Losing My Religion Part II: Dealing with the last big trigger

Although such a thing doesn’t happen as much as it used to, whenever my mood takes a significant dip, Captain Paranoia burrows deep into my long-term memory, resurfacing with a handful of mental images I believed were long-forgotten. Stupid things I’ve said or done, mistakes I’ve made, chances I’ve wasted and any number of past regrets. When the Captain returns from the depths, he always says “Do you remember these? You were soooooo stupid back then! What on earth were you thinking?! You want to learn about who you really are? Well there you go. That’s you in a nutshell: complete and total idiot… and once an idiot, always an idiot!

It’s getting easier to ignore the Captain, but sometimes the painful reminders don’t come from him.

Trying to distance myself from, or come to terms with, my time in the church is still a major hurdle because the triggers are all the more real. I’m still, technically-speaking, a member of the church. I’m still on the electoral roll (not that I’ve been to an AGM in five years), and the Standing Order still goes out every month in my name for tax purposes. Even small things can trigger bad memories – earlier, when I saw a Phatfish CD in a local charity shop, it reminded me of the many times I was required to lead the music group in yet another rendition of This is My Worship. That’s another thing – in my head, I’m well and truly done with the music group, but I’ve never officially left. It just feels like a loose end I don’t want to tie up.

One thing I’ve managed to avoid so far is a face-to-face confrontation. I’ve seen a few members around, and have exchanged a pleasantry or two with them, but there are some members who I hope I never bump into. They will ask the one question I don’t want to be asked: why don’t you come to church any more? In their eyes, I’ve just gotten a little lost and they can help me find my way back to the right path. All it takes is an invitation to the Alpha course… or to Back to Church Sunday… or to one of the more “fun” services… or, better yet, to a social. Something to ease me back onto the path of salvation by showing me that church, and church members, aren’t always dull and dreary.

They assume my faith is intact but my relationship with the church needs a bit of a bandage, and a little pastoral care will soon fix that. It’s not that simple. I’d woken up to realise that my faith was always paper-thin, and I was merely trying to convince others that it wasn’t. My path is no longer the Christian path: they mostly run parallel with each other, and occasionally merge, but I simply cannot let myself sleep-walk through the rest of my life. For me, living equals learning, and you can’t learn anything with a centuries-old book filtering what you see.

Most importantly, though: I’m not going to try and change your path – please don’t try to change mine.

Captain Paranoia: Round Two… FIGHT!

While Captain Paranoia took a bit of a beating on Sunday, I’d knocked him down, but not out. I think I just made him mad.

Last night, my wife informed me that her nan had indeed reacted to my denim skirt. Later that afternoon, she was asking my in-laws questions like “was Simon wearing a skirt?“, “why?” and the ultimate doozy “well, what does [my wife] think?“. As I tried going to sleep last night, Captain Paranoia struck back. “See – I told you it was weird. You’re going to be the laughing stock of the family now. If I were you, I’d give up now while you still have some dignity left.”

I will admit I did feel a little delayed embarrassment, but that was just the Captain preparing the ring for battle. Seconds out… Round two!

Let’s look at the evidence. All of those questions were perfectly valid and there was no hint of malice within them. After all, she’s in her 80’s, not very net-savvy (if at all), and I’m likely the first man she’s seen in a skirt this far south of Scotland. She was being curious, and nothing more. She’d have gotten more comprehensive answers had she asked me those questions rather than my in-laws, but what can you do? However, by asking that final question, I don’t believe she knows just how awesome her granddaughter is.

But “why“? Beyond comfort and temperature control, was there a deeper reason? That was the worst question I could ask myself at that time of the night, but it was worth thinking about.

I suppose, at a very low level, I’m quite open-minded and curious – I’m not complacent with the knowledge I have and there’s always room for more. I read a lot of information on-line, I ask a lot of questions, I research the answers, and I draw my own conclusions. When I asked the question “why are men allowed to wear skirts in some countries but not in England?”, the top-level answer was obviously going to be “but we can – it’s not against the law”. That then leads to the question “well, if it’s not against the law, why don’t we?”, and the first answer to that is either “because we don’t” or “because nobody else does”.

