Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Special Places, Special Times

Yes, I went to the Gender Clinic yesterday.  As I'm endeavouring not to overthink it, I won't be talking about it specifically, but I will say this.

There was a waiting room and there were consultation rooms, and you had to go through an electronically locked door to get from one to the other.  There were of course good practical reasons for this to do with safety and security, but what the minds of the patient and the staff do to these places is another matter.  Also, this was a special time, marking a significant step.

I'm going to try to illustrate what I mean by talking about everything.  Here is a bit of everything:

There's a temptation to think of everything as "up there" compared to this thing:

However, as you can see from this picture, this thing ^^^ is something in the middle of everything, just like everything else is, sort of.

This is nicely illustrated, I think, by this kind of video.

It's obvious of course, but we are in space now.  As I'm sitting here typing this in a room somewhere on an island in the Atlantic, I'm also on a blue dot in the depths of outer space, as are all of you.  Yet somehow I often don't think of it that way at all, or at least I used not to.  I used to think of outer space as something which was radically discontinuous with the space that I lived in.

Another example:  most of us don't go into operating rooms that often.  When Sleepoversweet was born, I did that for the first time, and I went from thinking of it as a place apart to a place which was continuous with the rest of the hospital, city and my life.  You can walk from the corridors of the hospital, through the various doors into the special room, and of course that special room is nothing special, although it is, but it's nothing special in the sense that it's part of the world as much as the kitchen or a zebra crossing is.

It also makes me think of the biblical Tabernacle.  Like many other places of worship, this contains a Holy of Holies (note the English inheritance of a Hebrew construction there incidentally), which again is a place apart.  There are other such "places apart", such as stages and even things as trivial as the space behind a shop counter.  However, of course all of these are part of normal space too, and we are thinking of them as somehow magically separated.

I think I've said this before on this blog, and I'm trying to get at something with it which is hard to describe.  Space is of course not a container for objects but a combination of the ideas of direction and distance, which is why it makes no sense to ask something like "what is the Universe expanding into?" unless the Universe is a brane of course, but let's not go there.  Direction and distance are relationships, like "hotter" or "greater", and if there really were such a thing as a special space, it would be characterised by incommensurable relationships such as distance and direction.  Thus Fairyland for example is not in the same place as Neverland, because Neverland is second to the right and straight on til morning, but Fairyland needn't be in a particular direction or distance from here.  It's as if there's a completely different kind of relationships which are like distance and direction and they operate independently of the distance and direction "here".

"TARDIS1" by Original uploader was Zir at en.wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:Cargoking using CommonsHelper.. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:TARDIS1.jpg#mediaviewer/File:TARDIS1.jpg

"Original TARDIS control room" by This is a screenshot taken from an optical disc, television broadcast, web page, computer software or streaming media broadcast. Copyright holder: believed to be owned by the BBC.. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of TARDIS via Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Original_TARDIS_control_room.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Original_TARDIS_control_room.jpg

A really good example of this is the inside of the TARDIS.  This is not in the Universe as we know it and distances within it bear no relation to distances which are not within it.

The TARDIS "also travels in time".  This means that the time passes in the TARDIS in a forwardly direction as it's passing in a backwardly direction not within it, which makes it like Narnia although not in the same way.  Just as there are special places and spaces, there are special times, and these times seem not to be continuous with normal time.  Examples of that include the Golden Age and the Kingdom Of God, and in fact Star Wars come to think of it.  Once again, they are not really in relation to history at all.  Dreams are also like this - they don't really occur at night on the whole within the dream narrative.

Coming back to the waiting room and afterwards, it's an occasion on a Monday morning followed by me leaving and going to Loughborough to do typical Wednesday things, and it's simply a step on the way to somewhere, or at least it might be.

You may have heard the phrase "accidents always happen to other people until they happen to you".  There is a nebulous realm out there somewhere including things like death, becoming a parent or being kidnapped, and they often seem to be happening to anonymous, faceless people or strangers.  Then they come closer to home.  A schoolfriend becomes a mother.  A sibling dies (they asked me about that by the way - why I say "sibling" - and of course for me a dead sibling is a given and death is right here for me, always, but for most people it isn't).  Then some guy in Highfields throws a key at you and it's you being kidnapped, not just someone on the news.  When such a radically discontinuous event inserts itself into your life, it can be greeted with disbelief.  Cancer happens to other people, doesn't it?  Not the person you've sat next to on the pew for fifteen years, surely?  Aren't they just pretending to have cancer?  Well, no they're not, of course.

Unsurprisingly, when I started to do what I'm doing, and in a way it doesn't matter what it is, certain people were incredulous.  To them, it was just some new thing "he" was doing, perhaps misled, dishonest or a mere role, which has sprung out of nowhere, and "he" has convinced "himself" that it's true of "him".  This is because all this stuff was being kept in all this time, and now it's come out, so people just assumed, on the whole, that I was just this bloke, and it seemed like a radical discontinuity when I "suddenly" (and it wasn't that sudden in fact) started to show my true self.  It's always been there, I just didn't trust some people enough to show it, and to be honest if someone is just going to see it as a pose or a fad and not take it seriously, it's probably just as well.  However, ask some of my childhood friends what I used to do when I was six and you would see that the answer is not that it's a passing phase.

But this really isn't about me.  This is about how life is smooth and continuous, as is the world.  There are in a sense jagged edges, walls and borders, but a lot of them are in the mind.  There are in a sense no special spaces and no special times, and the walls between what we think they are are leaky and stuff trickles, and even sometimes gushes, between them.

Having said that, we can make things special, and that specialness matters.  To me, the idea of being lesbian, gay, heterosexual or whatever is meaningless, but that's thoroughly my stuff, the way I happen to divide up the world, or not.  I happen to have shared that thought with you with some trepidation.  In fact, for many people the idea of being lesbian, gay, heterosexual or whatever is absolutely vital to who they are and it's robbery to take that away from them.  It's as bad as pretending someone hasn't got a birthday.  This planet takes a year to go round the Sun and we mark that in our culture in various ways, or we don't and that also needs to be respected.  Or, we could mark a saint's day, if our name works that way, or a hundred days, or 33554432 seconds, which would be about the same.  What we choose to do, however, is important to us and it shouldn't be taken away without good reason.

Therefore, there are special times, places and categories.  We make them, but the fact that we make them is important.  The Equator is "real", the Prime Meridian is "artificial", but in fact that's not so.  Both are equally real and standing on the Prime Meridian is just as real as standing on the Equator.