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Liturgically speaking, the Missing Man formation..

Sunday, September 2nd, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — loss and grief, formalized ]
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Over North Vietnam, Naval pilot John McCain was shot down out of his intended flight path in his youth, to suffer years of captivity and torture before his release, and after a long life of service in the House and Senate, as his body was interred in the Annapolis Naval Academy Cemetery, one jet from a formation of four peeled away up and rose vertically while the three remaining planes regrouped in formation, the purpose of the gesture, the aviation fuel made available for it, and the honor accorded to the four pilots being, in the words of a Naval Air Force Atlantic release

the missing man formation is a salute performed as part of flypast of aircraft at a funeral or memorial event in memory of a deceased aviator. One airplane in a four-plane formation will pull up vertical to signify the passing of the aviator’s soul to the heavens.

You’ll note that the “passing of the aviator’s soul to the heavens” is a theological, rather than a Naval, doctrine, and indeed the gesture is a deeply emotional one, made all the more powerful by the strict discipline required of the pilots involved.

Jets perform ‘missing man’ formation in tribute to John McCain

I just wanted to note, as a religious matter, and as an indication of the power of simplicity, constraint, and tradition in liturgy, the power of this last note in McCain’s funeral passage from Sedona to Annapolis.

McCaining it now McCain is gone..

Sunday, September 2nd, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — heartbreaking, what this man endured and left us as his legacy ]
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Donald Hall with President Obama, a parable in image form

**

The questions before us are:

  • how shall we McCain it now John McCain is gone?
  • and:

  • who shall McCain it now John McCain is gone?
  • **

    How?

    I think the answer to that question can be found in McCain’s reputation as a maverick — and if I may clarify that with a few additional quotes, I’d suggest you can find the same quality deployed in Emily Rales‘ declaration of her strategy for the Rales’ Glenstone Museum:

    We always go against the grain.

    It is likewise implicitly in Jami Miscik‘s celebrated comment on CIA analysts:

    To truly nurture creativity, you have to cherish your contrarians, and you have to give them the opportunities to run free.

    Above all, it seems to me, it is present in that photograph of poet Donald Hall — aptly captioned:

    Barack Obama presents the National Medal of Arts to the poet Donald Hall, who seemed to know something about the solace on the other side of grief, and how to get there.

    But I’ll come back to that.

    **

    Who:

    In politics, in the wake of John McCain, there’s an obvious churn, an uncertainty as to who next will forcible remind us of McCain, and while the question remains open, a couple of recent candidatea can be discerned for the role — one being Mitt Romney — largely, I suspect because he was willing to stand up to Trump with a devastating analogy:

    Here’s what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.

    You may or may not agree with the first half of that statement, but the worthlessness of a Trump University diploma is hard to argue with. I don’t believe anyone from Trump on down has been able to come up with a satisfactory “return” to that serve, which to my mind gives game. set and match to Romney.

    and then there’s Beto O’Rourke — I’ll let him speak for himself:

    **

    I don’t know the who of it,

    Saxophonist Bill Clinton is eulogizing Aretha Franklin on my TV the day after pol Joe Biden together with oval officers Barack Obama and George W. Bush eulogized McCain — and given how riveting and solemn McCain’s lying in state and memorial service in Arizona and then his arrival in Washington and lying in state in the US Capitol had been for the last longest time, remembering the exuberance of Aretha Franklin is both a surprise and a bit of a relief:

    Both Bush and Obama’s eulogies for McCain wre worth hearing or reading in full, but here I’ve selected some choice moments.

    Bush:

    A man who seldom rested is laid to rest and his absence is tangible, like the silence after a mighty roar.

    For John and me, it was a personal journey—hard fought political history. Back in the day, he could frustrate me and I know he’d say the same thing about me, but he also made me better. In recent years we sometimes talked of that intense period like football players, remembering a big game. In the process, rivalry melted away. In the end I got to enjoy one of life’s great gifts, the friendship of John McCain and I’ll miss it.

    He saw our country not only as a physical place or power but as the carrier of enduring human aspirations.