I love those sorts of questions – the one’s that don’t tend to get asked out of pure complacency and acceptance. If you look at the historical evidence, men in England did indeed wear skirted garments in previous generations, but with the advent of the industrial age, trousers became the more practical option. As generations passed, trousers became the de facto standard for men, and the reasons behind their dominance steadily faded from memory. So what’s stopping us from re-thinking the concept of a men’s skirt in the information age? Well… nothing!

One of the obstacles in the way is, I believe, pessimism. When you have a decision to make, and you weigh up the pros-and-cons, do you start by listing the pros or the cons? Do you give a con a heavier weighting than a pro? I was certainly guilty of both of those things, and the Captain is still trying to keep me doing so, but you lose sight of the positive aspects.

For me, they are more practical and comfortable because they fit me better, they provide better ventilation in warm weather, and allow greater freedom of movement (which you need when picking up after a four year-old). It’s a boost to my confidence and self-esteem because it forces me to re-think the neurotic thoughts that remain in my head, allowing me to come further out of my shell. It makes an interesting alternative and, as such, is much more fun. And yes, I also believe they can look good – it’s all down to how you feel.

Besides, I’d already put so much thought into the matter, it would be a waste of energy not to. Can’t you tell? I’ve just written a four-paragraph answer to the question that would still be answered if I’d skipped the first three. So much for not over-thinking things!

But one thing’s for certain: you won’t win this round either, Captain.

Simon 1 – 0 Captain Paranoia

There is a follow-on story to the one I posted earlier this week. Late last Sunday, long after I’d shut down any attempts at going out-and-about in a kilt, my wife made a suggestion. She said I may be better-served by going for a skirt designed for women. Same purpose, just lighter material and no pleats. I will admit, I wasn’t sure.

Fast-forward to mid-week, after I’d disassembled and re-evaluated the problem, and I felt it was worth a try. After a bit of research, I felt the best first-step was with an A-line denim midi-skirt; it would have the same flare as a kilt, the same length and in a unisex fabric.

Four days later, one arrived on my doorstep. When my wife saw it for the first time, she commented that it looked a lot better than my kilts. I must admit, it felt a lot more casual than my kilts – closer to the skirts worn by men in Asia and the Pacific Islands. Besides, it has a zip and a button at the front so, considering it’s not marketed as “unisex”, it’s still rather convenient when nature calls.

With today being Mother’s Day here in the UK, we ventured out to visit my in-laws. They’re very easy-going, and had seen me in my kilts several times last year, so I knew it wouldn’t be an issue. When we arrived, my wife noticed that her nan’s car was parked outside. Just to paint a picture, she’s close to 88 years old, a regular church attendee (and former church warden) and lives in the Tory safe-seat of Sutton Coldfield. Her reaction was, contrary to expectation, minimal. My wife said she gave me a rather odd look, but I hadn’t noticed – I give my kids rather odd looks when they do strange things or spout random nonsense, but it’s just a sign that they’ve got a good imagination.

The only comment came from my four year-old niece, who said I looked “weird” in a skirt. I took that as a compliment – after all, our culture would not be what is is today without the weirdos and oddballs of the past to stir things up.

Where I take victory from this is the fact that I didn’t talk myself out of it at any point – and there were more than a few opportunities to do so. I feel real progress has been made, and a lot sooner than I’d thought. My wife set me a challenge to wear skirts every day when we go away for the weekend in a month’s time – with the penalty of “wimping out” being not going to a local pub that serves delicious rotisserie chicken.

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The Danger and Futility of Healing Through Religion

During my research for future posts, I came across a blog called “Healing from Cross-dressing“. It’s a blog run by, and with contributions from, former Cross-dressers who, through their Christian beliefs, have recanted their old ways and are now helping others to do so.

Before I begin, I’ll just say that if that’s what they believe, far be it from me to criticize. Their methods and motivation, on the other hand, I’m not too sure about.

Deuteronomy

Whenever I research such things, the book of Deuteronomy is an old chestnut that I see around a lot. Whenever a short-and-simple quotable is needed to demonise an entire demographic, this book is full of them. In this case, Verse 22:5 is the one most-cited:

A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.

What I recall of Deuteronomy’s many laws can be split into two areas: ritual and moral. The ritual laws are there to constantly remind you of what’s ultimately important which, in the Christian faith, is obviously God. It’s the same as kissing Sanka’s lucky egg in Cool Runnings to remind them of why they were competing in the Olympics. The moral laws – murder, theft, assault and all that – are the ones that form our legal system today. If putting on a “woman’s cloak” was heinously immoral, it would have become illegal in most countries with a Christian majority but, as it stands, Cross-dressing is as illegal as other so-called “abominations” such as eating bacon, trimming your beard, eating with foreigners and being a shepherd.

