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The Barcelona Response

Monday, August 28th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — from a half-million-strong march to the hug of a victim’s father and an imam, Barcelona and Spain repond to terror with nobility and grace ]
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Telesur‘s headline read Nearly 500,000 March for Peace in Barcelona, and their subhead:

Marchers, on Saturday, displayed signs and banners with various slogans. Some read, “No to Islamophobia,” “The best response: Peace,” and “I’m not afraid.”

The march:

A makeshift shrine to those killed in the attack:

A monarch visits the survivors of terror:

NPR reports on the celebration of Mass in La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona:

Mass Held In Barcelona To Honor Victims Of Terror Attacks

Spain’s King Felipe and Queen Letizia and other dignitaries attend a solemn Mass at Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia Basilica on Sunday for the victims of the terror attacks that killed 14 people and wounded over 120 in Barcelona, Spain.

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We remember the sacred magnificence of the ritual setting, Antonio Gaudi‘s Basilica of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, in which this Mass was offered:

And Spain’s considerable Moorish history, exemplified by the Mezquita of Cordoba:

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We witness the profound gesture of the father of the youngest victim, as reported by Daily Sabah, Europe:

Father of youngest victim of Spain attacks hugs imam in defiance of terror, Islamophobia

The father of the youngest victim of last week’s tragic terror attacks in Cambrils and Barcelona hugged a local imam in an emotional protest against terror and Islamophobia.

Xavier Martinez, who lost his three-year-old son Xavi in the attack on Las Ramblas avenue, embraced Spanish imam Driss Salym in the town of Rubi, near Barcelona on Friday. The video of the two hugging, defiantly showing unity and compassion, was widely shared on social media.

Here is the BBC’s video:

**

Oof, the imam’s tears at the end of that clip.

Many cities have shown their resilience when attacked, and we are proud of them: Barcelona best of all.

Transfiguration, Tabernacles, and Yom Kippur

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

[ By Charles Cameron — responding to Scott, Jewish & Christian holy days ]
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J Scott Shipman today sent some Zenpundit friends a post concerning The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), viewed through a “Messianic Jewish” (ie Judaism-observant Christian) lens:

As the last feast on the Sabbatical calendar, representing the final ingathering of the great harvest and the joyful celebration that will follow, the number seven is imprinted in this feast. The feast was in the seventh month, lasted for seven days, and the number of sacrifices, of which there were more than for any other festival, were divisible by seven. Little wonder that it was also called the “Feast of the Lord”.

Following closely after Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), it was a particularly joyous celebration, representing the joy of those who have been reconciled to God through the forgiveness of sin. One of the names applied to this feast was “the season of our joy.”

According to Jewish tradition the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire which was given to guide the Israelites day and night first appeared to Israel on the 15th of Tishri, the first day of the feast. Moreover, Moses is said to have come down from the mountain and announced to the people that the tabernacle of God would be pitched in the midst of their tabernacles on this same day.

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By way of response, I’d like to offer Scott and company the following post, The Transfiguration and Jewish feast days, from a liturgically traditionalist Catholic site:

I thought it might be helpful to look at today’s feast day in the light of two Jewish feasts. Many years ago, I was bowled over by Fr Jean Galot’s observation concerning St Peter’s profession of faith. He argued that if, as many scholars accepted, the transfiguration occurred during the feast of tabernacles, then the “after six days” of Matthew 17.1 would mean that the profession of faith of St Peter in Matthew 16.16 would have taken place on the Day of Atonement. This is highly significant because the Day of Atonement was the one day in the year on which the high priest solemnly pronounced the holy name YHWH in the holy of holies in the Temple. St Peter, by his confession of faith fulfils the work of the high priests, and Our Lord in His own person is the living presence the Most High.

There’s more at each site, naturally, and both Jewish and Christian traditions have their symbolisms as well as their festivals.

Greetings to all.

HipBone implications of the second shoe dropping for intel analysis

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — also, the role of the True Name in intel analysis & Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea ]
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You may know that I value the documentary film Manhunt for its lucid presentation of the process by which the finest intelligence analysts “leap” to their quarry — in which Cindy Storer notes, “not the analysts doing it, but other people who didn’t have that talent referred to it as magic”.

In my post The process of associative memory I decribe this process, which I consider the root process of true creativity:

There’s the present moment .. And there’s the memory it elicits.

Compare Michael Hayden in Manhunt, at 1.19.18:

The way it works is, information come in, you catalog it, your organize it – that little nugget there could sit fallow on your shelves for four or five years until something else comes in that’s suddenly very illuminating about something that you may have had for a very long period of time. That actually happened in the work we did to hunt for Osama bin Laden by trying to track his courier.

