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DQing my way towards Arabic, one letter at a time

October 21st, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- also the Latin Breviary in 24 letters, and the meaning of blood and dots ]
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I was aware of the Arabic letter nun:

but not until the last few days, the letter ra:

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The letters that comprise alphabets, and the words, phrases, sentences and books that are built of thedm, are capable of enormous meaning…

The banging of a judge’s gavel can be a death sentences, the pillars of a door painted in sacrificial blood can cause hamash’chit — the destroyer angel — to overfly a house in which there are Jews, thus saving them from the destruction of their first-born, a yellow six-pointed star painted on a house or shop indicate its Jewish ownership — and the Arabic letters nun and ra serve similar purposes, signalling both a threat from ISIS and a mark of pride and solidarity…

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For those with hermetic and kabbalistic tastes, I’d like to take this a little further.

A single dot can have powerful meaning…

In Judaism:

bereshit

Although the Torah itself suggests that certain hylic entities co-existed with God at the beginning (water, darkness), by separating out the diacritical dagesh from the word [it is the dot in the first letter]:

Beginning with a point… b • reshit (Zohar I:15a)

the Zohar finds the philosophic principle creation ex nihilo [from nothing] in the first word.

In Islam:

dot_under_ba

And know that all of Allah’s secrets are in the heavenly books, and all of the secrets of the heavenly books are in the Qur’an. And all of which is in the Qur’an is in al-Fatihah, and all of which is in al-Fatihah is in bismillah, and all of which is in bismillah is in the ba’ of bismillah, and all of which is in the ba’ in bismillah is the dot (nuqtah) which is under the ba’. Imam ‘Ali said: “I am the dot which is under the ba’”

first finds the saying I am the dot which is under the ba’ in al-Ghazali, where it is attributed to Abu Bakr al-Shibli, disciple of the great Sufi al-Junayd

and comments:

We can not understand the Quran properly without dots, or if we can know the point (Nukta) of a thing we understand the reality of the whole matter.

In Hinduism:

black-aum-sign-on-white-background

The symbol of Aum contains of three curves, one semicircle and a dot. The large lower curve symbolizes the waking state; the upper curve denotes deep sleep (or the unconscious) state, and the lower curve (which lies between deep sleep and the waking state) signifies the dream state. These three states of an individual’s consciousness, and therefore the entire physical phenomenon, are represented by the three curves. The dot signifies the Absolute (fourth or Turiya state of consciousness), which illuminates the other three states. The semicircle symbolizes maya and separates the dot from the other three curves. The semicircle is open on the top, which means that the absolute is infinite and is not affected by maya. Maya only affects the manifested phenomenon. In this way the form of aum symbolizes the infinite Brahman and the entire Universe.

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And the entire elphabet?

Here’s the Shortest Rite for Reciting the Breviary, for Itinerants and the Scrupulous, as transmitted to me by Dom Sylvester Houédard, priest, poet and scholar:

RITUS BREVISSIMUS RECITANDI BREVIARIUM PRO ITINERANTIBUS ET SCRUPULOSIS

Dicitur: Pater et Ave

Deinde:

A B C D E F G H I K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

V. Per hoc alphabetum notum
R. componitur breviarium totum (Tempore paschali, dicitur Alleluia)

Oremus.

Deus, qui ex viginti quatuor litteris totam sacram scripturam et breviarium istud componi voluisti, iunge, disiunge et accipe ex his viginti quatuor litteris matutinas cum laudibus, primam, tertiam, sextam, nonam, vesperas et completorium. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

Signat se dicens: Sapienti pauca.

V. In pace in idipsum.
R. Dormiam et requiescam.

If my rusty, Google-assisted Latin is to be believed, the gist of the central prayer here reads:

O God, who hast chosen to compose the entirety of sacred scripture and this breviary out of twenty-four letters, separate, join and receive from these twenty-four letters Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline, through Christ our Lord. Amen..

That’s the complete Holy Office as recited by Catholic monks — Dom Sylvester was a member of the Benedictines — in just 24 letters.

