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A Dream of Two Headlines

Friday, December 13th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — a meeting of the opposites in the Lutheran and Catholic martyrologies ]
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I dreamed of two headlines, one occupying most of the page with its sub-head, author’s name, and first few paragraphs, enough to tell the tale — “Naval Academy Midshipman Charged With Setting Fire to Historic Documents” — and in the margin, that other — “Scottish church suspects some lillibethians among its martyrs.”

I’m not interested, today, in the Naval Academy outrage, though maybe on another day.. What interests me today is the possibility that some saints, martyrs indeed, venerated by the Catholic church in Scotland, home of my male forebears across the centuries, may turn out to be found to be “lillibethians” — a word I believe I coined, meaning “followers of Elizabeth” in the Catholic times of Queen Mary.: martyrs indeed, but for the wrong, Protestant faith.

Now the thing is, it might be difficult for the current church to admit that some of its venerated saints who, remember, were killed by the hated, heretical Protestants for their fortitude in holding the true Catholic faith even unto death were, in historical fact, martyred one might say, by right-minded, rigorous, righteous Catholics, for their fortitude in holding the true Protestant faith even unto death..

So.

My dream has me wondering, can one switch religions, from Catholic martyr to Protestant martyr, while still retaining the same respect, veneration indeed, for fortitude in holding the true faith even unto death? Can a venerated Protestant martyr become a venerated Catholic martyr (other team), or vice versa?

**

Could a Catholic pope canonize, as one novelist has suggested, a Protestant Johann Sebastian Bach?

Astonishing, the fertility and freshness of his mind, and as the centuries roll on, the fresh brilliance of this virtuoso performance..

**

Recognizing that the same tale was told from India along the trade routes to Europe, with Bodhisattva becoming Iodasaph, then Ioasaph, then Josaphat, how can we avoid acknowledging that the saints Catholics have venerated for centuries as Barlaam and Josaphat were originally and thus are in fact, Bodhisattva (the apprentice Buddha) and his teacher?

Thus a priest might call the 27th of November, the Feast of St Buddha… Fr Thomas Merton OCSO would very likely have approved.

**

Oh, and the Scottish martyrs. I recall Jorge Luis Borges‘ story, The Theologians, in which the heresiarch and the arch-orthodox duke it out, the definitions of heresy (a death penalty offense) and orthodoxy even shifting at one point — it’s final paragraph is the killer:

It is more correct to record that in Paradise Aurelian knew this: in the unfathomable divinity of God he and John, the heretic and the rector of the Faith, the abhorring and the abhorred, the victim and his accuser, in God these two had ever been one person only.

So may it be with the damned Lutherans and the blessed Catholics — and their respective martyrs!

Walls. Christianity & poetry. And nations, identities & borders

Monday, February 25th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — continuing our probing of borders, and liminality, with hints of mirroring and parallelism ]
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Let’s start with a “borders” video for your consideration:

That’s worth viewing, though it’s no more the final word on the subject than Robert Frost‘s poem, Mending Wall:

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.

Walls here, I’d, suggest, are liminal as forming borders between one part of the neighborhood and another — but those gaps are likewise liminal, separating if you will one section of all from another. As this (minor) reading suggests, the situation is more complex than a simple statement that walls are bad / good.

Indeed, as here, poetry is often deployed in the service of nuance..

**

We’ve had earlier Zenpundit posts on liminality and borders, among them:

  • Of border crossings, and the pilgrimage to Arbaeen in Karbala
  • Violence at three borders, naturally it’s a pattern
  • Borders, limina and unity
  • Borders as metaphors and membranes
  • McCabe and Melber, bright lines and fuzzy borders
  • **

    My interest here is first drawn in by succinctly stated patterns of mirroring and parallelism found in an Atlantic article, What Does It Mean to Be a Canadian Citizen? The first comes from JFK, and may indeed be his most frequently quoted utterance:

    Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country

    That’s the mirroring example.

    The parallel universes example suggested here is no less succinct:

    The time-honored saying “No taxation without representation” does seem to imply, as a corollary, “No representation without taxation.”