The most detailed commentary I read of this passage – approached with significantly more emphasis on historical culture (let’s not forget the law was passed down to cultures many centuries and many miles distant from our own) – said this:

The danger of “cross-dressing,” according to the analysis followed here by Rashi and the Shulhan Arukh, is that it might allow men to enter women’s groups and women to enter men’s groups. In societies in which gender segregation was widely observed, this subterfuge was seen as a real danger.

Today the concern would be that men or women would sneak into the other gender’s locker rooms or bath rooms. Given that men and women in our society mix freely in other settings, it is hard to see how heterosexual adultery is a particular danger of what is called “cross dressing.”

Here, we see where the moral code applies- it doesn’t condemn the act of cross-dressing in itself, but the motivation for doing so. Women can go around wearing fake beards if they want to, as long as they don’t go to any stonings. Why? Because it’s written… that’s why!

Bit of Python – love it!

Addiction

Comparing Cross-dressing to a drug addiction seems a bit of a false analogy as it ignores the myriad of reasons some people cross-dress in the first place.

C10Ka6lXAAALeDaIf you’re an entertainer who regularly cross-dresses in public because it’s how you earn a living, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing you can do about it either – ask Brendan O’Carroll to relinquish his role as Mrs. Brown and I’m sure he’ll have a few choice words in response.

If cross-dressing is how you get your motor running, so to speak, you might be able to replace it with something else, but if it gets your partner’s motor running too, what’s the harm? Poking your nose into other people’s love life is a sure-fire way of getting said nose broken.

Seriously though: spread your search a bit wider, and you’ll find a significant number of cross-dressers who testify to having done so since they were very young. Children can be quite curious and fickle – for them to carry something with them throughout their life, it must really resonate with who they are. I discovered my love for music at a very young age – 4 or 5 – and I’ve not exactly grown out of it thirty years later. I’ve still got the first single I bought back in 1985.

I doubt anyone who has cross-dressed since their infancy is able to just switch it off and keep it switched off permanently. If you put the “addiction” in your brain yourself, you can remove it – if it was there to begin with, it’s there for life. It’s like if someone has a natural speaking voice in a higher register, you can’t exactly train them to defy their vocal cords and speak in deeper, “masculine” tones. Besides – why would you? Don’t answer that one, Brother Hyles.

Healing

I believe trying to “fix” someone through guilt and shame is rather dangerous in certain circumstances. In children, a little guilt and shame is needed to instil a sense of empathy, but it only works on behaviour they have control over. Making someone feel guilty for something they have no control of is going to have severe effects on their mental health. The stronger their efforts to abstain, the easier it becomes to relapse. The more they relapse, the worse they feel about themselves. The worse they feel about themselves, the less stable they become. Is it really worth the mental damage just because your interpretation of a single Bible verse condemns it?

It’s the same as trying to “cure” homosexuality: you may feel like you’re doing them a favour by cleansing their soul, but when the cleaning products you’re using are so abrasive, you end up scrubbing away a little piece of them each time.

If God made us all who we are and, as I’ve heard many transphobic pastors yell, God does not make mistakes, then what exactly are you trying to correct?

How can you be so certain that what you’re fixing should indeed be fixed, and that you’re the one to fix it?

Could it be that their higher purpose is to show you what you need to fix within yourself?

Declaring War on Captain Paranoia

Even though I spent most of last year trying to reduce my stress and anxiety levels and improve self-esteem and self-confidence, I’ve not really kept up with it during the winter months. For a couple of days this week, the weather has been absolutely terrible so, rather than head into town, I’ve legged it into the car park and sat in my car for an hour. Usually, I plug my earphones in and listen to an album, but today I only sat through one side. For the remainder of the hour, I sat, I thought and I read.

Last Sunday, we were discussing going out as a family to a National Trust property or just somewhere local. I thought this would be a great opportunity to get my kilts back out and carry on where I left off last year. I went upstairs, got dressed, and when I came back down, I asked my wife “does this look all right”. Her response was along the lines of “Well, yeah, but your kilt could do with being ironed and it looks pretty windy out there. You’re going to be very cold.” – I agreed with her instantly.