Which is less than it takes to type:

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

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New Book: Warrior Diplomat by Michael G. Waltz

October 20th, 2014

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a "zen"]

WARRIOR DIPLOMAT: A Green Beret’s Battles from Washington to Afghanistan by Michael G. Waltz

Just received a review copy of this yet-to-be-released memoir from Callie at Oettinger & Associates, which I have thumbed through ( formal review coming soon).

The author,  Michael G. Waltz has had a very interesting career arcGreen Beret officer, Commander of multiple SF and SOF teams, Afghan combat veteran with valor awards, DoD counter-narcotics policy adviser, counter-terrorism adviser to Vice-President Dick Cheney, Senior National Security scholar at the liberal New America Foundation, Co-founder of Askari Associates and President of Metis Solutions.

Waltz , it must also be noted, is donating 100% of the proceeds of this book to veterans charities.

An active commenter on FP and .mil affairs, Waltz most recently opined on ISIS here:

Ten Lessons from the Afghan War about how to fight ISIS 

….There were over 40 nations involved in the ISAF coalition, which caused numerous functional and strategic issues.  Even base terms such as “counterinsurgency” (COIN) were interpreted very differently by every partner.  For the French, COIN, invoked memories of their brutal campaign in Algeria; while for the Dutch, the military focus of COIN was to provide security for development projects.  These differences led to years of 40 countries going in as many different directions to little strategic effect.  In the ISIS campaign, the U.S. should start with ensuring all members of the coalition have the same understanding of the President’s stated goals of “degrade” and “destroy.”  These terms are more than just rhetoric in military circles and will have different meanings to each contributor. 

….Coalitions are difficult to assemble and even more difficult to maintain when the going gets tough.  Too often ISAF’s military failings would be swept under the rug in Washington and Brussels for the sake of preserving the political unity of the coalition.  It reflected the view of many in U.S. and European circles working the NATO portfolio that the war in Afghanistan was good for NATO; as it would force the alliance into shape rather than forcing NATO to confront its failings for the good of Afghanistan.  The coalition against ISIS must be good for winning the war effort against Islamist extremism, not the other way around.

Read the rest here.

Warrior Diplomat falls into the same military genre represented by American Spartan, About Face, A Bright Shining Lie and to a lesser extent, classics like Street Without Joy and Diplomat Among Warriors - books that integrated “the fight” with the political, bureaucratic, policy context in all of the latter’s monumental dysfunction. For example, writing of the Tagab District, where the Bagram air base is located, Waltz lamented:

….Though we had information about the HIG broadly as an organization and about some of their commanders in the area, I was bothered by our lack of knowledge about Tagab and the people of the valley. We knew little beyond the very basics of local government, the police, or the local economy. We also knew little to nothing about the tribal make-up of the area or which tribes had aligned with the HIG. most important, we had no idea why certain locals were supporting them. Was it ideological? Tribal rivalry? Abuse from local officials? I hoped our patrol would answer these questions, but I was astonished that we didn’t know more about an area so close to our main base in Afghanistan. Four years into the war, in 2005, we were going into the area partially blind because of our lack of meaningful intelligence

This passage would probably ring true with Major Jim Gant. Or with friend of ZP blog Pete Turner,  who spent so much time in Zabul. Or with most of the soldiers and Marines who went on patrol in Afghanistan any time in the past decade.

Warrior Diplomat is scheduled for release November 1, and I will try to have my formal, full review posted that week.

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More twitter gratitude: once and future cars, Mozart and more

October 20th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- it's been a long and wonderful day with my younger son, I'm getting sleepy, midnight approaches, and my leaps are getting longer and looser -- g'night! ]
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Flintstones Jetsons cars

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Today was my day to discover Digital Tonto, aka Greg Satell: cause for rejoicing. I can seldom retrace more than a few of my online steps, it’s a nimble dance we do here on the net, but somehow i wound up reading three of his pages before clicking myself off on another leap of faith & inquiry…

How The Future Is Really Built is great on Einstein, Wittgenstein, and all them ‘steins.

The Visceral Abstract begins with this killer paragraph:

Last week, Paul Broun, a US Congressman on the Science, Space and Technology Committee, asserted that evolution, embryology and big bang theory are “lies straight from the pit of hell.” A recent Gallup survey suggests that 46% of Americans agree with him.

