zenpundit.com » analogy

Archive for the ‘analogy’ Category

Of “apocalyptic” silk — also mixed fabrics, nylon & polyester

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- there are times when religions don't want you to "slip into something a little more casual" -- the end times included! ]
.

Julie Parker's All About Silk, All About Cotton & All About Wool -- yes, in three separate volumes

**

I wouldn’t normally draw your attention to books on fabric, but this three-volume set by Julie Parker — each volume a combination fabric dictionary and swatchbook — caught my eye today, because I was thinking specifically of wool, cotton and silk in the context of religious prohibitions.

As regular readers here know, I’m always on the lookout for hints of “end times” thinking anywhere around the globe and in any of the world’s religions (secular ideologies, too) — because they serve as indicators of significant currents and possible shifts in popular sentiment. Accordingly, I wanted to bring our readership’s attention to the current dispute in Malaysia, described in an Agence France Presse post of February 21st from Kuala Lumpur, titled Malaysian fatwa ruling sought on ‘apocalyptic’ silk:

A Malaysian conservative group’s insistence that Muslim men wearing silk was a “sign of the apocalypse” prompted a call Friday for religious authorities to study whether to impose a fatwa on the fabric, a report said.

An activist with the conservative Muslim Consumers Association of Malaysia told reporters on Thursday that silk was forbidden for men, citing Islamic literature that describes the prophet Muhammad as taking that stance.

Such literature “also states that one of the tanda kiamat (signs of the apocalypse) is when pure silk is being worn,” association activist Sheikh Abdul Kareem S. Khadaied was quoted saying by the Malay Mail.

**

That is, thus far, the only eschatologically-connected fabric-related issue that I’m aware of, and of special interest for that reason. But commandments regarding the appropriateness or otherwise of particular fabrics are also to be found in the Tanakh / Old Testament, eg at Deuteronomy 22:9–11:

Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with divers seeds: lest the fruit of thy seed which thou hast sown, and the fruit of thy vineyard, be defiled. Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together. Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woollen and linen togethe

and Leviticus 19.19:

Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee.

**

The need to keep different things clearly separated, and to avoid those things (eg shellfish) which appear to bleed between otherwise clearly distinct categories, is a characteristic which Mary Douglas explored fruitfully in her book Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo (1966), and one of the more interesting insights to be gleaned there is that declaring something taboo is more like labeling power lines “high tension” — it doesn’t demarcate the bad from the good so much as the dangerously intense or highly charged from the safe and normal…

Thus we discover in consulting Jacob Milgrom‘s JPS Torah Commentary: Numbers that there’s one place in the Torah where wool and linen are indeed permitted to be mixed — in the tzitzit or fringers of Jewish ritual prayer shawls:

What is there about the tzitzit that would remind its wearer of holiness? The earliest rabbinic sources, perhaps dating back to biblical days, taught that the tzitzit are sha‘atnez, a mixture of wool and linen. In fact white linen cords and dyed woolen cords were found in the Bar Kockba caves, proving that the rabbinic teaching was actually observed. Sha‘atnez is forbidden because it is a holy mixture, reserved exclusively for priests and forbidden to nonpriests. .. Thus the tzitzit, according to the rabbis, are modeled after a priestly garment that is taboo for the rest of Israel!

**

As the centuries and millennia turn, however, situations change — and with them the styles of interpretation and degrees of importance assigned to such rules by various streams within a given religion. In some cases new rulings are called for to meet the changing circumstances — hence the use of qiyas (argument by analogy) in Islamic jurisprudence to cover cases not clearly accounted for in the Qur’an or reliable ahadith.