Now, I recognise it was pure optimism on my part, and sensible realism on my wife’s, but it knocked me down a little – not in a toys-out-of-the-pram way, but because I felt that, by asking her opinion, I was looking for a get-out clause. I was talking myself out of it yet again. I’d always convince myself it was the wrong time, wrong place, wrong weather – and when the right time, place and weather came along, I’d find some excuse, however small, to talk myself out of it. 9 times out of 10, it was the fear of embarrassment, ridicule or – in extreme cases – physical harm. It’s something I’ve carried with me since my teenage years when my internal program was instructing me that social inclusion is critical, and embarrassment leads to exclusion… so avoid it at all costs.

One thing I promised myself I’d try to do this year was to fix problems rather than avoid or accept them, and the first step is always to recognise them.

Whilst sitting in the car, I looked for various sources that showed positive experiences and reactions to men wearing skirts and kilts out in public. I actually came across quite a few. One wore them to work for a whole week as part of his normal attire, another was about singer/songwriter Will Young’s experiences, and another showed a video of three other men who took up a similar week-long challenge.

 

In the latter, all 3 felt at first as if everybody’s eyes were fixated on them – but there was one moment in the video that spoke quite loudly. One of them was told by a friend that “nobody cares that you’re wearing a skirt except you“. He was absolutely right! For all my experience last year, I experienced no negative reaction beyond a couple of immature remarks, yet here I was ignoring the facts and focusing on a hypothetical worst-case scenario. It is what Ben Elton dubbed Captain Paranoia.

BenElton
Ben Elton: The left-alignment of this photo was completely intentional.

My next stop was to find ways of dealing with paranoid thoughts. There is a Mental Health charity in the UK called MIND, and their website is a font of useful information. Reading their digital booklet on paranoia highlighted that my thoughts were just that. I was being completely over-sensitive and basing my negative thoughts on emotion rather than evidence and experience.

In addition to talking things through with my wife, I’m going to try practising Mindfulness as a means of focusing on the here-and-now, going with the flow and becoming more self-aware than self-conscious. I also feel this may help with other issues, such as when I beat myself up over mistakes I made back in my teens and early 20’s, believing they still reflect badly on me today.

If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work – but I’ll never know unless I try.

Bowie or Barlow: Dealing with Ennui

This time last year, when I really started assessing who I was and what I wanted, it felt as if I was undergoing some sort of mid-life crisis at the age of 37. At the time, my job security was uncertain and was having to deal with a lot of extra pressure. I’ve not been writing much here in the past couple of weeks because that’s all coming back.

While I was spared from the cull, the role I moved into was not what I was expecting and, with my current objectives, I could do with having an extra brain and an extra pair of hands. I had a pre-assessment for an internal position in the Procurement department last week, which I think went pretty well, and I should know some time next week if I’ve made it through to the face-to-face interviews. A change of scenery and a fresh set of challenges and experiences would be good for me right now, so if I am invited for an interview, I want to put everything I can into it. (I was invited for an interview, but taking recent events into consideration, I felt moving roles at this time would not be a wise decision and so withdrew my application)

With the weather starting to warm up, I’m also looking forward to getting out of this winter slump. I’ve been in jeans most of the winter and I don’t find them all that comfortable, especially when you’re active. I feel so much more comfortable in looser clothing, so I’m looking forward to getting my kilts out once more.

I watched this video on LaylahTalks earlier this morning about blocking out negativity, and it did give me some food for thought. I recognise that there are still some things I over-think to extremes, particularly when they don’t conform to majority opinion, but once I actually go and do it they don’t turn out anywhere near as bad as I think. It just needs a little confidence and a bit of a reality check: I’m lucky to have the support I need.

It boils down to this question: Would you rather be a David Bowie or a Gary Barlow? Both are, without argument, successful musicians but the big difference being that Bowie was always breaking through the boundaries Barlow wouldn’t cross. Almost everything about him was chameleonic, yet always one step ahead of everybody else. He didn’t follow, he inspired. 

Let’s just say that, in my record collection, it’s Bowie 6 – 0 Barlow.

