[ by Charles Cameron — just passing along what the New Yorker passed my way this last week ]
The New Yorker‘s regular emails pointing to past stories offered up a pair of very interesting writings this last week:
The first is the piece by Susan Orlean which was later developed into her book, The Orchid Thief, and again by Charlie Kaufman into the script for the Spike Jonze film, Adaptation. Just the screenplay would be enough to capture my interest, for its inherent ouroboros:
I’ve written myself into my screenplay.
That’s kind of weird, huh?
But that’s my obsession, far less erotic than orchids, I concede.
The second is Vladimir Nabokov‘s account of his own obsession, you might call it, with butterflies:
[ by Charles Cameron — and some, high lamas, emanations of Avalokiteshvara, become poets of the erotic.. ]
You know my early mentor Fr Trevor Huddleston CR? I posted three photos of him here, one with Louis Armstrong and a trumpet, one with Nelson Mandela, and one exactly as I knew and now remember and honor him:
Well, today I saw for the first time an image of the stained glass window dedicated to him in Lancing College chapel:
Father Huddleston was a pillar of wisdom, humility and sacrifice to the legions of freedom fighters in the darkest moments of the struggle against apartheid.
His fearlessness won him the support of everyone. No one, neither gangster, tsotsi nor pickpocket would touch him. Their respect for him was such that they would have tried – and if they did it could have cost them their lives. His enormous courage gave him a quality that commanded the respect of the place
No white person has done more for South Africa than Trevor Huddleston.
He was a giant.
All of which got me thinking about stained glass as an alternative destination to ashes..
Desmond Tutu was another whose life was decisively influenced by Fr Trevor — and he too can be found in stained glass:
MaryAnn Randolph writes:
This, in St. Mark’s, Minneapolis, is what is called the Peacemaker’s Window. In this magnificent stained glass you will find: Mother Theresa of Calcutta, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Archbishop Tutu, Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama and many others.
Giants, all — and inspirations, inviting us to join them!
Ah, Gandhi-ji and the Dalai Lama — it delights me to see stained glass extending to peacemakers regardless of their religious affiliations!
I’ll leave you with an image of Green Tara, female Buddha to whom the “Great Fifth” Dalai Lama — who unified Tibet, established Lhasa as its capital, and worked to bring together the various lineages of Tibetan Buddhism together with the earlier shamanic Bon tradition — was devoted:
The Dalai Lama himself, in each of his incarnations, is considered an emanation of the Buddha of Compassion, Avalokiteshvara.
It was the Sixth, beloved successor of the Great Fifth, who was the rascal poet, writer of such gently erotic verses as:
This white bow in its cloth cover,
On whom shall I bestow it?
I will place it gently inside
My lover’s tiger-skin quiver.
Ah, but he’d be hard to capture in stained glass —
Dell Technologies, not having much historical insight into either magic or advertising, pits magic against tech and suggests that tech wins, hands down..
I take that as a personal affront..
The late, esteemed scholar Ioan Couliano, in contrast to Dell, shows in his great book Eros and Magic in the Renaissance that magic, as practiced in the Renaissance, is precisely what advertising is up to today..
Renaissance magic, according to Couliano, was a scientifically plausible attempt to manipulate individuals and groups based on a knowledge of motivations, particularly erotic motivations. Its key principle was that everyone (and in a sense everything) could be influenced by appeal to sexual desire. In addition, the magician relied on a profound knowledge of the art of memory to manipulate the imaginations of his subjects. In these respects, Couliano suggests, magic is the precursor of the modern psychological and sociological sciences, and the magician is the distant ancestor of the psychoanalyst and the advertising and publicity agent.
That’s from the cover of Couliano‘s book, and the remainder of this post will track eros from simple erotic desire — mostly from the male perspective? — to the mystical ascent in response to the divine beloved..
Desire, the universal lure:
The lure of the erotic will peel your money from your wallet in various skillful ways:
What is love? Love is advertising. Love — didn’t the Beatles mention this? — is all you need.
What is love? It is nod-nod, wink-wink..
