31 July 2009

Don't Found a Church That Will Be Headed By Committee

Or do, perhaps. It seems still to be working for the Presbyterians.

I'm not sure if anyone who reads this has been paying attention to the state of the Anglican Church since the Episcopal Church in the US had General Convention recently but it is a sorry state of affairs. You can read about it here, our Presiding Bishop's letter is here, Rowan Williams' response is here and reflections from the Anglican communion institute are here.

Now, I have infinitely more patience with the Church trying to figure out what to do with non-heterosexual people than I do with the government (Barack Obama, what is the matter with you?) but I do not have much patience for wrongheaded arguments from anyone. My problem with the arguments coming out of Canterbury is that they frame the debate about opening ordination to non-celibate queer people and giving blessing on same-sex partnerships in terms of sex. It is not about sex, it is about love. Secondly, these arguments tend to implicitly assume that queer people exist outside of the community and are somehow intruding on the Church. This is not the case. Every single queer person on earth has parents, often siblings, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, friends - they are not a discrete group of individuals but rooted deeply into society. To deny the full humanity of queer people affects not only any individual queer person, nor even merely those who fall into that category but also anyone who is a parent, child, relative or friend of someone who is queer.

Thirdly, to close up ranks by brandishing church tradition in the faces of those who want change and making threats of schism and rival communions is not Christian behavior. Nor, indeed, is doing so philosophically consistent with the origins of the Anglican church. To me, the great miracle of the Anglican church is that from its very beginning it managed to unite anti-monarchical Puritans with those who might have preferred to remain Catholic through having a single Book of Common Prayer. There is no clear reason, it seems to me, to think that it cannot hold us in communion now.

Blegh, such a frustrating mess. And all it will lead to is another report and then a conference and then an advisory and so on into darkness. It never will be resolved if the argument cannot be framed in proper terms because, until then, we will all be talking at cross purposes and waffling all the while. Nothing was ever solved by informal fallacies!

25 July 2009

This Post Has No Concluding Paragraph

Well, amici mei, I am feeling much better these days. I'm through the worst of the finding money for school, a form for this whole visa application process that I thought would be scary turned out not to be at all bad and will take me about five minutes to fill out and my personal life is no longer in tatters. Hurrah!

I know that this is going to sound obscure and specific simultaneously but I'm just going to say that I'm a lot happier having my third choice than my last choice with respect to my personal life. I don't know that it's really my third choice because I haven't actually undertaken a quantitative ranking but you get the idea. Things being what they are now, it is the best outcome anyone could expect, so I suppose it's my pragmatic first choice.

[I have tried three times now to write a concluding paragraph to this post but it has come out trite and/psycho-babbley each time. I give up! I'm just going to stop here and hope that my writing skills return to me for the next post...]

23 July 2009

John Donne Sonnets XIV

Batter my heart, three person'd God; for, you
As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend,
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow mee,'and bend
Your force, to breake, blowe, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurpt towne, to'another due,
Labour to'admit you, but Oh, to no end,
Reason your viceroy in mee, mee should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weake or untrue.
Yet dearly'I love you,'and would be loved faine,
But am betroth'd unto your enemie:
Divorce mee,'untie, or breake that knot againe,
Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I
Except you'enthrall mee, never shall be free,
Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee.

20 July 2009

Logical Craft

Here are the fruits of my Victorian frailty. I took Kate's advice and made a sampler - not of a slogan, admittedly, but still something I can believe in. It made a very nice pair of afternoons - I sat out on my porch in the sunshine and our nice cool, 27C weather and had a pretend Victorian convalescence.

The sampler shows a formal way of writing a kind of logical operation known as modus tollens, followed by its proof by truth table. The embroidery is not quite finished; I'm going to sew in 'modus tollens' at the bottom but I made too many mistakes trying to write it out with the erasable fabric pen so I had to wash the fabric and let it dry before I could try again, but you get the main idea.

