Tuesday, 19 June 2007

A sensualist comes out of the closet...

It may surprise my readers to know that I am a sensualist - in the broadest sense of the word (i.e., I'd use 'sensuousist' if it existed). I'm pretty well known for being sensible, wearing t-shirts and trousers, making pragmatic purchases - quick, utilitarian meals; towels that do the job; anything I need, rather than things I might want. I've only ever had one manicure, and I get my hair done whenever I remember - about once a year, to my stylist's deep chagrin. I usually wait for birthdays and Christmas to get those little luxuries from Lush or for Rachel to drag me out to a Monsoon sale and force me to buy something pretty, fitted or in silk.

Trinny and Susannah would LOVE to get their hands on my wardrobe.

Nor am I one for having a man in my life just because, which means I've spent most of my adult life as a singleton - so much so that one of my friends once admitted to considering me 'asexual' (when I reported the conversation to a male friend, he bent over double and laughed hysterically for about five minutes,
much to my gratification). I love sex and the feeling of being coupled up (perceptively noted by a university friend who said, "You're one of those people made to go through life two by two"), but it's only worth it if he's someone I can talk to into the night about my hopes, dreams and fears and if I fancy the pants off him - what Cosmo rightfully calls a 'love and lust partner'. Love is meant to be lush, ever growing and, to borrow a phrase from Gill Edwards, "wild and sacred". If it's not that, I'll pass - I quite like my own company and that of my good friends, and I'm not here to trap or tame myself or anyone else.

So, at a quick glance, I can seem very practical, analytical, even spiritual to some - someone who would happily bypass her senses and live out of body, if she could.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

That's why I was delighted to discover this blog, which made me feel like I'd met a kindred spirit. Having grown up in a Muslim family, then converting to Catholicism, my sensuality was first underdeveloped and then placed firmly under wraps in order to survive, then to fit a particular mould. No more. We're done here.

Perhaps I was ready anyway, but reading Sensuous Wife's blog felt like having permission to let my sensualist out of the closet permanently: Confiteor Deo, that I too love burying my hands in soft towels at the store and the feel of coconut oil on my skin. And yes, I've been known to wear pretty lingerie under my mundane t-shirts. In addition, I love burying my face in a bunch of red roses and inhaling; savouring the taste of a murgh korai; the feel of my hair as it tumbles down my back when I let it down; the sound of Handel drifting through the church; looking at a Vermeer.

But above all, I love the feel of a lover pulling my naked body towards his as he drifts off to sleep.

Thank you, Sensuous wife, and to answer your question "Sex as worship?"

Abso - bloody - lutely.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

The Cardinal vs Amnesty International

I owe His Eminence a huge "thank you".

Thursday, I saw this story in the Guardian, and put my head in my hands over the Vatican. Again.

"A senior Vatican cardinal said yesterday that Catholics should stop donating to human rights group Amnesty International because of its new policy advocating abortion rights for women if they had been raped, were a victim of incest or faced health risks."

This isn't a pro-choice move. It's about what happens to women in the areas that Amnesty International works. What if it had been his mother, his sister, his niece who had been raped? Certainly the Church would support it in the LAST instance, if only because of 'double jeopardy' (*cringe*), and most priests would understand and forgive it in the first two instances.

One of the things that fascinated me about this was the Catholic journalism. Time and again, the Church whinges on about how the secular media 'misrepresents' them. To save you the trouble of trolling through it, with the exception of The Tablet, most Catholic journalism is rich in hysterical hand-wringing and tabloid reporting and poor on real facts and genuine, thoughtful analysis. Catholic News printed this about the Amnesty International debate:

"With its new stance supporting the legalization of abortion around the world, Amnesty International "has betrayed its mission," said Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, in an e-mail interview with the
National Catholic Register."

Go on, tell it like it is, Catholic journalists. Be that beacon of shining journalism the BBC, Washington Post and New York Times aren't, just telling us the facts and not sensationalising it at all, won't you? In fact, Martino himself can help you along...

Cardinal Martino said that by its new policy Amnesty International "has betrayed all of its faithful supporters throughout the years, both individuals and organizations, who have trusted AI for its integral mission of promoting and protecting human rights."

Let me get this straight: supporting abortion as an option for a woman who has been raped, the victim of incest or whose health is in danger qualifies as decriminalising abortion and *betraying* the Catholic Church and men like Daniel Berrigan who SUPPORTED Roe v Wade? If we want to discuss the meaning of betrayal, I have a few words for you, Cardinal Martino: paedophile priests, cover up, Bernard Law.

Something is rotten in the Vatican city-state. This smells like an excuse for something else, and I think Mick Arran has put his finger on it:

This is payback for all the grief AI has given the Church over its either outright support of dictatorial regimes as long as they left Catholics alone, or its quiescence in the face of massive human rights violations in Catholic countries, especially in the Americas.

Ah. Yes. That may be speculation, but it fits the rabid reaction of Cardinal Martino far better than a simple, explainable shift of AI towards allowing abortions for women in those few cases. Having watched the Vatican's behaviour with some interest over the last decade or so, it's plausible. The drive against communism, the chirping up against human right violations have only happened when the Church was unable to function in those countries. It never had anything to do with global human rights or human suffering, except through exceptional individuals like Denis Hurley or Oscar Romero. Not once.

No one has done more for human rights around the world regardless of colour, religion, nationality than AI. That means it has done more of Christ's work than our esteemed Cardinal, who spends his life living opulently and sitting on his ass bullying people to fall into line.

A little time in Darfur might not hurt him any.

