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Angels and the Quest for ExtraTerrestrial intelligence [QETI]

Sunday, November 10th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — from my POV, quests are more interesting than searches ]
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Jibreel — we’ll get to him later:

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Okay. I was reading a New Yorker article about the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI), and came across a phrase that stopped me short:

Judging by their sizes and temperatures, many of these exoplanets could be capable of supporting life.

That’s from Intelligent Ways to Search for Extraterrestrials by Adam Mann, and it strikes me as astonishingly short-sighted for a piece that hopes for more intelligent ways to search for ETs than looking for radio signals. The piece begins:

Suppose you’re a space-faring alien society. You’ve established colonies on a few planets and moons in your solar system, but your population is growing and you’re running out of space. What should you do? Your brightest engineers might suggest a radical idea: they could disassemble a Jupiter-size planet and rearrange its mass into a cloud of orbiting platforms that encircles your sun. Your population would have ample living area on or inside the platforms; meanwhile, through solar power, you’d be able to capture every joule of energy radiating from your star.

Does an alien intelligence really have to have a “population”? With “engineers”? Do you suppose they have Coors, too?

**

I’m interested in Rilke‘s angels, as described in the Duino Elegies:

Angels (they say) don’t know whether it is the living they are moving among, or the dead.
The eternal torrent whirls all ages along in it, through both realms forever,

The year before he died, Rilke wrote to his translator Witold Hulewicz:

The Angel of the elegies has nothing to do with the angels of the christian heaven (rather with the angelic figures of Islam).

Further, from the point of view of Rilke‘s angels:

all the towers and palaces of the past are existent because they have long been invisible, and the still-standing towers and bridges of our reality are already invisible, although still (for us) physically lasting. . . . All the worlds in the universe are plunging into the invisible as into their next-deeper reality

IMO, Rilke’s angels are intelligent, and just a tad alien, no?

Or consider Muhammad‘s angel Jibreel, whom the Prophet saw at the horizon of the humanly knowable, near the place of repose — one report describes him thus:

The Messenger of Allah (may Allah exalt his mention) saw Jibreel in his true form. He had six hundred wings, each of which filled the horizon, and there were multi-coloured pearls and rubies falling from his wings.

Muhammad was apparently in contact — why not us? And what would be a “more rational way to scan the heavens” (quoting the New Yorker subtitle here) for such a being?

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But ETs wouldn’t have to be “spiritual” or even “poetic” entities to be of interest to those looking for other intelligences.

What if galaxies (or galaxies plus) are intelligent entities, and we’re in the middle — well, out on a spiral arm — of one, ourselves? What if our planet’s just going from 1 to 0? What if there’s an intelligence that sees time as we see a snake — rattle at the tail end, forked tongue at the beginning?

I’m no physicist, so I’m on firmer ground with Rilke and Muhammad than I am with Bohr or Bohm or Everett, let alone David Deutsch.

**

In Intelligent Ways to Search for Extraterrestrials we read:

In 1623, Johannes Kepler wrote that, through his telescope, he had observed towns with round walls on the moon. In 1877, Giovanni Schiaparelli reported seeing what might have been massive canals on Mars. The same year that Dyson described his spheres, the astrophysicist Frank Drake started Project Ozma, an attempt to detect radio signals from aliens living around two nearby stars—the first modern experiment in the enterprise now known as the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or seti. Like his forebears, Drake was influenced by his times: he was born during the golden age of radio. Kepler spent his days in walled European cities; Schiaparelli witnessed a worldwide canal-building spree. Their efforts were simultaneously cosmic and provincial. It’s hard to say anything about organisms on other worlds that doesn’t reflect life on ours.

So if we’re influenced by our times, what will we see? Extraterrestrial advertising? I think it depends on the window of imagination that we possess — and a whole lot of our imagination goes to “space” as the “final frontier”. My imagination is trained inside me, where I find a lifetime’s mystery to explore.

What if D Streatfeild is right, when he writes in Persephone

there exists an inner world, which lies ‘outside’ our personal minds, and in which they are contained in exactly the same way as our bodies are contained in the outer world revealed by the senses

Maybe that’s where a more intelligent search will find Rilke‘s angels?

Not a Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence [SETI], but a Quest for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence {QETI]. Far more intelligent, if you ask me.

Vlahos: violence is the magical substance of civil war

Tuesday, November 5th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — Vlahos is a mighty analyst warrior poet –used to teach at the Naval War College and Johns Hopkins Advanced Academic Programs, and I wouldn’t mind at all if the poet came towards the fore in some future works ]
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Here’s the key sentence from Michael Vlahos, Civil War Begins When the Constitutional Order Breaks Down — staggering title, that — published November 4 2019:

Violence is the magical substance of civil war.

You might think magic is nothing, a whisp of imagination good for fantasy novels with hair and silks trailing in the wind — but Ferdinando Buscema, the Institute for the Future‘s New Magician in Residence would disagree, the erudite >Erik Davis too, Hannibal Lecter, and Ioan Couliano, author of Eros and Magic in the Renaissance, as would Dumbledore, Gandalf and Merlin, and notably the poet and practicing magician WB Yeats, and before him Queen Elizabeth‘s Dr Dee — but that’s far enough back, King Arthur‘s Merlin and Queen Elizabeth‘s Dr Dee between them should give you pause for thought.