 

Gender, Marketing and a New Year’s Challenge

Last Summer, as previously reported, I made quite some headway into giving society the middle finger and expressing myself the way I wanted to, disregarding the opinions of complete strangers and trying my hardest not to read their minds or interpret their body language. Compared to how I was this time last year, I ended the year more confident and secure but still recognising I’d still got some way to go. Going out and around the Midlands in a utility kilt was perhaps the most outwardly-expressive thing I did towards this, but as the winter has taken hold, doing so has not been a good idea. With management approval, I wore it to work for Children in Need day back in November (which was a bit scary and a little stoopid, but still raised £15), but still feel I’ve lapsed somewhat and fallen “out of practice”.

I’ve become more aware in recent months of how gendered marketing is and why, some examples of which are borderline comical. I found one superficial example in my own home. There are two cans of shaving cream in my bathroom – one “for him” and one “for her” – and I compared the ingredients of the two. Apart from the odd minor ingredient, the only real difference was that my wife’s had aloe vera and mine didn’t, but the mere presence of aloe vera doesn’t make an item “for her”; if I went a little upmarket as opposed to buying my toiletries from Lidl, I would find plenty of shaving creams “for him” containing aloe vera. In a nutshell, the only real difference was that her can was white and pink while mine was grey and blue.

Obviously those who deny that gender is “a social construct” are oblivious to how much money is being made gendering identical items, playing on our insecurities to prevent “him” and “her” from sharing.

If anything, I’m a pragmatist or, at least, I’d like to be – brushing marketing aside, an item’s purpose should be of higher priority than its demographic. Scroll back through the contents of this blog and you’ll see that I’ve also mentioned “Mantyhose” a couple of times. While this would enable my utility kilts to make an appearance during the winter months, and also push my bravery/confidence/not-giving-a-fuck to new levels, there are always safety concerns. I’ve heard stories about people being assaulted for not conforming to the normal expectations of male behaviour and appearance, but in the same breath, I’ve not heard about anything like that happening in the UK. Even so, such an attack would be rare. Would anyone be even remotely bothered, or am I just over-thinking and grossly underestimating the population’s open-mindedness?

2016 may have been a bit of a bastard for many, but I have to reflect on and feel proud of the progress I made. A new year means new challenges, and I want to try and blast even more neuroses and anxieties than I did last year.

“Be yourself. Give your free will a chance. You’ve got to want to succeed” — Jon Anderson

Why shouldn’t we let boys wear skirts to school?

Last night, I read an article by Glosswitch, published on the New Statesman website. The article mused about why we should let all boys wear skirts to school. If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, I’m sure you’ll already know my response would be “why not?”. As the article already points out, a number of schools in the UK have already unified their uniform policies and, so far, it hasn’t caused any deaths, economic crashes or biblical apocalypses.

The article doesn’t have any comments section (just as well) – but I can imagine the response if it did. If you discount the attention-seeking brain-farts of the ultra-conservative trolls, the majority would be supportive. Parents today are getting wise to the ways in which their children are being rigidly gendered – particularly by marketing departments keen to reduce the number of “hand me downs” eating into their profit margins – and the success of the Let Toys Be Toys campaign is testament to how this practice is in decline. I can, however, see some valid concerns being raised.

What if my son doesn’t want to wear a skirt to school?

There always seems to be some confusion between a “right” and a “rule”. Your son may have the right to wear a skirt to school if they want to, but nobody’s forcing them to. It’s an additional freedom – it’s yours whether you want to make use of it or not.

What if it makes them go… well… you know…?

And so what if it does? They’re still your children. You might not like the idea now, but you may find you react differently if they do. They’re just clothes at the end of the day – what you wear on the outside has no effect on what’s on the inside, but if they do have some symptoms of gender dysphoria, I reckon it’s better for their long-term health if they express it rather than repress it.

Won’t they get bullied?

I don’t know any parent who would disagree that bullying is part of a larger, unrelated problem. Bullies will target anyone different to them, whether that difference is visible or not, but we have to remember that we’re talking about primary school children here. Children are far less prejudiced at that age and look to their elders for guidance – that’s where the school’s culture has a lot of influence. If they see another boy turn up to school in a skirt, they may think it’s a bit extraordinary but, if they see no negative reaction from their teacher, it’s likely they will accept it. They will take this acceptance with them.Parental attitude also has a lot of influence too, and it’s important that parents work with the school to ensure any kind of bullying does not go unpunished.

