Thursday, March 24, 2016

Lacanian Zairja

A zairja (Arabic: زايرجة‎; also transcribed as zairjah, zairajah, zairdja, zairadja, and zayirga) was a device used by medieval Arab astrologers to generate ideas by mechanical means. The name may derive from a mixture of the Persian words zaicha ("horoscope; astronomical table") and daira ("circle").

Ibn Khaldun described it as: "a branch of the science of letter magic, practiced among the authorities on letter magic, is the technique of finding out answers from questions by means of connections existing between the letters of the expressions used in the question. They imagine that these connections can form the basis for knowing the future happenings they want to know." He suggests that rather than being supernatural it works "from an agreement in the wording of question and answer ... with the help of the technique called the technique of 'breaking down'" (i.e. algebra). By combining number values associated with the letters and categories, new paths of insight and thought were created.

According to Ibn Khaldun the most detailed treatment of it is a pseudographical work "Za'irajah of the World" attributed to as-Sabti, which contains operating instructions in hundreds of lines of verse, beginning:
Select a star rise. Figure out its signs.
Reverse its root. Straighten it out with the cycle.
Someone will perceive those things. He will achieve his purpose
And be given their letters in whose arrangement the evidence lies...
A manuscript in Rabat recounts Ibn Khaldun's introduction to the machine by Al-Marjānī in 1370 (772 AH), and claims that it was a traditional and ancient science.[1] When Ibn Khaldun expressed skepticism, the pair asked the instrument how old it was, and was told by the machine it was invented by the prophet Idris (identified with the Biblical Enoch).

It has been suggested that Catalan-Majorcan mystic, Ramon Llull in his travels and studies of Arab culture, became familiar with the zairja, and used it as a prototype for his invention of the Ars Magna.
from Wikipedia

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Still Sitting on the Shoulder

A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.

No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.

This man carries the world's most sensitive cargo
but he's not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,

His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy's dream
deep inside him.

We're not going to be able
to live in this world
if we're not willing to do what he's doing
with one another.

The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.
- Naomi Shihab Nye, "Shoulders"

Saturday, March 12, 2016

A Muted Existance


Andromache, I think of you! That false Simois
that narrow stream, meagre and sad, flowing there
where the immense majesty of your widowed grief,
shone out, growing from your tears,
stirred my fertile memory, suddenly,
as I was crossing the new Carrousel.
The old Paris is gone (the shape of a city
changes faster than the human heart can tell)
I can only see those frail booths in the mind’s eye,
those piles of rough-cut pillars, and capitals,
the weeds, the massive greening blocks, that used to lie
water-stained: the bric-a-brac piled in shop windows.
There, there used to be a menagerie:
One dawn, at the hour when labour wakes, there,
under the cold, clear sky, or, when the road-menders set free
a dull hammering, into the silent air,
I saw a swan, that had escaped its cage,
striking the dry stones with webbed feet;
trailing, on hard earth, its white plumage;
in the waterless gutter, opening its beak;
bathing its wings frantically, in the dust,
and crying, its heart full of its native streams:
‘Lightning, when will you strike? Rain when will you gust?’
Unfortunate, strange, fatal symbol, it seems
I see you, still: sometimes, like Ovid’s true
man transformed, his head, on a convulsive neck, strained
towards the sky’s cruel and ironic blue,
addressing the gods with his complaint.


