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Pistol, crucifix, condom

Friday, May 12th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — covering all bases? — an astonishing display of symbols ]
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Lists of three — sex, drugs and rock’n’roll for example, or wine, women and song, as we used to say — sex, lies and videotape — can usefully itemize / totemize the whole of life as it is lived — a jug of wine, a loaf of bread and thou beside me — at the individual, general, universal or transcendent level — when two or three are gathered in my name

But this image, from a Ukrainian law enforcement advisor’s Instagram account beats all!

Hat tip: Christopher Miller

Pistol, crucifix, condom
— I was wondering whether one could play scissors, paper, rock with those symbols, but..

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Coleridge characterizes symbols thus:

A symbol is characterized… above all by the translucence of the Eternal through and in the Temporal. It always partakes of the Reality which it Renders Intelligible; and while it enunciates the whole, abides itself as a living part in that Unity of which it is representative.

At night, to be honest, a pistol, a condom an a crucifix might each be placed on the bedside table of someone in law enforcement as a matter of convenience, with no great symbolic import attached. But they are each nonetheless highly symbolic items. And the greater the degree to which these three items, when considered as symbols, are “translucent” to the individual resder here, the more astonishing their juztaposition in this image will appear.

The Executive and the [unacknowledged] Legislator

Sunday, April 30th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world” — PB Shelley ]
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President Trump reads the lyrics of a song about a snake:

Trump is arguing the dangers of immigration and the necessity of a wall…

My response:

Poet Robert Frost reads a poem about a wall:

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There’s irony aplenty in the Frost poem, and the voice of the narrator is generally not taken to be that of Frost himself. Worth pondering, thugh, are these lines:

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.

Frost’s poem, though, is contrapuntal, with its two key statements clashing:

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

and:

Good fences make good neighbours.

Frost, it seems, leans more to the latter position — and Trump might have done himself a different favor, and quoted Frost.

Empty handed thieves

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — on filling the anxious void ]
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Upper panel, below, saying of Saadi, from the Gulistan, presented by Idries Shah in The Way of the Sufi:

Lower panel, above, a haiku by the Zen monk Ryokan, from Stephen Mitchell, The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry.

Wikipedia tells the tale:

One evening a thief visited Ryokan’s hut at the base of the mountain only to discover there was nothing to steal. Ryokan returned and caught him. “You have come a long way to visit me,” he told the prowler, “and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift.” The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away. Ryokan sat naked, watching the moon. “Poor fellow,” he mused, “I wish I could have given him this beautiful moon.”

Beautiful, the moon? A tautology, surely..

Mattis and Kim: mirrors have consequences

Friday, April 21st, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — the current nuclear standoff, with a coda on silver beech and copper birch ]
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I spend a fair amount of time suggesting that formal characteristics found in events are frequently worth special note, and mirroring is a good example. Here, in Why Mattis versus Kim Jong-Un Will End Badly for Us All, War on tnhe Rocks indicates the potential (and potent) peril of mirroring in the context of our latest Korean adventure:

Inadvertent war in Korea is more likely now than at any point in recent history. Whereas a second Korean war has always been possible, clashing U.S. and North Korean “theories of victory” — beliefs about what it takes to successfully coerce and control escalation — now make it plausible, even probable.

Patterns of bluster and brinkmanship have of course long characterized affairs on the Korean Peninsula. For “Korea watchers,” there’s a perverse comfort in the predictability of a situation that, to the uninitiated, sometimes looks anything but stable.

So on some level, the rhythm of recent saber-rattling between the Trump administration and North Korea recalls the perverse comfort of typical Korea policy. On a recent visit to South Korea, Vice President Mike Pence cited U.S. attacks in Syria and Afghanistan as indications of U.S. resolve against North Korea. This statement followed numerous officials confirming that the administration is contemplating preventive strikes against the North, and a recent policy review on North Korea yielding one overarching imperative: “maximum pressure.” North Korea’s rhetoric and posturing has been no less confrontational and no less familiar. As Pence departed Alaska for South Korea, North Korea attempted a submarine-launched ballistic missile test that failed. Upon news that a U.S. carrier group was headed to its neighborhood, North Korea responded that “a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment” and that it’s “ready to react to any mode of war desired by the U.S.”

