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War Books, local version

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — saved from a slush pile]
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A while back, I presumptuously submitted my effort for Modern War Institute‘s War Books Profile series, where it has languished on the slush pile for a few months now. No need to waste a decent post, though, so I’m posting it here, locally, on Zenpundit, for any who may be interested.

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Name: Charles Cameron

Brief Biography:

Charles Cameron is the managing editor of the strategy blog Zenpundit, and a past Principal Researcher with the Center for Millennial Studies at BU and Senior Analyst at The Arlington Institute. He is a three time finalist in the Atlantic Council Brent Scowcroft Center’s Art of the Future challenges, and author of the essay “The Dark Sacred: The Significance of Sacramental Analysis” in Robert J Bunker, Blood Sacrifices (a Terrorism Research Center Book). He is the designer of the HipBone family of conceptual games, and is currently working on a book on religious sanctions for violence titled Landmines in the Garden.

Top Five Books:

Mustafa Hamid & Leah Farrall, The Arabs at War in Afghanistan. Respectful enemies – he, a friend of UBL and Mullah Omar, she, a counter-terrorism expert for the Australian Federal Police – debate and confer across battle lines to draw a detailed picture of AQ structure and history. A unique collaboration.

William McCants, The ISIS Apocalypse. The key to ISIS intensity has to do with what then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Dempsey called their “apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision.” McCants masterfully reveals that apocalyptic driver, and the somewhat obscure scriptures on which it is based.

SH Nasr, ed., The Study Quran. With enemies such as ISIS and AQ that are given to quoting scriptural texts, it is important to have a reputable, non-sectarian translation and scholarly commentary on the Quran. This is that book.

Hegghammer & Lacroix, The Meccan Rebellion: The Story of Juhayman al-‘Utaybi Revisited. A slim volume, a delight to hold in the hand, and packed with detailed scholarship on what is arguably the seed moment of contemporary Jihadism.

John Kiser, The Monks of Tibhirine. This book, and Christian de Chergé’s astonishing letter to the jihadists who would shortly martyr him, is an eloquent testament to values we should cherish in a time of brutality and hatred.

The One That Shaped Me The Most:

Hermann Hesse, The Glass Bead Game. The human mind, attuned to variety and complexity yet primed to understand complex matters in binary terms, tends to hold war and peace as poles apart. Musically speaking, war is equivalent to discord, peace to harmony. The musical technique of counterpoint, so central to Bach, plays “voices” against one another in a manner that recognizes their variety and individuality and allows for discord while constantly working to resolve it harmoniously. It thus offers us an analogy for the constant interplay of warlike and peaceable motivations, both within the individual human and among the world’s societies and cultures – an invaluable overview of the natural condition. Hesse’s novelistic Game shows analogy rather than linearity as the key to creative insight, and offers a contrapuntal play of ideas as the overarching architectural structure for comprehending a world of conflict and resolution. It won the Nobel.

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Reworking my list today, I might well reckon the McCants book has served its brilliant purpose, illuminating in fine detail the apocalyptic nature of ISIS theology, and substitute a no less valuable but more wide-focus tome, Shahab Ahmed’s What is Islam, which broadens our understanding by offering a comprehensive exploration of “lived Islam” across the centuries and continents, going far beyond “scriptual” Islam as understood by the fundamentalists.

Ideally, of coure, there’d be room for both McCants and Ahmed, as there is in the tiny bookshelf on my desk..

Onward, Christian Soldiers

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — as sung by FDR and Winston Churchill in August of 1941 ]
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It seems only appropriate first to bring you the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers as performed by the Manchester Citadel Band and Yorkshire Chorus of the Salvation Army — Christan Soldiers and Salvation Army both having meaning that blends the military with the religious:

As regular readers here will know, the disjunction and conjunction of the spiritual and military is a central focus of my thoughts and posts here on Zenpundit.

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It may seem entirely trivial in comparison with the stunning footage that follows, but the article that brought me to think once again of the military-religious nexus was a piece from Russia’s Pravmir today, titled Bishop of the Russian Church compares Russia airbase in Syria to a monastery:

“The situation is interesting in spiritual sense, it reminds of a big convent without Internet, television and almost without a telephone. All servicemen are involved in sport activities, they have a great demand in reading,” the hierarch said in his interview with the Pobeda radio.

The bishop noted that the servicemen participated in pastoral conversations with great interest.

