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Heartless? What’s heart? Since when did that have anything to do with anything?

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — and to think I thought that little red heart was just an emoticon! ]
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The Washington Post, supposedly a paper which takes political matters seriously, featured this caption in its email to me today:

Is this heart thing something to be taken seriously? Just on occasion, as with the impact of cancelling DACA on people who were, at least recently, children? Or in matters of economics, too? And the deployment, threat and use of nuclear weapons? In diplomacy?

I mean, the number of situations in which this somewhat vague “heart” entity might be invoked and prioritized is hard to estimate. What was it Pascal said?

The heart has reasons reason knows not of..

That in itself is a somewhat confusing statement. Is it a paradox?

Ah well, I’ll retire to poetry: poets, after all, think themselves the “unacknowledged legislators of the world” — and as one of them legislated not so very long ago:

My heart rouses
          thinking to bring you news
                    of something
that concerns you
          and concerns many men. Look at
                    what passes for the new.
You will not find it there but in
          despised poems.
                    It is difficult
to get the news from poems
          yet men die miserably every day
                    for lack
of what is found there.

What is found there? This heart thing, perhaps? Heart’s the second word in that poetry bit — it could be worth a try.

Hearts and minds connected

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — shd be obvious, but useful to know in the battle for hearts and minds, buddhism! ]
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Hearts and minds, hearts and brains — tell me, heart, are minds and brains the same?

**

Sources:

  • The National, Pat Kane: To stop terror we must look into the hearts of Jihadis
  • Lion’s Roar, Buddhist researchers find actual link between heart, mind
  • Sunday surprise: two small items for your contemplation

    Monday, June 13th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — the heart speaks for itself; the recusant pyx to truth of a higher order ]
    .

    Two for your contemplation

    **

    It’s the second of these that really takes my breath away.

    Recusants were the British subjects who remained Catholic in faith and practice at a time when the newfangled Protestantism made that behavior a heinous offence, punishable at times by death.

    It has been the life and martyrdom of the Jesuit scholar and priest Edmund Campion in Elizabeth‘s reign and under her increasingly repressive laws — as Evelyn Waugh describes him in his book of that name — which engraved in me the heroic role of the recusants, and among them of their “massing priests” and the sacrament they brought to their faithful recusant remnant.

    Michael Robinson notes in Newman’s Quest for the One True Church writes:

    The Catholic majority did not submissively acquiesce to Elizabeth’s scheme. Much has been written of the fate of the priests, educated and ordained abroad, who were accused of treason, tortured, then hung, drawn and quartered; but as the Catholic Church went underground the laity also began to take enormous risks. Catholic gentry opened their stately homes up to the missionary priests. Escape routes were devised, with the diminutive Jesuit layman St. Nicholas Owen leading the way in ingenious acts of carpentry. He created hiding-holes for priests, their vestments and other liturgical items, that were so effective that centuries passed before some of them were discovered. In 1620 he died in the Tower of London under torture, taking his secrets with him.

    Campion himself gets to the heart of the recusant matter, though, in the first salvo of his celebrated Brag — addressed before his capture to those who might capture him, the “Right Honourable, the Lords of Her Majestie’s Privy Council”:

    I confesse that I am (albeit unworthie) a priest of ye Catholike Church, and through ye great mercie of God vowed now these viii years into the Religion of the Societie of Jhesus. Hereby I have taken upon me a special kind of warfare under the banner of obedience, and eke resigned all my interest or possibilitie of wealth, honour, pleasure, and other worldlie felicitie.

    Waugh emphasizes, in turn, the significance of a priest as one who says Mass, ie whose sacramental act “in the person of Christ” continues the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary, turning the very bread and wine of the offering into the body and blood of Christ, while they retain their outward and physical form, following the words of Christ at the Last Supper:Take, eat; this is My body and Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood.