The little sideways horseshoe indicates a conditional statement and means 'if...then'. The tilda means 'not'. The three dots in the form of a triangle mean 'therefore'. So the top part reads '1. If P then Q; 2. not Q; therefore not P'. Then the truth table lines up all the possible truth values for the whole thing. In non-modal logic, statements can be only true or false but not both and not undertermined. Anyhow, it shows that a conditional is false when the antecedent (in this case P) is true and the consequent (in this case Q) is false.

So now I have my own embroidered version of a fundamental logical truth about the world. That makes me happy. I plan to make one for modus ponens next. Thanks, Kate, for the suggestion!

18 July 2009

Like Creeping Damp

As the day when I'll move to my parents and away from dear old urban Appalachia approaches I find that I am losing my mind. I wish I were saying that in the colloquial sense but I am not. Somehow, ending an important relationship, giving up my cat, the prospect of double moving (first to DC, then to London) and dealing with the federal student loan system has frayed my sanity around the edges. Fancy that.

It's rather disappointing. I've been doing so well. Now around 11am and 4pm every day, I find I have to stop whatever I'm doing and lie down for a bit. I'm not much of one for tears but I find myself weeping a little with the slightest provocation - like an emotional incontinence. I feel like a specimen of Victorian female frailty. Perhaps I should go somewhere for my nerves and take a rest-cure...

My mother is going to come down and give me a hand next week. I was hoping not to have to ask her and it worries me a little to ask her (after all, won't that make her secretly hate me?) but something has to give and I'd rather it not be my mind. I need the help. I keep saying out loud - to myself alone and not the cat, alas - 'Yes, if your mother comes to help you she will secretly hate you and take it out of you in other ways.' Put that way, it is risible. My mother never takes anything out on anyone, not even the mean-spirited, gossip-mongering faction of the hospitality committee at her church. If she can forbear them - I can't, it's not even my church and I still almost lost my temper with them - then she can easily bear with me.

It'll be all right once I get up to my parents. I'm just pretty thoroughly uncomfortable, for now.

14 July 2009

Radioland Visits Broadmoor

I am a regular listener to This American Life on the public radio here in the US. Their last show, titled Pro Se after the legal term for representing oneself in court, really caught my attention. The first long story in it is about a man, here given the pseudonym Tony, who faked mental illness to avoid prison for committing grievous bodily harm. He ended up in one of the highest security units at Broadmoor and has been there for twelve years.

The story goes into detail about the difficulty of shaking a psychiatric diagnosis, especially within the context of a psychiatric hospital. There was a well known study done about the 'stickiness' of psychiatric diagnoses back in the 70's; I can't remember who just now but there is a copy of it somewhere in my research folder and I will find it. The story also includes something new to me - perhaps I've been under a rock and this isn't news to anyone else - which is the Scientologists' campaign against psychiatry. Now that I know about it, I wonder whether that might be behind some of the comments I've seen.

Anyhow, I can't write a proper post about this just now because I am off to my parents' today and I won't have the necessary books with me to write what I want to about it. The reason I have gone ahead and put this up is that This American Life will let you download their shows for free for one week so I thought I'd give anyone interested the chance to do so. If you're reading this after Saturday, you can always listen to any of their shows for free by streaming.

"Brian says Tony's story demonstrates that no two psychiatrists can agree on anything and they basically just make it up as they go along. I think his story demonstrates that it is a huge mistake to screw with psychiatrists and you should be careful not to tell people you're crazy, because you might turn out to be way too convincing about it."

Tony's story is told by Jon Ronson.

13 July 2009

Memorial to My Cat - Further Evidence That I Am Indeed a Single Lesbian in Urban Appalachia

Tomorrow my cat goes off to his new home - in rural, rather than urban, Appalachia. He has been adopted by one of those classicist friends of mine. I know he shall be quite happy with her but I am going to miss him rather a lot. He is, after all, the best cat that ever was.

The cat is named after Vaslav Nijinski, a ballet dancer with the Ballets Russes in the early 20th century who was famous for his ability to jump and later went mad in Zurich. I saw him be born in a house 2 blocks away from my current apartment back in 2004 and I've had him at home since July 4, 2004. He's the only pet I have ever had apart from some very short term goldfish in elementary school.

