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My Latest on Lapido — Mother Teresa

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — writing about Mother Teresa as a balancing act ]

My latest post on LapidoMedia, Mother Teresa: the making of a saint, opens thus:

‘MOST blessed Father, Holy Mother Church, beseeches your Holiness to enroll the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta among the saints, that she may be invoked as such by all the Christian faithful.’

With these words, Cardinal Angelo Amato, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints petitioned Pope Francis to declare Mother Teresa of Calcutta a saint.

There are five stages in the Catholic Church’s ‘canonization’ – the declaration that a saint is in heaven, and that their name may be included in the roll of the names of saints.

In my article I write, “As with many people considered especially holy, Teresa’s life has often been discussed in terms of hushed veneration – and also harshly criticised by the unimpressed.” I’m not too convinced either by the hagiography with which the Church tends to surround her, nor with the vituperatuve criticism with which Christopher Hitchens, her chief detractor, attacks her.

I have tried to write Teresa up in a way which balances the two. In my own quiet way, and reading it somewhat between the lines, my article attempts to bridge the two by suggesting that her specific “charism” or gift — the “wavelength” of love of which she is, for the Church, the examplar — was explicitly to bring spiritual, not medical, love to the dying, and that she accomplished this task, while her failure to accompany it with sound, even basic medical care — her clinics, for instance, commonly reused needles without sterilizing them — was the cause of much of Hitchens’ criticism, and has indeed been remedied by her order of nuns since her death.

Christian theological discussion often distinguishes between the Historical Jesus and the Christ of Faith. It may well be that the historical Teresa will stand as a warning to missionaries to be adequately prepared for the proper medical treatment of those to whom they minister, while the Teresa of faith can be a beacon of hope and love in the lives of many. We can hope that the order of nuns she founded, the Missionaries of Charity, will take note of her work at both levels.

Read the whole piece here on the Lapido site.

Recommended Reading—Summer 2016

Monday, July 11th, 2016

[by J. Scott Shipman]

Storm of Creativity2017



white horsewashington


The Storm of Creativity, by Kyna Leski

2017 War With Russia, by General Sir Richard Shirreff

The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough

Serendipities, Language and Lunacy, by Umberto Eco

Paradise, Dante Alighieri, translated by Mark Musa

Undertow, by Stanton S. Coerr

The White Horse Cometh, by Rich Parks

Washington The Indispensable Man, by John Thomas Flexner

This list starts the first week of May, so perhaps the title should be Spring/Summer. Most of these books are quick reads and all are recommended.

I picked up Ms. Leski’s book at an MIT bookshop on a business trip in early May and read on the train ride home. Books on creativity are ubiquitous, but Ms. Leski takes an interesting approach by describing the creative process using the metaphor of a storm. Several ZP readers will find of interest.

2017 was recommended by a friend. The author was the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe and the book focuses on a Europe/NATO response to a Russian invasion of the Baltics. Written in a Tom Clancy-like style, the plot is fast-paced even though the good general provides sometimes provides detailed insights into the inner workings of NATA and the North Atlantic Council (this is one of the values of the book—bureaucracy writ-large).

David McCullough’s Wright Brothers delivers an approachable and human accounting of the first men of powered flight. Some reviews on Amazon complain McCullough lifts and uses too many quotes to tell the story. At times the quotes were distracting, but not enough to prevent the enjoyment of the story of two brothers who changed the world. This book was a gift otherwise I probably would not have read.

Serendipities is a short book, but was a long read for me. Eco explains how language and the pursuit of the perfect language has confounded thinkers since time immemorial. He refers to Marco Polo’s unicorn (also used in his Kant and the Platypus which is excellent) explaining how language is often twisted to meet a preconceived notion or idea. The first couple of chapters were quite good, chapters three and four did not hold my interest or were over my head. The closing chapter was good enough to convince me I’ll need to read this little book again. (My Eco anti-library has been growing of late.)

Eco’s book led me to reread Musa’s excellent translation of Paradise. My son gave me the deluxe edition with parallel Italian and English, plus commentary. Eco referenced Canto 26 and 27, and I enjoyed the break so much I read the whole thing!

Undertow is my good friend Stan Coerr’s second book of poetry.  His first book Rubicon was a moving collection of poetry of men at war. Undertow deals more with the heart and is quite good, too. You won’t be disappointed.

White Horse is also a book by an old friend, Rich Parks (we’ve known each other since the mid-80’s). White Horse is self-published and in places it shows, but the overall story is quite good for a first book (I’ve already told him his book would make an excellent screenplay.). The plot is quick and entertaining even if a bit unbelievable, but the story is fiction. Rich is following up with a sequel in August in 2016 and I’ll be reading it, too.

Mr. Flexner’s Washington was a gift, too. In this quick biography Washington is made approachable and human. And when I say “quick,” I mean quick…Trenton and Princeton took one chapter compared to David Hackett Fischer’s Washington’s Crossing which took up a standalone book. If someone were looking for a first Washington biography, this would be a good place to start.