These words and deeds themselves are more heated than usual, but unremarkable in the context of all that’s come before. North Korea routinely threatens war, often summoning images of a future mushroom cloud. The United States routinely dispatches aircraft carriers, bombers, and other strategic military assets in hopes of signaling resolve while actually registering little more than displeasure with North Korean behavior. The notion of “maximum pressure,” moreover, only differs from the approach of past U.S. presidents in the ambiguous adjective “maximum.” Pressure is the historical mean of U.S. policy toward North Korea. My concern is not with these observable dynamics to date, but rather with what lies beneath them, and what may be coming soon as a consequence.

It’s getting harder to ignore that the Pentagon, under Secretary Jim Mattis, may have a coercive theory of victory that largely mirrors that of North Korea under Kim Jong-Un. The danger is in the fundamental incompatibility of these disturbingly similar sets of strategic beliefs.

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Smoke and the hall of mirrors, a digression:

An excellent place for final confrontations with heroes, the Hall Of Mirrors wins high marks for ease of use. All you have to do is lure your victim inside by dashing in yourself, and then cackle with glee as they find you reflected back not once but a thousand times… When you have had your fun, seal the exits and fill the cramped space with some kind of liquid. Plain water works as well as anything, but why not add food dye for color. Or, for a touch of whimsy, use a sickeningly sweet fruit punch.

Neil Zawacki, How to Be a Villain, in TV Tropes: Hall of Mirrors

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Mirroring sets up an echo chamber — consider the myth of Narcissus** — which is also a sort of ping-pong game and a feedback machine —

and hence a magnifier or an accelerator. It can allm too easily howl out of control, with — in this case — nuclear consequences.

** Narcissus sees his reflection, Echo echos his voice back to him, thus the myth encompasses a parallelism between visual and aural self-perceptions in a wonderful act of inter-media symmetry.

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Form is the decorative act of the creative mind, adding to meaning by the use of devices of art in the way the materials of the art are deployed — as when the poet notes (specifically) beech and birch trees in a wood, delighted by the verbal felicity between the two words, or Coppola matches helicopter rotors against the blades of a hotel room fan in the beginning of Apocalypse Now.

And then the delight triples with the addition of a metallic match:

But again, I digress..

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Running — the pragmatic and the ecstatic

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — .. a runner moves between prose and poetry, mere winning and the runner’s high ]
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The pragmatic:

The ecstatic:

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The pragmatic tells you what most running is like: the ecstatic tells you how you feel when you hit “runner’s high — here’s one athlete’s description of winning, where winning itself becomes the least interesting aspect of the race:

The starter gave us instructions, and the gun went off. I ran a few steps into a dimension I didn’t know existed.

Suddenly I seemed to be up in the rafters of the arena, looking down at my race far below. I could see the black framework of the high catwalks vaguely around me, the cables, the great spotlights, the blazing brilliance of the tiny track so far beneath me, and myself running in the midst of the others in my race that was on both with me and without me.

And in the total silence of this incredible vantage point, a voice said tome clearly, in a kindlysort of way, “Well, Grace, thisis what you always wanted.”

And then I was back down in my race again, winning it, setting a new U.S. record. Afterward, exuberant, curious, and a little wistful, I asked some friends who were there, “Didn’t anyone clap or cheer or anything?” I didn’t remember hearing the crowd at all.

“Sure they did! Everyone was yelling and screaming. Didn’t you hear them?”

No. I hadn’t heard anything. Except the voice. I don’t even remember anything about the race itself except for what I saw from up there.

That’s Grace Butcher, from Garth Battista, The Runner’s High: Illumination and Ecstasy in Motion. And the “high” doesn’t have to include an out-of-body experience, though I had that myself one day when I was very young. It’s just a matter of transcendance, of what the Buddhists would call “gone beyond” without further specifying..

Life as poetry.


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