    **

    Okay, those are the two quotes that caught my eye for reasons of formal symmetry. The rest of the article, I’d suggest, is extremely interesting for what it says about borders, nationalities and Canada in particular. Here’s one of the writer’s crucial observations:

    About 24 percent of immigrants from Hong Kong return to the territory after acquiring Canadian citizenship, as do 30 percent of immigrants from Taiwan.

    You can see the appeal. Hong Kong’s economy is growing much faster than Canada’s. Its income-tax rates top out at 17 percent. Canada does not tax the foreign-source income of nonresident citizens, in effect creating a geopolitical arbitrage opportunity too attractive to miss: the protections of Canadian nationality at low Hong Kong prices.

    And this, from the concluding para, will give you an idea of the questions the article leaves us with:

    Is citizenship a kind of subscription service, to be suspended and resumed as our needs change? Are countries competing service providers, their terms and conditions subject to the ebbs and flows of consumer preference? Edmund Burke long ago articulated an ambitious vision of society as a “partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.” Does any of that still resonate? Or is it a bygone idea of a vanished age, dissolved in a globalized world?

    It’s snowing metaphoric chyrons 8

    Friday, February 22nd, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — auditioning, pledging, pitching, animated by animus, focusing fire, kicking, lashing, assault, shocked, strike, slammer ]]
    .

    Headers:

    First, some ouroboroi (serpents that bite their own tails):

    This strikes me as a negative ouroboros

    — the point here is that the serpent snaps at its tail and misses:

    Next, a fairly plausible ourob — the newspaper is reporting on a suit against itself. There’s a frame-switch here, between headline and paper, which is why I call it “plausible”:

    And this one — can we call it an ourob? Trunp, after all, is part of reality, so in this case it’s a part raging at its own whole:

    If, as I keepm arguing, ouroboroi are often markers of significant content — not always, but opften enough — it’s worth testing the boundaries of what constitutes an ourob. And simply getting practice= in identifying them.

    What do you think?

    **

    Quotes:

    Writing in Inside the London tech scene’s frantic plan to stop Brexit of tech folk in Britain,

    these people eventually congealed into an unofficial pro-Remain guerrilla operation, determined to use their skills to make the Brexit train stall before it goes flying over the white cliffs of Dover.

    the group’s “numer” or leading light is quoted as saying:

    MTP: Bernie Sanders is flexing his fundraising muscles ..
    m39 one-to-one ..

    Ari Melber 2/20/2019: We love to speculate about this [timing of Mueller release ] because it’s uniquely high drama ..

    Hardball: Bernie Sanders comes fast out of the gate with his fundraising
    It’s kicking it into Dan Coats’ court ..
    We don’t know whether Joe Biden or Beto O’Rourke who are auditioning for the role of Hamlet, when they’re finally going to decide what to do ..
    There’s so many wild cards out there on the Democratic side, and to some extent on the Trump side of the equation ..

    All In, Chris Hayes:
    CH to McCabe: What do you say to the basic idea that there’s these people inside the FBI, you among them, who just don’t like the guy [DJT], didn’t like the guy from the jump. and were animated by animus essentially in the actions you took ..
    Enemy of the people .. these very loaded terms ..
    The President calling you out, Fox News focusing its fire on you ..
    Dan Coats is the latest one to be sort of in the cross hairs with this President ..
    We still don’t know about Wikileaks ..
    Clint Watts: The belief has always been that should Wikileaks ever go down, that day or the next day there would be an unbelievable release of material. It’s always been thought that they’re on an information timebomb ..

    Morning Joe 2/21/2019 We should be shocked that we’re not more shocked ..

    **

    Chyrons

  • CNN Situation Room 5pm m59 2/20/2019 chyroon NATO
  • MTP chyron NYT Enemy of the People
  • And a George Mason ouroboros:

    We weren’t always so ready to label far-right extremists domestic terrorists, but now it’s happening ..

