Friday, 11 April 2014

(Unusually) Excited

I am not one for saying “I’m so excited!” about anything much, being a cautious and phlegmatic pragmatist with a watchful habit.

When self-help gurus start their videos with “I’m so excited about my course/product/therapy/opportunity to connect with you”, my response is generally an irritable internal “Yeah, right.”

So if I say I am excited about anything, it’s simply true and you can believe me.

And I am excited about this.

Paulette Meier (don’t know her, never heard of her until today) has made an album of key Quaker texts, set to plainsong by her, and sung by her – acapella voice.

It’s just brilliant!

Thank you Paulette!

There’s a time at the day’s end when my eyes are tired but my mind is awake and very receptive.  That is when I shall listen to this album (apart from just having listened to the whole thing straight through right now).

If this floats your boat as much as it did mine, you can get it as MP3 downloads by individual track or the whole album, here on UK Amazon or here on US Amazon.

Alas, no sign of the advertised pdf of songsheets, so I’ve messaged her on Facebook to enquire how to obtain that.  I’ll let you know when I know.

Here’s the YouTube video about the project.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Thoughts about Light

 Medieval anchorites/anchoresses lived in an anchorage, a dwelling built against the wall of a church.  The anchorite had a window opening into the church, through which to receive communion, and a window opening onto the street for that other way of living the eucharist – communion with ordinary people;  sharing wisdom and taking their troubles into the heart of prayer.

The name – anchorite/anchoress/anchorage – obviously comes from ‘anchor’. What were they anchoring? The Light.  Their task in life was to anchor the light of heaven into this local spot of Earth.  They were there to beam down the Light, and hold it there.

This was a very self-giving thing. It required a kenosis, a self-emptying, a willingness to be set aside and offered up to a path of absolute simplicity, so as to achieve the level of transparency through which the Light might be poured.

*        *        *

The American mystic Elise Nevins Morgan wrote: ‘A beaming countenance, integrity of body, form and face, is all important and is only won through faith – faith in the fullness of God’s life. Repeat: “In faith I live, in faith I move, in faith knowledge dawns and I am awakened.’”
As beautiful as all her writing – but she riveted my attention with those words, ‘A beaming countenance, integrity of body, form and face’.  Usually, when people say ‘a beaming countenance’, they mean ‘a smiling face’ – but that’s not what ENM is saying here. 
Her meaning draws on the Aaronic blessing, ‘The Lord bless thee and keep thee; the Lord lift up the light of His countenance upon thee, and be gracious unto thee, and give thee peace.’
‘The light of His countenance’ is not a cheery smile. It is the concentration, the beaming forth, of the I AM, the living core, the creative centre.
When ENM speaks of ‘A beaming countenance, integrity of body, form and face’, she is describing the task of anchoring the Light, so opening and offering oneself as to hold the Light in this local spot of Earth.

This is a very self-giving thing. It requires a kenosis, a self-emptying, a willingness to be set aside and offered up to a path of absolute simplicity, so as to achieve the level of transparency through which the Light might be poured.

*        *       *

My friend Pearl, a healer, writes poetic reflections. She works with a healer and wise man in his speaking ministry.  When he prepares to speak, he gives her the subject matter and charges her with the task of preparatory listening so that, comparing the results of their work in advance of the class he gives, they may get as it were a triangulation on the now word of God for the present moment. 
She listens, and then she writes down what comes – notebook after notebook of poetic reflections, what Pearl has heard from God.  She is well named.

I spent some time visiting with her this last week.  Here is an extract from one of her most recent listenings:
‘And then The Light  
The brightness of the heavens  
Revealing itself in the silver moon, the stars,  
In sun and sunbeams,  
Pink dawns and sunsets gold,  
Sunlight that shapes a rainbow in the sky  
By shining through myriads of raindrops in a sudden shower  
Then rippling a golden path across the sea.  
And then, the Christ-Light  
That shines through the eyes, words, touch and heart of man  
In God’s illumination of each soul.’

*        *        *

These three things taken together – the anchorage holding the light for a local spot of earth, faith holding a beaming countenance of light in a particular person, and the work of Christ in focusing the divine Light into humanity – made a sudden, immense expansion of awareness in me, gave me a startling insight into what Jesus was actually doing.

. . . have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature [or, in the form of] God,
 did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature [or, the form] of a servant,
 being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself . . .
(Philippians 2:5b-8a NIV UK)

He was the first anchorite, bringing and holding the light into this place on Earth – humanity – and by grace incarnating a beaming countenance in our midst.

This is a very self-giving thing. It requires a kenosis, a self-emptying, a willingness to be set aside and offered up to a path of absolute simplicity, so as to achieve the level of transparency through which the Light might be poured.