Paris changes! But nothing, in my melancholy,
moves. New hotels, scaffolding, stone blocks,
old suburbs, everything, becomes allegory,
to me: my memories are heavier than rocks.
So, in front of the Louvre, an image oppresses me.
I think of my great swan, with its mad movements,
ridiculous, sublime, as exiles seem,
gnawed by endless longing! And then,
of you, Andromache, fallen from the embrace
of the great hero, vile chattel in the hands of proud Pyrrhus,
in front of an open tomb, in grief’s ecstatic grace,
Hector’s widow, alas, and wife of Helenus!
I think of the negress, consumptive, starved,
dragging through the mire, and searching, eyes fixed,
for the absent palm-trees of Africa, carved
behind the immense walls of mist:
Of those who have lost what they cannot recover,
ever! Ever! Those who drink tears like ours,
and suck on sorrow’s breasts, their wolf-mother!
Of the skinny orphans, withering like flowers!
So in the forest of my heart’s exile,
an old memory sounds its clear encore!
I think of sailors forgotten on some isle,
prisoners, the defeated! ....and of many more!
-Charles Baudelaire, "The Swan"

Note. Andromache was Hector’s wife who mourned his death in the Trojan War. The Simois and the Scamander (Xanthus) were the two rivers of the Trojan Plain. Pyrrhus is Neoptolemus, son of Achilles. Andromache fell to him as a spoil after the fall of Troy. Helenus was a son of Priam and brother of Hector. Baudelaire follows Virgil, The Aeneid III 289, where Aeneas reaches Epirus and Chaonia, and finds Helenus and Andromache. Helenus has succeeded to the throne of Pyrrhus and married Andromache. Aeneas finds Andromache sacrificing to Hector’s ashes in a wood near the city (Buthrotum) by a river named after the Simois. This is Baudelaire’s ‘false Simois’. Andromache explains that Pyrrhus has left her for Hermione, and passed her on to Helenus, who has been accepted as a Greek prince. Helenus has built a second ‘little’ Troy in Chaonia. Andromache is a symbol of fallen exile. The Carrousel is a bridge over the Seine in Paris, recent at the time of the poem. The Ovid reference is (arguably) to Cycnus, son of Sthenelus, changed to a swan, grieving for Phaethon (See Metamorphoses II 367 and also Virgil, Aeneid X 187). The Louvre Palace is now a Museum and Art Gallery, on the right bank of the Seine, in Paris.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Products of the Forge

Thetis goes to the palace of Vulcan to obtain new arms for her son.

“Thee, welcome, goddess! what occasion calls
(So long a stranger) to these honour’d walls?
‘Tis thine, fair Thetis, the command to lay,
And Vulcan’s joy and duty to obey.”

To whom the mournful mother thus replies:
(The crystal drops stood trembling in her eyes:)
“O Vulcan! say, was ever breast divine
So pierced with sorrows, so o’erwhelm’d as mine?
Of all the goddesses, did Jove prepare
For Thetis only such a weight of care?
I, only I, of all the watery race
By force subjected to a man’s embrace,
Who, sinking now with age and sorrow, pays
The mighty fine imposed on length of days.
Sprung from my bed, a godlike hero came,
The bravest sure that ever bore the name;
Like some fair plant beneath my careful hand
He grew, he flourish’d, and he graced the land:
To Troy I sent him! but his native shore
Never, ah never, shall receive him more;
(Even while he lives, he wastes with secret woe;)
Nor I, a goddess, can retard the blow!
Robb’d of the prize the Grecian suffrage gave,
The king of nations forced his royal slave:
For this he grieved; and, till the Greeks oppress’d
Required his arm, he sorrow’d unredress’d.
Large gifts they promise, and their elders send;
In vain--he arms not, but permits his friend
His arms, his steeds, his forces to employ:
He marches, combats, almost conquers Troy:
Then slain by Phoebus (Hector had the name)
At once resigns his armour, life, and fame.
But thou, in pity, by my prayer be won:
Grace with immortal arms this short-lived son,
And to the field in martial pomp restore,
To shine with glory, till he shines no more!”

To her the artist-god: “Thy griefs resign,
Secure, what Vulcan can, is ever thine.
O could I hide him from the Fates, as well,
Or with these hands the cruel stroke repel,
As I shall forge most envied arms, the gaze
Of wondering ages, and the world’s amaze!”