This isn’t the conclusion of my summer reading, but a pretty good start.What are  you reading this summer?

How Syria becomes Palestine

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — on borrowing the atrocities of others for propaganda advantage ]



It’s not as though this is the first time I’ve seen this done, nor is Syria > Palestine necessarily the trajectory — see for example this DoubleTweet from Phillip Smyth, Photographic enantiodromia at the Zaynab shrine?.

UKIP and NSDAP — curving in parallel?

Friday, June 17th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — immigration, Brexit, and the killing of MP Jo Cox ]

Two parties that don’t like immigration, and say so with similar propaganda images — but when the two images are juxtaposed, does the similarity between their two curving lines of unwanted immigrants, East German Jews in the aftermath of the first World War, largely Muslim Middle Eastern immigrants into Europe in the wake of the wars of our own time, make for fair comparison — or distorted propaganda?


The curves are indeed similar but that’s a graphical similarity, and there’s similarity in the dislike of immigrants too, in the meanings given to the two curves — but is the implicit comparison of Farrage with Hitler a fair one, or excessive?

How do we read juxtapositions of this sort? How do we critique them? Is interpretation at the mercy of the “eye of the beholder”? What can this specific example teach us about DoubleQuotes in general, and their potential for use in revelation and / or deception?


  • The Independent, People are calling out Ukip’s new anti-EU poster for resembling ‘outright Nazi propaganda’
  • **

    Jo Cox

    With the Brexit referendum about a week away, and with the widely admired British Labour MP Jo Cox murdered today by a killer with Neo-Nazi affiliation, the UK has its own terrorism, fury, divisions and grief to come to grips with.


  • The Telegraph, My fearless friend Jo Cox, a five-foot bundle of Yorkshire grit
  • Encryption, the mind and voice

    Monday, February 29th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — paging birds and fishes, Chuang Tzu and Wm Blake ]

    Dwight Furrow, Wine Tasting and Objectivity:

    The question is whether flavors are “in the wine” or “in the mind”. On the one hand, there are objectively measurable chemical compounds in wine that reliably affect our taste and olfactory mechanisms—pyrazines cause bell pepper aromas in Cabernet Sauvignon, malic acid explains apple aromas in Chardonnay, tannins cause a puckering response, etc. But we know that human beings differ quite substantially in how they perceive wine flavors. Even trained and experienced wine critics disagree about what they are tasting and how to evaluate wine. This disagreement among experts leads many to claim that wine tasting is therefore purely subjective, just a matter of individual opinion. According to subjectivism, each person’s response is utterly unique and there is no reason to think that when I taste something, someone else ought to taste the same thing. Statements about wine flavor are statements about one’s subjective states, not about the wine. Thus, there are no standards for evaluating wine quality.


    Is each mind inherently closed to every other, much as the bird’s mind is closed to ours in Blake‘s aphorism —

    How do you know but every bird that cuts the airy way, is an immense world of delight, closed by your senses five?

    — albeit not always so joyful?

    In more contemporary terms — Is there encryption of the mind?


    I ask this in light of the DoubleQuote I posted a few days ago comparing Hesse and Hitchcock in terms of their metaphoric uses of “organ” — in, I hasten to add, the Bach sense of the word:

    SPEC-Hesse-Hitchcock-organs sm

    Here’s what I’m thinking. Hesse’s game influences the mind, as does art, but it is non-invasive; Hitchcock applauds the potential for art to move in a more invasive direction, as if by force rather than by enticement.


    Humans — or at least the philosophers and philosopher tagalongs among them — can’t even tell if what one human sees as “red” is what another sees as “red” — let alone what a given Burgundy tastes like on another’s palate.

    If this means, more generally, that minds are effectively encrypted by virtue of their differences in wiring acquired with parentage, age and experience, then our communications media -– language, the arts, literature, number — would appear to be the available decryption keys, selectively available to the minds in question.


    Chuang-Tsu has this tale to tell:

    Men claim that Mao-ch’iang and Lady Li were beautiful, but if fish saw them they would dive to the bottom of the stream, if birds saw them they would fly away, and if deer saw them they would break into a run. Of these four, which knows how to fix the standard of beauty for the world?

    And this..

    Chuang Tzu and Hui Tzu were strolling along the dam of the Hao River when Chuang Tzu said, “See how the minnows come out and dart around where they please! That’s what fish really enjoy!”

    Hui Tzu said, “You’re not a fish – how do you know what fish enjoy?”

    Chuang Tzu said, “You’re not I, so how do you know I don’t know what fish enjoy?”

    Hui Tzu said, “I’m not you, so I certainly don’t know what you know. On the other hand, you’re certainly not a fish – so that still proves you don’t know what fish enjoy!”

    Chuang Tzu said, “Let’s go back to your original question, please. You asked me how I know what fish enjoy – so you already knew I knew it when you asked the question. I know it by standing here beside the Hao.”


    Chuang Tzu said, “You’re not I, so how do you know I don’t know what fish enjoy?”

    Blake said, “How do you know but every bird that cuts the airy way, is an immense world of delight, closed by your senses five?”

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