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An Invitation to the Church of the Open Question

Saturday, June 23rd, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — announcing a new blog for matters quasi-religious, poetical ]
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The Church of the Open Question is the name of my church.

I have held this domain name, churchoftheopenquestion.com, for some years now, and a blog-church by that name should be coming online shortly — this is its first announcement.

My church bears that name because it expressly questions dogmatic formulations, while encourageing depthful exploration of the possible resonances of dogma that might go missing if all such formulations are dismissed out of hand.

Push open a question, leave it open, and what you have is possibilities.

The marvelous, beautiful, well-spoken Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel has titled her book on Tibetan Madhyamaka philosophy, The Power of an Open Question: The Buddha’s Path to Freedom, and I find myself to have come by a natural unfolding to a position very sympathetic to that which she has attained by the disciplined enterprise of Madhyamaka Buddhism under the tutelage of her husband, Lama Dzigar KongtrĆ¼l — a delightful homecoming for me.

I view my church — and the swing-doors that are its central feature — as offering a place where, for instance, Catholics who are leaving Catholicism may find certain doctrines illuminated as imaginative or poetic vehicles for wonder, which they can then carrry with them as spiritual values in an overwhelmingly secular and monteized societty, while those approaching the Church from outside it may find means of delighting in poetic or imaginative readings of texts that, stated in plain prose as definitive beliefs, are difficult indeed to swallow.

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As an example, here’s a poem I wrote in this spirit, exploring the central symbolism of thr Christmas story..

Christmas for Buddhists

Suppose the full radiance inhabiting all things,
on the specific occasion we now celebrate,
finding itself as fond of narrative as of symmetry,
of emptiness as of fullness, decided
for the sake of teaching its selves a thing
or eight, to take on a newborn form,
while letting its nature shine forth visible
to its mum, sundry animals, three visiting kings

and an assortment of invisible winged beings —
what better place than the animal stall
outside an inn, where no room was available
for a pregnant visitor to give birth, could
that master of story, Original Face, choose,
to tell humanity: humility is the necessary virtue?

or it’s close cousin, exploring the Mass:

To suppose the Eucharist

Suppose the hypothetical all of everything
in unspooling itself chose to exhibit itself in
one human, suppose further all the sun’s
light were caught in wheat and baked into
bread, all the world’s pains and passions
crushed like grapes into wine, suppose the
one person took loaf and cup and with
word and gesture raised them blood, body

of his own self to be supped and sipped,
thus woven into his one flesh, blood, mind —
just when his flesh is torn, blood spills —
suppose then that his mind to love were to
entrain this new body of many bodies to
heal with all radiance each instance of pain..

That one certainly owes something to Teilhard de Chardin, as the first may to Thomas Merton — this, then, will be above all a gathering or congregation of friends..

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I’m encouraged by Dr Jordan Peterson‘s claim that he “wanted to establish a church .. in which he would deliver sermons every Sunday” — although in my own case, every now and then will have to substitute for every Sunday.

I have a first sermon lined up, too, in which I want to ask “What did Mozart see as Christ‘s life” when chosing the words “Ave verum corpus natum” to set to some of his most wondrous music? The answer’s a bit surprising, and suggestive of the many devotional moods the contemplation of that life can give rise to..

Coming shortly.. Clapton, too. And Anthony Bourdain.

Puppetry cascades, or “art is theft”

Friday, June 22nd, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — and if you experience vertigo reading any of these cascades, feel free to hang in there vertiginously — or let go ]
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Alright, here’s a DoubleQuote in images:

I don’t believe there’s a direct borrowing (aka plagiarism, theft) here, but both images rely on a shared puppet cascades convention.

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It’s been a bit of a yawn to say art is theft — at least since a few borrowings past Picasso, and maybe before him — what makes this pair of puppet cascades interesting is:

First, that each depicts a portion of a cascade of puppets — in the earlier, My Fair Lady version, Bernard Shaw puppeting Henry Higgins puppeting Eliza Dolittle, while the recent New Yorker graphic might as well be X (unshown) puppeting Steve Bannon puppeting Trump with Jeff Sessions and Scott Pruitt, maybe.

Second, note the X (Bernard Shaw) in the later version, and then ponder the idea that cascades may have a source, or may continue backwards ad infinitum, but Someone or Thing implicitly or explicitly needs to fill that X space. In the earlier version, Bernard Shaw does it, but that only begs the question, is Something puppeting Bernard Shaw? Deity, perhaps, or Muse?

