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Into the storm winds

Sunday, August 21st, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — Peter Thiel, Rainer Maria Rilke, and the importance of unheard voices ]

Noting Peter Thiel‘s comment below, I was reminded of the opening of Rilke‘s Duino Elegies — Himalayas of the human spirit.

SPEC DQ Thiel Rilke


Stephen Mitchell‘s version of the Elegies is the one I like best, and lends itself well to the speaking voice. Mitchell’s opening lines read thus:

Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels’ hierarchies?
and even if one of them pressed me suddenly against his heart:
I would be consumed in that overwhelming existence.
For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we are still just able to endure,
and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
Every angel is terrifying.


My own version, which I’ve placed in the lower panel of the DoubleQuote above, alludes to Rilke’s storm-driven physical environment at the time the beginning of the poem came to him at Schloss Buino. In the words of Princess Marie von Thurn und Taxis:

Rilke climbed down to the bastions which, jutting to the east and west, were connected to the foot of the castle by a narrow path along the cliffs. These cliffs fall steeply, for about two hundred feet, into the sea. Rilke paced back and forth, deep in thought, since the reply to the letter so concerned him. Then, all at once, in the midst of his brooding, he halted suddenly, for it seemed to him that in the raging of the storm a voice bad called to him: “Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angelic orders?” (Wer, wenn ich schriee, hörte mich denn aus der Engel Ordnungen?)… He took out his notebook, which he always carried with him, and wrote down these words, together with a few lines that formed themselves without his intervention … Very calmly he climbed back up to his room, set his notebook aside, and replied to the difficult letter. By that evening the entire elegy had been written down.

In that instant, as I understand the matter, Rilke shouts into the wind, into the heedless world, into the angelic immensity..


Whether it’s a still small voice that goes unheard, a voice hurled into the tumultuous storm, heedless void, or transcomprehensible angelic choirs, or a voice crying from desert or wilderness, it is always the unattended, the unlistened voice which carries the note unnoticed — the truth we’d find in the blindspot if we took it for a mirror, the seed and germination of those so-often catastrophic unanticipated consequences that trend-based analysis and front-view vision so regularly miss.

Economics as if spirit matters most

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — Zen Buddhist monasticism and the Desert Fathers concur ]

SPEC DQ no work no food


I’m grateful to Grurray for pointing me to the Desert Fathers quote, which reminded me to chase down the Suzuki.


  • DT Suzuki, Selected Works, Vol III, Comparative Religion
  • Dylan Pahman, The Monk as Merchant: Economic Wisdom from a Desert Hermit
  • Wealth redistribution: from rich to poor, or from goats to sheep?

    Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — surplus and lack vs good and evil ]

    SPEC DQ Sanders Cruz

    I have to admit, I’m used to wealth redistribution being a concept on the left — socialist, whether in the sense indistinguishable from communist, often found in the US, or in the more moderate sense of the word found more frequently in Europe — as proposed by Bernie Sanders in the upper panel, and was surprised to see Sen. Cruz‘ father using the same concept, albeir in a different sense, lower panel, on the right.

    As my title suggests, the distinction to be drawn here is between the material distinction between rich and poor, and the spiritual distinction between sheep and goats.


    For a different distinction, see also Tim Furnish‘s comment in his book Sects, Lies and the Caliphate “that liberals are almost always messianic, while conservatives tend more toward the apocalyptic”:

    It’s certainly the Democrat party, for the most part, that worships the idea of our elected democratic officials as messianic wealth-redistributors, assisted by their hordes of bureaucratic disciples; while the GOP (not unreasonably, perhaps) obsesses about apocalyptic demise—whether politically, theologically, or both.

    Furnish is writing in response to Anne Barbeau Gardiner‘s review of Ross Douthat‘s book, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics here — making use of a distinction which comes from Douthat himself:

    The fourth heresy is American nationalism, which has two sides, messianic and apocalyptic. The messianic side turns democracy into a religion capable of doing the “redemptive work that orthodoxy reserves for Christ and his Church,” while the apocalyptic side envisions our national history as a “downhill slide.” Today these two sides are “bipartisan afflictions.” Each takes its turn in the driver’s seat — the messianic when a favored political party is in power, the apocalyptic when it is out of power — with the result that they go through cycles of “utopian hopes and millennial angst.” Moreover, the two parties are “theological worlds unto themselves,” creating a Manichean landscape of good versus evil where a Christian is pressured to conform his “theology to ideology.”


    Within a purely secular context, transfers of wealth happen all the time, in regular clock time, by means of gift, trade, theft and plunder.

    Within a Christian theological context, however, humans taking it upon themselves to separate the sheep from the goats is surely no different from separating the wheat from the tares — and as such, distinctly not something to be done until “the harvest” — in “the end times”.

    Matthew 13. 24-30:

    Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.

    And that’s a very different scenario, in which the timing is by definition unknown.

    Official policy targeting weddings?

    Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — as if in brutal proof that “the bed waiting inside belongs to death” — that bridal and burial veils are one ]

    Does the Coalition have an official policy targeting weddings?

    Sorry to be so blunt about this, but I get déjà vu these days when I read about Coalition attacks on wedding parties.


    Today, for instance, WaPo has this headline:


    I believe that headline is only in white on a black background because that’s the “style” for WaPo’s “video channel” pages — but it’s suitable, really, eh? Funereal?

    Lest we forget, let’s see, now, Wikipedia has entries for:

  • Deh Bala wedding party airstrike of July 6, 2008
  • Wech Baghtu wedding party airstrike of November 3, 2008
  • **

    Then there’s December 12, 2013, reported by the admirable Greg Johnsen:

    Greg Johnsen

    If I’m not mistaken, that was also the occasion of these two headlines from Conor Friedsdorf:

    Friedsdorf 02

    Friedsdorf 01

    Stunning, those headlines. Of course there may have been other funereal weddings that I’ve missed.


    Oh, and there’s always the money to consider:

    more than $1 million


    Headline sources:

  • Air strike on Yemen wedding kills
  • Sorry our drones hit your wedding party
  • If a drone strike hit an American wedding
  • The Wedding That a U.S. Drone Strike Turned Into a Funeral
  • Yemeni victims of U.S. military drone strike
  • Gregory Johnsen’s piece is beautifully written as always. Conor Friedsdorf’s title alone — The Wedding That a U.S. Drone Strike Turned Into a Funeral — deserves high praise.


    Déjà vu? If these things keep on happening, I’ll have to call them flashbacks.

    Lexington Green Interviewed on Against the Current

    Thursday, September 10th, 2015

    [by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]

    America 3.0 : Rebooting Prosperity in the 21st Century by James C. Bennett and Michael Lotus

    Lexington Green” of Chicago Boyz blog, a.k.a Michael Lotus, co-author of America 3.0 was interviewed recently by Chicago talk radio host and TV commentator Dan   Proft, on Proft’s video podcast, Against the Current.

    I heartily approve of the cigars.

    Tune in for approximately fifty minutes of conversation regarding national and local politics, futurism, economics and political philosophy through the analytic prism of America 3.0 (a book I warmly endorse):


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