Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. Everything has been figured out, except how to live. One always dies too soon or too late. And yet, life is there, finished. The line is drawn, and it must all be added up. You are nothing other than your life. There is only one day left, always starting over. It is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk. We do not know what we want and yet we are responsible for what we are, that is the fact. When you live alone you no longer know what it is to tell a story: the plausible disappears at the same time as the friends. You let events flow by too.Suddenly you see people appear who speak and then go away; you plunge into stories of which you can't make head or tail. You'd make a terrible witness. It is true that people who live in society have learned how to see themselves in mirrors as they appear to their friends. Luckily, I only have a few...

Dr Shaw is a lecturer in Further Education at Edge Hill University, Ormskirk. She also offers philosophy courses at the School of Continuing Education, Lifelong learning, at the University of Liverpool. In 2015, she has completed her Doctorate in philosophy with a focus on existentialism, the equilibrium doctrine and narrative. She has worked as a teacher of English and Comparative literature and Philosophy at The American University in Cairo, Egypt where she also obtained her BA (Hons). Dr Shaw has an MA in Philosophy and Literature from the University of East Anglia where she also taught on a number of humanities subjects. Whilst working in North Wales in Further education, she gained a PGCE aimed at teaching in FE and HE sectors. Dr Shaw moved to Liverpool in 2010 where she now resides.

Interests: Existentialism, Narrative, Comparative Literature, Feminist Thought, Public Speaking, Arab Existentialism, Philosophy of Education, Art, Music, Film and Theatre, Greek Mythology, Existential counsellor and psychotherapist.


Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Now that the ice is melting...the show must go on

Now that the ice is melting life can resume again. Now that is gone, the hard wold begins...

Christmas is finally over, yet we all feel still. Who wouldn't love to be on holiday forever?

New year next and soon will be over. Am I excited? Can't really tell. I know one thing for sure though, I would have liked to have gone home...

I know I am home when I see my parents with open arms waiting for my arrival
I know I am home when I open my eyes to find my mum watching me in my sleep- I thought I was the only one doing it to my husband, Deian, which obviously creeps him out...it must be love...
I know I am home when I can feel the warmth and unbearable heat on my skin
I know I am home when my grandma insists to share a bed and wakes me up at 3 am to talk and catch up!
I certainly know I am home when I smell the beautiful cooking and taste the flavors of food made with love...
and I miss so much waking in my mum's room to suddenly smell her lovely scent and be able to lie down on her massive bed for an endless chat...

No matter how much I stay in UK, some things just never change I guess...

Image from:  http://www.wendmag.com/blog/2009/09/08/melting-ice-people-advocate-for-climate-change-awareness/

Friday, 17 December 2010

2011 SANTA

No one can escape Christmas this year. Shops bombard us with offers. Adverts everywhere "mix & match", 2 for 1, buy 1 get 1 Free! How can I escape every single persons attempt to get hold of the last penny in my pocket. As someone who has only been celebrating Christmas for the past three years, I cannot really say that I like it. I get stressed, overwhelmed, annoyed and irritated and frankly end up buying things I would not have bought on any other normal occasion. Things I may not need at all!! People say Christmas is a time for families to get together- but what if my family are not here? Then surely Chrsitmas defeats its real purpose...
The bad news though is 2010 has been a very very gloomy year in the UK- maybe someone would disagree here, but my goodnesss- not even the sun would shine properly- and even if it did shine, where is the heat!! For the first time in my life, I have fallen sick four times in a row in the same month! Like a camel in ice age- I am definately out of my natural habitate here... which makes me think...Is 2011 going to be any better ? Please God make the cold stop and put some heat in the sun, make the people nicer, make the shops give meanigful free stuff, make the politicians poorer and make everyone else richer. If there is any justice in the world...good things will happen.
Let us hope that Santa finds something to give this year...

