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For Jim Gant, On the Resurrection, 04

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — in thre “expansive” phase of this exploration ]
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In her mysteriously beautiful detective procedural set in a Québécois monastery, The Beautiful Mystery: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel, Louise Penny arrives, about midway through her tale, at this sentence:

When Frère Mathieu brings out his bomb, the abbot brings out his pipe. One weapon is figurative, and the other isn’t.

I’m riveted.

**

Because the phrase “One .. is figurative, and the other isn’t” is like a koan for me — a nut that if I could crack it would also explain such deep mysteries as:

  • “This is my body .. this is my blood” — one interpretation of “body & blood” is figurative, while the other isn’t? and:
  • “he died ..and on the third day he rose again” — one death is figurative, and the other isn’t?
  • Resurrection as myth, resurrection as history?

    **

    You might think I’m being fanciful, but just yesterday the Comey notes became accessible, and we find this exchange between the FBI Director and the President:

    The President then wrapped up our conversation by returning to the issue of finding leakers. I said something about the value of putting a head on a pike as a message. He replied by saying it may involve putting reporters in jail. “They spend a few days in jail, make a new friend, and they are ready to talk.” I laughed as I walked to the door Reince Priebus had opened.

    I trust Comey‘s “head on a pike” is figurative, and it sounds like the other — Trump‘s “putting reporters in jail” — isn’t.

    The thing about language is that it’s polyvalent, polysemous –and that inherent ambiguity is seldom more significant than when making or interpreting threats, scriptures, or poems.

    **

    So I could take this post in the direction of a discussion of the ruthless politics of Washingtom, the Kremlin, Pyongyang, Baghdad, and or Beijing..

    Or into the exegesis of the Eucharist, Resurrection, Adamic Creation stories. In matters Biblical, the question “one reading fictitious, while the other, literal, isn’t?” more or less covers the major theological division of our times..

    On this, see the Catholic Catechism (115-117) for a more Dantesque elucidation:

  • The senses of Scripture

  • According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral and anagogical senses. The profound concordance of the four senses guarantees all its richness to the living reading of Scripture in the Church.
  • The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: “All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal.”
  • The spiritual sense. Thanks to the unity of God’s plan, not only the text of Scripture but also the realities and events about which it speaks can be signs.
  • The allegorical sense. We can acquire a more profound understanding of events by recognizing their significance in Christ; thus the crossing of the Red Sea is a sign or type of Christ’s victory and also of Christian Baptism.
  • The moral sense. The events reported in Scripture ought to lead us to act justly. As St. Paul says, they were written “for our instruction”.
  • The anagogical sense (Greek: anagoge, “leading”). We can view realities and events in terms of their eternal significance, leading us toward our true homeland: thus the Church on earth is a sign of the heavenly Jerusalem.
  • Two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual — one is figurative, like Frère Mathieu’s bomb in Ms Penny’s novel, while the other, like the abbot’s lead pipe, isn’t?

    The Jesus of History, the Christ of Faith?

    Or all this might take another turn, with a morph into poetry..

    **

    Or history. Here’s another phrase that’s “riveting” for, I think, the same reason as that phrase “One weapon is figurative, and the other isn’t”:

    Pamphlets were both a cause and a tool of violence.

    A “cause .. of violence” — it t (a pamphlet) incites it. And “a tool of violence” — it’s (at least figuratively) a bludgeon in itself. Hm. I hope that makes sense.

    In any case, I’ve got my eye out for other examples that neatly juxtapose word and deed, as though words aren’t deeds — “speech acts” as the philosophers say. What I’m getting at, eventually, is the nature of sacrament — “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace” — which is deeply tied up with simile, metaphor, and metamorphosis — “this is my body .. this is my blood”.

    And that quote about pamphlets? Its from a fascinating New Yorker piece, How We Solved Fake News the First Time by Stephen March, which compares fake news on the internet today with fake news in the time of the pamphleteers, and contains this remarkably “ancient and modern” observation:

    There is nothing more congruent to the nourishment of division in a State or Commonwealth, then diversity of Rumours mixt with Falsity and Scandalisme; nothing more prejudicial to a Kingdome, then to have the divisions thereof known to an enemy.

    So, -ismes were already infesting the language like kudzu grass — mixed simile? — back in 1642. And an enemy? Think Putin, ne?

    On which playful note, drawn from seven years before the martyrdom of King Charles I at the hands of the Puritans, I’ll leave you.

    For now.

    Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?

    Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — Thomas à Becket, Jim Comey, Vladimir Putin, Stormy Daniels ]
    .

    Okay, let’s start with the movie version of “Who will rid me..?” Here’s the set up, the breaking of the long and deep friendship between King Henry II, his will driven by the power of the State, and his Archbishop, Thomas à Becket, driven to opposition by the honor of Mother Church

    When the King determines at last to have his Archbishop removed, he utters those words which ring down the centuries — “will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” — shown here in Anouilh‘s version of Becket at 3.32 in this clip or thereabouts:

    Sigh.

