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Nuclear sites and religion, flags and clouds

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — Oak Ridge, Albi, Bushehr, a Sinan mosque, clouds formation, the Karmapas ]

Cheryl Rofer very kindly suggested a DoubleQuote to me today, comparing and contrasting the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, Oak Ridge:

HEUMF at Oak Ridge

and the Cathedral of Albi — heart of the district in which the Albigensians / Cathars briefly and most interestingly flourished:

Albi Cathedral


I particularly appreciate this juxtaposition because of an earlier DoubleQuote I posted, drawing a similar comparison between Iran’s Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant:

bushehr 600

and the Mosque of the Conqueror in Istanbul:

mosque-of-the-conqueror 600


Also notable as a DoubleQuote today is this image at the top of a Lion’s Roar post titled Is that the Karmapa’s Dream Flag over Colorado?:

Karmapa Dream Flag DQ

The Karmapa Lama is the holder of the oldest lineage of reincarnated high lamas in Tibetan tradition, and head of the Karma Kagyu stream of teachings. The flag of the Karmapas can be seen below:

flag of the karmapas 600

Here’s the brief video from which that cloud-image was taken:

h/t Jacob DeFlitch

Note also the resemblance to what is probably my personal favorite DoubleQuote, comparing & contrasting van Gogh‘s night sky and von Kármán‘s vortex street:


It may be worth adding that the Buddha is not above using cloud metaphors, as this celebrated verse from the Diamond Sutra, here in Red Pine‘s translation, illustrates:

As a lamp, a cataract, a star in space
an illusion, a dewdrop, a bubble
a dream, a cloud, a flash of lightning
view all created things like this.

Hourani / Ignatius, Clint Watts / Buddhism, Hindutva / Dhimmitude

Sunday, November 1st, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — some unexpected and enlightening juxtapositions ]

Three textual DoubleQuotes:

The first, as you’ll see, consists of two brief excerpts from David IgnatiusAtlantic piece, How ISIS Spread in the Middle East, which is worth your attention as a follow up to Graeme Wood‘s What ISIS Really Wants, and mentions Soren Kierkegaard , Baywatch and the Bay of Pigs, so what’s not to like?

SPEC Hourani Ignatius

That’s the use of DoubleQuotes-style thinking — comparative, analogical — occurring quite naturally and informatively in a long-form essay.

My second example is quite different, in that it features an interesting article by Clint Watts of FRPI, using the terminology of “near” and “far” enemies first introduced by Abd Al-Salam Faraj, and note the very different use of the same terms in Buddhism.

SPEC enemies near and far

The terms “near” and “far” used to describe enemies in Buddhism represent metaphysical rather than geographical distances — the far enemy is the polar opposite of a given virtue, while the near enemy seems at first glance to be an embodiment of the virtue in question, but is in fact an inauthentic version, to be avoided. The doctrine concerned is expressed in terms of the four Brahma Viharas or highest emotions.

Finally, there has been a lot of talk in recent years about the Islamic term dhimmi, and I was intrigued to run across a very similar concept applied against Muslims in an early Indian discussion of whether India should be partitioned or not:

SPEC dhimmitude

On reflection I realized that all sorts of other groups operate along similar lines. I found this definition — note incidentally the somewhat language-game-changing remark, “A minority is defined not by being outnumbered” — in a Pearson Higher Ed textbook online:

Minority groups are subordinated in terms of power and privilege to the majority, or dominant, group. A minority is defined not by being outnumbered but by five characteristics: unequal treatment, distinguishing physical or cultural traits, involuntary membership, awareness of subordination, and in-group marriage. Subordinate groups are classified in terms of race, ethnicity, religion, and gender. The social importance of race is derived from a process of racial formation; any biological significance is relatively unimportant to society. The theoretical perspectives of functionalism, conflict theory, and labeling offer insights into the sociology of intergroup relations.

Immigration, annexation, and colonialism are processes that may create subordinate groups. Other processes such as extermination and expulsion may remove the presence of a subordinate group. Significant for racial and ethnic oppression in the United States today is the distinction between assimilation and pluralism. Assimilation demands subordinate-group conformity to the dominant group, and pluralism implies mutual respect among diverse groups.

Did you read that? Frankly I’m at a loss to know whether these two paragraphs were intended as black humor, or are simply humorlessness:

Other processes such as extermination and expulsion may remove the presence of a subordinate group.


Sunday surprise: kundalini’s rising and the jukebox blows a fuse

Sunday, October 18th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — some examples of deep dreams, mechanical and spiritual ]

In the upper panel, a claim made for the Deep Dream Generator:

SPEC kundalini deep dream

In the lower panel, an image of the chakras or lotuses in the subtle body, through which the kundalini serpent rises from deep sleep to full spiritual awakening.

