A call for
Lemon Curd is an online platform that seeks to explore human nature and all that stems from it. By contemplating ourselves and society our aim is to create an intersectional and liberated discourse. Through sharing experiences and thoughts, we aim to challenge and at times escape the constraints of society.
Submissions should be no longer than 1,500 words in a form that comes natural to you, prose, essays, videos, journal entries, podcasts, collages, photos, illustrations...
To submit or for more information please email firstname.lastname@example.org
about Lemon Curd...
By definition, human nature refers to the characteristics that distinguish us as humans; our ways of feeling, thinking and acting. From a philosophical stand point, understanding the essence of what it means to be human is understanding human nature. And it is through self-speculation, and contemplation of the environment we live in that we can attempt to critically engage with the intricate complexities of our nature, and try to understand what it means to be us.
In ‘Ain’t I a woman’, a collection of poetry by women from around the world, different voices are woven together; they affirm dualities and commonalities across themes of love, womanhood, injustice, sex and race. The weaving in and out of lives presented together was something that we thought was significant and could be emulated in some way. However, it struck us that focusing on women’s lives would have limitations; shouldn’t everyone be encouraged to engage in a discussion? Do we not all have a responsibility to ourselves and others to critically engage, to express our emotions and thoughts? Feminism is something we identify with, but it has been more than an ideology. Like many other movements, it is a process that awakens our consciousness by encouraging us to critically engage with ourselves and our environment; it has ignited contemplation of our haves, needs and wants, individually and as a collective. As Angela Davis pointed out, we must liberate our minds as well as society. Imagined by us, our hierarchical society has been built on illusions. Communities can be imagined and gender can be performed, which serves to reveal the possibilities of perception and change. Influenced by our experiences; our thoughts, feelings and actions intertwine to create our self. What does it mean to be you? How do you perceive or express your thoughts and emotions? What experiences have influenced your existence and shaped how you imagine the world? How do you navigate social and hierarchical modes of being? What do you desire and who do you wish to be? We ask you these questions to explore and share experiences, to inform each other, challenge existing conditions and offer alternative stories.
Lemon Curd wants to promote an intersectional discourse that shares experiences and ideas to enable us to enhance our understanding of society and each other, and to aid the imagening of a future we desire. We encourage submissions in a range of mediums to allow people the freedom to express themselves, so that we can create an accessible platform together. And with time, as the project grows, the creative work that we receive and post online will be published as a zine.
PART 1: SHOULD I BE GOOD?
Whenever we make judgements we go with something that sounds right, good, proper. Nietzsche discusses the paradox of truth in the Genealogy, where he argues that even those who are often seen as most distant from faith like scientists and empiricists still commit to a fallacy of identifying truth with good. One might wonder why is this a problem. One of the most obvious consequences is that it categorizes the world into black and white, good and bad, pure and impure. But how do we know, how can we be certain that truth is good and falsity is bad? A famous example of the categorical imperative springs to mind. If a murderer is asking where your friend is and you know that if you told the murderer the truth your friend would die, would you be completely certain then that telling the truth is still a good thing? Judgements like these are difficult and many tried rationalising them into coherent systems.
The main issue that we usually have with rational activity is that it functions in a void, where there are no human contingencies. This is done so that solutions that apply to all circumstances could be fabricated. Our lives are full of contingencies – life is only a contingency – and any promise of stability induces euphoria. It helps overcoming life - that at times seems unbearably random. This is the flaw in human reasoning that Nietzsche points to. We started believing in truth. But truth itself does not have any moral judgement. Today’s politics and even scientific research is poisoned by this absence. For example, if research shows that people have implicit racial bias does that mean that we can never tackle racism as long as we have different races? Or does it show that society conditioned us so well that we are subconsciously racist? In making any decision like this one falls back to his own interests. If you are arguing for segregation of races you will se implicit racism as a reason to separate people by race. If you think it is a problem best tackled by exposing people from different races to one another the former decision seems to be destructive.
