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Two Ourobouroi — and some somewhat gruesome books..

Friday, July 19th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — this is one of those posts for those who take a quasi-perverse delight in the strangely, beautifully morbid — bibliophiles ahoy! ]
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Here’s another Ouroboros, this one from Microsoft’s eBook Apocalypse shows the dark side of DRM:

Amazon, overcome by a fit of irony in 2009, memorably vanished copies of George Orwell’s 1984 from Kindles.

That was a decade ago, and happily some human at some point in the process had the good sense to intervene. Still, it really is a moment worth contemplating.

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And here for your consideration is a second ouroboros in which a painting is made on the material depicted in it..

It’s gruesome-beautiful, which is why I’ve placed it second — but it’s vidual immediacy speaks viscerally to us, once we know the material on which the imaged was placed..

The ouroboros is not so strong in this case, since the flayed skin on wh9ich the representation is made is of vellum, ie the skin of a lamb or young anim=mal, flayed (removed from the animal’s flesh) after the death of the animal — while the depiction of St Bartholomew shows him being flahed in flie.

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The image in question is part of a quadripartite miniature, which I’ll display here by posting two images from the Morgan collection immediately above one another — in its proper context, it seems less gruesome, perhaps?

I’m not saying, mark you, that human fklesh isn’t on occasion used in the binding of books. Wikipedia has an entry under the title Anthropodermic bibliopegy, which if you untangle it from the Greek means “binding with human skin” — and offers for our view and judgment the following example from the Welcome collection of medical rarities:

That’s S. Pinaeus, De integritatis et corruptionis virginum. And while we’re on the subject of virgines (girls), there’s also this label:

translation:

This book has been bound with the skin of a woman”

— which is found in another book, this one in the Smithsonian collection.

The Hayden-Furnish Matter

Wednesday, July 17th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — opening a discussion of two tweets and the place of New Testament theology in political praxis ]
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Gen Michael Hayden:

Dr Timothy Furnish:

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It seems to me that Tim Furnish‘s response to Gen Hayden opens up one of the few truly central questions of our times — maybe in fact The Key Question for holders of western culture and values.

I take it that this question is in fact a koan — strictly unanswerable, yet livable, lively.

Zen koans are the equivalent of case law. In what follows, I shall offer some precedents that may be of use as we consider the case that Tim Furnish sets before us.

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First, I would like to offer two notions from New Testament studies which may be of help here.

The Kerygma:

Following the scholar CH Dodd, Wikipedia defines the kerygma thus:

  • The Age of Fulfillment has dawned, the “latter days” foretold by the prophets.
  • This has taken place through the birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  • By virtue of the resurrection, Jesus has been exalted at the right hand of God as Messianic head of the new Israel.
  • The Holy Spirit in the church is the sign of Christ’s present power and glory.
  • The Messianic Age will reach its consummation in the return of Christ.
  • An appeal is made for repentance with the offer of forgiveness, the Holy Spirit, and salvation.

if that’s the Foreign, what’s the Domestic Policy?

The Acts of Corporal Mercy:

I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. .. Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Gospel of Matthew 25 vv. 35-36, 40.

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Michael Lotus gave me an exemplary comment with permission to quote it the other day:

As to binaries, lawyers, judges and legislators do not get to spend unlimited time dealing with the ultimately unique nature of each person, each event, each controversy. They have to determine when government power will be applied to compel behavior, to extract money, to seize and bind and carry away persons against their will, to imprison, to put to to death. They have over millennia determined that clear, simple rules are the best way to use this blunt and often brutal, but essential, instrument. Then they have to apply rules to actual cases. Clarity, certainty, and the ability to plan accurately based on known rules, is critical. And inevitably there will be, or seem to be, unfairness in the application, and hard cases, and heart-breaking cases. Attempts to deal with many nuances lead to a thicket of confused rules, lack of guidance for action, and even more arbitrary application of the same unavoidable application of government power. Large and complex human groups cannot be governed otherwise than by general rules of general application. Some balance between hard-and-fast rules tempered by some degree of judicial discretion is where most reasonably fair systems end up, and that is what we have. But the basic fact of binary division is inevatable in the law. Do we hang this man or not? Is this or is this not the type of property subject to this set of rules? Is this man entitled to a deduction on his tax or not? Etc., etc. The law is at best a very crude approximation of the ideal of justice which we can imagine even in human terms if we lived in a a less defective world than the real one. And of course our poor, merely human law, even at its best. falls bitterly, laughably short of that perfect justice that God alone can comprehend and impose. It is one of the many tragedies of the human condition, deriving ultimately from original sin.

Much food for thought there..

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I’m a Brit, and a guest here in these United States. Here, accordingly, are some materials of British origin:

Think of the British coronation service, a Eucharist with anointing, and these words proffered to the King or Queen by the presiding Archbishop:

Receive the Rod of equity and mercy.
Be so merciful
that you be not too remiss,
so execute justice
that you forget not mercy.
Punish the wicked,
protect and cherish the just,
and lead your people
in the way wherein they should go.

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Sir Thomas More, in Robert Bolt‘s play, A Man for All Seasons:

Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you–where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast–man’s laws, not God’s–and if you cut them down–and you’re just the man to do it–d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes. I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

According to a Harvard Crimson article:

Sir Howard Beale, the Australian ambassador to this country, took the late Mr. Justice Frankfurter to see Bolt’s play in New York in 1962. Beale recounts that the Justice could scarcely contain his excitement during the scene just set out, and as it ended Frankfurter whispered in the dark. “That’s the point, that’s it, that’s it!”

