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Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) et sequentes

Sunday, April 15th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — luther et seq., where the sequentes are james comey and rod rosenstein ]
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Martin Luther, he who nailed his theses to the door, said it first: Here I stand.

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Kudos to Julia Ainsley for spotting the twin occurrences of the Martin Luther quote on the pages and lips of James Comey and Rod Rosenstein respectively:

Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein tells confidants he is prepared to be fired:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has struck a stoic and righteous tone in private conversations he has had this week about the fate of his job as President Donald Trump has launched public criticism against him and considered firing him, according to three sources who have spoken to Rosenstein.

In those conversations, he has repeated the phrase, “Here I stand,” a reference to Martin Luther’s famous quote, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” Coincidentally, former FBI Director James Comey, whom Rosenstein fired, repeated the same phrase to President George W. Bush in a conversation that has been widely reported and that Comey describes in his forthcoming book.

To which I can only reply “A mighty fortress is our God”.

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If Martin Luther is able to take so firm a stand for his beliefs, it is only because his God is so mighty a fortress protecting him, as he vociferously declared in this hymn — for which he composed both the words and the melody:

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That’s a bit blunt to be sure, but the pious Lutheran JS Bach has much of the true spirit of the thing in this chorale rendering of Luther’s hymn:

Silence as protest and gift

Friday, April 13th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — on the frayed edges of music ]
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Silence is the exception rather than the rule — so much so that it’s notable.

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The bells of York Minster were silenced for a year in protest at the sacking of, as the Guardian eruditely puts it, “30 campanologists”. Bell-ringing is an ancient craft in the UK, mathematical in its combinatoric precision, glorious in its language and literature. Spanning the arts and sciences, it is thus a bridge between the two sides of that academic and popular schism or chasm which CP Snow famously described in his book, The Two Cultures.

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Mathematics and combinatorics:

The ringing of a peal or complete sequence of bells is a highly mathematized form of music, and the order in which the bells are to be rung — the method — can therefore be transcribed in graphical form:

Oh, the beauty in so musical a score.

I dare not show you a full extent — we might run out of pixels!

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Language and literature:

Truth (and the detested false), Grandsires, Triple Bob Major, oh, and Spitalfields Festival Treble Bob, and how could one forget Affpuddle Treble Bob Major..

Dorothy Sayers‘ novel The Nine Tailors has nothing to do with bespoke and everything to do with murder most fouldeath and detection:

In some parishes in England the centuries-old tradition of announcing a death on a church bell is upheld. In a small village most people would be aware of who was ill, and so broadcasting the age and sex of the deceased would identify them. To this end the death was announced by telling (i.e. single blows with the bell down) the sex and then striking off the years. Three blows meant a child, twice three a woman and thrice three a man. After a pause the years were counted out at approximately half-minute intervals. The word teller in some dialects becomes tailor, hence the old saying “Nine tailors maketh a man”.

The bell used in the novel for the announcement is the largest (tenor) bell, which is dedicated to St. Paul. Hence “teller Paul” or in dialect “tailor Paul”. Sayers is here acknowledging the assistance of Paul Taylor of Taylor’s bell foundry in Loughborough, England who provided her with detailed information on all aspects of change-ringing.

Scientific American adds other details, describing:

another time-honored tradition of bells, which frequently have nicknames and inscriptions, as if they were, indeed, alive.

For instance, in Sayers’ novel, the oldest bell is dubbed Batty Thomas, cast in 1380, and bears the inscription “Abbat Thomas sett mee heare + and bad mee ringe both loud and cleer.” (The oldest bell hung for change ringing that is still in use was cast in 1325; it is the fifth bell at St. Dunstan’s Church in Canterbury, Kent.)

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Argh, the lockout:

Enough of the beauty of the English bells. From the Guardian piece referenced in the upper panel, above:

But simmering tensions between the minster’s governing body, the Chapter of York, and the ringers came to a head last October when the band was summarily dismissed and locked out of the 15th-century cathedral’s bell tower.

The silencing of the York Minster peal is thus a case of a sacred sound being stilled by a secular — or at least unionized — silence.

