[ by Charles Cameron -- on the basis, the mathematics, the essence of conflict and resolution ]
This DoubleQuote features two great masters on duality and the coincidentia oppositorum: the upper quote is Yogi Berra at his best, a koan worthy of a discourse by John Daido Loori, Roshi, while the lower image a still from Andrei Tarkovsky‘s first feature film, Ivan’s Childhood — which I stole from the ever-bountiful Gwarlingo.
Two is one and one is all and evermore shall be so.
Two into one won’t go, they told me in my schooldays — though not with nearly as much rigor as I presume is found in this article in Physics B…
Questions of the two and the one are always of interest, because they are played out in the tensions we are faced with in daily life, and specifically in the tug of war with peace.
Thus, from my miscellaneous readings these past few days, they feature everywhere from a headline like Demonizing Edward Snowden: Which Side Are You On? in the New Yorker, who seem to feel that one should take a side, preferably the one with the least guns:
I’m with Snowden — not only for the reasons that Drake enumerated but also because of an old-fashioned and maybe naïve inkling that journalists are meant to stick up for the underdog and irritate the powerful. On its side, the Obama Administration has the courts, the intelligence services, Congress, the diplomatic service, much of the media, and most of the American public. Snowden’s got Greenwald, a woman from Wikileaks, and a dodgy travel document from Ecuador. Which side are you on?
Question: Is marking out the 15th night of Sha’ban (laylat al-nisf min sha’ban) with extra prayers and devotion sanctioned by Islam, or is doing so judged to be a reprehensible innovation (bid’ah)?
Answer: Each year, a fair amount of fussing and fighting takes place over this issue. Yet the truth of the matter is that scholars have long-held this issue to be one over which there is a valid difference of opinion. The first group considered the night to have no specific virtues over and above any other night of the year, and believed that singling the night out for extra acts of worship is unsanctioned. Another group begged to differ and held that the middle night of Sha’ban does possess special merits and should be earmarked for extra prayers and devotion.
All those who hold the shari’ah to lack nuance and variety, incidentally, would do well to note (a) that it is far from exclusively devoted to the chopping off of hands or feet, and (b) combines within itself debates worthy of the Tannaim and Amoraim, or of the medieval scholastics of the Roman church…
By way of closure, here’s the koan from Alice in Wonderland that Loori Roshi studies in his discourse:
The caterpillar said, “One side will make you grow bigger, and the other side will make you grow smaller.” “One side of what? The other side of what?” thought Alice to herself. “Of the mushroom,” said the caterpillar. Alice looked at the mushroom, trying to make out which were the two sides of it, as it was perfectly round.
If you love your enemies [Matthew 5.44], Who’s side are you on?
And here’s what the great Cardinal Nicholas Cusanus had to say about dualities and opposites in his Of the Vision of God:
I have learned that the place wherein Thou art found unveiled is girt round with the coincidence of contradictories, and this is the wall of Paradise wherein Thou dost abide
[ 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 -- prone to be wrong himself, for that matter ]
The media seems having a hard time of it. Journalists are neither all scholars of religion, nor necessarily religiously inclined, so it’s only too easy for the New York Times to get Easter wrong:
or for AP to manage the same sort of trick with Islam.
The New York Times has had time to repent of its sins, and has published a retraction that comes close enough to accuracy for my taste:
An earlier version of this article mischaracterized the Christian holiday of Easter. It is the celebration of Jesus’s resurrection from the dead, not his resurrection into heaven.
The AP needs to make a similar confession. The Hajj is not a pilgrimage directed to Muhammad’s place of birth, but to the Ka’aba — which is indeed in the city where the Prophet was born, but is believed to have been a site of pilgrimage since the time of Abraham, and to have been cleansed of idols by Muhammad and restored to its original purpose as a shrine to the one God.
And BTW, the honorific would be “Hajji” not “Hajii” — FWIW.
This is Islam 101, just as the Resurrection is Christianity 101. I’ve forgotten what the numbering system is for remedial classes, but we need them.
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