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Archive for October, 2019

The most interesting..

Friday, October 18th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron –a quick round ’em up, rawhide of news and views — read the first one, even if you skip the rest — some of which are frankly hilarious, and darkly sad too — and towards the end, there’s one mind-blower with gospel reference! ]
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Millennial mils debate Syria:

This, from WaPo‘s summary of the Democratic debate of 15 October 2019:

There was a point in the middle of the debate when South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii) had an impassioned debate about whether the United States should be in Syria. Gabbard was the most noninterventionist candidate on the stage, while Buttigieg said Syria was perhaps the one place in the Middle East where we continue to need a presence. That disagreement aside, this was two millennial veterans of Middle East wars — the only two combat veterans among the leading candidates — having that debate on a presidential stage. That’s quite the moment.

That’s a debate within the debate, and the criterion for being on that stage is a lot stiffer than for the stage-of-twelve.

BTW, hey matryoshka! —

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Serpents I:

And then this, for a serpent-bites-tail moment, with the middle slytherin’ of the snake passing through time:

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R) offers a lesser time-inflected serpent on Twitter:

Wow. We bombed our own base on purpose, because of the impulsive decision by @realDonaldTrump didn’t leave time to evacuate the right way. Is this the America you grew up believing in?

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Word choices I:

Inside that Giuliani serpent piece, there’s this exquisite word choice by a company pertinent to the investigation:

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Word choices II:

But it gets better, once you look at the Giuliani associate twins, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas:

Snap!!

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Serpents II:

Here’s a serpent formerly biting its tail attempting to unbite it:

It’s a microcosm of the same Trumpworld shamelessness that has suddenly converted Donald Trump Jr. into an outspoken opponent of nepotism.

**

Here’s a report of Bolton‘s grenade attack on Giuliani:

Giuliani’s growing headaches are political as well as legal. Yesterday Trump’s former top adviser on Russia and Europe, Fiona Hill, reportedly told congressional investigators that her boss, former national security adviser John Bolton, labeled Giuliani “a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up” by meddling in Ukraine…

That’s six, just from my first scan — seven would be enough for me to close this and post!

**

Seventh:

Oh well, as you may know, my degree is in Theology from Christ Church, Oxford, and I’ve continued my interest in New Testament scholarship while broadening it to include Gnostic, Buddhist, shamanic and other sources..

Today’s haul [well, a day or two ago, but today at the time of writing!] contains a second matryoshka instance, this one from a piece about “Secret Mark” — the gospel fragment preserved by Clement of Alexandria and disclosed to the world by Morton Smith in 1973:

Since the Swine do not actually appear to have any overlap with the adjacent story of the possessed man, the story of the Swine appears to be another intercalation or at least addition. It seems like “Mark” had a collection of unconnected stories that he pasted together to create a single narrative. His literary techniques with intercalations and framing stories (i.e. putting some of his stores inside other stories instead of pasting them one after another) give us an idea of how freely he worked with his material.

What’s really interesting about the fragment of a letter from Saint Clement containing a previously unknown section of Mark’s gospel is that it suggests that Jesus taught some form of initiation into :

And they came into Bethany, and a certain woman, whose brother had died, was there. And coming, she prostrated herself before Jesus and said to him, ?Son of David, have mercy on me.‘ But the disciples rebuked her. And Jesus, being angered, went off with her into the garden where the tomb was, and straightaway a great cry was heard from the tomb. And going near, Jesus rolled away the stone from the door of the tomb. And straightaway, going in where the youth was, he stretched forth his hand and raised him, seizing his hand. But the youth, looking upon him, loved him and began to beseech him that he might be with him. And going out of the tomb they came into the house of the youth, for he was rich. And after six days Jesus told him what to do and in the evening the youth came to him, wearing a linen cloth over [his] naked [body.] And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the kingdom of God. And thence, arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan.

The mystery of the kingdom of God?