""The inevitable consequence of this decision," according to the cardinal, "will be the suspension of any financing to Amnesty on the part of Catholic organisations and also individual Catholics,""

That is what I need to thank him for, because I had to decide what I really believe. Finally, after years of twisting my integrity to try to assimilate ridiculous pronouncements from the Vatican, my integrity snapped back. It was time to take a stand.

I joined Amnesty International.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

The eternal female question

Mac's romance with Peyton Driscoll on CSI: NY touches on a topic that my friend Ruth and I discuss regularly: what IS it with men?

Peyton Driscoll (played by Clare Forlani) is the new ME and Mac's new bed partner. She is the most high maintenance woman on the show, her voice with a permanent mosquito whine, always in a panic and in need of reassurance. Perpetually needy and incapable of problem-solving when something goes wrong, you wonder how the hell she made it through medical school without dissolving into a puddle of girly tears when grilled by her professors.

Example: this week, someone she pronounced dead turned out to be alive. Whilst Mac held her hand and asked her - gently, it might be added - how it could have happened, you'd be forgiven for thinking that a swarm of mosquitos had arrived in New York a bit early when she replied, "I don't KNOW." When he asked how she checked someone was dead, she snapped, "Eight years of training and eight years on the job," before elaborating that she checked the pulse and pupils of said victim. She was so "distressed", how could she be so *wrong*?? "I began to question myself..." she hyperventilated as Mac held her hand and tried to comfort her.

Far from eliciting my sympathy, I wanted to slap her. Yes, of course, you're worried by the fact that you got it wrong, and you're doubting yourself. BUT SHUT THE F*** UP AND GET ON WITH IT. Jesus Christ on a pogo stick, woman, you're a medical examiner who has supposedly dealt with some very difficult situations. Buck up and show some backbone. Sheesh.

And Mac, use the brain not in your trousers and realise that she has 'psychic vampire' stamped on her forehead. Walk away now.

Stella Bonasera, Mac's second-in-command, is an independent, warm, generous, tough woman who would have sat down with Mac over a cup of coffee and analysed what had gone wrong. Secure enough in herself not to let a mistake topple her, she works out what went wrong and how to fix it. On top of that, she takes care of everyone on the team, including Mac - they're close enough for her to fix his tie. When her ex-boyfriend turned out to be a psycho who tried to kill her in her apartment, she kept her head and ended up killing him in self-defence. When she's afraid she might have AIDS, she keeps on doing what she does best. No mosquitos in hearing distance.

She's a real woman.

And so the question is this: since the friendship between Mac and Stella really sizzles and is one of equals, WHY does he end up in bed with whiny Peyton, and why is this a pattern amongst men?

Everywhere you look, men end up with women who treat them like crap. One young man has been chasing a pseudo-intellectual Catholic climber for most of a decade. She won't let him sit next to her when she's praying; she hands him her coat whilst she goes off to talk with people she perceives as powerful or she feels she can manipulate; she talks to him like he was a disobedient pet dog. And he laps it up, despite the obvious pain on his face. Last time I saw him, I nearly put my hand on his shoulder after mass and said, "Darlin', walk away. She's an irredeemable narcissist. She wouldn't know real love if it hit her over the head with a processional cross."

And this story repeats itself over and over. And yes, it goes for women too.

Whatever the answer is - and it's different for every man - somewhere along the line, they realise they've made a mistake. Whether they're 25 or 75, they suddenly understand that what they had perceived as love was really need and had strings attached, and that they've been tamed, instead of becoming the person they were meant to be.

Love is meant to be wild and sacred. It gives freedom and nurtures growth; it doesn't restrict and force a certain shape. And it can only happen between equals.

One day, they turn around and realise that the Stellas of the world are where it's at, and suddenly, they want one. Problem is, they've married a Peyton.

That's ok, they say. We can still...you know.

Sorry, mate. Either you realise her worth when you see her, take her in your arms, cherish her and make her yours whilst you still can...

or get an inflatable doll.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007


...everything coming out of the Vatican makes sense.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

You know you've been watching CSI, CSI: Miami and CSI: NY too long...

...when you look at your socks after brushing your teeth and think:

"Hmm. Perfectly spherical drops of water.


Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Finding meaning

There are moments when, after what seems like an eternity of being stuck, you begin to feel the flow. Pay attention to the earthquake, wind and fire, but don't be taken in by them. Remember to cover your face and step to the cave's entrance when you hear the "qol dmamah daqah" or the "still, small voice".

Today, the still, small voice came to me after lunch, when I brought up a box of books to catalogue, and to my great joy, discovered the Judaica jackpot, starting with the Artscroll Tanach series. I flipped open the third book I pulled out (Shir Hashirim, or the "Song of Songs") and my eyes fell on these words:

"This, then, is the deepest, truest meaning of the Torah's concept of 'Song'. There is a profound harmony in creation. Every part of God's handiwork plays its role in His design. Only one ingredient impedes it completion - man's lack of insight. When man fails to see the truth, the interaction, the harmony, then the song of creation remains unheard; because it is man's function to give it voice, it remains mute.
This song is constantly in man's soul. But there are only instants where he hears its notes - and then only when he brings belief in God to his everyday life on earth. If he can attain the height where faith is never-ending and he is always guided by its light, he will always hear the song in his heart.
This is the prerequisite of song: man's perception is that everything plays its role and so he must give expression to the song of creation through his own deeds and the song that flows from his soul." --(Shir Hashirim: an allegorical translation based upon Rashi with a commentary anthologized from Talmudic, Rabbinic and Midrashic sources, Brooklyn: Mesorah, 1979, pp. xli-xlii.)

Amen. After weeks of silence, I could hear and feel the music again.

Excuse me whilst I cover my face and go to the entrance of the cave.