Magic is imagination. And imagination is power.

Shakespeare‘s Prospero:

It was mine Art..

**

Michael Vlahos is not unaware of the power of imagination, or morale as it is often, shape-shifting as is its wont, called on the field of battle. Indeed, Vlahos has written brilliantly about the magical properties of dreams, discussing UBL‘s dreams before 9/11 in Terror’s Mask: Insurgency Within Islam:

Usama bin Laden: “He told me a year ago: ‘I saw in a dream, we were playing a soccer game against the Americans. When our team showed up in the field, there were all pilots!’ He didn’t know anything about the operations until he heard it on the radio. He said the game went on and we defeated them. That was a good omen for us.”

Shaykh: “May Allah be blessed!”

Usama bin Laden: “Abd Rahman al-Ghamri said he saw a vision, before the operation, a plane crashed into a tall building. He knew nothing about it.”

Shaykh: “May Allah be blessed!”

You remember those dreams? What’s stirring in the unconscious is always potent as motive.

**

Vlahos, therefore, on violence as the necessary in civil war:

Violence is the magical substance of civil war. If, by definition, political groups in opposition have also abandoned the legitimacy of the old order, then a successor constitutional order with working politics cannot be birthed without violence. Hence violence is the only force that can bring about a new order. This is why all memorable civil wars, and all parties, enthusiastically embrace violence.

Think on that, in our present context, or read his whole article — and one that preceded it:

  • Michael Vlahos, Were Americans Made for Civil War?
  • Greeting & three musics for Sunday Surprise: Rouse, Ligeti, Teeth

    Sunday, September 29th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — with a definition that places poetry and the drama as a subset of music ]
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    L’shana tovah!

    **

    Christopher Rouse just died. I knew nothing of him, but already I love his Gorgon:

    May he rest in peace.

    Ligeti, Mysteries Macabre with the astounding Patricia Kopatchinskaja:

    Furiously at play!

    Kopatchinskaja it is, I guess, who writes:

    Temperature and ocean levels go up. Whole world regions dry out. Hundreds of millions will have to leave, migrate, millions will fight wars, no end being in sight. Can we go on listening as usual to Buxtehude, Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Bruch, Bruckner?

    and at last Teeth — with the Ligeti from the late ’70s as context, the stunning Roomful Of Teeth plays Caroline Shaw‘s Pulitzer-winning Partita:

    **

    Music, it would seem, is the chosen placement of sounds, random or chosen, from the field of all sounds, in some form or container within which they may bounce and reverberate.

    Note that under this definition, the barnyard’s sounds may sound (Ligeti, children’s rhymes), as may silence..

    the words of operas and masses..

    Note too, that under this definition, plays and poetry are a subset of music, also.

    **

    L’shana tovah!

    Climate change & its impacts, rippling out across all our futures, 1

    Thursday, August 29th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — part 1 of this two-part post deals with the impact of climate change on pilgrimages, and on the Hajj in particular ]
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    The Hajj, Mecca

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    Since I posted my poem Mourning the lost Kaaba here in late November 2017 — though not, I imagine, because of my poem — a report on the likely impact of climate change on the annual Hajj pilgrimage has come out from scientists at MIT and Loyola Marymount:

  • Kang, Pal, & Eltahir, Future Heat Stress During Muslim Pilgrimage (Hajj) Projected to Exceed “Extreme Danger” Levels
  • Here’s the abstract:

    The Muslim pilgrimage or Hajj, which is one of the five pillars of Muslim faith, takes place outdoors in and surrounding Mecca in the Saudi Arabian desert. The U.S. National Weather Service defines an extreme danger heat stress threshold which is approximately equivalent to a wet?bulb temperature of about 29.1 °C—a combined measure of temperature and humidity. Here, based on results of simulations using an ensemble of coupled atmosphere/ocean global climate models, we project that future climate change with and without mitigation will elevate heat stress to levels that exceed this extreme danger threshold through 2020 and during the periods of 2047 to 2052 and 2079 to 2086, with increasing frequency and intensity as the century progresses. If climate change proceeds on the current trajectory or even on a trajectory with considerable mitigation, aggressive adaptation measures will be required during years of high heat stress risk.

    That’s the science — and while Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman..

    told the G20 in June that the Saudis are committed to “reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the negative effects of climate change,” beliefs concerning the Prophet’s institution of the Hajj in 632 CE following on earlier Abrahamic practice may well clash with scientific claims that the Hajj may become impossible for future devout Muslims to observe.

    What happens, then, when this divine command intersects with increasing temperatures that eventually render Mecca uninhabitable? How do the climate change scientists fare when they sit across the table from the ulema, the scholar-clergy of Islam?