Some second form of baptism? In the spirit? With an entheogen, as (arguably) in other “mysteries” such as that of Eleusis? A sexual, tantric mystery (the young man is instructed to be naked)? Or an initiation into meditation techniques? Who knows. All we can say is that according to this fragment, Jesus seems to have had some deeper teaching that he revealed after seven days to the young man..

More:

  • Shawn Eyer, The Strange Case of the Secret Gospel According to Mark
  • Richard Hooper, The Naked Man in the Garden and The Secret Gospel of Mark
  • There, number seven, and it’s a humdinger! — and every one of them featuring some sort of formal interest!

    **

    Boom! Bonus:

    Hobby Lobby and a Bible fragment controversy

    I ran across this while searching for a link to Morton Smith‘s book — or was it the other way around? Anyway, this is about a different Mark gospel fragment, indeed possibly the earliest New Testament manuscript of all:

    From today’s Guardian:

    An Oxford University professor has been accused of selling ancient Bible fragments to a controversial US company that has been involved in several high-profile scandals related to its aggressive purchases of biblical artefacts.

    Dirk Obbink, one of the world’s most celebrated classics professors, has been named after an investigation by staff associated with Oxford’s Oxyrhynchus Papyri project.

    He is accused of selling without permission a number of ancient fragments to the US arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby. Its owners, the Green family, are prominent Christian evangelicals and, under the guidance of the Hobby Lobby president, Steve Green, were behind the founding of Washington’s $400m Museum of the Bible in 2017. [ .. ]

    The lecturer in papyrology and Greek literature has previously denied some of the allegations, telling the Daily Beast in 2018 that the claim he sold a fragment of the first chapter of the gospel of Mark to Hobby Lobby was not true.

    Previous reports:

  • Gospel Coalition, 2015, How Should We Respond to Reports that a Fragment of Mark Dates to c1 ?

    It was reported yesterday that a three-dozen member team of scientists and scholars—apparently including the well-respected New Testament historian Craig Evans—is working on a papyrus fragment of the Gospel of Mark, discovered as part of an ancient Egyptian funeral mask.

    Due to the expense of securing clean papyri sheets in the ancient world, the papier-mâché of these masks was made from recycled papyri that already contained writing. Evans explains, “We’re recovering ancient documents from the first, second and third centuries. Not just Christian documents, not just biblical documents, but classical Greek texts, business papers, various mundane papers, personal letters.”

    Amazing, eh? Metacognitive reading: think about it, what’s hidden in our masks?

  • Christianity Today 2018, Despite Disappointing Some, New Mark Manuscript Is Earliest Yet

    The Egypt Exploration Society has recently published a Greek papyrus that is likely the earliest fragment of the Gospel of Mark, dating it from between A.D. 150–250. One might expect happiness at such a publication, but this important fragment actually disappointed many observers. The reason stems from the unusual way that this manuscript became famous before it became available.

    I’m afraid that’s the story of its questionable sale..

    Oh dammit, Professor Obbink is a tutor at Christ Church — my own college.

  • One of the more interesting comments about, well..

    Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — reading my daily dose of 3QD again after a health-induced lapse, and glad I’m back ]
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    One of the more interesting comments about, well, religion, comes from a review by Robert Fay in 3QD of Chinese science fiction master Liu Cixin‘s novel, the first in a trilogy and the one President Obama so praised, The Three Body Problem, reading it in a wide world context:

    Sacrifice used to be part-and-parcel of the western self-identity. Jesus on the cross at Calvary was the central spiritual truth of Christendom. The west, of course, left much of this behind during the Enlightenment. The French Revolution further asserted the rights of individuals. If anything, the consumption of consumer goods is the true religion of the west now, and it demands we all act immediately on our impulses, cravings and desires.

    This hasn’t worked out well for the planet.

    **

    Yes, sacrifice, and it’s dual, martyrdom, have all but disappeared, although, well, the Marines understand sacrifice, and the jihadists understand martyrdom.

