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A running commentary on Thucydides

May 18th, 2019

[ posted by Charles Cameron — originally posted on post-online by Katherine Long ]
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Knowing the Zenpundit blog-circle’s interest in all things Thucydides, I’m delighted to be able to introduce Katherine Khashimova Long, guest-posting here with a piece she wrote on Athens and, well, running.

  • KKL’s original posting is here
  • Zenpundit’s Thucydides round-table is indexed here
  • _______________________________________________________________________________________

    notes from: athens: a running commentary on thucydides

    article by katherine long, originally pub’d september 2014, © 2019 Post-
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    For a city-state that invented the sport of distance running (cf. Battle of Marathon), Athens displays a surprising antipathy towards runners.

    It’s a summer evening—sun setting behind the Parthenon; al fresco hubbub in cafes; awestruck tourists; chattering cicadas; the whole nine yards—and we’re jazzed about doing a run so historic it would make any ivied Classics department proud: from the base of the Acropolis to the port of Piraeus, five miles southwest, along the route of the wall. This is THE wall: the Thucydidean wall—the one that was the spark for the whole shebang called the Peloponnesian War; the wall that will be discussed in every military strategy class until the end of time—but we have a problem! We don’t know what direction Piraeus is in.

    The next, wholly unanticipated problem: No one will tell us. “You’re running to Piraeus? ON FOOT?!” (Shock, awe, opprobrium, etc.). A man kindly directs us to the nearest bus stop, where we can catch the 40 to Piraeus because “please,” he chuckles, “my children, it is too far to walk, let alone run.”

    It is not. It is five miles.

    Eventually we find the way, navigating off a laconic gesture—“Piraeus? Over there.” The run, while not exactly scenic—the view is foreclosed apartment blocks and graffiti-ed benches—awakes within us the flame of history and for a few glorious miles we are running with the ancient Athenians, running to defend the city walls, to defend the spirit of democracy and the Periclean majesty of our Sacred Rock and to get those murderous Spartans until we are stopped dead in our tracks. A woman, taking issue with our running attire, specifically my shorts and Patrick’s bare chest, screams in Greek while trying to pull down my shorts to cover my lower thighs and gesticulating ferociously at Patrick. So we’re basically like “See ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya,” but she’s left us with a frightened, frenetic energy that becomes harder and harder to shake over the next two miles—a cloud of tradition and respect that dogs us through the city.

    We’re dashing along the sidewalk, dodging spindly little café tables, and Athenians walking their spindly little dogs, and glares from spindly little women, and it becomes harder and harder to think—no, harder and harder not to think, to disentangle thoughts from action and from one another. It’s overwhelming, this city, packed to the brim with the detritus of a few hundred centuries and the acquisitions of the present generation; this city that never throws anything away but keeps it embalmed and enshrined, a testament to the glory of its citizens—an antique shop or a rubbish heap, take your pick—tumbling gently towards the sea, prompted now and then by earthquakes and financial crises to slouch even further in its worn, comfortable chair.

    God! What we wouldn’t give for a breath of fresh air, an Alcibiadean vinegar to cut through the soup of stodgy self-indulgence.

    We keep running, and running, and running, and a week later we find ourselves running in the hills of the Mani Peninsula, a handful of miles away from the city formerly known as Sparta and now known as Sparti, though it’s really just two streets and a flat place in the road. We never go inside because, what’s the point? We’re here for the cliffs and the trails; the goat paths lined with cobblestones meandering between one-room churches and sandstone monasteries, recent relics, only a few centuries old; pirouetting around brooks; dodging olive trees; slip-sliding over a carpet of eucalyptus leaves; whispering through the tall grass; always with the sea, far below, lapping against the rocky coast, to guide us. No monuments, no walls, no half-standing temples to the gods’ munificence. Just our breathing—in, out—in, out—and the sound of pebbles skipping down the trail as we pass. We’re machines now, arms and legs working thoughtlessly.

    What do you think about when you run? That’s the wrong question. I run in a void; I run in order to acquire a void, Murakami said. What don’t you think about when you run?

    We come to a valley-in-miniature, a wide crevasse, an indentation between two spiraling cliffs filled with pine and cypress shrubs and laded with damp. It’s dark and quiet, except for the whooing of doves, and so still. Even the wind has stopped. Nobody but us. Us, and whoever came before us. They’re in the glade too— there, and there!—heroes or helots, hoplites or who knows—whoo-WHOO, who say the doves—all of us there, in halcyon days.

    Here’s magic!

