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Semblance as translation

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — an MIT physica professor works in language games on biology ]
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two solar machines
Both a tree and a solar panel absorb and transform solar energy, and dump heat into their environment. How would a physicist explain why only the tree is alive?

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I’m posting this because of one sentence:

When you refuse to let go of two things that are divergent in the way they cause you to talk,” he says, “it forces you in the direction of translation.

I found it in an intriguing article, How Do You Say “Life” in Physics?

After a brief intro to MIT physicist Jeremy England, the article touches on interdisciplinary translation — which, when you think about it, is a very Koestlerian sort of bisociative process:

Different fields of science, too, are languages unto themselves, and scientific explanations are sometimes just translations. “Red,” for instance, is a translation of the phrase “620-750 nanometer wavelength.” “Temperature” is a translation of “the average speed of a group of particles.” The more complex a translation, the more meaning it imparts. “Gravity” means “the geometry of spacetime.”

Then we get theological, with a twist:

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth …” Here, the Hebrew word for “create” is bara, the word for “heavens” is shamayim, and the word for “earth” is aretz; but their true meanings, England says, only come into view through their context in the following verses. For instance, it becomes clear that bara, creation, entails a process of giving names to things; the creation of the world is the creation of a language game. “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” God created light by speaking its name. “We have heard this phrase so many times that by the time we are old enough to ponder it, we easily miss its simplest point,” England says. “The light by which we see the world comes from the way we talk about it.” That might be important, thought England, if you’re trying to use the language of physics to describe biology.

Finally, we get the basic bisociation laid out in plain words:

As a young faculty member at MIT, he neither wanted to stop doing biology, nor thinking about theoretical physics. “When you refuse to let go of two things that are divergent in the way they cause you to talk,” he says, “it forces you in the direction of translation.”

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I hadn’t thought much about translation as a form of semblance until now, but it opens vistas..

An interesting article.

The tree and the solar panel — there’s much food there for analogical thought.

Reuters + Daily Beast + Nasrallah = now I got it

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — piecing together an understanding – Shi’ite militia, Iraq ]
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Reuters reported today:

Pentagon slams “unhelpful” Iraqi code name for Ramadi offensive
WASHINGTON

May 26 The Pentagon on Tuesday said it was “unhelpful” for Iraq’s Shi’ite militia to have chosen an openly sectarian code name for the operation to retake the city Ramadi and added that, in the U.S. view, the full-on offensive had yet to begin.

Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren also emphasized that problems leading to last week’s Iraqi military withdrawal from the city of Ramadi included “both low morale amongst the troops” as well as problems within the Iraqi military command structure.

“There are many factors that caused Iraqi security forces to withdraw from Ramadi,” Warren said, noting that Iraqi forces “vastly outnumbered their enemy yet they chose to withdraw.” (Reporting by Phillip Stewart; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

That doesn’t tell us what the “unhelpful name” in question is.

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According to The Daily Beast, the “code name” is “Labaik Ya Hussein”:

The Iraqi government said it launched a campaign Tuesday to take back Anbar province from ISIS, two weeks after it captured the provincial capital of Ramadi. The campaign features a leading role for Iran-backed Shiite militias, raising fears that such an openly Shiite-led push threatens to exacerbate sectarian tensions in majority-Sunni Anbar. A spokesman for the Iran-backed militias even said the operation’s codename will be Labaik Ya Hussein —- a nod to the Shiite saint. “The Labaik Ya Hussein operation is led by the Hashid Shaabi in cooperation and coordination with the armed forces there,” he said. “We believe that liberating Ramadi will not take long.”

So that’s “a nod to the Shiite saint” eh?

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Nasrallah expands on the meaning of that “nod” in a fiery clip from 2009.

Ooh. Oh. Ah.

Unholy: perhaps it’s a useful word

Friday, January 30th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — when religion casts a long and violent shadow ]
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unholy cover
cover art for the Unholy album, New Life behind Closed Eyes

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Unholy may prove to be a very useful word, I think.

It’s not secular, it’s not irreligious, it doesn’t lack for some sort of supernatural influence — in fact it fits right in with the metaphysical implications of such Biblical phrases as (Revelation 12.7):

there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels

and (Ephesians 6.12):

we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places

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Because, I am arguing, it is neither secular nor irreligious, it fits perfectly, I’d say, the kinds of situation we’re in so freuqnetly, globally, of religiously motivated group violence.

