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Of rules and regs

Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — that little free libraries are like the Sabbath, and on the close-packing of angels ]
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Let us suppose a parallel reality in which squares and circles, cubes and spheres, have wings. The nature of bureaucracy is that in the interest of packing squares and circles, cubes and spheres, it lops off their wings — convenient but inelegant, and what a waste of flight!

Example:

The Little Free Library concept is premised on the blessing of books — and the generosity of a gift economy.

Individuals put up little free libraries outside their houses, often repurposing bird feeders or mail boxes — but zoning bureaucrats not infrequently try to shut them down:

Little Free Libraries on the wrong side of the law

Crime, homelessness and crumbling infrastructure are still a problem in almost every part of America, but two cities have recently cracked down on one of the country’s biggest problems: small community libraries where residents can share books.

Officials in Los Angeles and Shreveport, La., have told the owners of homemade lending libraries that they’re in violation of city codes, and asked them to remove or relocate their small book collections.

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Scriptures:

There’s actually a Biblical injunction about this sort of thing — Mark 2.27:

The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath..

It’s a matter of priorities: zoning laws are intended to facilitate human life, not to frustrate it.

Or as Lao Tzu might say, the zoning that can be set forth in rules and regs isn’t the ideal zoning.

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Creativity & Bureaucracy, PS, NB:

I usually think of winged squares and so forth in terms of creative ideation, and how creative ideas can get the creativity clipped from them in committe — making the point that a winged square is, in an important sense, a better “translation” of a winged circle than a circle with its wings clipped will ever be.. since it captures the material / ethereal binary that’s the essence of imagining a circle with wings.

Compare Picasso‘s reported observation, “the best criticism of any work of art is another work of art.”

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Has anyone figured out the best method of close-packing angels?

Argh.

Oh, Music!

Sunday, July 9th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — music as endangered yet transcendent species ]
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The abuse:


http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/guantanamo/article160037809.html

The use:

or for that matter:

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There’s no doubt but that Arvo Pärt‘s Miserere fully comprehends the dark, dismaying aspects of contemporary life, hence the inclusion of fragments of the Dies Irae, but it comprehends the darkness in a manner that in calling for mercy transcends it, recalling the Music of the Ainur in Tolkien‘s Silmarillion — and the Prologue to John’s Gospel, offering the natural obverse to John 1.5: “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

Realpolitik as if angels were real

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — I mean, are they or aren’t they? — really? — what do you believe? ]
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St Michael, of the archangelic rank or choir

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It’s just a thought I entertain from time to time. Because if they are, if angels are real — as bookloads by the dozens, popularly read, attest — why then they may know something, and they may surely accomplish something.

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Thomas Aquinas asks and answers the Question, Whether an angel is altogether incorporeal?. Along the way, he quotes St John Damascene:

an angel is an ever movable intellectual substance.

Angels are forms of intelligence — is the Intelligence Community listening?

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When the boy’s eyes were opened, as per the prayer of Elisha (2 Kings 6:17), he saw:

and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha

and the Lord speaking to Muhammad (Qur’an 8:9):

I shall reinforce you with a thousand angels riding behind you.

Angels are perhaps force-multipliers. Is DOD interested?

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Angels may be beings of music and dance — gandharvas, apsarases — is theirs a language our intelligence recognizes?

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But I digress. Intelligence has a long history with the invisibles. Abbot Trithemius may be called first among cryptologists. Elizabeth I’s John Dee would have been at home to Bletchley Park (though Walsingham might have tossed out his amanuensis, Edward Kelley). Talmudic scholrs would do well to teach at Quantico, Jesuits at Fort Meade. Their remit, from Ephesians 6.12:

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

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An aside: in his Himalayan attempt to fathom angels, Aquinas makes an instructive statement:

Now the medium compared to one extreme appears to be the other extreme, as what is tepid compared to heat seems to be cold

Left and right, how often do we get caught in that trap in these divisive times?

