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Sunday’s second surprise — the Van Gogh DoubleQuote

Sunday, July 17th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — Van Gogh, Rilke, El Greco, Von Kármán. Hokusai, Jakob — rich correspondences between singificant items in widely separate disciplines ]

My friend Steve Engel suggested this variant on my personal favorite DoubleQuote — the one pairing Van Gogh with Von Kármán — and as a lover of Rainer Maria Rilke I very much appreciate his suggestion, which bridges painting and poetry as my original DQ brdges arts and sciences:

SPEC DQ Gogh Rilke Steve Engel


I’ve also featured that particular van Gogh painting in another DQ, this one showing the sky as painted by El Greco and Van Gogh:

SPEC DQ greco gogh

El Greco was first among my loves in painting, and I’ve long thought that the differences between how El Greco sees the sky and how Van Gogh sees it could stand in for the differences between religions — you don’t see Van Gokkites attacking El Grekkites in museums on account of the different visions of their preferred painters, and if we could view religions as visionary rather than prescriptive, taking from them what a poetic, metaphoric, non-literal, non-fundamentalist, non-reductionist reading would approve, we might be a little farther on our way towards interfaith harmony, and away from religiously-sanctionable violence.

I’m thinking here of St Francis‘ meeting with the Sultan Malik al-Kamil, and more recently Thomas Merton‘s meetings with Buddhist contemplatives, Sufis and the like..


Here’s the Von Kármán / Van Gogh DQ, which I value in light of Hermann Hesse‘s Glass Bead Game as a clear bridge between one of the crucial dualities of recent centuries — the needless and fruitless schism between the arts and sciences, which has given rise not only the rantings of Christopher Hitchens and his less elegant disciple Bill Maher, but to such other matters as the Papal condemnation and “forgiveness” 359 years later of Galileo Galilei, Charles Babbage‘s Ninth Bridgewater Treatise, Andrew White‘s A History of the Warfare of Science With Theology in ChristendomW, and CP Snow‘s The Two Cultures:

karman gogh


And finally, here’s an ugraded version of the other DQ of mine that seeks to bridge the arts and sciences — featuring Hokusai‘s celebrated woodblock print, The Great Wave off Kanagawa (upper panel, below) and Jakob aka nikozy92‘s fractal wave, which I’ve flipped horizontally to make its parallel with the Hokusai clearer (lower panel) — Jakob‘s is a much improved version of a fractal wave compared with the one I’d been using until today:

SPEC-DQ-Hokusai-fractal v 2.0 minikozy92

Sunday surprise the second — the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God

Sunday, July 3rd, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — wishing you all blessings on the Fourth ]

My eye was caught today by yet another disaster — which in turn reminded me of tomorrow, the Fourth of July. It’s just one example among many:

— but it brings up again the question of whether we think in terms of “acts of God” or “laws of Nature” or — somehow — both. And that’s where thw roding of the Constitution comes in, with the phrase “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”:

Nature and Nature's God DQ


If I used that phrasing — “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” — today, I might well be attempting to please or at least placate readers who variously:

  • believe in a God separate from and superior to Nature, and author of Nature’s laws
  • believe in a God essentially indistinguishable from Nature, wholly immanent, &
  • disbelieve in any kind of God, but recognize Nature as a catchall term for the Whole System.
  • I don’t suppose that would necessarily be the case in 1776, though, and wonder whether the phrase should be read as:

    the Laws — of Nature and of Nature’s God


    the Laws of Nature — and of Nature’s God

    and if the second, whether the and marks a distinction between Nature and nature’s God, or also covers the possibility of their being one and the same.

    And once we’ve cleared that up, and bearing in mind that John Donne could write “At the round earth’s imagin’d corners” — thus conflating the old, imaginative, square earth with the new, scientific, spherical one — how feasible do you think it is to hold simultaneously the idea that a given earthquake, hurricane, tsunami or volcanic eruption is an act of God and a natural disaster?

    A worldview paradox?


  • July 4, 1776, The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
  • November 18, 2013, Room for Debate: Natural Disasters or ‘Acts of God’?
  • Sunday surprise: Synchronize watches!

    Sunday, June 26th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — from science and religion, two prime resources for scenario planners ]

    Here are two versions of how close we may be to The End of Story. In the upper panel, a glimpse of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Dashboard, representing their version of the scientific view:

    DQ Doomsday Rapture

    In the lower panel, the current state of the Rapture Index, representing the view of a Christian website dedicated to reading the signs and keeping us updated on our proximity to a day that, per scripturam, “knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”



  • Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Doomsday Dashboard
  • The Rapture Index, updated June 20, 2016

  • Matthew 24.36 (KJV), But of that day and hour knoweth no man
  • Subzin movie quotes, Synchronize watches
  • **

    Who you gonna believe?

    As Tim Furnish might say, BREXIT is not the Apocalypse, not even close — it hasn’t even merited an uptick in the Rapture Index.