Schools are there to help give our children the fundamental knowledge they’ll need to get on in life. When they grow up and enter the workplace, they will be required to work with others regardless of such arbitrary characteristics; most companies take a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination and harassment, so it helps our children in the long-term if such social skills are instilled in them at an early age (Glosswitch’s article refers to this as “the indoctrination of non-indoctrination”).

Mahler and Me: Triggering Transformation

It’s funny how something as seemingly-unimportant as a piece of music can cause such an upheaval in one’s life.

gustav-mahler-kohutYesterday, I bought a copy of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 from a local charity shop, a 1987 recording by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), then under the direction of Simon Rattle. I used to have it as part of a CD box set, but I got rid of it. I can’t really explain why, but I found having all 10 of Mahler’s Symphonies in one set was a bit overwhelming. Hunting down and spending time with each one individually works much better.

I’ve loved this piece of music ever since I first heard it – it normally takes a symphony 4-5 times to work its magic on me, but Mahler’s 2nd slapped me in the face with its brilliance. When I listened to the final five minutes earlier this morning, I felt as if I wanted to burst out into tears. I’d never felt that way before about this music – why now?

My mind was cast back to the last time I played it in full: It was the day I learned that my paternal grandmother had died. That was just over 3 years ago. To save writing reams of family history, my parents split up when I was 8 years old and, after that, family relations got a little icy – especially towards my dad’s side of the family – so any contact I had with them was minimal. I used to visit my nan from time-to-time as I studied at Dudley College and she lived about 15 minutes walk away, a stone’s throw away from where comedian Lenny Henry grew up. I could tell back then she was showing signs of Alzheimers. When I started university and taking part-time jobs, I saw her less and less – within a few years, her memory had degenerated so far that she was moved to a local care home.

I never went to visit her at the home. When I heard she’d passed away, I felt guilty for not paying her a visit or showing her her new great-grandchildren, and for letting family politics get in the way of seeing her more before the dementia set in deeply. At the same time, I was glad I never saw her at her worst – I had some very fond memories of her, and they remain untainted. If I did go to see her at the home, she wouldn’t have recognise me: I’d heard from other family members that, in her mind, I was still a young child.

That lunchtime, I felt I needed to play Mahler 2. I don’t know why – I was just drawn to it.

It spoke to me.

That’s when the transformation began.

My then-regular church life fell apart as I tried to comprehend and validate it all. I’ve already written about that part of the story. Last year, my mental health worsened and I was signed-off for a few months with anxiety and depression, at which point I took one-on-one counselling with cognitive behavioural therapy to help improve my mood, cope with all the pressure I was under, and deal with my almost non-existent self-esteem. Earlier this year, when I was at risk of losing my job, I knew I needed to change who I was. Not so much ‘change’, but scrape away the ugly parasites clinging on to my true self. I’ve already written about that part of the story too.

But what has Malher got to do with this? Looking back at it now, the words in the final choral movement of his second symphony are quite profound:

O believe, my heart, O believe:
Nothing to you is lost!
Yours is, yes yours, is what you desired
Yours, what you have loved
What you have fought for!
O believe,
You were not born for nothing!
Have not for nothing, lived, suffered!
What was created
Must perish,
What perished, rise again!
Cease from trembling!
Prepare yourself to live!
O Pain, You piercer of all things,
From you, I have been wrested!
O Death, You conqueror of all things,
Now, are you conquered!
With wings which I have won for myself,
In love’s fierce striving,
I shall soar upwards
To the light which no eye has penetrated!
Die shall I in order to live.
Rise again, yes, rise again,
Will you, my heart, in an instant!
That for which you suffered,
To God shall it carry you!

The music in the final five minutes of the piece is, without question, the most perfect finale I have ever heard. When I hear it, I picture music so powerful it will open the pearly gates themselves, revealing the glory of Heaven to the mortal world.

The symphony represents the finality of an old life, and the powerful creation of the new, condensed into 80 minutes of music.

The symphony represents my new life.

The Story of the Modern-Day Samaritan

One widely-used quotation spread around the internet comes from Dr. Milton Diamond:

“nature loves diversity, society hates it”

I don’t think it’s as much society that hates diversity as the media, although the two do kind of go hand-in-hand.

