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A couple of instances of Christianity in the world around us

Monday, September 2nd, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — anointing Brazilian strong-man Bolsonaro, and hymn singing in Hong Kong ]
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Religious behavior in general fascinates me — but when it affects politics, people often don’t realize what powerful motivation it can provide.

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Religion can be coercive, as in the anointing of Bolsonaro [at approx 3.50]–

Remember the laying on of hands over Donald Trump? The overarching authority of religion has Trump bow his head, but sets Bolsonaro on his knees! —

— and religion can be liberating —

— That’s a crowd of protesters in Hong Kong singing “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord”.

Remarkable.

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From Reuters in June:

Sing Hallelujah to the Lord’ an unlikely anthem of Hong Kong protests

For the past week, the hymn has been heard almost non-stop at the main protest site, in front of the city’s Legislative Council, and at marches and even at tense stand-offs with the police.

It started with a group of Christian students who sang several religious songs at the main protest site, with “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” catching on among the crowd, even though only about 10 percent of Hong Kong people are Christian.

“This was the one people picked up, as it is easy for people to follow, with a simple message and easy melody,” said Edwin Chow, 19, acting president of the Hong Kong Federation of Catholic Students

The hymn is simple, optimistic yet adds a touch of solemnity and calm to the proceedings, and also affords some legal protection to the protesters —

The students sang the songs in the hope of providing a cover of legitimacy for the protest. Religious gatherings can be held without a permit in the financial hub.

“As religious assemblies were exempt, it could protect the protesters. It also shows that it is a peaceful protest,” Chow said.

The hymn was composed in 1974 by Linda Stassen-Benjamin in the United States for Easter. Its five words are repeated over four stanzas in a minor key, which gives it an air of meditative solemnity.

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Between the anointing of a dictator and the hymn singing of a crowd of protesters demanding democratic freedoms from the Chinese state, we have quite an instructive confluence of ways in which religion can enter the public square.

No doubt there are others. In Nepal, there’s the tantric cultus of the goddess Kubjikaa. What’s religion up to in your neck of the woods?

David to Goliath re-imagined as Low-tech to Hi-tech

Friday, August 30th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — direct action in response to likely surveillance, DQ with Doug Coe of The Family ]
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This is David takes on Goliath, C21 version:

Source:

  • Defense One, Why Hong Kong Protesters Are Sawing Down Sensor-Laden Lampposts
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    And the First para?

    The most successful surveillance devices are unobtrusive by nature, which means spotting them is difficult and engaging with them directly can be surreal. Cameras that look like cellphone chargers are cheap and difficult to spot. Law-enforcement agencies mount gunshot-detecting microphones in streetlights and perch license-plate readers on traffic lights. The DEA hides cameras in traffic cones. Marketers track where you get your chicken sandwiches.

    DoubleQuote The most successful surveillance devices are unobtrusive by nature with the refrain from Doug Coe in Jeff Sharlet‘s Netflix docu-series, The Family, The more you can make your organization invisible, the more influence it will have.

    Chuang-tzu or Zhuangzi, it’s a laughing matter [review]

    Sunday, July 28th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — cross-posted at BrownPundits — Zhuangzi, a light-hearted philosopher dancing to his own laughter, illuminated by CC Tsai ]
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    Zhuangzi: The Way of Nature
    translated by Brian Bruya, illustrated by CC Tsai
    Princeton University Press, 2019
    US $ 22.95

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    You may be acquainted with the yin-yang symbol — or as it’s more properly called, the Tai-chih or Taiji — but here’s CC Tsai‘s version, with dragon:

    That’s the style of CC Tsai‘s illustrations, which — rather than Brian Bruya‘s translations — are the featured aspect of this version of the Zhuangzi: it also encapsulates the essence of Zhuangzi‘s thought.

    Here’s the comic book version of a very comic work of profound, non-invasive philosophy.

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    Zhuangzi is a Taoist, one who would allow the arising and fading away of things in their natural order, with as little thought-commentyary, let alone intervention, as piossible — given the human tendency to go round and round in circles even while sitting still — Laozi‘s Tao Te Ching is the simple and direct exposition of this way of approaching and appreciating life, while Zhuangzi presents the same appreciation in the formm of quizzical tales and (naturally, absent) morals..

