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One and many, the great balance, and how we live, think & act, 1

Tuesday, December 24th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — finally approaching a core understanding that has been accumulating across many posts here ]
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Briefly put: I’ve been thinking about the arising of the many from the one for quite a while, and think that in a lake or mirror with varying images reflected, arising and departing, I have a decent metaphor or analogy for that arising and it’s corresponding departing. Here I want to tie that highly abstract, poetic or philosophical understanding to a variety of more concrete dualities with which we need to come to terms:

  • the abstract and the concrete
  • the ideal and the practical
  • the individual and society
  • simplicity and complexity
  • top down and bottom up
  • divine breath (ruach, pneuma) and creation
  • and perhaps most important of all, as I hope to explain below,

  • global warming and the many lesser issues we need to tackle
  • Okay, onwards to the specific pairings.

    **

    First, I’d like to observe that it’s extremely interesting, and perhaps unexpected, that the abstract and the concrete (and for that matter, the ideal and the practical) should turn out to be analogs of the individual and society — the latter pair is central to political philosophy, but it’s provocative to think that an understanding of the other two — or at a more abstract level of the abstract and the concrete — might be able to shed some light on the (ideal) relation between the individual and society..

    **

    The abstract and the concrete

    The abstract and the concrete is a thinker’s issue. How shall the abstract clarities that thought provides us with be brought into a balanced relation with the perceived, brute facts of the world we inhabit?

    From a philosophical point of view, as the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy tells us:

    Objects are Concrete; Properties are Abstract

    or at least that’s one view — philosophers vary: objects are things, qualities are, well, the qualities or attributes of things. And yet the qualities turn out to be, in moral an aesthetic terms, more significant than the things themselves — which the senses take very seriously, and which Samuel Johnson famously used in what came to be called his “argumentum ad lapidem” against the idealist Bishop Berkeley, telling the good Bishop to kick a stone, and see if he still felt the world was ideal and not concrete..

    Argument to the stone is now recognized as a class of logical fallacy, btw, dismissing an opponent’s argument without any real proof, just by saying it’s ridiculous.

    One of the finest balancing of opposites I’ve found is SI Hayakawa’s ladder of abstractions, which climbs from the concrete — a cow, Bessie — to the abstract — livestock, and eventually wealth. I’ve written more about it in A woman, a ladder, four goats, and a cow named Bessie

    **

    The ideal and the practical:

    The ideal and the practical bits anyone who possesses a conscience: The ideal is clean, pure sometimes morally in the sense in which the religious mind may say virginity is pure, but also in the non moral way in which we we can say higher mathematics is pure.

    What needs to be reconciled here can be presented in the form of a DoubleQuote from two of the greatest scientific minds of the last century: Richard Feynman said, in a Cornell lecture, 1964:

    It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science.

    to which we may respond, in the words of Paul Dirac — hey, both of them in turn were great contributors to quantum mechanics and electrodynamics —:

    I think that there is a moral to this story, namely that it is more important to have beauty in one’s equations that to have them fit experiment.

    Jiggling the idea of beauty with that of experimental verification until the two of them come into alignment is quite a challenge.

    Dirac himself came close to formulating the one-many duality in a manner antithetical to poetry:

    The aim of science is to make difficult things understandable in a simpler way; the aim of poetry is to state simple things in an incomprehensible way. The two are incompatible.

    to which we may respond that Einstein formulated Dirac himself thus:

    This balancing on the dizzying path between genius and madness is awful.

    Oh dear, what can I say?

    The dualism of lhe ideal and the practical is often in play when you see that phrase “that’s where the rubber meets the road”. In this case, the road is the practical, and the rubber, for reasons I have yet to fathom, is the ideal. Is that an aircraft landing metaphor?

    **

    I don’t want to extend this post any further, but I still have several dualities to compare and contrast — and consider. I’ll be with you shortly, insh’Allah and the creek don’t rise..

    What you’re blind to will bite you!

    Saturday, December 21st, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — note, incidentally, that Scientists have gotten predictions of global warming right since the 1970s ]
    .

