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Some end in ashes, some wind up in stained glass

Sunday, May 12th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — and some, high lamas, emanations of Avalokiteshvara, become poets of the erotic.. ]
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You know my early mentor Fr Trevor Huddleston CR? I posted three photos of him here, one with Louis Armstrong and a trumpet, one with Nelson Mandela, and one exactly as I knew and now remember and honor him:

Well, today I saw for the first time an image of the stained glass window dedicated to him in Lancing College chapel:

For more on Fr Trevor, see The Life of Trevor Huddleston, Makhalipile (the Dauntless One)

Mandela said of him:

Father Huddleston was a pillar of wisdom, humility and sacrifice to the legions of freedom fighters in the darkest moments of the struggle against apartheid.

His fearlessness won him the support of everyone. No one, neither gangster, tsotsi nor pickpocket would touch him. Their respect for him was such that they would have tried – and if they did it could have cost them their lives. His enormous courage gave him a quality that commanded the respect of the place

and:

No white person has done more for South Africa than Trevor Huddleston.

He was a giant.

**

All of which got me thinking about stained glass as an alternative destination to ashes..

Desmond Tutu was another whose life was decisively influenced by Fr Trevor — and he too can be found in stained glass:

MaryAnn Randolph writes:

This, in St. Mark’s, Minneapolis, is what is called the Peacemaker’s Window. In this magnificent stained glass you will find: Mother Theresa of Calcutta, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Archbishop Tutu, Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama and many others.

Giants, all — and inspirations, inviting us to join them!

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Ah, Gandhi-ji and the Dalai Lama — it delights me to see stained glass extending to peacemakers regardless of their religious affiliations!

I’ll leave you with an image of Green Tara, female Buddha to whom the “Great Fifth” Dalai Lama — who unified Tibet, established Lhasa as its capital, and worked to bring together the various lineages of Tibetan Buddhism together with the earlier shamanic Bon tradition — was devoted:

The Dalai Lama himself, in each of his incarnations, is considered an emanation of the Buddha of Compassion, Avalokiteshvara.

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It was the Sixth, beloved successor of the Great Fifth, who was the rascal poet, writer of such gently erotic verses as:

This white bow in its cloth cover,
On whom shall I bestow it?
I will place it gently inside
My lover’s tiger-skin quiver.

Ah, but he’d be hard to capture in stained glass —

I’ll leave you with him and his compassion, and with the Love Songs of the Sixth Dalai Lama.

Enjoy! Delight!

Con fuego — mini-essays, chyrons, metaphors, 24

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — decapitation, in this case of the british iceberg, and the Hiwatari festival fire-walking of the Japanese mountain monks ]
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Hey!

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Athletes & Elites:

ONLY THE SUCKERS GO THROUGH THE ADMISSIONS OFFICE

Outright fraud, lying, faking test results is horrible and should be severely prosecuted — that appears to be at the heart of the scandal. No tolerance for that — period. Using contacts, donating money, hiring tutors, putting your kids in the best college feeder schools, taking advantage of legacy status, arranging résumé-building internships — those are the consequences of inequality compounding and amplifying over time, from one generation to another. Does it dilute the pure concept of meritocracy, the level playing field where everyone has an equal shot? Of course.

So why go via the bribery route?

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“LIKE DECAPITATING AN ICEBERG”: BRITAIN IS SCREWED

There is no perfect analogy for Brexit, the surreal, game-theoretical political divorce that was slated to conclude on March 29 at 11 P.M. London time.

Well if “there is no perfect analogy for Brexit”, perhaps “decapitating an iceberg” doesn’t really work either?

Then there’s The Magical Thinking Around Brexit:

The lexicon of Brexit, the United Kingdom’s buffoonishly mismanaged effort to leave the European Union, includes technical terms such as “backstop” and “customs union,” as well as a fanciful but revealing one: “unicorn.” It has come to be a scornful shorthand for all that the Brexiteers promised voters in the June, 2016, referendum and cannot, now or ever, deliver.

Magical Thinking ? Unicorn?