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Remaining at the Door

“To learn and to think is to remain at the door. To assume the posture of the lotus is to come home and sit in peace” (Steiner 160)

The idea of reducing oneself to nothingness- remaining at the door- and admitting how little one knows (epistemology), in order to be ready for the process of absorbing knowledge is a controversial matter in moral ethical philosophy. By looking at oneself-  knowing thyself- one will be able, according to Steiner author of   Lessons of the Masters states, to be a “true disciple who  learns to follow himself” (117). Once that is accomplished, the need for a guide emerges to lead one’s quest and journey to mount the hill of knowledge, depart the cave of darkness and get out to the light. Hence, being in company with the guide and creating a bond between the guide and the seeker or the master and the disciple is a must for the success of the educational process. A masterpiece in medieval literature, Dante’s Inferno: Divine Comedy presents such a bond and highlights the disciple's fear during his quest. It is a must for any seeker of knowledge to undergo “humiliation and rejection before the Master’s acceptance” (160). In both works, Lessons of the Master and Dante's Divine Comedy, the disciples were reduced to nothingness as they were consigned to stages of experience in a journey that would prepare them for an ultimate goal, as they must obtain a state of “perfect emptiness towards the extinction of the ego in an infinite zero” (161). In the Divine Comedy, Dante narrates his journey that starts by being lost in the wilderness, his acknowledgment and confessions of being wrong and lost is in itself the first step that Steiner stresses on in his book. The masterpiece of the Medieval Ages reveals Dante’s experience and realization of being at one point in his life “strayed from the True Way into the Dark Woods of Error” striving for the first light he could find, namely the sun that stood for the divine illumination.

“Midway in my life’s journey, I went astray from the straight road and woke to find myself alone in the dark wood. How I came to it, I cannot say, so drugged and loose with sleep has I become when I first wondered there from the True Way. (4)

Starting from this point, Dante was eligible, as Steiner would probably claim, to start his quest which started by meeting his guide, Virgil. Steiner has already predicted the descent of a guide “from his mountain cave to instruct the three (platonic) orders of mankind: common folk, the warrior caste, and the philosophers-poet” (115). Thus, Virgil as a poet and, from Dante’s view, a philosopher, was assigned to be Dante’s master, guide, and instructor, this was apparent in the dialogue between both when they first met, where Dante says: “For you are my true master and first author, the sole maker from whom I drew the breath of that sweet style whose measures have brought me honor” (7). While Virgil replies: “You follow me and I will be your guide and lead you forth through an eternal place” (8). Therefore, both roles, guide and seeker relies on one another to be complete as there is no master without a slave and vice versa. In the process of teaching, the disciple becomes hesitant and reluctant about his ability to pursue his quest, such humbleness is necessary because it helps the disciple to reach the zero state of being, creates a realm of understanding, love, and appreciation from the disciple to his master, or a seeker and his guide. Moreover, Steiner ends his book stressing the importance of such relation when he says: 

“Relationship between master and disciple as sketched: the need to transmit knowledge and skills, and a desire to acquire them, are constants of human condition. Mastery and apprenticeship, instruction and its acquisition must continue as long as societies exist” (179) 

And as Dante shows how reluctant he was as a seeker, he narrates his fear of not being able to continue his quest, as he is a mere human being with limited abilities especially when it comes to unveiling the truth, thus, Dante seems to doubt having faith in humans’ abilities to see the light which is a core idea in theology in general. Dante claims: “I, one man alone, prepared myself to face the double war of the journey and the pity, which memory shall here set down, nor hesitate, nor err. Look at me and look through me—can I be worthy? May I presume to this high quest and not fear my own brashness? You are wise and will grasp what my poor words can but suggest”. (12) A proof of Dante’s doubt is his fainting throughout his journey whenever he is faced with any truth or reality, which is an act of showing the limited ability of human beings in general and the incapability of being faced with the truth. Besides, wondering where does this weakness in human beings come from? A typical ancient philosophical answer will say: from the world! And yet the world becomes the source of all evil that hinders one’s quest by creating obstacles in one’s way to the divine. In Dante’s journey the obstacles were presented by animals who carried different qualities, such as the lion who stood for violence, the fox for cunningness, she-wolf for lust and desire, and leopard for deception and fraud. Therefore, as Dante tried transcending a slope that gets him out of the Woods of Error to the light, the sun, these obstacles stood in his way, and thus he was able to overcome most of them, overcoming all was nearly impossible as mere human beings are always tempted by the world to indulge in error, sin and evilness. The idea of indulgence and awakening is vital in Dante’s work as referred to by Steiner who said that “to awaken in another human being powers, dreams beyond one’s own; to induce in others a love for that which one loves; to make of one’s inward present their future.” (185)