Why 140 Characters Are Better Than A Flying Car brought me a image of the Jetson’s car, and I started thinking about the Flintstones, and soon I saw at the “once and future” automotive image at the top of this post.

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Okay, let me take off on a tangent here. Digital Tonto writes:

Does a banker with a multimillion-dollar bonus really represent a greater contribution than Tim Berners-Lee or Linus Torvalds?

As for myself, I am biased in favor of Tim Berners-Lee. In the same post, DT also quotes the much tougher to read Martin Heidegger:

However hard and bitter, however hampering and threatening the lack of houses remains, the real plight of dwelling does not lie merely in a lack of houses. The real plight of dwelling is indeed older than the world wars with their destruction, older also than the increase of the earth’s population and the condition of the industrial workers. The real dwelling plight lies in this, that mortals ever search anew for the nature of dwelling, that they must ever learn to dwell.

I believe the difference between “houses” and “dwelling” is a pretty fundamental one, close kin to the difference between denotation and connotation, or the time as pronounced by a mechanical clock, perhaps, and the time uttered by an impassioned, urgent human voice — thing and life, metronome and heartbeat, quantity and quality.

And that’s the great koan again, right there: quantity and quality.

Which brings me by my own leap of logic to Cornelius Castoriadis, and a quote I’ve dropped before:

Philosophers almost always start by saying: “I want to see what being is, what reality is. Now, here is a table. What does this table show to me as characteristic of a real being?” No philosopher ever started by saying: “I want to see what being is, what reality is. Now, here is my memory of my dream of last night. What does this show to me as characteristic of a real being?” No philosopher ever starts by saying “Let the Mozart’s Requiem be a paradigm of being, let us start from that.” Why could we not start by positing a dream, a poem, a symphony as paradigmatic of the fullness of being and by seeing in the physical world a deficient mode of being, instead of looking at things the other way round, instead of seeing in the imaginary — that is, human — mode of existence, a deficient or secondary mode of being?

[ aha, Scott -- the Mozart Requiem! It's already Monday where you are, so I'll just drop in a link to the video this time... ]

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BTW, I’m assisting noted futurist Jamais Cascio editing a book on privacy, currently in prospectus mode, and invite any ZP readers with an interest in the matter, to comment below.

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With gratitude for today’s twitter feast..

October 20th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- high risk furniture -- a single tweet with linked explanation, plus two sets of tweets I'd like to see further explained, explored and examined ]
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First, a single tweet from Max Fisher with a catchy title and link, where the URL provides free access to the article in question..

Single tweets like this with URLs are at the heart of intelligent twitter-use, and twitter #FFs are the curatorial device for honing in on them. But there have also been occasions when a string of tweets sets forth a noteworthy argument or tale, as in:

  • Jenan Moussa twitterstreams ISIS rules
  • Teju Cole on Nairobi: death and birdsong, death and poetry
  • Second, here are four tweets from Phil Arena via Adam Elkus:

    Fascinating ideation here, that I’d love to see developed.

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    And much the same goes for these five diagrammatic tweets from Darin Self via Phil Arena:

    These are really on the edge of my comprehension, but then again I quite deliberately read above my pay-grade, believing that old saw of Browning‘s:

    A man’s reach should exceed his grasp — or what’s a heaven for?

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    The new AQ magazine: miracles from Khorasan

    October 20th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- there's a similar report from Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army, fwiw ]
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    I have commented before on the use of miracle stories by Abdullah Azzam as quoted in Inspire magazine, and an African equivalent found in Gaidi Mtaani, the Shabaab magazine, to engage the devotion and loyalty of pious troops: Resurgence magazine continues the tradition.

    Hasan Gul

    Here for your edification from the new AQIS magazine Resurgence, are two examples, drawn from the life and martyrdom of Hasan Gul, known to the Washington Post, and likely many ZP readers, as Hassan Ghul.

