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Sadhu and Southern Baptist, Sunday surprise

Sunday, January 20th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — preferred place for prayer — and Gary Snyder’s disciples “will always have ripened blackberries to eat and a sunny spot under a pine tree to sit at” ]
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That sadhus like to meditate in cremation grounds was already known to me — they worship Lord Shiva, who likes to meditate there himself, not infrequently covers himself in ashes, and wears a necklace of skulls..

What surprised me though, was to find Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and author of The Storm-Tossed Family: How the Cross Reshapes the Home, Christianity Today‘s Book of the Year, recommending so similar a practice..

**

Sources:

  • The Gospel Coalition, A Graveyard Is a Good Place to Make Big Decisions
  • TripAdvisor, Varanasi Photo: Sadhu meditation in smashan – where dead bodies burn
  • **

    And if the sadhu‘s practice seems more extreme — fiercer, spiritually? — than Dr Moore‘s quieter — dare I, should I really say, more contemplative? — approach, that only reminds me of Klaus Klostermaier‘s book, Hindu and Christian in Vrindaban, and this marvelous graph:

    Theology at 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade seems after all, different from theology at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Theology accompanied by tough chapattis and smoky tea seems different from theology with roast chicken and a glass of wine. Now, what is different, theos or theologian? The theologian at 70 degrees Fahrenheit is in a good position presumes God to be happy and contended, well-fed and rested, without needs of any kind. The theologian at 120 degrees Fahrenheit tries to imagine a God who is hungry and thirsty, who suffers and is sad, who sheds perspiration and knows despair.

    Here’s Fr Klostermaier saying Mass in Vrindaban:

    First thing in the morning I celebrate the Mass. I wonder if any person responsible for prescribing the liturgical vestments in use today ever read mass at 113 degrees Fahrenheit, in a closed room without a fan? Clouds of flies swarm around the chalice and host. They settle on the hands, on the perspiring face. They cannot be driven away, but return for the tenth time to the place from which they have been chased away. The whole body burns and itches. The clothes are damp, even the vestments. They soon dry. If a priest does not wear them all, he commits – according to existing canon law – at least a dozen or so mortal sins all at once. And it seems impossible to survive, physically or spiritually, without the Mass.

    And Vrindaban?

    Edward C Dimock and Denise Levertov, begin their delicious, delirious volume, In Praise of Krishna: songs from the Bengali, thus:

    Above the highest heaven is the dwelling place of Krishna. It is a place of infinite idyllic peace, where the dark and gentle river Yamuna flows beside a flowered meadow, where cattle graze; on the river’s bank sweet-scented trees blossom and bend their branches to the earth, where peacocks dance and nightingales call softly. Here Krishna, ever-young, sits beneath the trees, the sound of his flute echoing the nightingales’ call. Sometimes he laughs and jokes and wrestles with his friends, sometimes he teases the cowherd-girls of the village, the Gopis, as they come to the river for water. And sometimes, in the dusk of days an eon long, his flute’s call summons the Gopis to his side. They leave their homes and families and husbands and honor — as it is called by men — and go to him. Their love for him is deeper than their fear of dishonor. He is the fulfillment of all desire…

    That, too, is Vrindaban!

    One of England’s Freedoms

    Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — an amused defense of sacred measures such as the foot, yard, and acre — against the atheistic and idolatrous metric system ]
    .

    **

    You can trudge uphill, you can run up hill and down dale as the saying goes, you may march from pillar to post, church spire to spire, you may follow ancient foot- or bridle-paths or ley lines — all these, if pursued on foot, are covered by the word rambling, and in England, if you follow well-trodden or half forgotten paths, it’s your right. It is one of England’s freedoms.

    **

    Sam Knight, in the New Yorker a couple of days ago, The Search for England’s Forgotten Footpaths:

    Nineteen years ago, the British government passed one of its periodic laws to manage how people move through the countryside. The Countryside and Rights of Way Act created a new “right to roam” on common land, opening up three million acres of mountains and moor, heath and down, to cyclists, climbers, and dog walkers. It also set an ambitious goal: to record every public path crisscrossing England and Wales… [ .. ]

    Between them, England and Wales have around a hundred and forty thousand miles of footpaths, of which around ten per cent are impassable at any time, with another ten thousand miles that are thought to have dropped off maps or otherwise misplaced. Finding them all again is like reconstructing the roots of a tree.

