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From Brooklyn to Birmingham, a contemplative stroll

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — unity in the face of difference, radiance in the face of rage ]
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This little pilgrimage began when I saw this tweet, reteeted by The Bridge initiative:

A Taoist, and from Brooklyn — okay!

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I went off to track down Jackie Summers from Brooklyn, and behold, checking his FB feed I run across this, from a few days back:

which sends me to this deliciously quiet and unassuming TV news report from, yes, New Zealand if I’m not mistaken:

[ would that all the world’s newscasters showed such restraint ]

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That newscast in turn let me to this tweet from a British MP:

And this even more glorious photo of Saffyah Khan‘s face, taken from the Guardian’s report, Protest photos: the power of one woman against the world:

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From that Guardian article:

Shows of strength and defiance aren’t in short supply at your average protest – demonstrating, by its nature, requires a level of commitment that weeds out the bystanders, the unimpressively apathetic. But what is it that makes the money shot? The protest photo that goes viral? Well, for one, women. Or, more accurately, one woman. Often a striking, beautiful-looking woman. But mostly, a woman who looks like a badass without seeming to do anything much that is dramatic at all.

For anyone trying to work out the Venn diagram of iconic protest imagery, three tropes will immediately jump to the fore: the quiet dignity of said woman; the battle-hungry paraphernalia of male authority (your shields and batons and chunky uniforms); and the dramatic flip of power that clash presents.

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Pretty much all of the above — the Taoist, the Hassidim, the Muslim lady with child, the radiant protester Saffiyah Khan, Jess Phillips MP — have gone viral, in a world that thirsts for such things.

Deep bows to them all!

Cherry blossom season 02

Sunday, April 9th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — cherry blossoms and kamikaze, Palm Sunday and istishhad ]
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It’s cherry blossom season, it’s Palm Sunday. Blossoms fall, while temporary followers of Christ — they’ll abandon him to crucifixion later in the week — celebrate Christ’s arrival in Jerusalem strewing palm leaves at this feet.

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In the upper panel, Japanese self-sacrifice with intent to kill Americans:

The Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka (“cherry blossom”) was a purpose-built, rocket powered human-guided anti-shipping kamikaze attack aircraft employed by Japan towards the end of World War II

Kamikaze pilots — the term translates to “divine wind” — drew strong associations between the transience of cherry blossoms and their own lives.

From WIkipedia:

The names of four sub-units within the Kamikaze Special Attack Force were Unit Shikishima, Unit Yamato, Unit Asahi, and Unit Yamazakura.[22] These names were taken from a patriotic death poem, Shikishima no Yamato-gokoro wo hito towaba, asahi ni niou yamazakura bana by the Japanese classical scholar, Motoori Norinaga. The poem reads:

If someone asks about the Yamato spirit [Spirit of Old/True Japan] of Shikishima [a poetic name for Japan] — it is the flowers of yamazakura [mountain cherry blossom] that are fragrant in the Asahi [rising sun].

From Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney, Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections of Japanese Student Soldiers:

As Hayashi entered the military and struggled to come to terms with death, he came to identify himself with cherry blossoms. In a letter to his mother, he laments his fate: the cherry blossoms at the Wo?n-san Base in Korea, where he was stationed, have already fallen, and yet the time for his sortie has not come. To his younger brother he writes from the Kanoya Base: “Cherry blossoms are blooming and I am going” (90). Hayashi consciously draws an analogy between himself and the fl owers; their falling signifi es the time for his death.

Other people also used the metaphor of cherry blossoms to refer to Hayashi. A poem written by his mother after the end of the war contains the idiomatic expression the “falling of my son,” applying the word conventionally used for the falling of cherry petals to the death of Ichizo¯. Hayashi’s friend Hidemura Senzo¯ laments that “Hayashi’s youth is fallen,” like cherry petals, but adds: “Peace arrived but not the peace you wished to bring through your sacrifi ce; it is only in the miserable aftermath of defeat.” Hidemura concludes, “Beauty appears in a sensitive vessel and life is short” (143–47).