    May 17th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — Krishna’s flute, evoked by a commercials videographer’s eye — brilliant! ]
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    Let me remind you again: real magic is simplicity itself:

    Especially if you are a Hindu with strong devotion to Lord Krishna, but even so if you are secular, or the holder of some other faith or practice — there’s magic in this simple hand-gesture, conjuring the flute with which Krishna lures the lovely Radha to his side:

    Photo: Jeremy Hunter

    Simplicity is the essence of elegance!

    **

    And since this is a series on advertising and magic — what, you might wish to know, is the advertising connection here?

    Well, “to borrow a leaf from his bio, photographer JEREMY HUNTER began his career in advertising — as a television creative, working for Young and Rubicam, Leo Burnett, Ogilvy and Bates, and winning a number of international awards in Cannes, Venice, New York and Los Angeles along the way.

    **

    Earlier in this series:

    :

  • Advertising series 01: Music
  • Eros, the Renaissance and advertising
  • Authentic, spiritual magic!
  • The magic of advertising or the commercialization of magic?
  • I’ve got about a dozen more posts to go, and already this is shaping up to be a terrific series — keep your eyes out for further installments!

    The magic of advertising or the commercialization of magic?

    May 17th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — beer and cars, cars, cars, is that all there is to life? — never mind — fourth in my magic and commercials series, links to earlier entries at end of post ]
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    There are some commercials that imply — or come pretty close to admitting — that magic of one sort of another is what tbhey’re up to:

    This Dos Equis ad, for instanxce, features a state magician, and we are left with the impression the beer may somehow be the power behind nhis feats of illusion —

    *

    — and the fact that “his beard alone has experienced more than a lesser man’s entire body”..

    **

    There’s so-called “magical thinking” in this commercial by Mercedes-Benz. But this isn’t at allm original, in fact it’s a positively hubristic borrowing: when God does this in the first chapter of Genesis, it’s called “creation”.

    **

    There’s a well-known trope in state magic we can call “Behind the curtain” — since it’s echoes in a take-down of the creator-God — and seeming miracles — in The Wizard of Oz:

    And for your extended pleasure, here are two alternates:

  • distinguished gentleman disguised as a race-car driver
  • Espresso — guess it only works on cars
  • **

    And perhaps best of all there’s what I’ll call “he Gandalf blind-man” — blindness is noit of the essence here, the essence is knowinjg the contours of the world at a level beyond that of mordinary knowing

    — one might equally call this “the Dumbledore blind-man”, though in a contest of wills, UI’d back Gandalf over Dumbledore — and its archetypal essence is to be found in Merlin, court mage to King Arthur, now lost in the mists of Avalon..

    **

    Earlier in this seriesz

    :

  • Advertising series 01: Music
  • Eros, the Renaissance and advertising
  • Authentic, spiritual magic!
  • In my next, I’ll return to authentic magic..

    Mind-stuff.. and a thought-experiment

    May 15th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — I’m no longer captivated by chyrons, it seems — and for the next week weeks, it’ll be glass bead games at BrownPundits and my extended examination of advertising as magic here ]
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    Mind-stuff.. mind-stuff that grabs my attention is what I’ll deliver here

    **

    Baghdadi — not meditating — contemplating, perhaps — more mayhem?

    **

    Another pattern to follow:

    It was unclear whether the increase was the result of a shift of Taliban tactics, or just the greatly increased tempo of the war this year, as both sides pushed to improve their positions at the negotiating table.

    Taliban Train Sights on Aid Groups, an Ominous Turn in Afghanistan

    One thinks — I tend to think — of negotiations as leaning away from warfare and violence and towards peace and reconciliation. My pattern language now needs to encompass negotiations as warfare and violence inducing as well as peace and reconciliation leaning.

    For an analytic mind, boggling; for on the ground negotiators, something to bear in mind

    **

    It’s like our scattered space debris, mind-stuff.

    As Patanjali says: Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodha — Great Silence quiets the mind-stuff..

    Ah, well..

    I’ll do a post on religions that offer analytic methods shortly..

    **

    And on that topic —

    I have always wondered — I haven’t been here always, but wot the hell, Archie, as Mehitabel would say — always wondered about the parallelism between koans, ie case law precedents in Chan and Zen Buddhist tradition, and case law precedents in Western jurisprudence>

    Now my wish gets new life, as I read Jason Giannetti, Koan and Case Law:

    The Zen koan comes from the Chinese kung-an, meaning a “public case,” as in a legal matter brought before a judge. There are numerous ways in which these koan could be related to law cases. Very straightforwardly, these are public records, the recorded sayings of the early Chan masters that have been passed down and commented upon, just as there may be public legal cases that have authority as precedent and have been commented upon. The koan encounter could be understood as a judgement by a master upon a student based upon the student’s understanding of the “case.” A third way in which the connection could be understood is that the koan tests the student’s understanding of the Dharma. Dharma has many meanings in Buddhism, but one of those meanings is “law.”