    Becket meanwhile offers his resignation unto death in surrender to the will of his God:

    In Eliot‘s Murder in the Cathedral, a passage with which one must wrestle lays out the conflict and its resolution:

    They know and do not know, what it is to act or suffer.
    They know and do not know, that acting is suffering
    And suffering is action. Neither does the actor suffer
    Nor the patient act. But both are fixed
    In an eternal action, an eternal patience
    To which all must consent that it may be willed
    And which all must suffer that they may will it,
    That the pattern may subsist, for the pattern is the action
    And the suffering, that the wheel may turn and still
    Be forever still.

    Becket was killed in his cathedral on 29 December 1170, by four knights acting on the spur of the moment utterance of their king, and their own certainty as to the wish their king intended to express.

    Becket was canonized — named a saint and martyr — in 1173. And the King? Wiki summarizes:

    The king performed a public act of penance on 12 July 1174 at Canterbury, when he publicly confessed his sins, and then allowed each bishop present, including Foliot, to give him five blows from a rod, then each of the 80 monks of Canterbury Cathedral gave the king three blows. The king then offered gifts to Becket’s shrine and spent a vigil at Becket’s tomb.

    **

    So much for Becket.

    President Trump, who had somewhat reluctantly fired Flynn, suggests to Jim Comey, head of the FBI, that he might want to close down the further investigation of the Russia business:

    I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.

    Comey was later questioned by Sen. Angus King in an intelligence committee hearing:

    KING: In terms of his comments to you — I think in response to Mr. Risch — to Senator Risch, you said he said, “I hope you will hold back on that.” But when you get a — when a president of the United States in the Oval Office says something like “I hope” or “I suggest” or — or “would you,” do you take that as a — as a — as a directive?

    COMEY: Yes. Yes, it rings in my ear as kind of, “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”

    KING: I was just going to quote that. In 1170, December 29, Henry II said, “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?” and then, the next day, he was killed — Thomas Becket. That’s exactly the same situation. You’re — we’re thinking along the same lines.
    .

    **

    That’s the direct use of the Becket theme turned to a contemporary purpose. But there’s more..

    Julia Ioffe on All In with Chris Hayes, speaking of Putin‘s plausible deniability using the oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin as a cut-out:

    IOFFE:It`s a very, very close relationship. In Russia, he`s known as Putin`s chef. And this is very much in keeping with how the Russians do things, right? There`s never going to be or probably not going to be any finger – any of Putin`s fingerprints on this, right? Probably what it looked like was Putin essentially saying, you know, who will rid me of this you know troublesome Hillary and everybody else kind of gets what that means and swings into action.

    **

    You might think the Becket story was enough. You might take delight in its contemporary echo by Comey and King. Julia Ioffe using the same example of Vladimir Putin was an unexpected bonus — but there’s (sadly) more..

    Consider this:

    Who Will Rid Me of This Meddlesome Stormy? The Michael Cohen Story:

    Doing conspicuous favors and fixing things is in the nature of this bizarrely public toady-chieftain relationship. Read through Cohen’s interviews. You’ll find it’s replete with mixes of mafia tough guy talk and zany levels of conspicuous self-abnegation. It’s all theater at some level. But I think to a great degree it’s genuine. It’s the guy’s identity, like the way a top captain thinks about the mob boss he serves. Who will rid me of this meddlesome Stormy? Did I mention that Cohen and Trump’s mafia business partner Felix Sater were childhood friends long before they both ended up as top Trump business partners right around the same time? Well, that’s true too. In the scale of money both Trump and Cohen operate at, covering the $130,000 payment himself seems entirely plausible as something Cohen would do as part of the larger relationship. He probably did get paid back some way or another. But I think it’s totally plausible he didn’t. He’d love to be that guy who made the problem go away. Doing Trump a solid like that would be something he’d happily do. It’s the basis of their relationship. He’d get paid back in other ways.”

    When Donald Trump, in one of his furies, makes an offhand comment about Mueller, does that then become an order in the ears of one of his loyal subordinates?

    The Becket story has much to teach us.

    Strategy Illuminated

    Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — a meander in praise of, variously, Piers at Penn, Alice in Wonderland, Caitlin Fitz Gerald, and Benjamin Wittes ]
    .

    Strategic theology:

    Compare Nigel Howard, in Confrontation Analysis: how to win operations other than war, writing:

    the problem of defense in the modern world is the paradoxical one of finding ways for the strong to defeat the weak.

    **

    Okay — Alice, in Wonderland, asks:

    And what is the use of a book without pictures or conversation?

    **

    By dint of sickness, I haven’t been able to purue my efforts to see Caitlin Fitx Gerald‘s fabulous Clausewitz for Kids make its brilliantly-deserving way into print:

    That image is from Caitlin’s work, as praised by Benjamin Wittes of Lawfare blog — whom I know not because he’s become a go-to source on many things Trump / Comey

    Suddenly, he was D.C. famous; the very next day, Collins and Wittes bumped into each other in the Morning Joe greenroom. “It used to be that what was going to be written on my tombstone was ‘Benjamin Wittes, former Washington Post editorial writer,’ or ‘Benjamin Wittes, who wasn’t even a lawyer,’?” he says. “Now it’s just, like, ‘Benjamin Wittes, who’s a friend of Jim Comey’s.’?”