By way of confirmation, here is Robert Frost:

The artist must value himself as he snatches a thing from some previous order in time and space into a new order with not so much as a ligature clinging to it of the old place where it was organic.

And here’s Jeff Jones on piecing together puzzles —

Some pieces produce remarkable epiphanies. You grab the next piece, which appears to be just some chunk of grass – obviously no big deal. But wait … you discover this innocuous piece connects the windmill scene to the alligator scene! This innocent little new piece turned out to be the glue.

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My point here is that the board in my “game” of DoubleQuotes provides a matrix for eliciting and annotating such leaps between fact and memory — that’s its purpose, and that’s why I believe the practice and “playing” of DoubleQuotes is, in itself, an ideal training for the analytic mind in that otherwise elusive aptitude which Ms Storer says seenms like magic to those who do not possess it..

I believe my DoubleQuotes would be an invaluable tool for analysts in training.

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Note, however, that Jose Rodriguez, speaking immediately after Michael Hayden at 1.19.55, adds a reference to the “True Name” — accompanying screencaps included — something to which as a theologian I am naturally drawn:

It took years for the agency to recruit the human source that eventually gave us the true name. That’s why we were in the business the of condensing human intelligence because, in many cases, all these fancy gadgets and everything else won’t give you the information that you really need. A true name.

And we finally got his true name, which is whatever it is. Whatever. Arabic name, you know. But the true name – we were able to find out a lot about him. From then on, you know, the agency was able to do what it does so well. Track the guy and find him.

That too elicits memories, though in this case providing cultural context rather than actionable intelligence. It’s interesting to compare Rodriguez’ quote with the passages in which Ursula Le Guin describes the nature of magic in her book, Wizard of Earthsea:

He who would be Seamaster must know the true name of every drop of water in the sea.

and:

He saw that in this dusty and fathomless matter of learning the true name of every place, thing, and being, the power he wanted lay like a jewel at the bottom of a dry well. For magic consists in this, the true naming of a thing.

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See also:

  • Gaming the Connections: from Sherlock H to Nada B
  • Jeff Jonas, Nada Bakos, Cindy Storer and Puzzles
  • FWIW, there’s an appendix on the central spiritual significance of remembrance of the True Name in Judaism (HaShem), Christianity (Jesus Prayer), Islam (dhikr), Hinduism (nama-rupa), Buddhism (nembutsu) etc at the back of Frithjof Schuon‘s little book, The Transcendent Unity of Religions.

    On which frankly mystical note, here’s a third para from Le Guin to carry you towards Lao Tzu‘s observation that “The name that can be named is not the eternal Name” —

    It is no secret. All power is one in source and end, I think. Years and distances, stars and candles, water and wind and wizardry, the craft in a man’s hand and the wisdom in a tree’s root: they all arise together. My name, and yours, and the true name of the sun, or a spring of water, or an unborn child, all are syllables of the great word that is very slowly spoken by the shining of the stars. There is no other power. No other name.

    McMaster? McDhimmi? McSlave?

    Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

    [by Charles Cameron — whereof scholars are in disagreement, how shall generals, presidents, you, or for that matter i, be expected to get things right? ]
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    Oh, wow:

    Nah!

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    Is Westboro Baptist Church a Baptist Church?

    Is Westboro Baptist even Christian? Is the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Islamic? Islamist? Heresy? Specoifically, Khawarij?

    Surely there are senses in which the answers, both with regards to WBC and ISIS, are Yes, and senses in which the answers are No. To my way of thinking, the question of ISIS and Islam has a great deal to do with what audience a given speaker wishes to reach — and what second order consequences that speaker wishes to avoid.

    **

    But Khawarij, specifically?

    The site Millat Salaf [“Path of the Predecessors”] asks, ISIS are Khawarij or not?

    So who are the Khawarij? What are their beliefs? Are they Kuffar? Should they be killed? When should they be fought? We must compare the methodology and beliefs of the ISIS before slapping the title “Khawarij” to their backs and going all Shariah on ’em.

    Millat Salaf goes on to note some of the beliefs of the Khawarij of the time of the Prophet — jhere are three of a dozen examples:

    They Permit the Greater Khilaafah to be a man from other than Quraish, free man or a slave, arab or a non-arab, and other groups from within them do not see having a Khilaafah as important at all, rather the people should sort out their affairs for themselves, and if they feel the need for an Imaam they may choose one.

    They Abolish the ruling of stoning of the adulterer.

