A Carefully Crafted F**k You: Nathan Schneider interviews Judith Butler

Nathan Schneider in Guernica:

Guernica: This book, you write, is a response to the policies under the Bush administration. How different would a book about the Obama administration be? Have we learned at all how to expand our circle of grief? Have we adjusted our frames?

ScreenHunter_61 Aug. 29 22.14Judith Butler: The fact is that the war in Afghanistan has escalated under the Obama administration, and though it seems as if there is a firmer policy against torture, and a clear condemnation of torture on the part of the administration, we still are responsible for an extraordinary number of brutal deaths by war. This administration was fully silent during the massacre on Gaza. And Obama himself has agreed not to disclose the full narrative and visual archive on U.S. torture—we have to ask why. I think we have to learn how to separate our impressions of Obama the man as both thoughtful and inspiring from the policies of the Obama administration. Perhaps then we can begin to see that the politics of the administration are very separate from the impression of the man. This is a painful lesson to learn, and I wonder whether the U.S. public and its European allies will actually learn it.

More here.

Despots in the Sand: A Quizzical Memoir

Ihab Hassan in Agni:

10020The Arab Spring, a blast of the hot, Khamsin wind. Spring, I said to myself, how many centuries then did the Arab Winter last? Or was that “Spring” merely an interlude, heralding yet another ice age? But give hope its due. A Tunisian street vendor called Mohamed Bouaziz torched himself and the Middle East blazed.

Look what happened within a few months: the president of Tunisia fled; the president of Egypt sat in an iron cage; the Libyan dictator, dragged from a ditch, died of a bullet fired from his own golden pistol; and the Yemeni has just “resigned” after thirty-three years of misrule. Earlier, the ogre of Iraq had been hanged. And any moment now, the tyrant of Syria, sitting under the sword of Damocles, may find his head in his lap. Interestingly, only the kings of Morocco, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, though they spurn constitutional monarchies, have been spared.

Take Egypt, where I was born. When the youths of Tahrir Square evicted the latest pharaoh from his palaces by the Nile, I thought: groovy! Then I wondered: is this the land I left seven decades ago? Finally, I saw—saw even before the Muslim Brotherhood swept freely into the Egyptian Parliament, even before other generals continued to hold power with invisible hands—that this Arab Spring would be like no other spring: it would leave the landscape of the Middle East both verdant and sere.

So, what had this dubious season to do with any of us in our addled, interactive world? What, I needed to ask, had it to do particularly with me? Tectonic shifts have tilted many lands a fraction toward democracy. Were these changes relevant to me? Did the Arab Spring touch me deeper than the news of any other day? And what of those jihadists, broken-mirror images of the despots, how did they relate to me, kinsmen in a shadow world?

The answers, I fear, may be subject to the inevitable opacity of introspection. Who can strike clear through the mask? Opacity and, worse, indifference at this stage of my self-exile.

More here. [Thanks to Ahmad Saidullah.]

Palestinian women racers find freedom behind the wheel

From Dawn:

ScreenHunter_59 Aug. 29 21.53With her bright orange pedicure, Michael Kors handbag and skinny jeans, Maysoon Jayyusi hardly looks like a Palestinian speed racer – until she gets behind the wheel.

The minute she starts up her SUV, she’s off – coursing ahead of the rest of the traffic, weaving among bewildered locals in the crowded streets of the West Bank city of Ramallah.

It’s easy to see why the team she heads – the Middle East’s first female speed racing team – has been dubbed the “Speed Sisters”.

The group of six women, Muslims and Christians from their 20s to mid-30s, have battled sceptical parents, the realities of the Israeli occupation and a sometimes disapproving public to become local stars and even the subject of a documentary.

“We feel we are free when we’re doing this,” teammate Mona Ennab, 26, said. “It’s a way to escape everything around us.”

Jayyusi, 36, said her love of speed was born out of frustrating hours stuck in long lines at Israeli checkpoints.

“I feel such depression at the checkpoints, but this speed makes me feel like I’m powerful, it helps me expel my depression,” she told AFP.

More here.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist – review

Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian:

ScreenHunter_58 Aug. 29 17.31The awful inevitability of Kipling's non-meeting of east and west is the subject of this movie by Mira Nair, which begins the 2012 Venice film festival, adapted from the 2007 novel by Mohsen Hamid. It's a sweeping and heartfelt tale of divided loyalties and reversion to type, in a world where the complacent ideas of globalised capitalism were shattered by 9/11.

