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Walls. Christianity & poetry. And nations, identities & borders

Monday, February 25th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — continuing our probing of borders, and liminality, with hints of mirroring and parallelism ]
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Let’s start with a “borders” video for your consideration:

That’s worth viewing, though it’s no more the final word on the subject than Robert Frost‘s poem, Mending Wall:

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.

Walls here, I’d, suggest, are liminal as forming borders between one part of the neighborhood and another — but those gaps are likewise liminal, separating if you will one section of all from another. As this (minor) reading suggests, the situation is more complex than a simple statement that walls are bad / good.

Indeed, as here, poetry is often deployed in the service of nuance..

**

We’ve had earlier Zenpundit posts on liminality and borders, among them:

  • Of border crossings, and the pilgrimage to Arbaeen in Karbala
  • Violence at three borders, naturally it’s a pattern
  • Borders, limina and unity
  • Borders as metaphors and membranes
  • McCabe and Melber, bright lines and fuzzy borders
  • **

    My interest here is first drawn in by succinctly stated patterns of mirroring and parallelism found in an Atlantic article, What Does It Mean to Be a Canadian Citizen? The first comes from JFK, and may indeed be his most frequently quoted utterance:

    Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country

    That’s the mirroring example.

    The parallel universes example suggested here is no less succinct:

    The time-honored saying “No taxation without representation” does seem to imply, as a corollary, “No representation without taxation.”

    **

    Okay, those are the two quotes that caught my eye for reasons of formal symmetry. The rest of the article, I’d suggest, is extremely interesting for what it says about borders, nationalities and Canada in particular. Here’s one of the writer’s crucial observations:

    About 24 percent of immigrants from Hong Kong return to the territory after acquiring Canadian citizenship, as do 30 percent of immigrants from Taiwan.

    You can see the appeal. Hong Kong’s economy is growing much faster than Canada’s. Its income-tax rates top out at 17 percent. Canada does not tax the foreign-source income of nonresident citizens, in effect creating a geopolitical arbitrage opportunity too attractive to miss: the protections of Canadian nationality at low Hong Kong prices.

    And this, from the concluding para, will give you an idea of the questions the article leaves us with:

    Is citizenship a kind of subscription service, to be suspended and resumed as our needs change? Are countries competing service providers, their terms and conditions subject to the ebbs and flows of consumer preference? Edmund Burke long ago articulated an ambitious vision of society as a “partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.” Does any of that still resonate? Or is it a bygone idea of a vanished age, dissolved in a globalized world?

    Shutdown plus First fruits equals two months salary, pouf!!

    Friday, February 1st, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — where economics meets scripture ]
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    The mundane:

    Pete Nischt, 32, of Akron, Ohio, didn’t like the shutdown from the start, and now his flight from New York to Cleveland was delayed for three hours. In recent days, as he saw how people who had gone without pay for a month were suffering, he came to view the failure to pay public employees as “a breach of the social contract. Trump has been lying the whole time .?.?. and now we’re paying for it.”

    That’s from How the shutdown ended: Americans just had it up to here

    **

    The spiritual:

    Okay, that’s the mundane “people who had gone without pay for a month” because of the shutdown — how about the spiritual? How about they also give God, in the person of Paula White, a month’s pay?

    Eh?

    And:

    Oh yes, she’s an Apostle of the New Apostolic Reformation.

    Paula White, who heads up the president’s evangelical advisory committee, suggested making a donation to her ministries to honor the religious principle of “first fruit,” which she said is the idea that all firsts belong to God, including the first harvest and, apparently, the first month of your salary.

    In any case, the principle is simple enough:

    “January is the beginning of a new year for us in the Western world. Let us give to God what belongs to him: the first hours of our day, the first month of the year, the first of our increase, the first in every area of our life. It’s devoted…. The principle of first fruits is that when you give God the first, he governs the rest and redeems in,” she said.

    “When you honor this principle, it provides the foundation and structure for God’s blessings and promises in your life. It unlocks deep dimensions of spiritual truths that literally transform your life. When you apply this, everything comes in divine alignment for his plan and promises for you. When you don’t honor it, whether through ignorance or direct disobedience, there are consequences.”

    But what if — because of the shutdown, you weren’t paid for a month? Maybe you’re an air traffic controller, and received a check for $0.00? Offer it up?

    Pouf! cancels out Pouf! In other words, that won’t cost you anything — beyond the original suffering mentioned above..

    Ouch!

    Forget religion, it’s all politics!

    Sunday, December 16th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — Ukraine-Russia tensions reach Greece’s holy Mount Athos ]
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    Holy Athos

    **

    Forget religion, it’s all politics!

    Thee title of the Guardian piece, which came to me via my admired scholar friend Michael Robinson, is Ukraine-Russia tensions reach Greece’s holy Mount Athos. Michael pointed it my way because “holy Mount Athos” — not because “Ukraine-Russia tensions”.

    Nevertheless, forget religion, it’s all politics! (a popular refrain in our secular-dominant world)..

    “Ukraine is an independent country and deserves its own church,” Makarios told the visiting Belarusians, who nodded dubiously. His view is not shared by all: a Ukrainian monk based at Makarios’s cell, Father Agafon, had a different opinion, calling those Ukrainians in favour of an independent church “splitters and heretics” and saying the Ukrainian church should remain under the control of Moscow.

    and:

    Although most of the monks on Athos are Greek, for many Russians, as well as Ukrainians and Belarusians, a pilgrimage to Mount Athos has become almost like an Orthodox version of the Islamic hajj, seen as a spiritual must for any true believer. Oligarchs and government elites particularly like the peninsula, with its difficult-to-obtain permits and air of a VIP club. In the weeks prior to the Guardian’s visit, Makarios said he had hosted a Belarusian army general, a number of Ukrainian MPs and several rich Russians at his austere cell.