    Now that’s all numbers, and numbers are, d’oh, quantitative. The thing is, walks in the English countryside are primarily qualitative affairs, with mud, styles to clamber across, flash thunderstorms and after-storm greenery, oaks with mistletoe or a thousand rooks high in their branches, willows, snails, birdsong, conversation with a friend or two.. Plato, Brahms, Ann Patchett, Feynmann, Hitchcock, .. with picnics and sandwiches along the way..

    Freedom!

    Qualitative beats quantitative all to smithereens.

    **

    If you look at the photo that accompanies Sam Knight‘s New Yorker piece [above], it belies the “unremarkable walk in the English countryside” mentioned in its caption — clear on the horizon is Glastonbury Tor, hardly an unremarkable location for English walkers.

    Ever since my friend the late British hedgerow philosopher John Michell [above] — hedgerow and British Museum Reading Room philosopher, that is — wrote his startling best-seller The View Over Atlantis [below] —

    — ever since that book appeared, new-agers and ramblers have rambled along ley lines and in search of standing stones — I was one such rambler, along with Michell himself and our mutual friend, the photographer Gabi Nasemann, though I fear I was the slowest and most complaining in our small party — where was I? — Glastonbury Tor has been a sort of seekers’ central for those whose imaginations project ley lines — equivalent to Chinese dragon-paths — across the actual lay of the land.

    Another friend, Lex Neale, penned this piece, Glastonbury: King Arthur’s Field, giving an overview of Glastonbury and the supposed zodiac spread out around it —

    for my then guru’s in-house magazine, lo these many years ago. By then I was in America. And we were young.

    **

    Why do I so love my memories of John Michell?

    He was a William Blake returned, wrong by the mechanical standards of the age, right in imaginative reach.

    It was in the Spring 1978 issue of CoEvolution Quarterly that I first read the text of John‘s A Defence of Sacred Measures. He’d published it as a pamphlet — the first in a series of “Radical Traditionalist Papers” to which our mutual friend the recently deceased Heathcote Willians also contributed — Heathcote {below] —

    do watch this clip, it’ll only take three minutes of your lifetime, and they’ll be three minutes well-spent! —

    — and Stewart Brand must have snagged it for CoEQ. Anyway, you can get the gist from the full title, in the format the pamphlet gave it, as you may have seen at the head of this post:

    I’m deeply grateful to Zenpundit friend Grurray for pointing me to that cover and the full text of John‘s essay, which my own web searching hadn’t turned up. Grurray took particular pleasure in this excerpt:

    the use of the foot locates the centre of the world within each individual, and encourages him to arrange his kingdom after the best possible model, the cosmic order. The ancient method of acquiring this model was not astronomy but initiation

    For myself, it’s John‘s description of the cubit and sundry other measures — and their rationale — that gets me:

    Cloth is sold by the cubit, the distance from elbow to finger tip, and other such units as the span and handbreadth were formerly used which have now generally become obsolete. Of course no two people have the same bodily dimensions, and the canonical man has never existed save as an idea or archetype. These traditional units are not, however, imprecise or inaccurate. Ancient societies regarded their standards of measure as their most sacred possessions and they have been preserved with extreme accuracy from the earliest times. A craftsman soon learns to what extent the parts of his own body deviate from the conventional standard and adjusts accordingly.

    **

    Oh, you may think this all a pretentious, anachronistic attempt to revive a moribund system. But consider this, from the LA Times in 1999:

    NASA lost its $125-million Mars Climate Orbiter because spacecraft engineers failed to convert from English to metric measurements when exchanging vital data before the craft was launched, space agency officials said Thursday.

    A navigation team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory used the metric system of millimeters and meters in its calculations, while Lockheed Martin Astronautics in Denver, which designed and built the spacecraft, provided crucial acceleration data in the English system of inches, feet and pounds.

    As a result, JPL engineers mistook acceleration readings measured in English units of pound-seconds for a metric measure of force called newton-seconds.

    In a sense, the spacecraft was lost in translation.

    The Times assumes the correct procedure would have been “to convert from English to metric measurements” — but who says? One might equally argue the translation should have gone from metric to English.. the mother tongue, so to speak.

