Sunday, 12 April 2015

Over the top we go... Hot Crescent Buns

My long-term readers will know I have 2 regular and non-negotiable items to write a year. Both lunar-calendar based, Chinese New Year ... and this one – related to the tradition of Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday, Easter. It’s a bit later than normal. Read on or listen here

My long-term readers will know I have 2 regular and non-negotiable items to write a year. Both lunar-calendar based, Chinese New Year ... and this one – related to the tradition of Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday, Easter. It’s a bit later than normal.
This year I was in Turkey with my Father and his wife Di. We were chasing World War One ghosts in Gallipoli and Homer’s myths and legends in Troy across the Dardenelles. It’s always seemed a little strange to me that Troy is a real place with actual things like the Scamander river in which the Goddesses washed their hair and so on. At any rate this part of the world has been so central and important that these incredible Greek tales were set in them and the Romans claimed them too... Though perhaps it’s no different from the fictitious hero’s we populate ‘Gotham’ with in our modern legends.
Anyway as I was on Muslim soil and in the interests of inclusion and peace especially in religious ways I made a special effort. Ladies and Gentlemen - I present to you the Hot Crescent Bun! 

I did not bake these myself... I modified these from their original form. Wanting something of the cut-and-thrust of Homeric legend I’ve done a cut-and-paste job on them. But not of the Photoshop kind, no, this was an old school trimming of the sacred bread itself. Far preferable – after all who doesn’t like to get sticky fingers!
As you can see the results are like my beard - patchy at best - but it’s an effort to illustrate the title of this piece. Which in turn leads into the purpose of this missive. Tolerance.

While billions of people and countless cultural organizations don’t practice tolerance, YOU can. And that will make a difference. In your life and in the lives of everyone you encounter.

Religious intolerance is the most obvious global sticking point at the moment. I’m aware that religion has been the root of many horrendous conflicts. Or rather than root, its been used as the explanation for peoples being at war with each other rather than it generally being about economics as usual. And yet I am utterly baffled by the faith-based insistence on being right and to hell with the rest of you. And how otherwise logical folks think that there is any more reason to believe in one almighty god than there is to believe in the whole Pantheon of gods that meddled from Mount Ida in the affairs of noble Troy and are scoffed at now.

...But I’d like to address a different intolerance a little closer to home and insidiously active all around us.

Back in bad old segregated Johannesburg, South Africa I was in high school in the 80's. For an hour a week we were prescribed to do 'cadets’ training. This amounted to learning to march like we would be expected to when we went to the white apartheid conscript army after school. To some degree the students were left to drill themselves. Basically some of the seniors ordering the juniors to March around in class squads. Left right left wheel halt blah blah banal... Except once a group of matrics (final year pupils) decided to have some fun. They took our little squad of 30 or so 14 year olds. They picked one of them and made this one kid point out who was a faggot in the group. I don't have a lot of sympathy for this kid, made to choose, for he was a bit of a weasel and was clearly happy that he got to choose and therefore wasn't going to be the main target of this abuse. He chose a friend of mine, like me not very high on the list of sporting achievers and thus just perfect to bully. And of course I was also singled out as being ‘queer’. Next this matric (not the sharpest claw on the cat but definitely the meanest of the litter) made my friend lie on the ground with all the boys stand around and watching. And then I was made to do press-ups on top of him. I remember being horrified and embarrassed and just did what they asked and hoped it would end there. It pretty much did. What a stupid crappy thing to have to endure.

Now I don't really care about any of that anymore but I do care how homophobia is still used to bully, belittle and denigrate people around the world regardless of whether or not they even are homosexual. So I want everyone who knows me to know that it's not anymore ok to be even casually homophobic than it is to be casually racist, sexist and so on. But what freaks me out even more is that so many people aren't even casually so. They actually are so.

Everyone knows change is needed, everyone knows change is coming but people forget that change is and always has been happening... Each generation is more liberal than the last and more personal freedom attained than before. Many think this is a bad thing. But let’s face it... that decision is generally made by the people or groups in those societies that enjoy the most personal freedom within them. It isn’t the subjugated that choose slavery. At least its amusing to think how in a few years people protesting against same-sex marriage will look as daft as those protesting against equal civil rights.

