Saturday, 21 March 2020

Speaking Up for Anger and Other Short Meditations


Speaking Up for Anger

Anger wants to be heard. If anger feels not listened to it gets louder. Telling anger you can't hear, won't listen, because it's too loud doesn't work. The volume might go down but the anger is still there. If your'e afraid of anger you can probably still feel it. Anger that's not dealt with, not expressed and not heard, festers.

Try not to be afraid of anger. And being angry at anger just because it's loud might be a mistake. Something deeply heartfelt is really upset that nobody ever seems to listen to it. And you're telling it to shut up again. To be quiet and go away, nobody wants to see that.

Let people be angry and listen to anger. It might take a bit of untangling, strong emotions always do. People do use strong emotions, of all kinds, to manipulate and intimidate, but it's so easy to mistake strongly felt anger for aggression.

Anger, like sexuality, can be so hard to control and so easy to cause harm with. Which makes constantly repressing either, and not learning to deal with strength of feeling in either case, is a bad idea and not a good idea.

Codicil: expressing strongly felt emotions including anger with great intensity at low volume is possible but very hard. Expecting people to be able to do that is unreasonable. If you do it really confuses those who use "stop shouting" to prevent people expressing emotions that make them uncomfortable. You're not shouting and their goto manipulative tool feels like it should work but doesn't.

Preventing people, especially children, from expressing anger and strong feelings including aggression can make them cruel. They'll find an outlet for those feelings one way or another, whatever society permits. By this means the suppression of anger in young people is a tool of the patriarchy. Only certain "permitted" outlets for anger and aggression are tolerated, especially against those who violate common decency. They're fair game. This is the violence inherent in the system.

On Guilt

Guilt is such a difficult emotion, but when you align it just right it can be the crack that sorrows flow out through. Sorrow, even grief, can be such a healing rain. Where you find sorrow compassion is never far behind.

It's why some people protect their pain as the dearest part of themselves. Pain and sorrow and guilt all wash together in compassion, for ourselves and for each other.


The invisible enemy that lurks in everyone, maybe. Contagious for two weeks before symptoms. Social distancing, wear a mask, don't look at strangers, never cough. Hide inside and pray.

The slow motion wave of mass hysteria, rising, rising. And rumours of horrors in places not so far away.

This is the scariest movie ever.

When the times become extraordinary
The normal changes
And those who have had to walk broken
Who couldn't hide their scars
Who could see the pain in every eye
And wondered why no-one thought it was strange
Who never thought normal was anything to aspire to
Find themselves in a strange place

No-one is trying to pretend things are normal
And for once the world makes sense
Because it has gone completely mad.
For once, they feel normal. At home. Not afraid.

The Psychological Matriarchy

Don't forget that the foundational parts of the psyche are formed in the early years of a child's life from their major influences. As the primary caregiver is more commonly the mother; the patriarchy, the behaviour and thought patterns that cause men to treat women badly, is primarily inculcated into boys by their mothers.

As women rise up, this changes.

This would be a psychological matriarchy which is in accordance with some of my religious beliefs, my witchcraft and worship of Isis.  Due to the unique relationship between mother and child the psychological substrate is substantially a matriarchy. Unfortunately currently a matriarchy enforcing the patriarchy under fear, since the product of the patriarchy in the characters of all peoples is the perpetuation of fear.

Getting men properly involved in doing the vast emotional work of raising children (at all levels including as teachers who ought to be paid more and more highly respected irrespective of gender identity) would make such a difference to everything. In The Cult of Isis the Heirophant is a masculine archetype, the high priest matched with a high priestess, and the symbol and seat of moral rectitude and right thinking.

Fear and Human Behaviour

Humans often have interesting self-defeating behaviour around people they're afraid of. This is especially true of those who defer to group-think for their decisions on who people are and how to treat them.

When people are afraid of someone a common choice is to be mean to them to keep them away or in an attempt to make them change. This includes ostracisation and exclusion from social groups.