Here my biggest issue with people placing themselves on a political spectre lies. People see their truth as the only truth, often disregarding opposition as unenlightened, false and plainly wrong. I will give an example of a situation I find myself in. I find merit (as in dedication, hard work, usefulness) to be vital to human flourishment. While AnCap idea of promoting merit is by throwing people into a world where only those with merit will survive - that individualism impedes greater progress in the long run. Collectivism on the other hand bets on the societal potential, yet one is naturally inclined to first of all think of himself, and then for others due to the potential abuse of the state. One has to have faith in NAP on one hand and abate fairness on the other. If only it was black and white... Yet most young people see politics like that. How many times have I been called a sexist for pointing out biological differences. How many times I was called a Nazi by pointing out the inherent tribalism of people. It does not matter to those who call me names that I believe that social constructs made the difference between men and women greater than our biological difference entails. It seems like it doesn’t matter that I would prefer unifying people by their merit – dedication to one’s people, faith in the community, personal excellence, no matter your genetic background. By just pointing to the shadow I am seen as the enemy of light.
I cannot indulge in a naïve belief that truth is good. Many people betrayed that trust. I do not want to be delusional, I do not have a stable opinion that is set in stone. I am only human and I am only pointing to the different colours that are present to me. How I wish to see life in black and white. How I wish to be ignorant. Ignorantia beatitudo est. But such wishes are futile. They are as comforting as cigarettes are helping with stress by slowly killing a person. I am cursed. I will never be wise and I can never be ignorant either. I am human. I cannot advocate mediocracy for it would just help me get cosy to the unknown by merely turning away from it. As a reflective man I am free from shackles of dogma only to be shackled by a dogma of confidence in myself. I can be as original and as expressive as words can make me.
Learning all the words would not make me any better off. And this is where Nietzsche is so comforting. He does not neglect the human aspect of ourselves. He puts it forth! He does not say we should go back to the times when brute force was the animating force of life. On the other hand he does not want us to be disconnected from the creativity of animal behavior. We have to compose, see more than is given to us. Twist everything you see, hear or think. Think but don’t axiomise thinking. Act but don’t announce strength as your god. Exist and express yourself. Even what I am saying is up for scrutiny. If you don’t neglect the beauty of the dance, the randomness of thought, the feelings that poetry gives rise to you might be a more complete individual. I don’t want to say happier, for happiness is not necessary and it even might be detrimental to creativity. Happiness can be comforting, but as Mill once said, ‘it better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied’. Let this be the manifest for creativity.
THE WONDERS OF INSIGHT MEDITATION
How can we find the courage to confront our darkness and awaken to the reality of our lives? The courage to confront the chaos of our internal world, as well as the reality of the monumental environmental crisis we are in, massive issues and obscene corruption within our political spheres, a financial system that is bankrupt, as well as the greatest epidemic of mental illness probably ever known in human history? It breaks my heart to see so many young people getting utterly fucked because the pain is too much, but it also makes total sense. We were never taught how to be with ourselves, so we abandon ourselves. Our very livelihood taken away from us, our sense of aliveness, connection and child-like imagination destroyed and rendered unimportant by a patriarchal society that worships money and a lust for power and domination.
The wonders of insight meditation can offer a profoundly simple, gentle, priceless way of delving into our unconscious, and inquiring into the very messy space of our internal landscape. Through the practice of insight meditation, we can relearn how to sit with difficult, painful emotions, allowing all of ourselves to be held in our awareness. From anger, sadness, anxiety, fear, depression, doubt, certainty, joy, bliss…We learn to feel into and observe and deeply embrace all of our experience through a kind, nourishing, patient attention, rather than cling on, act out or run away from our emotions. As the Buddha said, ‘This, too, will pass’. All our emotions and thoughts are transient, in constant flux and change, therefore there is no fixed self.
