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Borders, limina and unity

Saturday, December 1st, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — bulldozers and trains, more ]
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Watersheds are natural divisions of landmasses, long predating human presence upon the earth. Borders by contrast are a human invention — a fact that is nowhere more evident than in the borders known as the Durand Line, separating Afghanistan from Pakistan, and the Sykes-Picot agreement, which divided up the Ottoman Empire into British, French and Russian spheres of influence. Durand, Sykes and Picot were respectively British, British and French gentlemen. In fact, make that a DoubleQuote (mini):

And while Pakistan recognizes the Durand line as an international border, Afghanistan does not. ISIS, disliked the Sykes-Picot line dividing Iraq and Syria enough to bulldoze it (upper panel, below)..

And then there’s the Haskell Free Library and Opera House (lower panel, above)..

**

The Haskell Library straddles the US-Canadian border, and has served as a meeting place for Iranians in the US and their relatives, hoping to visit them from the Canadian side..

The library is a relic of a time when Americans and Canadians, residents say, could cross the border with simply a nod and a wave at border agents. It was the gift of a local family in the early 1900s to serve the nearby Canadian and American communities.

“What we are so proud of is that we do have a library that is accessed by one single door,” said Susan Granfors, a former library board member. “You don’t need your passport. You park on your side, I’ll park on my side, but we’re all going to walk in the same door.”

But after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the northern border hardened, and the law enforcement presence in the area is immediately visible. And in September, a Canadian man was sentenced to 51 months in prison for smuggling more than 100 guns into Canada, some of them through the Haskell library.

Still, inside the building itself — decorated with wood paneling, stained-glass windows and, on the Canadian side, a moose head — the old ways mostly prevail. Patrons and staff freely cross the international boundary, marked with a thin, flaking black line extending across the brightly decorated children’s reading room and the main hallway.

The Library — and Opera House!! — then, erases a border more or less, in a friendly manner, while ISIS erasesd another with force. In bith cases, we can sense a distrust of or distaste for artificial separations.

**

Those who are willing to make creative leaps from political geography to the wisdom of the far Orient will recognize the imagery of Pu, the Uncarved Block in Lao Tze‘s Tao Te Ching — representing wood in its natural, uncarved state, end thus the whole, of which all entities are seeming parts, separated only by naming.

G Spencer Brown addresses the same distinction in his book, The Laws of Form — described appropriately enough by Wikipedia as “straddles the boundary between mathematics and philosophy” — between what Brown terms the Unmarked state, “which is simply nothing, the void, or the un-expressable infinite represented by a blank space.. No distinction has been made”, and the Marked State, in which one or more distinctions (Marks) have been made:

In Spencer-Brown’s inimitable and enigmatic fashion, the Mark symbolizes the root of cognition, i.e., the dualistic Mark indicates the capability of differentiating a “this” from “everything else but this.”

Spencer Brown notes that a Mark denotes the drawing of a “distinction”, and can be thought of as signifying the following, all at once:

  • The act of drawing a boundary around something, thus separating it from everything else;
  • That which becomes distinct from everything by drawing the boundary;
  • Crossing from one side of the boundary to the other.
  • .
    All three ways imply an action on the part of the cognitive entity (e.g., person) making the distinction.

    Brown notes, wryly perhaps

    As LoF puts it:

    “The first command:

  • Draw a distinction
  • can well be expressed in such ways as:

  • Let there be a distinction,
  • Find a distinction,See a distinction,
  • Describe a distinction,
  • Define a distinction,<
  • Or:

  • Let a distinction be drawn.”
  • **

    My own DoubleQuotes format both draws distinctions (being binary) and erases them by asserting parallelisms between them (unifying or uncarving, unmarking them).

    All Spencer Brown quotes above are via Wikipedia.

    **

    Okay, now there’s news of another diplomatically significant border crossing:

    That’s good — and it gives us yet another DQ:

    Connecting a prosperous free South with a totalitarian North across a border is a liminal matter, and thus inherently sacred — see my post, Liminality II: the serious part

    As we saw with the fall of the Berlin Wall, however, it is possible and maybe Trump and Pompeo — with a little help from Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in? — can pull it off.

    Or maybe, Dennis Rodman?