    It was this transformation, this transubstantiation of bread into the very body, wine into the very blood of Christ, which so frightened and infuriated the Protestants. As Waugh notes:

    Whatever the sectional differences between the various Anglican groups, they were united in their resolve to stamp out this vital practice of the old religion. They struck hard at all the ancient habits of spiritual life — the rosary, devotion to Our Lady and the Saints, pilgrimages, religious art, fasting, confession, penance and the great succession of traditional holidays — but the Mass was recognized as being both the distinguishing sign and main sustenance of their opponents

    To be a priest, a Jesuit, and above all the great scholar Edmund Campion SJ, was to court death for treason. But the priest’s duty was to bring that sustenance, the blessed sacrament, to the faithful — and when they could not attend Mass, it could be carried to them in just such a silver box on a string as is illustrated above. This pyx, as it was called, would have carried the body of Christ to the needy, hidden on a chain under the shirt, and on pain of most painful and drawn out death.

    It is for this reason that the recusant pyx, beautiful as it may be, means so much to me, and I hope to have conveyed something of that sense to you also: seldom if ever has a container carried a freight so exalted in service to a people so spiritually hungry, under so grave a threat.

    **

    But to relax a little…

    The situation was fraught, and increasingly so, for those who remained loyal Catholics — and yet just as there were pockets of recusants still faithful to the old ways, there were pockets of allowance made for them in certain circumstances. Waugh puts it nicely:

    In many places the priest would say Mass in his own house for the Catholics before proceeding to read Morning Prayer in the parish church; occasionally, it is said, he would even bring consecrated wafers and communicate his Catholic parishioners at thesame time as he distributed to the Protestants the bread blessed according to the new rite.

    Thus also Queen Elizabeth I herself favored the composer William Byrd enough that he was able to compose not only works suited to the Protestants (Anglicans) such as his four Services, but also Masses for specifically Catholic use, in three, four, and five voices.

    **

    Byrd for Her Protestant Majesty, Queen Elizabeth:


    The Nunc dimittis (Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace) from the Great Service

    Byrd the faithful Catholic, for his fellow recusants:


    The Agnus Dei from the Mass for five voices, Westminster Cathedral, Pope Benedict XVI celebrating

    **

    Sources:

  • Norfolk Heritage Explorer, June – Broken Heart
  • Annie Thwaite, Revelation and Concealment: Flipping the pyx
  • By the Eternal

    Friday, January 9th, 2015

    [recalled by Lynn C. Rees]

    January 8, 1815, 200 years ago today, the British Empire was sentenced to oblivion.

    As Andrew Jackson killed the infernal Bank of the United States, a frustrated Congressman, opposed to Jackson, jotted down his thoughts. The first jot was draft of a resolution of impeachment against Jackson, throwing him under the BUS. The second jot characterized an incident from Jackson’s youth as a politically expedient fiction.

    The paper, left accidentally on the floor of the House, fell into the hands of the editor of the Globe, who described it to General Jackson. On this occasion the General was betrayed, by his ungovernable wrath, into the use of language that had seldom fallen from his lips since the death of his wife. “The d—ed, infernal scoundrel!” roared the President. “Put your finger here, Mr. Blair,” he added, pointing to the long dent in his head…

    Mr. Blair found that the wound had been far more serious than was supposed. He could lay a whole finger in the scar.

    Jackson earned the wound at age thirteen.

    The activity and zeal of the Waxhaw whigs coming to the ears of Lord Rawdon, whom Cornwallis had left in command, he dispatched a small body of dragoons to aid the tories of that infected neighborhood. The Waxhaw people hearing of the approach of this hostile force, resolved upon resisting it in open fight and named the Waxhaw meeting house as the rendezvous. Forty whigs assembled on the appointed day, mounted and armed; and among them were Robert and Andrew Jackson. In the grove about the old church, these forty were waiting for the arrival—hourly expected—of another company of whigs from a neighboring settlement. The British officer in command of the dragoons, apprised of the rendezvous by a tory of the neighborhood, determined to surprise the patriot party before the two companies had united. Before coming in sight of the church, he placed a body of tories, wearing the dress of the country, far in advance of his soldiers, and so marched upon the devoted band. The Waxhaw party saw a company of armed men approaching, but concluding them to be their expected friends, made no preparations for defense. Too late the error was discovered. Eleven of the forty were taken prisoners, and the rest sought safety in flight, fiercely pursued by the dragoons. The brothers…took refuge in a thicket, in which they passed a hungry and anxious night.