This is bold and muscular storytelling with a plausible performance from Riz Ahmed in the lead role – though there is something flabby and evasive in the inevitable equivalence it winds up proposing between Islamic fundamentalism and aggressive American capitalism.

Ahmed is Changez, and if ever a character had a significant name, it's this one. He's a charismatic firebrand professor in Lahore, spreading anti-Americanism among his excitable students, under surveillance by the CIA and suspected of having something to do with the recent kidnapping of an expatriate American academic. And yet when Changez starts telling his life story to American journalist Bobby (Liev Schreiber) we see his troubled life unfold in flashback.

More here.

Smoke and mirrors

From Times Higher Education:

Cover_feature_160812'Agnotology', the art of spreading doubt (as pioneered by Big Tobacco), distorts the scepticism of research to obscure the truth. Areas of academic life have been tainted by the practice, but some scholars are fighting back by showing the public how to spot such sleight of hand, reports Matthew Reisz.

Doubt is the lifeblood of the academy. Historians and political scientists try never to take on trust any public statement that cannot be independently verified. Scientists look for every possible alternative factor and explanation before claiming that there is a causal link between A and B. Philosophers have even been known not to take their own existence for granted. An attitude of radical scepticism is essential for most serious research. Yet there is also a point at which such scepticism becomes pathological and irresponsible. Whole industries have an interest in casting doubt on the overwhelming evidence that smoking damages health, that nuclear energy imposes substantial risks, that climate change is taking place and that the pre-credit crunch banking system was a house of cards. Academics who cultivate the art of spreading doubt – what one scholar calls “agnotology” – are often de facto protecting corporate profits and discouraging governments and individuals from taking action. They also give authority to views that would be taken with a large pinch of salt if put forward by journalists, lawyers or public relations firms.Many people writing about academic integrity focus on clear conflicts of interest that can lead to the distortion of research agendas and the risk of corruption.

More here.

Doctors back circumcision

From Nature:

BabyExpectant parents face many anxieties in preparing for a child. For those who have a son, there is an extra complication: deciding whether to keep his foreskin or have it snipped off.

On 27 August, a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) concludes for the first time that, overall, boys will be healthier if circumcised1. The report says that although the choice is ultimately up to parents, medical insurance should pay for the procedure. The recommendation, coming from such an influential body, could boost US circumcision rates, which, at 55%, are already higher than much of the developed world (see ‘Cuts by country’). “This time around, we could say that the medical benefits outweigh the risks of the procedure,” says Douglas Diekema, a paediatrician and ethicist at the University of Washington, Seattle, who served on the circumcision task force for the AAP, headquartered in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. The recommendation is also sure to stir up debate. The practice of circumcision cuts deeper than the body, tapping into religious rituals and cultural identities. What is a harmless snip to some signifies mutilation to others. And in the developing world, many see it as an essential life-saving measure. Condoms are more effective at preventing disease, but are not used consistently.

More here.

How the US and Israeli justice systems whitewash state crimes

Glenn Greenwald in The Guardian:

ScreenHunter_57 Aug. 29 11.48The US military announced on Monday that no criminal charges would be brought against the US marines in Afghanistan who videotaped themselves urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters. Nor, the military announced, would any criminal charges be filed against the US troops who “tried to burn about 500 copies of the Qur'an as part of a badly bungled security sweep at an Afghan prison in February, despite repeated warnings from Afghan soldiers that they were making a colossal mistake”.

In doing so, the US military, as usual, brushed aside demands of Afghan officials for legal accountability for the destructive acts of foreign soldiers in their country. The US instead imposed “disciplinary measures” in both cases, ones that “could include letters of reprimand, a reduction in rank, forfeit of some pay, physical restriction to a military base, extra duties or some combination of those measures”. Both incidents triggered intense protests and rioting that left dozens dead, back in February this year.

Parallel to that, an Israeli judge Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit against the Israeli government brought by the family of Rachel Corrie, the 23-year-old American student and pro-Palestinian activist who was killed by a military bulldozer in 2003 as she protested the demolition of a house in Gaza whose family she had come to befriend.

