4 September 2012 | Draft
Enstoning with Rocks and Rockets
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Annex 3 of Fivefold Clustering of Ways of Being Stoned: Imagination, Promise, Rocks, Memorials, Petrification (2012)
"Stone" is used metaphorically and otherwise in a quite disparate range of contexts. These nevertheless offer an elusive implication of connectivity which merits exploration, as attempted here -- especially given the associated sense of concreteness.
This offers an alternative understanding of the frameworks of belief systems, their articulation, and the problematic relationships between them -- exemplified by the communication processes in any gathering in which multiple themes are evoked and challenged from a variety of perspectives -- and to relatively little avail. Use of "stoned" as a provocative mnemonic device is then arguably appropriate through the distraction it offers, whether through use of drugs by individuals, or collective dependence on oil as a drug.
The argument is developed in the main paper in the light of five ways of clustering "being stoned", each summarized in a separate annex:
Understandings of "stone" and "being stoned" can also be fruitfully considered in the light of the following.
- Authorized as a punishment by authorities:
Stoning (or lapidation), as a form of execution performed by a group throwing stones at the victim, notably as authorized by religious authorities of Islam and Judaism. The practice existed in ancient Greece. No individual among the group can be identified as the one who kills the subject, yet everyone involved plainly bears some degree of moral culpability.
- Authorized as a devotion by authorities: This ritual practice is central to Islam, in relation to the Stoning of the Devil (ramî al-jamarat) on the occasion of the pilgrimage to Mecca, as described by Adil Salahi (The Stoning: a symbol of complete devotion, Arab News, 23 January 2004):
- The stoning is done on three or four days of the pilgrimage. On the first day, i.e. the day of sacrifice, only the grand Jamrah is stoned with seven pebbles, preferably picked at Muzdalifah... On the following two days, all three Jamarahs are stoned with seven little pebbles each.... It is recommended that as we throw every stone we say: Allah-u Akbar, or God is great.
- Stoning of representatives of authority: as currently characteristic of protesting crowds. Examples include the intifada, the Arab Spring protests, and the student revolts in 1968 (notably using paving stones)
- Stoning the other: as a form of protest by anonymous individuals against those isolated and demonized within a community
- Rocket technology: Use of rockets (seemingly related to "rock") and missiles to reduce structures to rubble may well be seen as a high-tech variant of stoning -- on the part of one belief system acting against another. An instance that acquired recent prominence was a threat to bomb a country "back to the Stone Age" unless it joined the fight against al-Qaeda (US "threatened to bomb Pakistan", BBC News, 22 September 2006).
Joseph Campbell notes that: A Persian city once was "enstoned to stone" -- king and queen, soldiers, inhabitants, and all -- because its people refused the call of Allah (The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 2008, p. 53)
The deeply valued relation of some peoples to their land -- fundamental to so many conflicts -- is recognized somewhat differently by various indigenous peoples, such as the Aborigines of Australia. As noted by Anthony Weston (Back to Earth: Tomorrow's Environmentalism, 1994):
The Sioux thought of rocks as ancient spirits, now semi-retired after producing less enstoned beings. Thoreau experienced the same... Paleobiology agrees: some now theorize that life itself (or rather, the less enstoned kind may have begun not in water but in clay. And again, the rocks themselves move, as surely as we and the trees do, only more slowly, or more convulsively (p. 80-1)
The Inca are alleged to have sensed a deep reservoir of spirituality along the Andes mountain range. Mytho-poetic folk legends, and modern fictional explorations, serve to sustain and echo the archetypal insights in many cultures relating to elder "ancestral" races who "withdrew into the stones" -- or to those that may have been "trapped" therein, like Merlin and the proverbial geni in the bottle. Most curiously, one of the most popular and best known Christian hymns has as its opening lines: Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee [more | more].