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Numbers count:

the whole of New Zealand, a remote island nation of about 4.9 million people that had only thirty-five murders in all of 2017, was in a state of deep shock

That’s from It’s Time to Confront the Threat of Right-Wing Terrorism

The Christchurch mosque shooter killed 50, more than the New Zealand murder total for 2017, and wounded 50.

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Significant interests of mine:

  • Poetry: The Final Prophecy of W. S. Merwin
  • Games: The Division 2 and the Severing of Politics from Video Games
  • **

    Just look at this:

    Religious supporters walk across the embers of a large fire at the Mount Takao Hiwatari fire-walking festival. Mount Takao is close to Tokyo, and this well-known festival attracts a large crowd of worshippers and tourists. A large pyre is built on the grounds of Yuki-ji Temple, and after it has been burned, Yamabushi (mountain monks) and practitioners of the Shugendo sect of the Buddhist religion walk over the still-smoldering embers in a purifying ritual

    The caption reads:

    Religious supporters walk across the embers of a large fire at the Mount Takao Hiwatari fire-walking festival. Mount Takao is close to Tokyo, and this well-known festival attracts a large crowd of worshippers and tourists. A large pyre is built on the grounds of Yuki-ji Temple, and after it has been burned, Yamabushi (mountain monks) and practitioners of the Shugendo sect of the Buddhist religion walk over the still-smoldering embers in a purifying ritual

    I was here myself in 1972, and the most impressive part of the ritual was the distribution to all comers of little slips of wood — the kind on which you write the name of the plants in a garden row or a pot — on which we were invited to write our sins of the past year, and which were then tossed by monks into the fire path —

    — so that the monks can tread the embers of our sins beneath their feet —

    — in robes comparable to the ceremonial robes of Catholic or Tibetan Buddhist monks:

    Limina, thresholds, more on spaces-between & their importance

    Sunday, March 3rd, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — from one thing to another — and it’s the gaps — the in-betweens — the leaps — the links — the bonds between them that truly matter ]
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    Blog-friend Bryan Alexander concludes his blog post Casualties of the future: college closures and queen sacrifices with a clip from Babylon 5. What exactly does that have to do with Admiral McRaven?

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    A difference between bricks and bricks

    That’s from near the top of Bryan‘s post.

    **

    Bryan, lately of Vermont and now at Georgetown, is our keenest observer of the higher educational future. He coined the term peak higher education in 2013 — like peak oil, but for education, right? — and has been tracking it since then. At some point, he added the notion of queen sacrifice — “A queen sacrifice is when a college or university cuts faculty, especially full-time professors, usually as part of shrinking or ending certain academic programs” — and has made at least sixty posts in which queens are sacrificed, and one on a knight or rook sacrifice? (sports). Bryan‘s latest post is Casualties of the future. In it, he writes:

    That academic phase hasn’t been clearly replaced yet. The new phase’s nature isn’t fully evident. Perhaps its outlines will become apparent after several years of change. I’ve speculated on what that next higher education phase might look like here and elsewhere. But for now, let’s consider the present as a moment in between those two phases. That’s our time, right in the midst of a switching period, a liminal space, marked by uncertainty and instability. We’re in a boundary zone.

    Okay: a gentleman scholar as wise as he is bearded — and that’s a considerable double-barreled compliment — sees fit to emphasize the liminal in his latest broadside on higher education and its current obsession with cutting arts and humanities programs and various faculty members — ahem, bringing new and far broader meaning, in fact, to the concept of cutting classes. And why?

    Why provide a graphic of brick wall(s) unless, somehow, the idea of breaks, gaps, thresholds, borders, leaps, in short the liminal, is of intrinsic importance?

    **

    Picking up on What does it mean to be a Canadian citizen? where we left off in Walls. Christianity & poetry. And nations, identities & borders, with the questions:

    Is citizenship a kind of subscription service, to be suspended and resumed as our needs change? Are countries competing service providers, their terms and conditions subject to the ebbs and flows of consumer preference? Edmund Burke long ago articulated an ambitious vision of society as a “partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.” Does any of that still resonate? Or is it a bygone idea of a vanished age, dissolved in a globalized world?

    We can consider the cases of women from the US, UK and elsewhere who volunteered for ISIS and now wish to return home.