    To take you into the audacity of sacrifice or the self-surrender of martyrdom is beyond me here. Let me just note that the Eucharist is a sacrifice, and the death of Joan of Arc a martyrdom. Arguably, the two ideas are parallel, and meet at infinity, as in the Cure D’Ars observation:

    If we knew what a Mass is, we should die of it.

    Thus, theologically speaking, the Eucharist (present) cyclically repeats Christ‘s sacrifice on the cross (past), in a transcendent manner which makes of it a foretaste of the Wedding Feast (future) envisioned in the book of Revelation.

    But enough!

    **

    There’s a fine alternative vision of the three body problem in Bill Benzon‘s Time Travelers We Are, Each And All, his account of brain, mind and Beethoven, which, like Robert Fay‘s account of Liu Cixin‘s novel of that name, arrived in today’s edition of 3QD. Benzon is quoting the literary critic Wayne Booth describing a performance of Beethoven‘s String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 131 as constituting unities out of a string quartet, Booth himself and his nwife, and, somehow, both of those and Beethoven — three bodies as one:

    There is Beethoven, one hundred and forty-three years ago … writing away at the marvelous theme and variations in the fourth movement. … Here is the four-players doing the best it can to make the revolutionary welding possible. And here we am, doing the best we can to turn our “self” totally into it: all of us impersonally slogging away (these tears about my son’s death? ignore them, irrelevant) to turn ourselves into that deathless quartet.

    That unity of three bodies is found, and can be joined, in Beethoven‘s String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 131:

    **

    Reading Benzon‘s piece, we can benefit also from his presentation of neurons, their connections and internal workings:

    We have no way of directly counting the neurons in the nervous systems, but estimates put the number at roughly 86 billion with an average of 10,000 synapses per neuron.

    To specify the brain’s state at a given moment in clock time we need to know the state of each unit component, such as a neuron. One convenient way to do this is to say that a neuron is either firing or it is not. So it can have two states. Neurons are complicated things; each is a living cell with the full complement of machinery that that requires. There’s a lot more to a neuron that whether or not it’s firing.

    This description of neurons is in service to a discussion of clock-time and brain states, which is itself in service to a wider discussion of time itself, as our wrist-watches understand it, and as our experience of Beethoven might cause us to discover it.

    Following the musical branch of this discussion, we find Benzon quoting Bernstein on ego-loss:

    I don’t know whether any of you have experienced that but it’s what everyone in the world is always searching for. When it happens in conducting, it happens because you identify so completely with the composer, you’ve studied him so intently, that it’s as though you’ve written the piece yourself. You completely forget who you are or where you are and you write the piece right there. You just make it up as though you never heard it before. Because you become that composer.

    Benzon‘s three into one is Bernstein‘s two into one, and all paths lead to reliving a keynote segment of the life of Beethoven — Beethoven as a musical Everest, with Bernstein and the quartet as sherpas, Booth and his wife and Benzon and you and I as climbers, some at base-camp listening to the great Chuck Berry, some on the final ascent, some planting flags at the peak..

    Peak Beethoven is phenomenological unity. Across time, time travel.

    **

    Oh, the numbers games one can play — Sixteen into forty into one in Tallis’ forty-part motet, Spem in Alium Nunquam Habui — where the very title speaks to the union – I Have Hope in None Other:

    Oh and is not religion at the heart of this unity, this unity at the very heart of religion? And is not this braiding of voices, this polyphony, a working of this unity?

    **

    My early mentor and friend, Herbert Warner Allen, wrote of his own time with Beethoven. As I wrote elsewhere:

    Herbert Warner Allen, a classical scholar, sometime newspaper editor and noted authority on wines, experienced a timeless moment between two beats during a performance of one of the Beethoven symphonies. Not knowing quite what had hit him, he went on to research the mystical tradition and wrote three mostly forgotten books [of which the first was aptly named The Timeless Moment] situating his experience within intellectual tradition without nailing it to any particular dogmatic structure. TS Eliot, who published the books, inscribed a book of his own poetry to Warner Allen with the words “from the Srotaapanna to the Arhat, TS Eliot”, with a footnote to explain “Srotaapanna: he who has dipped one toe in the river of the wqaters of enlightenment; Arhat: he who has arrived at the further shore”.

