[ by Charles Cameron -- wall art, sufism and poetry in Istanbul ]
I wasn’t altogether sure, when Zeynep Tufekcitweeted a stenciled image of a whirling dervish (above, right) the other day, that the dervish was in fact wearing a gas mask. Just the fact that the dervish was showing up on a wall during the events in Turkey was interesting to me — and all the more so since Zeynep pointed out that the accompanying slogan Sen de Gel — Come, Come Whoever you are is from Jalaluddin Rumi, the great Sufi poet and founder of the Mevlevi order of whirling dervishes.
As the photo of a dervish whirling in the park (above, left) shows, however — and I only saw it today — the stencil is indeed the iconization — in protest art — of a dervish in gas mask in real-time Istanbul.
There’s insight to be had there.
The version of Rumi’s poetry that I first ran across lo these many years ago, and to which I return:
Screen time is the life-time of story: every second counts. And thus it is that if a director uses the same shot with variations at two or more points in a movie, they don’t just follow along, the way the elements in the narrative through-line follow along, one after another — they stack up. They “mean” cumulatively, synchronically…
Putting that in musical terms, they take on the function of rhythm rather than melody — and it is rhythm that can make the body dance, just as it is melody that can make the heart soar.
So, this repetition, this striking parallelism — why?
Here’s my friend Bill Benzon, writing about the use of parallelism in Apocalypse Now:
The Assassin and the Surfer
Now for the less obvious parallel: Willard and Lance, the only member of the boat crew to survive. One can’t miss the parallel killings nor Willard’s statement of kinship with Kurtz. This parallelism, on the other hand, is easy to miss. That is to say, it may well elude conscious notice. Unconscious notice, on the other hand … Well, what is that?
Here’s three frame-grabs that point up the parallel. The first is from the opening montage of Willard in Saigon just before he gets his orders:
The second shot comes much later in the film. Clean has been killed (bullet), then the Chief (spear). Lance is the one who floated the Chief’s body down the river. Now they’re heading upriver toward Kurtz again, with Lance in the bow of the boat:
He’s doing a martial arts dance. Not the same one as Willard did in the opening montage, but a martial arts dance. No one else in the film does such a thing. Clean does some dance moves while listening to the Rolling Stones, but they’re in an entirely different style; faster, jerkier, more angular.
Finally, we have this scene in Kurtz’s compound. Willard’s in the foreground, and Lance is in the background:
One might suggest that this parallel is a mere accident, one might. And perhaps it is. In cases like this, however, my default assumption is that it is not an accident. It may not be there by conscious intent and deliberate plan; but it is not there by accident. The people who made this movie are too skilled to do such things inadvertently.
That final remark of Benzon’s makes exactly the point I was hoping to make here, before commenting on those two screen-grabs from Manhunt:
The people who made this movie are too skilled to do such things inadvertently.
There’s actually a third shot in Manhunt with a view of a dangling rear-view-mirror ornament — let’s take a look:
This one’s from the van Peter Bergen and his cameraman, Peter Jouvenal, took in the docu’s re-enactment / flashback to their CNN interview with bin Laden, back in 1997. I don’t think this one is a rosary-like thing though it might be — I think it’s just the sort of tassel decoration you’ll find on saddle-bags, or decorating a camel or a car in Afghanistan.
The other two, however, seem clearly religious, both of them are shots of the cars in which American counter-terrorist folks would have gone to work during their efforts to track down bin Laden — and I find it significant that one features a (Christian) cross while the other very likely shows (Muslim) prayer-beads.
I say “very likely” because the beads could be (secular, Greek) worry-beads — but they look more like a tasbih to me. And why would that be interesting — why would a film-maker be interested in such a parallelism?
Besides the fact that these shots allow voice over and show us the various folk involved going to work, they specifically point up the fact that those working to defeat bin Laden were not all kuffar but included Ali Soufan of the FBI and “Roger” — the fellow described by Greg Miller in this March 2012 piece in WaPo, At CIA, a convert to Islam leads the terrorism hunt.
Am In right? I don’t know. But the subliminal message, if I am, is that the manhunt for bin Laden was indeed not a “Crusaders against Islam” affair.
May I recommend Wm. Benzon’s Beethoven’s Anvil to all who read here who have an interest in cognition and / or music?
The Department of Defense requires that the labor time and materials used in building defense items on a “time and materials” basis, which is the great majority of all such items, be documented in excruciating detail. The costs of doing this are themselves allowed as expenses, so that the government ultimately pays for the costs of this proof. Therefore, when lurid accounts of $600 hammers procured by the Pentagon surface in the press, what is actually happening is a hammer whose functional equivalent might cost $20 in a hardware store is purchased in the Pentagon system, the actual time and materials cost of the hammer might be $60, with an additional $540 in documentation costs to ensure that the government is not being over¬charged for the item.
I admit, I am not Kafka.
But if that isn’t a snake biting its own tail arrangement, I don’t know what is.
What can I say?
Interesting, btw — I’ll bet there’s a story behind the decision to switch book covers from the one proposed earlier (at the top of the post, left) to the one the book now carries (right)!
[ by Charles Cameron -- thinking more in terms of challenge than of threat, and skipping via Chicago Law, Everest, and Handel's Messiah to a Venn diagram of the workings of conscience ]
Well, I don’t always read the Chicago Law Review cover to cover, or even at all to be honest — but I confess I did like this opening paragraph from George Loewenstein† & Ted O’Donoghue†† (love those daggers after your names, guys):
If you ever have the misfortune to be interrogated, and the experience resembles its depiction in movies, it is likely that your interrogator will inform you that “we can do this the easy way or the hard way.” The interrogator is telling you, with an economy of words, that you are going to spill the beans; the only question is whether you will also get tortured — which is the hard way. In this Essay, we argue that much consumption follows a similar pattern, except that the torturer is oneself.