    **

    Here’s a paragraph to transition us smoothly:

    How easy should it be to give up your citizenship? In the era of Oswald, it could be difficult—like joining an especially selective monastic order that turns away aspirants until they kneel in the snow for a few days outside the monastery or consulate’s doors. Now a U.S. citizen can stop being American with a single visit to a consulate. (Most renounce not for ideological reasons but to avoid the complications of living as an American expatriate, subject to dual taxation and bureaucratic requirements far more onerous than for expatriates of almost any other country.)

    That’s from Graeme Wood, Don’t Strip ISIS Fighters of Citizenship

    See also:

  • Amarnath Amarasingam, Revoking Citizenship of ISIS Members is Not the Answer
  • Dan Byman, The wrong decision on Hoda Muthana
  • That’s a liminal issue, questions of citizenship and borders are liminal. And Bryan is talking liminality when he talks education.

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    Here’s a quick liminal zing from Abigail Tracy, in the title and subtitle of here Atlantic piece:

    I’d have been happy to include this in my chyrons and headers collection, but between the lines is too nicely liminal to miss.

    **

    A limen is a <threshold: it ‘s neither one thing nor the other, it’s in-between. And in-between is a time or state of transition, often tricky — think of the interregnum between the election of a President and his or her Inauguration — and often deeply human — we’re stuck with human nature, every one of us, which as Solzhenitsyn noted has a fault line in it more significant perhaps than even the fissure that separates our left and right cerebral hemispheres. Stunning us, he wrote:

    If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

    There’s liminality for you.

    **

    Here’s how Bryan ends his post:

    Babylon-5:

    Listen:

    There is a greater darkness than the one we fight. It is the darkness of the soul that has lost its way. The war we fight is not against powers and principalities, it is against chaos and despair. Greater than the death of flesh is the death of hope, the death of dreams. Against this peril we can never surrender. The future is all around us, waiting in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation. No one knows the shape of that future, or where it will take us. We know only that it is always born in pain.

    The war we fight is not against powers and principalities — see my earlier post today on spiritual warfare. And The future is all around us, waiting in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation — the horror, the blessing of liminality.

    And Admiral McRaven:

    He too deals with the fight against chaos:

    SEAL training is the great equalizer: If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart — and that deep sense of being equalized by sand. tide, and fatigue, brings with it fine-grained humility and profound bonding with ones’ fellows.

    **

    Victor Turner was the anthropologist who made liminality the corner-stone of his great work, The Ritual Process — see how closely his ideas correspond with McRaven‘s SEAL training. Back in my early post on the topic here on ZP, I wrote:

    Basing his own work on van Gennep‘s account of rites of passage, Turner sees such rites as involving three phases: before, liminal, and after.

  • Before, you’re a civilian, after, you’re a Marine — but during, there’s an extraordinary moment when you’ve lost your civilian privileges, not yet earned your Marine status, and are less than nothing — as the drill sergeant constantly reminds you — and yet feel an intense solidarity with your fellows.
  • Before, you’re a novice, not yet “professed”, after, you’re a monk — but during, you lie prostrate on the paving stones of the abbey nave as you transition into lifelong vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
  • There are two things to note here. One is that liminality is a *humility* device, the other is that is creates a strong sense of bonding which Turner calls *communitas*: in one case, the Marine’s esprit de corps, in the other quite literally a monastic community. Part of what is so fascinating here is the (otherwise not necessarily obvious) insight that humility and community are closely related.

    **

    earlier Zenpundit posts on liminality and borders, among them:

  • Liminality II: the serious part
  • Of border crossings, and the pilgrimage to Arbaeen in Karbala
  • Violence at three borders, naturally it’s a pattern
  • Borders, limina and unity
  • Borders as metaphors and membranes
  • McCabe and Melber, bright lines and fuzzy borders
  • Walls. Christianity & poetry. And nations, identities & borders
  • But go back to that first post, Liminality II: the serious part, and read the whole thing. The story of the USS Topeka, SSN-754 alone is worth the effort..

    Forget religion, it’s all politics!

