Monday, 10 March 2014

Random thoughts on eccentricity...

 
I saw a post on Rorate Caeli about the phenomenon of "coming out" and a Cardinal, having sold his soul to the Devil, who congratulated someone for having done so. I am not going to comment on the judgements of Rorate Caeli on the matter; they are a self-styled "traditional" RC weblog and they are, as such, bound to the Roman Catechism (or to its modern equivalent). My thoughts on homosexuality are deliberately ambiguous. To some I would say that homosexuality is a terrible affliction (it is, but no more than being left-handed). To others I would say that homosexuality has had a profound influence over art and musick, and that in a good way. But homosexuality and the phenomenon of being inside or outside a closet are of this age. I use the word purely for convenience. One hundred years from now it is conceivable that homosexuality will no longer exist. Then people might say, "Oh, I used to be homosexual but I gave it up," or something similar. But that doesn't mean that men will cease to be attracted to other men; that has been in the nature of man since many ages past; it will just mean that the label has disappeared because we shall have come to a time when there is no societal requirement to confirm or deny. There may well no longer be a need for Stonewalls or "gay pride" parades which are affronts to our sense of decency. In 2008 I was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. Last year Asperger Syndrome was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and replaced with a diagnosis of Autism on a severity or functional scale. Do you see how arbitrary these kinds of taxonomy really are? This removal hasn't made the least difference to my life. And so it will be with homosexuality. (By the way, I am by no means optimistic about the future. The future will be a terrible time where people are more ignorant than they are now and liberty will be indistinguishable from thralldom).


I tend to think of myself as an eccentric. Of course, there is a class distinction between being eccentric and being plain bonkers. I met two people recently, two very different people, and both of them said that I reminded them of a young Kenneth Williams; the difference being that one of them meant it as a compliment, the other meant it in scorn. Someone with whom I used to work even suggested Charles Hawtrey. But they all of them were right in observing that my views and to a certain extent my appearance set me apart from most people. Mr Williams was the quintessential example of the kind of class arrogance with which I have to deal on a day-to-day basis. I am invincably middle-class and have all the snobbery to match. So is my mother though she would never admit to it. My Irish grandmother had extensive elocution lessons, designed to rid her of an Irish brogue. I never had elocution lessons; I just learned very early on how to imitate the traditional RP of the upper echelons, never dropping 't's, etc, very much like Mr Williams. "Putting on airs," as they say, but I'm stuck with it.

My father, on the rare occasions when he admits some problem with me, would say that I am just "slightly odd in my ways." Most of the time he carries on as though nothing unpleasant has happened; however he has let it slip on occasion that I am, in his words, "completely hopeless." My mother tries to cope but is utterly bewildered most of the time and certainly less sympathetic. I have never related this before but I only started wearing prescription glasses in 2002. I blessed God the day my mother bought me my first pair of glasses because for years I had been obsessing about them. Just think of that; why would anybody be glad of a vision impairment? As a child I wanted to wear glasses because my Irish grandmother (whom I adored) wore glasses. She had those "old dear" frames, very elaborate and colourful, with a gold chain; reminiscent of Dr Hinge. She looked stunning and studious and I decided that that was the look for me. One day, to satisfy my obsession, my grandmother gave me two pairs of her old prescription glasses that I could wear around the house (the lenses had been removed, of course). This was unbeknown to my parents. My father eventually confiscated them when he caught me wearing one of nanny's headscarves and I never saw them again. But when I did have an excuse to wear glasses I was always careful to choose glasses designed for women and I still do.

I thought the bow was very nice. I do also have a gold chain though I seldom use it, except in the Summer months when I take my prescription sunglasses out. Then I put these onto the gold chain and hang them around my neck.
 