Here for instance, is a quote from the blogsite of a Christian denomination (a “traditionalist” breakaway group from the Worldwide Church of God, for those interested in such details) bringing the discussion of mixed cloths up into the twenty-first century to address synthetic fibers:

What about the mixture of synthetic, man-made fabrics, such as Dacron, nylon, polyester, and rayon, with either cellulose or protein fibers? Many have not realized that a combination of synthetic and either plant or animal material does not necessarily break the biblical principle. Synthetic materials are usually made to have essentially the same characteristics as the natural fibers. Otherwise, they would not mix well. The stronger fibers would cut and tear away from the weaker ones or would not combine well in other ways. In other words, it is perfectly acceptable to manufacture fabrics from a combination of fibers which are naturally or artificially compatible with one another. It is the mixture of fibers with markedly differing qualities which this biblical principle concerns.

It should be noted that such combinations produce a cheaper garment, with respect to quality, than one made with the best grades of pure fibers. On the other hand, a fabric made from low-grade, natural fibers is usually improved by the addition of compatible man-made fibers. Any good tailor or seamstress knows that the best quality clothing is made from 100 percent wool, cotton, and so forth. Nevertheless, one need not throw away or destroy clothing which may be of lower quality or a wrong mixture. Wearing such materials is not a sin in itself. Rather, God does not want manufacturers producing shoddy materials in order to take advantage of their customers.

A wise principle to follow in selecting either a pure or mixed garment is to purchase the best quality one can afford—it will last longer and fit better than inferior, less expensive clothes. The primary reason to do this is to honor and glorify God in what we wear, especially if the clothing is to be worn primarily for church services. However, it is not wise to go into debt buying better quality than one can afford.

**

Religion — an endlessly fascinating window on human cultures and the changing times…

And as an inveterate book-lover and collector, I have to say those three volumes from Rain City Publishing look pretty neat! Swatches!

Share

Recap: on HipBone / Sembl Thinking

Monday, March 10th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- briefly picking up a strand from an earlier post & running with it ]
.

Some of the fish in the pool HipBone / Sembl swims in - slide credit Cath Styles, & h/t Derek Robinson

**

I just wanted to reiterate an Einstein quote that I slipped into the middle of a post on the Black Madonna and iconography recently, where some readers more interested in the Sembl / HipBone games and their applicability to analytic work and creative thinking may have missed it:

The words or the language, as they are written or spoken, do not seem to play any role in my mechanism of thought. The psychical entities which seem to serve as elements in thought are certain signs and more or less clear images which can be “voluntarily” reproduced and combined. There is, of course, a certain connection between those elements and relevant logical concepts. It is also clear that the desire to arrive finally at logically connected concepts is the emotional basis of this rather vague play with the above mentioned elements. But taken from a psychological viewpoint, this combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought – before there is any connection with logical construction in words or other kinds of sign, which can be communicated to others.

The above mentioned elements are, in my case, of visual and some of muscular type. Conventional words or other signs have to be sought for laboriously only in a secondary stage, when the mentioned associative play is sufficiently established and can be reproduced at will.

According to what has been said, the play with the mentioned elements is aimed to be analogous to certain logical connections one is searching for.

**

Combinatory playessential feature in productive thoughtanalogous to certain logical connections one is searching for — these three phrases sum up pretty exactly the congitive training function of the HipBone / Sembl games.

As I said earlier, I have to wonder how many of our analysts are deeply versed in this “combinatory play” of images and kinesthetic experiences, way below the threshold of conscious thought.

Share

On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: preliminaries

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- on graph theory, and the background and history of HipBone / Sembl gameboards ]
.

First off, a graph — at least the way I’m using it here — is a diagram of linkages. The items linked, which may be people, places, phones, ideas, quantities, whatever, are represented by dots or circles, known as nodes, and the links between them by lines, known as edges.

Here’s a simple graph diagram with four nodes and seven edges:

left: a simple graph, based on, right: the bridges of the city of Königsberg circa 1735

.

That diagram represents — elegantly, with topological accuracy — the seven bridges connecting the banks and islands of the city of Königsberg — which gavs rise to a famous math problem, which in turn gave rise to that branch of mathematics we now know as Graph Theory.

