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Shutdown plus First fruits equals two months salary, pouf!!

Friday, February 1st, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — where economics meets scripture ]
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The mundane:

Pete Nischt, 32, of Akron, Ohio, didn’t like the shutdown from the start, and now his flight from New York to Cleveland was delayed for three hours. In recent days, as he saw how people who had gone without pay for a month were suffering, he came to view the failure to pay public employees as “a breach of the social contract. Trump has been lying the whole time .?.?. and now we’re paying for it.”

That’s from How the shutdown ended: Americans just had it up to here

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The spiritual:

Okay, that’s the mundane “people who had gone without pay for a month” because of the shutdown — how about the spiritual? How about they also give God, in the person of Paula White, a month’s pay?

Eh?

And:

Oh yes, she’s an Apostle of the New Apostolic Reformation.

Paula White, who heads up the president’s evangelical advisory committee, suggested making a donation to her ministries to honor the religious principle of “first fruit,” which she said is the idea that all firsts belong to God, including the first harvest and, apparently, the first month of your salary.

In any case, the principle is simple enough:

“January is the beginning of a new year for us in the Western world. Let us give to God what belongs to him: the first hours of our day, the first month of the year, the first of our increase, the first in every area of our life. It’s devoted…. The principle of first fruits is that when you give God the first, he governs the rest and redeems in,” she said.

“When you honor this principle, it provides the foundation and structure for God’s blessings and promises in your life. It unlocks deep dimensions of spiritual truths that literally transform your life. When you apply this, everything comes in divine alignment for his plan and promises for you. When you don’t honor it, whether through ignorance or direct disobedience, there are consequences.”

But what if — because of the shutdown, you weren’t paid for a month? Maybe you’re an air traffic controller, and received a check for $0.00? Offer it up?

Pouf! cancels out Pouf! In other words, that won’t cost you anything — beyond the original suffering mentioned above..

Ouch!

The remaking of angels, their rank and sweep

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — on, i suppose, the uphill slog or seduction of genius — or a very different take on complexity? ]
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Paul Klee‘s Angelus Novus — described by the Verso writer Stuart Jeffries as “this goofy, eternally hovering angel with hair that looks like paper scrolls, aerodynamically hopeless wings and googly if rather melancholy eyes”:

was admired and bought for a thousand marks by Walter Benjamin, and moved with him from one lodging to the next until her fled Germany and the onrushing Nazis. It is also:

Benjamin’s most famous image, in the 1940 “Theses on the Philosophy of History”: the “angel of history” who is blown backward into the future by the storm of progress.

or to quote Benjamin himself:

A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.

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At a time after Darwin, Marx and Freud have dissolved the basics of fundamentalism, and before the likes of Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and the brilliant Christopher Hitchens proclaimed “the new atheism” in an easily-won contest with that same low, popular religiosity — all but ignoring the retreat of angels from Renaissance tryptich to Hallmark Card — we might do well to carry the God-NoBoDaddy debate up an octave, and consider the possibility that once angels have been more or less erased from modern western consciousness, they may, as in a palimpsest, reappear in new-old guises..

**

Principally, I think here of Rilke‘s angels in the Duino Elegies:

Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels’ hierarchies?
and even if one of them pressed me suddenly against his heart:
I would be consumed in that overwhelming existence.
For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we are still just able to endure,
and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
Every angel is terrifying.

Ah!

Rilke told one of his translators that she should not make the mistake of understanding the angel referred to in the elegies as a Christian angel. To the contrary, this angel was quite distinctly drawn from an Islamic tradition. Rilke writes that in the months before his trip to Duino, he had traveled in Spain and had been consumed with reading the Qu’ran and a book on the life of the Prophet Mohammed. It seems fairly clear that this occurred under the influence of his friend Lou Andreas-Salomé, whose husband, Friedrich Carl Andreas, was a leading scholar of Islamic culture in the Russian Empire, particularly including Naqshibandiyya.

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Let Rilke have traveled next to India or China, the apsarases and gandharvas of Hinduism and Buddhism might have affected him, with their sensuality, their song, their dance..

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But while gandharvas and apsarases capture us by their powers of seduction — in some ways like the houris of Islamic paradise — with Rilke’s angels, drawing no less on the Old Testament than on the Qur’an, our surrender is to elemental force:

I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestlers’ sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel
(who often simply declined the fight)
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.

**

Constantly greater beings, with which we may if we are spiritually fortunate, wrestle — these are Rilke‘s angels, and they fill the gap in the once-dominant Great Chain of Being paradigm, on a rung above human usualness, demanding, promising, skirmishing, delivering…

To be carried in the arms of an apsara, to be swept by the gale-force storm of an angel, these are human experiences of the transhuman kind, and we need words for them, both forgetful of any surrounding dogma and delighting in their strength as imagery — gandharvas and angels named as such, and constantly revivified by the poetic imagination.

Klee, Benjamin, Rilke, but also Jacob wrestling with — who? a man, angel, God? — and becoming IsraelGiotto, Fra Angelico, Michelangelo who wrestled form from Carrera marble, Dogen Zenji for whom mountains were the sages into whom, living among them, he blended.. Kalidasa with his yakshas in Cloud Messenger and perhaps supremely in the gandharva marriage in his Shakuntala..

Isaac becoming Israel, Shakuntala the mother of Bharata.. Of such are sacred nations born.