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How opposite, and apposite, then, is the ringing silence offered by the youthful Quakers as a podcast in the second Guardian piece referenced (lower panel, above):

It’s not the most obvious subject for a podcast, but a group of young Quakers in Nottingham have recorded their 30-minute silent meeting so as to share their “oasis of calm” with the world.

In an episode of the monthly Young Quaker Podcast, called the Silence Special, you can hear a clock ticking, pages being turned and the rain falling, as the group meets and sits in silence at the Friend’s Meeting House in Nottingham. [ .. ]

The idea for the silent podcast first came from Tim Gee, a Quaker living in London, who was inspired by the BBC’s season of “slow” radio, which treated audiences to – among other things – the sounds of birds singing, mountain climbing and monks chatting.

Gee said he had wanted to “share a small oasis of calm, and a way to provide a moment of stillness, for people on the move”.

Jessica Hubbard-Bailey, 25, from the Nottingham Young Quakers, who recorded the podcast, said they had jumped at the opportunity to broadcast something “immersive and unusual”. She added: “We have very different ways of worship to most people of faith and we thought this was a really unique opportunity to give people a little slice of what the Quakers do. Also, we are really good at being quiet because we’ve made a practice of it and I think that is of value. These days everyone is so busy, everyone is working all the time, so it’s really valuable to have the opportunity to sit down once a week and just be quiet and listen.”

Listen? Listen to the birds, to the chattering monks — or to the still, small voice?

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Listen, in any case, to the sound of silence:

Just listen!

For Jim Gant, On the Resurrection, 01

Monday, April 9th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron –with breath, thinking this through ]
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It seems to me that there are two chewable questions in all seriousness:

Does God Exist?

To which it seems to me that the only answer would be something along the line of this:

A roaring silence, in other words, which somehow worked itself out like this in the mind of one Franz Liszt — and he must have been pretty shaken by the end of it..

For the record, it’s my sense that if St Gregory of Nyssa had had a taste for Liszt and access to YouTube, he might have said much the same.. One cannot predicate existence of God, but one can experience revelation, eh?

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Question #2 is the real shaker, though..

Did the Resurrection really happen?

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Conflict resolution — contrapuntal humor

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — some late night foolishness, with a plea for forgiveness ]
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As you know, I’m interested in conflict in need of resolution and the means of achieving it — and I’m also of the opinion that it’s essential for all voices to the situation to be heard — hence the need for a method of graphically mapping contending voices in a verbal equivalent to polyphonic (many voiced, Palestrina, Giovanni Pierluigi da, eg) counterpoint (see especially Bach, JS).

Here’s a fairly absurd take on at least some parts of that er, equation:

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I was pointed to this video by PTheWeek. What caught my eye was their headline:

How could I resist?

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Please forgive us all. As I said, these things took place late at night..

Foolishness, Martin Luther King Jr and the Resurrection

Sunday, April 1st, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — from MLK via St Basil the Great to Mullah Nasruddin ]
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Three lines from the Apostles Creed locate the Resurrection between a descent into hell and an ascent into heaven. These lines are worth pondering in concert:

He descended into hell;
on the third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,

In what world of three worlds are these three utterances, so poetically juxtaposed, credible as declarative propositions?

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He is risen!

Bach’s Easter Oratorio, with Ton Koopman and the Amsterdam Baroque Choir and Orchestra:

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Martin Luther King Jr gently lays out the liberal / modernist perspective on the Resurrection:

The last doctrine in our discussion deals with the resurrection story. This doctrine, upon which the Easter Faith rests, symbolizes the ultimate Christian conviction: that Christ conquered death. From a literary, historical, and philosophical point of view this doctrine raises many questions. In fact the external evidence for the authenticity of this doctrine is found wanting. But here again the external evidence is not the most important thing, for it in itself fails to tell us precisely the thing we most want to know: What experiences of early Christians lead to the formulation of the doctrine?