In particular, we give the unwanted parts of ourselves a non-reactive, loving, soft attention. We relearn how to love our bodies as they are, rather than fearing or hating them. Insight meditation is defined as ‘feeling into’ our emotions with an unconditional, non-judgmental awareness. We shine the light of our loving attention inwardly, observing how our mind operates, feeling into the textural landscape of our messy inner self, and ultimately learning to regain a sense of intimacy with ourselves and the world around us. We learn to love our bodies as they are rather than straightjacket ourselves to fit some fucked up ideal billboarded by capitalism. We become more sensitised to what our bodies actually need. We acknowledge that we may need support from fellow practitioners and therapists. We come out of our incessant stream of thoughts, and directly feel into our bodily experience. We regain our inner sense of authority. A joy for life opens. We can cultivate these attitudes on and off of the cushion. This isn’t just about sitting in meditation for 20 minutes everyday (although that can be very useful), this is about infusing our lives with curious, empathic attention.
The awareness we give ourselves is a creative awareness. We invite a light, playful, curious attention to all of our inner world. It’s about becoming conscious of the world we are in. We may notice how judgmental and critical we are of ourselves, as well as towards others. Through patient and kind awareness, we learn how to drop unhelpful habits of thinking that are destructive to our emotional wellbeing, and learn to cultivate a nourishing, compassionate and curious attitude towards ourselves that is healing and nourishing and ultimately makes us feel good. In doing so, our relationships with our family and friends naturally begin to improve as the fruits of our practice begin to take shape. We begin to come back to life, and experience the vibrancy of ourselves, as well as the vibrancy of all life around us.
Insight meditation is ultimately about cultivating empathy. It is accepting that there is suffering, and that there is liberation from suffering. It requires considerable patience and a willingness to embrace all of ourselves. It is really about remembering that we are beautiful. At first, we begin slowly, taking small steps, and then gradually build from there. It may be shocking at first to see how relentlessly self-critical we are towards ourselves and those around us. We may feel swathes of sadness, deep longings, raging anger, as well as amazing bliss, and wonderful joy. Only through truly accepting all of ourselves can we begin to know ourselves more, and create sustainable and healthy relationships with those we love.
This isn’t about finally experiencing bliss, or reaching some end goal. Insight meditation is about feeling the entire human experience. It is about becoming whole human beings; sensitive, engaged and compassionate in a world that has gone insane. It is about regaining our sense of dignity and inner authority. It is about realising our relationship to ourselves is ultimately the same as our relationship to our friends. If we can heal ourselves, we can begin healing a world that is starving, emotionally / spiritually. If we want to create a beautiful world and heal the disorientating damage that has been and continues to be inflicted to the earth, as well as various oppressed groups of peoples, then first we must look to ourselves. We are the reason there is so much misery, confusion and despair raging across our communities and planet. Therefore, we are the ones that require radical self-love / self-contemplation and radical support from one another if we are to come out of this environmental, social and political chaos alive. Human change is primary, our actions will then spawn naturally from a changed, whole, compassionate, universal perspective. Most importantly, we need each other. We recognise our interdependency with all of life, and that to be a healthy human is to be living in a healthy community. And that our inner world is ultimately intertwined with our outer world.
Insight meditation is not easy. However, it can be incredibly liberating, offering a platform to come alive and taste the world again. It allows us to reimagine how we can live together in radically alternative, loving ways. It permits us to feel our vulnerability, our emotions, our longings and take ownership of ourselves. It sets us free. If you want to learn more, here are some useful links. Alternatively, you can get in contact with me!
I’m planning on starting up a young persons meditation group in Southend.
Lots of love brothers and sisters X
Useful links: https://gaiahouse.co.uk, http://dharmaseed.org, http://headspace.com, https://www.londoninsight.org, https://wakeuplondon.org
- Henry Wilcox
adverts violate me
fragmented instructions disguised as thoughts
intricately trickling upon entry into membranes of ones brain
what it isn’t “I” should not be
a social construct
of the fifth wave that is
How do I unlearn what it means to be?
Q&A: JOSEPH GELFER, THE FIVE STAGES OF MASCULINITY
Joseph Gelfer is a researcher in the field of men and masculinity. Here we discuss his model, The Five Stages of Masculinity. Each of the stages he describes distinguishes a different manifestation of masculinity, and a different level of consciousness. Gelfer states that the first stage, unconscious masculinity, is experienced by most people and is the most problematic. The stages progress through to stage 5; it is at this stage, which Gelfer states as being experienced by very few people, where masculinity is essentially eliminated.
