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Two very different pieces of possible interest

Wednesday, January 29th, 2020

[ by Charles Cameron — one for those who follow apocalyptic strands in RL and media, one for those who follow Vimalakirti, Heraclitus and the Glass Bead Game — recommended ]
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Tim Furnish reviews the Netflix series, Messiah:

An Iraqi Refugee Trained in Illusion Who Works Miracles — Christ or Anti? Masih or Dajjal? That’s the situation posed by the Netflix series, Messiah, and it’s presented with sufficient subtlety that the answer’s not as obvious as it may seem from that quick condensation — and indeed, at the end of the series, there’s still sufficient ambiguity to keep you guessing, and the producers in line for a renewed contract and second series..

It’s not quite subtle enough to please our friend Tim Furnish, however, who gives a fine overview of the series, then takes the details of eschatological hadith and Biblical writings a step further into accuracy, and thus depth. His opening paragraphs:

“One man’s messiah is another man’s heretic.” That’s the opening line of my first book on Islamic messianic figures. It’s also an apt summary of Netflix’s excellent new show Messiah. Its 10-episode first season was released on Jan. 1. Let’s hope it gets renewed. We need to know how this story of a charismatic Middle Eastern miracle worker, who not only attracts Christians, Muslims and Jews but sways the U.S. President, plays out. Here’s a brief (as possible) summary.

A Modern-Day Messiah?

A long-haired, thinly bearded man appears in Damascus and accurately predicts the destruction of besieging ISIS forces. Many Palestinians there follow him into the desert, believing him to be al-Masih, “The Messiah.” He leads them to the Israeli border. The movement gets on the CIA’s radar screen. The group reaches the Israeli border, and al-Masih crosses. He’s arrested and interrogated by a Shin Bet agent, about whom he knows personal details. He then disappears from prison (later we find out the prison guard let him go, believing him the Messiah) and reappears on the Temple Mount. In a confrontation near the Dome of the Rock, Israeli soldiers shoot a young boy — whom al-Masih heals. He then disappears again, showing up soon after in Dilley, Texas. He is caught on cell phone cameras stopping a tornado about to destroy the Baptist church. This goes viral and many flock to the town. The church pastor believes him to be Jesus returned and becomes his spokesman and handler.

Well there’s plenty more, obviously, and I highly recommend Tim’s commentary — they should have hired him as a consultant.

To read more, go to Netflix’s Messiah Reviewed: Who’s Your Messiah Now?

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Very different indeed is JustKnecht‘s exquisite weaving of ideas around Basho, Vimalakirti and a whiff of Chick Corea in his Notes on a winter journey to the interior, subtitled (and subtled) “on a treadmill facing north” — the reference is to Basho‘s Narrow Road to the Deep North which you really ought to know already.

And that’s a bit of a point. You really ought to know already: Basho and Vimalakirti, Heraclitus and Tamsin Lorraine, heaven and earth, and as it is in heaven, so it already and always is on earth, for as above, so below.

For myself, I know each of these with glancing blows, while JustKnecht knows each in depths I cannot match. Reading the whole is, for me, a sustained flight in the Absolute as viewed through thr world’s cultures, with butterflies a particular point of reference — and a long-tailed bired in seven syllables that’s almost an angel — or an apsara?. — ah, peacocks, too.

In any case, an education — and a delight.

Late afternoon, cooling down after a hard run in the condo gym, Herbie Hancock’s Butterfly breezes onto my playlist. We breathe together deeply, and I don’t know whether it is I dreaming that I am the bass clarinet, or the bass clarinet dreaming that it is I.

The music and the vision fades, and I’m sitting in my armchair doing mental exercise. From high school trombonists and collegiate level cello students to elite athletes and surgeons, cognitive rehearsal in the absence of physical movement has been shown to improve physical performance. In the same way, listening to one of my 5K run playlists gives me a perfectly good workout without the inconvenience of even moving a muscle.

Reade more: Notes on a winter journey to the interior — ah yes, the interior!

Thank you: I bow .

Mecca, the 1979 Grand Mosque Siege

Sunday, December 29th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — watch out for movements — of any belief — that arm themselves in preparation for an end times battle ]
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This is simply to alert you to a fine BBC recounting of the events at the Grand Mosque in Mecca on the first day of the current Islamic century — when two or three hundred heavily armed militants following a Mahdist claimant and his proclaimer —

BBC pull quote

really, think the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and His John the Baptist, and you have some sense of the seriousness of the affair — took over the central mosque in all of Islam — think the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, or St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican perhaps — and held the place under siege, with considerable bloodshed, until finally four French commandos were allowed in to use gas and flush out the remaining followers of the Mahdi, himself now dead.