    Ah. Thus the seagull, Laozi tells Confucius, who came to discuss benevolence and righteousness, doesn’t get white by soaping yup and washing itself, nor does the crow get black by dipping itself in ink: benevolence, similarly, is not a matter of soap and water — it simply arises where it arises.

    You get the feeling Laozi wouldn’t mind having left it at the seagulls doing what they do, and likewise with the crows — but Confucius dropped by and asked about benevolence and righteousness, and Laozi responded as was only benevolent and polite..

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    My favorite story in all of Chuang Tzu / Zhuangzi is the story of Lord Wen-hui’s cook Ting, who taught him the natural way of things while cutting up an ox. In Burton Watson‘s translation:

    Cook Ting was cutting up an ox for Lord Wen-hui. At every touch of his hand, every heave of his shoulder, every move of his feet, every thrust of his knee – zip! zoop! He slithered the knife along with a zing, and all was in perfect rhythm, as though he were performing the dance of the Mulberry Grove or keeping time to the Ching-shou music.

    “Ah, this is marvelous!” said Lord Wen-hui. “Imagine skill reaching such heights!”

    Cook Ting laid down his knife and replied, “What I care about is the Way, which goes beyond skill. When I first began cutting up oxen, all I could see was the ox itself. After three years I no longer saw the whole ox. And now – now I go at it by spirit and don’t look with my eyes. Perception and understanding have come to a stop and spirit moves where it wants. I go along with the natural makeup, strike in the big hollows, guide the knife through the big openings, and follow things as they are. So I never touch the smallest ligament or tendon, much less a main joint.

    “A good cook changes his knife once a year-because he cuts. A mediocre cook changes his knife once a month-because he hacks. I’ve had this knife of mine for nineteen years and I’ve cut up thousands of oxen with it, and yet the blade is as good as though it had just come from the grindstone. There are spaces between the joints, and the blade of the knife has really no thickness. If you insert what has no thickness into such spaces, then there’s plenty of room – more than enough for the blade to play about it. That’s why after nineteen years the blade of my knife is still as good as when it first came from the grindstone.

    “However, whenever I come to a complicated place, I size up the difficulties, tell myself to watch out and be careful, keep my eyes on what I’m doing, work very slowly, and move the knife with the greatest subtlety, until – flop! the whole thing comes apart like a clod of earth crumbling to the ground. I stand there holding the knife and look all around me, completely satisfied and reluctant to move on, and then I wipe off the knife and put it away.”

    “Excellent!” said Lord Wen-hui. “I have heard the words of Cook Ting and learned how to care for life!”

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    That’s a long-ish quote, but its rollicking good humor will have carried you through it, and I wanted to give you a sense of the Zhuangzi as I have known and loved it — to taste it in comparison with CC Tsai‘s vision / version of the same tale, as represented in a couple of frames from his telling:

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    So now we have Burton Watson‘s “the blade of the knife has really no thickness. If you insert what has no thickness into such spaces, then there’s plenty of room” and Brian Bruya‘s “my knife glides in and out between the bone joints, moving as it pleases: the cow suffers no pain and, in the end, doesn’t even know it’s dead.”

    Pretty remarkable, either way — but that’s in English, and who knows what contortions a translator must make to move from Chinese into English? Watson‘s Chuang-tsu is closer to Lao-tsu, if you compare the statement of principle to its embodiment in an anecdote:

    Ursula Le Guin‘s translation of the Tao Te Ching is even more succinct:

    The immaterial enters the impenetrable..

    No wonder cook Ting’s vorpal blade went snicker-snack, to borrow a phrase from Lewis Carroll‘s poem, Jabberwocky. And come to think of it, Lewis Carroll, aka Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, the Christ Church, Oxford logician, may indeed be the English language’s native equivalent of the Chinese Zhuangzi.

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    As I hope I have indicated, Chuang Tzu / Zhuangzi, even in translation, is a writer of enormous charm and insight, and CC Tsai‘s presentation marries the conventions of the comic book with classical Chinese artistry to provide an exemplary introduction to one of the world’s great philosopher-humorists.

