[ by Charles Cameron — cross-posted from BrownPundits in response to a friend’s comment there ]
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.
[ by Charles Cameron — our advertising and magic series continues — the Volkswagen bug in its many transforms! ]
In our last magic and commercials post, The magic of miniatures, we saw the power of associating the small with the large. Volkswagen seems toi have taken this idea to new levels, with the assistance of toy manufacturers and the film industry.
Let’s start here:
Hey boy, c’here!
Remember Chuang-Tsu? Here’s a fragment in Burton Watson’s translation:
Once Chuang Chou dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn’t know he was Chuang Chou. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Chuang Chou. But he didn’t know if he was Chuang Chou who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Chuang Chou. Between Chuang Chou and a butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things.
This post is all about the transformation of things, eh?
Okay, who’s dreaming here?
There and back again — the mechanics behind the dream:
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 — logic, the arts, and technology offer an Easter, resurrection corrective, philosophically speaking, to the ruin of the cathedral of Notre Dame ]
For the terrible fire that consumed so much of Notre Dame de Paris this week, grief is great. Here, I wish to recall some of the ways in which the essence of the great cathedral has been saved.
Above, Piero della Francesca‘s Madonna della Misericordia. Our Lady of Mercy, for whom the cathedral was named, continues to shelter us all..
Perhaps the most extraordinary, as well as the most abstract, form of Notre Dame to survive fire, war, and the French Revolutionary idea — to replace Mary with the goddess Reason enthroned in her place — is the logic embedded in the theology that accompanied its building and — lex orandi, lex credendi — the worship within it, for which purpose it was designed and built
The American philosopher CS Peirce was among the first to propose a kinship between Gothic architecture and the logic of the Paris schoolmen:
Art felt the spirit of a new age, and there could hardly be a greater change than from the highly ornate round-arched architecture of the twelfth century to the comparatively simple Gothic of the thirteenth. Indeed, if any one wishes to know what a scholastic commentary is like, and what the tone of thought in it is, he has only to contemplate a Gothic cathedral. The first quality of either is a religious devotion, truly heroic. One feels that the men who did these works did really believe in religion as we believe in nothing. We cannot easily understand how Thomas Aquinas can speculate so much on the nature of angels, and whether ten thousand of them could dance on a needle’s point. But it was simply because he held them for real. If they are real, why are they not more interesting than the bewildering varieties of insects which naturalists study; or why should the orbits of double stars attract more attention than spiritual intelligences?
Erwin Panofsky‘s work, Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism, is the central presentation of the parallels. Pierre Bourdieu, who translated Panofsky into French, characterizes the work:
The parallelism between the development of Gothic art and the development of scholastic thought in the period between about 1130–1140 and about 1270 cannot be brought out unless one “brackets off phenomenal appearances” and seeks the hidden analogies between the principles of logical organization of Scholasticism and the principles of construction of Gothic architecture. This methodological choice is dictated by the intention of establishing more than a vague “parallelism” or discontinuous, fragmentary “influences”. Renouncing the semblances of proof which satisfy intuitionists or the reassuring but reductive circumstantial proofs which delight positivists, Panofsky is led to identify the historical convergence which provides the object of his research with a hidden principle, a habitus or “habit-forming force”.
How could Notre-Dame be burning? How could Notre-Dame, which had survived for eight centuries—survived plague and wars of religion, survived the French Revolution, survived the Nazis—be falling? Notre-Dame, the heart of Paris, not only a Catholic site but the preeminent symbol of European cultural consciousness, the heart of France, the kilometer zero from which all its farthest villages are measured—how could this majestic structure collapse so fast
— Oh, ruin, from the Latin ruere, meaning to fall.. John Milton, Paradise Lost:
Heaven ruining from Heaven, and would have fled
Viollet-le-Duc‘s 19th century spire, in this archaic sense of the word, ruined.
Fortunately, a few years back the entire structure was mapped with ferocious accuracy by Vassar professor Andrew Tallon, using advanced laser photography to capture detail — wear and tear included, to an accuracy of a tenth of an inch:
Now, with the building having sustained untold but very substantial damage, the data that Tallon and Blaer created could be an invaluable aid to whoever is charged with rebuilding the structure. Ochsendorf described the data as “essential for capturing [the structure] as built geometry.” (He added, however, that the cathedral, no matter what happens now, “is irreplaceable, of course.”)
Tallon and Blaer’s laser data consist of 1 billion data points, structured as “point clouds,” which software can render into images of the three-dimensional space. Stitch them together, inside and out, map the photographs onto the precise 3-D models, and you have a full digital re-creation of incredible detail and resolution.