But when you're mean to people it is entirely fair for them to be mean back to you. When you're afraid of someone creating a situation where the normal and appropriate response is for them to be mean to you seems unwise. It doesn't seem like you're going to come out on top of that one. As well as the fact that being a mean person is an unfortunate life choice.

It's the perfect recipe for living in fear, fear enforced by social convention.

In my experience of getting to know people I'm afraid of, the person I'm afraid of usually only exists in my imagination.

Computer Camp

When I was a kid I went on a Christian computer camp a couple of times. It was a mix of indoctrination and messing around with computers. I really enjoyed it, I had friends which I didn't really at school and I was quite into both computers and indoctrination at the time.

In one of the Christian bits I remember one of the helpers, an older lad a young man really, giving his testimony. He been exploring the occult and spirituality and he said "the problem with the occult was that as soon as you thought you'd found the truth or got near to understanding something it would ping away from you". Then he found Christianity and everything was nice and definite.

The computer camp was one of things my parents took away from me as punishment for being depressed when I was a teenager.

The Winds of Wilder Probability

I think this is a beautiful symmetry. From Descartes' second meditation on certainty you can conclude that you can't know anything with absolute certainty, only degrees of probability (except I Am).

And at the moment one of the deepest ways humans have attempted to understand reality, quantum mechanics, says that at the most fundamental level we can't really know anything with absolute certainty. Everything appears to exist only in degrees of probability. At least as far as we can tell, but quantifiably so.

Who knows what happens out there, out in the winds of wilder probabilities. Is it a worm hole or a rabbit hole?

Your Shadow

You can't know yourself until you've seen your own shadow. Once you see your shadow, so long as you're willing to be that person, all of your faculties and capabilities are there for the taking.

The deepest dreams of the heart can come true.

Thus shadow work. Take the negative, dark and difficult aspects of your character and turn them to your advantage. Find positive outlets for your darkest most destructive urges.

Alternatively you could live forever afraid of yourself and who you might really be once the veneer of civilization is stripped away.

We're animals. That's what we are. Taxonomically speaking.

Hide Your Hate Where You Can't See It

People want to hide their feelings from you so they can lie about them and they want you to be careful of their feelings. People don't make sense.

people hide their feelings as a matter of course, as a habit, out of fear.

What you won't give conscious expression will have unconscious expression. Basic psychology.

So you're ruled by feelings you won't/can't express. That's how we're brutalised. Oops, I mean socialised.

Hide your hate and spite away from yourself and you won't be able to see it in others too. But it's there like a constant bad smell that no-one can ever find the source of and eventually you stop smelling it.

Tune your hate into the right things and become friends with it. Like anger hate is a great power, partly because people are so afraid of it and ruled by it. Love what is right and hate all evil.

Other People's Feelings

Not saying things that might hurt someone's feelings, so they never have to face their feelings and can carry on living afraid and never having to change, is a coward's way to live.

Being unpleasant to people when they say things that hurt your feelings, to teach them not to hurt your feelings so you can stay afraid, boils down to being an unpleasant person.

We're all inextricably intertwined and the question of how much responsibility we bear for other peoples' feelings can never be satisfactorily resolved.

The Social Contract

The Coronavirus makes me think about the social contract and the duty of the individual to society.

Unpopular opinion: the social contract goes both ways. Those whom society has treated disgracefully owe society nothing. Quite the reverse.

The unemployed, the chronically sick, the mentally ill, the homeless. Want them to follow your social rules and conventions for the benefit of everyone?

Maybe that's reasonable in a society that looks after the vulnerable. Why should they follow our rules, what do they owe us?

Given my own personal journey I don't feel much of a debt to society. I feel a great debt to some people however. Friends are everything. Society mostly seems to suck.

Depression and COVID-19

Depression is very common, normal I reckon. There are many ways to deal with depression and to cope. I'm a great believer in talking therapies and understanding yourself and being a person you're able to respect by being true to yourself as the ultimate cure for depression. That's a very long road with many twists and turns and changes of points of view.

