Friday, 24 January 2020

My good conscience is my guide on my spirituality and sexuality


In church for service
The last church service I attended was two Sundays ago at The Cathedral Church of St George the Martyr (St George’s Cathedral) in Cape Town, just a 10-minute brisk walk from our hotel.
My partner and I were out the night before, but as it was our last weekend together, we were determined to attend church that morning. I got up first and to get Brian out of bed I had to sprinkle water on his face, I eventually succeeded.
We left our hotel dressed in matching jackets and just missed the processional hymn. We settled in our seats and joined the sung eucharist of the 1st Sunday after Epiphany.
Sharing our spirituality
Brian is the first partner I have had with whom I have been able to freely express my spirituality and this in the Church of England, the history of its inception is somewhat irrelevant to the scheme of things, because whilst the church appears to attempt to conform to conservative values, it has to exist in contemporary times and there is much adaptation going on, despite the public pronouncements.
We chose St. George’s Cathedral because it has a history of tolerance, acceptance, and the subversive, especially during the Apartheid era. One of the stained-glass windows has a depiction of the Garden of Eden with a black Adam, from the mid-1960s.
A traditional welcome
It is the seat of the Archbishop of Cape Town who is also the Primate of the Anglican Church of South Africa occupied once by the Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu from 1986 to 1996. He has always been an ally of the LGBTQ+ community and the church in its outreach beyond the tenure of this world-renowned and well-respected archbishop continues to invite all people to fellowship and take communion in the congregation of the blessed.
It is interesting that my home church in Manchester does not appear to be as traditional as the one in Cape Town, canticles, incense and Latin feature a lot in the service. There are times when I almost feel lost in what is going on. In Cape Town, the clergy conducts most of the service in English, but the readings will be done in isiXhosa and Afrikaans along with the Eucharistic and Communion prayers.
Bearing gifts to all
It makes for an inclusive and representative church and it is impossible that we have not been noticed since we began attending the church since Easter 2019. That last Sunday, as the offering was being taken, we were approached by the ushers to help take the communion bread and wine to the altar.
Confused as we were, we were well instructed and walked the full length of the church down the aisle just behind the incense bearer to the altar where we presented the gifts, bowed to the clergy and then stood aside for the gifts to be blessed before we walked back to our seats.
The surprise, the amazement, the suddenness of being randomly chosen to serve in the church, only for a moment meant so much to us. Whilst not reading a vindication of our relationship to it, at the very least, when Brian and I get married, we would indeed seek to be blessed at the St George’s Cathedral.
On the matter of who we are
On the issue of the pastoral guidance [PDF] issued by the Anglican Church regarding abstinence from sex in gay or straight civil partnerships, it is a matter of conscience for me. That they have adopted the directive that sex outside marriage “falls short of God’s purpose for human beings” is understandable as it helps avoid the straining schism in the church between traditionalists and modernists, I do not intend for it to be dogma, instruction or commandment. [The Guardian]
I am as a human being and sexual being, I find expression for it in the relationship that best helps me thrive as a human being. I am a gay man, I am in love with another man, our relationship is predicated on more than just sex, it is a matter of the heart, of the soul and of the body, the moments shared, the love we have for each other that is not available to another, just between us. I do not also intend to return to an early time in my life where who I was consumed me with guilt and self-loathing, for what I could neither change nor deny.
In my good conscience
Maybe some people are called to abstinence and others to celibacy, it is a gift for which not everyone is equipped to observe without fallibility. The pastoral guidance seeks to impose the impossible about human expression and humanity in the fulfilment of a loving relationship, something everyone who is of age should be able to enjoy with impediment when in a committed relationship.
I will neither deny my sexuality nor my spirituality, both are a complete declaration of who I am, what I am, how I exist and where I belong. Jesus Christ went to the cross for all, not for the few. If I in my good conscience before God and man is not convicted of wrong in the person that I am, I approach the altar with humility and service, partake in the Communion and fulfil the calling on my life.
In that, I am satisfied, it is guidance rather than diktat. We live at peace with each other and get called suddenly to serve in the body of Christ. Shalom!


Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Thought Picnic: Avoiding creepy headlines of misfortune