The “sixth level” in the chakra system would be the Ajna chakra:

The Ajna chakra is positioned in the brain, directly behind the eyebrow center. Its activation site is at the eyebrow region, in the position of the ‘third eye.’


Deep Dreams:

Here’s what Google’s Deep Dream Generator comes up with:

Deep Dream

Here’s an early statue of Arya Lokeshvara from the Potala Palace, dating to the 7th century and described as the Potala’s most sacred statue:

Bhairava thangka 600

This is a detail from Hieronymus Bosch, The Temptation of St Anthony:

detail, the-temptation-of-st-anthony-1516-1 bosch 600

From one of the marvellous array of manuscripts of the Beatus commentary on Revelation:

Beatus 600

Here’s a deep dream in words, from Hermann Hesse..

GBG as organ 600

Another, from Shakespeare:

shakespeare 600

A secular deep dream..

Alice red queen 600

and a deep dream — as surreal as all the rest, yet capturing “no more than” simple reality — in a photo posted today by Bill Benzon:

Benzon coke 600


Roll over, Beethoven:

Analogies of game and play, life and death

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameronno trump — a situation in which no suit is designated as trump ]

SPEC DQ Trump & Monopoly


  • Trump, Trump Tower at City Center
  • Monopoly, EA Brings iOS Hit Monopoly Hotels to Google Play
  • **

    There are at least three major analogies for life to be found within life itself: dreams, games, and plays — and in each case, there’s the possibility of an infinite regression, of dreams within dreams, games within games, and plays within plays.

    Shakespeare has the play within a play motif down nicety, but it traces back if I’m not mistaken to Plotinus, if not before. There’s that favorite remark of mine in the Enneads:

    Murders, death in all its guises, the reduction and sacking of cities, all must be to us just such a spectacle as the changing scenes of a play; all is but the varied incident of a plot, costume on and off, acted grief and lament. For on earth, in all the succession of life, it is not the Soul within but the Shadow outside of the authentic man, that grieves and complains and acts out the plot on this world stage which men have dotted with stages of their own constructing. All this is the doing of man knowing no more than to live the lower and outer life, and never perceiving that, in his weeping and in his graver doings alike, he is but at play; to handle austere matters austerely is reserved for the thoughtful: the other kind of man is himself a futility. Those incapable of thinking gravely read gravity into frivolities which correspond to their own frivolous Nature. Anyone that joins in their trifling and so comes to look on life with their eyes must understand that by lending himself to such idleness he has laid aside his own character. If Socrates himself takes part in the trifling, he trifles in the outer Socrates.


    We can move from theater to dream with almost suspicious ease via Pedro Calderón de la Barca, whose play La Vida es Sueño plays (in what is more a “game” sense than a “theatrical” one) with the idea of life as a dream — the idea embodied in his play’s very title.

    Indeed, as the translator Michael Kidd suggests in his Introduction to the play:

    To emphasize the illusory nature of this existence, the Spanish Baroque relied on three central metaphors: life as art, life as theater, and, most important for Calderón, life as a dream.

    Here, then, is the heart of Calderón:

    We live in such an exceptional world that living is no more than dreaming; and experience teaches me that he who lives dreams what he is until waking. The king dreams that he’s king, and he lives under this deception commanding, planning, and governing; and his acclaim, which he receives on loan, is scribbled in the wind and turned to ashes by death. What grave misfortune! To think that anyone should wish to govern knowing that he will awaken in the sleep of death! The rich man dreams of more riches, which only bring him more worries; the poor man dreams that he suffers in misery and poverty; the man who improves his lot dreams; the man who toils and petitions dreams; the man who insults and offends dreams. And in this world, in short, everyone dreams what he is although no one realizes it. I dream that I’m here, weighed down by these chains, and I’ve dreamt that I found myself in more flattering circumstances. What is life? A frenzy. What is life? A vain hope, a shadow, a fiction. The greatest good is fleeting, for all life is a dream and even dreams are but dreams.

    And for recursion — an earlier translator of those lines about anyone who might “wish to govern knowing that he will awaken in the sleep of death” renders them thus:

    Who would wish a crown to take,
    Seeing that he must awake
    In the dream beyond death’s gate?

    Why, we are almost in the realm of Chuang Tzu..

    Once Chuang Chou dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn’t know he was Chuang Chou. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Chuang Chou. But he didn’t know if he was Chuang Chou who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Chuang Chou. Between Chuang Chou and a butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things.


    Oho — do we imagine we have escaped moral necessity by viewing life as a dream?