Q: You studied theology at university and your thesis was Numen, old men : contemporary masculine spiritualities and the problem of patriarchy. Is this when you first questioned masculinity? Can you talk through some of the factors that made you question it?
A: Yes, I studied theology as an undergraduate student. When I returned for postgraduate study I looked back and considered what kinds of theology I found most interesting as an undergraduate. These were feminist theology, black theology, queer theology and liberation theology. The commonality among all these theologies is a focus on identity. As an ostensibly straight white man, an interesting theology based on identity sounded quite elusive (or, alternatively, ALL theology is based on this identity). So my original plan was to find and analyse some exciting theology based on the identity of straight men.
Q: What is the relationship between masculinity and theology? What has your research divulged?
A: My plan to find this exciting theology based on the identity of straight men did not go very well. In short, it doesn’t exist, either in historical or contemporary contexts. So I spent a number of years showing how nearly all forms of theology and spirituality explicitly connected with male identity were patriarchal. And of course, feminist theology has been telling us for years that the underlying structure of religion is patriarchal even when it does not refer explicitly to men.
Q: During your research, what were some of the most prominent ideas and figures that influenced you to write the masculinity tool?
A: My current work on The Five Stages of Masculinity is a response to the fact that I find most work around gender to be kind of boring. There was a great flurry of activity around masculinity studies in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and we also had queer theory happening at that point. And then there is very little indeed. The Five Stages of Masculinity is my attempt to open up beyond feminism and queer theory, to find other ways of thinking about both identity and politics.
Q: How do you apply your teachings to your everyday life? And how can others do the same? Is it as simple as being aware of these general stages of masculinity and understanding how they relate to your own life?
A: It depends what you want to achieve. If your intention is to just live mindfully, then yes, you need to simply be aware of the stages and how you might be operating at different stages regarding different issues. Ideally then also do some personal development on those parts of your life that might still be working at lower stages. But it gets more interesting when you work with other people. If you are a Stage 4 social worker, for example, with Stage 2 clients, you should have a much better ability to connect with where they are coming from than simply telling them they are wrong: move into Stage 2 and take them by the hand, rather than shouting at them from Stage 4.
Q: After the environment, you state that masculinity is arguably the most detrimental to our civilisation, what are some of the less obvious factors that make this true, the factors others are less likely to be aware of?
A: Well, first connect masculinity with the environment. We know that men are less likely to believe in climate change, less likely to lead environmentally friendly lifestyles, less likely to be vegetarian or vegan. Traditional masculinity damages the environment, end of story. You could look at economics and capitalism and suggest that a similar form of domination derived from traditional masculinity is driving those problems, let alone war and violence.
Q: Pre-individuation, the primordial state before personal identity; before the notion of masculinity was created, where do you think this idea of masculinity stems from? How did it develop? Was it inevitable?
A: Let’s split gender from sex for a moment, so retreat from what is masculine to what is male. We cannot ignore the fact that certain male traits repeat across the animal kingdom. When I look out of my window at my chickens I see the males behaving one way and all the females another. I am not inclined to deny biology, but nor do I want to be bound by it. I suspect what we have going on here is a mash of those biological male traits, combined with the development of human consciousness, combined with social and cultural expectations. These are very complex things to untangle, even if you have a great level of self-awareness, so it’s no surprise that most of us don’t even bother to interrogate it.
Q: You refer to masculinity as plural; can you talk us through this? Is masculinity different across all cultures and classes?
A: Certainly. Masculinity shifts depending on where and when you are. It can even look different but still be traditional. For example, Louis XIV was all curly hair, frilly shirts and high heels. But he still embodied traditional masculinity and the ideology of patriarchy. This is why we should be very careful today when we see masculinity that “looks” different: just because some dude is wearing makeup or glitter doesn’t necessarily mean he is thinking differently.
