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Silence as protest and gift

April 13th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — on the frayed edges of music ]
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Silence is the exception rather than the rule — so much so that it’s notable.

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The bells of York Minster were silenced for a year in protest at the sacking of, as the Guardian eruditely puts it, “30 campanologists”. Bell-ringing is an ancient craft in the UK, mathematical in its combinatoric precision, glorious in its language and literature. Spanning the arts and sciences, it is thus a bridge between the two sides of that academic and popular schism or chasm which CP Snow famously described in his book, The Two Cultures.

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Mathematics and combinatorics:

The ringing of a peal or complete sequence of bells is a highly mathematized form of music, and the order in which the bells are to be rung — the method — can therefore be transcribed in graphical form:

Oh, the beauty in so musical a score.

I dare not show you a full extent — we might run out of pixels!

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Language and literature:

Truth (and the detested false), Grandsires, Triple Bob Major, oh, and Spitalfields Festival Treble Bob, and how could one forget Affpuddle Treble Bob Major..

Dorothy Sayers‘ novel The Nine Tailors has nothing to do with bespoke and everything to do with murder most fouldeath and detection:

In some parishes in England the centuries-old tradition of announcing a death on a church bell is upheld. In a small village most people would be aware of who was ill, and so broadcasting the age and sex of the deceased would identify them. To this end the death was announced by telling (i.e. single blows with the bell down) the sex and then striking off the years. Three blows meant a child, twice three a woman and thrice three a man. After a pause the years were counted out at approximately half-minute intervals. The word teller in some dialects becomes tailor, hence the old saying “Nine tailors maketh a man”.

The bell used in the novel for the announcement is the largest (tenor) bell, which is dedicated to St. Paul. Hence “teller Paul” or in dialect “tailor Paul”. Sayers is here acknowledging the assistance of Paul Taylor of Taylor’s bell foundry in Loughborough, England who provided her with detailed information on all aspects of change-ringing.

Scientific American adds other details, describing:

another time-honored tradition of bells, which frequently have nicknames and inscriptions, as if they were, indeed, alive.

For instance, in Sayers’ novel, the oldest bell is dubbed Batty Thomas, cast in 1380, and bears the inscription “Abbat Thomas sett mee heare + and bad mee ringe both loud and cleer.” (The oldest bell hung for change ringing that is still in use was cast in 1325; it is the fifth bell at St. Dunstan’s Church in Canterbury, Kent.)

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Argh, the lockout:

Enough of the beauty of the English bells. From the Guardian piece referenced in the upper panel, above:

But simmering tensions between the minster’s governing body, the Chapter of York, and the ringers came to a head last October when the band was summarily dismissed and locked out of the 15th-century cathedral’s bell tower.

The silencing of the York Minster peal is thus a case of a sacred sound being stilled by a secular — or at least unionized — silence.

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How opposite, and apposite, then, is the ringing silence offered by the youthful Quakers as a podcast in the second Guardian piece referenced (lower panel, above):

It’s not the most obvious subject for a podcast, but a group of young Quakers in Nottingham have recorded their 30-minute silent meeting so as to share their “oasis of calm” with the world.

In an episode of the monthly Young Quaker Podcast, called the Silence Special, you can hear a clock ticking, pages being turned and the rain falling, as the group meets and sits in silence at the Friend’s Meeting House in Nottingham. [ .. ]

The idea for the silent podcast first came from Tim Gee, a Quaker living in London, who was inspired by the BBC’s season of “slow” radio, which treated audiences to – among other things – the sounds of birds singing, mountain climbing and monks chatting.

Gee said he had wanted to “share a small oasis of calm, and a way to provide a moment of stillness, for people on the move”.

Jessica Hubbard-Bailey, 25, from the Nottingham Young Quakers, who recorded the podcast, said they had jumped at the opportunity to broadcast something “immersive and unusual”. She added: “We have very different ways of worship to most people of faith and we thought this was a really unique opportunity to give people a little slice of what the Quakers do. Also, we are really good at being quiet because we’ve made a practice of it and I think that is of value. These days everyone is so busy, everyone is working all the time, so it’s really valuable to have the opportunity to sit down once a week and just be quiet and listen.”

Listen? Listen to the birds, to the chattering monks — or to the still, small voice?

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Listen, in any case, to the sound of silence:

Just listen!

Pardon me, hint hint

April 13th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — in which an unforgivable lapse may nonetheless be forgiven? ]
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Scooter scot free?