The root of our inquiry is found in the fact that the early Christians had lived with Jesus. They had been captivated by the magnetic power of his personality. This basic experience led to the faith that he could never die. And so in the pre-scientific thought pattern of the first century, this inner faith took outward form. But it must be remembered that before the doctrine was formulated or the event recorded, the early Christians had had a lasting experience with the Christ. They had come to see that the essential note in the Fourth Gospel is the ultimate force in Christianity: The living, deathless person of Christ. They expressed this in terms of the outward, but it was an inner experience that lead to its expression.

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The Jesuit priest Fr James Schall defends that outward interpretation, as found in the Apostles and Nicene Creeds, taken for dogmatic purposes as declarations of fact:

To the wise Greeks, as St. Paul tells us, the whole aura around Christ’s death and resurrection seemed to be “foolishness.” And it is foolishness unless considerable evidence is found showing that something astonishing was in fact going on. This evidence is basically the testimony of the women and men who attested to the fact that Christ did rise again. This is the same Christ whose death on the Cross they had witnessed a few days before.

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To take these declarations as reporting historical fact, it may help to have an upside-down worldview — that of the wisdom of the fool. Appropriately, this year Easter is celebrated on April Fools Day. Indeed, Fr Schall opens his piece from which I quoted above by noting that fact, then moves to a discussion of Christ himself as a Fool:

A tradition exists about “Christ the Fool.” It probably originates from when Pilate sent Christ to see Herod. Herod was anxious to see him. See him do what? See him perform. He had heard much about this man and his miracles. So naturally the king wanted to see what Christ could do; he wanted a private show to entertain the court. In response, Christ was simply silent.

Christ, we might say, played the naïf for Herod.

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Scripture declares how a naturalistic worldview perceives the eruption of God’s wisdom into this world as folly, and vice versa:

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.

while:

the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

and, in an almost tongue-twisting formulation:

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

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All of which leads Christians to imitate the foolishness of Christ:

We are fools for Christ’s sake

That too is St Paul, writing of himself and his contemporaries, followers of the pattern set by Christ — and his message has echoed down the centuries among those who wish to imitate that pattern closely:

One form of the ascetic Christian life is called foolishness for the sake of Christ. The fool-for-Christ set for himself the task of battling within himself the root of all sin, pride. In order to accomplish this he took on an unusual style of life, appearing as someone bereft of his mental faculties, thus bringing upon himself the ridicule of others. In addition he exposed the evil in the world through metaphorical and symbolic words and actions. He took this ascetic endeavor upon himself in order to humble himself and to also more effectively influence others, since most people respond to the usual ordinary sermon with indifference.

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In the Orthodox tradition — in which, this year, Easter and the Resurrection will be celebrated next Sunday — the foolishness of saints is a recurrent story. As I noted, quoting from the National Catholic Register in an earlier post:

In Russian history the greatest of the “holy fools” was Basil the Blessed, a man so revered that the famous Cathedral in Moscow’s Red Square next to the Kremlin was named in his honor. Basil walked through Moscow wearing nothing more than a long beard. He threw rocks at wealthy people’s houses and stole from dishonest traders in Red Square.

Few doubted Basil’s holiness. Tsar Ivan the Terrible feared no one but Basil. Basil was also given to eating meat on Good Friday. Once he went to Ivan’s palace in the Kremlin and forced the tsar to eat raw meat during the fast saying, “Why abstain from eating meat when you murder men?” Countless Russians died for much less but Ivan was afraid to let any harm come to the saintly Basil.

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I don’t suppose one could speak of left and right wing parties under the Terrible Ivan, but evcen if one could, I don’t think St Basil’s approach would fit either description — he’s acting in a manner that is plain contrary to all sane opinion — and indeed, the term “Contraries” is applied by anthropologists to trickster shamans and holy foots in many traditions. Interestingly, in Sufism the “path of blame” has at times been highly esteemed — its practitioners, like the Russian Holy Fools, draw blame on themselves to awaken those around them while subverting their own propensity to take pride in how “spiritual” they are.

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Mullah Nasruddin really didn’t want to loan his donkey to a neighbor.
My brother borrowed him yesterday and hasn’t brought him back, the Mullah said..
Just then, the donkey brayed.
Who are you going to believe, the Mullah asked hastilyy — me or a donkey?

Now, who in that little vignette is more of an ass?


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