    Makarios’ austere breakfast, btw, is coffee and nuts — for the visiting generals, MPS and rich folk, too..

    **

    Forget religion, it’s all violence and strategy!

    With a meeting in Kiev on Saturday set to formally proclaim the church’s independence, some are predicting violence if Kiev tries to seize church property from the Moscow patriarchy.

    Subtitle of the piece:

    Orthodox church’s decision to make Ukrainian branch independent of Russia causes schism and predictions of violence

    and:

    M:alofeev blamed the Americans for the turmoil, claiming that “Pyatt is trying to stir up the same things he did in Ukraine” in Greece. He also claimed Bartholomew’s entourage was “infiltrated with CIA agents” and said the decision to grant independence to the Ukrainian church could lead to violence in Ukraine and Athos to split with the ecumenical patriarch.

    **

    Forget religion, it’s all money!

    One Russian who has been particularly active on Athos is Konstantin Malofeev, a businessman known as the “Orthodox oligarch”, who is currently on EU and US sanctions lists for his alleged role in funding the separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

    and:

    He insisted that most of Athos was united in its loyalty to the ecumenical patriarch, but conceded that the feeling was not unanimous. “There are some monks who just love Russian money,” he said with a sigh.

    **

    Forget religion, it’s quintessentially religion..

    For centuries, Orthodox men have come to Mount Athos, a closed peninsula in northern Greece, to sequester themselves away from the everyday concerns of the outside world. The only entrance is by boat, and women are strictly forbidden to set foot on the territory. Male pilgrims, after receiving a special permit, can visit to confess and seek counsel from the 2,000 monks at the 20 monasteries and smaller “cells” dotted along the hilly shoreline. It is one of the holiest sites of Orthodoxy, the eastern form of Christianity that split with Catholicism in the 11th century.

    Monks enter Athos “to sequester themselves away from the everyday concerns of the outside world,” okay?

    Athos runs on Byzantine time, an archaic system in which the clocks are reset each day at sunset, and it uses the Julian calendar, rendering Athos 13 days behind the rest of the western world. At sunset the monasteries shut their gates and a stillness settles on the peninsula until the bells ring for morning liturgy.

    “People come here to try to be saints, and leave the difficulties of the world behind,” said Father Porfirius, a 27-year-old Greek monk. “The hardest part is to kill your will. We try to destroy it, to get to the level of obedience of Jesus Christ.”

    Patriarch vs Patriarch (with Putin Plus):

    All is not well in Orthodoxy currently, with a split linked to Russia’s war in Ukraine causing a schism and dark talk of violence among the various Orthodox churches. Bartholomew of Constantinople, known as the ecumenical patriarch and the “first among equals” of the Orthodox patriarchs, agreed in October to give autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox church, essentially making it an independent church. Patriarch Kirill of the Russian church, which regards Ukraine as its domain, responded furiously and announced a split from the ecumenical patriarch.

    and:

    Kirill has banned Russians from taking holy communion in the churches of Athos, calling any priests who bless the ecumenical patriarch schismatics, leading to a dilemma for those Russians who want to visit.

    Schism is about as bad as it gets within Christianity. The Pope and the Patriarch are currently trying, with some little success, to heal a schism between Catholics and Orthodox which began as a dispute over a clause in the major credal statement — the filioque clause in the Nicene Creed — which broke the two major branches of the Church, east and west, apart in 1054. That’s more than a millennium of strife between brothers whose savior prayed at the end of his life [John 17.22-23]:

    And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

    **

    Okay, kudos to Guardian writer Shaun Walker for knowing the importance of religious reporting of issues that also have economic, strategic, political aspects!

    And let’s conclude with a link to this related Orthodox prayer page:

    :Concerning the Orthodox Prayers for the Union of All and the Prayer in St. John 17
    Excerpts from Ecumenism: A Movement for Union or a Syncretistic Heresy?
    by Bishop Angelos of Avlona

    DoubleTweeting moolah

    Thursday, March 8th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — somewhere between Lietaer, Bitcoin and a leisure-driven future ]
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    Please note, I am not using moolah in the sense in which Arthur Conan Doyle used it in A Desert Drama:

    The squat lieutenant, the moolah, and about a dozen Dervishes surrounded the prisoners.

    **

    There’s a quality of surprise to the two tweeted stories that follow, which highlights our usual acceptance of the idea that money is value. Consider:

    And then, from a different angle:

    **

    Conan Doyle again:

    But I am ordered to gather you together, for the moolah is coming to convert you all.

    Heartless? What’s heart? Since when did that have anything to do with anything?

    Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — and to think I thought that little red heart was just an emoticon! ]
    .

    The Washington Post, supposedly a paper which takes political matters seriously, featured this caption in its email to me today:

    Is this heart thing something to be taken seriously? Just on occasion, as with the impact of cancelling DACA on people who were, at least recently, children? Or in matters of economics, too? And the deployment, threat and use of nuclear weapons? In diplomacy?

    I mean, the number of situations in which this somewhat vague “heart” entity might be invoked and prioritized is hard to estimate. What was it Pascal said?

    The heart has reasons reason knows not of..

    That in itself is a somewhat confusing statement. Is it a paradox?

    Ah well, I’ll retire to poetry: poets, after all, think themselves the “unacknowledged legislators of the world” — and as one of them legislated not so very long ago:

    My heart rouses
              thinking to bring you news
                        of something
    that concerns you
              and concerns many men. Look at
                        what passes for the new.
    You will not find it there but in
              despised poems.
                        It is difficult
    to get the news from poems
              yet men die miserably every day
                        for lack
    of what is found there.

    What is found there? This heart thing, perhaps? Heart’s the second word in that poetry bit — it could be worth a try.


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