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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 ]

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!

Peace is with the Withinners

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — ever grateful ]

Top-down peace talks are by no means a bad thing, maybe even a source of joy..

but to tell the truth..

.. peace is with the withinners:



  • Pravmir, Egypt’s Al-Azhar University to Hold Peace Conference With Pope
  • NCR, Vatican calls on Catholics and Buddhists to work together to promote nonviolence
  • A tip-of-the-hat to Ursula Le Guin for her marvelous coinage, “the withinner”.

    Gülen a secret cardinal of the Catholic Church? [UPDATED]

    Monday, September 5th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — a case of Catholic taqiyya? srsly? you jest! ]

    This tweet about Fethullah Gülen is just too rich in ironies to relegate to the comment section of my earlier posts, Turkey — keeping an eye out for Gülen and its follow-up, Turkey Tweeted, continued:

    H/t Bryan Alexander.

    I may write this one up for LapidoMedia, in which case I’ll report back here…



    Apparently LapidoMedia won’t be covering this, since they already have two pieces from me for this week & next.

    Here’s the gist:

    The suggestion has recently been made in at least two Turkish media that the Turkish Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, now resident in the US, is a secret Catholic, not a Muslim, and that when he met Pope John Paul II in 1988, the latter made him a cardinal “in pectore”.

    The Turkish Minute article Indictment claims Gülen secretly made cardinal by John Paul II reports the claim as having been made in a court case, and explains:

    The indictment said “in pectore” is a term meaning “in the heart” and that it refers “a person who keeps his religious beliefs secret in their country.”

    Shia, under the doctrine of taqiyya, have the right to say that they are Sunni if questioned in a sectarian life-and-death situation, and the Turkish indictment apparently conflated this idea with the authentic Catholic poractice of a Pope making a cardinal “in pectore” — where the secret of the appointment is kept, not because the cardinal keeps his religion a secret, let alone that he claims to be a Muslim cleric while in fact being a high-ranking Catholic — but because the news that the person had been raised to the College of Cardinals might draw unwanted attention to him as a public figure in an area where this might have dire consequences.

    So the two ideas have their similarities — but are in fact different.

    Add in the fact of the amazing image of Gülen wearing a bishop’s miter and the pallium — an item worn only by major archbishops and the Pope — and you have quite a multitude of ironies in play.

    Divinely appointed killing in Gita and Summa

    Saturday, August 20th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — two focal texts for Landmines in the Garden plus the matters of just war / peace ]

    Herewith two quotes, one (upper oanel) from the Bhagavad Gita, the other from the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas — each of which expemplifies the notion that someone, in the first case Arjuna, in the second, Abraham — has divine authorization to kill:

    SPEC DQ Summa and Gita

    It is noteworthy that Arjuna does in fact kill those he has been ordered to kill, and that in contrast Abraham is reprieved from the necessity of killing his son by the same divine authority which had first demanded that extraordinary sacrifice — but God (the Father) in the Christian narrative goes on to kill his own Son in what is both the perfection and completion of sacrifice..

    And from the perspective of military chaplains blessing members of the armed forces on their way into battle in a just war, the same divine approval presumably holds.

    But are wars ever just?


    Further Readings:

  • Foreign Policy, What Happens When You Replace a Just War With a Just Peace?
  • National Catholic Repoorter, Pope considering global peace as topic of next Synod of Bishops
  • Rome Conference, An Appeal to the Catholic Church to Re-Commit to the Centrality of Gospel Nonviolence
  • United States Institute of Peace, Abrahamic Alternatives to War
  • It is worth noting that a sometime commenter on this blog, William Benzon of New Savanna, has a new, small & handy book out:

  • Bill Benzon, We Need a Department of Peace: Everybody’s Business, Nobody’s Job
  • Of martyrdom and forgiveness

    Monday, August 1st, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — of martyrdom according to ISIS and the church, & of forgiveness in response to hate — continuing from Of sacrifice and martyrdom ]


    Icon by Coptic artist Tony Rezk. The martyrs’ faces are the faces of Christ.


    My Lapido piece closed with these words:

    That is, in part, why Pope Francis in his official comment on the event said he was “particularly troubled to learn that this act of violence took place in a church, during Mass, a liturgical act that implores of God His peace on earth.”

    The Pope went on to say he “asks the Lord to inspire in all thoughts of reconciliation and fraternity in this new trial, and to extend to everyone the abundance of His blessings”. And that, perhaps, is the hardest thing for us – and for France – to understand.

    The natural reaction to such a barbarous act as the killing of a defenceless 86-year old priest is horrified anger, and French President François Hollande, true to France’s claim to be secular, described the killing as a “desecration of French democracy” – and declared “France is at war.”


