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Of Blood and Bride

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — concerning the tidal pull of two words on the emotions, in considering Hamzah bin Laden’s recent message ]
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quote-blood-sin-and-desecration-of-the-race-are-the-original-sin hitler

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In the Jewish book of Leviticus [17.11], we find:

For the soul of the flesh is in the blood and I have assigned it for you upon the altar to provide atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that atones for the soul.

For Christians, the early Church father Tertullian has the appropriate quotation:

Plures efficimur quotiens metimur a vobis? semen est sanguis Christianorum.

This translates to “We multiply whenever we are mown down by you? the blood of Christians is seed” and is often quoted in the form “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

The American equivalent comes from Thomas Jefferson‘s Letter to William Stephens Smith of November 13, 1787, and is no doubt familiar to ZP readers:

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.

The terrible significance of “blood” to the Nazis is illustrated by the Hitler quote at the top of this post.

**

In the beginnings of the jihad fought by the Al-Qaida and its secessionist successors in the Islamic State, Abdullah Azzam‘s words are foundational. In a document which has been titled Martyrs: The Building Blocks of Nations — shades of Tertullian and Jefferson — Azzam writes of both blood and ink:

The life of the Muslim Ummah is solely dependent on the ink of its scholars and the blood of its martyrs. What is more beautiful than the writing of the Ummah’s history with both the ink of a scholar and his blood, such that the map of Islamic history becomes coloured with two lines: one of them black, and that is what the scholar wrote with the ink of his pen; and the other one red, and that is what the martyr wrote with his blood. And something more beautiful than this is when the blood is one and the pen is one, so that the hand of the scholar which expends the ink and moves the pen, is the same as the hand which expends its blood and moves the Ummah. The extent to which the number of martyred scholars increases is the extent to which nations are delivered from their slumber, rescued from their decline and awoken from their sleep.

Again — though I cannot say for certain who gave that title to this compilation of Azzam’s words — we see the importance of blood as the prime sacrificial element on which a world is built.

Indeed, one commonly cited hadith found in the collection of Bukhari states:

Anyone who is wounded in the path of Allah comes on the Day of Resurrection when [his] color is the color of blood, [but] his scent is the scent of musk.

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I trust I don’t have to belabor the reasons why the word “bride” — particularly in combination with the word “blood” — is also fraught with enormous archaic, archetypal pulling-power. If we are in any doubt, we should consider the ravishing bridal poetry of the Tanakh’s Song of Songs which is Solomon’s:

Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my bride; Thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, With one bead of thy necklace. [Song of Solomon, 4.9]

— not to mention the eucharistic “bridal supper of the lamb” in that most poetic, visionary, and well-nigh inscrutable book of the New Testament, the Revelation of John of Patmos:

Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God. [Revelation 19. 7-9]

and in the fullest and final revelation of that revelatory book:

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. [Revelation 21.1-4]

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Bear this double call of “blood” and “bride” on the emotions in mind, utilizing whichever of the above examples strikes the deepest chord in you to confirm their trance-like appeal, as you consider this message from Bin Laden‘s son, Hamzah, issued just a day or two ago:


Thomas Joscelyn posted a breakdown of the message content at Long Wars Journal yesterday:

  • Osama bin Laden’s son says jihad in Syria key to ‘liberate Palestine’
  • I trust this post of mine will add to our understanding of the emotional force on which Bin Laden’s son is appealing.

    A terrible word, -splaining — and a not terribly nice thing

    Monday, May 9th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — Rebecca Solnit and Donald Hall DoubleQuoted, with a touch of Mallory Ortberg ]
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    11a_Jean-Beraud-Scene-de-cafeJean Beraud, Scène de café, from Women Listening To Men In Western Art

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    I’d have called this piece Youngsplaining if it wasn’t such a terrible word. App-ocalypse, ape-ocalypse, and Apple-ocalypse all arose in response to my Google inquiry about -ocalypses, and I have to say it gets tiresome, especially for a student of apocalyptic — and much the same would be true of -splaining, so I won’t call it that, I’ll just let you know there’s a parallelism.