I think that for most people who are eccentric or otherwise have no wish to take their place in society there is a subconscious desire to draw attention to this. For example, I am very open about being homosexual. This is not because I think that my having this cross to bear is needful for people to know but rather that it is needful for people to know that homosexuals exist and that some of them are fairly decent, honest people who just wish to stagger on in peace. I went to a gay pride event in London once, out of morbid curiosity, and I was so scandalised by what I saw that I have avoided them since. A lesbian couple approached me that July day and asked if I was lost! So you can see that inability to identify with most "gays" is more than a bit conspicuous! I am equally uninterested in homosexual relationships; I certainly don't think they're a thing to be sought. But then I have never fully understood why anybody would wish to live in such close proximity to anybody else, whether in marriage, incest, fornication or God knows what else. Imagine wasting the better part of your life on trying to impress, sustain and indulge somebody else. There's just too much effort involved and I don't know about you but I am generally exhausted after simple social occasions; imagine having to undergo that routine day after day and night after night! It amazes me that highly social people don't look like to waifs of the wood after all the social networks, tweeting, cocktail parties, nights out with anonymous lovers, etc. Not to mention all the money wasted. But all this is not to say that whenever I am introduced to people, I say, "yes, in addition to my name you might as well know that I am one of those." You should never do anything so base as to "come out of the closet." This is why that Cardinal was wrong to offer his congratulations, however sincerely he meant it, to the young American. In anticipation of the abolition of gay pride events and Stonewall, neither confirm ye nor deny. Don't ever get involved with your parents in a conversation that would lead them to believe that one of these days you're going to get married and sire children. On the other hand, don't waltz down to breakfast in one of your sister's frocks with the words, "guess what!" And don't, for God's sake, try to convince everybody that your relationship with another man is in some sense equally beautiful, equally fecund as marriage. I think everyone would be happier if homosexuality were an open secret. Why else would Dame Hilda's jokes about her nephew Julian "never marrying" be so funny?

As for being eccentric, well that is, of course, just down to having a terrible time of things. My mother tried earnestly to suppress all of my oddities. She had some success, I think. I can safely pass for a normal person provided nobody talks to me in publick (which is preferable) or asks me to do something outside my experience. As a rule, I don't function properly at social gatherings and during great concourse of folk. It is very rare that somebody will give me their telephone number after a party; they're usually delighted to be rid of me, as I am of them. On here I can say and behave in exactly the manner that I choose because the inconvenience of modern parlance and trying to sustain somebody's interest is entirely absent. I am happily oblivious to people's reactions too. It also means that I don't have to leave my house in order to engage with other people. Perhaps people are happier this way? Now people won't say among themselves upon seeing me in the distance, "oh God, it's him!" Everybody's happy!

8 comments:

  1. A very thought provoking article. Reading some of your posts on similar themes (especially Aspergers Syndrome) occasionally leads me to wonder if I'm not similarly afflicted. As a child I could converse freely before I was able to so much as totter about, I'm assured by my grandfather (on whose lap I was ensconced at the time) that my first word was "indicator", my childhood "obsessions" (as family deemed them) were ornithology, English cathedrals, royal protocol & Tolkien, I dislike the company of others (though I do have a few good friends), unexpected physical contact, crowds and loud noise, am left-handed and generally prefer eighteenth century books on natural history and the company my horses to anything commonly deemed to be "fun". I am 25 and, despite constant nagging, refuse to drive a motorcar because firstly I find it a vulgar mode of transport and secondly because it is simply too sensorily overwhelming for me. I hold a doctorate in Medieval history and would like nothing more than to while away my years in the collection room of an Oxford museum studying and writing quietly, sadly there seems to be no call for, if not active dislike of, such folk in these unfortunate days.

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    1. My first word was "Jesus." I think that highly significant.

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  2. You are absolutely fascinating! It all reminds me of my own "obsessions" with fishing, organs, sailing and all the things I get involved with. I think we can be thinking of one or two ways to channel those "obsessions". A couple of friends and I need the text of the Sarum Sanctoral teased out of the mess of the 1868 Dickinson edition of the missal. All sorts of ways to be eccentric! I'll write to you privately...

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  3. I've been suscribed to your blog for long, but I think I never posted before.

    I remember how you criticized lots of people for their failure to be "traditional" enough. Were you a happy man then? Are you a happy man now?

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    1. Thank you for commenting. You ask a cogent question. I don't honestly think that I have any capacity for happiness. My criticising others for not being "traditional" was a moral criticism and I don't think that morality is the same as happiness. No, I am not happy but I would say that I have replaced former feelings of frustration with feelings of apathy. I know the truth and so I have past all caring about the conduct of others. They can craft their own damnation as much as they want so long as they don't expect me to intervene to try and stop them.

      Is it really appropriate for Christians to be happy?

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    2. In my language we have two words that translate to "happiness". I don't mean something ephemeral like laughter and jokes. Not "entertainment" or "feeling pleasant emotions". I find it very difficult to explain, and it might seem contradictory, in the same way that Jesus' words can seem contradictory: because he told his followers "gaudete et exultate" during persecution. This is a friut of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Salvation should be a source of our spirit's happiness (Luke 10:20). Love (agape) produces happiness. So, I think, happiness is appropriate for Christians.

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    3. On the other hand, I think we can all remember how angry God was at the faintest suggestion that anybody was happy. "Be made eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven's sake..." How far can you go?

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  4. Apart from your taste in spectacles, I have incredible sympathy for your point of view; not least because it is all so familiar.

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