**

Graphs are thus pictures of networks, and networks are the non-linear, feedback-capable basis for an astonishing variety of interesting things such as the internet and your and my brains

And they can get pretty complex. I’m a simple soul, and not a great network maven — but here’s what my network in LinkedIn looks like as of today. It too is a graph, although it reminds me of broccoli, or of a fish…


.

Hey, that’s a pretty small network — and graph — compared with, say, a graph of all the neurons in a single brain, all the brains on the world’s computer networks, or all the neurons in all the brains on all the networks…

**

Graphs with concepts at the nodes and conceptual links along the edges have been used for centuries to convey mystical states, propositions in theology, and concepts in the natural sciences:

Left, the Sephirotic Tree in Kabbalah; middle, the four elements in Oronce Fine; right, the Christian Trinity

**

So you won’t be too surprised to learn that my variants on the Glass Bead Game of Hermann Hesse, which are designed to build what he termed the “hundred-gated cathedral of Mind” by analogically connecting the great thoughts of human-kind across all the arts and scences, use graphs (in this sense) as their boards…

Here, for instance, is one possible board design, derived from the inner vaulting of an English cathedral roof:

**

Okay, past is prelude.

In the second part of this post I’ll show you a series of boards actually used in HipBone / Sembl play, and then two dazzling works — one a work of art, the other a work of science — that leapt out at my in the course of my browsing a morning or two ago…

Share

Making Historical Analogies about 1914

Friday, January 10th, 2014

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. "zen"]

The Independent has a short, quasi-sensationalist, article featuring historian Margaret MacMillan discussing what is likely to become the first pop academic cottage industry of 2014….making historical analogies about 1914 and World War I! MacMillan is a senior scholar of international relations and administrator at Oxford ( where she is Warden of St Antony’s College)  with a wide range of research interests, including the First World War on which she has published two books.  I am just going to excerpt and comment on the historical analogies MacMillan made – or at least the ones filtered by the reporter and editor – she’s more eloquent in her own writing where each of these points are treated at greater length:

Is it 1914 all over again? We are in danger of repeating the mistakes that started WWI, says a leading historian 

Professor Margaret MacMillan, of the University of Cambridge, argues that the Middle East could be viewed as the modern-day equivalent of this turbulent region. A nuclear arms race that would be likely to start if Iran developed a bomb “would make for a very dangerous world indeed, which could lead to a recreation of the kind of tinderbox that exploded in the Balkans 100 years ago – only this time with mushroom clouds,”

…..While history does not repeat itself precisely, the Middle East today bears a worrying resemblance to the Balkans then,” she says. “A similar mix of toxic nationalisms threatens to draw in outside powers as the US, Turkey, Russia, and Iran look to protect their interests and clients. 

Several comments here. There is a similarity in that like the unstable Balkan states of the early 20th century, many of the Mideastern countries are young, autocratic, states with ancient cultures that are relatively weak  and measure their full independence from imperial rule only in decades.  The Mideast is also like the Balkans, divided internally along ethnic, tribal, religious, sectarian and linguistic lines.

The differences though, are substantial. The world may be more polycentric now than in 1954 or 1994 but the relative and absolute preponderance of American power versus all possible rivals, even while war-weary and economically dolorous, is not comparable to Great Britain’s position in 1914.  The outside great powers MacMillan points to are far from co-equal and there is no alliance system today that would guarantee escalation of a local conflict to a general war. Unlike Russia facing Austria-Hungary over Serbia there is no chance that Iran or Russia would court a full-scale war with the United States over Syria.

On the negative side of the ledger, the real problem  is not possible imperial conquest but the danger of regional collapse. “Toxic nationalism” is less the problem than the fact that the scale of a Mideastern Sunni-Shia sectarian conflict is so enormous, as are the implications . Nothing in the Balkans after the turn of the century compares to Syria, then Iraq and then other states sliding into a Muslim version of the Thirty Year’s War. An arc of failed states from Beirut to Islamabad is likelier than, say, a new Persian empire run by Tehran’s mullahs.