    Wheee thanks, Jason!

    **

    Nancy Pelosi’s “self-impeachable” is both a wonderful ouroboros and nonsense — a contradiction in terms. Trump’s “investigating the investigators” is far more (semantically) interesting. It’s a bit like that card game where you call out “War” or “Snap when you see both cards are the same..

    **

    I’m keeping an eye out for security implications of climate chamnge, also “climate migrants” which may well become quite a phenomenon:

  • DoD, FY 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap
  • DoD, National Security Implications of Climate-related Risks and a Changing Climate
  • World Bank, Groundswell: Preparing for Internal Climate Migration
  • Climate & Security, Activities of Agencies to Address Potential Impact on Global Migration
  • DoD, Report on Effects of a Changing Climate to the Department of Defense
  • Climate & Security, U.S. GAO Issues 2 Reports in 2 Months Covering Climate and Security
  • **

    To wrap up:

    I was looking for an ilklustration to go with my weaponized thoughts post, To weaponize metaphors.. thoughts as clothes, clothes as thoughts, and I finally — too late — came across this:

    I certainly think that pic could be interpreted as illustrating the assembling and disassembling of thoughts (2nd Amendment, Don’t Tread on Me, Safety First etc) as a function of weaponizing them.

    It comes from an (is it?) anti-gun (as if one can be pro- or anti- gun rather than pro- or anti- certain kinds of access) piece titled Thought Experiment: What might the world be like if there were no guns?.

    But a thought experiment? That’s a refreshing change from arguments pro- or con!

    To weaponize metaphors.. thoughts as clothes, clothes as thoughts

    May 13th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — if i may be a bit presumptuous, language is a topic for the wise — in this case, how language can be used as a knife ]
    .

    I was reading a Vice News piece, Leaked chats show white nationalist group’s plot to infiltrate Turning Point, and was struck by the phrase “weaponize metaphors” in the paragraph:

    Part of Identity Evropa’s strategy now relies on its ability to weaponize metaphors to make their white nationalism seem more acceptable, like referring to “European heritage” — which white nationalist often use as a euphemism to mean “white” — or seizing on mainstream conservative issues like immigration.

    I frankly don’t see”metaphor” and “euphemism” as equivalents, but at least we’re looking at the language used to convey a political stance, albeit an abhorrent one.

    **

    Semioticians won’t be surprised to see that clothes can also be a mode of signalling — of conveying meaning — every bit as much as verbal language. In fact, to paraphrase my title, we can see here that thoughts can be viewed as clothes, clothes as thoughts.. Indeed, in the paragraph immediately before the one I just quoted, we read:

    According to the leaked Slack chats, about 200 members were expected to attend a secret Identity Evropa conference in Kentucky last weekend. Consistent with their brand overall, the event had a fairly strict dress code: Attendees were urged to wear “dress slacks or chinos” — no jeans. Some attendees fretted about whether they had enough time to get their suits dry-cleaned.

    Clothes as thoughts, thoughts as clothes..

    **

    Speaking of semioticians — Charles Sanders Peirce, the father of semiotics, coined the phrase “the play of musement” which I’ve been toying with recently. Here’s a play, a musement of my own:

  • There’s the music of the spheres, around and within us.

  • Then there’s the boundary layer, the troposphere, the ozone layer, the stratosphere, the mesosphere, the thermosphere, the exosphere and so forth, space, deep space, and deep deep space —

  • or if you’ll believe the brilliant jazz comedian Lord Buckley riffing on Albert Einstein — we should also add “the zonesphere, and the vautisphere, and the routesphere, and the hippisphere, and the flippisphere, and the zippisphere, and the gonesphere, and the way-gonesphere” — hey, the “way-gonesphere” has a distinctly Prajnaparamita feel to it, no? —

  • or better yet, there’s the atmosphere, which includes equally both the sphere of weather out the window and the realm of emotional tensions within a room, group or event..

  • and what Dylan Thomas calls “the weather of the heart”..
  • **

    But really, listen to the whole Hip Einie thing, Buckley gets into the 1905 Annalen der Physik and more:

    And consider the profound beauties of the Heart Sutra with its mantra, and Dylan Thomas marvelous poem:

  • Prajñaparamita, Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone utterly beyond, Enlightenment hail!
  • Dylan Thomas, A Process In The Weather Of The Heart

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