    Obama:

    John liked being unpredictable. Even a little contrarian. He had no interest in conforming to some pre-packaged version of what a senator should be, and he didn’t want a memorial that was going to be pre-packaged either.

    But for all our differences, for all of the times we sparred, I never tried to hide — and I think John came to understand — the long-standing admiration that I had for him.

    By his own account, John was a rebellious young man. In his case, that’s understandable, what faster way to distinguish yourself when you’re the son and grandson of admirals than to mutiny.

    Others this week and this morning have spoken to the depths of his torment and the depths of his courage there in the cells of Hanoi when, day after day, year after year, that youthful iron was tempered into steel.

    And we never doubted the other man’s sincerity. Or the other man’s patriotism. Or that when all was said and done, we were on the same team. We never doubted we were on the same team.

    For more, see:

    The most poignant (and political) excerpts from Meghan McCain’s fiery eulogy for her father

    **

    And for the rest, let me just say that while it is desirable for politicians to have the moral fortitude — which corresponds directly to the maverick nature — of a John McCain, it is essential in the artist, ass the photo of poet Donald Hall at the top of this page illuminates:

    **

    It is no mistake that the poet’s countenance so vividly proclaims his fidelity to self. and if we wish to see more McClain influence in our lives, we should look to our oiets, painters, filmmakers — not the shallow but the deep, the profound among us. As the presiding bishop at the funeral noted, the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins has the essential prescription for us:

    Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
    Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
    Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
    Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.

    I say móre: the just man justices;
    Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
    Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —
    Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
    Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
    To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

    That’s from the poet — the priest’s — poem As Kingfishers Catch Fire.

    **

    And now if you’ll permit, in John McCain’s honor and my father’s, the Navy Hymn — precious to all those whose very lives have cast them against the unfathomable waters:

    and the hymn of the higher patriotism, I vow to thee, my country:

    John McCain for whom the bell now tolls, RIP

    Sunday, August 26th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — a small but necessary personal tribute, along with corroborating witnesses for the details and more ]
    .

    McCain limps home, from Hanoi to freedom:

    **

    I want to say a quick word about John McCain, may his echoes remain long among us, before culling some significant images and quotes from other sources. I came late to my knowledge of the man, but when I arrived there, the two matters that most impressed me were:

    First, that when after a couple of years of imprisonment and torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese he was offered release, he refused it and opted consciously for years more of the same unless his fellow POWs were also released, in accord with Article III of the Military Code of Conduct to “accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.” That was an act of almost unbelievable courage ..

    **

    In more detail, from elsewhere:

    The protagonist of Ernest Hemingway’s novel “For Whom the Bell Tolls” is Robert Jordan, a young American who left his job to fight with the Republican side, against the Nazi-supported Nationalists, in the Spanish Civil War. He never loses sight of his objective — the demolition of a bridge — despite doubts about whether the mission is necessary or even possible. He hates fascism and feels a profound sense of duty to oppose it.

    John McCain, who died Saturday in Arizona after a 14-month fight against brain cancer, always said this 1940 novel about guerrilla warfare was his favorite and that its hero was a source of inspiration throughout his life — even as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

  • Yahoo, The bell tolls for John McCain: How Hemingway’s antifascist hero shaped the man
  • The crew on the carrier Forrestal put out a fire that killed 134 men in the worst noncombat incident in American naval history. Mr. McCain was seriously injured. Credit: U.S. Navy, via Associated Press

    *

    Promoted to lieutenant commander in early 1967, Mr. McCain requested combat duty and was assigned to the carrier Forrestal, operating in the Gulf of Tonkin. Its A-4E Skyhawk warplanes were bombing North Vietnam in the campaign known as Operation Rolling Thunder. He flew five missions.

    Then, on July 29, 1967, he had just strapped himself into his cockpit on a deck crowded with planes when a missile fired accidentally from another jet struck his 200-gallon exterior fuel tank, and it exploded in flames. He scrambled out, crawled onto the plane’s nose, dived onto a deck seething with burning fuel and rolled away until he cleared the flames.

    As he stood up, other aircraft and bomb loads exploded on deck. He was hit in the legs and chest by burning shrapnel. At one point, the Forrestal skipper considered abandoning ship. When the fire was finally brought under control, 134 men had been killed in the worst noncombat incident in American naval history.