Modern-day Islamist terrorists mirror the revolutionary communists and anarchists who carried out a string of assassinations in the name of a philosophy that sanctioned murder to achieve their vision of a better world

Agree here. The analogy between 21st revolutionary Islamists and the 19th century revolutionary anarchists is sound.

And in 1914, Germany was a rising force that sought to challenge the pre-eminent power of the time, the UK. Today, the growing power of China is perceived as a threat by some in the US.

Transitions from one world power to another are always seen as dangerous times. In the late 1920s, the US drew up plans for a war with the British Empire that would have seen the invasion of Canada, partly because it was assumed conflict would break out as America took over as the world’s main superpower.

Imperial Germany’s growing power was less troublesome to Edwardian British statesmen than the strategic error of the Kaiser and von Tirpitz to pursue a naval arms race with Great Britain that did not give Germany’even the ability to break a naval blockade but needlessly antagonized the British with an existential threat that pushed London into the French camp.

As to military plans for invading Canada (or anywhere else), the job of military planning staffs are to create war plans to cover hypothetical contingencies so that if a crisis breaks out, there is at least a feasible starting point on the drawing board from which to begin organizing a campaign. This is what staff officers do be they American, French, Russian, German, Chinese and even British. This is not to be taken as serious evidence that the Coolidge or Hoover administrations were hatching schemes to occupy Quebec.

More importantly, nuclear weapons create an impediment to Sino-American rivalry ending in an “August 1914″ moment ( though not, arguably, an accidental or peripheral clash at sea or a nasty proxy conflict). Even bullying Japan ultimately carries a risk that at a certain point, the Japanese will get fed-up with Beijing, decide they need parity with China, and become a nuclear weapons state.

Professor MacMillan, whose book The War That Ended Peace was published last year, said right-wing and nationalist sentiments were rising across the world and had also been a factor before the First World War

In China and Japan, patriotic passions have been inflamed by the dispute over a string of islands in the East China Sea, known as the Senkakus in Japan and Diaoyus in China. “Increased Chinese military spending and the build-up of its naval capacity suggest to many American strategists that China intends to challenge the US as a Pacific power, and we are now seeing an arms race between the two countries in that region,” she writes in her essay. “The Wall Street Journal has authoritative reports that the Pentagon is preparing war plans against China – just in case.” 

“It is tempting – and sobering –to compare today’s relationship between China and the US with that between Germany and England a century ago,” Professor MacMillan writes. She points to the growing disquiet in the US over Chinese investment in America while “the Chinese complain that the US treats them as a second-rate power”.

The “dispute” of the Senkakus has been intentionally and wholly created by Beijing in much the same way Chinese leaders had PLA troops provocatively infringe on Indian territory, claim the South China Sea as sovereign territory and bully ships of all nearby nations other than Russia in international or foreign national waters. This is, as Edward Luttwak recently pointed out, not an especially smart execution of strategy. China’s recent burst of nationalistic bluffing, intimidation and paranoia about encirclement are working along the path of self-fulfilling prophecy.

Another similarity highlighted by the historian is the belief that a full-scale war between the major powers is unthinkable after such a prolonged period of peace. “Now, as then, the march of globalisation has lulled us into a false sense of safety,” she says. “The 100th anniversary of 1914 should make us reflect anew on our vulnerability to human error, sudden catastrophes, and sheer accident.

Agree that globalization is no guarantee against human folly, ambition or the caprice of chance.

What are your thoughts?

Share

A DoubleQuote in the (Arctic) Wild

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- always on the lookout for intriguing double-images ]
.


.

There’s an implied “this is to that as this is to that” double analogy here. Just how well or ill it teaches coordinate systems I leave to others to decide — even without the analogical joking though, it’s an intriguing visual juxtaposition.

Share

Switch to our mobile site