Thus having said, the father of the fires
To the black labours of his forge retires.
Soon as he bade them blow, the bellows turn’d
Their iron mouths; and where the furnace burn’d,
Resounding breathed: at once the blast expires,
And twenty forges catch at once the fires;
Just as the god directs, now loud, now low,
They raise a tempest, or they gently blow;
In hissing flames huge silver bars are roll’d,
And stubborn brass, and tin, and solid gold;
Before, deep fix’d, the eternal anvils stand;
The ponderous hammer loads his better hand,
His left with tongs turns the vex’d metal round,
And thick, strong strokes, the doubling vaults rebound.

Then first he form’d the immense and solid shield;
Rich various artifice emblazed the field;
Its utmost verge a threefold circle bound;
A silver chain suspends the massy round;
Five ample plates the broad expanse compose,
And godlike labours on the surface rose.
There shone the image of the master-mind:
There earth, there heaven, there ocean he design’d;
The unwearied sun, the moon completely round;
The starry lights that heaven’s high convex crown’d;
The Pleiads, Hyads, with the northern team;
And great Orion’s more refulgent beam;
To which, around the axle of the sky,
The Bear, revolving, points his golden eye,
Still shines exalted on the ethereal plain,
Nor bathes his blazing forehead in the main.

Two cities radiant on the shield appear,
The image one of peace, and one of war.
Here sacred pomp and genial feast delight,
And solemn dance, and hymeneal rite;
Along the street the new-made brides are led,
With torches flaming, to the nuptial bed:
The youthful dancers in a circle bound
To the soft flute, and cithern’s silver sound:
Through the fair streets the matrons in a row
Stand in their porches, and enjoy the show.

There in the forum swarm a numerous train;
The subject of debate, a townsman slain:
One pleads the fine discharged, which one denied,
And bade the public and the laws decide:
The witness is produced on either hand:
For this, or that, the partial people stand:
The appointed heralds still the noisy bands,
And form a ring, with sceptres in their hands:
On seats of stone, within the sacred place,
The reverend elders nodded o’er the case;
Alternate, each the attesting sceptre took,
And rising solemn, each his sentence spoke
Two golden talents lay amidst, in sight,
The prize of him who best adjudged the right.

Another part (a prospect differing far)(255)
Glow’d with refulgent arms, and horrid war.
Two mighty hosts a leaguer’d town embrace,
And one would pillage, one would burn the place.
Meantime the townsmen, arm’d with silent care,
A secret ambush on the foe prepare:
Their wives, their children, and the watchful band
Of trembling parents, on the turrets stand.
They march; by Pallas and by Mars made bold:
Gold were the gods, their radiant garments gold,
And gold their armour: these the squadron led,
August, divine, superior by the head!
A place for ambush fit they found, and stood,
Cover’d with shields, beside a silver flood.
Two spies at distance lurk, and watchful seem
If sheep or oxen seek the winding stream.
Soon the white flocks proceeded o’er the plains,
And steers slow-moving, and two shepherd swains;
Behind them piping on their reeds they go,
Nor fear an ambush, nor suspect a foe.
In arms the glittering squadron rising round
Rush sudden; hills of slaughter heap the ground;
Whole flocks and herds lie bleeding on the plains,
And, all amidst them, dead, the shepherd swains!
The bellowing oxen the besiegers hear;
They rise, take horse, approach, and meet the war,
They fight, they fall, beside the silver flood;
The waving silver seem’d to blush with blood.
There Tumult, there Contention stood confess’d;
One rear’d a dagger at a captive’s breast;
One held a living foe, that freshly bled
With new-made wounds; another dragg’d a dead;
Now here, now there, the carcases they tore:
Fate stalk’d amidst them, grim with human gore.
And the whole war came out, and met the eye;
And each bold figure seem’d to live or die.

