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Sunday surprise: Eucharist above, below and beyond

Sunday, July 15th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — have you time to spare for a little beauty? ]
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Prof Emily Steiner of the University of Pennsylvania posted this image, which she described as of the “Stunning mosaics in the apse of S. Maria in Trastevere, attributed to Pietro Cavallini (c.1240-1330)”:

Dr Steiner attributed the photo to “the talented @pdecherney” — her colleague at U PEnn, Dr Peter Decherney.

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When I first saw this image, only the top half was visible on my screen, a fine, and I’m no expert, possibly world renowned, and yes, as Dr Steiner says, stunning mosaic of Christos Pantokrator, Christ the ruler of the universe if I’m not mistaken — and again, I’m no expert, and willing to take instruction.

But stunning, yes. Christ, a mosaic, stunning. Art at the service of praise, beauty as a window on the divine, .

And then, perhaps an hour later, but lapses of time are mended in this realm, I saw the whole image, sized to fit my screen.

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And thus the bottom half —

— with, brightly lit, even moreso if it were possible than the Christ in mosaic above it is, a small table — an altar, with three priests, and more in the wings, celebrating what looks to be the Eucharist — thought I suppose it might also be Vespers — and again, some expert could say whether the central celebrant is, by his zucchetto or skullcap, a cardinal, bishop, or maybe monsignor.

No matter the celebrant’s rank, he is, as celebrant, at the vanishing point — both the central point of attention photographically, and the point where the priest acts in the person of Christ, in persona Christi, thus himself, his persona, vanishing at the vanishing point.

Do this in memory of me, Christ said to his disciples at the Last Supper before his crucifixion, in words of sacrifice, previsioning his body about to be broken on the cross the next day — and down the centuries priests have broken bread as he did, speaking his words in his place, Take, eat, this is my body.

In the consecration, with these wrds, bread and wine become invisibly the body and blood of Christ, which we may remember, digest and allow to transform us.

It is this which makes the celebration of the Eucharist, in Catholic terms, “the source and summit of the Christian life”.

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And then, between this focus on the priest celebrant below, and the Christ all-ruling above, there is a mysterious relationship, each reflecting the other as in duet of mirrors — above, below and I invite you to envision, beyond.

Taking us, to switch religious traditions.. into the upper room with that one and self-same Christ

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Eucharist: literally, thanksgiving!

May your Sunday bring you cause for such thanksgiving..

Their own private Farnboroughs

Sunday, July 1st, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — one vivid memory, two breathtaking photos, one for war-watchers, one for poets ]
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There are very few days in my life where I know where I was, but on 6 September 1952, I was at the Farnborough Air Show, when John Derry‘s De Havilland 110 fell apart at Mach 1, the body of the aircraft falling safely away from the crowd, but one jet ploughing into the hillside I was perched on — literally, on my dad’s shoulders — a few dozen yards behind us.

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I was reminded of John Derry and his memorable death by this photo, captioned:

Military aircraft enthusiasts watch as a United States Air Force F-15 fighter jet travels at low altitude through the “Mach Loop” series of valleys near Dolgellau, Wales, on June 26, 2018. The Mach Loop valleys are regularly used by the military for operational low-flying training, which can take place as low as 250 feet (76 meters) from the nearest terrain. Oli Scarff / AFP / Getty

The aircraft, as shown above, is certainly striking — but no lesss striking at the tiny observers on the crest of the hillock, who no doubtt had an exhausting hike to get there, to see that remarkable aerial display. “Ooh, look!” These guys have their own private Farnboroughs — and thank God, nobody dies on this occasion.

I’m posting this here because I think the urge to see, I suppose one might call it the voyeuristic urge, is close cousin ttom the urge to game play. And game play, in military affairs, is a significant matter , from kriegspiel to the rcecently aborted exercises in S Korea.

Thoughts?

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OMG —

and I just can’t resist adding one more image from the same page where I found the one above — for its sheer drama:

https://cdn.theatlantic.com/assets/media/img/photo/2018/06/photos-of-the-week-3/w02_984690316/main_900.jpg?1530296833

The full moon rises behind burning moorland as a large wildfire sweeps across the moors between Dovestones and Buckton Vale in Stalybridge, Greater Manchester, on June 26, 2018, in Stalybridge, England. Anthony Devlin / Getty

Er, Wow!

Eyes everywhere and the World Cup

Friday, June 22nd, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — just keeping a paranoid eye on an old and subtle game.. ]
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You know I’m always looking out for examples of the Matryoshka doll effect, where a large doll holds smaller, nested “child” dolls, one within the other in a diminishing series — theoretically ad infinitum — and more generally of macro-micro, as a pattern always worth pondering?

