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The Ping-Pong Possibility

Monday, January 6th, 2020

[ by Charles Cameron — Soleimani’s death prospects — does my title sound like the title of a Ludlum novel? Good! ]
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I’ll do this all, or mostly, in tweets — things are happening fast enough that just watching my twitter stream is keeping me pretty busy.

Okay: there’s a whole lot of mirroring going on. Commenting on the assassination of IRGC commander Qassem Soleimani, President Trump tweeted:

Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have…..

….targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!

To which a senior IRGC officer just responded:

“If [US President Donald] Trump retaliates to Iran’s revenge, we will strike Haifa, Tel Aviv and wipe out Israel,” said Mohsen Rezaei.

About Mohsen Rezaee.

In both cases, we have threats, which we might say fall half-way between words and deeds, and which may also be pure bluster. It’s a thriller, to be sure, given President Trump‘s propensity to exaggerate in both speech and action.

More mirroring, as commentator Wajahat Ali tweets:

Trump promises to blast 52 Iranian sites for the 52 American hostages held over 40 years ago. Does Iran respond by threatening 53 US sites for the US backed coup of Iran’s democratically elected leader Mossadegh in 1953?

On the other hand, as Evan Kohlmann teeeted, there are more reasoned voices on the Iranian side

Iranian military official Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan: “We will not enter into an all-out war with America under any circumstances and we will respond appropriately to the U.S. strike. Iran’s response will be based on wisdom and reason and will be deterrent and influential.”

No mirroring there — no ping-pong, no tit-for-tat, just restraint — an “appropriate” and “restrained” response.

And breaking symmetry completely

Former Ambassador John Limbert, one of the 52 Americans taken hostage by Iran in 1979, says “I for one want no part of the president’s posturing about Iran.”

**

As Jenan Moussa tweeted:

:Expelling American troops from Iraq was a main objective for #Soleimani.

Cynically what Soleimani couldn’t achieve in life, he might well achieve it by his death.

Iraqi lawmakers have indeed voted for US troops to be expelled from Iraq.

But look, there’s more going on there — there’s death mirroring life. And if you’ll take a moment to break from national security concerns, death mirroring life is precisely what Jean Cocteau shows us in his great film Orphée:

Cocteau’s porophetic. There’s more death mirroring life in this quote from Soleimani himself, as reported in this tweet from the FARS news agency, August 2015:

“Soleimani has taught us that death is the beginning of life, not the end of life,” one militia commander said.

And that may be the wisest mirroring comment of all.. though Soleimani surely intended it in the context of that other quote I cited yesterday:

The war-front is mankind’s lost paradise. One type of paradise that is portrayed for mankind is streams, beautiful nymphs and greeneries. But there is another kind of paradise. … The war-front was the lost paradise of the human beings, indeed.

Mirrorings found, but paradise lost, I fear — not Soleimani‘s war-front, but its mirror-image, the paradise of hoped for Middle Eastern peace. That’s a mirror undone, when you consider the letter from Soleimani to the Iraqi PM that Brasco Aad tweets about:

raqi PM Adil Abdul-Mahdi: “Hadj Soleimani was in Baghdad at my invitation. He was scheduled to visit me and carried a letter with him from the Iranian leadership on how to de-escalate tensions with Saudi Arabia.”

**

Okay, further reading:

  • New Yorker, Where Will U.S.-Iran Tensions Play Out? An Interview with Iraq’s President
  • Two Ourobouroi — and some somewhat gruesome books..

    Friday, July 19th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — this is one of those posts for those who take a quasi-perverse delight in the strangely, beautifully morbid — bibliophiles ahoy! ]
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    Here’s another Ouroboros, this one from Microsoft’s eBook Apocalypse shows the dark side of DRM:

    Amazon, overcome by a fit of irony in 2009, memorably vanished copies of George Orwell’s 1984 from Kindles.

    That was a decade ago, and happily some human at some point in the process had the good sense to intervene. Still, it really is a moment worth contemplating.

    **

    And here for your consideration is a second ouroboros in which a painting is made on the material depicted in it..

    It’s gruesome-beautiful, which is why I’ve placed it second — but it’s vidual immediacy speaks viscerally to us, once we know the material on which the imaged was placed..

    The ouroboros is not so strong in this case, since the flayed skin on wh9ich the representation is made is of vellum, ie the skin of a lamb or young anim=mal, flayed (removed from the animal’s flesh) after the death of the animal — while the depiction of St Bartholomew shows him being flahed in flie.

    **

    The image in question is part of a quadripartite miniature, which I’ll display here by posting two images from the Morgan collection immediately above one another — in its proper context, it seems less gruesome, perhaps?