And in the contemmporary version, where the upper puppeteer is cut off from vision, They‘s a good guess for the X Who‘s puppeting the Bannon figure, because Bannon, They, and Puppetry are all widely associated with conspiracy theory. Oh, and think, X-Files!

Hey, in reality Lerner and Lowe were making musical out of Shaw‘s theatrical Pygmalion out of Gilbert and Sullivan — and the cascade theft goes on and on, back into the mists and myths of antiquity..

The actual figures in the New Yorker cascade are X, Lord Bell (representing Bell Pottinger, the PR firm), and, below, the brothers Atul, Ajay, and Tony Gupta. The article itself, The Reputation-Laundering Firm That Ruined Its Own Reputation, is well worth a read. And look at the illustrations careful documentation of the ownership-lineages it’s pilfering from:

Illustration by Ben Jones; photographs by (clockwise from top): David M. Benett / Getty; Martin Rhodes / Gallo Images / Business Day / Getty; Foto24 / Gallo Images / Getty; David M. Benett / Bell Pottinger / Getty

**

Property is theft, now — that’s Proudhon.

Three books in one day — splendid!!

Friday, June 22nd, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — Imagination, Joan of Arc, and Coronation ]
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Oh, the other day was a great day, bringing me three terrific books:

  • Henry Corbin, Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn Arabi: Alone with the Alone
  • Marina Warner, Joan of Arc: the Image of Female Heroism
  • Matthias Range, Music and Ceremonial at British Coronations: From James I to Elizabeth II
  • The Corbin is simply the most dedicated book on spirituality I would take with me if I could, and which I’d dearly love to crack. Marina Warner was a stellar presence in the cofe I frequented in Little Clarendon Street in Oxford, and hijacked me once to help paint her new digs. And the Range? It’s a book I’ve long wished to read and finally, here it is.

    Quite a trio!

    Eyes everywhere and the World Cup

    Friday, June 22nd, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — just keeping a paranoid eye on an old and subtle game.. ]
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    You know I’m always looking out for examples of the Matryoshka doll effect, where a large doll holds smaller, nested “child” dolls, one within the other in a diminishing series — theoretically ad infinitum — and more generally of macro-micro, as a pattern always worth pondering?

    Well, it’s World Cup time, and The Atlantic just posted a fine run of photos of soccer pitches from around the world — one of which caught my eye:

    That’s just a detail, showing you the larger radomes of the Bundesnachrichtendienst / German Intel Service, and smaller versions of the same used to play soccer and — who knows? — pick up signals of my and your interactions around the world and off into near space too perhaps.. Japanese reports of moon tastings, my own poems, your moon-bounced messages..

    Here, for your enjoyment, is the whole picture:


    Sean Gallup / Getty

    People play football at a field next to radomes of the digital communications listening station of the Bundesnachrichtendienst, the German intelligence agency, on June 2, 2015, in Bad Aibling, Germany.

    Photographer Sean Gallup certainly has a strong eye for macro-micro, too.

    **

    When I was first introduced to NSA by somone who knew it better at least than I did after dipping into James Bamford, he explained:

    NSA > National Security Agency > No Such Agency > “Nonesuch to you, Mister”

    I’m grateful Nonesuch wasn’t named the Bundesnachrichtendienst!

    See the rest of The Atlantic‘s soccer fields around the world, including this image:


    RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images)

    The caption here reads:

    Ex-FARC rebels play football in the unarmed zone known as Territorial Spaces for Training and Reincorporation (ETCR in Spanish) “Antonio Narino”, where former guerrilla fighters receive training to facilitate their development, reconciliation and reincorporation to civilian life, in Icononzo, Tolima Department, Colombia, on June 12, 2018

    **

    Next up in an expanding line of intelligent footballs, way out past our friendly moon: the Dyson sphere and matroshka brain architecture ..

    Solstice greetings

    Friday, June 22nd, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — season’s greetings on the northern hemisphere’s longest day .. ]
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    While the last rays of today’s sun are sinking off the coast of California to the west of me, here’s the crucial shot of that same sun’s dawn rays rising at Stonehenge, on the Salisbury Plain, UK:

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    Behind the thin crust of modernity our Neolithic past remains, and behind the Great Britain of Empire, the Industrial Revolution and Blake‘s Satanic Mills, stands Albion — the UK’s spiritual potential and true form. Stonehenge is thus the spiritual heart beating behind all the rubble that remains as Brexit crumbles both Britain and itself into nonsense, failure and ruin..

    On this auspicious, longest day, we wish Zenpundit readers and our world renewed good fortune this difficult year..


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