Catching up with Carson

Saturday, June 17th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — always amazed when theology makes its way into politics ]
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I missed this when it first appeared, but wanted to capture it now I’ve found it (via a Lewis Black routine) —

Seems the amateur theologian Ben Carson — who relies heavily on his professional status as a neurosurgeon for credibility — thinks amateurs get the job done way better than professionals. Whether that opinion will lead to better ship-building by, eg, Hyundai, Samsung and Daewoo is another question: they may or may not take note of Biblical precedent in this matter.

Devotion, modeled in magnet and iron filings

Friday, June 16th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — science and Islam, but not the creationist, the analogivcal approach — sufism and the nature of pilgrimage ]
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I am apparenrly not alone in finding that iron filing surrounding a magnet resemble pilgrims cirucumambulating the Kaaba:

The upper photograph depicts the work of the artist Ahmed Mater. A note elsewhere on his work notes:

Ahmed Mater is a Saudi artist and qualified GP. Working in photography, calligraphy, painting, installation and video, Mater reflects his experiences as a doctor and the ways this has challenged his traditional background and beliefs, and explores wider issues about Islamic culture in an era of globalisation. In the series Magnetism, what at first appear to be pilgrims circling the Ka’ba, the sacred building at the heart of the sanctuary at Mecca, are in fact iron filings spiralling around a cube-shaped magnet. Mater refers to the spiritual force that Muslim believers feel during Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca.

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The lower photograph, portraying actual pilgrims circumambulating the Kaaba, is accompanied by the following tale of Junayd:

A man came to visit Junaid Baghdadi, whose life reflected no change, even after having performed Hajj.

Junaid asked him: “Where are you coming from?”

“Sir, I have returned after performing Hajj of the House of Allah”, was the reply.

“So, have you actually performed Hajj?”

“Yes, Sir, I have performed Hajj “, said the man.

“Did you pledge that you would give up sins when you left your home for Hajj?” asked Junaid.

“No, Sir, I never thought of that”, said the man.

“Then, in fact, you did not even step out for Hajj. While you were on the sacred journey and making halts at places during the nights, did you ever think of attaining nearness to Allah?”

“Sir, I had no such idea.”

“Then you did not at all travel to the Ka’bah, nor did ever visit it. When you put on the Ihram garments, and discarded your ordinary dress, did you make up your mind to abandon your evil ways and attitudes in life as well ?”

“No, Sir, I had no idea of that.”

“Then, you did not even don the Ihram garments!” said Junaid ruefully. Then he asked; “When you stood in the Plain of Arafat and were imploring Allah Almighty, did you have the feeling that you were standing in Divine Presence and having a vision of Him?”

“No, Sir, I had no such experience.

Junaid then became a liltle upset and asked: “Well, when you came to Muzdalifah, did you promise that you would give up vain desires of the flesh?”

“Sir, I paid no heed to this.”

“You did not then come to Muzdalifah at all.” Then he asked: 0?Tell me, did you happen to catch glimpses of Divine Beauty when youmoved round the House of Allah?”

“No, Sir, I caught no such glimpses.”

“Then, you did not move around the Ka’bah at all.” Then he said: “When you made Sa’i (running) between the Safa and the Marwa, did you realize the wisdom, significance and objective of your effort?”

“Sir, I was not at all conscious of this.”

“Then you did not make any Sa’i!” Then he asked: “When you slaughtered an animal at the place of sacrifice, did you sacrifice your selfish desires as well in the way of Allah?”

“Sir, I failed to give any attention to that!”

“Then, in fact you offered no sacrifice whatever.”

“Then when you cast stones at the Jamarahs, did you make a resolve to get rid of your evil companions and friends and desires?”

“No, Sir, I didn’t do that.”

“Then, you did not cast stones at all”, remarked Junaid regretfully, and said:

“Go back and perform Hajj once again, giving due thought and attention to all the requirements, so that your Hajj may bear some resemblance with Prophet Ibrahim’s Hajj, whose faith and sincerity has been confirmed by the Qur’an:

Ibrahim who carried out most faithfully the Commands (of his Lord).” (53:37)

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A similar point is made by an anonymous Celtic source, who admonished pilgrims in his own time and circumstance:

Coming to Rome, much labor and little profit! The King whom you seek here, unless you bring Him with you will not find Him.


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