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Face toward the wall

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — Hezekiah’s Bodhidharma Zen? ]
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Bodhidharma sat in meditation nine years facing the cave wall, so we have heard.

Moral Equivalence

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — in which a sunni sheikh protects a yazidi family ]
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Yad Vashem:

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I seldom make comparisons that strike me as demonstrating moral equivalence as such — mostly I intend the juxtapositions I present to illustrate some parallelism or opposition that’s worthy of note as one aspect of a bigger picture, but by no means the whole. Often such an aspect will add nuance to the broader picture, sometime by contrasting with the overall impression. I relish those opportunities to see more that the first glance would tell me, to begin probing, digging deeper into a particular situation or issue.

Here though, I think I may have stumbled onto a juxtaposition that does reveal a moral equivalence — in this case, a Sunni tribal leader standing in the same relation to the Yezidis he saved as one or another of the Righteous Among the Nations does to a Jewish person, family, or group they saved.

The details of tribal anthropology in the Sunni-Yazidi case — which would be of interest no doubt to our friend David Ronfeldt — are fascinating in themselves:

Fadel was a wealthy Sunni, and a tribal leader from the Shammar tribe, one of the world’s largest and most influential Arab tribes. He was also a close friend of the family.

When Fadel found out where the family was, he rushed to the IS headquarters in Kocho, where he negotiated with the local militant leaders. “Please, let me take them with me,” he told them. “They belong with me.”

While thousands of other Yazidi women and children were transferred to other places in Iraq and Syria – and most of the Yazidi men were killed on the spot – Nadine and her children, along with dozens of their relatives, were taken to the tribal leader’s house in Ba’aj, a small town in Nineveh governorate.

Immediately, the family buried their mobile phones and Yazidi clothing. It was the beginning of a long period in hiding.

But why would the local sheikh go to such lengths to protect this Yazidi family? The families go way back and have a long history together, explained Nadine. He was their ‘krive‘ – a kind of godfather or patron. “And he had promised to protect us,” Nadine said.

Just like Muslims, Yazidis circumcise their young boys. During the ceremony, the man who holds the boy on their lap is considered his godfather, or “blood brother” – or krive.

Before 2003, the krive was often historically selected from among religious families or even influential Muslim families. Yazidis believe that this creates a special bond between two clans; they have to respect and protect each other whenever needed.

Sadly:

But the ritual shared between the two religious groups declined amid Iraq’s sectarian violence, and after the Yazidi genocide in 2014, it completely disappeared.

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Note here the role of circumcision, adding nuance to the parallel with Judaism. Ritual here is not some form of “dry as dust” repetition, but the instrument of deep, indeed life-saving human bonding.

As so often, I wish I knew more — and in the meantime, I am grateful to those such as Oscar Schindler, Fadel of the Shammar, and so many others — the righteous protectors.

Nadine Naif and family, your story brings me hope. Fadel, I salute you.

Transfiguration, Tabernacles, and Yom Kippur

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

[ By Charles Cameron — responding to Scott, Jewish & Christian holy days ]
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J Scott Shipman today sent some Zenpundit friends a post concerning The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), viewed through a “Messianic Jewish” (ie Judaism-observant Christian) lens:

As the last feast on the Sabbatical calendar, representing the final ingathering of the great harvest and the joyful celebration that will follow, the number seven is imprinted in this feast. The feast was in the seventh month, lasted for seven days, and the number of sacrifices, of which there were more than for any other festival, were divisible by seven. Little wonder that it was also called the “Feast of the Lord”.

Following closely after Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), it was a particularly joyous celebration, representing the joy of those who have been reconciled to God through the forgiveness of sin. One of the names applied to this feast was “the season of our joy.”

According to Jewish tradition the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire which was given to guide the Israelites day and night first appeared to Israel on the 15th of Tishri, the first day of the feast. Moreover, Moses is said to have come down from the mountain and announced to the people that the tabernacle of God would be pitched in the midst of their tabernacles on this same day.

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By way of response, I’d like to offer Scott and company the following post, The Transfiguration and Jewish feast days, from a liturgically traditionalist Catholic site:

I thought it might be helpful to look at today’s feast day in the light of two Jewish feasts. Many years ago, I was bowled over by Fr Jean Galot’s observation concerning St Peter’s profession of faith. He argued that if, as many scholars accepted, the transfiguration occurred during the feast of tabernacles, then the “after six days” of Matthew 17.1 would mean that the profession of faith of St Peter in Matthew 16.16 would have taken place on the Day of Atonement. This is highly significant because the Day of Atonement was the one day in the year on which the high priest solemnly pronounced the holy name YHWH in the holy of holies in the Temple. St Peter, by his confession of faith fulfils the work of the high priests, and Our Lord in His own person is the living presence the Most High.

There’s more at each site, naturally, and both Jewish and Christian traditions have their symbolisms as well as their festivals.

Greetings to all.

HipBone implications of the second shoe dropping for intel analysis

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — also, the role of the True Name in intel analysis & Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea ]
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You may know that I value the documentary film Manhunt for its lucid presentation of the process by which the finest intelligence analysts “leap” to their quarry — in which Cindy Storer notes, “not the analysts doing it, but other people who didn’t have that talent referred to it as magic”.