*        *        *

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.  And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.
(Genesis 1:1-3 NIV UK)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
(John 1:1-4 NIV UK)
*        *        *

Christ, the Logos, anchored the Light from its inception.  He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made.  When God said, ‘Let there be Light’, Christ was the anchor, the beaming countenance through which Light streamed and life began.

In the person of Jesus he specifically anchors Light into the human race.  The Light is diffused throughout Creation – holy, because it arrived there only through the Logos, the Christ, without whom nothing was made that is made – in dawns and dusks, in stars and sunset, in the golden glory of light across the sea, in the rainbow, in the splendour of sun amid clouds and the bright path of the moon; but in Jesus the diffused Light is made particular, anchored into us – our hope, our illumination, our salvation.

This is a very self-giving thing. It requires a kenosis, a self-emptying, a willingness to be set aside and offered up to a path of absolute simplicity, so as to achieve the level of transparency through which the Light might be poured.

*        *        *

These thoughts remind me of that wonderful poem by the theosophist Alice Anne Bailey, The Great Invocation.

From the point of Light within the Mind of God 

Let light stream forth into the minds of men
Let Light descend on Earth. 
From the point of Love within the Heart of God
Let love stream forth into the hearts of men 
 May Christ return to Earth.  
From the centre where the Will of God is known
Let purpose guide the little wills of men
The purpose which the Masters know and serve.  
From the centre which we call the race of men
Let the Plan of Love and Light work out
And may it seal the door where evil dwells.  
Let Light and Love and Power restore the Plan on Earth.

I’ve never been too sure about the bit saying ‘may it seal the door where evil dwells’.   Personally, I want evil dealt with a bit more thoroughly than that.  The cross of Jesus, standing between Earth and Heaven, acts as a kind of lightning conductor – anchoring and focusing the Light with such trustworthy stability that evil is utterly zapped; not sealed up, not temporarily thwarted, burnt to blazes, finished.

This is a very self-giving thing. It requires a kenosis, a self-emptying, a willingness to be set aside and offered up to a path of absolute simplicity, so as to achieve the level of transparency through which the Light might be poured.

*        *        *

When I participate in the Eucharist, and go to make my communion with God, as I eat the bread and drink the wine . . .
‘The Body of Christ’ 
‘Amen’ – and Augustine taught his catechumens, ‘Let your “Amen” be for “I Am”
. . . I pray, Lord Jesus, put to death all that is evil in me.  For evil cannot co-exist with Christ. In the body Christ enters, in the heart into which he is invited, evil is routed, dispatched.

This is a very self-giving thing, that Jesus does for me, in the Eucharist. It requires a kenosis, a self-emptying, a willingness to be broken and poured out and offered up to a path of absolute simplicity, so as to achieve the level of transparency through which the Light might be poured.

So it is that in me Christ the anchorite holds the Light to the particular spot of Earth that I Am, his beaming countenance announcing his new creation; Let there be Light. And it will be.

Create in me a pure heart.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Misophonia. Whatever next?

Nothing to do with the subject in hand, but I thought I’d treat you to a recent snap of my grandchildren.

Forgive the digression.  You know how we grannies dote . . .


My daughter Grace (Buzzfloyd), her nose ever faithfully to the trail, continues to track down instances of the Neurological Weirdness that besets our family, with a view to better understanding and empowering its members – herself and her son in particular.  Snuffling suspiciously along the criss-crossing paths of the forest of Life, she has come across this one.


All the women in my family have this.

What is it? Well, the “mis” part you'll recognize from misanthropy and misogyny – it’s an inherent aversion to something, a profound, irresistible, instinctive innate dislike – going beyond dislike, actually; intolerance.  Inability to tolerate.  And the “phonia” – well, symphony, telephone, phonic – it’s to do with sound.

So misophonia is a near phobic aversion to sounds.  Not just any sounds.  Social sounds; human sounds.  The sounds people make when they eat with their mouths open, for example. Or the sound of a lower-middle-class English person socially acculturated to start a cup of tea with an inward slurp followed by a release of breath, “Aaaaaaahh . . . .”  As the tea-drinker releases his audible “Aaahh”, the misophone responds with an internal, inaudible “Aaaaaaaagh!!!!” and has to apply every ounce of self-discipline to stay still and keep smiling, resisting the impulse to scream, run from the room or let fly an astonishing and unreasonable stream of invective.  The children of misophones learn early to eat with their mouths closed and move quietly through the world.  Which begs the question; to what extent is misophonia endogenous and neurological and inherited, and to what extent is it a psychological trait acquired through socialization?  It is easy to mistake one alternative for the other.  You get this in many manifestations of human idiosyncrasy – heart disease for example.  It is said to be inherited, but then if there’s one thing we inherit and have the devil of a job altering, it’s our eating patterns.  Either way with misophonia, it’s a powerful, visceral force; and my family have it in spades.  Grace tells me that once when they were small I even asked a guest at our home if he would please not eat with his mouth open as I was trying to train my children not to do so.  I can’t believe I actually did this, but I do know I was even crazier as a young woman than I am now – it’s taken years of assiduous work and study to acquire whatever levels of calm and sanity I have now (however tenuously) attained.  So Grace is probably right.

