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Empty handed thieves

April 26th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — on filling the anxious void ]
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Upper panel, below, saying of Saadi, from the Gulistan, presented by Idries Shah in The Way of the Sufi:

Lower panel, above, a haiku by the Zen monk Ryokan, from Stephen Mitchell, The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry.

Wikipedia tells the tale:

One evening a thief visited Ryokan’s hut at the base of the mountain only to discover there was nothing to steal. Ryokan returned and caught him. “You have come a long way to visit me,” he told the prowler, “and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift.” The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away. Ryokan sat naked, watching the moon. “Poor fellow,” he mused, “I wish I could have given him this beautiful moon.”

Beautiful, the moon? A tautology, surely..

Peace is with the Withinners

April 25th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — ever grateful ]
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Top-down peace talks are by no means a bad thing, maybe even a source of joy..

but to tell the truth..

.. peace is with the withinners:

**

Sources:

  • Pravmir, Egypt’s Al-Azhar University to Hold Peace Conference With Pope
  • NCR, Vatican calls on Catholics and Buddhists to work together to promote nonviolence
  • A tip-of-the-hat to Ursula Le Guin for her marvelous coinage, “the withinner”.

    Robert Pirsig, RIP

    April 25th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — obit as bead game ]
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    A meditation on Robert Pirsig‘s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:


    Tryptich: zen speaks to zen, Suzuki to Suzuki, motorcycle to motorcycle

    Pirsig died yesterday at his home in Maine, after 88 years hereabouts.

    War Books, local version

    April 25th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — saved from a slush pile]
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    A while back, I presumptuously submitted my effort for Modern War Institute‘s War Books Profile series, where it has languished on the slush pile for a few months now. No need to waste a decent post, though, so I’m posting it here, locally, on Zenpundit, for any who may be interested.

    **

    Name: Charles Cameron

    Brief Biography:

    Charles Cameron is the managing editor of the strategy blog Zenpundit, and a past Principal Researcher with the Center for Millennial Studies at BU and Senior Analyst at The Arlington Institute. He is a three time finalist in the Atlantic Council Brent Scowcroft Center’s Art of the Future challenges, and author of the essay “The Dark Sacred: The Significance of Sacramental Analysis” in Robert J Bunker, Blood Sacrifices (a Terrorism Research Center Book). He is the designer of the HipBone family of conceptual games, and is currently working on a book on religious sanctions for violence titled Landmines in the Garden.

    Top Five Books:

    Mustafa Hamid & Leah Farrall, The Arabs at War in Afghanistan. Respectful enemies – he, a friend of UBL and Mullah Omar, she, a counter-terrorism expert for the Australian Federal Police – debate and confer across battle lines to draw a detailed picture of AQ structure and history. A unique collaboration.

    William McCants, The ISIS Apocalypse. The key to ISIS intensity has to do with what then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Dempsey called their “apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision.” McCants masterfully reveals that apocalyptic driver, and the somewhat obscure scriptures on which it is based.

    SH Nasr, ed., The Study Quran. With enemies such as ISIS and AQ that are given to quoting scriptural texts, it is important to have a reputable, non-sectarian translation and scholarly commentary on the Quran. This is that book.

    Hegghammer & Lacroix, The Meccan Rebellion: The Story of Juhayman al-‘Utaybi Revisited. A slim volume, a delight to hold in the hand, and packed with detailed scholarship on what is arguably the seed moment of contemporary Jihadism.

    John Kiser, The Monks of Tibhirine. This book, and Christian de Chergé’s astonishing letter to the jihadists who would shortly martyr him, is an eloquent testament to values we should cherish in a time of brutality and hatred.

    The One That Shaped Me The Most:

    Hermann Hesse, The Glass Bead Game. The human mind, attuned to variety and complexity yet primed to understand complex matters in binary terms, tends to hold war and peace as poles apart. Musically speaking, war is equivalent to discord, peace to harmony. The musical technique of counterpoint, so central to Bach, plays “voices” against one another in a manner that recognizes their variety and individuality and allows for discord while constantly working to resolve it harmoniously. It thus offers us an analogy for the constant interplay of warlike and peaceable motivations, both within the individual human and among the world’s societies and cultures – an invaluable overview of the natural condition. Hesse’s novelistic Game shows analogy rather than linearity as the key to creative insight, and offers a contrapuntal play of ideas as the overarching architectural structure for comprehending a world of conflict and resolution. It won the Nobel.

    **

    **

    Reworking my list today, I might well reckon the McCants book has served its brilliant purpose, illuminating in fine detail the apocalyptic nature of ISIS theology, and substitute a no less valuable but more wide-focus tome, Shahab Ahmed’s What is Islam, which broadens our understanding by offering a comprehensive exploration of “lived Islam” across the centuries and continents, going far beyond “scriptual” Islam as understood by the fundamentalists.

    Ideally, of coure, there’d be room for both McCants and Ahmed, as there is in the tiny bookshelf on my desk..

    Guest Post: Hays on the French Election

    April 25th, 2017

    [Mark Safranski / “zen“]

    Image result for french election

    I’d like to welcome a new, occasional, guest-poster at zenpundit.com,  “Jack Hays“.  Mr. Hays has considerable experience in a number of political and policy positions inside government and out and shares with the ZP readership our appreciation for history, strategy and other things further afield.

    FRANCE AT THE CROSSROADS

    by Jack Hays

    The party system of the Fifth Republic is at last overturned and reconfigured almost exactly half a century after its creation, and the second round of the French presidential election now becomes the third big Western contest for the old and new dispensations: first Brexit, next HRC-Trump, and now Macron-Le Pen.
    .
    Each was and is a fight between the postwar managerial state on the one hand, and populist nationalism on the other. The shock has been the latter’s victory in the first two, but the conventional wisdom is that the streak ends here. Surely this new campaign will end for the younger Le Pen as it did for the elder, with the mass of the French electorate banding together to give a supermajority to the establishment. That’s a rational bet any other year, but not this one. There are the macro trends, and then there are the particular details. Marine Le Pen brings together powerful strands of French political history and identity, from the ridiculous to the pathetic to the glorious, from Pierre Poujade to Philippe Pétain to Charles De Gaulle. Emmanuel Macron does as well, although his are the rocks of the known and the institutional, France as governed in our lifetimes, the rule of les énarques. France as a whole has preferred the latter for so long, but their age of prosperity and competence has turned into an age of fear, of murder in the cities and disquiet in the homes. Now we learn what they fear more, because that fear — not hope, not aspiration — will drive the outcome. What is more intolerable: the status quo of En Marche, or the specter of the Front National?
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    We do not know. Neither does France. It is both an uncertainty we must endure, and a suspense we cannot afford.


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