    — but way before that, because he knew Caitlin and her work:

    The other day, Wells drew my attention to what could be the single most excellently eccentric national security-oriented project currently ongoing on the web: It is called Clausewitz for Kids. I am apparently not the first to discover it. Spencer Ackerman had this story about it last year. But I had missed it until the other day, and I suspect most Lawfare readers are unto this very day unaware that a woman named Caitlin Fitz Gerald is currently writing a comic book edition of Clausewitz’s On War–entitled The Children’s Illustrated Clausewitz–featuring lectures in a Prussian forest by a hare in a military uniform. To make matters all the more fun, she is blogging the process to boot.

    Hey, “single most excellently eccentric national security-oriented project” is pretty damn high praise, eh?

    **

    Benjamin Wittes and his tick, tick, as seen and summarized by Rachel Maddows:

    Ben Wittes now runs a well-regarded blog that`s called Lawfare, which I think is kind of a pun on warfare, Lawfare, warfare. Anyway. Lawfareblog.com.

    So, Ben Wittes. On May 16th .. Ben Wittes, he did this online, on Twitter, which is a weird thing, right? Nobody knew what was wrong with him. Nobody knew exactly what this was about.

    You can see the time stamp there right beneath the tick, tick, tick, tick. He sent it at 3:18 p.m. on May 16th. Hey, Ben Wittes, what`s that about?

    Well, then later, boom – literally the word boom. Two hours and eight minutes after that initial tweet, we now know in retrospect what that tick, tick, ticking was about. Ben Wittes tweeted “boom” and a link to that huge story that had just been posted at “The New York Times”.

    Quote: Comey memo says Trump asked him to end Flynn investigation.

    That was a huge story when it broke and apparently somehow Ben Wittes knew it was coming out because he tweeted, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, two hours before it came, and then boom once it landed. That was May 16th.

    And then two days after that, Ben Wittes started ticking again.

    [ read the rest.. ]

    **

    Go Caitlin, go Wittes!

    Go Clint Watts too, if you know what I mean!

    Trump Comey — utterly devastating, no match

    Sunday, June 11th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — trump triumphing, trump trumped — which is it, obvs? ]
    .

    Both op-eds, both from Washington Post, yesterday, June 10 2017:

    My point being that we tend to write as though what seems obvious to us is obvious period, when it obviously isn’t always. A pity.

    **

    Sources:

  • Why Comey’s testimony was utterly devastating to Trump
  • Boy Scout James Comey is no match for Donald Trump
  • Oh I mean, everyone does it — I no doubt do it too. But according to Dorothy Lee, Linguistic Reflection of Winto Thought, among the Wintu there is an “attitude of humility and respect toward reality, toward nature and society”:

    I cannot find an adequate English term to apply to a habit of thought that is so alien to our culture. We are aggressive toward reality. We say, This is bread; we do not say, as the Wintu, I call this bread or I feel or taste or see it to be bread. The Wintu never say starkly this is; if he speaks of reality that is not within his own restricting experience, he does not affirm it, he only implies it. If he speaks of his experience he does not express it as categorically true.

    More to the somewhat right, Zenpundit

    Friday, June 9th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — second of two posts ]
    .

    And here’s the second of two posts, one from myself and one from Zen, both about today’s Comey testimony — in an initial attempt at balance in response to our friend Scott observing:

    This blog has been getting a little partisan since November…can we go back to being a little more objective?

    I don’t suppose Zen will mind my making a post of it here, since he posted it en plein air / en clair on FaceBook himself:

    **

    The Comey testimony is amazing on a number of levels.

    My initial read is that the President didn’t obstruct justice in a legal sense but his actions in attempting to influence the investigation of General Flynn provide more than a theoretical ground for an article of impeachment.

    Historically that is not going to get you a conviction in the Senate by itself. Not even in a Democratic Senate, without other articles and clear evidence supporting them. Which is why Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton finished their terms after being impeached and Richard Nixon resigned even before articles could be voted upon.

    The GOP has a POTUS who is out of control in the sense that he won’t accept normal staff assistance and advice to avoid transgressing obvious red lines in the daily conduct of his office.

    The last administration inappropriately tried to influence Comey in an investigation too – but note that the President personally didn’t wheedle him. There’s good reasons he didn’t. While the type of convo between Comey and Trump was common with J. Edgar Hoover and US Presidents, ever since Watergate this has been understood to be suspect behavior at best and a red line to be avoided.

    If Trump continues as he has done he will soon be in dire straits and all the complaints about hyper partisan media and Never Trump/Obama mole leakers will not matter, no matter how accurate


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