But as per Gandhi’s words, being the change one wants to see in the world is unlikely to be comfortable. Being on the edge can be precarious... the precipice in front with a jostling eager herd behind or worse an angry mob filled with ignorance & hatred...

Like those brave men that fought and died in Gallipoli there was a moment at which they had to leap from their trenches and expose themselves to certain death. So too on much smaller levels there come moments in our lives in which we are willing to make a stand and expose ourselves to hostility. Not necessarily at some dramatic moment but rather at a point when one’s own confidence and indignation of the injustice has grown enough to do so. So over the top I go...

I've had some same-sex interactions. Almost entirely this has just involved kissing and most of those times have also involved a woman. I am far more drawn to women and to the female form however if I meet someone I simply have to kiss and they feel the same way then I have kissed them. Should I ever enjoy it more; I hope I have the courage to go beyond any form of residual societally placed homophobia and explore further. There is everything right with this attitude. In just the same way there is nothing morally higher or lower for any consensual act of love or sexuality between adults no matter the shade of grey.

My first pass at writing this article deliberately left my experience-level vague so people could think what they wanted to. I felt anything else might be apologetic. At one point I’d even considered ‘coming out of the closet’ as being bisexual or gay just in solidarity, regardless of the fact that I haven’t actually had sex with another man nor wanted to. But those were not my truths. I remain scared and wary of this form of sexuality but I completely recognize how wrong that is and how this fear has been placed within me by the actions of the social multitude and also the horrible few.

Whereas I know Love is Love. And I ... love you.

Doctor Lobster

This image courtesy of Francesca McHugh

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Baaaadd Times, Goat Friends...

Read on with pictures or listen to it here
As the Year of the Horse gallops over its finishing line a lot of us will wonder what we did on that ride, what shall we do next, how can we keep going, where are we going and why?
And to that the Goat, in Sheep’s clothing, sidles in with the New Moon whispering of a future of delight in a distant and pleasant land. The destination is often obvious but the path to it unclear... And to that the Goat remarks, “You can't force it to happen but you must contribute in order for it to happen, yet above all, accept that it is already happening!”
So in this mist-shrouded year seek the Middle Way. Not the erratic path of living two extremes or the moribund plod of appreciating neither. Rather the path of the faithful, the compassionate, the curious, the wise and the bold. The future is only assured by care in the present.
This is not a year to be shy and retiring. Free yourself to respond to life’s catastrophes with equanimity and individuation. Even if its just being noticed for noticing others or standing up for common differences. Kindness will carry you far this year. Kindness to everything, not the least of which is yourself. Self-harm and negativity, if indulged, will carve deep scars into your psyche this year. Yet upon completion of your challenge slip back into the herd and allow another the limelight. When the flock is like an oceanic flow of jellyfish its often just who you bump into that will enable vast and focused upwelling...
But there is an aspect to this year that can result in inadvertent destruction or unexpectedly bad consequences and never more than during a random encounter. Remember that a harsh word spoken at the wrong time will cast a very long shadow. That cuts both ways – so be ready with humility to lick a wound you’ve caused or deflect a thorn from your flank with indifference.
It’s a year of tight spots, close scrapes and grim determination... but set in the lushness of a green valley on a summer evening in a warm community ... Specific choices HAVE to be made and while you might not want to stand out it'll only be by choosing not to that you won't... You'll have to work hard to disappear into the flock - it's possible but on the other paw why would you want to? Better to take the moment to do a merry dance, shout out about the magic that is in every one of us and reassure all that no matter how long they’ve splashed around in the shallows each one of us is a person of depth.
This is the year to become the king your king wanted you to be.
Much Love
Doctor Lobster

But this also wouldn't be very Doctor Lobsternian if I didn't include some bizarre and slightly macabre thing I'd stumbled onto while roving the planet... New Years being an excellent reminder for us about the march of time and what that will one day bring to all of us. Peaceful Rest!!! El David and I encountered this field of severed goat heads deep in the wilds of Mongolia with nothing to explain it for hundreds of miles around. So it goes...