    Towards the urgent development of the artificial kidney

    Saturday, June 25th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — setting aside my personal interest, there’s a humanitarian / religious angle here ]

    The atrocities described in the lower panel add urgency to the medical development described in the upper panel:

    kidney transplants


  • Kurzweil AI, Wearable artificial kidney prototype successfully tested
  • Daily Mail, China is forcing up to 90,000 prisoners to have organs removed
  • **

    I took note of the Kurzweil announcement in the upper panel above, because I’m due for some form of kidney dialysis myself — and the new report on Chinese harvesting of religious prisoners’ marketable organs, Bloody Harvest / The Slaughter, because I’m interested in Falun Gong and other religious movements in China that are under intense pressure from the Chinese authorities.

    Here are a couple of excerpts from the 680-page report:

    The narrative of pursuit, arrest, torture, and, in several cases, execution, illustrates that Falun Gong was putting up an increasingly effective resistance – even as the state’s structure of persecution was spinning out of control, and shedding any remaining inhibitions surrounding the mass exploitation of Falun Gong for their organs. The “self-immolation” of Falun Gong practitioners on Tiananmen Square is also examined in detail, with the conclusion that it was not only a set-up but a masterstroke of state propaganda.

    What emerges is a picture of an organ harvesting regime that began giving discreet physical examinations of select Falun Gong practitioners in late 2000/early 2001, expanding into mass examinations (including Tibetan prisoners of conscience and the House Christian group “Eastern Lightning”) by 2003, and an organ harvesting regime wasn’t even being kept fully secret within the Laogai System by 2005

    It’s worth noting that the Uyghur Muslims are caught up in the same situations, too.


    Putting the two halves of this puzzle together — one of the aspects of the harvesting of organs from Chinese religious dissidents is that it attracts what the publishers of the report term organ tourism:

    Governments should enact measures to criminalize the purchase of trafficked organs at home or abroad. They could also require reporting of ‘organ tourism’, ban entry of those involved in trafficking organs, and prohibit their pharmaceutical companies from doing transplant field tests and clinical trials in China.

    The idea of extending one’s life by receiving the transplanted organ of a prisoner separated out for religious reasons and then killed to supply the tourist organ market is both deeply human, in the sense of serving the individual’s survival, and deeply abhorrent and inhuman, as (effectively) a paid enticement to mass murder.


    At one point, the report says:

    Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, began in May 1992 with the teachings of Li Hongzhi. The two Davids [co-authors of the report] have described Falun Gong as a set of exercises with a spiritual and ethical foundation. Ethan Gutmann in The Slaughter states: “Falun Gong, simply put, is a Buddhist revival movement.”

    Saying Falun Gong is “simply put .. a Buddhist revival movement” is a bit simplistic itself, though. Here’s an excerpt of a Time magazine article from 1999 — it appeared in the world edition, but not I think in the US — in which Li Hongzhi explains a major aspect of his concern about where the human race is heading:

    The aliens come from other planets. The names that I use for these planets are different . Some are from dimensions that human beings have not yet discovered. The key is how they have corrupted mankind. Everyone knows that from the beginning until now, there has never been a development of culture like today. Although it has been several thousand years, it has never been like now.

    The aliens have introduced modern machinery like computers and airplanes. They started by teaching mankind about modern science, so people believe more and more science, and spiritually, they are controlled. Everyone thinks that scientists invent on their own when in fact their inspiration is manipulated by the aliens. In terms of culture and spirit, they already control man. Mankind cannot live without science.

    The ultimate purpose is to replace humans. If cloning human beings succeeds, the aliens can officially replace humans. Why does a corpse lie dead, even though it is the same as a living body? The difference is the soul, which is the life of the body. If people reproduce a human person, the gods in heaven will not give its body a human soul. The aliens will take that opportunity to replace the human soul and by doing so they will enter earth and become earthlings.

    When such people grow up, they will help replace humans with aliens. They will produce more and more clones. There will no longer be humans reproduced by humans. They will act like humans, but they will introduce legislation to stop human reproduction.

    I’m pretty sure the Falun Gong people worry the Chinese central authorities because they’re a substantial quasi-millennial sect that’s only too reminiscent of the Taiping sect of the mid-nineteenth century, whose rebellion the government of the day eventually put down at a total cost of somewhere between 20 and 30 million lives. throw in ~150 years’ worth of advances in weaponry, communications media and population size, and the head honchos wouldn’t like to see how wildly destructive a 2000 or 2020 repeat might get!

    Midas meets Medusa — a symmetry observed

    Thursday, June 16th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — a little light-hearted lévi-straussian mythologic ]

    Here’s an irresistible example of what I call DoubleQuotes-style thinking:

    Midas and Medusa

    The details are very well thought out, too — the flowers in Midas‘ hand are still gold, since he’s touched them, but they’re not turned to stone by Medusa‘s gaze since they’re of the vegetable kingdom — whereas the bird in her cage, being of the animal kingdom, looks distinctly gray as though it has been turned to stone.

    I’m not sure that the boxed comment “a very brief affair” is right, though — as my son Emlyn‘s commented, It’s a love at first sight that lasts for ever!


    The other mythological DoubleQuote or conceptual symmetry I very much admire is the one whereby Narcissus, the epitome of visual reflection, is paired with Echo, avatar of reflection’s aural equivalent.

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