    From a Muslim point of view, we’d better climate-correct, and do so fast:

  • Shahin Ashraf, We must stop climate change before it makes Hajj impossible
  • **

    Other readings:

  • New Scientist, Global warming could make Hajj impossible later this century
  • IslamiCity, Mecca: Climate Change to Bring ‘Extreme’ Heat
  • MIT News, Study: Climate change could pose danger for Muslim pilgrimage
  • **

    The issue I’ve raised above is tightly focused on one sanctuary, one religion, one pilgrimage. Below are some other major pilgrimage sites to consider in light of climate change:

    I would be interested in the cross-disciplinary exploration of the impact of climate change as understood by the scientific consensus, global migration patterns now and as expected in the coming years, and the devotional rituals and ceremonials of the various religions involved.

    Large pilgrimages and religious ceremonials

    This list draws text from Wikipedia and other online information sites.

    Kumbh Mela:

    Allahabad, India, 120 million devotees, every 12 years. The Prayag Kumbh Mela is a mela held every 12 years at Allahabad, India. The fair involves ritual bathing at Triveni Sangam, the meeting points of three rivers: the Ganga, the Yamuna and the mythical Sarasvati. The Kumbh Mela in 2013 became the largest religious gathering in the world with almost 120 million visitors.

    Arba’een:

    Karbala, Iraq, 30 million pilgrims annually. The Arba’een Pilgrimage is the world’s largest annual public gathering, held every year in Karbala, Iraq at the end of the 40-day mourning period following Ashura, the religious ritual for the commemoration of martyrdom of the grandson of Prophet Mohammad and the third Shia Imam, Husayn ibn Ali’s in 680. Anticipating Arba’een, or the fortieth day of the martyrdom, the pilgrims make their journey to Karbala on foot,where Husayn and his companions were martyred and beheaded by the army of Yazid I in the Battle of Karbala. The number of participants in the annual pilgrimage reached 30 million or more by 2016.

    Papal Mass

    Philippines, 7 million adherents, occasional. Pope Francis’ apostolic and state visit to the Philippines garnered a record breaking crowd of 7 million people. The mass conducted by the pope was the largest gathering in papal history.

    Makara Jyothi

    India, 5 million pilgrims annually. This pilgrim center and temple is located amidst a dense forest in the southern region of India. It was visited by over 5 million pilgrims in 2007 for a festival known as ‘Makara Jyothi,’ occurring annually on the 14 of January. Although the Sabarimala Temple, site of the Makara Jyothi celebration) draws a crowd of 50 million visitors annually, the specific day of the miraculous celestial lighting observation gathered 5 million pilgrims in 2007.

    Bishwa Ijtema:

    Near Dhaka, Bangladesh, 5 million pilgrims annually. The Bishwa Ijtema, meaning Global Congregation, is an annual gathering of Muslims in Tongi, by the banks of the River Turag, in the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh. It is one of the largest peaceful gatherings in the world. The Ijtema is a prayer meeting spread over three days, during which attending devotees perform daily prayers while listening to scholars reciting and explaining verses from the Quran. It culminates in the Akheri Munajat, or the Final Prayer, in which millions of devotees raise their hands in front of Allah (God) and pray for world peace.The Ijtema is non-political and therefore it draws people of all persuasion. It is attended by devotees from 150 countries. Bishwa Ijtema is now the second largest Islamic gatherings with 5 million adherents

    [ this is where the Hajj, with 2.3 million pilgrims annually, fits in ]

    Umrah:

    Mecca, size unknown, year round. The ?Umrah is an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Hijaz, Saudi Arabia, performed by Muslims that can be undertaken at any time of the year, in contrast to the ?ajj which has specific dates according to the Islamic lunar calendar. It is sometimes called the ‘minor pilgrimage’ or ‘lesser pilgrimage’, the Hajj being the ‘major’ pilgrimage which is compulsory for every Muslim who can afford it. The Umrah is not compulsory but highly recommended.

    Kalachakra,:

    Various locations, 500,000 participants, variously. The Kalachakra is a term used in Vajrayana Buddhism that means “wheel(s) of time”. “K?lacakra” is one of many tantric teachings and esoteric practices in Tibetan Buddhism. It is an active Vajrayana tradition, and has been offered to large public audiences. The tradition combines myth and history, whereby actual historical events become an allegory for the spiritual drama within a person, drawing symbolic or allegorical lessons for inner transformation towards realizing buddha-nature. The Dalai Lama’s 33rd Kalachakra ceremony was held in Leh, Jammu and Kashmir, India from July 3 to July 12, 2014. About 150,000 devotees and 350,000 tourists were expected to participate in the festival. The Kalachakra has also been performed, eg, by Grand Master Lu Sheng-yen of the True Buddhs School, a Chinese Vajrayana group>

    **

    The impacts of climate change will need to be studied as they apply not only to these sites of pilgrimage, but also to holy sites in general, notably including Jerusalem, Varanasi, and Kyoto.

    In the second part of this post, I will consider the “wider ripples” by which climate change intersects and overlaps with other concerns, chief among them the issue of sovereignty and the nation state.

    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.


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