“This informational blockade helps them refresh their conscience, in result they have a demand to talk about important spiritual moments. It impressed me much,” he confessed.

The church official said he saw “an absolutely new face of our military forces there.”

“Not only weapons and outfit, but their new way of thinking impressed me. It was seen in their discipline, in organization of service, which we witnessed during the week. It differed so much from all the things I saw before that I sincerely rejoiced,” the bishop said.

That’s worth pondering, you know, as we think about Putin‘s Russia and current events in Syria..

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The near-pacifist son of a World War II naval war hero in me was intrigued enough to go searching for Onward Christian Soldiers as a musical match for this article, and it was in search of an appropriate rendering of the hymn that I ran across the FDR / Churchill footage.

I am profoundly glad it did.

In my view today, the most riveting rendering of Onward Christian Soldiers must be the one captured on archival footage here, with Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt present on the Royal Navy battleship HMS Prince of Wales in August 1941:

The other hymn sung in that clip is the quintessential naval hymn, Eternal Father, Strong to Save with its refrain, O hear us when we call to Thee / For those in peril on the sea..

My Latest on Lapido — Mother Teresa

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — writing about Mother Teresa as a balancing act ]
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My latest post on LapidoMedia, Mother Teresa: the making of a saint, opens thus:

‘MOST blessed Father, Holy Mother Church, beseeches your Holiness to enroll the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta among the saints, that she may be invoked as such by all the Christian faithful.’

With these words, Cardinal Angelo Amato, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints petitioned Pope Francis to declare Mother Teresa of Calcutta a saint.

There are five stages in the Catholic Church’s ‘canonization’ – the declaration that a saint is in heaven, and that their name may be included in the roll of the names of saints.

In my article I write, “As with many people considered especially holy, Teresa’s life has often been discussed in terms of hushed veneration – and also harshly criticised by the unimpressed.” I’m not too convinced either by the hagiography with which the Church tends to surround her, nor with the vituperatuve criticism with which Christopher Hitchens, her chief detractor, attacks her.

I have tried to write Teresa up in a way which balances the two. In my own quiet way, and reading it somewhat between the lines, my article attempts to bridge the two by suggesting that her specific “charism” or gift — the “wavelength” of love of which she is, for the Church, the examplar — was explicitly to bring spiritual, not medical, love to the dying, and that she accomplished this task, while her failure to accompany it with sound, even basic medical care — her clinics, for instance, commonly reused needles without sterilizing them — was the cause of much of Hitchens’ criticism, and has indeed been remedied by her order of nuns since her death.

Christian theological discussion often distinguishes between the Historical Jesus and the Christ of Faith. It may well be that the historical Teresa will stand as a warning to missionaries to be adequately prepared for the proper medical treatment of those to whom they minister, while the Teresa of faith can be a beacon of hope and love in the lives of many. We can hope that the order of nuns she founded, the Missionaries of Charity, will take note of her work at both levels.

Read the whole piece here on the Lapido site.

Muhammad Ali, the Navaho and the Tibetans

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — a knockout triple DoubleQuote from Maidu country ]
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This:

Ali mandala of victory

reminds me of this:

Sand Painting Jeff King

but also of this:

mandala-sand-painting-tibetan-monks-asia-society-texas-696x407

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In fact, we have three potential DoubleQuotes here:

  • the stytlized figures in Neil Leifer‘s celebrated photo of Muhammad Ali evokes the stylized figures of Jeff King‘s sandpainting for the Navaho war ceremonial Where the Two Came to Their Father.
  • Jeff King‘s Navaho sandpaintings in turn easily summon memories of their Tibetan Buddhist equivalents, shown here in a photo of the Drepung Loseling monks.
  • And the symmetries of the overhead shot of Ali and that of the Drepung monks forms yet a third pair.
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    Muhammad Ali at one point wanted “his people” to return to Africa, away from the deadly white man, and no doubt it has occurred to some Navajo from time to time to wish the white man would return to Europe — while Puebloans may on occasions have wished the Navajo had remained with their Athabaskan kin in Canada..

    But then, I’m Scots by heritage, British by subsequent conquest, and have invaded the United States myself in person, with a view to finding what American poet Gary Snyder calls “a sunny spot under a pine tree to sit at” here in California.

    In what I understand to have been Nisenan Maidu country.

    Monastic drums

    Monday, August 8th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — sounds resounding, Romania and Korea ]
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    Romanian Orthodox:

    Korean Buddhist:


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