Q: I’m really interested in stage 5, the place we have yet to explore, could you elaborate on ‘post-individuation’ and the concept of Atman and an identity beyond masculinity? Do you think this is relevant to femininity, this idea of reaching transcendence?
A: Firstly, I strongly recommend people walk through the previous stages before thinking much about Stage 5, as it can feel somewhat counter-intuitive. At Stage 5 I claim that masculinity does not exist, or that it exists only as a consensual hallucination which nevertheless has many real effects. In other words, masculinity is an illusion that we all get stuck in. Same for femininity: at Stage 5 is does not exist. For me, post-individuation is a space that is as pristine as the self before social intervention, but also informed by what we have learned through social intervention: it is uncontaminated by the conditioning we all receive from day one. I refer to concepts such as Atman because we’re looking here at the ultimate concept of the self, which may even be that there is no self. As an aside, I think gender studies is going to be blown out of the water when we finally develop an understanding of how consciousness works and potentially get evidence that the whole idea of the self is a trick to keep us alive.
Q: How achievable do you think this is? And how do you imagine society to function?
A: First, the Stage 5 understanding that masculinity does not exist is a thinking experiment that is relatively simple to accept. If you were happy to live as a hermit it would also be relatively simple to live a Stage 5 life. But most of us live in society, which is predominantly Stage 1 to 3. This requires “descending” to those stages on a daily basis in order to speak the same language as everyone else, and to share the same frames of reference. This movement between what you know to be true, and having to live in the illusion: that’s challenging.
I started making Videopoems as a way to combine different disciplines that I like to do: writing, video, animation, digital collage and music/soundscaping.
Making these films has been a way for me to externalise and transform pent up energy into a visualisation of collaged images and sounds to symbolise feelings that I can’t express in any concrete terms usually.
Usually I write the poems around the time of my period when I have a lot of pent up energy that I don’t know where to channel. The video part is more instinctual, I don’t think about it too much. This film was made around the time of the purple eclipse (super moon, lunar eclipse (or blood moon) and blue moon) when I felt I had a lot of frustration, hormonal changes and I was struggling to catch up with my body in basic things like sleep and food.
- Maya Yagoda
LEARNING TO CONTEMPLATE MISOGYNY (AND MY BODY) WITHOUT FEELING PAIN
Females don’t have breasts for the first ~10 years of their lives. Obvious, yes, yet it’s something I remind myself when considering my body and my relationship with it. Of course, puberty involves the growing and changing of many body features, for males and females, but tits are something that are particularly observable, and particularly sexualised in females in spite of any logic. Naked eye to naked breast, the only difference between that area of a female’s body and that of a male’s body is the fat. Nevertheless, my boobs have mostly only ever really seemed to me like liabilities.
Up until a year ago, I couldn’t feel like my breasts were mine, or that I should have them. I still don’t feel I’ve fully gotten used to my widened hips despite them having been this way for almost a decade. I bang them into things, apparently underestimating their size. Having tits has similar practicality issues, and on top of that you have to deal with the fact you are permanently attached to something which is so unnecessarily sexualised. I wasn’t born feeling like I, a human, an animal, was something sexual and so, perhaps as a coping mechanism to distance myself from the sexual mistreatment (if that’s ambiguous enough of a word) I’ve endured, I forced a weird kind of dualism between myself and my body.
I’ve never quite been able to shake the feeling that my body is ultimately, and perpetually, the butt of a joke. I’m not going to list all the ways in which I’ve felt degraded or sexually victimized because 1) I don’t want to and 2) its not the point I’m trying to get across, despite perhaps serving as context. But I have to acknowledge that things have happened that have greatly shaped who I am as a person including my mental and physical well-being, and, parallel to that, my feminism.
I’ve struggled to stop myself from thinking I must’ve been dealt a particularly bad hand. I’ve heard sexually themed rumours about myself so ridiculous I don’t know why anyone would believe them, let alone fabricate them. There was a version of myself out there in some imagination who was having far more adventure with her desires than I ever did, and for a short while I tried to emulate some aspects of that character’s personality – it seeming more adaptive at the time- only to fail miserably.