Creepy headlines
I cannot help but notice a kind of headline that appears after news stories culled from the web as related material, interesting topics, or as a result of dastardly algorithms.
The one that got me writing this blog along with others similar in nature was:
Where [Famous footballer] Lives At [Age] Will Make You Especially Sad.
Add to that others like:
What [Celebrity] looks like today will amaze you.
Remember [Celebrity Picture]? Take A Deep Breath Before You See What They Look Like Now.
What [Celebrity] is worth today shocked his family.
[Celebrity] who starred in [Film, Drama, SitCom], now works an everyday job.
Now, none of these headlines or the stories behind them interest me, but the topics cannot be ignored because someone is making money on the backs of the possible misfortunes of others. I say this because these links are almost always sponsored by third-party outfits unconnected to the original news site.
Purveyors of misfortune
For one reason or the other, this type of news sells, it almost reads like a kind of inverted snootiness where the reader is invited to revel in the misfortune of another in some sort of disconnected Schadenfreude, a glee that derives from comparing one's lack of luck to the failing luck of another to give you a good feeling in your bad place.
I cannot fully appreciate why this kind of unnecessarily vile gossip masquerading as news and offered as kind of moral tale of the ephemeral nature of wealth, health and fame is one that attracts so much attention, for there is no particularly good intention for publishing this stuff apart from its easy appeal to the innate busybody complex we all possess to varying degrees, yet, exercise some restraint to refusing to allow this tendency to define us.
Celebrate better things
Naturally, I am all for celebrating the rise and success of good people and much as some might fall on hard times, I take no pleasure in poking fun at them. In the cases where the situation or circumstance was completely out of their control, I would hope to commiserate and where I can help, I will.
We also have a tendency to stupidity and foolishness, we find ourselves doing incomprehensibly absurd, reprehensible, criminal, or idiotic stuff. In those things the greater battle is in getting to the point of accepting our prime responsibility for the situation and then moving on to forgiving ourselves, whilst opening the scope for recovery, recuperation and restoration.
There is enough suffering in the world for each episode of the life of an individual, my hope is that we all find more pleasure in celebrating the successes, the triumphs, the victories, the recoveries and the wonderful stories of those near and far, whilst resisting the urge to click of those sponsored links to misfortune, as it diminishes us as much as the subject has been diminished too.

Friday, 17 January 2020

Thought Picnic: In our symbolic aquariums of our human existence


Fishes in a world
At a sauna there was an installed aquarium full of fishes of different sizes, colours and surprisingly temperaments. Some swam around excitedly even cresting where the air meets the water as if to take a breath, some idling listlessly and others apparently shy and docile hiding behind stones probably not wanting to be disturbed. The spectacle a calming effect on the observer.
I have always been fascinated about aquariums, though I wonder if the entertainment of human beings to the wonders of the deep in ponds, streams, rivers, lakes, seas and oceans are to any other purpose than the abuse of the predominance of humanity to the detriment of other life forms.
Obviously, they need to be studied and understood, the abuse and misuse of some has brought great health benefits to us, but is there is a better way?
The Pisces think tank
To an extent, I have begun to detest zoos and apart from the real effort of conservation brought on by our creating the loss of habitat for economic purposes, anthropomorphic climate change and hunting within the threat of extinction, we all can share this planet without exterminating each other.
The aquarium looked like a fish world and I began to put human thoughts in the heads of the fish. Do they think there are other aquariums like theirs just as we wonder if there are any Earth-like planets with inhabitants like us or lifeforms we can begin to understand? Goldilocks zones at distances that boggle the mind.
In each aquarium that we have built and filled with fishes, have we adopted the role of a demigod in making that nature suitable for their habitation? Keeping the water clean, ensuring it is oxygenated, feeding the fish, observing closely their health and wellbeing with the taking of action to arrest anomalies. Are we like fish to a divine being in the same sense?
By dorsal velocity
Consider a situation where the fish was able to escape its aquarium to experience life outside it and then we realise that to escape earth we need to take essential parts of our earthly environment with us, a life-supporting kit as we put a fiery rocket to our backsides to escape. It would be madness to the fish, it would have been madness to man just over a century ago.
Then just two days ago, I boarded an Airbus A380 with the capacity for a village from Johannesburg to Paris for a journey of 10 hours 55 minutes at 40,000 feet (12.192 km) altitude which in a straight line would be 5,430.95 miles (8,740.26 km). I did that return journey 5 times in the space of a year.
This our capacity for mad adventure is more or less the norm, yet, we would find it strange in fish, yet, we are gleefully entertained out at Hermanus, South Africa, between July and November when whales flip out of the water and we can watch from comfort terra firma.
Fishing for meaningfulness
None of my thoughts are fully formed on the comparison for aquariums and fish tanks to our earth of somewhat diminishing resources with explosive population growth in some parts of our world. However, I do recognise that we live in different kinds of aquariums within national boundaries that confer citizenship as well as limitations in travel where others have privileges, opportunities and means to leap between aquariums of humanity without much of a care about it.
Global travel, we have probably mastered, space travel after the moon landings has gone no further than International Space Station with considerably finite resources. Interstellar travel is still the stuff of wild imagination and science fiction, even that had helped our understanding of how to live better on earth.
The human body for all its resilience is still quite fragile, there is still much to learn about ourselves and the many organisms we share the earth with. I do wonder if the fish see us as some other lifeform and as they swim to the sides of the tank or the top of the water, they are trying to communicate with us and in all our human predominance masking our apparent idiocy we have not learnt to say a common hello to the fishes in our aquariums.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Then the 3,000th blog was written