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I believe this is called reading between the paragraphs. The piece begins:

President Trump is expected to pardon Lewis “Scooter” Libby, according to a senior administration official, giving an olive branch to a George W. Bush administration staffer that the former president declined to grant.

It is unclear why Trump is making the move, but the pardon has been under consideration for several months, two people familiar with the president’s thinking said.

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Twelve paragraphs later, we read the closing para:

John Dowd, a former Trump lawyer, floated pardons to former campaign manager Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, The Washington Post has reported. Manafort has since been charged with more than a dozen offenses, while Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

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Is that, perhaps, a hint of a reason — and an analogical one at that?

Weather: waterworks, fireworks, & how the mindworks

April 13th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — and reality alwys strains towards a metaphor of itself, doesn’t it? ]
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Today’s weather headline:

This isn’t a metaphor, weather here means weather, even thought you might imagine it’s politics it’s talking about. If it was politics and we were lucky, the header might read:

Wild storm raging across globe to unleash all modes of extreme weather through the weekend

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Here are some of the details, graphically — very graphically — represented:

Blizzard conditions and heavy snow

Extreme fire danger

Oh, my!

Tornadoes and severe storms

Torrents!

Just suppose this was politics, after all!

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Another headline today:

That’s almost meteorological, ne?

Or try this one, a week out, and international in scope:

I’d be lost without my wifi..

For Jim Gant, On the Resurrection, 03

April 9th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — a repeatable dream back then, alas no longer ]
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What happens, in other words, when imagination enters factual reality?

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This doesn’t, as far as I can tell, heppen only in Christianity — Henry Corbin’s book, Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn ‘Arabi, if I read it right, narrates an apparition of Beauty in the life of the Sufi known to Islam as the Sheikh al-Akbar, the Greatest Sheikh.

In India I was taught that Valmiki wrote the Ramayana, and Vishnu liked it so well he took the avatar-form of Rama to live out the epid in Valmiki’s honor, amybe 10,000 years later, every last detail correct.

Folklore, no doubt?

I have my own experiences.

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When I was about eight or so, I had a recurring dream, in which I was walking in the (grassy) English countryside, and a series of holes began opening in the earth around and in front of me. They were roughly manhole-sized holes, and after I had avoided a couple of them, I fell down one of them, much like Alice.

I found myself in Hell. To be precise, I was in a sort of stable with a number of stalls off a corridor that linked them — with fires burning in the stalls. Someone tried to throw me on one of the fires, and I objected, telling them I was a friend of the management — so they went off someplace to check.

When they came back, they told me that I did in fact have the freedom of the whole place — and indicated to me that besides the stables with their fires, there were two further rooms, one of which was a vast granary filled with silver corn, the other a granary of golden corn.

I would wake up as I moved through those two other rooms — and if I woke without having had this dream, I would frequently burrow back under my sheets and covers and demand it. And it would come.

The dream gave me a distinct sense that I need “fear no evil” — that hell could not in the final analysis touch me. This was its gift to me at the time, and I find it amazing that this particular gift was engraven in my dreaming consciousness maybe thirty or more times over a period of a few impressionable years…

It also told me that I was a citizen of the two realms represented by the granaries of silver and golden corn. I take them to be lunar and solar granaries, and equate them with the realms of poetry and mysticism, respectively: or one might think of them as savikalpa and nirvikalpa, via positiva and via negativa, Broceliande and Jerusalem, the imaginal and the radiant.

It was also clear that all three realms belonged to that same “management” whose friendship I had claimed, and which allowed me the freedom of the three realms. I understood on reading Dante (and remembering the dream after a lapse of years) that all three realms are realms of the divine love.

So in some very real and important sense, the seeds were never mine…

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Well, that’s pure dream, with its waking content a way of moving through this world.

For Jim Gant, On the Resurrection, 02

April 9th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — this is really the opening salvo, bracketing the ineffable ]
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Question #2 is the real shaker, though..

Did the Resurrection really happen?

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Here’s the key para from Tolkien:

I would venture to say that approaching the Christian Story from this direction, it has long been my feeling (a joyous feeling) that God redeemed the corrupt making-creatures, men, in a way fitting to this aspect, as to others, of their strange nature. The Gospels contain a fairystory, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels—peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: “mythical” in their perfect, selfcontained significance; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe. But this story has entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation. The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy. It has pre-eminently the “inner consistency of reality.” There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many sceptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.

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What happens, in other words, when imagination enters factual reality?


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