[ by Charles Cameron — elemental battles — one extraordinary nature video in slomo, and another with an interesting angle on threesidedness ]
But first, by way of preamble..
I’ve told the tale of how I came to appreciate the power of DoubleQuotes by running across these two parallel quotes in the works of two writers I admire, Haniel Long and Annie Dillard, in DoubleQuotes — origins, while in Bobcat jumps shark.. I posted a photo of an encounter that strongly reminded me of the pair of them.
You can therefore imagine how delighted i was this week to add this fourth entry into what is rapidly becoming a catalogue of fights-to-the-death between creatures of opposing elements:
The bird, as in Haniel Long’s tale, is an osprey, it’s battle is with a heavy fish — but in this case, it is the osprey that survives the encounter — and the slow motion video capture is simply astonishing.
With 77 million views and counting at the time I post this, it’s a video you may very well have seen before — and a terrific testament to the idea that sheer quantity may on occasion be indicative of real quality.
Civil wars divide nations along social, economic, and political lines, often pitting neighbors against each other. In the aftermath of civil wars, many countries undertake truth and reconciliation efforts to restore social cohesion, but little has been known about whether these programs reach their intended goals.
A new study published in Science suggests reconciliation programs promote societal healing, but that these gains come at the cost of reduced psychological health, worsening depression, anxiety, and trauma.
“Our research suggests that talking about war atrocities can prove psychologically traumatic for people affected by war. Invoking war memories appears to re-open old war wounds,” said Oeindrila Dube, assistant professor of politics and economics at New York University and one of the authors of the study. “At the same time, the reconciliation program we examined was also shown to improve social relations in communities divided by the war.”
¶ ¶ ¶
The study took place across 200 villages, 100 of which were randomly chosen to be offered the reconciliation program. The research team tracked 2,383 people in both sets of villages, recording their attitudes towards former combatants, their mental health, and the strength of their social ties nine and 31 months after the program.
The study was made in Sierra Leone a decade after the civil war ended. Assuming the methodology is good and the results are as described, there’s a very interesting paradox here. And hey, a decent paradox really gets my mental feet a-tapping. It will be instructive to see whether similar results are found elsewhere.
[ by Charles Cameron — what carves memory? blood is spilled, song carries grief and anger across centuries ]
One hundred years ago, Irish blood was spilled in the Easter Uprising of 1916, as Sinéad O’Connor & The Chieftains call us to remember in The Foggy Dew:
As down the glen one Easter morn to a city fair rode I
There armed lines of marching men in squadrons passed me by
No pipe did hum no battle drum did sound it’s loud tattoo
But the Angelus bell o’er the Liffey swell rang out through the foggy dew
The bravest fell, and the Requiem bell rang mournfully and clear
For those who died that Easter-tide in the spring of the year
While the world did gaze in deep amaze at those fearless men but few
Who bore the fight that freedom’s light might shine through the foggy dew
While some may see in the Uprising a merely political fight, in song the religious element — Easter morn, the Angelus bell, the Requiem bell — add Catholic poignancy to memory.
One hundred years.
Memory can linger long past a hundred years, as we in our rush to be the first into the future may forget. Let the Chieftains again remind us, with O’Sullivan’s March:
Donal Cam O’Sullivan Beare marched in 1602 — as Shakespeare was penning All’s Well That Ends Well and Othello?
A doff of the cap is due here to blog-friend Pundita , who pointed me in the direction of this post with her own Don’t ask me why, because..:
Ah, but Pundita also deerves a bow for her most recent post, Can the griots lead us home? — wherein she pointed me to a music of great joy, that of Oumou Sangaré:
If you watch enough videos of Oumou singing (there must be a zillion of them posted to YouTube) you’ll see that in many of her performances she has a highly conversational way of singing. You feel as if she’s talking directly to you. Sometimes it’s as if she’s talking to you in the manner of a defense attorney making an argument to a judge; others as if she’s chatting about something over lunch with you.
Here is a hunting song:
I think the ability to set up a very personal communication through song is the mark of a real griot, although after watching about 50 of her videos I think Oumou represents a tradition that I suspect goes back much earlier even than the griot clans — to a time when certain people in a tribe were interlocutors between humans and natural forces and helped settle disputes between members of tribes, and did so through the power of their voices to project a wide range of emotions.
Mali, at a time of violent upheaval — yet such joy in dance and song:
We have statistics for which nations suffer the most losses in war and terror, which export the most weapons, which nations invade, and which are invaded — but what of joy?
Years ago, in a book that sank like a stone, I suggested the concept of a Subtle National Product. King Jigme Singye Wangchuck of Bhutan apparently beat me to it, when he declared in the 1970s:
Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product.