More here. [Photo shows Rachel Corrie.]

Lance Armstrong and the Philosophy of Making Bad Decisions

Evan Selinger in The Atlantic:

RTXSJ9S-615Lance Armstrong's decision not to fight the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has drawn mixed response: supporters and detractors wasted no time before airing their views. While some supporters maintain lack of incriminating evidence is key, others have stated that Armstrong still deserves our sympathy even if he is guilty of using banned substances. It is crucial to understand why this might be the case, as the implications of the judgment extend well beyond feelings directed at a high-profile athlete.

The sympathy-for-a-possible-cheater argument is expressed clearly in “Pillorying Armstrong: Complete Nonsense,” a piece co-written by Arthur Caplan — one of the most famous bioethicists in the U.S. — and two other NYU professors. The authors write: “Shouldn't Armstrong, especially because of the inspiration he is to cancer survivors or anyone on the short end of the advantage stick, get a pass for being no more dirty, but a whole lot better than everyone else in his sport? Armstrong isn't being investigated as the only cheater. He is in all likelihood just the best, most talented one.” In other words, we should feel bad for Armstrong because LiveStrong promotes so much social good that it blunts part of the cheating stain, and because professional cycling is rotten to the core, filled with so many cheaters that breaking the rules is the only viable way to compete.

For the sake of argument, let's say this assessment of the state of cycling is correct. Why should its constraints incline us to be sympathetic for a cheater? Why shouldn't we instead appeal to the lesson about individual responsibility and peer pressure that we learned in Kindergarten — the one that ends with not jumping off a bridge because Johnny did?

More here.

What Went Wrong in Mali?

6a00d8341c562c53ef017c3177862e970b-320wiBruce Whitehouse in the LRB:

The Republic of Mali has long been seen as the exception to the dictatorships or civil wars that have seemed the rule in West Africa since the end of the Cold War: a state that was able to shift from autocracy to democratic governance. Arid, landlocked, larger than France (its former colonial master) and Spain combined, and among the world’s poorest nations, dependent on foreign aid, Mali shook off single-party rule in 1991, when massive protests touched off a coup that ended the 23-year reign of General Moussa Traoré. The coup’s leader, Colonel Amadou Toumani Touré, presided over a transition that brought a new constitution and multiparty elections the following year.

Every five years since then Mali has held elections which have been considered generally free and fair by observers. Alpha Oumar Konaré, who won the presidential election in 1992, reformed state institutions and negotiated an end to a long-simmering rebellion by Tuareg nomads in the northern deserts, where central government had never had much control. Konaré stepped down in 2002, respecting a constitutional two-term limit, and was succeeded by Touré. Privately owned newspapers and radio stations, once a state monopoly, flourished, and the country became popular with aid donors, a destination for tourists and a regular venue for music festivals. It was a tranquil place that never made the news.

It lost that distinction on the afternoon of 21 March, when troops in Kati, just outside the capital city of Bamako, launched a mutiny.

Among the Republicans

NaipaulV.S. Naipaul's 1984 piece on the Republican National Convention, in the NY Review of Books (not much has changed):

To leave the air-conditioned auditorium and go outside was to appreciate anew the extent of the church’s properties, many of them named after Dr. Criswell. It was also—though the shadows of tall buildings made the street look cool—to be reminded of the one-hundred-degree heat of Dallas.

Most of the time you were protected from the heat, and were aware of it only as a quality of the light or in the color of the sky. But from time to time the heat came upon you like this, a passing sensation, not unpleasant, a contrast with the general air-conditioning, a reminder of the bubble in which you lived.

Dallas was air-conditioned—hotels, shops, houses, cars. The convention center was more than air-conditioned; it was positively cool, more than thirty degrees cooler than the temperature outside. Air-conditioned Dallas seemed to me a stupendous achievement, the product of a large vision, American in the best and most humane way: money and applied science creating an elegant city where life had previously been brutish.

Yet in this city created by high science Dr. Criswell preached of hellfire and was a figure. And the message of convention week was that there was no contradiction, that American endeavor and success were contained within old American faith and pieties. Karl Marx and homosexuality were on the other side of these pieties and could be lumped together.

The fundamentalism that the Republicans had embraced went beyond religion. It simplified the world in general; it rolled together many different kinds of anxieties—schools, drugs, race, buggery, Russia, to give just a few; and it offered the simplest, the vaguest solution: Americanism, the assertion of the American self.