You probably get the picture by now that I get a little worked up by people who feel it is their business to discriminate against others simply because they are different. It’s one of the main reasons why I don’t read any print media – without even touching a copy of one of the British Tabloid newspapers, I can see how they persistently poison us against “the enemy” – whether that be migrants, gay people, transgender people – anyone who is not “normal”; in other words, anyone who doesn’t conform to the profile of the majority.

Reality paints a rather different picture. Despite the publicity given to views not unlike those of ultra-conservative groups like Britain First or Westboro Baptist Church, their views are by no means mainstream. The UK’s more extreme political parties have no real power, and any open protests against such minority groups rarely come without a much larger counter-protest.

Britain First are, on the other hand, home to one of the biggest ironies in politics. In among their policies rallying against immigration and Islam (and the one ‘better support for the NHS’ policy that’s a complete no-brainer), you’ll find the one where they want to promote Christianity. I was a church-goer for several years, and studied the Bible in depth during that time, and I can honestly say that the Christian philosophy is almost diametrically-opposite to that of Britain First. I think the only reason Britain First actively promote Christianity is due to the widespread influence of Anglicanism and its historical origins in Britain.

I’d like to see how they explain away the parable of the Good Samaritan – a story of how the more “high-class” people in society neglected to help a man robbed and left at death’s door, yet it was the “low-class” Samaritan who stopped to help. It’s easily the strongest and most prolific anti-discrimination stories ever written.

Let’s put it in a modern context…


A man was walking down a quiet side-street on his way to work, when a gang of thugs grabbed him, threw him to the floor, kicked and stabbed him repeatedly. When they’d had their fun, they took his wallet, phone and anything else of value, and left the man bleeding to death on the street.

The first person to walk past was a Stockbroker. The man weakly turned his head to face the stockbroker and whispered “please help me”. Just then, the bell at the London Stock Exchange rang; the stockbroker simply replied “sorry – I’m needed somewhere else” and went on his way.

The second person to walk past was an MP. Again, the man turned to him and, in an agonised whisper, asked “please can you help me”. The MP asked him “where do you live?”; when the man told him, the MP replied “sorry, you’re not one of my constituents – I cannot help you” and walked off.

The third person to walk past was a clergyman. Surely a man of the cloth would help someone in need? Once again, the man turned and asked “please can you help me”. The clergyman looked at how beaten and bloodied the man was, and took pity. At that time, the bell at his church started ringing and the clergyman simply said “sorry – my congregation need me. You’ll be in my prayers!” before hurrying off.

The last person to walk past was a refugee from Syria. One last time, the man asked him if he could help. The Syrian didn’t understand English, but he could see how badly hurt he was. He called to his friend, and between them, they lifted the man up and carried him to the nearest hospital.

Outside the hospital, the junior doctors were calling another strike. The MP had been to see them just moments before to tell them about their new contracts, which would have them working longer hours for less pay. One of the doctors looked at the man and could see he was in immediate need of help. He threw down his placard and ushered the Syrians towards A&E where he would be waiting with his team. The junior doctor and his team cleaned and disinfected his wounds, and replaced the blood he lost. They took care of the fractures in his ribs and skull.

When the man was in a stable condition, they moved him on to the ward. A Polish nurse made sure all his dressings were clean, a Romanian lady from the kitchens brought him the food and drink he needed to regain his strength, and the Syrians who stopped to help him came to visit every day – the patient in the adjacent bed spoke fluent Arabic, and translated for them. The man expressed his eternal gratitude towards them for saving his life when nobody else would. A life-long friendship began that day.

Watching from a distance, a journalist witnessed the whole incident and wrote the whole story down. He told of how the Stockbroker, MP and Clergyman all passed him by. He told of how the Syrian refugees stopped to help him, and how the junior doctor abandoned his picket to help save that man’s life. When his story was complete, he went to see his editor. His editor read it, screwed it up into a ball, and threw it away. Shocked, the journalist asked “why did you just throw my story in the bin?!”. His editor swiveled his chair to face the journalist, put on a serious face and said…

“The owner of this newspaper netted a cool £20m thanks to that stockbroker, the MP is voting against further regulation of the press, and the vicar is a very respectable member of my country club. I can’t print anything that tarnishes their reputations.”

The journalist wasn’t impressed. “It’s never stopped you before. Go on… what’s the real reason?”. The editor returned a knowing smile and replied:

“We can’t have the plebs thinking refugees are good people. We don’t want to look like hypocrites, now do we?”