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Simply so much.. 01

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — an experiment in blogging — morality transcending laws, the pope, battleships, jellyfish, & Catholic politicians ]

There’s simply so much going on that I need to try a few way of sifting and posting my daily catch. So here’s my experiment. Each day I’ll open a Simply so much post at the start of the day, adding things that catch my eye as I go, and posting either late in the day or the next morning.


The right to migrate trumps politics as usual:

The granting of asylum does not fall within the usual logic of statecraft in which a policy is considered from the perspective of the political interests of a governing party, taking into account how it will play to popular prejudices, how it fits with internal party disputes, its consistency with budgetary and other manifesto promises, its influence on the viability of other policies the government wants to pursue, and so on. None of these have standing in the face of the moral emergency of aiding refugees to regain their lives.

DoubleQuote that with Pope Francis: Government workers have ‘human right’ to deny gay marriage licenses:

It is the “human right” of government officials to say they cannot discharge duties that they believe go against their conscience, Pope Francis told reporters aboard the papal flight back to Rome on Monday.

“I can’t have in mind all cases that can exist about conscience objection,” the pope told reporters on the plane. “But, yes, I can say the conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right. It is a right.

“And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right.”

See also the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (my emphasis):

On the most widely accepted account of civil disobedience, famously defended by John Rawls (1971), civil disobedience is a public, non-violent and conscientious breach of law undertaken with the aim of bringing about a change in laws or government policies. On this account, people who engage in civil disobedience are willing to accept the legal consequences of their actions, as this shows their fidelity to the rule of law. Civil disobedience, given its place at the boundary of fidelity to law, is said to fall between legal protest, on the one hand, and conscientious refusal, revolutionary action, militant protest and organised forcible resistance, on the other hand.


in the Remarks by His Majesty King Abdullah II at the 70th Plenary Session of the United Nations General Assembly, we find the following description of IS:

I am here representing Jordan, and as a God-fearing, God-loving human being. I am here as a father who wants his children, like yours, to live in a compassionate and more peaceful world.

Such a future is under serious threat from the khawarej, the outlaws of Islam that operate globally today. They target religious differences, hoping to kill cooperation and compassion among the billions of people, of all faiths and communities, who live side-by-side in our many countries. These outlaw gangs use suspicion and ignorance to expand their own power. Worse still is the free hand they grant themselves to distort the word of God to justify the most atrocious crimes.

That phrase, the outlaws of Islam, nicely finesses the ongoing dispute as to whether IS should be termed “nothing to do with Islam” or “Islamic”.


Three variants on the meaning of Man of War:

The British Man of War, c 1750


The Portuguese Man of War:


GF Handel‘s The Lord is a Man of War, from his oratorio Israel in Egypt, 1739:


  • The British Man of War
  • The Portuguese Man of War
  • Handel’s Lord is a Man of War
  • Hm, that would have made a great post all by itself!


    Great Andreessen-style DoubleQuote:

    And that’s a really interesting nested question right about now, eh?

    Sunday surprise – beauties, Beauty

    Sunday, September 6th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — i’m inclined to call these beauties respective variants on Beauty physical, mental, and spiritual ]

    Beauty is beautiful, and never more so than when she conveys Beauty:




    The beauties:

  • Surfer Maud Le Car
  • Violinist Hilary Hahn
  • Professor Lera Boroditsky
  • I’ve posted la belle Hélène‘s interpretation of the Bach-Busoni Chaconne on Zenpundit before, but in case you missed it, there’s also..

  • Pianist Hélène Grimaud
  • Sunday surprise – Dylan and the Bauls

    Sunday, July 19th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — how Buddha came by his Middle Way, among other things & songs ]

    John Wesley Harding Bauls


    In a fascinating article titled Dylan tunes like you’ve never heard them – in Hindi and Bengali a few months back, Nate Rabe made the assertion — I only saw it today —

    Bob Dylan, unlike many of his contemporaries, seems to never have been drawn to India. There were no pilgrimages to Rishikesh, no gurus, no lost years by the Ganga and, to date, I’ve not detected any Hindustani musical influence in his music.

    Okay — how about his album covers?

