[ 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 ]
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 magicianWB 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.
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:
[ by Charles Cameron — the magic of names, the mystery of creation ]
Let’s begin with Russell Moore, controversial president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention:
He’s concerned about deep fake, or more exactly deepfakes, in which AI is used to develop model of people’s faces, which can then be manipulated to “make them” say things the real people wouldn’t say and haven’t said. There’s a fairly well-known TED talk that explains:
Boom!! — we’re in the realm of untruth so subtle it can fool both ear and eye, so we can no longer trust that seeing is believing. Indeed, Charlton Heston’s Moses could no doubt now be persuaded to come down from the mountain and declare:
Thou shalt make unto thee fake images, and any likeness of any person that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth
From a strict Christian perspective this would be blasphemy — but fun from the POV of Dawkins and the antitheists, and entirely feasible from the perspective of digital manipulation of existing video.
And in Russell Moore‘s terms, the fundamental distinction here is between he who is the Truth, the Way and the Life, and that which is the Father of Lies.
Which brings us to Ursula K Le Guin, and her magnificent work, Wizard of Earthsea. Ursula grew up in the household of her parents: her father, AL Kroeber was of the great wave of anthropologists trained by Franz Boas, while her mother, Theodora Kroeber, was also an anthropologist, celebrated for her 1961 book Ishi in Two Worlds, based on her husband’s curation, around the time of the First World War, of Ishi, the last surviving member of the Californian Yahi tribe.
Le Guin, then, grew up in the household of the UC Berkeley Professor of Anthropology — a household visited by numerous other anthropologists with their tales of shamans and the varieties of magical practice around the world.. Not surprisingly, her vision of magic in Earthsea corresponds with that of many varieties of shamanism..
Here we are dealing with magic as deep truth, or deeptrush, so to speak. And Le Guin‘s definition of magic is to know the true name of all that is.
Here, it seems to me, we are in the realm of the Prologue to St John’s Gospel:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
with its extraordinary conclusion:
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us
And returning to Le Guin, we find the nature of Word as True Name spelled out in its cosmic glory:
It is no secret. All power is one in source and end, I think. Years and distances, stars and candles, water and wind and wizardry, the craft in a man’s hand and the wisdom in a tree’s root: they all arise together. My name, and yours, and the true name of the sun, or a spring of water, or an unborn child, all are syllables of the great word that is very slowly spoken by the shining of the stars. There is no other power. No other name.
Can we also hear in Le Guin‘s words that therein lies the deepmagic?
And quoting from that video clip:
He who would be the Sea Master must know the True Name of every drop of water in the sea.
Magic exists in most societies in one way or another. And one of the forms that it exists in a lot of places is, if you know a thing’s True Name, you have power over the thing, or the person. And of course it’s irresistible, because I’m a writer, I use words, and knowing the names of things, is, I do, magic. I do, make up things that didn’t exist before, by naming them. I call it Earthsea — and there it is, it exists!
We’re close, here, to Genesis 1.3:
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
Here, as Tolkien noted, the human creator works within the greater work of creation in which she partakes.
[ by Charles Cameron — Mickey Mouse, eat your heart out ]
Latter-day Disnanimals lack both the honest brutality Grimm‘s sometimes grim tales provide, and the sexual honesty of the Coyote tales as recorded by Paul Radin. Even in currently acceptable form, however, the second cousins twice removed of shamanic human-animals featured in current TV commercials retain their potential for humor and an eye-catching display of the varieties of human emotion.
Let’s start with the tiger-cub nicely portrayed in this ad:
The cub is fascinated by its “real life” putative ancestor — but sadly, after a brief inspection, the parent-tiger turns away..
Quite how the Emu here figures that the emu in the mirroring glass “looks like” him or her I’ll never know. Does she or he keep a small mirror under his or her wing, to preen on — oh, hell! theirself — in idle moments?:
It’s instructive to compare this, earlier [2011?] Cold Turkey —
with this very recent — and brilliantly executed — Slow Turkey camping:
Love that whole series, btw..
And how can I miss this sporting Walrus?
Short form of this post: we identify with animals much as we do with humans
[ by Charles Cameron — the ability to recognize similarities across wide conceptual or memory distances is what Cindy Storer calls “magic” in analytic practice — here we examine it in terms of advertising ]
You could almost learn how to write poetry by watching the commercials on TV — or learn a bit more about how the ads themselves work.. come have some fun.
Consider rhyme for a moment. There’s a rhyme between the car that’s too small for comfort and the shoe that’s too tight to fit in this ad, and there’s an analogy between the larger, more comfortable — luxurious, even — car and the wide and comfortable — “like a luxury ride for my feet” — Skechers wide fit shoes that the ad is all about:
The rhyme here between today’s American fisherman and his Irish fisherman ancestor is stunning — and plausible. This, after all, is genetics, which is often said to rhyme from one generation to another:
And even when the analogy between an image and the product it’s supposed to resemble (“rhyme with”) is weak, making a successful rhyme between two such images is a delight in itself, and makes the weak rhyme seem plausible. Here, a two-thirds shaved dog rhymes with a two-thirds mowed lawn:
Allstate piles the rhymes on — drawing on powerful similarities between widely different parts of the country — in its brilliant Park Road / Street / Avenue commercial:
Here’s a beautiful rhyme between cement and sand — it’s not so great to find you’ve stepped unexpectedly in wet cement — but what a delight to feel sand on the beach between your toes!
Look, Exxon wants to make it’s industrial plants more closely resemble living, breathing, green plants: it’s not a bad idea, laudable really — but the rhyme is a bit of a stretch, eh?
One form of rhyme that’s worth noting falls under the heading of Opposites:
In this case, the equation would be something like blue plus red equals unbiased. I haven’t checked the product, but the math is clean, and the divide the ad bridges is very real and quite perilous for democracy:
So opposites can be powerful. But it’s worth considering, too, the mind-numbing effect of seeing opposing commercials:
That’s not the kind of opposition you want if you’re Roundup, but exactly the kind of opposition you seek if you’re the legal opposition!
Rhyming — twinning — as it’s dreamed up in the creative agencies of Madison Avenue, and no doubt Madison Wisconsin too, requires horizontal, associative thinking — thinking based on pattern recognition, thinking that makes creative leaps where similarities can be found in the midst of difference. Metaphors and analogies are woven of the same kind of thinking, rhyme in poetry, graphic match or match cut in enema, canon and fugue in music — and it’s the type of thinking my HipBone Games are designed to teach and practice, until they’re strong reflexes in your intellectual arsenal.
When readers or movie-goers, or just people watching commercials on TV, recognize patterns or rhymes — shaving a dog, then mowing a lawn, okay — it may elicit a chuckle the first time you see the ad, but you’re not sitting there to learn about dogs or lawns, or even Flonase unless you happen to need that kind of medicine. No, you’re there to see the next installment of the movie you’re watching, the next entertainment — which was almost certainly put together with less cash and care per minute or per frame than the commercials that slip into your mind almost subcutaneously.
And analogy — this type of analogical thinking — works. Analogy is the very heart of magic:
Do you have time for another example?
Here we have analogy across time, as we did in the case of the Donegal fisherman, but this time woven into the telling of a very simple short story: he wants a Heineken, looks in the fridge, no luck, goes out onto the street, flags down a cab, takes a short ride, steps down from his Hackney Carriage about a century earlier, and gets the Heineken he was looking for. Plus ça change!
The Heineken’s the same — the six-pack at the end is the essence of difference!
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.