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End times arousals of this sort are far from over: ISIS espoused an explicitly eschatological ideology, while AL Qaida used an end times hadith to rally to their black banners in Afghanistan, and a 2007 Shi’ite insurgency near Najaf around a Mahdist claim, Shi’i-style, was serious enough for the government of Iraq to call in American air strikes.

Important stuff, therefore.

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Recommended Readings:

  • BBC, Mecca 1979: The mosque siege that changed the course of Saudi history
  • Hegghammer & Lacroix, The Meccan Rebellion: The Story of Juhayman al-‘Utaybi Revisited
  • Hegghammer & Lacrois:

    Secular and Saecula

    Sunday, December 29th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — avoiding a tough piece of necessary writing by dealing with something simpler that conveniently fell into my hand ]
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    Why do I bother?

    Well, you know Nassim Nicholas Taleb, he gave us the concept of black swans, very bright guy because he questions, questions, and the answers he gets from reality don’t always match with the expectations routinely offered in answer to the same questions.

    **

    Well, Taleb‘s tweet cropped up in my feed within about a minute of Greg McMurry quoting the Oratorian priest Fr David Abernathy‘s tweeting a quotation from St Charbel, which seemed to convey a very similar notion, only expressed in terms of spiritual rather than secular ratios between loss and gain:

    **

    I bother because seeing parallelisms and oppositions and taking note of them is one of the prime “moves” in creativity, and I want to be as primed to recognize such parallelisms, particularly when they cross disciplinary boundaries, as readily as possible.

    Bonus point because both St Charbel and Nassim Nicholas Taleb are of Lebanese origin.

    Celebrations of joy as a cover for grievous harm

    Tuesday, December 24th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — the holidays are rough on those who are depressed, psychologically, and physically on women abused by men ]
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    It’s striking how the great celebrations of joy — here, and in India — are accompanied by some of the most heinous and grievous acts of violence against women, and depression accentuated by rejoicing:

    Christmas is the celebration of the birth of innocence, in the form of the Christ child, into a corrupt world, and contains within it the seed of his crucifixion; Holi celebrates the young prince Prahlad, who worshiped God while his father, thinking himself Lord of the Universe, could not stand his son’s unwillingness to worship him and put him to the fire..

    Two martyrs, therefore — and we rejoice in their faithfulness even unto death.

    **

    Sources:

  • Guardian, Christmas offers no respite from domestic abuse
  • Paper, How Holi Became the Festival of Assault in India</li>
  • **

    Consider this story of Claire, a pseudonym, a real person, a woman:

    Claire and her eight-year-old daughter are two of the more than 6,000 women and children being supported by domestic violence charity Refuge this Christmas. It will be the second Christmas they spend in a refuge while they wait for permanent accommodation.

    When they fled to a women’s refuge 18 months ago, Claire left a note for the husband who’d abused her for 23 years: “I’m really, really sorry, please don’t be angry with me. I just can’t take any more of the control and abuse. We will be ok, we’re in a safe place – please don’t try and find me.”

    Or this, from India, describing Holi festival, which is celebrated with the throwing of colored powders — and as we shall see, drinking %i(bhang), a cannabis drink properly associated with the %i(sadhus) or ascetics who worship Shiva:

    A popular way of perpetuating assault is through drugging victims, often with %i(bhang), a milky cannabis infused concoction that’s widely circulated during the festival as a ‘party drink.’ The taste of the drink is so similar to other softer beverages — like %i(thandai) (a spicy milk-based cold drink) — that they’re often interchangeable. Victims unaware of this are often offered %i(bhang) and told it’s something else, or their drinks are laced with cannabis or other substances to make them more vulnerable to assault.

    It’s a well-known problem that’s been discussed over the years, with local advertisements, publications and YouTube channels addressing its causes and effects with PSAs and think pieces. In many cases, stories of harassment have also sparked wide outrage on social media and led to protests. But who’s listening? The outcries are hardly taken seriously because in the end, it’ll ruin the ‘spirit of the holiday.’ The pain and violent assault of women is diminished and disguised in the spirit of the season and a range of bright colors.

    **

    As, in personal psychology, many people will cover depression with a facade of cheerfulness, so it appears that in social psychology, group celebrations may be used as covers for acts of frustrated or rage-filled violence, notably by men and against women.

    Funniest DoubleQuote in a while

    Saturday, December 21st, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — simple fun, with a more serious footnote ]
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    I just very much enjoy my friend Aaron Zelin‘s response [lower frame, below] to President Trump’s tweet [upper frame]:

    To be honest, I think Aaron has a mildly warped sense of humor — a warp which I certainly share.

    **

    Here’s the Christianity Today editorial to which Trump obliquely refers:

  • Mark Galli, Trump Should Be Removed from Office

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