    Well, first let’s note that the UN a few days agoissued its Emissions Gap Report 2019 which is variously described as “bleak” (Washington Post) and “bleak (NY Times) — so it’s presumably bleak. The UN also issued:

  • UN, 10 things to know about the Emissions Gap 2019
  • UN, Visual feature: The Emissions Gap Report 2019
  • Still bleak.

    But at least we have simple forms in which to absorb the message.

    **

    Meanwhile, Yale has very helpfully packaged 24 recent reports on climate change, and there’s still one missing.

    Let’s see:

  • Yale Climate Connections, 12 major climate change reports from 2019
  • Yale Climate Connections, 12 reports on carbon pricing, climate security, and more
  • And look, they cover everything from Interventions to Increase the Persistence and Resilience of Coral Reefs to Canada’s Changing Climate, lessons on action against tobacco and fossil fuels to the State of Climate Adaptation in Public Health of 16 U.S. States, and Malaria eradication within a generation to FEMA on Community Resilience and so Are the public ready for net zero?.

    Tet last two come closest to what I think is missing. They consider human response to climate change in light of the climate change crisis — but they’re still exterior to the humans they consider — they’re from the realm of sociology, and I’m interested in the corresponding interior states, the psychology of human response. And in particular our capacity for denial and indifference, our stickiness / stuckness.

    What’s the sludge through which we must make our way to awareness? Why does this feel so very much like trench warfare in World War I, re-enacted in mind?

    DoubleQuoting Trees, 2001 – 2019, Greta 2019 – 1898

    Friday, November 22nd, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — from tree-planting in the millions, via Tolkien’s ents in entmoot mode, to the Yukon, science-fiction time-travel, and a Greta Thunberg lookalike ]
    .

    A couple, Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado and his wife, planted 20 million trees in 20 years. Some of their product is visible in this photographic DoubleQuote

    :

    Simply and factually, two states of a hillside are connected by twenty years of planting, similarly but more personally, a photographer and his wife are connected by love and marriage nurtured by their lives together, more abstractly two nodes in a network are connected by edges, in each case, the connections in a network are the strength of that network..

    And in this case, trees are the result of planting over time, and over time this marriage of two persons is no doubt deepened. They make a difference, and if a hundred thousand, scattered across the habitable globe, followed their example, the impact would be considerable.

    Consider also that in the view of a German scientist whose ideas are, according to the Smithsonian, “shaking up the scientific world”. Anthropomorphosizing more than a little, the Smithsonian writer tells us:

    Wise old mother trees feed their saplings with liquid sugar and warn the neighbors when danger approaches. Reckless youngsters take foolhardy risks with leaf-shedding, light-chasing and excessive drinking, and usually pay with their lives. Crown princes wait for the old monarchs to fall, so they can take their place in the full glory of sunlight. It’s all happening in the ultra-slow motion that is tree time, so that what we see is a freeze-frame of the action.

    20,000 trees must have quite a conversation.

    **


    Entmoot

    Cue JRR Tolkien on the tree-like Ents, the ancient and wise guardians of trees and forests introduced in volume 2 of the Lord of the Rings:

    Quickbeam, for example, guarded rowan trees and bore some resemblance to rowans: tall and slender, smooth-skinned, with ruddy lips and grey-green hair. Some ents, such as Treebeard, were like beech-trees or oaks. But there were other kinds. Some recalled the chestnut: brown-skinned Ents with large splayfingered hands, and short thick legs. Some recalled the ash: tall straight grey Ents with many-fingered hands and long legs; some the fir (the tallest Ents), and others the birch, … and the linden.

    A gathering of the ents is called an Entmoot. Tolkien quotes Treebeard:

    The ents have not troubled about the wars of men and wizards for a very long time. But now something is about to happen that has not happened for an age… Ent Moot. [ … ] Beech, oak, chestnut, ash… Good, good, good. Many have come. Now we must decide if the ents will go to war.

    **

    By way of a bookend to this post, here’s a DoubleQuote in images of Greta Thunberg and a 1898 lookalike in a photo from the Yukon:

    As usual, parallelisms promote speculation — in this case, the laughable, laudable conspiracy theory that Thunberg is a time traveler.