In my post The process of associative memory I decribe this process, which I consider the root process of true creativity:

There’s the present moment .. And there’s the memory it elicits.

Compare Michael Hayden in Manhunt, at 1.19.18:

The way it works is, information come in, you catalog it, your organize it – that little nugget there could sit fallow on your shelves for four or five years until something else comes in that’s suddenly very illuminating about something that you may have had for a very long period of time. That actually happened in the work we did to hunt for Osama bin Laden by trying to track his courier.

By way of confirmation, here is Robert Frost:

The artist must value himself as he snatches a thing from some previous order in time and space into a new order with not so much as a ligature clinging to it of the old place where it was organic.

And here’s Jeff Jones on piecing together puzzles —

Some pieces produce remarkable epiphanies. You grab the next piece, which appears to be just some chunk of grass – obviously no big deal. But wait … you discover this innocuous piece connects the windmill scene to the alligator scene! This innocent little new piece turned out to be the glue.

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My point here is that the board in my “game” of DoubleQuotes provides a matrix for eliciting and annotating such leaps between fact and memory — that’s its purpose, and that’s why I believe the practice and “playing” of DoubleQuotes is, in itself, an ideal training for the analytic mind in that otherwise elusive aptitude which Ms Storer says seenms like magic to those who do not possess it..

I believe my DoubleQuotes would be an invaluable tool for analysts in training.

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Note, however, that Jose Rodriguez, speaking immediately after Michael Hayden at 1.19.55, adds a reference to the “True Name” — accompanying screencaps included — something to which as a theologian I am naturally drawn:

It took years for the agency to recruit the human source that eventually gave us the true name. That’s why we were in the business the of condensing human intelligence because, in many cases, all these fancy gadgets and everything else won’t give you the information that you really need. A true name.

And we finally got his true name, which is whatever it is. Whatever. Arabic name, you know. But the true name – we were able to find out a lot about him. From then on, you know, the agency was able to do what it does so well. Track the guy and find him.

That too elicits memories, though in this case providing cultural context rather than actionable intelligence. It’s interesting to compare Rodriguez’ quote with the passages in which Ursula Le Guin describes the nature of magic in her book, Wizard of Earthsea:

He who would be Seamaster must know the true name of every drop of water in the sea.

and:

He saw that in this dusty and fathomless matter of learning the true name of every place, thing, and being, the power he wanted lay like a jewel at the bottom of a dry well. For magic consists in this, the true naming of a thing.

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See also:

  • Gaming the Connections: from Sherlock H to Nada B
  • Jeff Jonas, Nada Bakos, Cindy Storer and Puzzles
  • FWIW, there’s an appendix on the central spiritual significance of remembrance of the True Name in Judaism (HaShem), Christianity (Jesus Prayer), Islam (dhikr), Hinduism (nama-rupa), Buddhism (nembutsu) etc at the back of Frithjof Schuon‘s little book, The Transcendent Unity of Religions.

    On which frankly mystical note, here’s a third para from Le Guin to carry you towards Lao Tzu‘s observation that “The name that can be named is not the eternal Name” —

    It is no secret. All power is one in source and end, I think. Years and distances, stars and candles, water and wind and wizardry, the craft in a man’s hand and the wisdom in a tree’s root: they all arise together. My name, and yours, and the true name of the sun, or a spring of water, or an unborn child, all are syllables of the great word that is very slowly spoken by the shining of the stars. There is no other power. No other name.

    Of rules and regs

    Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — that little free libraries are like the Sabbath, and on the close-packing of angels ]
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    Let us suppose a parallel reality in which squares and circles, cubes and spheres, have wings. The nature of bureaucracy is that in the interest of packing squares and circles, cubes and spheres, it lops off their wings — convenient but inelegant, and what a waste of flight!

    Example:

    The Little Free Library concept is premised on the blessing of books — and the generosity of a gift economy.

    Individuals put up little free libraries outside their houses, often repurposing bird feeders or mail boxes — but zoning bureaucrats not infrequently try to shut them down:

    Little Free Libraries on the wrong side of the law

    Crime, homelessness and crumbling infrastructure are still a problem in almost every part of America, but two cities have recently cracked down on one of the country’s biggest problems: small community libraries where residents can share books.

    Officials in Los Angeles and Shreveport, La., have told the owners of homemade lending libraries that they’re in violation of city codes, and asked them to remove or relocate their small book collections.

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    Scriptures:

    There’s actually a Biblical injunction about this sort of thing — Mark 2.27:

    The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath..

    It’s a matter of priorities: zoning laws are intended to facilitate human life, not to frustrate it.

    Or as Lao Tzu might say, the zoning that can be set forth in rules and regs isn’t the ideal zoning.

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    Creativity & Bureaucracy, PS, NB:

    I usually think of winged squares and so forth in terms of creative ideation, and how creative ideas can get the creativity clipped from them in committe — making the point that a winged square is, in an important sense, a better “translation” of a winged circle than a circle with its wings clipped will ever be.. since it captures the material / ethereal binary that’s the essence of imagining a circle with wings.

    Compare Picasso‘s reported observation, “the best criticism of any work of art is another work of art.”

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    Has anyone figured out the best method of close-packing angels?

    Argh.


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