A field deep furrow’d next the god design’d,
The third time labour’d by the sweating hind;
The shining shares full many ploughmen guide,
And turn their crooked yokes on every side.
Still as at either end they wheel around,
The master meets them with his goblet crown’d;
The hearty draught rewards, renews their toil,
Then back the turning ploughshares cleave the soil:
Behind, the rising earth in ridges roll’d;
And sable look’d, though form’d of molten gold.

Another field rose high with waving grain;
With bended sickles stand the reaper train:
Here stretched in ranks the levell’d swarths are found,
Sheaves heap’d on sheaves here thicken up the ground.
With sweeping stroke the mowers strow the lands;
The gatherers follow, and collect in bands;
And last the children, in whose arms are borne
(Too short to gripe them) the brown sheaves of corn.
The rustic monarch of the field descries,
With silent glee, the heaps around him rise.
A ready banquet on the turf is laid,
Beneath an ample oak’s expanded shade.
The victim ox the sturdy youth prepare;
The reaper’s due repast, the woman’s care.

Next, ripe in yellow gold, a vineyard shines,
Bent with the ponderous harvest of its vines;
A deeper dye the dangling clusters show,
And curl’d on silver props, in order glow:
A darker metal mix’d intrench’d the place;
And pales of glittering tin the inclosure grace.
To this, one pathway gently winding leads,
Where march a train with baskets on their heads,
(Fair maids and blooming youths,) that smiling bear
The purple product of the autumnal year.
To these a youth awakes the warbling strings,
Whose tender lay the fate of Linus sings;
In measured dance behind him move the train,
Tune soft the voice, and answer to the strain.

Here herds of oxen march, erect and bold,
Rear high their horns, and seem to low in gold,
And speed to meadows on whose sounding shores
A rapid torrent through the rushes roars:
Four golden herdsmen as their guardians stand,
And nine sour dogs complete the rustic band.
Two lions rushing from the wood appear’d;
And seized a bull, the master of the herd:
He roar’d: in vain the dogs, the men withstood;
They tore his flesh, and drank his sable blood.
The dogs (oft cheer’d in vain) desert the prey,
Dread the grim terrors, and at distance bay.

Next this, the eye the art of Vulcan leads
Deep through fair forests, and a length of meads,
And stalls, and folds, and scatter’d cots between;
And fleecy flocks, that whiten all the scene.

A figured dance succeeds; such once was seen
In lofty Gnossus for the Cretan queen,
Form’d by Daedalean art; a comely band
Of youths and maidens, bounding hand in hand.
The maids in soft simars of linen dress’d;
The youths all graceful in the glossy vest:
Of those the locks with flowery wreath inroll’d;
Of these the sides adorn’d with swords of gold,
That glittering gay, from silver belts depend.
Now all at once they rise, at once descend,
With well-taught feet: now shape in oblique ways,
Confusedly regular, the moving maze:
Now forth at once, too swift for sight, they spring,
And undistinguish’d blend the flying ring:
So whirls a wheel, in giddy circle toss’d,
And, rapid as it runs, the single spokes are lost.
The gazing multitudes admire around:
Two active tumblers in the centre bound;
Now high, now low, their pliant limbs they bend:
And general songs the sprightly revel end.

Thus the broad shield complete the artist crown’d
With his last hand, and pour’d the ocean round:
In living silver seem’d the waves to roll,
And beat the buckler’s verge, and bound the whole.

This done, whate’er a warrior’s use requires
He forged; the cuirass that outshone the fires,
The greaves of ductile tin, the helm impress’d
With various sculpture, and the golden crest.
At Thetis’ feet the finished labour lay:
She, as a falcon cuts the aerial way,
Swift from Olympus’ snowy summit flies,
And bears the blazing present through the skies.
Homer, "Iliad" (Book XVIII, The Shield of Achilles)

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Manic Bipolar

the breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
don’t go back to sleep.

you must ask for what you really want.
don’t go back to sleep.

people are going back and forth between the
door sill where the two worlds touch.
the door is round and open.

don’t go back to sleep.