    Some of them deny Surat Yusuf saying that it is not befitting to have a love story in the Quran.

    On the basis of these and other significant details, and comparing them with ISIS doctrine and practice, Millat Salaf declares that the members of ISIS are not Khawarij.

    On a more general level, however, Millat Salaf described the Khawarij as both a contemporary and an end-times group:

    The Prophet (peace be upon him) said “Leave him, for he has companions, and if you compare your prayers with their prayers and your fasting with theirs, you will look down upon your prayers and fasting, in comparison to theirs. A people will come at the end of time; as if he is one of them, reciting the Qur’an without it passing beyond their throats. They will go through Islam just as the arrow goes through the target. Their distinction will be shaving. They will not cease to appear until the last of them comes with Al-Maseeh Ad-Dajjaal.” Bukhari (and An-Nisaa’i with different wording)

    In these terms, the Khawarij are more ostensiveloy (ostentatiously) pious than other Muslims, but their practice is hollow.

    So.. I mean..

    It is perfectly possible, from within the Salafi stream of Islam, to suggest as Millat Salaf does:

    we cannot agree with the claims of the FSA and their allies that the ISIS are Khawaarij

    It is also perfectly possible within that same Salafi stream to hold, as Sheikh Abu Basir al-Tartusi does, that ISIS is Khawarij and worse. From a page titled Conclusive scholarly opinions on ISIS:

    The group known as ISIS are from the fanatical Khaw?rij, rather they have surpassed the Khaw?rij in many of their characteristics and actions, combining between fanaticism, aggression, hostility and shedding inviolable blood.” He further said: “We call upon all sincere individuals who have been fooled by them while still with this misguided group to severe their ties with it and to declare their freedom from it and its actions.”

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    And what of Westboro Baptist from a Christian perspective? Christianity Today carried a piece titled The Westboro Baptist in All of Us, observing:

    It’s easy to distance ourselves from Westboro Baptist Church. They’re extremists with monstrous practices that flow from a twisted theology of a deceived people. We’re not extremists. We’d never dream of protesting the funerals of American soldiers or even conceive of picketing the funerals of Sandy Hook Elementary victims in the name of God while smugly declaring via Twitter that “God sent the shooter.” We’d never indoctrinate our children as they have and call it nurture. Between most of us and those at Westboro Baptist Church, there’s a great gulf fixed.

    But then..

    Most of us wouldn’t go to the same lengths as those at Westboro, but collectively, we have our own prejudices, rigid rules, regulations, and zealotries. These drive us to marginalize, cast aspersions upon and exclude others within our own churches, Christian organizations and institutions who so much as dare to differ, even slightly, from our own political or theological stances.

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    If Christianity is understood as the religion of love, then from a Christian perspective, WBC’s excessive and hate-fueled zeal distances them from the very Christianity they claim, and which in historical perspective gave rise to them. Mutatis mutandis, If Islam is understood as the religion of Peace, then from an Islamic perspective, ISIS’ excessive and hate-fueled zeal distances them from the very Islamic faith they claim, and which in historical perspective gave rise to them.

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    Unfortunate McMaster — caught in the crossfire between the theological snipers of Is and Isn’t.

    A real-life situation not unlike the trolley problem

    Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — a koan for our western world ]
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    This description of a patient with an aneurysm is from British neurosurgeon Henry Marsh‘s book, Do No Evil, excerpted here:

    If we did nothing the patient might eventually suffer a haemorrhage which would probably cause a catastrophic stroke or kill her. But then she might die years away from something else without the aneurysm ever having burst. She was perfectly well at the moment, the headaches for which she had had the scan were irrelevant and had got better. The aneurysm had been discovered by chance. If I operated I could cause a stroke and wreck her – the risk of that would probably be about four or ?ve per cent. So the acute risk of operating was roughly similar to the life­time risk of doing nothing. Yet if we did nothing she would have to live with the knowledge that the aneurysm was sitting there in her brain and might kill her any moment.

    **


    The trolley problem: should you pull the lever to divert the runaway trolley onto the side track?

    **

    What would Jesus do?

  • neurosurgery?
  • trolley?
  • What would Bodhidharma do?
    What would Solomon do?
    Can we really transport ourselves that far back in time and that far across in culture?
    What would the outcome be if Somerset Maugham were telling this tale?
    What would you do?

    I am so thankful I am not a neurosurgeon.

    Zen (ie dhyana, ch’an, not Mark!) is supposed, somehow — via koan practice — to prepare you for situations like the neurosurgical one described above.

    That brings salvation vividly into the here and now.


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