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I saw a reference to More, who was Lord High Chancellor under Henry VIII, as Keeper of the King’s Conscience, which drove me to this definition:

Keeper of the King’s Conscience”

The early chancellors were priests, and out of their supposed moral control of the King’s mind grew the idea of an equity court in contradistinction to the law courts. A bill in chancery is a petition through the Lord Chancellor to the King’s conscience for remedy in matters for which the King’s common law courts afford no redress. The Keeper of the King’s Conscience is therefore now the officer who presides in the Court of Chancery; see Chancellor and Lord Keeper.

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Barnett Rubin, today, for another up-to-the-moment view:

Politics is not a mechanism for transforming goals into reality, for the Taliban or anyone else. It is a process of conflict and cooperation dependent on resources, relationships, and chance in which no one controls the outcome.

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St Francis would, I think, like to see the Beatitudes, and proceeding from them the corporal works of mercy, deployed in all functions of the individual and community / state; the Jesuits would, by and large and in contrast, it seems to me, appreciate pragmatism — tempered by mercy, yes, as and when pragmatism permits.

Think on these things..

Your thoughts?

Dancing in the rain, a second Sunday surprise

Sunday, July 14th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — one concept, two versions — one sacred and one secular, one amateur and one professional, one demotic and one elite ]
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The sacred takes the form of praise dancing:

Note: there’s some loud glossolalia and English interjections which sound as though they come from close to the camera, so you’re advised to set your volume at 50%, even though the sound is initially very faint.

One definition of praise dancing:

Praise dancing is a liturgical or spiritual dance that incorporates music and movement as a form of worship rather than as an expression of art or as entertainment. Praise dancers use their bodies to express the word and spirit of God.

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The secular, by contrast, is indeed both entertainment and an expression of art:

The contrast here is between the amateur (from the Latin, amare, one who acts out of sheer love) and the professional (effectively, one who has acquired significant specific skills and is financially rewarded accordingly) — the demotic and the elite

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Your comments are most welcome.

A Sporting Sunday Surprise

Sunday, July 14th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — Triptych, DoubleQuote and Single in sports, with a sermon you should really click through and hear, delivered by the inimitable Alan Bannett of Beyond the fringe ]
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The London Review of Books sends me a weekly email, and this week it offered sporting articles that might be of interest. I can’t access all the articles in question, not being a subscriber, but the sort versions offered in the email provide me with this triptych of sporting paragraphs.. on the theme of suffering..

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A Broad Grin and a Handstand
by E.S. Turner, 2004

The Paris-Madrid road race of 1903 was a wonderfully disgraceful affair. Three hundred cars set out, conferring death and dismemberment along the dust-choked roads south. Six of the drivers were killed outright and nearly twice as many gravely injured. The hospitals were stuffed with mangled sightseers. By the time the surviving drivers reached Bordeaux the race was called off, and in Madrid the garlanded welcome arches were quietly dismantled. City-to-city road racing was now over. However, the dawn of motoring was still one of those dawns in which it was bliss to be alive.

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Everybody gets popped
by David Runciman, 2012

For Tyler Hamilton, as for many of the other leading cyclists, doping did not constitute an unfair advantage. Instead, it was a way of sorting out who was really the toughest. In an extraordinary passage, Hamilton writes that EPO made the sport fairer, because it ‘granted the ability to suffer more; to push yourself farther and harder than you’d ever imagined, in both racing and training’.

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Bantu in the Bathroom
by Jacqueline Rose, 2015

The full citation from Corinthians tattooed on Oscar Pistorius’s upper back reads:

I do not run like a man running aimlessly;
I do not fight like a man beating the air;
I execute each stride with intent;
I beat my body and make it my slave
I bring it under my complete subjection
To keep myself from being disqualified
After having called others to the contest.

The line about making my body my slave is not in most translations from Corinthians, nor is subjection described as ‘complete’. Pistorius was raising the stakes. He was also punishing, or even indicting, himself.

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So much for the Triptych: now, still with sports in mind, for a Twitter DoubleQuote:

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And finally, for a Single, this delightful sports metaphor in religion quote, also from the LRB offering this morning, and worthy of the Alan Bennett sermon (to die for):

6/4 he won’t score 20
by John Sturrock, 2000

In prelapsarian times, it was only ever a short step from the batting crease to the pulpit, as generations of cricketing vicars used the game that they played heartily, if not usually very well, on Saturday afternoon for a neighbourly source of Sunday metaphors with which to earth a sermon and reassure the congregation that the rules by which a good Anglican was urged to live were really no more arduous than those framed by the MCC.

Howzzat?

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So the Bible said, and it still is news

Friday, July 5th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — Universities hither and yon, illustrating Matthew 25:29 and it clearly still is news ]
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Celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and acclaimed astronomer Professor Andrea Ghez were among the recipients of honorary degrees at Encaenia..

News below from my alma mater, the University of Oxford

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It’s worth noting that the gift to the humanities (top panel, above), though smaller than that to the sciences (lower panel), is to the University of Oxford itself, whereas the gift to the sciences, though larger, is to the city of Oxford.

But Oxford — city with university, town and gown — benefits in both cases.

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Contrast that with the University of Alaska:

My hope here would be for the university to prioritize the full continuation of its unique services – the indigenous language and arctic climate change programs — all else is covered elsewhere..

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A Biblical explanation:

For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.

Or, musically stated:

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Further readings:

  • Oxford University, Honorary degrees awarded at Encaenia 2019,

  • Oxford University, University announces unprecedented investment in the Humanities
  • Oxford University, Legal & General commits £4 billion to Oxford partnership

  • Bryan Alexander, Alaska gears up to clobber its universities
  • University of Alaska, Main page, University of Alaska
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    Achtung!


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