His Majesty came up with the idea first, I now see and gladly admit — but I still prefer my own pohrasing!
Joy, it seems to me, isn;t easily quantified, although Bhutan does have an Index:
Here are some conparative stats across nations, ethnicities and faiths I’d be interested in:
deaths in warfare, civilian, irregular, and military
numbers of children pressed into war
numbers of those maimed, displaced and or grossly mentally disturbed by war
depth of grief, as meaaured in forms of keening and ululation
degree of exuberance, as found in music and dance, popular and professional
ritual solemnity and grandeur, on religious and state occasions
quantity of written poetry bought or borrowed from libraries
size of audiences for spoken poetry readings
number of poets (in particular) imprisoned for their writings
Qualitative equivalents of these values would also be of interest, though even harder to obtain and verify in any objective manner..
[ by Charles Cameron — a follow up to my post on the Vespers liturgy at Hampton Court Palace ]
Boring as hell or blissful as paradise? Religious worship can be either one.
I know that when I was at Wellington College I must have sat through dozens of sermons in which one or another scriptural passage was read in that droning pastoral voice which Alan Bennett so skilfully skewered in his Beyond the Fringe satirical sermon on the text of Genesis 27.11, “Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man”:
I was a deeply religious kid, but verses like I Samuel 15.3, “Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass” went right past me. I had no qualms back then about Old Testament genocides, pretty much because I didn’t notice them — these were just sacred words, intoned, a strange blend of heaven, lullaby and snooze.
In my piece on the Hampton Court Vespers, I tried to give readers a sense of how things look from a perspective where liturgy and rites and rituals more generally need not be viewed as dry relics of a past best forgotten, but as well-springs of deep personal, interpersonal and transcendent inspiration and communion.
Here, I’d like to supplement my attempt with two “cases” that I hope will illustrate the power of liturgy.
When the service began late on Saturday evening the cathedral was dimly lit, all the hangings and the altar cover were black in the color of Good Friday. Then the entire congregation went out into the street and marched slowly around the block. It was very cold. When we returned the cathedral was brilliantly lit and the color of everything was very bright. Easter had arrived.
So — somebody turned the lights on.
But no, it’s more than that, it’s the utter darkness of Christ’s descent from the cross and burial, it is grief physically imposed by that very cold pilgrimage around the block — and it’s the shock, the palpable beauty of the Resurrection dawn.
Going back yet a day further, from Good Friday to the Maundy Thursday which in the church’s calendar porecedes it, we can see the similarly profound impact of a simple gesture as my old mentor, Fr. Trevor Huddleston, washes the feet of his students in Sophiatown, the Johannesberg shanty-town where for years he taught and preached. In his own words, drawn from his book Naught for Your Comfort, we read:
On Maundy Thursday, in the Liturgy of the Catholic Church, when the Mass of the day is ended, the priest takes a towel and girds himself with it; he takes a basin in his hands, and kneeling in front of those who have been chosen, he washes their feet and wipes them, kissing them also one by one. So he takes, momentarily, the place of his Master. The centuries are swept away, the Upper Room in the stillness of the night is all around him: “If I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye ought also to wash one another’s feet.” I have knelt in the sanctuary of our lovely church in Rosettenville and washed the feet of African students, stooping to kiss them. In this also I have known the meaning of identification. The difficulty is to carry the truth out into Johannesberg, into South Africa, into the world.
That world, for Fr Trevor, was the world of South African apartheid. He carried that truth out into Johannesberg and the world in his book, and as President of the Anti-Apartheid Movement — and with what impact! He lived to see apartheid gone.
I say that the consummation of the drama, the perfect and ideal drama, is to be found in the ceremony of the Mass. … And the only dramatic satisfaction that I find now is in a High Mass well performed. Have you not there everything necessary? And indeed, if you consider the ritual of the Church during the cycle of the year, you have the complete drama represented. The Mass is a small drama, having all the unities; but in the Church year you have represented the full drama of creation.
[ by Charles Cameron — astronaut in a cathedral, nuclear reactor in Gabon ]
I enjoy scoping and snoping out strange claims, and had to check out possible anachronicities not once but twice today — first, to verify the presence of an astronaut in Salamanca’s seventeenth-century (1513-1733 to be more precise) “New Cathedral”:
and then, of a nuclear reactor from two billion years ago in Gabon, West Africa.
Neither one turned out to be von Däniken fool’s gold, but both certainly glisten enough to be worth a mention.
The Salamanca cathedral astronaut is there, carved in stone, all right — but as part of a 1992 renovation. And what’s most interesting to me is that it’s entirely in conformity with tradition for an artist working today on such a restoration to “sign” his work with a contemporary flourish of this sort. It is thus faithful to what Benedict XVI would call the hermeneutic of continuity.
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