Vaslav is an excellent catcher of bugs, which has been very useful since my across the hall neighbors moved away and their cockroach infestation tried to move over to my kitchen (keep in mind that these are Southern cockroaches - 1 to 2 inches long with big black wings that will chase you - not the measlier varieties that I have seen in more northern climes). He has successfully kept them at bay. He likes more than anything else to steal bits of lettuce out of my salads so he gets some as a treat for Sundays. His favorite thing to play with is bamboo stalks, preferably with the leaves still on. He plays fetch, too, with his toy mice and comes running up to the door when I come home. He watches me out of the window when I'm waiting at the bus stop, which is really very cute.

He sheds like nobody's business, though, and that's not so very cute.

He is only a pet, not a child or a friend or a loved one, but I'll still miss him. I just can't afford to bring him with me. I don't know how I'm going to be able to pretend that I'm not talking to myself without Vaslav around. He has been very patient with my ramblings over the years and truly a prince among cats.

10 July 2009

Goodbye House

Well, I've finally reached the point where my household is truly breaking up. I've taken three boxes of books out to sell, my kitchen is half empty and my desk is about to make its way to Knoxville. On Monday, my cat will go to his new home and on Tuesday I will be driving half of the things I plan to keep up to my parent's house. Nearly everything else in the house is promised to someone - oddly, no one seems to want any of my 'good' furniture, such as it is. (By good I mean the furniture that I have that did not come flat-packed). If I can't sell it, I will probably end up giving it to the arts non-profit that I volunteer for or donating it to Habitat for Humanity.

I'm going to miss this apartment. I've been really happy here. I've also been spoiled by its size. I've had, for two years, two enormous closets, a bedroom, a study, a good-sized sitting room, a large bathroom and a too-small kitchen all to myself. There are so many windows - six in the sitting room alone - and each of the rooms is painted a different color. I dread the thought of being forced back into living in a flat with magnolia-painted walls. All that white and blankness - it suits truly modern buildings but to my eye is rather dismal in a converted Victorian or Georgian terrace. Those buildings were not meant to have all-white interiors.

I think, though, that London will be sufficient compensation for living in a studio flat with white walls. Perhaps I'll finally do what I've often thought of and go to Brick Lane or Berwick Street and buy enough fabric to cover at least one of the walls.

But for now, who will help me pretend that I'm not talking to myself once my cat is gone?

08 July 2009

Final Fourth of July

I seem to have lost the thread that leads from one post to the next post but I feel pretty sure that if I just keep writing them, I'll find it again.

This last weekend was Independence Day for us former colonials. I hope that it will be my last one whilst living here - I don't plan to move back to the states after grad school; I didn't want to move back in the first place and I get on better with my parents when I live on a different continent. Anyhow, because I'm off to London and two of my friends are off to Oxbridge and my very lovely ex-girlfriend but one is off to Missouri, all for grad school, we all four got together to watch the city fireworks from my back porch and discuss moving issues, house hunting and the fear of failure.

We've been friends as a group for three and some years now. The two going off to Oxbridge just got married last week; she's a classicist and he's literature with a classics minor. My ex-girlfriend but one - really now just a very, very good friend - is also a classicist and is going to study some very offbeat and interesting things about the classical tradition and classical urbanisation patterns. The Oxbridge classicist is going to work primarily on Greek paleography - she promised to take me to see the Oxyrhynchus papyri and I am unendingly excited. We are all a bunch of happy dorky people headed off to the promised land of graduate study. We've spent a lot of time together as a group, especially when N (ex-girlfriend who will henceforth be abbreviated because this descriptive reference thing is too clunky to be accommodated further) and I were still dating.

The Oxbridgers have been well known for hosting parties named after grammatical constructions in Greek and Latin. (Did I mention that we are all dorks? Is it necessary even to mention that?) There is a certain kind of construction for descriptive paraphrasis called an Absolute, so there was the Ablative Absolute party, the Dative Absolute party, the Genetive Absolute...recently we found out that there is a rarely used Accusative Absolute but we haven't managed to have that one yet. It could still happen.

