times I can hardly write anything at all and any words that get miserably scrawled should really only be filed in the embarrassing section.

I hope that writing the play has taught me something about the process.  Something I can put to good use later.  I hope too that it will give me a little more confidence in writing conversations.  I never used to include much in the way of conversation because I didn't think I understood the rules of conversation well enough to write one.  I hope that this play is a step on the path to being able to write realistic and engaging talk.  I don't think I'm there yet.

Sometime soon I'll probably post the whole play here.  Unless I go crazy, edit it more and try and get someone more professional to record it.  That's always a possibility.

So, onwards with Spectrum.  See where it leads.  I'm guessing it may throw me in a few surprising directions.  And I'm happy with that idea.