Well, it’s World Cup time, and The Atlantic just posted a fine run of photos of soccer pitches from around the world — one of which caught my eye:

That’s just a detail, showing you the larger radomes of the Bundesnachrichtendienst / German Intel Service, and smaller versions of the same used to play soccer and — who knows? — pick up signals of my and your interactions around the world and off into near space too perhaps.. Japanese reports of moon tastings, my own poems, your moon-bounced messages..

Here, for your enjoyment, is the whole picture:


Sean Gallup / Getty

People play football at a field next to radomes of the digital communications listening station of the Bundesnachrichtendienst, the German intelligence agency, on June 2, 2015, in Bad Aibling, Germany.

Photographer Sean Gallup certainly has a strong eye for macro-micro, too.

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When I was first introduced to NSA by somone who knew it better at least than I did after dipping into James Bamford, he explained:

NSA > National Security Agency > No Such Agency > “Nonesuch to you, Mister”

I’m grateful Nonesuch wasn’t named the Bundesnachrichtendienst!

See the rest of The Atlantic‘s soccer fields around the world, including this image:


RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images)

The caption here reads:

Ex-FARC rebels play football in the unarmed zone known as Territorial Spaces for Training and Reincorporation (ETCR in Spanish) “Antonio Narino”, where former guerrilla fighters receive training to facilitate their development, reconciliation and reincorporation to civilian life, in Icononzo, Tolima Department, Colombia, on June 12, 2018

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Next up in an expanding line of intelligent footballs, way out past our friendly moon: the Dyson sphere and matroshka brain architecture ..

How to process grief — lessons from an earlier age

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — fifty years later, two kennedy deaths remembered ]
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I had a couple of other posts in the works, but the one that was closest had a mean tinge to it so I set it on one side, sorry to have nothing to offer you this last Sunday, and consoling myself with music.

And so it was that I recalled one work of music, and searching it out on the web, came across another. Here Erich Leinsdorf announces the assassination of President John F Kennedy, and then, as though it’s the most natural thing in the world, turns to Beethoven, to the Eroica, and plays the Funeral March as a lens through which to process the most immediate, intimately Bostonian, grief:

As NPR testifies:

But what is most remarkable to me as as listener, hearing the Boston broadcast from Symphony Hall on that Friday afternoon, is the sense of how those people in that time and place — performer and audience member alike — process this shocking event collectively, in a way that is totally unimaginable to us 50 years later, as we learn each minute’s news within the weirdly solitary glow of our screens. First, we hear the gasps and shushes after BSO music director Erich Leinsdorf utters the words: “The president of the United States has been the victim of an assassination.” Second, a wave of groans and sighs after Leinsdorf continues, “We will play the funeral march from Beethoven’s Third Symphony” — as if the crowd’s shared response is that they couldn’t possibly have heard the first part right, but that then the orchestra’s change in repertoire confirms the awful, unimaginable truth. And then, for the next 14 minutes … utter silence, save for the incomparably somber music.

If we could filter our lives through such music..

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And then as Cardinal Cushing celebrates a Pontifical Mass of Requiem for JFK, it is again Leinsdorf who conducts the music for that celebration — Mozart‘s glorious Requiem, from which extraordinary ceremonial this is the Dies Irae (turn down your volume control, this was recorded at a much louder volume range than the Beethoven IMO):

and, literally and emotionally, movingly tearful, the Lacrimosa:

Dona eis requiem..

If you wish to reach as deep as deep grief and process it, and Boston‘s response to the death of its favorite son President is anything to go by, Leinsdorf is your man, Beethoven the most immediate lens to hand, and the sacramental celebration with Cardinal Cushing as a no less impressive backup..

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I would be remiss, however, were I to write only of high cultural music (no matter how popular) and high ceremonial religion here — of equal passion as I have been reminded recently was the spontaneous outpouring of love and reverence shown on the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, JFK‘s brother, as the train carrying his body passed from New York to DC for burial (a high ceremonial of the military variety) in Arlington National Cemetery. The crowds who turned out, in ones and twos, in clusters, both black and white, perhaps a million or two oin all, were captured by the extraordinary photographer and friend of the family Paul Fusco in close to a thousand images, of which these are but a few:

The train has been much in the news recently, with exhibits such as The Train: RFK’s Last Journey at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, reviewed in The train was moving mournful slow’: Exhibit shows haunting photos of Bobby Kennedy’s final journey and also described with selected images at Robert F. Kennedy’s Funeral Train, Fifty Years Later, along with the DVD One Thousand Pictures: RFK’s Last Journey drawn from Fusco’s work on that train, the publication of Chris Matthews‘ biography, Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit, and MSNBC’s Headliners docu tribute to RFK.

Even the most unexpected moment, infused with love and grief, can ignite a spontaneous, informal ceremony of great power

Sub umbra alarum tuarum..

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[ It has taken me several days to formulate this post, and I’m on fairly strong pain meds for my foot wound, so please blame them for any excessive typos or lack of coherence — I’m sure the general message comes through… ]

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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

Au ‘voir!


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