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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..

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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..

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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.

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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?

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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

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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.”

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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..

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

Whether, weather or not you believe in climate change

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — in thunder, lightning; in darkness, light; in the eye of the hurricane.. ]
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Weather or weather:

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Sources:

  • CNBC, Powerful nor’easter ‘bomb cyclone’
  • WaPo, D.C. lawmaker says recent snowfall caused
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    We don’t need the details of the two articles, or of other coverage such as the New Yorker’s Bomb Cyclones, Nor’easters, and the Messy Relationship Between Weather and Climate — the top panel headline deals with the weather-weather, the regular day to day no need to look further weather, but the lower panel headline lets in alternate, nay Biblical, spiritual explanations — and with that freedom I’ll fly to a consideration of atmosphere and atmosphere — the one measured by the barometer, the other an intangible presence in a room —

    For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

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    That’s Bibical, too — but it may apply, probably does indeed, to those of other and various flocks.. the joyful givers of any denomination, belief or disbelief.

    YMMV, of course. But read this:

    In his correspondence with Suzuki (the two finally met in New York in 1964), Merton refers to the doctrine of analogy in Aquinas by which it was just as legitimate , in one sense, to say of God that he is non-being as to affirm God is being, since God so transcends being as we know it that any attribution of being as we know it would mislead. Merton was quite taken by the mystical tradition of a kind of un-knowing in our contemplation of God. He said to Suzuki: “I have my own way to walk and for some reason Zen is right in the middle of wherever I go. If I could not breathe Zen, I would probably die of asphyxiation.” He also told Suzuki: “Speaking as a monk and not a writer, I am much happier with ’emptiness’ when I do not have to talk about it.” Merton and Suzuki exchanged manuscripts and books and eventually engaged in a written dialogue which appears in Merton’s posthumously published book, Zen and the Birds of Appetite.

    I cannot believe that between Merton the Trappist monk and Suzuki the man most responsible for introducing zen to the west, the I am was not resonant in the air between them.

    Sunday surprise — Li Bai and the Song of Songs

    Sunday, March 11th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — it’s all about a scarlet thread and some corks in a current ]
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    I have plenty of idle time between naps, and was binge watching The Churchmen on Netflix. Plus it’s a Sunday..

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    As you know, I track “twins” in events and quotations, mainly for sheer aesthetic pleasure, but also partly as an analytic tool — believing as I do that “two is the first number” and often a leading-edge clue to pattern, meaning, significance.

    I’m used to finding others who have noted these twins or “DoubleQuotes” as I call them — “DoubleQuotes in the Wild” — but I’m not sure I’ve ever run across a clear description of someone else noting them, let alone in a scholarly manner that bridges the secular west and spiritual east — but lookee here!

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    Amazing indeed! And what a line! Your lips are like a thread of scarlet! worthy of Li Po, worthy indeed of the Song of Songs!

    I’d have been very chuffed if I’d run across the same doublet between Li Bai – better known to me as Li Po — and the Song of Songs — which, by the way, is Solomon’s.

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    Li Po, who, drunk and out in a shallow boat, saw the moon reflected in the Yellow River, leaned over to kiss it, and drowned..

    Solomon — but you know the story — seated in judgement, ordered a child be cut in two when two women claimed to be its mother — then commanded it be given to the one whose shocked pure love begged him to deliver it to the other.. wisdom as the test of love!

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    The discoverer of the binary “Your lips are like a thread of scarlet!” is a brilliant, generous-hearted, flawed founder and leader of a seminary in France who displeases ambitious Vaticanisti, is offered a choice of disgrace (on account off his flaws) or (as an “out”) a posting to an obscure but copacetic position in Shanghai..

    A conversation ensues, in which he discusses his options with the nun who serves as his assistant:

    The nun ancourages him to consider the Shanghai option..

    That option has a certain seductive charm — following that scarlet thread.. but it represents being “bought off” rather than sticking by one’s guns come what may, and somehow weathering the consequences.

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    Our nun reflects:

    And that’s an interesting idea.

    At first glace it seems fatalistic — but that current moving the corks — the seminarians, the nun herself, the priest she serves, an ambitious president of the Franch bishops, various monsignori and a pope – maybe Christ, too? — has its own flows and undertows — a priest’s flaws included. It’s a complex system.

    The corks are afloat in a complex system. A scarlet thread traces its curve in the complex system, from contemporary France to eighth- century China.

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    And when you’re afloat in a complex system — as we all are — “go with the flow” may be sound advice. That’s why the “corks in a current” idea seems so interesting to me. Sunday surprise!

    Sunday surprise — the demonic and the sanctified, illuminated

    Monday, February 12th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — may you and I play always among the vertues and against the vices ]
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    That we may discern the distance between the demonic and the sanctified, and play accordingly:

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    I’m curious about the elongated chess board on which our demon slaughters the very mind of the prayerful monk.

    Emily?

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    Sources:

  • Emily Steiner, Twitter
  • Elizabeth Biggs, Twitter
  • The monk prays (above, sanctified), the devil slays the monk (below, demonic)

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    Ha!

    It is four hundred years since Caxton published this book. We may be sure that so pains»taking a man did the best he could with the spelling. The alphabet he employed was inadequate to represent the sounds of the English language, and he had no other guide than the spelling of the scribes, who represented, as well as they could, the pronunciations in use in the several counties in which they lived. In the course of two hundred and fifty years, coming down to the days of Addison and Pope, a considerable degree of uniformity had been obtained, both in pronunciation, by means of travel, and in spelling, by the desire of printers to have a standard orthography for each word, in order to save themselves the trouble of thinking and comparing various orthographies.

    That’s from The Game of the Chesse: a Moral Treatise on the Duties of Life … Reprinted which I ran across while searching (via the keywords “moral” and “chesse” for this quote:

    Meantime, the king and queen, for recreation’s sake, began to play together. It looked not unlike chesse, only it had other laws, for it was the vertues and vices one against another, where it might be ingeniously discovered with what plots the vices lay in wait for the vertues, and how to re-encounter them again. This was so properly and artificially performed that it were to be wished that we had the like game too.

    That’s from The Chymical Marriage of Johann Valentin Andreae, first published in 1616, translated into English by Ezechiel Foxcroft in 1690.

    Pray, play most assiduously.


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