    Here’s the almost anonymous A.T. writing to The Times, 19th January 1968:

    In your obituary notice of the late Mr. Warner Allen you do not mention the books he wrote describing his “journey on the Mystic Way”. The best known of these books was The Timeless Moment in which he gave some account of a visionary experience that for him “flashed up lightning-wise during a performance of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony at the Queen’s Hall “. In this split second of time he received (as no one reading his books can doubt) a flash of absolute reality that broke through the normal barriers of the conscious mind and left a trail of illumination in its wake. Mr. Allen never claimed to be an advanced mystic or profound philosopher. He described himself as an ordinary man of the world. He spent years unravelling the implications of his strange experience. The resulting volumes were and are of extraordinary interest.

    Amen. Warner Allen’s was a Timeless Moment, an ego-loss indeed!

    I must have been fifteen or so when I had the great good fortune to meet and be befriended by this extraordinary man..

    Chief Standing Bear honored with a Statue in the Capitol

    Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — honoring Chief Standing Bear of the Ponca — his statue will soon be followed by one of Willa Cather ]
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    Chief Standing Bear:

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    His words and those of Shakespeare:

    **

    Source:

    For Chief Standing Bear’s story, andthe ceremonial honoring him, see:

  • Washington Post, The civil rights leader ‘almost nobody knows about’ gets a statue in the U.S. Capitol
  • DQ #5, About that Mandate of Heaven..

    Sunday, October 13th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — all right, here’s the religion and morality heavy-hitter — DoubleQuote #5 in a series ]
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    Pat Robertson — well, I leave you to our own musings about him — in any case, he mentions the Mandate of Heaven which, the Chinese being subtler thn the British, compares favorably with the Divine Right of Kings in that it can be withdrawn at the pleasure of the gods. Justice in a ruler, equitabe and fair, is the criterion for

    Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, has a rule-book for kings and those they reign over, and while Trump was anointed to his presidential role and widely considered a king Cyrus, as an outsider to the faithful, or a king David, as an adulterer nonetheless pleasing unto God, both concepts conferring wiggle-room on the wishes of Heaven, Russell Moore, one of the prime theologians and ethicists of the Southern Baptists, appears to agree with Robertson that the Mandate or Divine Right or fidelity under oath to the Constitution of these United States may be evaporating.

    Now I ask you..

    **

    For a discussion of the president-as-king theory and the meaning of executive power, see JD Mortenson, What Two Crucial Words in the Constitution Actually Mean.

    Ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the President. President‘s serve at the pleasure of the Congress, Cabinet, or electorate. It would be wise for the Congress, Cabinet, or electorate to ponder, under present circumstances, the Mandate of Heaven or, which is much the same thing, the Will of the People.

    A SITREP in four DoubleQuotes, holding the fifth for now

    Sunday, October 13th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — our substitute fifth today being a fine quote from a review of two books about analyzing humor, coming to us from down under ]
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    The purpose of this post it to present four facets of the present moment so as to leave a fifth perspective uncluttered for a later post..:

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    DQ #1: Complexity squared:

    Presenting two papers which sum up the huge diversity of definitions which complexity and terrorism respectively are prone to:

    It’s hard to say, exactly what terrorism is, but it’s no easier to define complexity- and when you think of the pair of them intersecting, the result is along the lines of complexity squared..