Finally, another thousand
I earnestly wanted to reach this goal and it is not for the want of trying. By the end of 2019, I was only 4 blogs short and somewhere between the easy or herculean task of tapping in gibberish to typing in complexities, before I relented.
I was on holiday with my lover, Brian, and when I was asked what was the best time we had together, it was every moment I could look up and see him, his interesting mannerisms, the touch, the feel, the kiss and the many things we did together considering we have a long-distance relationship that for now only offers a rendezvous in South Africa.
In my needless striving
Yes, he did urge me on, he said I could do it, but I had exhausted myself to writer’s block, no straining of myself to reach an arbitrary target for which the only reward is self-satisfaction mattered more than doing other useful things. So, I aborted the scheme and we walked off to the V&A Waterfront where we met with and had a long conversation with two ladies, mother and daughter, Brian presumed, I should have put on my second pair of glasses to notice.
In terms of achievements, it is not particularly great, I had written 1,000 blogs in just under 5 years, the next thousand took a little over 4 years and then at 3,000, over 7 years have passed before making the mark. I could list out excuses as long as a 3,000-word thesis, but to what end apart from a propensity to needless verbosity. Besides, the excuses have not changed much in 16 years and sentiments has expressed before remaining the same.
To the next, with thanks
I don’t know if this is a grandfather age of blogging, but I am thankful to all my readers and supporters who have through the tough times and amazing times participated in my journey, read my stories and marvelled at some of the indecipherable musings without judging me too harshly.
Maybe, the next thousand blogs would happen in a shorter period of time, I would not know, I will just keep on writing, telling stories and sharing experiences. When we get there, there will be a blog announcing the new milestone.
Thank you, one and all.

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

South Africa: If only you knew how we roll


Travelling well
My friends and some I have travelled together with know that when it comes to travel arrangements, I leave nothing to chance. The comfort of travel is just as important as the destination. As I leave my home, I expect things to be just so at the very least, I expect standards, high standards and will not flinch at demanding them.
For my return after a month in Cape Town, I ran the gauntlet of things out of kilter with the arrangements I had made. My return leg was Cape Town – Johannesburg – Paris – Manchester. For the over 12 years I lived in the Netherlands, I have retained my loyalty with KLM – AirFrance, a slight inconvenience of stopping over in Paris or Amsterdam, but it redounds to the loyalty scheme, I can bear it.
It’s easy, not really
However KLM – AirFrance do not run domestic routes in South Africa if you do not fly directly to Cape Town from Paris or Amsterdam, your stopover in Johannesburg requires you retrieve your luggage and use partners they have agreements with to complete the final leg, it is neither a codeshare nor alliance situation, just an arrangement.
I could not check-in for my return flight because the KLM – AirFrance app redirected me to Kulula, the booking reference was invalid. I had to visit the airport to have this fixed, they could only make arrangements as far as Johannesburg and that was the beginning of my ordeal. [kulula is not a separate company, but is a trading name of Comair, which also operates flights as a franchisee of British Airways.
I have much baggage
When I arrived at the airport for my trip, I found out that my queue-jumping access was not valid for check-in, only after security. At the counter, the agent then came up with all sorts of rules, Kulula only allows one checked-in baggage for the hold and one as carry-on.
I was having none of it, the printout from the Kulula sale offices the day before already indicated I could check-in two pieces of luggage. The KLM – AirFrance app said as much too, for all legs. In fact, it would be risible to have a situation where at the point of embarkation you had less checked-in luggage than when you were in transit.
A bit of back and forth with some senior official who said the rules at the airport in our conversation took precedence over the contract to carry my luggage on my ticket. I was about to relent, it would have been easier to storm off to a KLM – AirFrance counter and have this trashed out. I shouldn’t be having that conversation, it should be between the airlines.
Flights of fancy
Eventually, as the preponderance of evidence and facts weighed heavily on the situation, the official instructed the counter clerk to check-in all my baggage as long as each individual item did not weigh more than 23kg. I was scooting it at 22.8kg and 22.2kg.
I made it through security before seeing off Brian on his earlier and on schedule flight to Johannesburg. Soon, it was time to board my flight but something was wrong, there was no aircraft at the gangway of the proposed gate. I was the only one with queue-jumper status, it meant little in the end.
Our flight was going to be delayed 30 minutes before we were told the boarding gate had changed. On arrival at the new boarding gate, more tales and fantastic stories before were told there was a fault with the plane and it had been taxied off to a hanger. I guess we knew something was on.
Terminal déjà vu
Then, the plane was cancelled and we had to board a bus to arrivals terminal where we were to retrieve our baggage, go up to the sales desk for us to be shunted onto other airlines and then the check-in process, security and all that. In all my years of travel, I have never experienced this, and the way the Kulula staff informed us and handled the situation could be better. They’ll score a 6 out of 10.
Anyway, there were some really helpful staff before a good number on that Kulula flight had connecting flights from Johannesburg, we were anxious but calm. One exception was a lady shouting at the staff, it was out of their control and it did her no favours, she was obstreperous and demanding, irksome to say the least.
How we roll
I was booked on a BA flight, run by ComAir Limited in South Africa, I haven’t flown BA since March 2000 just before the DotCom crash. I was allocated a seat when I checked in my luggage, but by the time I presented my ticket to board the plane after security, I had been upgraded to business class. The obstreperous woman thought she was losing out on favours questioning why some of us were in business class. Woman, you don’t know how we roll.
She never got upgraded and she probably stewed through the flight to Johannesburg. We arrived in Johannesburg about 2 hours behind schedule, had some time with Brian before I was on my way back home.