Allegri‘s Miserere was supposedly to be sung only under Michaelangelo‘s Sistine Chapel ceiling, but young Mozart heard it and had it by heart, later writing out the (forbidden) parts from memory — and here it is, gloriously sung by the Ensemble William Byrd. Catch your breath at the piercing beauty of certain moments in that astonishing high treble line…
For those whose Sundays offer them that joyful liberty other days seldom afford us, and who may feel inclined to dig deeper, here is Harry Christophers, with the able help of The Sixteen, telling us the story of this glorious work in further detail…
[ by Charles Cameron -- some background and pointers, a glimpse of how Eastern-rite Christians feel about their icons, some Einstein, & some implications re my games ]
I have to admit I was startled by the sheer power — visual and musical — of the ritual depicted below, performed daily at 6am, of the unveiling of the statue of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa, Poland:
Here’s the commentary that accompanies that video on YouTube — scholarly accuracy not guaranteed:
The shrine of Czestochowa is found in the heart of Poland. A highlight of Marian devotion, it attracts four to five million pilgrims each year from 80 countries worldwide. The icon of the Black Madonna and Child goes back to medieval tradition. According to historians, the painting follows the model of Byzantine iconography: it is an “Odigitria” icon, that is to say, the image of “one that points out and guides all along the path”. A legend attributes the creation of this painting to St. Luke, who was a contemporary of Mary, and so could reproduce her true image.
In 1382 the icon was brought to the hill of Jasna Gora, which means “Bright Mountain” in Polish and overlooks Czestochowa. At Prince Wladyslaw of Opole’s initiative, a hilltop monastery was built for the Pauline monks. The Child’s face is turned towards the pilgrim. But Her gaze is elsewhere, as if looking into the distance, beyond time and space. Both the Mother and the Son seemed immersed in thought, yielding an aura of wisdom. The brown color of their skin contrasts with the bright surroundings. Mary shows the Child Jesus to the pilgrim, and the Christ Child holds a book in one hand, and with the other gives a simple yet noble gesture of blessing.
In every moment of difficulty of Poland, the population has huddled around the Black Madonna of Czestochowa and the child Jesus, this merely increases the influx of pilgrims. Even today, tens of thousands of people walk to the shrine each summer. The image is dark .. made even darker by the smoke of candles that continuously burn before the icon. Karol Wojtyla himself visited frequently as a pilgrimage to the shrine, especially in 1936, along with many other university students who pledged to build a new Poland with the help of the Virgin.
Prayer: “Our Lady of Czestochowa, Mother of God and our Mother, pray for us. Our Lady of Czestochowa, Mother of those who place their hope in Divine Providence, pray for us. Our Lady of Czestochowa, Mother of those who are deceived, pray for us. Our Lady of Czestochowa, Mother of those who are betrayed, pray for us. Our Lady of Czestochowa, Mother of those who are imprisoned, pray for us. Our Lady of Czestochowa, Mother of those who suffer from cold, pray for us. Our Lady of Czestochowa, Mother of those who are afraid, pray for us. Our Lady of Czestochowa, Poland Mother of the suffering, pray for us. Our Lady of Czestochowa, Poland Mother of the faithful, pray for us. Pray for us, Our Lady of Czestochowa, That we may be worthy of the promises of Christ.”
There are many examples of Black Madonna figures — Jungian analyst Ean Begg enumerated almost 500 of them across Europe in his book on the topic in 1985 (revised, 2006), and they have been of considerable interest (among others) to Begg and other analytical psychologists in the tradition of Carl Jung and James Hillman — and an extensive Annotated Bibliography for Books on Black Madonnas exists.
Jung made a speciality of the murky regions of the psyche where imagery and imagination prevail over verbalism and ratiocination — the region in which Coleridge located the “hooks and eyes of memory” and from which Einstein‘s thoughts originated, as he noted in his celebrated letter to Jacques Hadamard.
Might as well take Einstein seriously on this matter:
The words or the language, as they are written or spoken, do not seem to play any role in my mechanism of thought. The psychical entities which seem to serve as elements in thought are certain signs and more or less clear images which can be “voluntarily” reproduced and combined. There is, of course, a certain connection between those elements and relevant logical concepts. It is also clear that the desire to arrive finally at logically connected concepts is the emotional basis of this rather vague play with the above mentioned elements. But taken from a psychological viewpoint, this combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought – before there is any connection with logical construction in words or other kinds of sign, which can be communicated to others.