    It was Rebecca Solnit‘s essay Men Explain Things to Me that first hovered around the notion that was later named Mansplaining — a word I can tolderate — and the instance which captured the idea naked was one in which a man, all unknowing, tried to explain to Solnit the importance of one of her own books. It is by now a well-known anecdote, so if you already know it, you can skip it. It’s it’s twin that I want to get to.

    But in case you’ve not read it before:We were preparing to leave, when our host said, “No, stay a little longer so I can talk to you.” He was an imposing man who’d made a lot of money.

    He kept us waiting while the other guests drifted out into the summer night, and then sat us down at his authentically grainy wood table and said to me, “So? I hear you’ve written a couple of books.”

    I replied, “Several, actually.”

    He said, in the way you encourage your friend’s seven-year-old to describe flute practice, “And what are they about?”

    They were actually about quite a few different things, the six or seven out by then, but I began to speak only of the most recent on that summer day in 2003, River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West, my book on the annihilation of time and space and the industrialization of everyday life.

    He cut me off soon after I mentioned Muybridge. “And have you heard about the very important Muybridge book that came out this year?”

    So caught up was I in my assigned role as ingénue that I was perfectly willing to entertain the possibility that another book on the same subject had come out simultaneously and I’d somehow missed it. He was already telling me about the very important book–with that smug look I know so well in a man holding forth, eyes fixed on the fuzzy far horizon of his own authority.

    Here, let me just say that my life is well-sprinkled with lovely men, with a long succession of editors who have, since I was young, listened and encouraged and published me, with my infinitely generous younger brother, with splendid friends of whom it could be said–like the Clerk in The Canterbury Tales I still remember from Mr. Pelen’s class on Chaucer–“gladly would he learn and gladly teach.” Still, there are these other men, too. So, Mr. Very Important was going on smugly about this book I should have known when Sallie interrupted him to say, “That’s her book.” Or tried to interrupt him anyway.

    But he just continued on his way. She had to say, “That’s her book” three or four times before he finally took it in. And then, as if in a nineteenth-century novel, he went ashen. That I was indeed the author of the very important book it turned out he hadn’t read, just read about in the New York Times Book Review a few months earlier, so confused the neat categories into which his world was sorted that he was stunned speechless–for a moment, before he began holding forth again. Being women, we were politely out of earshot before we started laughing, and we’ve never really stopped.

    **

    Okay, here’s the DoubleQuote part: the poet Donald Hall has another essay,Out the Window, in which he recounts a deligiously parallel experience:

    I go to Washington to receive the National Medal of Arts and arrive two days early to look at paintings. At the National Gallery of Art, Linda [Hall’s girlfriend] pushes me in a wheelchair from painting to painting. We stop by a Henry Moore carving. A museum guard, a man in his sixties with a small pepper-and-salt mustache, approaches us and helpfully tells us the name of the sculptor. I wrote a book about Moore and knew him well. Linda and I separately think of mentioning my connection but instantly suppress the notion — egotistic, and maybe embarrassing to the guard. A couple of hours later, we emerge from the cafeteria and see the same man, who asks Linda if she enjoyed her lunch. Then he bends over to address me, wags his finger, smiles a grotesque smile, and raises his voice to ask, “Did we have a nice din-din?”

    **

    To revert to “mansplaining” — it also involves woman listening, at least at first, though not necessarily with much enthusiasm –a fact deliciously illustrated by Mallory Ortberg in one of her Toast pieces, Women Listening To Men In Western Art History.

    Too funny, if you don’t mind my saying so.

    Trump as Walt Whitman?

    Thursday, May 5th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — a drive-by DoubleQuote ]
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    Donald Trump
    , as revealed in The Atlantic, as tweeted by Peter R Neumann:

    Trump atlantic

    Walt Whitman, as self-sung:

    Do I contradict myself?
    Very well then I contradict myself,
    (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

    **

    The Question:
    would you want a Walt Whitman for President?

    Brevity in Paradox

    Monday, May 2nd, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — or as John Cage once said, I have nothing to say and I am saying it and that is poetry ]
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    suzuki_enso-2-sm

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    JV Cunningham has a poem which runs in its entirety:

    Life flows to death as rivers to the sea
    And life is fresh and death is salt to me.

    Brilliant and brief. Samuel Beckett goes him one better, writing:

    My birth was my death. Or put it another way. My birth was the death of me. Words are scarce.