    The first as to do with the miraculous preservation of his life:

    When Shaykh Khalid Habib, the military head of Al Qaida in Khurasan, was martyred, brother Hasan Gul was with him. The Shaykh (may Allah have mercy on him) was inside the car, while he was standing outside. He had just extended his hand to open the door of the car when a missile fired from a drone hit the car. Allah (swt) miraculously saved his life. He was thrown several feet away by the explosion. His shin bone was fractured as a result. Several days later, when I met him he showed me a coin that had been in the upper pocket of his shirt, just above his heart at the time of the drone attack. A small shrapnel of the missile had hit the coin, because of which the coin had been bent inwards. Allah (swt) prevented the shrapnel from piercing his heart with this small coin. Verily, when Allah (swt) decrees life for His slave, no one can give him death!

    It seems plausible that the same mercy was extended to one of Cromwell‘s soldiers in the English Civil War, if one may trust James Waylen’s 1880 The House of Cromwell and the Story of Dunkirk:

    An account of the pocket-Bible printed by Cromwell’s order for distribution among his men was some time back published by Mr. George Livermore of Cambridge, Massachusets, who possesses one of the only two copies known to exist, the other being in the Brit. Mus. Library. .. That such a book was really in use, we learn from Richard Baxter who relates the story of a soldier receiving a shot near the heart, the fatal force of the bullet being arrested by its lodging in the Bible which he carried in his breast. And a very thin Bible it was too, being comprised in a sheet folded in 16mo. An entire Bible, even in the most compact form then known, would have been far too bulky and far too expensive.

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    The second deals with the pleasant scent that Azzam had previously noted was a mark of the martyr — here’s the same motif as applied to Hasan Gul:

    Last year in October, when he left his house on a motor bike, American drones assassinated him. His body was shredded to bits by a direct missile hit and his remains were scattered over a large area. When some Mujahid brothers reached the site of the attack, they faced the problem of searching for and gathering the bits and pieces of his body. However, Allah (swt) made this task easy for them. A large part of his body was easily found. An ethereal fragrance that was simply not of this world was coming from this dismembered part of his body. This extremely beautiful fragrance was smelt by all the brothers present at the scene. The brothers then decided to locate his body parts with the help of this scent. All the brothers had to do was to follow this fragrance to find a part of his body. All the parts of his body exuded this fragrance without any exception. Thus the fragrance of Hasan Gul’s blood led to the remains of his body. May Allah be pleased with him and grant him the company of the Prophets and the righteous. Ameen!

    Again, I refer you to my post Of war and miracle: the poetics, spirituality and narratives of jihad for comments on similar reports in Catholic and Arthurian literatures.

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    But let’s return briely to that Bible story — there’s really quite an extended history of these reports.

    Consider the American Civil War veteran of the Fourth Iowa Cavalry Division, whose daughter wrote:

    At another time a bullet hit the New Testament he was carrying in his shirt pocket and glanced off. This sweetheart, who later became his wife, had given him the New Testament when he entered the service.

    Or the Army Cyclist Corps despatch rider whose life was saved by a still-extant “combined Bible, prayer book and hymnal” near Arras, France, in 1915:

    bible-saved life

    Or Pfc. Brendon Schweigart, who claims only that when a sniper’s bullet found the Bible in his shirt pocket in Iraq, it:

    definitely prevented more serious injury, because if it wouldn’t have been there, it would have ricocheted off my bullet-proof plate and more than likely would have gone back into my chest, causing more damage.

    Indeed, the “Bible stopped the bullet” tale has enough variants that Mythbusters once tested it with a 400-page Bible, albeit not one with a metal cover…

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    Because, yes, metal-covered Bibles were given to GIs in World War II with the cover inscribed “May this keep you safe from harm” — no doubt with the hope and prayer that if need be, the metal covering would indeed prove a protective “breastplate of righteousness”:

    Heart shield bible

    In fact, the 1943 “Heart Shield Bible” depicted is on sale now on eBay, at a current asking price of $21.49.

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    It’s no dcoubt a bit of a stretch, but I believe that when you “encourage” miracles by providing metallic holy pocket-books for protective use on the battleield, it’s an example of what Max Weber famously called the “routinization of charisma”.

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