    **

    Sources, some of ’em:

  • The Guardian, Railway diplomacy
  • PRI, For some Iranian families separated by the travel ban
  • NYRB, The Map ISIS Hates — hey, this by Malise Ruthven
  • Asia Times, Afghanistan takes center stage
  • **

    Oh, ah, another couple of parallelisms, btw:

    **

    What’s the cyber border between the US and Russia?
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    Unintended consequences, the collection

    Monday, June 18th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — what you don’t see can blindside you ]
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    Unintended consequences are the clearest indicators we have of just how much more complex the world is than we imagine it to be. They are therefore of great interest.

    A short while back, WaPo had a piece that overtly referenced unintended consequences: Unintended consequences: Inside the fallout of America’s crackdown on opioids.

    I’m going to take that as the starting point for another of my collections. When I find a clear case of an unintended cnsequence, I’ll add it to this post or in the comments session..

    **

    One major group of unintended consequences news items clusttered around the revision of redistricting rules in an attempt (at least purportedly) to curb the abuse of partisan power in gerrymandering, an ancient American political tradition practiced by both (all?) partties —

    Overby & Cosgrove‘s 1996 Unintended Consequences? Racial Redistricting and the Representation of Minority Interests would appear to be a much quoted starting point, followed by Rose Institute’s 2008 Unintended Consequences of Texas Gerrymandering.

    But the general principle is evident: course corrections don’t always set you back on track — or as the Taoist fellow might say, any map you can draw is liable to lead you astray — maps are fallible wrt terrain, wrt reality!

    Case in point: The meandering path of the Mississippi, now here, now there — with oxbows!

    Travelers, mappers and modelers, beware!

    **

    Oh, and BTW, I woke from the anaesthetic that accompanied my triple heart bypass to find.. Trump was president. That consequence was unintended by me at least, no matter hwat Mr Putin may have decided.

    Red Bull joins the wise

    Monday, June 11th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — red bull expands on pascal, takes us deeper into instinctive / archetypal thought ]
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    **

    I came across a powerful paragraph in Beyond a joke, a piece witth the enticing subtitle, “The brain holds many secrets that admen would love to learn – not least, how to change behaviour. Rory Sutherland explores how comedy rouses the grey matter.” Powerful, in that it connects, at least for me, with at least three major quotes from “wise men of old” from here and beyond:

    The reason for this glaring discrepancy is that the part of the brain used to write economic papers is not the part of the brain that chooses a drink. The part of my brain that causes me to chug a can of Red Bull on the way home from work has a logic all of its own.

    **

    You remember my old DoubleQuotes format?

    I used it to make various kinds of connections beyween two quotes? Well, I’ve come to feel its clumsy visually, takes up too much space — breaks the train of thought it’s embedded in rather than illuminating it? But the concept, the holding together of two ideas in close juxtaposition, still seems extraordinarily useful to me.

    So here are elements of that para, juxtaposed with sayings from Blaise Pascal, Christ, and the Tao Te Ching — quite a variety of “wise” sources:

  • The heart has its reasons reason knows not of.
  • The part of my brain that causes me to chug a can of Red Bull on the way home from work has a logic all of its own.
  • The part of the brain used to write economic papers is not the part of the brain that chooses a drink.
  • The way that can be named is not the true way.
  • The part of the brain used to write economic papers is not the part of the brain that chooses a drink.
  • In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.
  • Christ, Lao Tze, and Pascal! If the correlations are as powerful as I take them to be, and even if you omit the “many mansions” one which is I’ll admit bit of a stretch, that’s a power packed para.

    And the “many mansions”? It may be a bit of a stretch, but I think it adds a certain audacity to the whole — jazzes up what’s alreadt strong with an intriguing elan — what do you think?

    **

    The Bollingen classic:

    Jolande Jacobi, Complex/Archetype/Symbol in the Psychology of C. G. Jung

    **

    I mean, please comment, eh?

    Two koi fish, the one waterfall

    Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — a yakuza movie shimmering between American and Japanese ]
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    Is strategy found here?

    In the film, The Outsider, from which I have borrowed the koi quote above — which gives a riverine equivalent of the steady progress open to a pawn in the strict logic of chess — the outsider of the title played by Jared Leto is tatooed with a single koi fish moving up a waterfall, which the woman, enough said, tells him indicates that he is arrogant.

    **

    She, Miyu, played by Shioli Kutsuna, has two koi fish —

    The film invites your understanding, needlessly, by explaining.

    **

    Ah well: how a brush pen readied on an ink-stone resembles a knife blade sharpened on a whet-stone.

    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!


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