    On the cover of John Wesley Harding (above), Dylan is flanked by “Luxman and Purna Das, two Bengali Bauls” — “South Asian musicians brought to Woodstock by Dylan’s manager, Albert Grossman” according to Wikipedia.


    The Bauls — with their one-stringed instrument, the ektara, and their ecstatic songs of devotion — have been an interest of mine at least since the time that album came out in 1967. It was shortly thereafter that I also ran across the album The Bauls of Bengal issued by Elektra in 1966.

    A writer in the rec.music.dylan newsgroup notes:

    Through their songs, dances, gestures, through silences, through postures and looks, the Bauls tell stories of the earth, of the body, of lovers uniting – subtly revealing the mystery of life and laws of nature. Submission to the divine is their tightrope to wisdom. Most Bauls are wandering mendicants, living on what they are offered by villagers in return for their songs. They sing from the heart on their never ending tours and consecrate their lives to a fusion of music, song and dance as the privileged vehicle for attaining ecstasy.

    Edward C Dimock Jr, author of The Place of the Hidden Moon: Erotic Mysticism in the Vaisnava-Sahajiya Cult of Bengal and co-author with poet Denise Levertov of the “slim volume of poetry”, In Praise of Krishna: Songs from the Bengali, wrote on the liner notes of the Bauls’ album:

    Some people have said that it is possible to characterize the Bauls by a distinctive doctrine. I have never found it possible to do so, for it seems to me that they are first and foremost individuals, and that the term Baul encompasses a wide range of religious opinion, traceable to several Hindu schools of thought, to Sufi Islam, and much that is traceable only to a man’s own view of how he relates to God. All Baul’s hold only this in common: that God is hidden in the heart of man, and neither priest nor prophet, nor the ritual of any organized religion, will help man to find him there.”

    Dimock, as you have guessed, is another long-time favorite author of mine, and I once had the privilege of meeting Denise Levertov, whose poem A Tree Telling of Orpheus I hold to be one of the great poems of the 20th century.


    There is an album out titled From Another World: A Tribute to Bob Dylan, which includes a rendering of Mr Tambourine Man by one Purna Das Baul

    and Nate Rabe’s piece introduces us, among others, to Susheela Raman, covering Like a Rolling Stone:


    It was a wandering musician playing an ektara, so I have heard, whom the ultra-ascetic known as Siddhartha Gauama overheard saying or singing:

    If you tighten the string too much it will snap and if you leave it too slack, it won’t play.

    That hint was enough. Siddhartha grasped from those words the essence of the teaching he was to make famous as the Middle Way, set aside his austerities as he had earlier set aside his princely status, and in short order attained enlightenment — becoming Gautama Buddha, one of the great masters of our age.

    h/t 3 Quarks Daily

    In which John Horgan presents a DoubleQuote

    Friday, April 24th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — taking a very brief break from Bach for once — but Kanye? ]

    In what I’d term a DoubleQuote in the Wild, Dr John Horgan uses a simple textual and visual juxtaposition to good effect:


    The juxtaposition here “works” because “the American Dream” textually links the two images the way a rhyme does at the end of this couplet, a long-time favorite of mine, translated by J. V. Cunningham from the Latin of John Owen:

    Life flows to death as rivers to the sea,
    And life is fresh and death is salt to me.

    Thus there’s a bond first established verbally between Adam Gadahn and Kanye West, two people we might not otherwise think of together — and in thinking of them together, we open a wide range of possible associations, including a sort of parallel match between Kanye and another American jihadist, Omar Hammami — like Kanye, a rapper — also mentioned in JM Berger‘s piece today about Gadahn’s life an death. And from there our thoughts can fan out to Anwar Awlaki, and his son, Abdulrahman Awlaki, or to Deso Dog, the German jihadist rapper.

    In a word, the juxtaposition is provocative: thought-provocative.


    And what of the American Dream? Wikipedia currently defines it thus:

    The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers. In the definition of the American Dream by James Truslow Adams in 1931, “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” ..