    Calderón again:

    I want to do what’s right, for it pays to do what’s right even in dreams.


    Ah, but games.

    It was the quote that follows, about death and games, that drove me to write this post, and I believe it takes us deeper into the mystery of these analogies of life and death: Gabby DaRienzo is writing about “ussing game mechanics to encourage players to think about death and mortality” in her piece, Death Positivity in Video Games:

    Death serves multiple mechanical roles in videogames — it is most commonly used as a thing you want to avoid, a goal you need to accomplish, or as a narrative device. While death is prominent in many videogames, we generally give it much less thought and treat it with much less seriousness than actual death, especially when it comes to the player.

    And there we have it — the recognition that we care less or more, proportionately, about some things in games than we do in “RL”.

    Some of that difference, it would seem is to do with the mechanics and “inworld” motivations of particular games — but it would be an interesting landscape to plot, game by game or genre by genre. Flight simulators need to be in close correspondence with the realities they are represnting in terms of turbulent air flows, fuel consumption, and landing strips, for iunstance — but if their clouds are visually a bit less than realistic, it’s no big deal. A Tibetan mandala-based game, on the other hand, might want to get the scrolled cloud-work so characteristic of Tibetan art and the Thirty-two Excellent Signs of a Buddha’s Enlightening Body exactly right — in Tibetan cultural terms. Strage, but true:

    Each hair of a Buddha’s eyebrow is exactly the same length.


    Money, then.

    In Monopoly, it’s everything — and life?

    Warrior / Spirit

    Sunday, September 6th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — is “conflict resolution” in conflict with “conflict” — and if so, what’s the appropriate resolution? ]

    In Search of Warrior Spirit Yoga Joe
    [left] Strozzi-Heckler’s book, now in its fourth edition; [right] one of a series of figures called Yoga Joes.


    Craig Davies at a site called Art-Sheep has a post titled Classic Green Army Figures Practicing Yoga Instead Of Holding Guns, and sees thing in black and white, or perhaps better, darkness and light:

    If something is a total opposite to war, that is the practice of yoga. Concentrating or relaxing your muscles and mind in order to release tension, is something a soldier would never have the luxury to do under the dangerous circumstances of war.

    Inventor Dan Abramson thought of a amazingly creative and beautiful way to connect the two, by creating “Yoga Joes”, a series of simple green plastic army men that have some killer… yoga moves.

    Apart from artistically interesting, Abramson’s cool idea to create a series of yoga soldiers gives an essence of serenity to the cruel and violent nature of war.

    “I made Yoga Joes because I thought that it would be a fun way to get more people into yoga – especially dudes… beyond that, I wanted to make a violent toy become peaceful,” he says.

    That’s glib, and wrong, and not too far from what many people think who identify with the “peace” side of “war and peace”.


    Richard Strozzi-Heckler, on the other hand..

    Well, he was one of them, teaching Aikido, arguably the most openly pacifistic of the martial arts — and when he got invited to train some Green Berets, in the words of George Leonard:

    Even before the program got started, Richard was excoriated by people he respected for even considering teaching aikido and other awareness disciplines to Green Berets, to “trained killers.”

    Leonard goes on to ask some probing questions:

    Does this imply that those of us who love peace would have no soldiers at all? And if we do have soldiers, do we really want them to be deprived of the best possible training? Do we want low-grade soldiers with no awareness or empathy? And if we do teach awareness and empathy to our soldiers, will they be able to perform the brutal tasks sometimes assigned them? Surely we don’t want a horde of Rambos loosed upon the world. But if not Rambo, then who?


    Think for a minute:

    If something is a total opposite to war, that is the practice of yoga.

    Yeah? And the total opposite of one is many? or none? or minus one? or all?

    If I asked you, what is the opposite of yoga, would you say war?

    And what’s the opposite of peace?

    I wrote above of those who identify with the “peace” side of “war and peace” — and there are, by contrast, those who who identify more readily with the “war” side — but are those two sides “at war” with one another? Can, to press the point, “peace” be “at war” with anything?



  • Dan Abramson, Yoga Joes: here to keep the inner peace
  • George Leonard, intro to Strozzi-Heckler, In Search of the Warrior Spirit: Teaching Awareness Disciplines to the Green Berets
  • **

    Comparative realities?

    toy & statue

    The Buddha‘s Diamond Sutra:

    So I say to you –
    This is how to contemplate our conditioned existence in this fleeting world:

    Like a tiny drop of dew, or a bubble floating in a stream;
    Like a flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
    Or a flickering lamp, an illusion, a phantom, or a dream.

    So is all conditioned existence to be seen.

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