The word jihad — besides focusing entirely on Islamic variants, when in fact Buddhist, Hindu and Christian militians are also in evidence — concedes too much to those who regard their warfare as holy, divinely sanctioned, while other terms make things sound secular and almost normal, as if politics without the religious booster was all we are talking about.

BrutaL and spiritual, spiritual and brutal on both sides — in the Central African Republic, for instance:

It was March 2013 when the predominantly Muslim rebel coalition Séléka swept into the riverside capital, Bangui, from the northeast. President François Bozizé fled as a vicious campaign of looting, torture and murder got underway. Séléka leader Michel Djotodia soon proclaimed himself the successor; he would later lose control of his ranks and an attempt that fall to disband them would do little to stop the atrocities.

At the same time, groups of militias called anti-balaka had begun to form and train and retaliate against Séléka. Their name in the local Sango language means “anti-machete”; their fighters are comprised of ex-soldiers, Christians and animists, who think magic will protect them. They’re adorned with amulets to ward off attacks and fight with hunting rifles, poison-tipped arrows and machetes.

Amulets and machetes.. warriors and angels.

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Maybe we should say “unholy warriors” and “unholy wars” rather than “holy warriors” or “jihadis” — and “unholy monks” for the Burmese mobsters in saffron robes.

And I’d reserve the use of the term for situations in whiuch at least one side in a conflict openly avows religious motivation. Someone making a treaty someone else feels is foolish or dangerous simply doesn’t meet the bar.

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It’s worth considering the Unholy CD cover art alongside two other recent images:

Moebius Floating City

and:

Wild-Hunt-602

And about that top image from the Unholy album, just so you know:

UNHOLY present their Prosthetic Records debut, a metal massacre fueled with down-tuned guitars, double bass and deep grooves akin to the sounds of Entombed, Crowbar and later Carcass, with members having been in bands like Santa Sangre, Another Victim and Path Of Resistance.

Brief brief: of binding and loosing

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — really just a note to myself, but you may read it over my shoulder ]
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Joas Wagemakers, blogging on Jihadi-Salafi views of the Islamic State at the Washington Post, was talking about the “caliphate” today, and as usual, I went off on my own DoubleQuoting tangent:

SPEC DQ bind and loose

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Here’s Wagemakers’s para that triggered the above:

In 2014 the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria set itself apart from most other radical Islamist groups by actually settling in a certain territory and establishing a state there. The group even declared a caliphate on June 29 and changed its name simply to the Islamic State (IS). Even al-Qaeda, which has long had similar ambitions to establish a caliphate encompassing all Muslims, has never achieved this. In its justification for the announcement of its caliphate, IS has made use of classical Islamic concepts: its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been vetted by a group of scholars described as “the people who loosen and bind” (ahl al-hall wa-l-aqd), was found by them to be a pious Muslim ruler who fit all the criteria for a caliph and was therefore worthy of believers’ oath of allegiance (baya).

Do I detect an echo here, between the two phrases — or is the concept of loosing and binding so basic to human experience that it crops up all over?

It’s a question at the intersection of two of my fields of special interest — depth psychology and cultural anthro — see for example Anthony Stevens, writing under the subtitle Archetypes versus cultural transmission:

Essentially, the theory can be stated as a psychological law: whenever a phenomenon is found to be characteristic of all human communities, it is an expression of an archetype of the collective unconscious. It is not possible to demonstrate that such universally apparent phenomena are exclusively due to archetypal determinants or entirely due to cultural diffusion, because in all probability both are involved. However, the likelihood is that there will be a strong bias for those phenomena which are archetypally determined to diffuse more readily and more lastingly than those that are not.

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Now go read Wagemakers.

King

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — my bilingual six-letter DoubleQuote for the day ]
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SPEC DQ MLK Melek

in the upper panel, in Hebrew, the word MeLeK. I’ve put the three consonants in capitals down here, and the vowels in lower case, but it’s a three letter word as you can see above, and the letters are (from right to left) MLK.

Which is interesting.

Because in translation, it means, as does the lower panel: King.


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