The above mentioned elements are, in my case, of visual and some of muscular type. Conventional words or other signs have to be sought for laboriously only in a secondary stage, when the mentioned associative play is sufficiently established and can be reproduced at will.
According to what has been said, the play with the mentioned elements is aimed to be analogous to certain logical connections one is searching for.
How many of our analysts are deeply versed in “this combinatory play” of images and kinesthetic experiences, below the threshold of conscious thought — and scholarship?
“Combinatory play” — “the essential feature in productive thought” — “analogous to certain logical connections one is searching for” — does any of that remind me of those games I was describing just yesterday, using graphs as game-boards [1, 2]?
Ritual, dream, music, myth, play — these are the places where we most richly encounter our own deepest insights and creative possibilities. Religion, at times, captures and holds these themes with a psychological intensity that it is unwise to overlook.
The Black Madonna — in Poland, in Ukraine, in legend and in the hearts of people — is one of those themes.
Director / Actor Jean Renoir as Octave in Rules of the Game
Let me dive directly in at the deep end.
If, as Keith Oatley suggests, theatre is “simulation that runs on minds“, what does that tell us about actors (as compared with the rest of the population) as experienced simmers of complex realities, potential scenario planners?
Where does that leave Ronald Reagan vis-a-vis Margaret Thatcher? What about directors vs actors? What of Jean Renoir (depicted above)? Or Clint Eastwood, actor, director — and one time Mayor of Carmel, CA?
On another tack:
In one of my all-time favorite quotations — because it covers so much ground, aptly, from Middle Eastern politics to JS Bach — the music critic and pianist (and yes, Palestinian, and other things as well) Edward Said once wrote:
When you think about it, when you think about Jew and Palestinian not separately, but as part of a symphony, there is something magnificently imposing about it. A very rich, also very tragic, also in many ways desperate history of extremes — opposites in the Hegelian sense — that is yet to receive its due. So what you are faced with is a kind of sublime grandeur of a series of tragedies, of losses, of sacrifices, of pain that would take the brain of a Bach to figure out. It would require the imagination of someone like Edmund Burke to fathom.
If contrapuntal composers and conductors can hear, feel the conflicts between, and at times, at least for a while, balance and resolve them, what then might Bach be able to teach our analysts, policy and policy makers?
And finally, to quote Cornelius Castoriadis:
Philosophers almost always start by saying: “I want to see what being is, what reality is. Now, here is a table. What does this table show to me as characteristic of a real being?” No philosopher ever started by saying: “I want to see what being is, what reality is. Now, here is my memory of my dream of last night. What does this show to me as characteristic of a real being?” No philosopher ever starts by saying “Let the Mozart’s Requiem be a paradigm of being, let us start from that.” Why could we not start by positing a dream, a poem, a symphony as paradigmatic of the fullness of being and by seeing in the physical world a deficient mode of being, instead of looking at things the other way round, instead of seeing in the imaginary — that is, human — mode of existence, a deficient or secondary mode of being?
What then could we learn from Mozart (and Bach, and Shakespeare, Said and Renoir) about the better understanding of our present mode of existance?
I am suggesting that there is in fact such a thing as genius, that it is a “still, small voice” available to any who care to listen — and that we might be wise to center our educational ideas around its care and feeding…
[ by Charles Cameron -- a minor contribution to the discussion about STEM-to-stern education ]
Adm Grace Murray Hopper
I really don’t want to put too much weight on this — for one thing, John Boyd was, if Wiki is not mistaken, the possessor of a Batchelor’s in Industrial Engineering from Georgia Tech — but I do think it’s a bit foolish for the Navy to put most all of its eggs in the engineering basket.
To me, diversity is more than gender, race, religion and sexual orientation; it also includes the intellectual background each officer brings to the force. Starting in 2014, however, the vast majority of all NROTC graduates will be STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) majors with minimal studies in humanities. Our Navy is about to go through unprecedented compartmentalization, but not many officers seem to realize it. [ … ]
Few metrics are considered when determining who gets an interview in the nuclear-reactor community. Most midshipmen certainly have strong grade-point averages, but the principal criterion was how they performed in calculus and physics, not their major.