  • New York Times, John McCain, War Hero, Senator, Presidential Contender, Dies at 81
  • Those who escape unscathed from such close calls are marked for life.

    And then there’s so much more..

    Mr. McCain, center, after he ejected from his fighter plane in 1967 and fell into a lake. The Vietnamese imprisoned and tortured him for more than five years. Credit: Library of Congress

    *

    Mr. McCain was stripped to his skivvies, kicked and spat upon, then bayoneted in the left ankle and groin. A North Vietnamese soldier struck him with his rifle butt, breaking a shoulder. A woman tried to give him a cup of tea as a photographer snapped pictures. Carried to a truck, Mr. McCain was driven to Hoa Lo, the prison compound its American inmates had labeled the Hanoi Hilton.

  • New York Times, John McCain, War Hero, Senator, Presidential Contender, Dies at 81
  • McCain’s conduct during nearly six years in a North Vietnamese prison, the infamous Hanoi Hilton, had become the stuff of legend. In 1968, less than a year after his Navy bomber was shot down, the imprisoned McCain was abruptly offered unconditional release by the North Vietnamese, perhaps because his father had just been named the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific. McCain was still badly crippled from his crash and the poor medical treatment that followed, yet he adhered to the P.O.W. code of honor and refused to be repatriated ahead of American prisoners who had been in captivity longer than he. His refusal was adamant. His guard told him, “Now, McCain, it will be very bad for you.” He was tortured for his defiance, and ultimately spent more than two years in solitary confinement.

  • New Yorker, The True Nature of John McCain’s Heroism
  • Years later, as McCain reflected on this period, he said he held no ill will toward his captors. “I don’t blame them. We’re in a war,” McCain said in a separate interview with C-SPAN in 2017. “I didn’t like it, but at the same time when you are in a war and you are captured by the enemy, you can’t expect to have tea,” McCain said.

  • NPR, From A POW Prison, John McCain Emerged A ‘Maverick’
  • Honestly, the fact that he’s spent so much time in Trump’s crosshairs should arguably serve as a clue that the guy’s integrity might be above average on Capitol Hill whether you happen to agree with his positions or not.

  • Paste, HBO’s Valedictory John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls Is Not a Puff Piece
  • **

    Second, that he continued his opposition to the torture of others throughout his life ..

    Others may speak of McCain from close personal acquaintance, or with a deeper historical awareness of his life and service, but what little I can say, I can say with deep sincerity and respect:

    The man had guts — courage — nobility. Here was a man of whom the Senate and all America can and should be justifiably proud.

    O Mary, don’t you weep — Aretha Franklin, RIP

    Friday, August 17th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — an evening respite from Trump and co, to remember and celebrate a great voice ]
    .

    If you have or can make the time to listen to one Aretha Franklin song this deay in which she died, let it be this — O Mary, Mary Don’t You Weep — you can follow along with the lyrics here:

    The song tells the Gospel story of Mary, Martha, and their deceased brother Lazarus, whom Jesus calls by name back from the dead, first telling Mary “Don’t you weep” as though resurrection were the most natural thing in the world — Lazarus, returned from the dead, walked “like a natural man”. From the Torah, we find the sub-story — Pharaoh‘s army drowning in the Red Sea after it tried to pursue the fleeing Israelites. Aretha wants to stand on the rock where Moses stood, and witness the drowning.

    Now the thing is, when the Israelites saw Pharaoh’s army drowning, they sing — as Aretha also sings.

    Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.

    The Israaelite’s song can be summed up by this line:

    The Lord is a man of war: the Lord is his name.

    Blam! Splat!

    **

    The angels, who have been watching the whole scene from a higher perspective than the Israelites, are also about to sing — they are renowned for their choirs, and in the contest between Israel and Egypt, they’re distinctly pro-Israel — when the LORD intervenes:

    How dare you sing for joy when My creatures are dying?