    John Michell would lead us along that path..

    More metaphor miscellany

    Thursday, December 27th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — this one with quite a few neat chyrons, a book recommendation, &c ]
    .

    **

    Here’s PW Singer on his new book, LikeWar, and our cyber-security future:

    **

    Notable in the above, for the games metaphor collection as well as general understanding:

    This is a space where ISIS’ top recruiter and Taylor Swift are using the very same tactics to achieve fundamentally the very same goal in terms of online, but very different effects offline.

    And final point of it, if we don’t understand these new rules of the game, we are the losers of them.

    **

    A great few hours for chyrons

    MTO 12/26/2018

    Melber Beat 12/26/2018

    **

    Melber 26 Dec: echoing politics as just a savage game ..
    trump has no agenda here,he has no endgame, he has no strategy, he has no tactics ..
    look, i went to the mat, i did everything i could do, i shut down the governmentmover this, and democrats just wouldn’t give me the billions that we agree we need to get this done


    ..


    .
    djt: we’re not playing to lose slowly in iraq ..26/2018
    .
    all in chris hayes 12/26/2018
    the secretary of defense jim mattis resigned with a letter that politely torched the president’s worldview ..
    more and more like a mob boss ..
    what’s the game plan here? ..
    i wonder how you, your colleagues are thinking about gaming out the strategy of this house majority which is walking into day one, a sort of staring contest with the president ..
    .
    uncertain misc 12/26/2018
    it’s given every other country around the world whiplash ..
    pulling the rug out from under his own policies [ourob] ..
    and the question is, does pressure work any more on the operators in this sort of game ..
    it will be ironic if he was hoist by his own petard of sexism ..
    they organize their own demise because they ask for too much ..
    katy mtp: i wonder what the end game is for the president ..
    ari: the federal reserve has to raise rates, because they have to reducfe the balance sheet, in order to get the dry powder, to come rescue the economy ../
    .
    chris hayes: markets have whipsawed back and forth as investors try to figure out whata exactly is going on ..
    .
    12/27/2016
    rule #1 of negotiation is don’t negotiate against yourself – the president negotiated against himself, and now he’s in a corner..
    .
    Ant=d this, IMO, is brilliant, capturing a whole series of mirroring arguments:

    to play that “if obama had done” game..

    that’s one heck of a game!
    .
    Subtitle from Vanity Fair’s Hive today:

    The author of Mar-a-Lago: Inside the Gates of Power at Donald Trump’s Presidential Palace recounts the society columnist who tried to out-Trump the future president.

    ourob?

    Some culture!

    Some contest / fight / war..

    **

    More as relevant events, quotes, tweets, headlines & videos crop up in my various feeds..

    Borders, limina and unity

    Saturday, December 1st, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — bulldozers and trains, more ]
    .

    Watersheds are natural divisions of landmasses, long predating human presence upon the earth. Borders by contrast are a human invention — a fact that is nowhere more evident than in the borders known as the Durand Line, separating Afghanistan from Pakistan, and the Sykes-Picot agreement, which divided up the Ottoman Empire into British, French and Russian spheres of influence. Durand, Sykes and Picot were respectively British, British and French gentlemen. In fact, make that a DoubleQuote (mini):

    And while Pakistan recognizes the Durand line as an international border, Afghanistan does not. ISIS, disliked the Sykes-Picot line dividing Iraq and Syria enough to bulldoze it (upper panel, below)..

    And then there’s the Haskell Free Library and Opera House (lower panel, above)..

    **

    The Haskell Library straddles the US-Canadian border, and has served as a meeting place for Iranians in the US and their relatives, hoping to visit them from the Canadian side..

    The library is a relic of a time when Americans and Canadians, residents say, could cross the border with simply a nod and a wave at border agents. It was the gift of a local family in the early 1900s to serve the nearby Canadian and American communities.

    “What we are so proud of is that we do have a library that is accessed by one single door,” said Susan Granfors, a former library board member. “You don’t need your passport. You park on your side, I’ll park on my side, but we’re all going to walk in the same door.”

    But after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the northern border hardened, and the law enforcement presence in the area is immediately visible. And in September, a Canadian man was sentenced to 51 months in prison for smuggling more than 100 guns into Canada, some of them through the Haskell library.