    **

    Okay, Ari Melber and the Roger Stone trial:

    Roger Stone’s very well known effort to turn serious proceedings into a baroque theater of the absurd .. **

    — both kicking myself and pledging “epic fight” — twofer!

    Ari: Quite a performance. This is the reality part. Stone was doing the reality show part. We’re in the reality part today ..

    Nick Ackerman: In a way, this is like baseball: the third strike and he’s off to the slammer ..

    Rogow (defense): It’s indefensible ..

    NA: If she’s put into place at the time a full gaga order, he would have gone directly to jail, do not stop Go, do not collect $200 ..

    AM: This is his last, last strike as she puts it ..

    **

    And that’s my last stroke for the day.

    An Invitation to the Church of the Open Question

    Saturday, June 23rd, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — announcing a new blog for matters quasi-religious, poetical ]
    .

    The Church of the Open Question is the name of my church.

    I have held this domain name, churchoftheopenquestion.com, for some years now, and a blog-church by that name should be coming online shortly — this is its first announcement.

    My church bears that name because it expressly questions dogmatic formulations, while encourageing depthful exploration of the possible resonances of dogma that might go missing if all such formulations are dismissed out of hand.

    Push open a question, leave it open, and what you have is possibilities.

    The marvelous, beautiful, well-spoken Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel has titled her book on Tibetan Madhyamaka philosophy, The Power of an Open Question: The Buddha’s Path to Freedom, and I find myself to have come by a natural unfolding to a position very sympathetic to that which she has attained by the disciplined enterprise of Madhyamaka Buddhism under the tutelage of her husband, Lama Dzigar Kongtrül — a delightful homecoming for me.

    I view my church — and the swing-doors that are its central feature — as offering a place where, for instance, Catholics who are leaving Catholicism may find certain doctrines illuminated as imaginative or poetic vehicles for wonder, which they can then carrry with them as spiritual values in an overwhelmingly secular and monteized societty, while those approaching the Church from outside it may find means of delighting in poetic or imaginative readings of texts that, stated in plain prose as definitive beliefs, are difficult indeed to swallow.

    **

    As an example, here’s a poem I wrote in this spirit, exploring the central symbolism of thr Christmas story..

    Christmas for Buddhists

    Suppose the full radiance inhabiting all things,
    on the specific occasion we now celebrate,
    finding itself as fond of narrative as of symmetry,
    of emptiness as of fullness, decided
    for the sake of teaching its selves a thing
    or eight, to take on a newborn form,
    while letting its nature shine forth visible
    to its mum, sundry animals, three visiting kings

    and an assortment of invisible winged beings —
    what better place than the animal stall
    outside an inn, where no room was available
    for a pregnant visitor to give birth, could
    that master of story, Original Face, choose,
    to tell humanity: humility is the necessary virtue?

    or it’s close cousin, exploring the Mass:

    To suppose the Eucharist

    Suppose the hypothetical all of everything
    in unspooling itself chose to exhibit itself in
    one human, suppose further all the sun’s
    light were caught in wheat and baked into
    bread, all the world’s pains and passions
    crushed like grapes into wine, suppose the
    one person took loaf and cup and with
    word and gesture raised them blood, body

    of his own self to be supped and sipped,
    thus woven into his one flesh, blood, mind —
    just when his flesh is torn, blood spills —
    suppose then that his mind to love were to
    entrain this new body of many bodies to
    heal with all radiance each instance of pain..

    That one certainly owes something to Teilhard de Chardin, as the first may to Thomas Merton — this, then, will be above all a gathering or congregation of friends..

    **

    I’m encouraged by Dr Jordan Peterson‘s claim that he “wanted to establish a church .. in which he would deliver sermons every Sunday” — although in my own case, every now and then will have to substitute for every Sunday.

    I have a first sermon lined up, too, in which I want to ask “What did Mozart see as Christ‘s life” when chosing the words “Ave verum corpus natum” to set to some of his most wondrous music? The answer’s a bit surprising, and suggestive of the many devotional moods the contemplation of that life can give rise to..

    Coming shortly.. Clapton, too. And Anthony Bourdain.


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