Genealogy and Plurality

Power-of-Religion-200x300Over at the SSRC's Immanent Frame, there's been an interesting and ongoing debate stemming from Akeel Bilgrami's SSRC Working paper “Secularism: Its Content and Context.” In the paper, “Bilgrami addresses two questions: first, the meaning of secularism and second, its justification and implementation. Engaging Charles Taylor’s recent calls for a “radical” redefinition of secularism, he offers an alternative conceptualization of the category, while also addressing Taylor’s deep concerns about the politics of secularism for our time. According to Bilgrami, secularism has its point and meaning not in a decontextualized philosophical argument but in the historical and contextual specificities in which it is applied. In the end, secularism “needs, not replacement, but merely proper implementation, in order to get us ‘beyond toleration.’” Among the responses are ones by Justin Neuman and Simon During. During:

I am in general agreement with Bilgrami’s argument. But I am puzzled by the turn it takes at the point when he squarely confronts the most obvious problem it poses. What about states and polities that don’t accept rights-based, liberal-democratic ideals and the rights and goods that they promise? In such states, there may be no legislative or administrative tension between Church and State, and the demand for neutrality need not get a look-in. The polity may be religious through and through. How might a state-neutralist of Bilgrami’s stripe persuade such a non-secular, non-liberal state to join his position?

The problem is all the sharper because, as has become standard in post-secular liberal arguments, Bilgrami wants to make his case without reference to intellectual secularism. He does so by distinguishing what he calls “atheism” from “secularism.” Atheism (a rather loaded term) denies religion’s propositional truth, while secularism is a “stance towards religion” taken in pursuit of non-religious ends, and which, as such, cannot be true or false. (Here Bilgrami is drawing a distinction similar to the one that Habermas posits between religion’s “validity claims” and its “truth content” [its morality and ethical sociability].) For Bilgrami, there are only “internal reasons” for pursuing secularism (i.e. reasons grounded in one’s own values) not external evidentiary ones. So revealed and natural religion’s falling out of propositional truth is discounted.

Bilgrami responds to both Neuman and During:

On more substantial issues, his instinct is exactly right (and mine) when he says that Taylor wants a neutralism that is not necessarily secular. I wrote a fair number of words in my essay to try and make that instinct into a sound bit of criticism in political theory. I am sure that I have not persuaded Taylor, but it is gratifying to see that During and I share an understanding of Taylor. If he and I are right, Taylor’s honorable and interesting effort to redefine secularism as his form of “neutralism” fails. Or at any rate—if one takes the view that definitions, being stipulative and conventional, cannot exactly fail—it is not theoretically well motivated. During doesn’t mention his grounds for thinking Taylor to be wrong, but does gesture at broad agreement with the grounds I had presented.

Where he seems to find my dialectic is missing something is at the point when I mention that theimplementation of secularism (in those contexts where its implementation is called for) in the face of resistance to it, should appeal to a historicized conception of the subjects who resist it. He suggests that I should have given a thicker sense of the actual historical development that might be needed to bring such subjects around to secular polities and proceeds to guide me to a path by which this might be done by providing a genealogy of how it was in fact achieved in Europe. These genealogical and historical remarks are valuable, but I want to shepherd their relevance to a different part of my dialectic from where he places them.

Fear of a Black President

As a candidate, Barack Obama said we needed to reckon with race and with America’s original sin, slavery. But as our first black president, he has avoided mention of race almost entirely. In having to be “twice as good” and “half as black,” Obama reveals the false promise and double standard of integration.

Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic:

ScreenHunter_55 Aug. 28 15.31The irony of President Barack Obama is best captured in his comments on the death of Trayvon Martin, and the ensuing fray. Obama has pitched his presidency as a monument to moderation. He peppers his speeches with nods to ideas originally held by conservatives. He routinely cites Ronald Reagan. He effusively praises the enduring wisdom of the American people, and believes that the height of insight lies in the town square. Despite his sloganeering for change and progress, Obama is a conservative revolutionary, and nowhere is his conservative character revealed more than in the very sphere where he holds singular gravity—race.