    It’s the scarcity that interests me here. Earlier, in Godot, he had written:

    They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.

    That’s too wordy. “My birth was the death of me” packs a colloquial punch, while “My birth was my death” is more succinct and correspondingly powerful.

    **

    Birth > death.

    They are opposites, obviously, and almost tautologically so — and yet there is a less-than-obvious “double meaning” to them — when brought into close conjunction they can be said to fold the universe from many back into one.

    This business of the conjunction of opposites is one which Carl Jung made the centerpiece of much of his later work, writing for instance:

    Whoever identifies with an intellectual standpoint will occasionally find his feeling confronting him like an enemy in the guise of the anima; conversely, an intellectual animus will make violent attacks on the feeling standpoint. Therefore, anyone who wants to achieve the difficult feat of realizing something not only intellectually, but also according to its feeling-value, must for better or worse come to grips with the anima/animus problem in order to open the way for a higher union, a coniunctio oppositorum. This is an indispensable prerequisite for wholeness.

    Consider the current US election campaign in this light…

    **

    Shakespeare’s “insult, exult, and all at once” in As you Like It, and Dylan Thomas’ “Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray” in Do not go gentle are 0other instances of brevity in paradox.

    Beckett, Jung, Shakespeare, Dylan Thomas — heady company.

    Theology for artists and musicians, Buddhist & Christian

    Monday, April 18th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — with side-trips to China, ancient and modern ]
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    The-Bach-Window-Saint-Tho-007
    Bach window in the Thomaskirsche, Leipzig, where Bach was Cantor

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    The Dalai Lama has a fascinating article out about reincarnating lamas (“tulkus”) which has direct relevance to discussions of what happens when he died — whether he decides to reincarnate as a new Dalai Lama, whether the Chinese decide to do it for him, etc.

    I learned a lot — but the piece that really caught my eye was this:

    The Emanation Body is three-fold: a) the Supreme Emanation Body like Shakyamuni Buddha, the historical Buddha, who manifested the twelve deeds of a Buddha such as being born in the place he chose and so forth; b) the Artistic Emanation Body which serves others by appearing as craftsmen, artists and so on; and c) the Incarnate Emanation Body, according to which Buddhas appear in various forms such as human beings, deities, rivers, bridges, medicinal plants, and trees to help sentient beings.

    I love the ontology that gives us “human beings, deities, rivers, bridges, medicinal plants, and trees” and which reminds me of Borges‘ scheme, allegedly derived from a Chinese encyclopedia, The Celestial Empire of benevolent Knowledge, for the classification of animals:

    In its remote pages it is written that the animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies.

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    But really, that’s a bonus.

    It’s the inclusion of “craftsmen, artists and so on” as being potentially Artistic Emanation Bodies of Buddha that gets me. I see it as a viable counterbalance to the current emphasis in the west — and in the westifying east — on STEM topics, science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as the ultimate desirables in education.

    And for what it’s worth, the idea is not without comparative equivalents. July 28 is the commemoration, in the Episcopalian Calendar of Saints, of “Johann Sebastian Bach, 1750, George Frederick Handel, 1759, and Henry Purcell, 1695, Composers” — while the Lutherans on the same day commemorate “Johann Sebastian Bach, 1750; Heinrich Schütz, 1672; George Frederick Handel, 1759; musicians”.

    From a set of Episcopalian lectionary readings:

    Almighty God, beautiful in majesty and majestic in holiness: Thou gavest to thy musicians Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frederick Handel, and Henry Purcell grace to show forth thy glory in their music. May we also be moved to sound out thy praises as a foretaste of thy eternal glory; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

    Arthur Waley, in his slim volume on Li Po, puts a somewhat ironic spin on the idea, telling us:

    It was commonly believed that immortals who had misbehaved in Heaven were as punishment banished to live on earth for a fixed time, there they figured as wayward and extraordinary human beings. They were what was called ‘Ministers Abroad of the Thirty-Six Emperors of Heaven.’

    Falling, drunk, into the Yellow River while attempting to kiss the moon would appear to qualify one for this honorific.

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    Not to worry, btw. According to an announcement issued yesterday:

    The Tibetan spiritual leader told a group of abbots not to worry as he is in good health and still has recurring dreams indicating that he will live for at least 113 years.


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