Foundation stones and keystones:
- Gemstones: These precious stones are acquired and displayed as an embodiment of material and other values. (cf. Shweta Jain, Ready to be Stoned, Hindustan Times, 26 December 2009). In the form of memorial diamonds, these may notably be created using the ashes of a departed loved one. (*** facetting) Having the glory of god: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal (Revelation 21:11)
- Rosetta Stone: An ancient stone bearing a decree in three distinct scripts, which provided a key to the modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs. The Rosetta Stone offers a powerful metaphor for the possibility of other "stones" juxtaposing articulations in very different languages and enabling translation between them (cf. Systemic Crises as Keys to Systemic Remedies: a metaphorical Rosetta Stone for future strategy? 2008; Potential Psychosocial Significance of Monstrous Moonshine: an exceptional form of symmetry as a Rosetta stone for cognitive frameworks, 2007).
As argued by iScientia, for example, it especially represents the "translation" of "silent" symbols into a living language, which is necessary in order to make the whole content of information of these symbols accessible. The relevance could be seen with respect to
articulating the outcome of Earth Summits (for example)
where this could be understood as requiring articulation in a variety of conceptual languages -- and ensuring an translation
between the disciplines and sectors they represent.
- Foundation stone: Typically a cornerstone, it is the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation -- a reference stone with respect to which all other stones are set. The rite of laying a cornerstone is variously held to be of importance in physical (especially sacred) architecture. Metaphorical use of "foundation stone" is common in the articulation of non-material structures -- sets of principles, and the like. Foundation Stone is the name of the rock situated under the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.
Related usage is to be recognized in the consideration of individuals as the "founder", as exemplified by Saint Peter in the light of the so-called "Rock dialogue" during which Jesus is said to have declared: On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:13-20). Christian religious prophecy regarding the end-times envisaged Christ as the cornerstone (cf. John W. Ritenbaugh, Stone as Metaphor, BibleTools). Other biblical references emphasize the incorporation of "living stones" into the constructs of the future (1 Peter 2:5)
- Keystone: In architecture this is the wedge-shaped stone piece at the apex of a masonry vault or arch. It is is the final piece placed during construction and locks all the other stones into position, allowing the arch to bear weight. Through metaphor, wide use is made of the function of a keystone as a means of locking (non-material) structural features into place. Description of the significance of recent detection of the Higgs boson refers to it as the keystone of the Standard Model of particle physics. The "key" individual in an undertaking may be recognized as a "keystone", whether distinctly or in relation to "foundation stone".
- Capstone: This stone forms the top of wall or building; a final touch; a crowning achievement; a culmination. Intriguingly, as a metaphor, there is a confusion in biblical interpretation of Luke 20:17 between cornerstone and capstone (cf. New International Version: The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; New Living Translation: The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone).
- Ritual stones:
Fundamental rituals may be associated with any role of a stone as a foundation stone, as exemplified by the following:
- The Black Stone is the eastern cornerstone of the Kaaba, the ancient stone building toward which Muslims pray, in the center of the Grand Mosque in Mecca. It is revered by Muslims as an Islamic relic, also venerated in pre-Islamic pagan times.
- Stone of Scone (or Stone of Destiny): This has been used for centuries in the coronation of the monarchs of Scotland and later those of the United Kingdom.
- Altar stone: A piece of natural stone containing relics in a cavity and intended to serve as the essential part of an altar for the celebration of Mass in the Latin Church.
It is curious that the various processes of "stoning" can be understood as intimately related to a form of "weaponisation" of symbolic "foundation materials". Cognitive domains may well be delimited and protected by "stonewalling", variously understood as emotional withdrawal, delaying tactics, refusal of cooperation.
The "stones" used as weapons are not merely physical in form but also tend to carry considerable cultural, political and cognitive significance in striking the other -- and this may be their primary function, as vehicles for that significance (as discussed with respect to "stoning the devil"). Appropriate to this point is that gemstones are valued for being "striking" -- achieving an effect on those so struck, as with the physical effects sought by "stoning".
Presumably for religions this "striking" association is a feature of the just war theory which they are so complicit in elaborating. Faith-based governance is increasingly evident as a being primary supporter of conflict between states and peoples -- however much the violence may be formally regretted by religious authorities. Could this be considered a collective instance of what is recognized in urban slang as "getting one's rocks off"?