Professor Tallon died less than six months ago, in November 2018, age 49. If you’re looking for another Easter parallel, Tallon may be metaphysically resurrected with the promised rebuilding of the cathedral he so loved and diligently studied.
It appears that the great Rosace Nord (north rose window) survived the fire —
By far the greatest blessing – a miracle – is that the Rosace Nord has survived. The South and West windows were very extensively restored in the 18th and 19th century, but the North Rose Window has stood basically unchanged for 800 years, the glass is the 13th century original.
To close with a blaze..
In January of this year, Olivier Latry, titular organist of Notre Dame, made what is very likely the final recordings of music on the cathedral’s great organ, for a recording which was released in March, just weeks before the terrible fire. The organ, as built by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll in the nineteenth century, houses some 8,000 pipes; it seems the fire has left it largely intact, though with damage to its electrical systems and wind-chest.
Olivier Latry plays Johann Sebastian Bach‘s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565 on the Cavaillé-Coll organ of Notre-Dame de Paris::
[ by Charles Cameron — trying to gauge the appropriateness of music in TV advertising, and getting the sense that music has a — frankly — higher purpose. And then? ]
I’ve been trying to figure out, from the poetry plane, just what it is that music does or is, or where, and as I’m watching TV commercials, I’m struck each time classical music is used, and forced to consider the role that music plays — in the ads, in my life, and in our lives. Commercials, like haiku, are highly concentrated affairs, and I’ve been learning a lot.
In brief —
I don’t terribly mind that you can jazz the greatest of composers IMO, in what feels more like a virtuoso exercise than music as such..
Flying Bach:Red Bull
And when the music is jazzy to begin with, no problem — fun, even ..
Rhapsody in Blue: United
Unh — and ditto, speeded up:
High speed Orchestra: Porsche
But Ave Maria?
Ave Maria: Planters
I guess that’s arguably a Hail Mary overpass, and the Ave Maria only slips in very briefly while the peanut’s in flight, so I’ll let it slide by..
But then I must admit I do get a bit uneasy about the semi-sacred last movement of Beethoven’s Ninth being repeatedly associated with a somewhat silly sad for a line of sports-car, lovely though they are:
Ode to Joy: Alfa Romeo
The Hallelujah Chorus comes from a sacred oratorio, Handel’s Messiah, to be sure, but Messiah has been drifting from the sacred towards the social for decades, maybe even a century… Boots, though?
Hallelujah: Boots and Shoes
That seems a bit off-kilter: ads are repetitive things, and the idea that millions of concert-goers may have a less than stellar shoe ad pop into their heads in the middle of Handel’s iconic work — not a great taste to leave in the metaphorical mouth, methinks.
Compare this commercial using the Lacrimosa from Mozart’s Requiem —
Mozart Requiem: DirecTV
— with this paragraph from the philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis:
Remember that philosophers almost always start by saying: “I want to see what being is, what reality is. Now, here is a table. What does this table show to me as characteristic of a real being?” No philosopher ever started by saying: “I want to see what being is, what reality is. Now, here is my memory of my dream of last night. What does this show to me as characteristic of a real being?” No philosopher ever starts by saying “Let Mozart’s Requiem be a paradigm of being, let us start from that.” Why could we not start by positing a dream, a poem, a symphony as paradigmatic of the fullness of being and by seeing in the physical world a deficient mode of being, instead of looking at things the other way round, instead of seeing in the imaginary — that is, human — mode of existence, a deficient or secondary mode of being?
DirecTV? You can count me out.
Kurt Vonnegut quite wonderfully explains:
I am enchanted by the Sermon on the Mount. Being merciful, it seems to me, is the only good idea we have received so far. Perhaps we will get another idea that good by and by-and then we will have two good ideas. What might that second good idea be? I don’t know. How could I know? I will make a wild guess that it will come from music somehow. I have often wondered what music is and why we love it so. It may be that music is that second good idea being born.
Frankly, I don’t think commercials are up to the Castoriadis / Vonnegut standard.
But let me leave you with a puzzzlement, a koan — assuming you haven’t diverged too far from my perspective thus far. If the Mozart Requiem should be spared participation in TV advertising, what do you think of Bach — remember Bach? — being embedded in a grisly scene from Silence of the Lambs?
Zenpundit is a blog dedicated to exploring the intersections of foreign policy, history, military theory, national security,strategic thinking, futurism, cognition and a number of other esoteric pursuits.