The whole teaching process becomes an awakening of the being to realize being lost. Steiner’s claims that one’s quest must be a never ending one, a lesson that is not over as one should seek more and more. Steiner asks his readers at the end of his book “is there no time for another lesson?” The only joy and happiness brought to human beings is through a never ending journey where seeking something is essential, such as the divine as an ultimate goal for instance. 

Finally, by the end of Dante’s journey, descending to hell and seeing the tortured souls, then ascending to heaven as the final state leaving his guide, Virgil, behind, as readers, we get an understanding of the transcendence of the character and the completion of his quest that brought him situated him back on the right track. Steiner even points out that the guide’s departure, Virgil being left behind, is a normal ending to any master and disciple relation, as the disciple has reached a higher state that calls for one’s solitude and responsibility as well. Steiner claims: “Now I bid you to lose me and find yourselves: and only when all of you have denied me, shall I return to you” (117). Thus, the master’s role ends and now the disciple must continue his path alone. Dante finally says: “My guide and I crossed over and began to mount that little known and lightness road to ascend into the shinning world again”.

Bibliography: See below...      

Friday, 3 December 2010

Human, All Too Human (BBC) - Jean Paul Sartre: Part 1

Thoughts on Ethics

Have you ever wondered in a specific incident if your action was right or wrong?

A fundamental question that comes up daily for various reasons in one's mind is how can actions be ethical

Are we all aware of what is right or wrong
Different books on Ethics present us with two kinds of ethics, normative ethics in which one looks for a principal or a system of morality that can be the basis of all ethics, and virtue ethics which is associated with having a good character. In simple terms all ethics deal with our actions and behavior, yet there are no certain rules for morality, but rather guidelines in which we are free to choose whether to abide by or not. 

Someone may ask What is a good action?
Many people would say that a good action is what brings you satisfaction. Others would say it is an action that has a positive consequence or an effect on another individual or the community in general. But can we really know what is good without having to talk about evil and what is bad? I doubt it...
The social perspective here is that society dictates what is good and what is bad which forms the unspoken rules of judgements which every individual abides by, or at least try to follow to avoid social rejection. 
A thought experiment: if a man was born on an island and have never met any other being in his whole life, will he know what is wrong and what is right?  Again, I doubt it...

So what makes us, human beings, obliged to obey a law or go by a certain rule?
It is said that rules and laws have no value if they are not followed, not acknowledge at all. This means that the man on the island will feel no remorse killing another being for food, taking some other being or animal's shed or possessions. In fact the concept of one's own possession will not exist at all...

There are two kinds of laws in our world, divine law and civil law. The first law is based on a total submission and obedience of a divine being/power that determines what is good and bad. We have an understanding of this kind of law only through sacred scriptures- We shall call this religion.
The second kind of law is man made. Throughout history we have shown our love for rules and laws that govern our every aspect of life. Some people believe that they follow only divine law as an ultimate form of authority which is inert in their psyche, but unfortunately one is bound by society and civil law from birth till death- unless one becomes a hermit and lives in a secluded island.
I have always wondered why the Pharaohs where seen both as kings and Gods. People felt fear but also obligation to present their best offering to secure a better future, a reward, fulfillment of a wish or need.

One answer to the problem of Ethics is to claim that in the case of a divine law, ethics is whatever the divine makes it out to be. Ethics is meaningless otherwise. While on the other hand, Ethics can be what every human being makes it out to be, it does not apply to physical objects. It is man-made and hence can be mistaken.

A strange thought: Many people claim that every person is genuinely aware of his/her own action whether it is right or wrong. For instance, a child tying a stone to a frog knows the consequence of the action. It is a situation in which there is no repair.

