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Time In all his tuneful turning (i)

Thursday, March 15th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — Stephen Hawking, RIP, and synchronicity? ]
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Connsider these high-popularity responses to Stephen Hawking‘s death:

Sources:

  • USA Today, Hawking’s death, Einstein’s birth, and Pi Day: what does it all mean?
  • Time, People Think It’s an Interesting Coincidence That Stephen Hawking Died on Pi Day
  • **”

    The Time article focused on the internet:

    Some people on the internet think Stephen Hawking couldn’t have calculated a better day to die.

    Calculated. Like it.

    The 76-year-old theoretical physicist, one of science’s most famous luminaries died on March 14, also known as National Pi Day — an annual day for scientists and mathematicians around the world to celebrate the value of pi that even includes deals on pizzas and actual pies. Suffice it to say that the noteworthy coincidence was not lost on the internet.

    The date of Hawking’s death — 3/14 — is significant because 3.14 are the first three digits of pi, a bedrock of geometry. Specifically, it’s the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Naturally, the fact that science’s big celebration overlapped with the day the life of the party left us is making people geek out about the details.

    As soon as news spread that Hawking died early Wednesday morning in London, people were quick to connect the dots.

    Connect the dots, eh?

    **

    And here’s the complete USA Today article:

    So, is there some mystical theory explaining how noted astrophysicist Stephen Hawking died on the same day Albert Einstein was born, which also happens to be the day we honor the mathematical constant Pi?

    Nope. It’s just all one giant coincidence.

    Hawking died at 76, his family confirmed early Wednesday. He was considered one of the world’s foremost theoretical physicists, developing critical theories on black holes and writing A Brief History of Time to explain complex scientific concepts to the masses.

    That’s it. Nope, in a word. Nope. There is no “mystical theory explaining how noted astrophysicist Stephen Hawking died on the same day Albert Einstein was born, which also happens to be the day we honor the mathematical constant Pi”.

    That’s decided without consulting Pythagoras, Newton, Johann Valentin Andreae, Hermann Hesse‘s Joseph Knecht, or any of a dozen other worthies I might name..

    **

    But note: Warren Leight adds another datapoint and brings the circuit to completion:

    Galileo, ooh.

    It seems worth recalling at this point that pi is an irrational number.

    **

    Where do we go from here?

    First, note that Warren Leight posts that Hawking died on the 14th, in a tweet dated the 13th.

    One of Leight’s commenters challenges the whole coincidence chain:

    He died March 13th

    Leight’s response to that challenge could also serve as a response to mine:

    It depends on how and where you measure time

    Time is circular, date is relative..

    **

    God save us, here’s a game ref:

    Is that Johann Sebastian Bach?

    Kidding.

    **

    May the extraordinarily, ceaselessly curious mind of Stephen Hawking rest at last in the balm of peace.

    **

    And my title, Time in all its tuneful turning?

    It’s from Dylan Thomas, approximately. He wrote, in this masterpiece, Fern Hill:

    And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
    In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
    Before the children green and golden
    Follow him out of grace…

    I want to suggest that Dylan Thomas is at least as great a thinker about time as Stephen Hawking, and Fern Hill is my proof text to that effect. I’ll explain why in part ii of this post.

    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..

    **

    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!

    **

    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.

    **

    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!

    **

    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.

    **

    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.

    **

    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!

    Getting religion, forgetting circumcision

    Thursday, March 8th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — some characteristicc lacunae in journalisti praxis ]
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    As you know, I used to work for Lapido Media, which in turn used to be a media-eductional outlet that emphasized the major role of religion(s) in world affairs, so often overlooked by typically skeptical, secular journos.

    Get religion is a fine site with a similar purpose, and today it has a fine article titled With Russia all over U.S. news map right now, how fares its huge Orthodox Church? For instance:

    In addition to politics, there’s a historic religious turnabout in Russia that stateside reporters could well develop through interviews with the experts. The dominant Orthodox Church, which managed to survive Communist terror and regained freedom, has latterly emerged as a strategic prop for Putin’s Kremlin.

    If that election day peg doesn’t work for your outlet, another signal event comes July 17. That’s the Orthodox feast day of the doomed final czar, Nicholas II, and his family, shot to death by Bolshevik revolutionaries in 1918 and canonized by the national church in 2000 as saints and “passion-bearers.”