See also: Ohnuki-Tierney, Emiko (2002). Kamikaze, Cherry Blossoms, and Nationalisms: The Militarization of Aesthetics in Japanese History.

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In the lower panel, the face of a child killed in the ISIS-claimed suicide bombing of a church in Egypt this Palm Sunday, following an earlier ISIS announcment that they would be targeting Egyptian (Coptic) Christians.

ISIS Claims 2 Deadly Explosions at Egyptian Coptic Churches on Palm Sunday

TANTA, Egypt — Islamic State suicide bombers attacked two Coptic churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday, killing at least 40 worshipers and police officers stationed outside in the deadliest day of violence against Christians in the country in decades.

The militant group claimed responsibility for both attacks in a statement via its Aamaq news agency, having recently signaled its intention to escalate a campaign of violence against Egyptian Christians.

The first explosion occurred about 9:30 at St. George’s Church in the Nile Delta city of Tanta, 50 miles north of Cairo, during a Palm Sunday Mass. Security officials and a witness said that a suicide bomber had barged past security measures and detonated his explosives in the front pews, near the altar.

At least 27 people were killed and 71 others injured, officials said.

Hours later, a second explosion occurred at the gates of St. Mark’s Cathedral in the coastal city of Alexandria. That blast killed 13 people and wounded 21 more, the Health Ministry said.

The patriarch of the Egyptian Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II, who is to meet with Pope Francis on his visit to Egypt on April 28 and 29, was in the church at the time but was not injured, the Interior Ministry said.

See also:

‘God gave orders to kill every infidel’ ISIS vows to massacre Christians in chilling video<

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The joyous palm leaves of Sunday, greeting Christ‘s arrival in Jerusalem, will ritually and symbolically turn to ashes later in the week, as the adoring crowd turns vicious and demands his crucifixion.

Cherry blossom season 01

Sunday, April 9th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — scitech & artpo, two ways of seeing ]
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It is cherry blossom season in Japan:

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The upper panel image above is from an Economist blog, the lower from a Hiroshige print.

From the Economist piece, timeless:

HANAMI, the Japanese custom of contemplating the impermanence of life by gazing at the fleeting beauty of blossoming flowers, goes back a long way. “The Tale of Genji”, a tenth-century masterpiece that is perhaps the world’s first novel, devotes a chapter to the cherry-blossom festival staged in the emperor’s great hall. Diarists have keenly chronicled the comings and goings of cherry blossoms for centuries—records from Kyoto, the old capital, date back 1,200 years. This precious, ancient data set reveals a disturbing trend: in recent decades, the blossoms have emerged much sooner than they once did.

and (continuing) in our own time:

This precious, ancient data set reveals a disturbing trend: in recent decades, the blossoms have emerged much sooner than they once did.

**

Header:

Japan’s cherry blossoms are emerging increasingly early


Subhead:

Experts think climate change is to blame

Early: unh-uh. Fleeting: yes.

The map borders on the territory? Turkey, Palestine

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — maps as records, as wishes, as hints, as silent threats ]
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Interesting things, maps. Models and descriptions, too, but it’s maps I’m thinking of here. Two examples:

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Turkey:

turkish-map

From my point of view, the most striking paragraph in the Foreign Policy piece titled Turkey’s New Maps Are Reclaiming The Ottoman Empire was this one:

At first glance, the maps of Turkey appearing on Turkish TV recently resemble similar irredentist maps put out by proponents of greater Greece, greater Macedonia, greater Bulgaria, greater Armenia, greater Azerbaijan, and greater Syria. That is to say, they aren’t maps of the Ottoman Empire, which was substantially larger, or the entire Muslim world or the Turkic world. They are maps of Turkey, just a little bigger.

Map bloating & boasting is obviously bigger business than I had fully realized.

Also of interest was the comment:

On two separate occasions, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized the Treaty of Lausanne, which created the borders of modern Turkey, for leaving the country too small. He spoke of the country’s interest in the fate of Turkish minorities living beyond these borders, as well as its historic claims to the Iraqi city of Mosul..