This begs the question: Does the tier system produce better submariners or more proficient naval officers? If less than 35 percent of our Unrestricted Line Officers possess the unique quality of comprehensive thinking through critical reading and reflection, what will the force look like in 20 years?
These are questions to consider when discerning the benefits and disadvantages of STEM graduates. We should not forget the value of future officers developing a keen interest of foreign affairs, history or language.
:Cultural understanding, emotional intelligence and empathy are fundamental parts of good leadership, and also a part of modern naval concepts like international partnerships. They come from experience. It is my great hope, however, that I will never have to experience all of the trials and challenges my fellow sailors face in life in order to help them. What a tragic life that could be. Instead, I’d rather read my share of Shakespeare, Hemingway, or O’Brian, which might help me learn a thing or two about emotion and about the way people face different challenges in their lives, even at sea. Reading the biographies of great leaders, the histories of battles both large and small, and the classics of strategy, helps me learn from the mistakes and successes of others rather than have to learn only from my own multitude of mistakes.
Oh, and to throw some high-grade jalapeño into the stew…
The only other case in which we find a trace of engineers’ prominence outside of
Islamic violent groups is, consistently with the mindset hypothesis, among the most
extreme right-wing movements, especially in the US and in Germany, where it is all
the more striking again given the general low level of education of the members of
such groups. Here we have perhaps the only other case in which the mindset alone has
activated engineers into resorting to violent action – their absolute number is tiny, but
disproportionate relative to other types of graduates.
Last month, when Vladimir Putin ordered that the Black Madonna of Kazan, the holiest icon of the Russian Orthodox Church, be flown over the Black Sea, many believed he wished to secure blessings for the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
It was the first time the icon, or rather a copy of it, since the original was stolen and possibly destroyed in 1904, was deployed to bless a peaceful enterprise. Over the centuries, the “Black Virgin” has been taken to battlefields to bless Russian armies fighting Swedish, Polish, Turkish, Persian, French and German invaders. Stalin sent it to Stalingrad in 1943 to ensure victory over the German invaders under Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus.
With Putin’s troops in control of Crimea and threatening to move further into Ukraine, we now know that the icon was brought in to bless a military operation this time as well.
A more reliable source, especially when it comes to matters of Christian iconography, would be Peter Berger, whose 2011 article Our Lady of Kazan and American Pluralism adds valuable background to the icon, and to the sinfonia of church and state in Russia which it in some sense embodies:
The icon of Our Lady of Kazan (also known as the Black Virgin of Kazan) is one of the most famous in Russian Orthodoxy. One of the Virgin’s two feast days coincides with the Day of National Unity. This is appropriate. Kazan occupies an important place in Russian history. Its conquest and destruction in 1552 eliminated the last stronghold of Mongol power in what since then has been southern Russia. The Mongols of that region, descended from the mighty Golden Horde, had long before converted to Islam. Thus the conquest of Kazan (which was followed by a massacre of its civilian population) is also a highly symbolic marker of the conflict between Orthodox Christianity and Islam, which still reverberates today along the southern perimeter of the former Soviet Union. The association of the Virgin with national unity is symbolic as well. It evokes the so-called sinfonia—the close unity of church and state—which characterized Russia from the beginning of its national history to the Bolshevik revolution. It would be an exaggeration to say that the Putin regime has once again established Orthodoxy as the state religion, but it has come close to doing so. Thus Our Lady of Kazan again bestows legitimacy on the Russian state, including its foreign policy, which has been supported by the Patriarchate of Moscow. The state in turn has supported the policy of the Patriarchate to re-assert its authority over previously independent Russian Orthodox churches abroad.
Read the whole thing for further background…
I leave the political implications to others better suited than myself.
Many educated people have at least heard of the great struggle known as the Crimean War (1853-56), although its causes and events remain mysterious to most non-specialists. If the conflict is remembered today, it resonates through the heroic charitable efforts of Florence Nightingale and the foundation of modern nursing. Actually, that earlier war deserves to be far better known as a pivotal moment in European religious affairs. Without knowing that religious element, moreover — without a sense of its Christian background — we will miss major themes in modern global affairs, in the Middle East and beyond.
But then as Gary Sick — heh, I know, not one of Zen‘s favorite characters — says he was told by a friend in the State Department during the Iran hostage crisis:
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.