    **

    It’s not just journos who forget / don’t get religion — pols in the extreme north do it, too. How else explain this header from Iceland: Iceland male circumcision ban: MP behind plan ‘didn’t think it was necessary to consult’ Jewish and Muslim groups, amid growing anger. The subhead is (from my POV) idf anytbing even more mind-boggling:

    ‘I don’t see it as a religious matter,’ insists Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir

    What does Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir imagine the origin of the practice was?

    **

    What else do journos tend to miss?

    Well, there’s female obits, for onr thing — although things may be improving in that regard. Here’s a New York Times’ obit, belated but in a good faith effort to catch and patch up: 1932-1963 Sylvia Plath –A postwar poet unafraid to confront her own despair. It begins:

    She made sure to spare the children, leaving milk and bread for the two toddlers to find when they woke up. She stuffed the cracks of the doors and windows with cloths and tea towels. Then she turned on the gas.

    And it quotes her poetry:

    Dying
    Is an art, like everything else.
    I do it exceptionally well.
    I do it so it feels like hell.

    Okay, it’s International Women’s Day 2018.

    Thank you, Anemona Hartocollis and the NYT editors. We mourn you, Mrs easily forgotten behind your husband Hughes.

    Shorts 04: Books, and a personal pic

    Sunday, March 4th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — a quick treasury of treasures, what else? ]
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    Robert Irwin, The Arabian Nights: A Companion

    Abbasid Baghdad did produce its own semi- legendary criminals. Many tales were told of the ingenious exploits of the ninth-century master-thief, al-Uqab (‘the Eagle’), among them the story of a bet he had with a certain doctor that within a set period of time alUqab could steal something from the doctor’s house. Although the house was closely guarded, alUqab drugged the guards. Then, posing as an apparition of Jesus and making use of hypnotism, he succeeded in stealing off with the dcotor himself.

    Robert Irwin was an Oxford contemporary & fellow-traveller.

    **

    Kim Wagner, The Skull of Alum Bheg: The Life and Death of a Rebel of 1857

    In 1963, a human skull was discovered in a pub in south-east England. The handwritten note found inside revealed it to be that of Alum Bheg, an Indian soldier in British service who had been blown from a cannon for his role in the 1857 Uprising, his head brought back as a grisly war-trophy by an Irish officer present at his execution. The skull is a troublesome relic of both anti-colonial violence and the brutality and spectacle of British retribution.

    Ooh, grue! Cf. the food of that served in the Arkansas penal system.

    ^^

    Simon Armitage, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: an introduction

    We know next to nothing about the author of the poem which has come to be called Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It was probably written around 1400. In the early 17th century the manuscript was recorded as belonging to a Yorkshireman, Henry Saville of Bank. It was later acquired by Sir Robert Cotton, whose collection also included the Lindisfarne Gospels and the only surviving manuscript of Beowulf . The poem then lay dormant for over 200 years, not coming to light until Queen Victoria was on the throne, thus leapfrogging the attentions of some of our greatest writers and critics. The manuscript, a small, unprepossessing thing, would fit comfortably into an average-size hand, were anyone actually allowed to touch it. Now referred to as Cotton Nero A X, it is considered not only a most brilliant example of Middle English poetry but also as one of the jewels in the crown of English Literature; it now sits in the British Library under conditions of high security and controlled humidity.

    Hat-tip: Hanne Elisabeth Storm Ofteland

    **

    Rennie Davis, The New Humanity: A Movement to Change the World (Volume 1 of 3)

    This first book returns to ‘Our Roots’ with a behind-the-scenes look straight from the eye of the social-change hurricane that swept North America during the turbulent times of the 1960s. Rennie Davis was the coordinator of the largest coalition of anti-war and civil rights organizations during that era. Now in vivid detail, he explains how the Sixties movement ignited and expanded, growing in strength and staying power. A compelling, riveting story, it was written to inspire today’s generation to stand on the shoulders of those who came before and arise again to change the world. Like a snowball tumbling down the mountain to become an avalanche that takes out the concrete wall of fear and divide, today’s movement will not be ignored or stopped.

    This book is today’s must-read gift to yourself and your friends to uplift humanity and change the world.

    Rennie is an old friend, story for another day. Hat-tip: Rennie Davis.