    The idea of prosperity hrough hard work, it seems to me, has much in common with the Puritan ideal, captured by Ning Kang of the School of Foreign Languages, Qingdao University of Science and Technology, in these words:

    Puritanism shaped the Americans’ national character – acquiring wealth through hard work and thrift

    American Puritans linked material wealth with God’s favor. They believed that hard work was the way to please God. Created more wealth through one’s work and thrift could guarantee the God’s elect. The doctrine of predestination kept all Puritans constantly working to do good in this life in order to be chosen for the next eternal life. God had already chosen who would be in heaven or hell, but Christians had no way of knowing which group they were in. Those who were wealthy would obviously be blessed by God and in good standing with Him. The work ethic of Puritans was the belief that hard work was an honor to God which would lead to a prosperous reward.

    Is that about right? I’m not much of a puritan myself, but it seems to me that the aspect of the dream that has to do with purity gets lost when the American Dream becomes a Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and the metric of success and prosperity equates to a Kardashian spouse — while on the other side, purity in the form of burqas and “religious police” is the fetish that drives the Salafi-jihadists: Consider this, from an IBTimes report:

    Isis chief executioner found beheaded with cigarette in his mouth

    The corpse showed signs of torture and carried the message “This is evil, you Sheikh” written on it. The severed head also had a cigarette in its mouth. It is unclear who carried out the decapitation but the message was obvious.

    Islamic State’s (formerly known as Isis) ban on cigarettes is one of its signature polices. It has imposed a strict set of Sharia laws barring the use of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes in the territories it has conquered across a swathe of Iraq and Syria.

    IS has declared smoking “slow suicide” and demands that “every smoker should be aware that with every cigarette he smokes in a state of trance and vanity is disobeying God”.


    Contemplating John’s DoubleQuote, then, it seems to me that Gadahn has the puritanical streak in the original dream, adapted to its contemporary Islamist form, while Kanye has much of the prosperity side, largely detached from any kind of asceticism in preference for bling — but with a laudable concern that that bling not be derived from child labor, slavery, etc:

    Unholy: perhaps it’s a useful word

    Friday, January 30th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — when religion casts a long and violent shadow ]

    unholy cover
    cover art for the Unholy album, New Life behind Closed Eyes


    Unholy may prove to be a very useful word, I think.

    It’s not secular, it’s not irreligious, it doesn’t lack for some sort of supernatural influence — in fact it fits right in with the metaphysical implications of such Biblical phrases as (Revelation 12.7):

    there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels

    and (Ephesians 6.12):

    we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places


    Because, I am arguing, it is neither secular nor irreligious, it fits perfectly, I’d say, the kinds of situation we’re in so freuqnetly, globally, of religiously motivated group violence.

    The word jihad — besides focusing entirely on Islamic variants, when in fact Buddhist, Hindu and Christian militians are also in evidence — concedes too much to those who regard their warfare as holy, divinely sanctioned, while other terms make things sound secular and almost normal, as if politics without the religious booster was all we are talking about.

    BrutaL and spiritual, spiritual and brutal on both sides — in the Central African Republic, for instance:

    It was March 2013 when the predominantly Muslim rebel coalition Séléka swept into the riverside capital, Bangui, from the northeast. President François Bozizé fled as a vicious campaign of looting, torture and murder got underway. Séléka leader Michel Djotodia soon proclaimed himself the successor; he would later lose control of his ranks and an attempt that fall to disband them would do little to stop the atrocities.

    At the same time, groups of militias called anti-balaka had begun to form and train and retaliate against Séléka. Their name in the local Sango language means “anti-machete”; their fighters are comprised of ex-soldiers, Christians and animists, who think magic will protect them. They’re adorned with amulets to ward off attacks and fight with hunting rifles, poison-tipped arrows and machetes.

    Amulets and machetes.. warriors and angels.


    Maybe we should say “unholy warriors” and “unholy wars” rather than “holy warriors” or “jihadis” — and “unholy monks” for the Burmese mobsters in saffron robes.

    And I’d reserve the use of the term for situations in whiuch at least one side in a conflict openly avows religious motivation. Someone making a treaty someone else feels is foolish or dangerous simply doesn’t meet the bar.


    It’s worth considering the Unholy CD cover art alongside two other recent images:

    Moebius Floating City



    And about that top image from the Unholy album, just so you know:

    UNHOLY present their Prosthetic Records debut, a metal massacre fueled with down-tuned guitars, double bass and deep grooves akin to the sounds of Entombed, Crowbar and later Carcass, with members having been in bands like Santa Sangre, Another Victim and Path Of Resistance.

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