Mosul, okay, noted — but what interests me more is the parallelism with Putin‘s attitude to the Ukraine:

“Novorossiya” or “New Russia”: Putin only briefly mentioned that term during a five-hour, televised question-and-answer session this month. But his revival of that geographic title for southern and eastern Ukraine—territory won from the Ottoman Empire in the late 18th century by Catherine the Great—is resonating among Russians today.

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Palestine:

One other recent map controversy caught my eye…

google-map

The claim was made that Google had eliminated the name Palestine from Google Maps. Google denied this:

“There has never been a ‘Palestine’ label on Google Maps, however we discovered a bug that removed the labels for ‘West Bank’ and ‘Gaza Strip,’ ” the company said in a statement. “We’re working quickly to bring these labels back to the area.” It is unclear if that bug played a role in spurring the online outrage.

Elizabeth Davidoff, a spokeswoman, said in an email that the company had also never used the label “Palestinian territories” on its maps. The bug affecting the words “Gaza Strip” and “West Bank” persisted on Wednesday, but when Google Maps functions properly both areas are labeled and separated from Israel by a dotted line to signify that their borders are not internationally recognized.

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Dotted lines in the sand..

Mosquitoes of the mind

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — or should that be Uber über alles?]
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uber-drones
Forget billboards — motorists now have ads buzzing a few feet above their windshields — MIT Technology Review

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There is an endless variety of possible starting points for a critique of oneself and the world. One might start from:

  • the message in a fortune cookie
  • whatever one’s parents imparted
  • whatever one rejected of what they imparted
  • Israel from the Nile to the Euphrates
  • a return to the Green Line
  • Palestine from the river to the sea
  • the sweet humility of the Magnificat
  • the fierce doctrine of Original Sin
  • the Cloud of Unknowing
  • the uncontaminated Unity of Godhead
  • the Buddha’s Noble Truth of suffering
  • the shining suchness of the Tathagata
  • something Karl Marx said, or Darwin
  • a tall tale from Chuang-Tzu
  • Lao Tzu’s unspeakable truth, unmappable path..
  • or the way someone reacted when one trod on their foot in the subway
  • Myself, I tend to go from either:

  • the Bene Gesserit adage, Fear is the mind-killer
  • or its obverse in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Yoga is the cessation of waves in the mind.
  • **

    Which brings me to advertising.

  • Yoga is the cessation of waves in the mind.
  • Advertising is the paid attempt to capture my attention regardless of my wishes in the matter.

    In terms of the Yoga Sutras‘s goal of an unruffled mind, advertising attempts to stir up trouble — not in Syria or Afghanistan, or even in my kitchen, but within my consciousness.

    And I’m not alone in detesting this invasive behavior. “Nearly 90% of people watching timeshifted shows fast-forward the ads,” the Guardian reported in a piece titled TV advertising skipped by 86% of viewers, and while Victoria may have a secret ingredient which makes her ads memorable — I’m referring here, of course, to a recent Nobel Prizewinner — most ads are simply irritants.

    The benefit of advertising, to those whom it speaks, is that it acts as a road-sign to what we may want. It’s adverse effect is to clutter up our lives with road-signs to irrelevant and possibly offensive destinations. Apples don’t need little stickers on them proclaiming “apples by the Creator” but a discreet mention of “All purpose disinfecting cleaner by Bright Green” was quite helpful to me the other day, as I was wandering the aisles of Safeway in search of a brand they no longer carry..

    And yes. Advertising drives sales drives manufacturing drives employment drives a roof over the head for many who might otherwise find themselves in the rain. Granted.

    **

    But here come the mosquitoes.

    The image at the head of this post comes from an article titled Uber’s Ad-Toting Drones Are Heckling Drivers Stuck in Traffic.

    The unfortunate drivers in traffic jams in Mexico City are close to ground zero of an epidemic; Beelzebub, remember, is Lord of the Flies.


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