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Theory and Practice:

Friday, November 29th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — how theory works out in practice, and vice versa ]

Here’s the first of a pair of “patterns” of interest…

Theory contradicts practice:

— with thanks to my friend Peter van der Werff!


And here’s the second, a delicious serpent-bites-tail tweet re Egypt:

Practice contradicts theory:


Okay, there are two more items for the “pattern recognition” / “pattern language” archives…

And here’s wishing you all a Happy Black Friday — if that’s even concedivable!


One person’s this is another person’s that

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameronunder the same black flag ]

In this case, one neighborhood’s supplier of food relief (upper panel)…

is another soldier’s execution squad (lower panel).

Food for a Sunni neighborhood, in other words, death for the Alawite soldier.


Both images from Aaron Zelin‘s 46 Scenes From The Islamic State In Syria on BuzzFeed today — recommended.


Serpent logics: KarlreMarks and LizzyPearson

Monday, October 7th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — yet another quick dip into the dizzying world of patterns enfolded in tweets ]

My collection of “Serpent logics” or “patterns of thinking” in the miniature format provided by the Twitter-stream got a noble boost today — you can blame my insomnia for my noticing this — from Karl Sharro and Elizabeth Pearson:

Sbarro unwittingly triggered things off by tweeting:

Pearson picked upon the “nested” quality of this tweet, and tweeted back:

and to clarify:


That was neat enough indeed, what with three instances in a row of self-referential tweets, each of which enfolds a previous tweet within it — the pattern I’m always on the look out for, and call “Matrioshka” after those nested Russian dolls — but there was more to come. I turned back — how could I help it — to the first tweet from Sharro:

and searched for the tweet embedded therein:

A little deeper into the conversation, I came across this rejoinder, which sent me off on a further journey:

and lo, the embedded link here led me to a page that contained not one but dozens of tweets, all based on the formula of the three characters went into a bar joke, many of the examples turning Sharro’s mind to matters of philosophy and the Middle East…


They’re all examples of the kind of “collision thinking” that Arthur Koestler specifies as the source of creative insight (aha!), comedy (ha!) and tragedy (aiyyeee!) — but I’ve selected three which represent three of the different patterns I’m intrigued by:

That’s a serpent biting its tail joke, if ever I saw one, a conspiracist take on conspiracism.

Now that, I aver, is a extaordinary example of enantiodromia, or direct reversal.

And for the pattern I call nominal, one can hardly better this play between the word minimalist and its context…


It’s time for me to get minimal, too. I have a quite a long line of “Serpent logics” more or less lined up and ready to go, but putting too many of them in one post gets tedious for the readership, so I’ve cut these examples out of the herd to give you a taste, and will follow up with two mmore selections in a day or two.


Serpent logic and related

Saturday, September 14th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — where paradox begets form in phrasing, redux ]

Here for your entertainment and entrainment are some further instances where the tweet doubles back on itself, bites its tail, or otherwise embodies some form of “form” that’s noteworthy in its own right, and possibly indicative of the heart of a problem — think of these tweets as eddies in the flow of things, knots in the wood…

Two arms crossed as in that MC Escher hand-draws-hand piece:

And a net version of the same, aka “tit for tat”:

Speaking of economics, here’s a bit of spiral logic — the economics of spiralling out of control?

And here’s an example of “endless” recursion, as featured in two tweets about “end” times from Barth’s Notes:

and its 2013 equivalent:


Okay, here are some simple sample opposites. First, the weather forecast for Syria:

— spelled our explicitly by Andrew Stroehlein, who tweeted “Sunny with a chance of cluster bombs…” in response.

That one seems fairly fair, but click on the links yourself to see the nuances in King‘s actual statements.


Now for some regular serpents’ tails, from the reasonably light-hearted to the heavier end of the scales:

Okay, here are two from Mikko Hypponen, the first of which is frankly outdated, but still fun:

Angela Watercutter caught the tide at just the right moment with her Wired piece, Skynet Becomes Self-Aware: How to Welcome Our AI Overlords:

The time has come. According to the Terminator clock, at 8:11 p.m. Tuesday, Skynet will become self-aware. And humanity will be screwed. Going by canon set out in the Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series, Judgment Day should hit Thursday.