One common way to cope with depression or other normal mental illnesses is to keep moving fast enough that they never trouble you except as background anxiety. That doesn't play well with isolation.

I really wonder what the psychological impact of isolation will be. It could be an opportunity for dealing with issues, letting it all hang out, dropping pretences, self-reflection, self-care, building relationships.

My heart particularly goes out for those trapped in isolation with abusers and to those feeling truly alone. I'm sorry.

Personal Moral Integrity

When we contravene the moral code by which we judge others we excuse ourselves. We have reasons. But we neither know nor permit the other to have reasons, so our worldview has lots of little inconsistencies all over the place. It doesn't really work, best not to look too closely.

My moral code lets other people do what they want and says what I do is my business. It's pretty hard to contravene that anyway.

I reserve moral judgement for those who make moral judgements on others.

"We may look back on this as the beginning. The point where it became clear it was the end of the world."

Sunday, 26 January 2020

My Father and the Pathfinders

Neither belief nor disbelief are to be preferred. They are both delusions.
My father is very British. My grandmother disowned me as a teenager due to my waywardness, my grandfather was very loyal to me but was not my biological grandfather. My grandmother was a stern and hard woman, well regarded in the community, a magistrate.

My Father was sent to boys boarding school from a fairly young age, Stowe. That makes him a Stoic by tradition. He enjoyed it, despite breaking his back whilst he was there. He was disowned by his family for marrying a poor Jewish girl, daughter of an academic and well below his station. They were reconciled.

My real Grandfather died when my father was young. He was called Mr Curry and my Father knew very little about him until after his mother died and he found some old family papers through which he tracked down many cousins and other relatives he'd never known.

His father was a fighter pilot in the second world war, in the pathfinder squadron. In the early parts of the war the average British bomb was something like seven miles off target. This was partly due to bombers having to unload early due to heavy anti-aircraft fire but also due to how hard it was to bomb targets from the air.

The pathfinders, whose average lifespan was measurable in days I believe, were formed to help solve this problem. They flew ahead of the bombing raids, flying low and dropping flares on targets. After this the average distance of a bomb from the target went down to only a couple of miles I think. It was said they could land a flare on a target the size of a barn door.

My Grandmother spent the whole war certain he wasn't going to come back. He did come back, but then two years after the war he died as the copilot of a plane that crashed in a memorial parade.

Grandmother was then the single mother of two young children in post war Britain. My father still remembers rationing. She met John Foord and married him, he raised my father and his sister Jill as his own and had two more children with my Grandmother. He was a difficult man, hard to love, but he was good to me. My name is Michael John Foord.

That gentle flush of happiness
Rising effortlessly
Ending in a smile
And I smile back

Friday, 24 January 2020

Tales From the Past: Pungent Effulgent, The Serbian and Nightmare on Watling Street

Pungent Effulgent

We've just passed the thirty year anniversary of the release of Pungent Effulgent by Ozric Tentacles. It's epic.

I've seen Ozric Tentacles live twice, several years apart and both times on their "last ever" tour. Once in Cambridge and once in Northampton.

On the Northampton occasion I sneaked out of the commune, against strict orders and with no money to go and see them. My "shepherd", the one to whom I was accountable, demanded I didn't go with a command "as if from the Lord". I told him I didn't see it like that and cadged a lift with one of the brightly coloured minibuses taking volunteers from the farm to the various town commune houses.

A lovely woman who liked me bought me the ticket. After the show I told her I wouldn't go out with her (I had already told her that!) and had to find a different lift back home to the commune.

The first occasion, Cambridge about 1994, was at the Corn Exchange, when I was at university and prior to going mad. There was no ecstasy around at the time so I swallowed an eighth of hard slate hash in order to get high. I'm pretty sure it went straight through me. I didn't get high but Ozric Tentacles were good.

The Serbian

We're en-route to Croatia. Still a hundred miles to Turin where we're stopping for the night.