One of us can’t stand the noise the water distiller makes (a quiet electric fan running for some hours).  When my children were little I had to give them notice of running the vacuum cleaner – and we still avoid vacuuming the floors because the noise does our heads in.  We sweep, when and where we can.  One of us, as a child, couldn’t help the involuntary noises she made because of one neurological disorder but couldn’t bear the minor eating noises others made, because of her misophonia.  It’s all rather wearing.

Some people have it really badly.  A friend of Grace’s was reduced to tears at the prospect of attending a wedding reception (her own, for all I know) because her husband’s family all eat with their mouths open.  We don’t have it that badly.  It doesn’t make us cry.  But we’d probably leave early.  Or not go.

I have an intense aversion to social events where people have their mouths open in that particular kind of welcoming social smile.  Wet. Gleaming teeth. Souls not tucked in properly.  That’s (one reason) why I like the Society of Friends; they keep their mouths shut most of the time. They aren’t alarmingly friendly.  Such social events are often venues for the noises that torture misophones.  I can’t even bear the photos in fashion magazines where the models have their mouths open in supposedly inviting or seductive expressions.  And the visceral revulsion that homophobes experience about the prospect of homosexuality afflicts me about all displays of sexuality  especially on the TV or on films. Any danger of a screen kiss and I shut my eyes tight in horror, and if it’s the wet sucky licky kind I wrap my hands round my head as well so I can’t possibly see or hear them and someone has to tell me when it’s gone. Ugh.  Screen sex, ditto.  Can’t bear it.  The notion of sex doesn’t distress me, whether homosexual or heterosexual, and my own intimate relationship rolls along fine.  It’s the screen sound and visuals that reduce me to crumpling horror; like being overwhelmed by mucusy gastropods (oh gosh, look, some people do it on purpose!). Well, I know snails are silent, but I think in this instance it’s all tied up with the misophonia.

But now, here’s the thing. It seems there are in the world people with philophonia as well (or should that be philaphonia?).  Not philophobia.  That’s a recognized term for the irrational fear of emotional attachment or of falling in love.  I don’t have that, though I have the darnedest job staying attached, to anyone or anything, but that’s another story.  No, philophonia is a word of my own creation, meaning the opposite of misophonia.  A philophone likes the sounds the misophone can’t bear.

An introvert as well as a misophone, silent and as folded-in as an sea anemone, I can pass through any place unrecognized and ignored, because I give out no signals.  I didn’t realize anyone gave out signals until, walking through the town centre with a friend who can’t go anywhere without being constantly stopped by acquaintances who recognize him and want to chat, I began to realize he was causing this by making little sounds.  As soon as he saw someone he knew, he began making very tiny sounds in his nose like incipient guinea-pig vocalisations, repetitively. Yes, I am barmy.  Yes, it would take a misophone to notice.  But yes, this is true. Mini subliminal sounds.  Drawing attention. Curious.  And it seemed to be working.

But now, here’s the thing. I, a misophone, live in a misophonic household all with neurological dispositions in that direction trained and exacerbated by me, their mother (mea culpa) into an extreme condition; except one of us.  For my husband, gentle reader, is a philophone; a man with a sound track, communicating with the world through a seamless unconscious unintentional interweaving of exhalations, grunts and whistles throughout the day.  If he sits down on a chair, it’s with a satisfied “Oooooh” and a sigh of pleasure at how nice it is to sit down.  Sometime two or three times.  A salesman of extraordinary ability, when he locks into advocating a product, I’ve noticed (a misophone would) he emits infinitesimally small smackings of the lips at the end of each phrase – inviting and encouraging, I suspect, on a subliminal plane, and imperceptible to those who are not misophonic.  Contentedly, as he potters round the bedroom of a morning searching for his socks and his vitamins, he whistles through his teeth. I must restrain the compulsion to give full vent to my misophonia, and end the catalogue there.  On occasion, I have looked at him with amazement and said “You are the noisiest man I have ever met.”  And of course, in this household of narrowed-eyed misophones padding through life in stealth mode with their mouths shut like traps, he comes within a whisker of death every day.  It is a measure of how much we love and esteem him, for a dearer man never walked the earth, that we continue along together.  And also because by this time we know a disorder when we see one; misophonia is quite common, but it is not normal, if you see what I mean.

But silence is golden.