    Conspiracy! Science fiction!

    The suggestion is that Greta traveled back from our time, when she despaired of our efforts to reverse human-caused climate change, to the Yukon of 1898, where she set about reversing the problem at its time and place origin. Exactly why human-caused climate change should have started in the Yukon in 1898 is not clear, nor can we understand how, if she began her efforts at reversing the progressive wasting of earth by human impact back in 1898 and had had no notable impact on that process by now, as revealed in the 1898 and 2019 photos of Ms Thunberg.. that too is unclear.

    Fabulation, however, is fabulpous by dedfinition — so we record this conspiracy here.

    Readings:

  • HuffPost, Photo From 1898 Sparks Hilarious Theory That Greta Thunberg Is A Time-Traveler
  • Owen Sound Sun Times, Greta Thunberg look-alike in 1898 Yukon gold rush photo has sparked time-travel conspiracies
  • **

    Okay, here’s a suggestion:

    Greta Thunberg — or the Entmoot , for that matter — might suggest we plant trees:

    Plant for yourself:

    But be warned

    As we plant trees, we must avoid planting monocultures, and ensure we plant variety, as The Economist suggests.

    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 ]
    .


    The Hajj, Mecca

    **

    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.

    City analogues and climate change 2019-2050

    Monday, August 19th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — pretty sure there will be black swans between here and 2050 ]
    .

    We’re beginning to see visual expressions of the implications of climate change that can perhaps help shift our awareness — comparing London, for instance, with Barcelona:

    The climate in Barcelona (right) isn’t always a good thing – the city suffered a severe drought in 2008

    **

    The thing is, Barcelona’s weather isn’t exactly desirable in all respects:

    London could suffer from the type of extreme drought that hit Barcelona in 2008 – when it was forced to import drinking water from France at a cost of £20 million.

    And London in 2050 experiencing weather conditions analogous to those of Barcelona today is a projection based on a 2? rise in temperatures globally: that’s considered “actually quite optimistic, imagining a future where action has been taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

    Ouch.

    Here’s one professor’s comment on the report:

    The University of Reading’s Professor Mike Lockwood warned about the damage that could be done to infrastructure.

    “Bringing Barcelona’s climate to London sounds like it could be a good thing – if you don’t suffer from asthma or have a heart condition, that is – except London clay shrinks and is brittle if it gets too dry and then swells and expands when very wet.

    “As ever, there is destructive and unforeseen devil in the details of climate change.”

    **

    The study, published in the journal PLOS One, suggests summers and winters in Europe will get warmer, with average increases of 3.5C and 4.7C respectively.

    It’s the equivalent to a city shifting 620 miles (1,000km) further south – with those furthest away from the equator being most affected.

    Southern California weather moves to Northern CA, Northern CA weather becomes the weather inj Northern Oregon and Washington, and on up to Canada and the once frozen north..

    And real estate values will shift accordingly.

    And transnational, climate driven migration patterns will emerge: US into Canada, and oh boy, Mexico into the US?

    **

    Well, analogues are pretty close cousins to what I’ve called DoubleQuotes, and the visual example above of London and Barcelona is joined in the BBC article I’ve been quoting from by twoi more examples:

    Edinburgh could look very different by 2050

    and:

    People say Melbourne can experience four seasons in one day – something people in Leeds might be used to

    — and since the authors of the study, Understanding climate change from a global analysis of city analogues, “found that 77% of future cities are very likely to experience a climate that is closer to that of another existing city than to its own current climate.”

    Since they examined “520 major cities of the world,” roughly 400 cities would have analogue cities, climate-wise, which I suspect means 200 would experience shifts to 200 other cities, though heaven knows, the Venn diagram might show quite a few overlaps, giving us strings like “Edinburgh will be like Paris will be like Marrakesh will be like nothing we’ve ever seen”

    **

    DoubleQuotes all. Analogues. duels and duets, climate-counter-climate, city-counter-city, point-counter-point..

    But see climate predictions, and how black swans will almost certainly distort them, and my related poem about Mecca in 2050, Mourning the lost Ka’aba


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