    **

    This just in:

    Bernard Faure, The Fluid Pantheon: Gods of Medieval Japan, Volume 1

    Written by one of the leading scholars of Japanese religion, The Fluid Pantheon is the first installment of a multivolume project that promises to be a milestone in our understanding of the mythico-ritual system of esoteric Buddhism—specifically the nature and roles of deities in the religious world of medieval Japan and beyond. Bernard Faure introduces readers to medieval Japanese religiosity and shows the centrality of the gods in religious discourse and ritual; in doing so he moves away from the usual textual, historical, and sociological approaches that constitute the “method” of current religious studies. The approach considers the gods (including buddhas and demons) as meaningful and powerful interlocutors and not merely as cyphers for social groups or projections of the human mind. Throughout he engages insights drawn from structuralism, post-structuralism, and Actor-network theory to retrieve the “implicit pantheon” (as opposed to the “explicit orthodox pantheon”) of esoteric Japanese Buddhism (Mikky?).

    Hat-tip: just in from friend Gilles Poitras.

    **

    Enough of books — heres a personal photo — friend Neil Ayer with a Rothka at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston:

    Au ‘voir!

    Shorts 3: Bear, Tiger & Sanctuary, Service / Servitude, &c

    Sunday, March 4th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — gotta serve somebody, but best not Richard III ]
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    Bear vs Tiger:

    Watch a bear pick a fight with a tiger to try to save her cub

    Only a few dozen tigers roam this 30,000-acre reserve in central India, according to the Hindustan Times. Yet they dominate the coveted water holes, where barking deer and hyena packs must come to drink. Even humans have to respect the laws of nature in this park. [ .. ]

    And Matkasur ran from the bear; this time not turning back. She chased him all the way to the water hole. He splashed straight into it, as if it were sanctuary. Maybe it was, because the bear stopped at the water’s edge.

    Projecting sanctuary back to the animal realm — semi-joking, srsly? And water, holy water, as the sanctuary? Or would the boundary (limen, in Victor Turner‘s terms) between earth and water might be enough? Obvs, the tiger doesn’t think, “Ah, Victor Turner time!” — but what might be the sensibilities of tiger and bear cognition? Seriously?

    Paleo-religion? Time to rethink sanctuary cities?

    Tyger! Bear!

    **

    It Can’t Happen Here, i:

    It Can’t Happen Here is a semi-satirical 1935 political novel by American author Sinclair Lewis, and a 1936 play adapted from the novel by Lewis and John C. Moffitt.

    Published during the rise of fascism in Europe, the novel describes the rise of Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, a politician who defeats Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and is elected President of the United States, after fomenting fear and promising drastic economic and social reforms while promoting a return to patriotism and “traditional” values.

    And so on..

    **

    It Can’t Happen Here, ii:

    Inspired by the book, director–producer Kenneth Johnson wrote an adaptation titled Storm Warnings in 1982. The script was presented to NBC for production as a television miniseries, but NBC executives rejected the initial version, claiming it was too cerebral for the average American viewer. To make the script more marketable, the American fascists were re-cast as man-eating extraterrestrials, taking the story into the realm of science fiction. The revised story became the miniseries V, which premiered May 3, 1983

    And so forth..

    **

    It can’t happen here, [Richard] iii::

    Wachet auf!

    **

    Serve somebody, i:

    Why I regret being in the pocket of the NRA: Marc Dann

    The mass murder of 17 students and staff at a high school in Parkland, Florida, has reignited the national debate about the availability of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that began nearly 30 years ago. Since the Parkland massacre, I’ve been asked repeatedly why politicians steadfastly oppose banning firearms that serve no other purpose than to efficiently kill innocent human beings.

    I know the answer because, as an Ohio state senator and attorney general, I was in the pocket of the National Rifle Association. [ .. ]

    I made a devil’s bargain with myself: To stay in office, I adopted pro-gun positions that made me uncomfortable.

    The bargain paid off.

    Amazing to see how (a) how he quite casually invokes theology by way of explanation, and/or (b) how the Faustian bargain “myth” works out in real life:

    I soon learned however, that in making a deal with the devil to advance my political career, I had abandoned my principles and sold my soul.

    D’oh! That’s what the Bargain is! You’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed, you’re gonna have to serve somebody:

    **

    Serve somebody, ii:

    Yom may be the heavyweight champion of the world..

    I’ll end on this note.


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