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Time In all his tuneful turning (i)

Thursday, March 15th, 2018

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

    Getting religion, forgetting circumcision

    Thursday, March 8th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — some characteristicc lacunae in journalisti praxis ]
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    As you know, I used to work for Lapido Media, which in turn used to be a media-eductional outlet that emphasized the major role of religion(s) in world affairs, so often overlooked by typically skeptical, secular journos.

    Get religion is a fine site with a similar purpose, and today it has a fine article titled With Russia all over U.S. news map right now, how fares its huge Orthodox Church? For instance:

    In addition to politics, there’s a historic religious turnabout in Russia that stateside reporters could well develop through interviews with the experts. The dominant Orthodox Church, which managed to survive Communist terror and regained freedom, has latterly emerged as a strategic prop for Putin’s Kremlin.

    If that election day peg doesn’t work for your outlet, another signal event comes July 17. That’s the Orthodox feast day of the doomed final czar, Nicholas II, and his family, shot to death by Bolshevik revolutionaries in 1918 and canonized by the national church in 2000 as saints and “passion-bearers.”

    **

    It’s not just journos who forget / don’t get religion — pols in the extreme north do it, too. How else explain this header from Iceland: Iceland male circumcision ban: MP behind plan ‘didn’t think it was necessary to consult’ Jewish and Muslim groups, amid growing anger. The subhead is (from my POV) idf anytbing even more mind-boggling:

    ‘I don’t see it as a religious matter,’ insists Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir

    What does Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir imagine the origin of the practice was?

    **

    What else do journos tend to miss?

    Well, there’s female obits, for onr thing — although things may be improving in that regard. Here’s a New York Times’ obit, belated but in a good faith effort to catch and patch up: 1932-1963 Sylvia Plath –A postwar poet unafraid to confront her own despair. It begins:

    She made sure to spare the children, leaving milk and bread for the two toddlers to find when they woke up. She stuffed the cracks of the doors and windows with cloths and tea towels. Then she turned on the gas.

    And it quotes her poetry:

    Dying
    Is an art, like everything else.
    I do it exceptionally well.
    I do it so it feels like hell.

    Okay, it’s International Women’s Day 2018.

    Thank you, Anemona Hartocollis and the NYT editors. We mourn you, Mrs easily forgotten behind your husband Hughes.

    Hugh Masekela, RIP

    Thursday, January 25th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — I’m not particularly a jazz buff — this is mostly about my mentor Trevor Huddleston, who was also Maasekela’s mentor ]
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    Hugh Masekela, jazz trumpeter extraordinaire, is no longer with us. May he rest in peace.

    I was happy to read the story of Masekela’s connection with the mentor we were both ignited by, Fr Trevor Huddleston CR, in this obit for Masekela in the Guardian:

    Hugh was given his own instrument when he was 14. He was then a pupil at St Peter’s, a remarkable secondary school for black children that became a centre for opponents of apartheid before being closed by the authorities. The staff included Oliver Tambo, later leader of the ANC, and Trevor Huddleston, later Archbishop Huddleston, president of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement. The young Masekela was always in trouble. “I was one of the worst delinquents”, he once told me, “always fighting with the teachers or going into town stealing.” He was sent to see Huddleston because “you’d be sent to him when everything else had failed”.

    Masekela had wanted a trumpet, he said, after seeing the 1950 film Young Man With a Horn, and recalled that he told the priest: “If I can get a trumpet I won’t bother anyone one any more.” Huddleston managed to raise £15 (“a lot of money in those days”) to buy the instrument, found a black Salvation Army trumpeter to teach Masekela, “and then he sat outside the school making hideous noises”. Other pupils naturally wanted instruments as well, and the Huddleston Jazz Band was born. They wore black trousers and grey silk shirts, and played American rather than African music. Along with Masekela, the band featured the trombonist Jonas Gwangwa, who would also become a star.

    Huddleston continued to help Masekela even after the priest had left the school and South Africa. In 1956, when he was in the US publicising his book Naught for Your Comfort, he told Masekela’s story to a journalist, who suggested that it might interest Louis Armstrong, the best known trumpeter of the day. Armstrong was fascinated and handed Huddleston one of his horns to give to Masekela. “I sent it straight to South Africa, and I have a wonderful picture of Hugh jumping for joy,” said Huddleston.

    It is good to see Fr Trevor so honored.

    **

    I talked about Fr Trevor, Masekela, the Huddleston Jazz Band, and Satchmo‘s trumpet in Between the warrior and the monk (ii): Fr Trevor Huddleston, and while the photos there may be of interest —
    especially the one where Satchmo is presenting Fr Trevor with the trumpet for Masekela — the video of Maasekela’s first record, Ndenzeni Na with the Huddleston Jazz Band has expired.

    Happily, there’s another copy on Youtube for us to hear:

    **

    Maselela goes to meet old and beloved friends, Trevor Huddleston among them.

    Ursula Le Guin, RIP

    Thursday, January 25th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — The Word for World Is Forest ]
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    Today I learn that Ursula Le Guin left us yesterday, Google celebrates Virginia Wolff today..

    Timing.