**

Yet this world is wide and deep, the beings above us multitudinous, and the humans touched by them more than a single mind can comprehend. And:

The problem of god is a problem in ballistics, Icarus discovered this,
that to shoot for the sun is to fall short of it, those who shoot
for beauty achieve prettiness, there is a gravity in aesthetics as there is
in physics, and theology too has its fall, the problem of god being
that the mind falls short of what is huge enough to conceive it, give
conception whatever relevant definition you choose, too vast
to think of, give birth to it — no, no, mind has sheer cliffs of fall, and
to shoot for a conception of god is full speed ahead to fall, fail ..

I bow, salute, prostrate, pranam, bow gassho.

A murmuration — not a tweet but a simurgh

Friday, January 4th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — from ornithology, via mystical poetry to the sheer joy of language ]
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Here’s a murmuration of starlings, beautifully videographed near my home town of Sacramento:

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Thousands of starlings can explode from a single tree — an impressive sight — but atill photogrphers tend to capture their images when the murmurations appear to resemble something — in this case, a bird of some sort, but not a starling..

**

**

The Simurgh:

Which brings me to the great Sufi poet Farid ud-Din Attar, whose Conference of the Birds opens with the hoopoe, wisest of birds, taelling the world’s birds in assembly that they must cross seven perilous valleys to find their true sovereign, the Simurgh . These valleys are the valleys of the Quest (Talab), of Love (Ishq), of Knowledge (Ma’refat), of Detachment (Isteghnâ), of Unity (Tawhid), of Wonderment (Hayrat), and of Poverty and Annihilation (Faqr and Fana). You can read something of the meaning of each valley in this page, or here

Some birds die simply hearing what each valley demands, others as they traverse the valleys — but finally, thirty birds survive and arrive at the Simurgh’s throne:

ust 30 birds arrive at the home of the simurgh where they realize a startling truth: they are themselves the simurgh. In fact, the word in Persian means “30 birds.” Finally, the birds understand that the Beloved is like the sun in that it can be reflected in a mirror. In other words, we all reflect God because we are God’s shadow and reverberation: nothing is separated from its creator.

Or otherwise told:

Out of thousands of birds, only thirty reach the end of the journey. When the light of lights is manifested and they are in peace, they become aware that the Simurgh is them. They begin a new life in the Simurgh and contemplate the inner world. Simurgh, it turns out, means thirty birds; but if forty or fifty had arrived, it would be the same. By annihilating themselves gloriously in the Simurgh they find themselves in joy, learn the secrets, and receive immortality. So long as you do not realize your nothingness and do not renounce your self-pride, vanity, and self-love, you will not reach the heights of immortality.

You know, there’s a parallel between the Simurgh, comprised of thirty birds, and the Church as body of Christ, constituted by the disciples with whom he broke bread with the Words of Institution, Matthew 26.26:

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.

— and not forgetting the Great Prayer of Union of John 17.11:

And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.

**

Translations:

  • Sholeh Wolpé, The Conference of the Birds
  • Penguin Classics, The Conference of the Birds
  • James Lipton, An Exaltation of Larks or, The Venereal Game
  • From that last:

    An “exaltation of larks”? Yes! And a “leap of leopards,” a “parliament of owls,” an “ostentation of peacocks,” a “smack of jellyfish,” and a “murder of crows”!

    Samson’s dreads and the dread Delilah

    Tuesday, December 25th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — or the curious relevance of the tanakh or old testament today ]
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    I’m half-serious, and that’s an approximation, but not an understatement:

    Samson , upper panel above, was a rough-hewn fellow — my own name, Charles Cameron, means Rough-fellow Broken-nose, so I’m not putting him down — who slew a lion and returned later to take honey from the bees that had gathered in the carcass. He was hirsute to say the least, but the lovely Delilah got a fellow to snip his locks and his masculine rough-hewn ferocity fell away.. warrior no more.

    Same thing, approximately, with Andrew Johnson, lower panel, a dreaded — in both senses — high school wrestler from New Jersey. I don’t think the image in the lower panel is entirely fair to the young woman doing the snipping, because she probably wasn’t the one giving the order — but then Delilah in the upper panel gave the order, but wasn’t the one with the razor — he would come later once Samson has fallen further for her charms and wiles. Which were considerable.

    **

    Sources:

  • Wikipedia, Samson,
  • Guardian, US high school wrestler made to cut dreadlocks or face forfeit
  • **

    That he told her all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother’s womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man. And when Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines, saying, Come up this once, for he hath shewed me all his heart. Then the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and brought money in their hand. And she made him sleep upon her knees; and she called for a man, and she caused him to shave off the seven locks of his head; and she began to afflict him, and his strength went from him.

    Judges 16, King James Version

    **

    Just in jest, more or less. More more than less, though…

    It does help to know the myths and scriptures of divers cultures, IMO..

    Beauty and the Beast

    Tuesday, December 4th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — samson draws honey from a lion, beauty draws a toccata from the great organ of laon cathedral ]
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    Beauty is wrestling the beast:

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    There’s a beast overcome and a treasure drawn forth from it in Judges 14.5-9:

    Then went Samson down, and his father and his mother, to Timnath, and came to the vineyards of Timnath: and, behold, a young lion roared against him. And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand.. and he turned aside to see the carcase of the lion: and, behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion. And he took thereof in his hands, and went on eating..

    **

    Lidia Ksiazkiewicz is wrestling the great organ of the Cathedral of Laon, and drawing forth from it the Toccata from Léon Boëllmann‘s Suite Gothique, opus 25:

    **

    Honey!


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