Oxbridge boy and N have been best friends for years, since before either I or Oxbridge girl knew either of them. But it was at the time of the first Ablative Absolute that the Oxbridge people began dating each other and that N and I first got to know each other. She and I started dating near the time of the Genetive Absolute. Then at the Oxbridge people's wedding last weekend, N was Oxbridge boy's best man, which led to a fun discussion between me and one of the professor's small daughter who never has been quite sure whether N was a boy or a girl, which N gets a big kick out of. She finally decided that N was the best girl-man, on account of being a girl but the wedding program saying man and because she was standing with all the other boys up front instead of the other girls. That child is going to be very comfortable with gender queerness when she's an adult - it's great and it'll be an advantage if she goes into classics.

I do have a point to all this anecdote and it is this: between last weekend at the wedding with all those people who know what the intervocalic sigma is and this weekend on my porch, I noticed that I have a lovely group of friends. They have all done what they could to help me over the past few weeks, especially N, and I don't feel abandoned and rejected as I often have at the end of a relationship. (N actually sat there and listened to all the gory details - she has always been an above average ex but that really goes above and beyond). It hasn't been just these three either; it's been my Georgia friends and my across the hall neighbors and the rector at my church and some of the professors and even some of the people and the rector at my mother's church who've helped me.

Two years ago, when I had just got out of hospital and had the worst and most acrimonious break-up ever of my life, all of these same people were my friends. But two years ago, I felt completely abandoned. The difference this time is that I'm well.

I never did like the idea of borderline personality disorder and I still don't, nor do I think that I actually have it. But I looked it up a month or so ago and read what seems to me to be the calmest description of it I have ever seen, though it could just be that I was calmer, and something caught my eye. The 'borderline' in the name refers to being in a state of borderline psychosis. That much makes sense to me. It would explain the deep disjunct between my experience then and my experience now. Two years ago, everything and everyone felt hostile; I couldn't let anyone help me, especially with moving, because then they'd find things out about me and use them against me and come to hate me secretly if they didn't already hate me secretly. Every thing that anyone said was full of too much meaning, as though all words and phrases were talismans too inscrutable to understand but suggestive of grave consequences from the heavens to the depths for any reply in word or by deed. I couldn't understand what anyone meant when they talked to me and I was tongue-tied by the need to load my words with the right meaning, convinced that I needed to strike on exactly the right phrase, like a spell or incantation, that would tell them what they were asking so that they would stop interrogating me like that. I would be happy to take the suggestion that all of this was the result of a state of borderline psychosis; in fact, that does explain it much better than bipolar disorder alone. There would be no moral content in saying that I had bipolar II with concomitant psychotic tendencies - it would be a bit scary sounding, but it wouldn't have any moral content. Borderline personality disorder does, however, have moral content; it's in the idea of a disordered personality, a disordered self, which implies culpability and carelessness.

I was so much more ill than I knew. It's only since I've been feeling better that I've been able to see how far from well I was and for so long. It has only been nine months since I began to feel well, and only five that I have felt really well and I still feel better every month compared to the last. I have no memory of ever feeling well before, at least not in a longer-term, continuous, dependable way. It is a new feeling. I remember having the same trouble with talismanic sentences when I was seven.

It has definitely taken too long to find an adequate treatment and/or diagnosis but in a lot of ways it doesn't matter anymore, now that I have one. It's too late to do anything about the past now, and though I do wish it had been different, it is different now. Much like finally getting the bachelor's degree: it bothered me no end that I hadn't finished yet and so many years had gone by but now I have it and it doesn't matter to me that I got it this year instead of last because I have it forever from now on.

It's the same with my friends. I wish I had been able to understand that they were trying to help me and that I had been better able to accept that help two years ago. But it's there now and I still need it now and I can accept it and understand it now. Thank God.