    **

    There’s this saying, a door closing opens a window. I wonder what wonders will greet us now.

    Poet to painter, my twin: Jan Valentin Saether

    Sunday, January 14th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — Jan Valentin Saether, requiescat in pacem ]
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    Jan Valentin Saether, priest and painter extraordinaire

    **

    Hanne Elisabeth Storm Ofteland wrote, bless her:

    I am devastated! On the 11th of January at 11:45 pm my beautiful partner-in-insanity, Jan Valentin Saether, left this planet. Safe journey back to the Andromeda Galaxy, my sweet, precious, wonderful husband. I love you so much

    **

    Jan Valentin Saether was — it is hard to claim such kinship in the midst of so many others with their own griefs — my twin, poet to painter. We both regarded our respective arts as gifts to be given onwards, and emphasized creative innovation within continuing tradition.

    I am so sad.

    This runs deep — and meanwhile I am doing fine, writing other unrelated things and allowing my grief to well up from time to time, between paragraphs, between breaths.

    **

    Such lovely artwork — two pieces here featuring the vesica piscis, among the most elegant of mathematical and significant of archetypal forms. My first example comes from his book, The Viloshin Letters, which I helped him with in the early days. Here the vesica shows the bursting forth of the radiance into ordinary life — key to all of Jan’s work:

    The second, perhaps subtler work, was indeed first called Vesica and now Epiphany. Here the breakthrough is shown in shadow-and-light — chiaroscuro — of which Jan was such a master:

    The actual work is wall-sized — depending on your wall.

    I am in awe of this painting.

    **

    Today another dear friend, Mitch Ditkoff, beauttifully and powerfully told the story of his father’s death on FB, and wrote in conclusion:

    If you are reading this, there’s a good chance that someone close to you has died: your mother, father, grandparents, child, or best friend. And there’s also a good chance you have witnessed something profound in their passing, whether you were physically with them at the time or not. Be willing to share that story with others! It is not ego to tell this story. On the contrary, it’s the dissolution of ego – your opportunity to remind another person, without preaching, just how sacred each and every breath is.

    I would like to tell my story of Jan Valentin Saether, to say how much I loved him, learned from him, and felt when I heard of his passing. And to mention the sacredness of breath.

    **

    I must have met Jan sometime in the earlyn 1980s. He was teaching in Malibu, I was living in Malibu in a friend’s house, and saw some paintings of his in a folio, one of a naked woman reaching towards the viewer — and I thought he was a rock-n-roll-star type, not only not interesting but downright unpleasant.

    Next thing, I was over at his place for an evening, and discovered a fellow artist, a fellow admirer of CG Jung and the mundus imaginalis, a fellow lover of the sacred in every moment. We were still talking when his then wife brought the pair of us breakfast.

    Our parallel views on the sacred gifts of the arts, and the need to combine traditional and contemporary means of expression in service to the sacred — it forged a friendship, a kinship, a twinning between us.

    Later, Jan asked me to take over his Sunday lecture series while he went to Oslo for a month or so. A few Sundays later, I was in mid sentence in a lecture on poetry when Jan came into the room. I got up out of the chair and offered it him, and he sat down and continued my own half-formed sentence seamlessly, turning the metaphor from sacred poetry to sacred art.

    Later still, he invited me to teach creativity at Bruchion — the school of the sacred his studio in Culver City had become, named for the area in ancient Alexandria that housed its celebrated library. It was during one of my talks on creativity there that I began to play around — on the table-tennis table — with the elements that would decades later become my HipBone Games.

    Jan Valentin Saether was the priest — of the Ecclesia Gnostica — who celebrated my marriage to Annie, mother of my sons.

    Jan was my last and best fellow artist and friend — my twin.

    **

    Years ago I wrote a paragraph about his paintings:

    Jan Isak Saether’s work bears little resemblance to current fashions in the world of art. At first glance perhaps, it reminds us of the works of the old masters. But as we peer deeper, we sense a curious quality: Saether’s work does not bring us the easy, settled feel that we associate with the old, but a disturbing hint of drama, of the unexpected. It is as though one of the old masters had rejoined us in this latter part of the twentieth century, and after studying and absorbing all that the great moderns from Kandinsky to Francis Bacon had to offer, has turned his mind and heart to the stormy times in which we live, and out of that thunderous darkness has generated lightning. Recent currents and fashions in art have brought us visions of what it is to be human that are by turns bleak, comic, deranged, and superficial. In Saether’s work, by contrast, we find a portrayal of our humanity that contains both glory and shadow. Saether is no throwback to the past. He is a Velasquez who has learned from Bacon, a true student of both modern and ancient masters who now turns his hand to the great synthesis. It is often said that we can recognize the true artists because they give us new eyes with which to see the world, and create new worlds for us to see. Jan Saether’s work faces the future as only a work rooted in the past can, and we are the richer for his courage in bringing his deep dreams into our lives.

    That captures my admiration, but not my love.

    My love for Jan Valentin Saether can only be told by the loss, the grief I shall feel in my remaining days.

    Each breath we have is sacred.

    I shall miss him, in my quiet way, furiously.


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