I don't think I've ever met a Croatian, not a memorable one anyway. I worked for several years for a charity, which mainly helped the homeless and disadvantaged, run by the cult I lived with for ten years. There I met people from many Eastern European countries, but not Croatia.

I've met a Serbian. She was very attractive, a sharp kind of beauty that I admire but am not particularly drawn to. I was high on LSD at the time, this was some years ago and at the Niagara Falls. Night may not be the best time to see the falls, all lit up like cotton candy, but you can feel the power of the place and it makes for a great trip. I was with a couple of friends, this was the expedition of the Delaware biting flies. One of my friends was coming to terms with a hard thing, which is not best done on LSD, so we drank whisky too. In large enough quantities alcohol will eventually overpower acid. I had no money, nor access to money as I'd left my wallet on a train on the way to the flight, so I drank on other peoples' dime.

In the bar we met an old friend of one of my companions. She lived and worked in the falls and took us to a dive bar where the few locals drank. There we watched two transexuals fight in the street and get barred from the pub. I made friends with the father/mother of one of the transsexuals.

Many of the locals, friends of the friend of a friend who brought us there, were Eastern Europeans traveling and working in America for as long as their visas would permit. I played pattacake with a pretty Hungarian, at furious pace, and then we settled round a table to play "I have never" and drink vodka shots. I sat next to the Serbian beauty and managed to spit most of a vodka shot straight in her face.

So I know I've definitely met a Serbian. I'm not sure if I've met a Croatian person though. I guess I will soon.

Nightmare on Watling Street

This road, the A5, has haunted me for most of my life. Well, not this road, this is the A5 in France.

In the UK (how much longer will there be such a thing?) the A5, also known in parts at least as Watling Street, is a Roman Road which goes from London to Wales. Along the way it goes through Towcester (Lactodurum) and St Albans (Verulamium) both of which I've lived near.

As a youth I lived in Harpenden and went to school in St Albans. Veralum School for boys. Or the torture house as I called it. Every day I would walk along part of the A5 to get to school.

Doing GCSE English Literature we read a book called Nightmare on Watling Street. A short and distressing (much like my stay at Veralum) story of a truck driver in the days before speed traps, when the word of a cop was enough for a speeding conviction. This driver is one conviction off losing his livelihood and is plagued by a mean cop the truckers despise. The trucker deals with the cop in a tragic and ingenious way. Anyway, it takes place on Watling Street is my point. The grey and gruesome tone of the book matched my experience of life at the time and it stuck with me.

Fast forward a bunch of years and I'm living on goddam Watling Street, just past Towcester in a cult commune called "River Farm". Two nightmares on Watling Street in one lifetime.

And now I'm on a different A5, in a different country, homeward bound and reminiscing.

The Senior Apostolic Leader of the Cult

Save the planet, bump off a billionaire. I'm with the Joker.
I'm a cult survivor. I joined the Jesus Army in 1996 when homeless. I lived in the "all things in common" communes until 2006. There are more stories and information on the Jesus Army Survivors blog.

I remember what in retrospect is an even odder occasion than what already seemed like an odd thing at the time.

I no longer lived with the cult but had retained my association with them, and some sincerely held faith, whilst being a programmer on the side.

Whilst living with them, seven years single and three years as a married man, I had reached the lowest echelons of male leadership as a Leading Serving Brother. An LSB. Mr Stanton was fond of acronyms. And he was in charge of everything.

This story is from some time after Mr Stanton was dead. Someone else was in charge. We had, what later turned out to be the very last of the "leaders meetings", an all male affair and a tradition of the cult stretching back beyond my two decades of association with them.

I had my leadership officially stripped away when we moved out of communal living with the cult. I was allowed in to this meeting as a kind of honourary leader. A gesture towards my more honourable past, perhaps. There were murmurings amongst the progressives of which I was one and possibly not even the most disreputable.

I think it was in this meeting we finally cracked and agreed that women should be permitted to drive minibuses. I left the communal part of the cult in 2006. So this was well past then.