    I’m not saying, mark you, that human fklesh isn’t on occasion used in the binding of books. Wikipedia has an entry under the title Anthropodermic bibliopegy, which if you untangle it from the Greek means “binding with human skin” — and offers for our view and judgment the following example from the Welcome collection of medical rarities:

    That’s S. Pinaeus, De integritatis et corruptionis virginum. And while we’re on the subject of virgines (girls), there’s also this label:

    translation:

    This book has been bound with the skin of a woman”

    — which is found in another book, this one in the Smithsonian collection.

    Descendit ad inferos, he descended to those below..

    Sunday, April 21st, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — the low down, the vanishing point, and the exaltation ]
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    There is no Christ: he has died, he is not yet resurrected. According to the usual English translation of the most basic of the Church’s three statements of faith, the Apostles’ Creed, he descending into hell: or as Ephesians 4.9-10 has it:

    Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.

    This worldly world is no place into which such doctrines comfortably fit. Hell? The lower parts of the earth?

    No, there is a low doorway by which we may enter such a cosmos, encounter such a Christ. We must shed, in fact, reality and self-importance, twin delusions, and embrace imagination.

    Above all heavens?

    **

    The second to final section of Bach’s St John Passion deals with this intermediate state, the boirderland between life and death, in this melancholy yet resigned chorus, Ruht wohl, ihr heiligen Gebeine:

    The lyric addresses the now dead Christ

    Rest well, you blessed limbs,
    now I will no longer mourn you,
    rest well and bring me also to peace!
    The grave that is allotted to you
    and encloses no further suffering,
    opens heaven for me and closes off Hell.

    **

    The Latin of the Apostles’ Creed does not actually say that Christ descended into hell, but that he descended to those below, and this in turn is interpreted to mean that he came to those of good character who died before his coming, and were thus unable to hear the gospel he preached until this Holy Saturday — his body in the tomb, his presence preaching to them for their salvation. We are thus offered a neat answer to the otherwise tricky question — what happened to those who, through no fault of their own,never heard him.

    For Christianity, this is the archetypal liminal moment, this day between crucifixion and resurrection, death and renewed life. How unimportant it seems, how humble, falling between Good Friday and Easter Day — yet there is beauty here, as the whole gospel story is beautiful.

    But there is more. It is characteristic of the Passion story that Christ touches the depths of human doubt on the cross — crying My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

    **

    As I have noted before, the Lakota medicine man Archie Fire Lame Deer told his biographer, Richard Erdoes:

    I am no wino or pishko, but I am no saint either. A medicine man shouldn’t be a saint. He should experience and feel all the ups and downs, the despair and joy, the magic and the reality, the courage and the fear, of his people. He should be able to sink as low as a bug, or soar as high as an eagle. Unless he can experience both, he is no good as a medicine man.

    Ifb you have not suffered as deeply as those who come to you with their sufferings, you will seem shallow to them, and be unable to console them. If youhave not experienced joy as fully as those who rejoice nearby, you will seem stiff and stilted to the, and cannot join thewir dance, their song/\.

    Christ on the cross, Christ in the tomb descending to those below — bith are instances of that same descent which is the natural accompaniment of sacent — just as Chrust’s birth in a stable — no room at the inn — is the descen to vulnerable humanity of Godhead impassible — beyond all suffering.

    It is in the descent that the ascent is prepared.

    **

    Or as Heraclitus says:

    The way upward and the way downward
    is one and the same

    Or St John of the Cross, greatest of Spanish mystics, writing of the Dark Night of the Soul:

    Although this happy night brings darkness to the spirit, it does so only to give it light in everything; and that, although it humbles it and makes it miserable, it does so only to exalt it and to raise it up; and, although it impoverishes it and empties it of all natural affection and attachment, it does so only that it may enable it to stretch forward, divinely, and thus to have fruition and experience of all things, both above and below, yet to preserve its unrestricted liberty of spirit in them all.

    And again, as TS Eliot has it, who quoted that fragment of Heraclitus as an epigraph to his Four Quartets:

    And the way up is the way down, the way forward is the way back.

    **

    I have written this post, this day, to teach myself these things, to do the necessary research, the discovery and the remembering: and I hope they will be of interest and profit to you too.

    But I must post in haste — Easter Day approaches, and with it the joyful cry, Christ is risen! Christos aneste.

    For your consideration — this I must listen to myself:

    For joy!

    A quick 8chan DoubleQuote

    Sunday, March 17th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — how the double snakes of the 8chan ouroboros find their correlates in real life ]
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    From my forthcoming post Christchurch, NZ, The Great Replacement and a hail of bullets:

    Talk about the significance of the ouroboros!

    Urban Dictionary: 8chan

    Like a deeper layer of Hell, 8chan is an image board for anyone who is too much of an edgelord for 4chan. Created during the Gamergate fiasco when even the brass of 4chan decided that situation was getting out of hand and became a base of operations of sorts for the GG crowd.

    **

    From today’s Twitter feed, courtesy of J Scott Shipman:

    **

    Thus proving the — literally — lethal potential of DoubleSnake Ouroboroi.

    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!


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