    May I suggest that the angels are (not unlike music) like rivers passing through us, watering the souls of men, they are within us, and to the extent that we can partake of their refreshment we will be the better for it. Hopefully this metaphorical interpretation will avoid such vexed issues as mortal-like shoulder-blades supporting immortal shimmering wings and so forth —

    — now the stuff of such commonplaces as greetings cards, to be reclaimed perhaps for their beauty, but not as definitions of “how angels look” — more as referring us to a higher octave of reality to which we may aspire, gracing us as grace responds..

    Angels, not unlike music — hence the frequent references to angelic choirs.

    **


    The weeping Madonna of Akita, Japan

    As Wiki tells us:

    A weeping statue is a statue which has been claimed to have shed tears or to be weeping by supernatural means. Statues weeping tears which appear to be blood, oil, and scented liquids have all been reported. … These events are generally reported by some Christians, and initially attract some pilgrims, but are in most cases disallowed by the Church as proven hoaxes.

    O Mary, don’t you weep?

    **

    O Mary, don’t you weep!

    May Aretha flood our banks with her song.

    Time In all his tuneful turning (i)

    Thursday, March 15th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — Stephen Hawking, RIP, and synchronicity? ]
    .

    Connsider these high-popularity responses to Stephen Hawking‘s death:

    Sources:

  • USA Today, Hawking’s death, Einstein’s birth, and Pi Day: what does it all mean?
  • Time, People Think It’s an Interesting Coincidence That Stephen Hawking Died on Pi Day
  • **”

    The Time article focused on the internet:

    Some people on the internet think Stephen Hawking couldn’t have calculated a better day to die.

    Calculated. Like it.

    The 76-year-old theoretical physicist, one of science’s most famous luminaries died on March 14, also known as National Pi Day — an annual day for scientists and mathematicians around the world to celebrate the value of pi that even includes deals on pizzas and actual pies. Suffice it to say that the noteworthy coincidence was not lost on the internet.

    The date of Hawking’s death — 3/14 — is significant because 3.14 are the first three digits of pi, a bedrock of geometry. Specifically, it’s the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Naturally, the fact that science’s big celebration overlapped with the day the life of the party left us is making people geek out about the details.

    As soon as news spread that Hawking died early Wednesday morning in London, people were quick to connect the dots.

    Connect the dots, eh?

    **

    And here’s the complete USA Today article:

    So, is there some mystical theory explaining how noted astrophysicist Stephen Hawking died on the same day Albert Einstein was born, which also happens to be the day we honor the mathematical constant Pi?

    Nope. It’s just all one giant coincidence.

    Hawking died at 76, his family confirmed early Wednesday. He was considered one of the world’s foremost theoretical physicists, developing critical theories on black holes and writing A Brief History of Time to explain complex scientific concepts to the masses.

    That’s it. Nope, in a word. Nope. There is no “mystical theory explaining how noted astrophysicist Stephen Hawking died on the same day Albert Einstein was born, which also happens to be the day we honor the mathematical constant Pi”.

    That’s decided without consulting Pythagoras, Newton, Johann Valentin Andreae, Hermann Hesse‘s Joseph Knecht, or any of a dozen other worthies I might name..

    **

    But note: Warren Leight adds another datapoint and brings the circuit to completion:

    Galileo, ooh.

    It seems worth recalling at this point that pi is an irrational number.

    **

    Where do we go from here?

    First, note that Warren Leight posts that Hawking died on the 14th, in a tweet dated the 13th.

    One of Leight’s commenters challenges the whole coincidence chain:

    He died March 13th

    Leight’s response to that challenge could also serve as a response to mine:

    It depends on how and where you measure time

    Time is circular, date is relative..

    **

    God save us, here’s a game ref:

    Is that Johann Sebastian Bach?

    Kidding.

    **

    May the extraordinarily, ceaselessly curious mind of Stephen Hawking rest at last in the balm of peace.

    **

    And my title, Time in all its tuneful turning?

    It’s from Dylan Thomas, approximately. He wrote, in this masterpiece, Fern Hill:

    And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
    In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
    Before the children green and golden
    Follow him out of grace…

    I want to suggest that Dylan Thomas is at least as great a thinker about time as Stephen Hawking, and Fern Hill is my proof text to that effect. I’ll explain why in part ii of this post.


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