    Democracy was far from the only thing that was desecrated. The image of God in the person of Fr Hamel was desecrated, his priesthood, speaking the words and making the gestures Christ himself had made at the Last Supper was desecrated, the sacred place in which he stood and woshipped was desecrated, and the sacrament of the Mass was desecrated .

    And to all this, The Pope responded with words of forgivesness, asking God “to inspire in all thoughts of reconciliation and fraternity”.


    Martha Nussbaum:

    The American philosopher Martha Nussbaum has recently written an essay titled Beyond Anger, in which she begins to explain the futility of vengeance, citing Nelson Mandela as someone who went beyond anger to achieve great things:

    He often said that he knew anger well, and that he had to struggle against the demand for payback in his own personality. He reported that during his 27 years of imprisonment he had to practice a disciplined type of meditation to keep his personality moving forward and avoiding the anger trap.

    Nussbaum is presenting in psychological, philosophical and political terms the outlook which for Pope Francis is embodied in the words of Christ: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be children of your Father which is in heaven.”

    This attitude runs strikingly against the grain of secular thinking in our age.

    With the tragic death of Fr Jacques Hamel and the words of Pope Francis, we are reminded once again that there exists another possibility than retribution, a way of forgiveness and peace in place of redoubled fury and war.



    We hve seen this forgivesness before. To grasp how different Pope Francis’ message is from the vegneance which seems like second nature to us, we may want to recall the French Trappist monks of Tibhirine in Algeria, killed by Islamist terrorists in 1996, and to read again the remarkable words of Christian de Chergé in his Last Testament:

    If it should happen one day – and it could be today – that I become a victim of the terrorism which now seems ready to encompass all the foreigners living in Algeria, I would like my community, my Church, my family, to remember that my life was given to God and to this country. I ask them to accept that the One Master of all life was not a stranger to this brutal departure.

    Addressing his future attacker, de Chergé says:

    And you also, the friend of my final moment, who would not be aware of what you were doing. Yes, for you also I wish this “thank you” – and this adieu – to commend you to the God whose face I see in yours.



    We witnessed it among the Coptic Christians when so many of their sons were brutally beheaded by ISIS.

    As I noted at the time in Some recent words from the Forgiveness Chronicles, Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, said when he was interviewed shortly after the event:

    Q: Not long after the video released, you tweeted about the killings, using the hashtag #FatherForgive. Did you mean that you forgive ISIS?

    A:Yes. It may seem unbelievable to some of your readers, but as a Christian and a Christian minister I have a responsibility to myself and to others to guide them down this path of forgiveness. We don’t forgive the act because the act is heinous. But we do forgive the killers from the depths of our hearts. Otherwise, we would become consumed by anger and hatred. It becomes a spiral of violence that has no place in this world.


    For Christians, it is clear that Fr Hamel was killed for his faith, and died a martyr. For the followers of ISIS, the same kind of claim will be made — that the two jihadist “soldiers” died at the hands of the French police while fighting jihad fi sabilillah — in the cause of God. But for the Muslim community of France as a whole, the killing of Fr Hamel was an act of brutality without religious sanction — indeed, quite the opposite:

    Community leaders in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy said they did not want to “taint” Islam by having any association with Adel Kermiche, the 19-year-old jihadist who killed Father Jacques Hamel in his hometown in northern France.

    Mohammed Karabila, president of the local Muslim cultural association and imam of one of the town’s mosques, told Le Parisien newspaper: “We’re not going to taint Islam with this person. We won’t participate in preparing the body or the burial.”

    Considering the importance of quick burial in Muslim theology, that is a pretty clear indication of the distance the Muslims of St Étienne-du-Rouvray wish to put between their faith and its distorted image in the mind of ISIS.

    Not only didnthe local Muslims refuse to accept Kermiche’s body for burial, an appeal went out for Muslims to attend Mass on today, Sunday, in grief and solidarity with the Catholics and with the people of France. As Hend Amry put it:

    Catholic priests were invited to attend, and spoke at Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray mosque, which had been built on land donated by the church — and across France, in tears, countless Muslims attended Mass, in St Étienne-du-Rouvray, in Rouen Cathedral, and as far away as Italy and Corsica.


    Muslims at Mass in Milan
    Muslims at Mass in Milan, Italy

    Solidarity AFP photo JCMagnenet
    Catholic-Muslim friendship in wake of killing of Fr Hamel, AFP.

    Catafalque, Requiem for Fr Hamel
    Catafalque, Requiem Mass for Fr Hamel, Faternity of St Joseph the Guardian, La-Londe-Les-Maures.

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