Never mind Mikko, this one’s funny too — if and only if one’s also familiar with Wikipedia, which seems plausible in all cases for those who follow twitter — it wins double-honors in fact, hitting it out of the self-reference ball-park and into parallelism as satire:


Namarupa, or “name and form”, has to do with parallelisms between a name and its referent — or what zen might call the “finger pointing” and the moon — always fun:

The next one depends on your knowing that the Greek mythological creature known as a Naiad refers to “any of the nymphs in classical mythology living in and giving life to lakes, rivers, springs, and fountains”:

— aptly named indeed.


We’re almost done — here’s one with a built in time-factor:

It it still there? Aha!


Finally, this isn’t a serpent eating its tail by itself:

— but it becomes one, I’d suggest, when Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US from 2008 to 2011, retweets it!


Until next time…


Serpentine logic: enantiodromia, or a sudden turn of events

Saturday, September 14th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — an intriguing example of enantiodromia aka reversal or the hairpin bend ]

Let’s start with this tweet from Glenn Greenwald on September 11th 2013, a dozen years on from that tragic day:

Click on Greenwald’s link, and you’ll find it leads to an article by Mike Riggs, and refers specifically to this image of an ad in a DC metro station:

Riggs, who had written his article Oath Keepers Group Places Massive Pro-Snowden Ad Inside Pentagon Metro Station a couple of months eariler on July 24 2013, clearly thought that OathKeepers’ ad was strange enough to comment:

Last Thursday as I was rolling into the Pentagon Metro station I noticed from the train window a giant sign that read, “Snowden Honored His Oath. Honor Yours! Stop Big Brother!”

Before I could snap a picture or see who’d sponsored the sign, the train was rolling out. For the rest of the weekend I wondered who had the chutzpah (and the inventiveness) to praise Snowden at the Pentagon stop, where it’s far more common to see ads from lobbyists praising the merits of some piece of military tech.

Turns out it was the Oath Keepers, “a coalition of current and former military, police, and other public officials [who] have pledged not to obey unconstitutional commands.”

Following hot on the heels of Greenwald’s tweet of September 11, Charles Johnson wrote a piece on LGF titled Why Is Glenn Greenwald Promoting an Extreme Right Wing Militia?

And that in turn led to friend JM Berger’s tweet, also on Sept 11th:

And the enantiodromia here, the sudden switcheroo? That’s to do with Greenwald suddenly tweeting an appreciation of the OathKeepers — not his usual allies by any stretch of the imagination. So this one might equally be filed under “strange bedfellows”.

Or a “one two combo” perhaps? Left jab right cross, to be specific?

So where does the word come from? Carl Jung more or less borrowed the word from Heraclitus, as quoted by Diogenes Laërtius (ix. 7) in a passage that defies easy translation. Fortunately, as Wikipedia helpfully notes:

Plato in the Phaedo will articulate the principle clearly: “Everything arises in this way, opposites from their opposites.” (sect. 71a).

Jung explains Heraclitus’ meaning as he understands it:

In the philosophy of Heraclitus it is used to designate the play of opposites in the course of events — the view that everything that exists turns into its opposite…

and as he himself uses the term:

I use the term enantiodromia for the emergence of the unconscious opposite in the course of time.

Would you prefer a more contemporary reference? John Perry Barlow even gave a TED talk about it:


Enantiodromia turns out to be one of the classic forms of paradox in history — t’s a form I’ve written about before on Zenpundit, in my post Jung in Tehran, aka “enantiodromia”, and also referred to in a comment on Pamela Geller.

Here are two notable examples. The first comes from Reinhold Niebuhr‘s The Irony of American History:

Everybody understands the obvious meaning of the world struggle in which we are engaged. We are defending freedom against tyranny and are trying to preserve justice against a system which has, demonically, distilled injustice and cruelty out of its original promise of a higher justice.

The second is from UK’s Labour MP, Sir Gerald Kaufman, who once said:

My grandmother was ill in bed when the Nazis came to her home town a German soldier shot her dead in her bed. … My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza.

Right or wrong, Kaufman was in effect asserting the danger of enantiodromia


Note well that enantiodromia is mostly used to refer to a single switchback: iterative enantiodromia would be a form of boustropehdon.

Note also that David Myatt, whose comment on enantiodromia in Heraclitus I linked to above, is an interesting fellow in his own right, having been a leading UK neonazi for decades, then converting to Islam and preaching jihad and praise of bin Laden — now finally settling into his (hopefully, final) role as an English country gentleman and proponent of moderation in all things — an ex-twice-extremist anti-extremist, itself quite an enantiodromic turn of events…

Hurrumph! Enough for one post…


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