I was objectified before I understood what sexual objectification was, like most women. After spending the night at a boy’s house in my university days and stupidly having forgotten my bra there, his friends informed me they’d hung it up, amongst other “trophies from nights out”. The kicker was I thought the boy himself was quite a kind and considerate person, and still do. That made it a lot shittier and harder to deal with. Surely if the common denominator in all these events was me then I was the one doing something wrong, right? None of my friends had such experiences - I must just be stupid, or asking for it in some way. Maybe I didn’t react to red flags like they did, didn’t separate myself from people or situations that would eventually lead to a new kind of sexually-themed pain by being too curious, or trusting people too much, whether it was a boy you trusted enough to walk home with or keeping a “friend” who seemed to always be at the end of false stories you hear about yourself.
I think that might be partly true. But at the same time I remember I was 12 years old when some charming older boy in my school wrote “[my name] loves cock” on the walls of the boys changing rooms. Was a 12 year old stupid, or asking for it, or too ignorant or curious or trusting? No. I was just fucking 12!
Oddly, that sobers me. The thought that I, me, must have had it particularly bad because of experiences I’d had and because I hadn’t been smart enough is self-focused, self-centred and, quite frankly, indulgent. This extends beyond me or any single person I’ve come into contact with.
Do you throw up in your mouth a little bit when someone responds to an extremely complex social issue with an eloquent “society is fucked, man”? Then you and I have that in common. This isn’t to simplify, and I’m not trying to shift the blame from any individual who has acted in a particularly gross manner towards me or even myself. But you must look at the bigger picture and identify the patterns in what’s going on to have any hope of changing things. The whole point of last year’s #MeToo movement and what countless public figures were trying to drum home afterwards was that THIS SHIT IS EVERYWHERE. A lot of people had to deal with the fact a celebrity they enjoyed has harassed/assaulted/raped/taken advantage of others. Hopefully, from that they acknowledge their neighbour, co-worker, doctor, bartender, parent, child, sibling, or best friend could have easily done something similar or on the same spectrum. Ideally, they could even reflect on their own past behaviour, perhaps realising some things they’d done weren’t as harmless as they’d previously thought. Some of the kindest men I know have behaved in ways I consider to be extremely harmful and actively sexist.
Let’s edge ourselves away from envisioning the archetypal rapist, the slimey and disenfranchised middle-aged man hiding down an alley, when we contemplate sexual misconduct. Further, let’s understand you don’t need to go as far as to actually assault or rape someone to cause long lasting damage. We should recognise harm can come in all shapes and sizes, whether it be something as (hopefully now) obviously wrong like judging a woman’s willingness towards sexual advances based on her clothing choices, or something as implicit as shunning conversations involving a friend’s allegations of sex crimes performed by another friend to prohibit some “disturbing of peace”/ false social harmony. The less we distance the men we know, love, or are from this idea of Disney villain-esque “monstrous” sexists, the better. Better for the survivors to understand the world and come to peace with their experiences, and better for those who might realise they’re part of a problem and learn to change.
And so I hold no hatred for anyone who made me feel that particular brand of misery, nor myself, nor my body. It’s a challenge to feel like sexual objectification isn’t personal because its effectively someone placing your thoughts, feelings and well-being below what they want to get out of your body. However, the recognition that there is a wider pattern in all these things that happen has become a tool to heal my wounds.
Appreciating how universal sexual objectification and degradation is has allowed me to contemplate feminism without feeling pain. One might think the idea that so many others are undergoing this dreadful thing would be disheartening and more damaging, but when observing my own trauma from a more selfish perspective, its made me realise this isn’t all about myself (how beautifully ironic lol).
At first I was concerned that no longer hurting when thinking about these things signalled a loss of passion for the cause. But I haven’t lost hope, I’ve just come to terms with things. Made peace – more so with myself than with the way things are in the world. But I’m pretty certain that with an issue which some wrongfully think is about pitting two genders against each other, one half of the world against the other, to ever make real change then fostering peace, conversation and understanding is paramount. Sure as fuck feels healthier anyway :)