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Divinely appointed killing in Gita and Summa

Saturday, August 20th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — two focal texts for Landmines in the Garden plus the matters of just war / peace ]
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Herewith two quotes, one (upper oanel) from the Bhagavad Gita, the other from the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas — each of which expemplifies the notion that someone, in the first case Arjuna, in the second, Abraham — has divine authorization to kill:

SPEC DQ Summa and Gita

It is noteworthy that Arjuna does in fact kill those he has been ordered to kill, and that in contrast Abraham is reprieved from the necessity of killing his son by the same divine authority which had first demanded that extraordinary sacrifice — but God (the Father) in the Christian narrative goes on to kill his own Son in what is both the perfection and completion of sacrifice..

And from the perspective of military chaplains blessing members of the armed forces on their way into battle in a just war, the same divine approval presumably holds.

But are wars ever just?

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Further Readings:

  • Foreign Policy, What Happens When You Replace a Just War With a Just Peace?
  • National Catholic Repoorter, Pope considering global peace as topic of next Synod of Bishops
  • Rome Conference, An Appeal to the Catholic Church to Re-Commit to the Centrality of Gospel Nonviolence
  • United States Institute of Peace, Abrahamic Alternatives to War
  • It is worth noting that a sometime commenter on this blog, William Benzon of New Savanna, has a new, small & handy book out:

  • Bill Benzon, We Need a Department of Peace: Everybody’s Business, Nobody’s Job
  • Sunday surprise — cows, laws and enforcement

    Sunday, August 14th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — in India, cows are a vigilantism issue, in California it’s manure, flatulence, & methane ]
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    Behold:

    Tablet DQ 600 cow police

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    In India:

    Indian police have launched a “cow protection” force and a 24-hour hotline after a spate of attacks related to laws governing consumption of beef and the religious status of cattle.

    The 300-strong team in Haryana will enforce some of the toughest laws in the country shielding cows. Haryana imposes jail terms of up to ten years for illegal slaughter and smuggling but Hindu officials in the northern state are concerned about a rise in cow-related crime and are determined to protect the animals.

    In California:

    First they came after the oil producers, then manufacturers, and now they’re coming for the cows. Having mandated emissions reductions from fossil fuels, California’s relentless progressives are seeking to curb the natural gas emanating from dairy farms. [ .. ]

    “If dairy farms in California were to manage manure in a way to further reduce methane emissions,” the board explains, “a gallon of California milk might be the least GHG intensive in the world.” And the most expensive. Many California dairy farms have already been converted into nut farms, which are more economical amid the state’s high regulatory costs.

    Around the globe:

    Cows are still chewing the cud.

    **

    Sources:

  • The Sunday Times, Holy cow! Police protect sacred cattle
  • The Wall Street Journal, California’s Cow Police
  • Sunday surprise: peering digitally around corners 2: Blade Runner

    Sunday, July 31st, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — moving from a consideration of Holbein’s Ambassadors to a celebrated scene in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner — and thence, wide-angle, to Kumbh Mela ]
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    Here’s the Bladerunner scene:

    What Ridley Scott depicts is a camera with the ability to see around corners — a fantastic piece of science fictional cinematography, demonstrating a sufficiently advanced technology with a skill amounting to wizardry.

    **

    How close, though, can state-of-the-art cameras come to seeing around corners? Here’s what Nature has to say:

    Andreas Velten, Thomas Willwacher, Otkrist Gupta, Ashok Veeraraghavan, Moungi G. Bawendi & Ramesh Raskar, Recovering three-dimensional shape around a corner using ultrafast time-of-flight imaging:

    Abstract:

    The recovery of objects obscured by scattering is an important goal in imaging and has been approached by exploiting, for example, coherence properties, ballistic photons or penetrating wavelengths. Common methods use scattered light transmitted through an occluding material, although these fail if the occluder is opaque. Light is scattered not only by transmission through objects, but also by multiple reflection from diffuse surfaces in a scene. This reflected light contains information about the scene that becomes mixed by the diffuse reflections before reaching the image sensor. This mixing is difficult to decode using traditional cameras. Here we report the combination of a time-of-flight technique and computational reconstruction algorithms to untangle image information mixed by diffuse reflection. We demonstrate a three-dimensional range camera able to look around a corner using diffusely reflected light that achieves sub-millimetre depth precision and centimetre lateral precision over 40 cm×40 cm×40 cm of hidden space.

    Here’s another illustrative video:

    **

    Okay, seeing is simple, but we’re Zenpundit, so there’s gotta be a military angle we can see around, no?

    Here are two possibilities — the first is called CornerShot:

    while the second is called ShotView:

    **

    We’re still pretty far from Ridley’s Blade Runner, but the idea of seeing / shooting around corners has clearly caught the imagination of others.

    Okay, those last two videos are for those interested in matters martial.

    Kumbh Mela

    For my own sake, and for the possible interest of blog-friend Pundita, let’s take a look at a video of Ramesh Raskar, head of MIT Media Lab’s Camera Culture research group and one of the authors of the Nature paper quoted above.

    Here Dr Raskar is talking about that most fascinating of Hindu festivals — and largest of human gatherings? — the Kumbh Mela

    Talk about wicked problems — and crowd-sourcing solutions — and genius — and the manifold intersections of the secular and the sacred!

    Don’t hide your money in a hortus conclusus

    Monday, June 20th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — a criminal twist in Argentinian politics amid lofty considerations of convents, the Virgin Mary, and unicorns ]
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    The King James Version of the Bible, Song of Solomon 4:12, reads:

    A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.