    The next morning the pangs of hunger compelled them to leave their safe retreat and go in quest of food. The nearest house was that of [their cousin, United States Army] Lieutenant [Thomas] Crawford. Leaving their horses and arms in the thicket, the lads crept toward the house, which they reached in safety. Meanwhile, a tory traitor of the neighborhood had scented out their lurking place, found their horses and weapons, and set a party of dragoons upon their track. Before the family had a suspicion of danger, the house was surrounded, the doors were secured, and the boys were prisoners.

    A scene ensued which left an impression upon the mind of one of the boys which time never effaced…the dragoons, brutalized by this mean partisan warfare, began to destroy with wild riot and noise the contents of the house. Crockery, glass, and furniture were dashed to pieces; beds emptied; the clothing of the family torn to rags…While this destruction was going on, the officer in command of the party ordered Andrew to clean his high jackboots, which were well splashed and crusted with mud. The boy replied, not angrily, though with a certain firmness and decision, in something like these words:

    “Sir. I am a prisoner of war, and claim to be treated as such.”

    The officer glared at him like a wild beast, and aimed a desperate blow at the boy’s head with his sword. Andrew broke the force of the blow with his left hand, and thus received two wounds—one deep gash on his head, and another on his hand, the marks of both of which he carried to his grave. The officer, after achieving this gallant feat, turned to Robert Jackson, and ordered him to clean the boots. Robert also refused. The valiant Briton struck the young man so violent a sword-blow upon the head as to prostrate and disable him

    Jackson’s oldest brother Hugh had died a year earlier while fighting in the Battle of Stono Ferry. After their capture, Jackson and his older brother Robert caught smallpox. Their mother got them released but Robert died after only a few days. Jackson’s mother volunteered to nurse captured American soldiers imprisoned by the British in prison ships. She died of the cholera and was buried in an unmarked grave. At age 14, Jackson was an orphan.

    Jackson was a champion hater. He was good at hating and he knew it. He was remorseless in what he chose to hate. When revelations of past transgressions drove his beloved wife to her death (as Jackson saw it), he swore, “May God Almighty forgive her murderers. I never can.” He mourned at the end of his presidency that, he’d “been unable to shoot Henry Clay or to hang John C. Calhoun.” But he would forgive who he would forgive. Senator Thomas Hart “”I never quarrel, sir, but I do fight, sir, and when I fight, sir, a funeral follows, sir.” Benton (D-MO), who’d seriously wounded Jackson in an 1813 street brawl, later became a close political ally. Hart summed up Jackson’s bright side: “Yes, sir, I knew him, sir; General Jackson was a very great man, sir. I shot him, sir. Afterward he was of great use to me, sir, in my battle with the United States Bank.” Equally, Hart summed up the fate of those who Jackson chose to hate: “When Andrew Jackson starts talking about hanging, men begin looking for ropes.”

    Understand this: Jackson hated the British. Hated. When he received word that the British had landed before New Orleans 34 years later, whatever else happened, Jackson’s thirsting heart must have leapt in his chest (carefully, for there was a bullet lodged next to it).

    Vengeance was his. He would repay. “By the Eternal!”, Jackson thundered, “They shall not sleep on our soil.”

    New Orleans was the gateway of the North American continent. 15 years before, the importance of the City Under the Sea drove even President Thomas Jefferson, whose hatred of Britain, though carefully veiled behind multiple layers of hypocrisy, challenged even Jackson’s, to write to his minister to France:

    There is on the globe one single spot, the possessor of which is our natural and habitual enemy. It is New Orleans, through which the produce of three-eighths of our territory must pass to market, and from its fertility it will ere long yield more than half of our whole produce and contain more than half our inhabitants. France placing herself in that door assumes to us the attitude of defiance. Spain might have retained it quietly for years. Her pacific dispositions, her feeble state, would induce her to increase our facilities there, so that her possession of the place would be hardly felt by us, and it would not perhaps be very long before some circumstance might arise which might make the cession of it to us the price of something of more worth to her. Not so can it ever be in the hands of France. The impetuosity of her temper, the energy and restlessness of her character, placed in a point of eternal friction with us, and our character, which though quiet, and loving peace and the pursuit of wealth, is high-minded, despising wealth in competition with insult or injury, enterprising and energetic as any nation on earth, these circumstances render it impossible that France and the U.S. can continue long friends when they meet in so irritable a position. They as well as we must be blind if they do not see this; and we must be very improvident if we do not begin to make arrangements on that hypothesis. The day that France takes possession of N[ew] Orleans fixes the sentence which is to restrain her forever within her low water mark. It seals the union of two nations who in conjunction can maintain exclusive possession of the ocean. From that moment we must marry ourselves to the British fleet and nation. We must turn all our attentions to a maritime force, for which our resources place us on very high grounds: and having formed and cemented together a power which may render reinforcement of her settlements here impossible to France, make the first cannon, which shall be fired in Europe the signal for tearing up any settlement she may have made, and for holding the two continents of America in sequestration for the common purposes of the united British and American nations.

    Circumstances and mosquitoes soon made Buonaparte’s designs for the Americas an unaffordable luxury. The sale of Louisiana to the United States the following year spared Jefferson from having to resort to something as distasteful as a British-American alliance. Yet that nation of shopkeepers had a heart always filled with avarice for shiny things that belonged to others. John Bull cast his covetous eyes on New Orleans and decided to take it. Britain wanted to deny freedom access to sea.

    As Buonaparte had been blown apart in 1814, Britain decided to double down on the pesky Americans and their contemptible little war to win the freedom of the seas by holding Canada and its trees, vital to keep Britain’s navy afloat, hostage. So it was that Edward Pakenham, brother-in-law of noted British general Arthur Wellesley, found himself at the head of a British army, many of them veterans of Britain’s war against Buonaparte in Portugal and Spain, facing an American fortification five miles south of New Orleans.

    Opposing them was the fury of Andrew Jackson and a core part of America’s future ethos. Though the British outnumbered the Americans numerically, Jackson’s rage and destiny outnumbered the British spiritually. Here, in its primeval form, was one of the storied American tropes: Slobs vs Snobs:

    They are well groomed, clean, stylishly dressed, and treat those around as inferior, be it at a Renaissance court or a slum. They are scruffy, dirty, dressed entirely from the used clothes discount pile, and act like boorish rabble.

    They will usually be in close proximity, at least in the same neighborhood, city, or space sector. And of course they fight. The scale of the conflict can be any size, be it a clique vs. clique social power struggle in a school, a street brawl between rival gangs, or two species or even Planet of Hats at war. When cranked Up to Eleven, it can cross into armed revolution, or either Kill the Poor or Eat the Rich.

    Beyond the superficial dichotomy this conflict is one of lifestyle and worldview. The Snobs are epicurean, refined, and educatedbut classist and vain, while Slobs are honest, revelrous and dionysianbut violent and dangerous. As a narrative device, Slobs Versus Snobs is notable in that it rarely presents both sides equally. More often than not, the Slobs are presented in a far more sympathetic light than the Snobs.On the Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty, Snobs would be shiny and Slobs would be gritty.

    Jackson’s Vengeance Posse was the original Ragtag Bunch of Misfits:

    This mission is important. The fate of the battle, nay, the war, nay, the entire world rests on the outcome. Who has the capability to stick it out, to give the good guys the victory they desperately need? This calls for a special team. The group of experienced, highly skilled, professional, team-oriented experts? Not them. The assorted group of ex-con lowlife inexperienced jerk–es who are trying to off their commander when they aren’t going at each other? Yeah, them.

    Jackson’s force of 4,732 was made up of “968 US Army regulars, 58 US Marines, 106 seamen, 1,060 Louisiana Militia and volunteers (including 462 free people of color), 1,352 Tennessee Militia, 986 Kentucky Militia, 150 Mississippi Militia, and 52 Choctaw warriors”.

    And pirates. Real pirates. Real pirates led by a real pirate. Pirates of the Caribbean (or, at least, Barataria Bay).