    Sunday, December 16th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — Ukraine-Russia tensions reach Greece’s holy Mount Athos ]
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    Holy Athos

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    Forget religion, it’s all politics!

    Thee title of the Guardian piece, which came to me via my admired scholar friend Michael Robinson, is Ukraine-Russia tensions reach Greece’s holy Mount Athos. Michael pointed it my way because “holy Mount Athos” — not because “Ukraine-Russia tensions”.

    Nevertheless, forget religion, it’s all politics! (a popular refrain in our secular-dominant world)..

    “Ukraine is an independent country and deserves its own church,” Makarios told the visiting Belarusians, who nodded dubiously. His view is not shared by all: a Ukrainian monk based at Makarios’s cell, Father Agafon, had a different opinion, calling those Ukrainians in favour of an independent church “splitters and heretics” and saying the Ukrainian church should remain under the control of Moscow.

    and:

    Although most of the monks on Athos are Greek, for many Russians, as well as Ukrainians and Belarusians, a pilgrimage to Mount Athos has become almost like an Orthodox version of the Islamic hajj, seen as a spiritual must for any true believer. Oligarchs and government elites particularly like the peninsula, with its difficult-to-obtain permits and air of a VIP club. In the weeks prior to the Guardian’s visit, Makarios said he had hosted a Belarusian army general, a number of Ukrainian MPs and several rich Russians at his austere cell.

    Makarios’ austere breakfast, btw, is coffee and nuts — for the visiting generals, MPS and rich folk, too..

    **

    Forget religion, it’s all violence and strategy!

    With a meeting in Kiev on Saturday set to formally proclaim the church’s independence, some are predicting violence if Kiev tries to seize church property from the Moscow patriarchy.

    Subtitle of the piece:

    Orthodox church’s decision to make Ukrainian branch independent of Russia causes schism and predictions of violence

    and:

    M:alofeev blamed the Americans for the turmoil, claiming that “Pyatt is trying to stir up the same things he did in Ukraine” in Greece. He also claimed Bartholomew’s entourage was “infiltrated with CIA agents” and said the decision to grant independence to the Ukrainian church could lead to violence in Ukraine and Athos to split with the ecumenical patriarch.

    **

    Forget religion, it’s all money!

    One Russian who has been particularly active on Athos is Konstantin Malofeev, a businessman known as the “Orthodox oligarch”, who is currently on EU and US sanctions lists for his alleged role in funding the separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

    and:

    He insisted that most of Athos was united in its loyalty to the ecumenical patriarch, but conceded that the feeling was not unanimous. “There are some monks who just love Russian money,” he said with a sigh.

    **

    Forget religion, it’s quintessentially religion..

    For centuries, Orthodox men have come to Mount Athos, a closed peninsula in northern Greece, to sequester themselves away from the everyday concerns of the outside world. The only entrance is by boat, and women are strictly forbidden to set foot on the territory. Male pilgrims, after receiving a special permit, can visit to confess and seek counsel from the 2,000 monks at the 20 monasteries and smaller “cells” dotted along the hilly shoreline. It is one of the holiest sites of Orthodoxy, the eastern form of Christianity that split with Catholicism in the 11th century.

    Monks enter Athos “to sequester themselves away from the everyday concerns of the outside world,” okay?

    Athos runs on Byzantine time, an archaic system in which the clocks are reset each day at sunset, and it uses the Julian calendar, rendering Athos 13 days behind the rest of the western world. At sunset the monasteries shut their gates and a stillness settles on the peninsula until the bells ring for morning liturgy.

    “People come here to try to be saints, and leave the difficulties of the world behind,” said Father Porfirius, a 27-year-old Greek monk. “The hardest part is to kill your will. We try to destroy it, to get to the level of obedience of Jesus Christ.”

    Patriarch vs Patriarch (with Putin Plus):

    All is not well in Orthodoxy currently, with a split linked to Russia’s war in Ukraine causing a schism and dark talk of violence among the various Orthodox churches. Bartholomew of Constantinople, known as the ecumenical patriarch and the “first among equals” of the Orthodox patriarchs, agreed in October to give autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox church, essentially making it an independent church. Patriarch Kirill of the Russian church, which regards Ukraine as its domain, responded furiously and announced a split from the ecumenical patriarch.

    and:

    Kirill has banned Russians from taking holy communion in the churches of Athos, calling any priests who bless the ecumenical patriarch schismatics, leading to a dilemma for those Russians who want to visit.