You wanna go more overt still?
For that (beer) you’d best be in Rio..
And then there’s the broader sense of desire:
Wanting it all:
But that’s just the desire for food — easily satisfied, even here in these United States..
But wanting the world, in the cultural appropriation sense? That’s a more subtle desire, and Las Vegas aims to satisfy it by bringing analogs of Venice, the Pyramids, whatever, to a single easily accessible location:
All of these inevitably fall short of what interests me: the desire to be acquainted with the ludus globi or game of the world, which Couliano describes:
The ludus globi is the supreme mystical game, the game the Titans made Dionysus play in order to seize him and put him to death. From the ashes of the Titans struck down by the lightning of Zeus, arose mankind, a race guilty without having sinned because of the deicide of its ancestors. But, since the Titans had incorporated part of the god, men also inherited a spark from the murdered child, the divine child whose game is the metaphor of the ages: ?Aion is a child who plays checkers: the sovereignty of a child!
and the desire for the mystical ascent, not infrequently expressed in erotic terms:
In Mecca in 1201, he composes a Diwan dedicated to Nezam (Harmony), daughter of an Imam nobleman of Persian origin, Zahir ibn Rostam. Entitled The Interpreter of Burning Desires, the
Diwan’s prologue contains these intimate confessions:
Now this sheik had a daughter, a slender and willowy adolescent who attracted the attention of anyone who saw her, whose presence alone was the embellishment of public meetings and struck with amazement all who looked upon her. Her name was Nezam (Harmonia) and her surname ?Eye of the Sun and of Beauty” [?ayn al?Shams wa’Z-Baha? .[Scholarly and pious, with experience of the spiritual and mystical life, she personified the venerable antiquity of the Holy Land and the innocent youth of the prophet’s great city. The magic of her glance, the grace of her conversation, was so enchanting that if she happened to be prolix her speech was filled with references; if concise, a marvel of eloquence; holding forth on a subject, clear and lucid. . . . Were it not for petty minds eager for scandal and inclined to slander, I would here comment on the beauty that God lavished on her body as well as on her soul, which was a garden of generosity. .. .
Plato in The Symposium:
Love is simply the name for the desire and pursuit of the whole.
[ by Charles Cameron — opposite extremists at opposite extremes — for JM, if he ever gets time to read / view / hear it — with a personal note to cleanse the palate at the end ]
An essay, expressed in musics.
Indeed, a Janis Joplin-driven explanation of the bookRajneeshi and Incel passions, offered to JM Berger as he’s publishing what will no doubt be a powerfully argued and fascinating account of a wide range of extremisms, Extremism (The MIT Press Essential Knowledge series):
extremism arises from a perception of “us versus them,” intensified by the conviction that the success of “us” is inseparable from hostile acts against “them.”
Buy this book, okay?
Sexuality, pure & full-throated.
First, her voice torn raw:
“Move Over” is the only song on the 1971 album “Pearl” that Janis wrote on her own. If the lyric doesn’t strike you as particularly suggestive, just listen to the way she sings it and you’ll see what we mean.
Now multiply by this, drawn from Janis‘ letters:
She fell in love at a heartbeat; her sexual appetites are perhaps best described as ravenous (she had female as well as male lovers), her judgment frequently awry.
Sex, plenty of it — you’d think she’d move from jaggering via satisfaction to satiated.
And sex, the absence, the vacuum, the abyss,
Second, her heart torn, shredded:
This line is all I need:
Well, the fevers of the night, they burn an unloved woman:
and this brilliant comment I overheard:
she would make love to 25,000 on stage, then go home alone..
Janis is a Rajneeshi at heart and in behavior, an Incel in blues and loneliness..
Given that, that strength, that compulsive pull, that driven drive —
Zero Sex, the absence, involuntary
The Incels — those who are involuntarily celibate — can’t get none — perceiving themselves shunned by those who attract them __
Oh how, how man needs a woman I sympathize with the man that don’t have a woman
He’s lost in the wilderness
He’s lost in bitterness
He’s lost in loneliness
That last stanza, with that line in it, could be an incel anthem.