Part of that conservatism about race has been reflected in his reticence: for most of his term in office, Obama has declined to talk about the ways in which race complicates the American present and, in particular, his own presidency. But then, last February, George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old insurance underwriter, shot and killed a black teenager, Trayvon Martin, in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman, armed with a 9 mm handgun, believed himself to be tracking the movements of a possible intruder. The possible intruder turned out to be a boy in a hoodie, bearing nothing but candy and iced tea. The local authorities at first declined to make an arrest, citing Zim­mer­man’s claim of self-defense. Protests exploded nationally. Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea assumed totemic power. Celebrities—the actor Jamie Foxx, the former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm, members of the Miami Heat—were photographed wearing hoodies. When Rep­resentative Bobby Rush of Chicago took to the House floor to denounce racial profiling, he was removed from the chamber after donning a hoodie mid-speech.

More here.

Tariq Ali: Why Latin America backs WikiLeaks

British-Pakistani author, journalist and activist Tariq Ali chaired a rally outside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London on August 19. The rally came before WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange's widely publicised speech. Ali also gave two speeches. In the second, he spoke about why it was that Assange and WikiLeaks had found support in Ecuador and Latin America more generally — and highlighted the revolutionary movements that have swept the continent to challenge US corporate domination. You can watch a video of this speech here. It is transcribed below.

Tariq Ali in Green Left:

ScreenHunter_54 Aug. 28 15.09I think one aspect of this [situation] that has not yet been dealt with. And it needs to be understood — especially in the Western world. Why is it that an Australian citizen, facing prosecution from a European country, decides to appeal for asylum to a South American republic?

And the reason for that is that for the last 10-15 years, huge changes have been taken place in South America. And these changes are very interesting.

For a whole while, as many of you will know, South America was governed by military dictatorships, of one sort or another — backed by the United States and its European partners — and allowed to do whatever they wanted.

They were taught how to torture [by the US], they were taught how to kill, and they carried on doing it until the changes began. And the changes began for social and economic reasons, it should be pointed out.

The changes began when the people in Venezuela — who were the first — said enough! Enough of International Monetary Fund regulations, enough of World Bank rules. We don't like neoliberalism, we don't like the way our oligarchs are running our country, we don't want to live in a world where everything is privatised, where there is no public sector — that is what started it off.

More here.

“Sweet Home Alabama” — Musical Tesla Coils

From the description at YouTube:

These are two gigantic solid state musical Tesla Coils. A Tesla Coil is a special type of transformer invented by Nikola Tesla that is able to generating extremely large voltages using a phenomenon known as electrical resonance. Each coil in this video is capable of generating a 13 foot spark. This equates to about 500,000 volts of electricity.

The primary drive system for the coils consists of high power semiconductors arranged into an H-Bridge switching configuration. During a spark event, the coil is pulsed on for a few hundred millionths of a second. During this short time, thousands of amps circulate within the primary tank circuit and the energy is coupled into the secondary resonator through magnetism.

So what appears to be a continuous burst of sparks is actually a specific number of sparks generated per second. By modulating the number of sparks that emit from the coil each second, different tones can be produced by the coils.

These coils were constructed by Eric Goodchild and Steven Caton.

Antibiotics Linked to Weight Gain in Mice

From Scientific American:

Antibiotics-linked-weight-gain-mice_1Bacteria living naturally within the gut provide a gateway to flab, according to a few reports this week. These bacteria may explain how antibiotics fatten farm animals and perhaps people too, and how certain genes predispose organisms to obesity.

In a study published 22 August in Nature, researchers mimicked what farmers have been doing for decades to fatten up their livestock: they fed young mice a steady low dose of antibiotics. The antibiotics altered the composition of bacteria in the guts of the mice and also changed how the bacteria broke down nutrients. The bacteria in treated mice activated more genes that turn carbohydrates into short-chain fatty acids, and they turned on genes related to lipid conversion in the liver. Presumably, these shifts in molecular pathway enable fat build-up. Just as farm animals get fat, the antibiotic-fed mice put on weight. Martin Blaser, a microbiologist at New York University in New York, says that parents might unknowingly be promoting a similar phenomenon when they treat common ailments and ear infections in their children. To back that idea up, he points to another study he authored. The study, published on 21 August, found that a disproportionate number of 11,000 kids in the United Kingdom who were overweight by the time they were 3 years old had taken antibiotics within their first 6 months of life.