    Schism is about as bad as it gets within Christianity. The Pope and the Patriarch are currently trying, with some little success, to heal a schism between Catholics and Orthodox which began as a dispute over a clause in the major credal statement — the filioque clause in the Nicene Creed — which broke the two major branches of the Church, east and west, apart in 1054. That’s more than a millennium of strife between brothers whose savior prayed at the end of his life [John 17.22-23]:

    And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

    **

    Okay, kudos to Guardian writer Shaun Walker for knowing the importance of religious reporting of issues that also have economic, strategic, political aspects!

    And let’s conclude with a link to this related Orthodox prayer page:

    :Concerning the Orthodox Prayers for the Union of All and the Prayer in St. John 17
    Excerpts from Ecumenism: A Movement for Union or a Syncretistic Heresy?
    by Bishop Angelos of Avlona

    Next notables, metaphors and bright ideas included

    Sunday, December 9th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — next in the long series beginning with sports and game metaphors, and extending to include miscellaneous memorable items — nb, includes a Tibhirine section, Jim Gant pls note ]
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    Here’s a DoubleQuote in images of considerable interest, from David Metcalfe — with the esteemed William Dalrynple DoubleQuoting goddesses in Kerala:

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    Ancilliary to my interest in mapping complex realities..

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    First “siege warfare” metaphor:

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    Something to read alongside John Kiser‘s superb The Monks of Tibhirine: Faith, Love, and Terror in Algeria :

    I would be most happy to publish any comments John Kiser has on Kyle Orton‘s blog post, Algeria’s ‘Years of Blood’: Not Quite What They Seem on ZP should he or Jim Gant notice this somewhat obscure entry..

    **

    Good grief:

    Key comment:

    I will explain all in due course but for now all I want to say is be VERY careful when dabbling in spirituality, it’s not something to mess with.

    **

    And how’s this?

    Trump Channels the Worst of China to Beat China

    A double ouroboros, methinks: the Worst of China to Beat China, arguably, and self-defeating, axiomatically, no?

    **

    Venkatesh Rao, Quiver Doodles:

    I don’t know if this is still true, but I once read about exploited workers in the ship-breaking industry who were worked so hard, and paid so little, they could not even afford to buy enough calories to sustain themselves. They were slowly starving to death. I call this phenomenon entropic ruin, a generalization of the idea of gambler’s ruin to open-ended games that can be non-zero-sum and need not involve gambling. In this case, it’s a deterministic death march. If you systematically consume fewer calories than you expend long term, you will die a premature death.

    Via John Kellden

    **

    Did Venkatesh mention “the idea of gambler’s ruin“? How about nuns’ ruin as a subset?

    Two nuns allegedly stole $500,000 for trips to Las Vegas

    We do know that they had a pattern of going on trips, we do know they had a pattern of going to casinos, and the reality is, they used the account as their personal account,” Marge Graf, an attorney representing St. James, told a group of parents at a meeting last Monday night, according to the Beach Reporter.”

    **

    Mask dancers, Bhutan:

    21 Breathtaking Photos Of Isolated Tribes From All Around The World

    The dancers are gorgeous, but look to the left and see the monasteries perched on plateaus in a towering rock-face..

    I’m pretty sure “isolated tribes” are of particular interest about now because of the evangelical boundary-pusher killed (martyred? now there’s a koan) because he hoped to bring the gospel to Andaman tribal peoples whose isolation is protected by the Indian government.. see my tweet:

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    A whole lot more..

    This Nancy Pelosi chyron, for instance:

    Which brings me to #2 below:

    — with #3 also deserving a metaphor-mention..

    And we might as well go for the revolt chyron here:

    And that in turn allows for a splendid graphic with both metaphorical and real resonance..

    **

    That should be enough. I’ll collect further items of interest in the comments section.


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