    In the Latin Vulgate, the phrase “a garden enclosed” is rendered “hortus conclusus” — and as the context makes clear, it refers both to a garden, literally, and metaphorically to a woman. In the Christian Middle Ages, the phrase was often used to indicate the Virgin Mary, often enclosed within a literal garden, as in this Hortus Conclusus from Cologne, ca 1430:

    600 Hortus Conclusus from Cologne, 1430

    Parhaps unsurprisingly, the hortus conclusus is also the place where the unicorn — only ever tamed by a pure virgin — ends up, as in this example from the Cloisters Unicorn Tapestries:

    600 Unicorn in Captivity

    So much art history, so much beauty, so much virginity — and all so that I can make a couple of points about Jose Lopez, an Argentinean MP who was arrested earlier in the week.

    **

    The unfortunate Lopez made the error of tossing some bags of money, or moneybags as they are sometimes called, over a hedge into a convent garden…

    A convent, as we’ll easily understand, is a terrific example of the hortus conclusus — and since nuns are typically sworn to poverty as well as chastity and obedience, it is altogether contrary to the intended purpose of a convent’s hortus conclusus to use it as a stash for ill-gotten gains, especially of a monetary kind — to the estimated tune of US$5-8 million.

    So that’s my point number one: that Lopez was acting in direct opposition to the contemplative and unworldly intent of the convent garden. Worse, indeed, he was also carrying some form of Sig Sauer rifle along with his “160 bundles of cash, 108 of dollars, and some of them still thermo-sealed with the stamps from China’s central bank.”

    Ouch.

    **

    But what I like best from the report is the sting in the end of this first paragraph:

    The ex-Kirchnerite official, considered the right/hand man of ex Federal Planning minister Julio De Vido was caught by the police after neighbors and a nun of the Fatima monastery warned authorities about the presence of a man throwing bags over a dividing line of bushes.

    It’s that bit about “throwing bags over a dividing line” that gets me.

    I’ve discussed the concept of liminality before, both lightheartedly, as in Liminality I: the kitsch part [note: NSFW], and more seriously, in Liminality II: the serious part — where I discussed the behavior of the USS Topeka at the Equator as the Second Millennium CE turned in to the Third, and the curious tale of the demonic king Hiranyakasipu and his death at the hands of Narasimha, an avatar of Vishnu.

    A limen or threshold is always a “special place” set apart, and thus sacred and powerful in its own right — and the limen around a convent’s perimeter even more so. We’ve seen the extraordinary effort ISIS made very early on in their campaign to erase the limen between Iraq and Syria established no less determinedly by Sykes-Picot. And we know, too, that the central rite-of-passage by which a woman becomes a nun is a liminal rite (van Gennep, Victor Turner).

    Beware, be very aware of the liminal! Enjoy the security a hortus conclusus provides the pure in heart — but don’t abuse it!

    **

    Sources:

  • Wikipedia, hortus conclusus
  • Wikipedia, Narasimha
  • MercoPress, An Argentine ex-Kirchnerite official caught red-handed trying to hide bags of cash in a monastery
  • Namagiri and Ramanujan

    Sunday, May 1st, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — in which we glimpse the (female) divinity hidden behind infinity ]
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    Ramanujan and Namagiri

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    It is one of the curiosities of mathematics that the great Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan claimed to have received many, if not all, of his equations from the goddess Namagiri in dreams — and that this idea is all too often quietly omitted from discussions of his uncanny brilliance.

    Now that The Man Who Knew Infinity is out in theaters, it might be wise to explore the connection between Namagiri and Ramanujan a little more closely.

    Dream and waking, darshan and mathematics, inspiration and intuition, intuition and proof, quality and quantity — these polarities are all involved..

    To its credit, the film contains the line:

    You want to know how I get my ideas? God speaks to me.

    However, the idea that “God” might be a goddess seems a reach too far for the screenwriters and director.

    Viewing:

  • Matt Brown, The Man Who Knew Infinity
  • Here’s one version of the trailer:

    **

    Stephen Wolfram posted a fine article on his blog last week, Who Was Ramanujan?. He was willing to mention that Ramanujan’s friend and collaborator, GH Hardy, “could be very nerdy — whether about cricket scores, proving the non-existence of God, or writing down rules for his collaboration with Littlewood” — but fails in 31 pages to mention Ramanujan’s own belief that he received his equations from a goddess.

    All of which caused me to pose a question to Wolfram’s own algorithmic genie, Wolfram Alpha:

    Did Namagiri reveal equations to Ramanujan?

    WolframAlpha skipped the words “Did Namagiri reveal” and “to” and concentrated on responding to “equations” and “Ramanujan” — not quite up to par with AlphaGo, I’m afraid, let alone Ramanujan himself, or better, Namagiri.

    Below’s the DoubleQuote I made to by way of comment — note that I’ve only had space for the first line of WolframApha’s extended response:

    Tablet DQ ramanujan namagiri wolfram 1

    **

    Readings:

  • Stephen Wolfram, Who Was Ramanujan?
  • Hinduism Today, Computing the Mathematical Face of God
  • Huffington Post, Ramanujan’s Mock Modular Forms
  • The Hindu, American mathematicians solve Ramanujan’s “deathbed” puzzle
  • Sadhguru, Doorway to the Beyond
  • Paul Chika Emekwulu, Mathematical Encounters: For the inquisitive mind
  • The Hindu, The Man Who Knew Infinity: A misunderstood mind

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