I sympathize with the man that don’t have a woman..
Well, the fevers of the night, they burn an unloved woman..
The raw reality of it: a child’s wail — see how much you can bear to see —
That’s the involuntary celibate, Incel, pieced together out of Janis and James Brown, the extreme in inward-twisting, self-pitying, child’s wail version of the blues ..
This boy, this young man, a day or so after making this video, went out and killed six people in Isla Vista, Calif., in an attempt as “the prefect gentleman” to get his revenge on the hottest blondes in UC Santa Barbara. And became, for some, a hero to be emulated.. And emulated he was.
The SPLC report counts Rodger among 13 alleged alt-right killers whose actions left 43 people dead and more than 60 injured since 2014.
Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old who killed six students in the college town of Isla Vista in 2014, was the first “alt-right killer” to strike in recent years..
Sex raised hopefully to the power of the infinite:
And then I hear that howl against the backdrop of the recent documentary about the Rajneeshis, encouraged by their guru to explore their sexuality to the sacred, to satiation..:
Wide-open their hope, shut-down their finale.
And finally, JM, Something Other and more personal
A martini to cleanse the palate..
Now I want to watch, intend to binge-watch Brideshead Revisited, the Jeremy Irons version, for some very un-American, upper-class-snobbish, public-school-boy, Roman-Catholic-gay historical-throwback art-level Britishness:
Dropping you in at an odd, a very strange, indeed extreme in a dozen ways from Sunday, luncheon:
I who have been beaten — four, with a bamboo cane, at Wellington College, (a sort of military academy slash prep school) — for doing the Times crossword in place of my math moework. Ah yes, and when I came up to Christ Church, Oxford, dunked in Mercury, that college’s Tom Quad pool, after exacting the price of a glass of port from my tormentors, almost twenty years before the film from which this excerpt was taken, was filmed.
For I too am Anglo and Roman Catholic and Buddhist and Taoist and a snob — at least until I meet you or you, and humanity breaks in.
And a creature of sexuality, defeated by sickness and old age..
[ by Charles Cameron — “You’re not haunted by the war, Dr Watson. You miss it.” Yes, this will be a series. ]
Part of what’s interesting about the upper image above, the one of a woman (presumably) wearing a burqa and holding a gun, is the number of times it has been used by the Daily Mirror — in articles on such topics as:
The legend under that last one reads “ISIS is using hundreds of women on the frontline in Libya” — which might lead one to believe the photo was taken there, in Libya. Why, then, would it also be applicable to two pieces about ISIS in Iraq?
That image is a glorious stimulus for hatred, though, which seems to mean it bears frequent repetition. And guess what, it might have been shot with a model, a male model for that matter, in Brixton, not Libya or Afghanistan (where blue burqas are common) or Iraq…
Um Hanadi (the cook, whom you’ll notice, lower image above, does not wear a burqa) is on Facebook, CNN reports:
After listing all the attacks against her, and all the loved ones lost to ISIS, Um Hanadi said: “I fought them. I beheaded them. I cooked their heads, I burned their bodies.”
She made no excuses, nor attempted to rationalize this. It was delivered as a boast, not a confession.
“This is all documented,” she said. “You can see it on my Facebook page.”
So we checked. Among many pictures of her with her dead husbands, fighters and generals, there was a photo of her in the same black combat fatigues and headscarf holding what appeared to be a freshly severed head. Another showed two severed heads in a cooking pot. In a third photograph, she is standing among partially-burned corpses. It’s impossible to verify whether the photos are authentic or Photoshopped, but we got the point.
Two questions for moralists / ethicists:
Is a woman killing ISIS militants morally or ethically any different from a man doing so?
Is a woman who cooks the heads of her and our deceased enemies a desirable ally?
Hey, that Express piece about the “veiled female assassin” who killed two ISIS militants even gets to offer you this tasty view, with the accomnpanying legend “A woman wears a veil, which is now being banned in parts of northern Iraq”:
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