So instead of spending this Fourth of July alone watching the fireworks from my back porch, we had a proper party with moderate drunken carousing and barbecue and I made my little pecan deadlies and there was bourbon and beer. It was a proper Southern celebration and the last any of us will see for years. There was even an illegal fireworks show that some people let off in the parking lot of the church across the street, which was better than the licit, city-sponsored fireworks. This time next year, it'll be time to stand in line at the Texas Embassy, which is a restaurant in London that's the hotspot for all the American expats who aren't invited to the party at Winfield House - it's a little cheesy but I have had some bizarre discussions about American foreign policy there over the years with junior VP's of various corporations so I still look forward to going. I'll be taking the Oxbridge friends with me.

03 July 2009

Continuing to Exist

I haven't been so sure about continuing this blog but I've found that I really miss it. So here I am.
Everything is a bit at sixes and sevens here; beyond personal life drama, I am also in the process of moving. I'm off to London for grad school in the fall to study philosophy and public policy - I can't remember whether I've said that before, so please forgive me if I'm repeating myself.

Either way, I'm very excited to be headed back to a country where 23 C counts as a heatwave. Where I sit, in urban Appalachia, we are having the exact same weather with the same lack of air-conditioning and all anyone can talk about is what a cold spring and summer we've had so far. From what I've been reading in the Guardian, the same weather is causing everyone to wilt across the Atlantic.

It's a little unfair of me to make mock. I remember the first summer after I moved here: I couldn't leave the house during the day from June til late September because the heat was overwhelming. I'm still not fully re-acclimatised. It certainly wasn't any warmer than this summer during the last summer I was in London (2003) but I seem to remember spending a lot of time on the 46 bus to get to Hampstead Heath and go swimming and eating unholy amounts of ice cream and thinking that I would sweat to death before the heat broke. However, after six years of being teased over my pusillanimous response to summer heat of the American south, it's hard to resist tittering in a friendly fashion.

I'm going to go spend about six weeks with my parents before I move overseas, which means that I'm in the odd process of dissolving my household now, still more than two months before I'll be heading overseas. The hardest part was finding a new home for my cat. I was there when he was born and brought him home exactly 5 years ago tomorrow, on the fourth of July. Now I'll be dropping him off at his new home in eleven days. Happily, he's going to a friend of mine whom I know to be good to cats. Still, it makes me upset to think about.

The fun part of this is giving away all my stuff. One of my friends (there are a bunch of us going to grad school this fall, including two who are also off to England) was joking about how it had all started to feel like an early Christian community, with everyone selling or giving away all they have. We've been swapping climate appropriate clothes and there's a lot of furniture changing hands. I've been putting together surprise boxes for various friends - filling them up with things that I think the recipient would enjoy having or make good use of. It's so nice not to have to make arrangements to move the furniture. I will easily be able to get myself and my books and clothes and paintings up to my parents' in my car.

The idea of not being here for next year's farm tour or this year's apple season and not being at Our Lady of the Holy Smokes for Easter (no more church choir!) is disturbing. However, whatever melancholia this premature nostalgia brings on is easily dispelled when I remember all things in London I like to do - there are so very many. I'll be back in the same town as some of my friends whom I haven't seen in six years and there will be tops of buses from which to stare out of the windows again and the Tate Modern and lunchtime concerts in the City churches and Primrose Hill and I won't have to drive everywhere. Walking will be easier, too, what with London being on an alluvial plane while I currently live in the mountains. You can't just go out and walk for a couple of hours here as you can there, and I miss it.

It's going to be nice to leave the ranks of America's uninsured too: due to state budget cuts, the mental health clinic I go to is now open only three days a week and they're about to dump patients like me, who aren't in a state of acute mental illness. I'm glad I won't have to figure out how to find appropriate care here next year.

I'm going to stop here for now with two requests:

1) There's no way for me to pretend that wretched things have happened in my personal life and that I am quite unhappy over the state of things. The world hasn't ended, however, and no one has died and I haven't lost my mind, so it will all be okay in the end. I just can't talk about it, so, though I know any enquiries would be friendly ones, please don't ask me about it.

2) I need to find a church in London: C of E, high, pref. Anglo-Catholic, and friendly to women and gay people. If you know of one (or of a way to try and find one - the diocese of London website is distinctly unhelpful), please tell me.

It's nice to be back.