After much discussion and explication of both sides and their scriptural arguments we had a question and answer time with the leader of the cult. The most senior of the apostolic five. The senior apostolic leader of the cult.

I asked him if, given the talk of permitting women a role in leadership which had actually started to happen, we would drop the testicle requirement for attending this meeting.

The senior apostolic leader of the cult replied, without hesitation, that we were feeling our way forward.

The place was uproar for some short while. Lads and aspiring lads to a man.

They did not have a leader's meeting of that kind ever again, and I was not invited to any of the meetings of the new power structures that emerged.

"If you dance with the demons they're angels.
If you flee they're demons.
That's how they tell your nature:
resist the devil and he will flee from you.
And flee we do, devils that we are.

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Crimes of the Cult

Content warnings: mentions of child abuse

I'm a cult survivor. I joined the Jesus Army in 1996 when homeless. I lived in the "all things in common" communes until 2006. There are more stories and information on the Jesus Army Survivors blog.

There was a man in the cult who it later turned out was a paedophile who abused some of the children brought up in the cult. We watched his personality crumble until he became a kind of shambling tramp. And then he was arrested for the abuse, which kind of explained the change.

I knew him from my early days in the cult. When I first arrived, homeless and broken, I was set to work in the chicken huts collecting eggs from the thousands of free range chickens at the farm. All the "guests" were put to labour on the farm or the cult businesses. I went on to work for nearly ten years at a Builder's Merchant owned by the cult. I learned a great deal in that time and made many friends, both colleagues and customers of a rural builder's merchant.

Collecting eggs from the chicken sheds was the second worst job on the farm. Not quite the very worst, the very worst job was collecting "floor eggs" (and dead chickens - pecked to death by their comrades as humans are also wont to do on the internet). But the chicken sheds stank and the eggs were frequently covered in blood or shit or both. What made up for it was the woman who ran the egg cleaning and packing shed. She was a saint, beaming only compassion, and had been in the cult for many years even when I arrived. Working in the cleaning and packing shed was balm to any soul.

On the third day or so I found a saviour. Not in the form of Jesus Christ, I sort of knew where to find him if I wanted and hadn't yet decided if I wanted although I couldn't actually see any other viable option, but in the form of one of the orchard workers. One of the few paid employees on the farm he was slightly strange but also slightly angelic. Just being in his presence caused me constant cognitive dissonance. He rescued me out of the darkness of the chicken huts and into the light of the orchards.

And I spent a summer partly sleeping in fields and partly picking fruit. Sometimes among the blackcurrant rows was a short, slightly portly and smartly dressed gentleman from Preston. Visitors from cult houses all across the country would come and provide volunteer labour at the farm.

I don't recall much about him until years later he moved back down Northampton way. A changing man. Preston was a weird scene anyway and he was a weird person. You didn't survive long in the cult without establishing a fairly firm "avoid the weirdos" policy. Lots of harmless nutters, some lovable some not so, and some you just didn't want to talk to. The dangerous nutters you hoped moved on quickly, they usually did.

Anyway. This particular horror did awful things. Some of which he confessed to, eventually, and some of which he denied and was found not guilty. He's now in prison and I shudder at the memory of him. There are others who will do more than shudder, alas.

He wasn't the only person from the cult that I knew who went on to abuse people and go to prison for it. There was only one other that I know of. I knew a murderer, but he was a really nice guy.

Codicil: I knew two people who went on to abuse children in the cult and go to prison for it. I knew a leader who sexually assaulted a young woman and went to prison and then returned to live in the cult. My best friend for years was the son of a paedophile (not in the cult) and another best friend for a few years was sexually assaulted by a leader in the cult. He only went "public" with that, and the ex-leader is now in prison I believe, a few years ago. I know a woman who was sexually assaulted at the farm, was blamed for it and made to move to another household. I only found out a few years ago, many years after the incident. I shared a room with a member who raped someone from a local village. He went to prison and came out again. A friend who returned to the cult from years earlier, now traumatised from working as a mercenary in Afghanistan, eventually revealed that the start of his trauma was being abused as a young man in the cult. Plus lots of strange and disturbing stories I heard. All still jumbled and jangling in my mind.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Dealing with it