    Delightful. Warmly recommended.

    The Ideal and the Practical — the Practice

    Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — cross-posted from BrownPundits in response to a friend’s comment there ]
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    I’d written a response to @AnAn and included a quote from the Chuang Tzu’s chapter on Lord Wen-hui and what he learned from his Cook Ting, and wanted to throw in the following DoubleQuote — but graphics seem to be discouraged in the Comment sections here, so I’ve opened this post for the purpose:

    The thing is, Lao Tzu offers us the ideal statement, formulated in terms of an impenetrable absence of space, and an absence of substance to the point of non-existence — while Chuang Tzu, peering over Lord Wen-hui’s shoulder right there in Cook Ting’s kitchen, offers us the same insight, couched in terms of there being “spaces between the joints” and his knife having “really no thickness” — Chuang Tzu’s measureless insight penetrates Lao Tzu’s impenetrable absolutes to show us there’s room for play there — “room — more than enough for the blade to play about in”.

    If we bear these two versions of the same idea — formulated ideally and in practical terms by the two principle philosopher-poets of the Taoist school — in mind when our thoughts run up against the impracticality of an ideal, we may find, like Cook Ting, that we too have room enough room to play in.

    Things within things, so to speak, and other stuff

    Sunday, June 2nd, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — strongs words on the significance of chyrons, honor and dishonor in the services, things within things and so on.. ]
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    Ari Melber and Jon Meacham talk twitter-fights and chyrons:

    This is a truly fascinating clip, containing not only Ari Melber’s nicely phrased “Bob Mueller brought a book to a Twitter fight” and Jon Meacham’s “The Mueller team has been out-gunned”, but also a discussion of chyrons — which as you know, I’ve been tracking in more than thirty recent posts:

    Jon Meacham again:

    Basically, Mueller is also fighting not only twitter but what I sometimes think of as Chyron Conservatives – you know, the chyrons are the captions at the bottom of the screen ..

    The power of the chyron is a really interesting force right now in our public life ..

    As you know, there are footnotes in the Mueller report, that have date stamped of certain TV chyrons that Donald Trump reacted to, to explore his mind as criminal evidence ..

    Two other Ari Melber quotes of interest — this one a variant on what’s already been said: “trigger fingers turn into twitter fingers” .. — and this one a quasi-ouroboric formulation: “guns as a solution to guns” ..

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    Shame and dishonor:

    Whatever officials were involved in the attempt to obscure the name of John McCain from the gaze of Donald Trump on the ship bearing that name — on Memorial Day — dishonor an honorable service.

    Navy acknowledges request was made to hide USS John S. McCain during Trump visit

    “A request was made to the U.S. Navy to minimize the visibility of USS John S. McCain” during President Donald Trump’s recent state visit to Japan, the Navy said in a statement.

    Also shameful, if not dishonorable: the scramble up Everest.

    The mountain is so crowded by those who want to come home and say I climbed Everest that they’re stumbling over one another. This is the mountain Tibetans call “Chomolungma”– “Goddess Mother of the Snows” — sacred, it seems to me, by virtue of its beauty — and now polluted by our petty pride.

    And honor:

    I was going to post in honor of U.S. soldiers Captain Silas Soule and Lt. Joseph Cramer, who refused to participate in the Sand Creek Massacre of 200 or so Cheyenne and Arapaho, many of them women and children, until I realized the piece I was going to point to was from November 2017. Their names do not age, but the news oif the annual run from Sand Creek to Denver is now a year and a half stale. . SO I’ll render them honor with these words:

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    Xi Jinping’s blind spot:

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    Some time when you have an hour — Malcolm Nance‘s intelligence-oriented conversation at USC packs a wallop:

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    And finally, things within things, so to speak:

    If I recall correctly, the Mughal emperor Jahangir is depicted as preferring to speak first with a Sufi sant, then with a lesser king, then with King James I of England, pretty faithfully rendered btw, and finally on the bottom rung of the ladder, with the artist.

    And let’s make that a DoubleQuote`:


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