    Still, inside the building itself — decorated with wood paneling, stained-glass windows and, on the Canadian side, a moose head — the old ways mostly prevail. Patrons and staff freely cross the international boundary, marked with a thin, flaking black line extending across the brightly decorated children’s reading room and the main hallway.

    The Library — and Opera House!! — then, erases a border more or less, in a friendly manner, while ISIS erasesd another with force. In bith cases, we can sense a distrust of or distaste for artificial separations.

    **

    Those who are willing to make creative leaps from political geography to the wisdom of the far Orient will recognize the imagery of Pu, the Uncarved Block in Lao Tze‘s Tao Te Ching — representing wood in its natural, uncarved state, end thus the whole, of which all entities are seeming parts, separated only by naming.

    G Spencer Brown addresses the same distinction in his book, The Laws of Form — described appropriately enough by Wikipedia as “straddles the boundary between mathematics and philosophy” — between what Brown terms the Unmarked state, “which is simply nothing, the void, or the un-expressable infinite represented by a blank space.. No distinction has been made”, and the Marked State, in which one or more distinctions (Marks) have been made:

    In Spencer-Brown’s inimitable and enigmatic fashion, the Mark symbolizes the root of cognition, i.e., the dualistic Mark indicates the capability of differentiating a “this” from “everything else but this.”

    Spencer Brown notes that a Mark denotes the drawing of a “distinction”, and can be thought of as signifying the following, all at once:

  • The act of drawing a boundary around something, thus separating it from everything else;
  • That which becomes distinct from everything by drawing the boundary;
  • Crossing from one side of the boundary to the other.
  • .
    All three ways imply an action on the part of the cognitive entity (e.g., person) making the distinction.

    Brown notes, wryly perhaps

    As LoF puts it:

    “The first command:

  • Draw a distinction
  • can well be expressed in such ways as:

  • Let there be a distinction,
  • Find a distinction,See a distinction,
  • Describe a distinction,
  • Define a distinction,<
  • Or:

  • Let a distinction be drawn.”
  • **

    My own DoubleQuotes format both draws distinctions (being binary) and erases them by asserting parallelisms between them (unifying or uncarving, unmarking them).

    All Spencer Brown quotes above are via Wikipedia.

    **

    Okay, now there’s news of another diplomatically significant border crossing:

    That’s good — and it gives us yet another DQ:

    Connecting a prosperous free South with a totalitarian North across a border is a liminal matter, and thus inherently sacred — see my post, Liminality II: the serious part

    As we saw with the fall of the Berlin Wall, however, it is possible and maybe Trump and Pompeo — with a little help from Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in? — can pull it off.

    Or maybe, Dennis Rodman?

    **

    Sources, some of ’em:

  • The Guardian, Railway diplomacy
  • PRI, For some Iranian families separated by the travel ban
  • NYRB, The Map ISIS Hates — hey, this by Malise Ruthven
  • Asia Times, Afghanistan takes center stage
  • **

    Oh, ah, another couple of parallelisms, btw:

    **

    What’s the cyber border between the US and Russia?
    .

    Punch counter punch

    Sunday, November 25th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — a perfect two-snake pattern from the WaPo headline writers ]
    .

    As patterns go, this one is hard to beat:

    Source:

  • Washington Post, John Roberts counterpunches the counterpunching president
  • **

    As you may have gathered, the human propensity for patterning is an enduring interest of mine, and my collecting of such things as ouroboroi, parallelisms, paradoxes, moebius formats and mirrorings is effectively a small pattern language study after the example of Christopher Alexander‘s Pattern Language. Mine, drawing its materials from verbal and visual exemplars rather than architectural ones, perhaps reveals more about the workings of the human mind, aka consciousness.

    The “outer world” has yet to catch up with the significance of these studies..

    **

    At a time when my worldly goods in book form consisted of fifty or so over-thumbed, used science fiction paperbacks and one hardback — I no longer recall what it was — I won a minor poetry prize of $50 and decided it was better to splurge it on one thing I’d really treasure than to dribble it away, a coffee here, a sandwich there.. much though I like my coffees.

    Henbce, for about $45, I aacquired my copy of Alexander’s book — hardback #2!

    An I Ching for the West! Nobel-worthy! A Master’s Masterpiece!


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