    Preparation is un-American. Jackson’s force was thrown together at the last millisecond. It was made up of frontiersmen, pirates, civilians, and random passersby. Some were Anglos, some were French, some were black, some were Indians. Somehow they were going to hold off a veteran army led by veteran officers (or their relatives). It should have been a walkover. Instead, the Americans were treated to a parade of military ineptitude that rivals the comical defeat of a “legion” of the Galactic Empire’s “best troops” by a Wookie and some spear-wielding teddy bears on the Moon of Endor 4 years after the Battle of Yavin.

    Jackson himself might have described the American fortifications thus:

    It is impossible to conceive a situation more eligible for defence than the one they had chosen and the skill which they manifested in their breastwork was really astonishing. It extended across the point in such a direction as that a force approaching would be exposed to a double fire, while they lay entirely safe behind it. It would have been impossible to have raked it with cannon to any advantage even if we had had possession of one extremity.

    Jackson did once describe an enemy fortification thus. But it was the Red Sticks’ fort at Horsehoe Bend he was describing and the British were on their way to being the stooge in another Andrew Jackson special: uncertain and tense beginning of a battle followed by walkover and then massacre of the enemy. The Red Sticks started well but eventually Jackson’s forces, attacking instead of defending a line, overwhelmed the Red Sticks. The Red Sticks lost 857 killed and 206 wounded out of a force of about 1,000 warriors. For the British, it wouldn’t quite be Flanders Fields but the shade of Passchendaele overshadowed the battlefield. Prophecy soaked the mud and bogs of the Dead Marshes of Louisiana.

    The British attempted a frontal assault on the American fortifications. Scaling ladders were misplaced. Fascines were left behind. Men got stuck crossing canals or bogged down in the swampy ground. Formations became confused. Veteran soldiers milled around like clueless n00bs. American regulars joined with the pirates to man the artillery and pour grapeshot into confused masses of redcoats. British officers, from Pakenham down, were shot and killed by American grapeshot and marksmen as they tried to bring order out of black comedy. While other men stood behind the breastwork and loaded their rifles, American riflemen would aim, fire, and hand the empty rifle behind them in exchange for a loaded rifle, achieving rapid fire. The few British solders who made it on top of the American breastworks were killed easily.

    Wikipedia summarizes what Jackson and his ragtag bunch of misfits saw as the smoke cleared and the British limped away:

    At the end of the day, the British had 2,042 casualties: 291 killed (including Generals Pakenham and Gibbs), 1,267 wounded (including General Keane) and 484 captured or missing. The Americans had 71 casualties: 13 dead; 39 wounded, and 19 missing.

    As Jackson surveyed the battlefield, even his 13 year old self might have been satisfied with driving the English back into the sea with their forked tongues and their tails between their legs. As James Parton, an early biographer of Jackson wrote later:

    Those who were intimately acquainted with Andrew Jackson, and they alone, can know something of the feelings of the youth while the events of this morning were transpiring; what paroxysms of contemptuous rage shook his slender frame when he saw his cousin’s wife insulted, her house profaned, his brother gashed, himself as powerless to avenge as to protect. “I’ll warrant Andy thought of it at New Orleans.“, said an aged relative of all the parties to me in an old farm house not far from the scene of [that] morning’s dastardly work.

    And Poodle Nation learned, forever as it turned out, to never fight the plucky underdog. Underdogs never lose. Especially with the pirates of Andrew Jackson at the guns.

    Turkey and the unicorn

    Monday, June 17th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron — i don’t do much in the way of cat pics, so here’s a timely geopolitical unicorn for you ]
    .

    What with the Whole Wired World looking a bit both “1984” and “Brave New” this week, and with Turkey clearly itching to up its rep as an authoritarian state, you might not think this would be the week a Turkish customs official would stamp a unicorn’s passport…

    What can I tell you? Someone did. A Turkish customs official allowed this young British girl, Emily Harris, into Turkey by stamping her unicorn’s passport.

    **

    If I was Recep Tayyip Erdogan — and I’m not, and unlikely yo be any time soon — I might want to give that man a medal for providing the one news item this week favorable to the Turkish tourist trade — at a time when images of tear gassings in hotels and water cannonades in parks can hardly be helping the country’s image as an attractive place to visit.

    Seriously — Public Diplomacy, one child’s passport at a time.

    And while you’re at it, quit gassing hotels with children in them, will you? It’s barbaric.


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