No hell but what they make
The only time that I've been involved in drug dealing it was with the Director of Communications for the Church of Scotland. Let's call him John to protect the guilty. We were both at Corpus Christi college, Cambridge university. I was doing a law degree and going mad, he was doing a sociology degree (widely considered to be a drinking degree) and getting laid a lot. We both smoked a lot of weed. He was into out of body experiences and history. I was fairly convinced that whatever career path he wandered down "diabolical genius" was the job title he would end up with. I wasn't too far wrong as it turned out.

One of his acquaintances had come into "quite a lot of weed" and we were both aspiring entrepreneurs and fed up of paying retail price for weed.

The standard unit for buying "not small" quantities of weed was still a nine-bar, nine ounces imperial units. This was about 1994 or thereabouts. A nine-bar usually referred to a nine ounce slab of hash. The hash in Cambridge in those days was glorious, sticky black, morrocan, gold seal, lebanese. All Indica and brought with it the heavy blanket of night, starless and void. Hash cost £15 for an eighth of an ounce. I smoked it with rolling tobacco or neat in a pipe. When I smoked cigarettes it was Marlboro with their distinctive red and white packet, now gone in the UK, and their harsh but distinctive taste. It was rumoured that Marlboro was partly owned by the Ku Klux Klan, the white triangles in red on the top of the packet conceivably making a KKK. Smoking was clearly evil and if you were going to do something evil why not go all out.

It was harder to roll joints with cigarette tobacco, but I was proficient with both.

Weed was rarer, usually Sativa and prized and £25 for an eighth of an ounce. You could usually score an ounce for £120, a great deal of weed. We could get a nine-bar for £700 and knock out seven ounces at £100 each, below retail, and score a free ounce bag each. Knocking out seven ounces of weed at a discount in the hallowed halls of Cambridge was pretty easy.

We went to collect the grass. It was a large flat in the Cambridge suburbs, term time home to several fairly well off students it seemed. The multi-windowed living room on the first floor was laid out with blue tarp and about six foot by six foot by six inches of compressed weed still left on the tarp.

The dealer, a pleasant guy clearly in it purely for the money, the drugs and the lifestyle, made small talk whilst he carved out nine ounce bags of weed for us.

Having made the collection we retired to John's third year college room at Botolph court in the early afternoon. The logical thing to do was skin up a joint and John had a cold so I did the honours and as we had two ounces of weed between us I rolled pure grass joints. Normal in the US, extravagant in the UK. We talked the normal crap we talked whilst getting stoned and I rolled another joint.

By the third joint it was nearly time to go down to the college bar, centre of our social lives and source of cheap and free alcohol until the fired the hippy barman who made favourites of his hippy customers. John started to roll another joint, and then we realised. We were hammered already and the evening was only just beginning.

Love is a Superpower

For most people, adults and children alike, something extraordinary happens when we feel very loved. The defences drop, the eyes go clear and bright, a light turns on. And beauty shines.

That's the best sight in the world. The most remarkable feat of nature. Natural goodness.

Do you know how to tell how to love people? You listen to them. Do you know when most people will feel loved? When you listen to them.

Listening to people to work out what makes them feel loved, and proving you've listened and seeing if you're right, and watching people open up and grow. That's the most fulfilling thing I know to do. Given the choice that's how I'd spend my days.

For myself, and others I know like most cats, my love language is respect. I observe in myself that when I'm treated with respect I feel loved and that makes me grateful. So I try to do the same for others

My favourite reason that love is a superpower. When you love people it's hard for them not to open themselves up to you. If you genuinely love you learn really quickly. Fascination is an aspect of love.

So people show you who they are and you're able to learn from that. And if you catch it just right, that dance is the most fun thing in the world.

So we grow and change together.