More here.

When the Mango Bites Back

From The New York Times:

MangoNEW DELHI — Accepting a just-picked mango from a stranger in Lodi Gardens and then putting it directly into my mouth — skin and all — was stupid. I admit that. But why did my first horrible case of traveler’s diarrhea in India have to result from a mango? I love mangoes, and India’s vast array of deliciously different mango varieties has been one of the great delights of moving here. “You didn’t even wash it?” Dr. Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, asked me later. No. “Even by your standards, that was really stupid,” Dr. Offit said. But what about the local yogurt I had eaten and the probiotic pills I had taken — weren’t my gastrointestinal flora protecting me? Since we all carry 10 times as many bacterial cells as human ones, wasn’t I for all intents and purposes already more Indian than American? “Yogurt probably won’t hurt you, unless it’s contaminated as well,” Dr. Phyllis Kozarsky, an expert on traveler’s health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an interview. But there is no food on the planet that will protect against an onslaught of toxic bacteria, she added.

Despite decades of immunological research and a recent surge of interest in the bacterial garden of the human gut, diarrhea remains the most unpredictable travel-related illness. There is a grim acceptance among Western expatriates and visitors here that they will be felled by it — often on multiple occasions. And there is a host of myths surrounding traveler’s diarrhea, many of which I have cheerfully perpetuated to family and friends. (Well, mostly to my wife.) There are also intriguing mysteries about how natives gain immunity to the food- and waterborne bacteria that prove so toxic to non-natives. I have lived in India for four months, and I have been in gastrointestinal distress five times — roughly once a month. Part of the problem is that Indians are a very hospitable people. Almost everywhere I go, someone offers me food and drink, forcing me to quickly weigh the chance of contamination against the likelihood that a refusal would cause offense.

More here.

Wimbledon Diary

A terrific bit of sports writing by Asad Raza in n + 1:

ImageThe giant stadium screens you see at sports venues are another of the omnipresent, light-emitting diode displays that now accompany us on our walks and escalator rides; that keep us company as we loiter around bus stops, hotel lobbies, subway cars, and at home; that warm our ears as we speak on phones. Although LED-based video, with its hyperreal colors, is pretty new, it uses the same trichromatic system as a tube TV, a Kodachrome snapshot, and Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky’s 1908 color photo of Leo Tolstoy: a red, a green and a blue image are superimposed to create the full spectrum. Unlike all previous color systems, stadium screens designed for sports have a curious genetic modification: their pixels are made up of one red, one blue, and two green LEDs. Why two green ones? Because grass is green.

Three weeks ago, the first Wednesday of Wimbledon, the specialty pixels combined to display the familiar, near-fluorescent hue of ryegrass, expertly clipped and rolled. Until 2001, the tournament’s tennis lawns contained only 70 percent rye; the remaining 30 percent was the gothically named, but less resilient, creeping red fescue. But throughout the ’80s and ’90s, a phalanx of serve-and-volley players left the grass courts worn down to a T-shaped pattern of bald, baseball diamond-like dirt. This created a vicious cycle in which the more worn down the grass became, the faster players had to get to the net and keep the ball from bouncing erratically off the footprint-scalloped dirt. The exile of creeping red fescue was also part of a sport-wide attempt to slow down play on all surfaces in the wake of huge servers—Boris Becker, Goran Ivanisevic, and above all, the metronomical Pete Sampras—along with heavier balls and more sand mixed into hardcourts’ green paint. One way you know someone hasn’t been watching much tennis is if they trot out the old saw about the sport having become a serving contest. Since the switch to 100 percent ryegrass, no player who serves and volleys has won Wimbledon.

More here.

Tuesday Poem

The Illumination of the Kentucky Mountain Craftsman

Alone, he has come to the end
of the handing down of his art,
the time having little use
for such skill as his, his land
seeded with lies and scars.
So much has he suffered
in his flesh that the end of time,
the signs behind fulfilled,
the unsealing of the seals,
seems only to be borne
as he has borne the rest.
On the mountain top, stunning
him like the glance of God,
the lightning struck him. Entering
at the big tendons of his wrists,
it has stayed in his body
so that the insects no longer
bite him, and in the night
he is not afraid anymore.

by Wendell Berry
from Framing, a Handbook
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, NY