Here’s the easy vs hard contrast I was thinking about as I googled my way to the Law Review — as you’ll see, it has nothing to do with interrogation:
It was the final obstacle, the 40 feet of technical climbing up a near vertical rock face that pushed Sir Edmund Hillary to the limit. Once climbed, the way to the summit of Mount Everest lay open.
Now, almost exactly 60 years after the New Zealander and his rope-mate, Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, stood on the highest point in the planet, a new plan has been mooted to install a ladder on the famous Hillary Step, as the crucial pitch at nearly 29,000ft has been known since it was first ascended. The aim is to ease congestion.
That’s what the upper panel, above, is all about — and I think it contrasts nicely with the bottom panel, which shows a rurp. Should you need one, you can obtain your own Black Diamond rurp here.
Rurps are awesome. Here are two descriptions of them, both taken from the mountaineering literature, and neither one of them focusing in too closely on the poetry of the name…
It was about the size of a postage stamp. The business end was the thickness of a knife blade and penetrated only a quarter-inch into the rock. With several of these Realized Ultimate Reality Pitons, or rurps, Chouinard and Frost made the crux pitch on Kat Pinnacle (A4). It was the most difficult aid climb in North America.
Chouinard named this postage-stamp-sized thing the realized ultimate reality piton (RURP) because if you willingly and literally hang your life on that quarter-inch of steel, you’re liable to realize, well, ultimate reality.
Zen — yours for $15 and exemplary courage.
Here’s my question: should we make the hard way easier?
When is that a kindness, and when is it foolish?
In its own way, of course, a rurp is an assist — it makes the hard way a tad easier for the serious climber.
As indeed would the proposed “ladder” on Everest: here’s why it might be not-such-a-bad idea:
This year, 520 climbers have reached the summit of Everest. On 19 May, around 150 climbed the last 3,000ft of the peak from Camp IV within hours of each other, causing lengthy delays as mountaineers queued to descend or ascend harder sections.
“Most of the traffic jams are at the Hillary Step because only one person can go up or down. If you have people waiting two, three or even four hours that means lots of exposure [to risk]. To make the climbing easier, that would be wrong. But this is a safety feature,” said Sherpa…
Besides, the idea is to set it up as a one-way street…
Frits Vrijlandt, the president of the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (UIAA), said the ladder could be a solution to the increasing numbers of climbers on the mountain.
“It’s for the way down, so it won’t change the climb,” Vrijlandt told the Guardian.
Ah, but then there’s human nature to consider:
It is unlikely, however, that tired ascending climbers close to their ultimate goal will spurn such an obvious aid at such an altitude.
Shouldn’t we just level the top off, as Handel and Isaiah 4.4 suggest, and as we’re doing in the Appalachians?
A little mountaintop removal mining, a helipad, and voilà — even I could make it to the summit!
But to return to Loewenstein† & O’Donoghue†† — their paper’s full title was “We Can Do This the Easy Way or the Hard Way”: Negative Emotions, Self-Regulation, and the Law — how can a theologian such as myself resist a diagram such as this?
[ by Charles Cameron -- with Wagner and Abu Dujana as examples, the cognitive sting here is in the tail -- the power of a double image to engage both emotion and insight ]
Love and death.
The human mind thinks in parallelisms and oppositions.
My lords, if you would hear a high tale of love and of death, here is that of Tristan and Queen Iseult; how to their full joy, but to their sorrow also, they loved each other, and how at last they died of that love together upon one day; she by him and he by her.
The name libido can again be used to denote the manifestations of the power of Eros in contradistinction to the energy of the death instinct.
and in Wagner’s Liebestod — by way of returning to Tristan and Iseult:
Likewise, there’s a parallelism between jihad by pen (jihad bil qalam) and by sword (jihad bil saif) — shown in Abu Dujana al-Khurasani‘s move from writing on the forums to martyrdom in Khost — which al-Awlaki phrases in terms of ink and blood in eulogizing Sayyid Qutb in Constants on the Path of Jihad:
We see that in our contemporary times with people like Syed Qutb. He wrote with ink and his own blood. People like Shaykh Abdullah Azzam and Shaykh Yusuf al ‘Uyayree. They wrote amazing books, and after they died it was as if Allah made their soul enter their words to make it alive; it gives their words a new life
and which appears, contrariwise, in the hadith — considered weak by some and cherished by others:
The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of a martyr
Which brings me to my own parallelism of the day — a parallelism between two uses of graphical similarities, to convey powerful messages:
The upper panel shows a Yardley‘s lipstick ad that I must have seen forty years ago on the London Underground — it stunned me then, and it stuns me today to have rediscovered it on the net — which I have long thought of as a brilliant illustration of “rhyme” in images.
And the lower panel? It’s the parallelism between jihad bil qalam with jihad bil saif, extended into the cyber realm. Again, a powerful image, because when two items “rhyme” in some way that’a apparent to us, there’s an instinctive summoning of all that they mean to us close to the surface of consciousness, and other aspects of their relatedness can then become clear to us in a flash of insight.
Here’s the full Yardley’s ad, still very much as I remember it from so long ago:
Zenpundit is a blog dedicated to exploring the intersections of foreign policy, history, military theory, national security,strategic thinking, futurism, cognition and a number of other esoteric pursuits.