    Sources:

    :

  • Seth Lloyd, Measures of Complexity: a non–exhaustive list
  • Alex Schmid, The Revised Academic Consensus Definition of Terrorism
  • Further, here’s a striking quote here from Alex Schmid:

    A description how [the Academic Consensus Definition] was arrived at can be found on pp. 39 – 98 of Alex P. Schmid (Ed.). The Routledge Handbook of Terrorism Research. London and New York: Routledge, 2011. The same volume also contains 260 other definitions compiled by Joseph J. Easson and Alex P. Schmid on pp. 99 – 200.

    and a complexity analogy with electromagnetism from Seth Lloyd:

    An historical analog to the problem of measuring complexity is the problem of describing electromagnetism before Maxwell’s equations. In the case of electromagnetism, quantities such as electric and magnetic forces that arose in different experimental contexts were originally regarded as fundamentally different. Eventually it became clear that electricity and magnetism were in fact closely related aspects of the same fundamental quantity, the electromagnetic field. Similarly, contemporary researchers in architecture, biology, computer science, dynamical systems, engineering, finance, game theory, etc., have defined different measures of complexity for each field. Because these researchers were asking the same questions about the complexity of their different subjects of research, however, the answers that they came up with for how to measure complexity bear a considerable similarity to each other.

    Complexity, illustrated:

    Nothing in that image of waves lapping and overlapping on a shoreline could not in theory be explained in terms of von Kármán‘s equation for the “shedding” of vortices in a vortex street — but the breaking of waves across the coast of California –mathematicians can name the laws involved, but accurately describe the details over the last four decades from an Diego to Eureka? Waves bouncing off a fractal coastline?

    Ahem, it’s complex. Though I suppose Ali Minai might inform me it’s not so much complex as complicated.

    Consider, then, the complexity, complicated nature, or wickedness of the problem of definition in our two cases..

    **

    DQ #2: Yet another Uncertainty Principle:

    I’d been thinking about the timeline of black swan takeoffs, thinking we might know roughly what the next five years could bring, but far out, farther out.. who knows? With this President, however, I’m forced to say Peter Baker is closer to the mark here than I’ve been thus far.

    Time to adjust to the flappings of black wings…

    Sources & quotes..

    Both are quotes I overheard on MSNBC a couple of days ago, but didn’t have anything to hand with which to note program or time.

    **

    Dq #3: Cap’n’caps:

    To cap it off, you have to admit the feeling is clear..

    Here we see two kinds of explosive — the cap represents an explosive attitude, the caps the explosive power of 9mm rounds.

    Let me put it this way: the sense of the two ads is twofold — security and threat, and the threat may make some of us insecure.

    **

    And to end on a lighter note, laughing at the way one bureaucracy can disagree with another..
    DQ #4: Nature rejects, Nobel awards:

    It is with intense satisfaction that observers note the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine this year was awarded to Sir Peter Ratcliffe, for work that Nature, arguably the world’s top science journal, had earlier rejected.

    Note also that HM the Queen was ahead of the Nobrl committee, having given Peter Ratcliffe a knighthood in the 2014 New Year’s Honours List.

    But then Nobel Prizes are belated recognitions of what has long been obvious..

    **

    Okay, I’m holding the fifth DQ for its own post — but here to compensate is another entry in our budding encyclopedia of ouroboroi, this one from Ben Juers at the Sydney Review of Books, Stepping on Rakes:Terry Eagleton’s Humourand Peter Timms’ Silliness:

    ‘If you want to raise a laugh it is unwise to joke and dissect your joke at the same time’, Eagleton writes in the introduction, ‘but there are not many comedians who come up with a theoretical inquiry into their wisecracks at the very moment they are delivering them.’ No sooner had I scrawled ‘um, Stewart Lee?!’ unreadably in the margins than Eagleton butted in: ‘There are, to be sure, exceptions, such as the brilliantly original comedian Stewart Lee, who deconstructs his own comedy as he goes along and analyses the audience’s response to it.’

    Talk about self-referential! Let me count the ways..

    Clearly I need to watch me some Stewart Lee.


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