School teaches children to act good, do they really? I have wondered how meaningful are certificates and rewards given for acting good... Funny enough Derrida and prophet Mohamed said that one will never know if his/her life was good or bad until the last breath... what a coincidence.

Images by John Picton

Monday, 29 November 2010

The UK Sartre Society's 17th Annual Conference

21st June 1905-15th April 1980

The UK Sartre Society's 17th Annual Conference took place on Friday 24th Sept, 2010 at the Institut Française [1]. The UK Sartre Society has been supported by the Institut Française which holds academic events on a regular basis in both, English and French. The society is organised by Ben O’Donohoe, the University of Sussex, along with Angela Kershaw, the University of Birmingham, as the society’s secretary.

“Sartre in Dialogues” by Alfred Betschart, an independent researcher into Sartre and Adler. Betschart’s paper entitled “Individual Psychology and Existential Psychoanalysis” highlights the influence of psychoanalysts on Sartre and his works. According to Betschart, Sartre’s psychology 
rejects Freud’s notion of the unconsciousness and the development of sexual drives, eros and pathos, which shape one’s life and determines all actions. Unlike Freud, Sartre did not consider one’s early years of development, between the age of 7 and 17, as important. The paper argues, therefore, that Sartre’s psychoanalysis shares more in common with Adler’s psychology than Freuds’ as both, Sartre and Adler, stresses on the importance of understanding human actions rather than claiming that they are consequences of past life events. Adler’s works present what he calls a ‘master plan’ where one’s choices determine his/her present decisions influenced by society and nature. Sartre shares this notion with Adler as it is in line with his Existential psychoanalysis where the Id, Ego, and Super Ego are not in conflict but rather committing life choices, which Adler calls in his works ‘life plan’. Betschart states that Adler’s concept of choices is not carried out by a rational thing but rather by a reflexive intercultural man, he says “man wants to be by God” therefore, he commits “life lies” in the form of every day choices. But Sartre took the idea even further in his notion of bad faith and says “man is God”. For Adler, man strives over superiority, while Sartre’s man claims that “hell is other people” and constantly competes with the other. “Did Adler influence Sartre?” is one of the questions raised by Betschart. In 1912, The Neurotic Character presented a fundamental plan of life, “to insist that human character and actions must be explained teleologically, separate goals coming under the dominance of, and oriented towards, the final purpose. This guiding fiction or purpose, developed by the age of 5 years, was to move feelings of inferiority to those of superiority—under the direction of the individual's unconscious but uniquely created self-ideal—as a constellation of wishful thoughts and imaginings of being and becoming strong and powerful; or, if overcompensation was present, in fantasies of godlike immutable supremacy”[2]. And between 1913 and 1914, Adler wrote The Practice and theory of Psychology where he mentioned an ‘inferiority complex’ as a consequence of man having to commit life lies as part of his life plan.

 “A primary inferiority feeling is said to be rooted in the young child's original experience of weakness, helplessness and dependency. It can then be intensified by comparisons to siblings and adults. A secondary inferiority feeling relates to an adult's experience of being unable to reach an unconscious, fictional final goal of subjective security and success to compensate for the inferiority feelings”.
However, Betschart mentioned that scholars and critics argue that there is no evidence that Sartre have read any of Adler’s works. In 1954, Sartre has read Malraux during the War which influenced his Existential psychoanalysis apparent in his works. The concept of normality has been the highlight of psychology at the time. Adler states that what is normal is what the community determine, while Sartre rejected the bourgeoisie life and deemed it abnormal. Finally, Betschart concluded that in 21st Century today Sartre would have not only been a philosopher or a writer but also a psychologist and sociologist.

“Sartre and Levinas: On Subjectivity”  by Anu Selvaraj from the National University of Singapore. Selvaraj presented her paper as a work in progress. She noted that Sartre have been considered by many to be a selfish philosopher while Levinas a doormat for others, simply due to their conception of the self and its relationship to others. For Sartre, one cares for oneself first and should not interfere with self freedom, while Levinas believes in the care of others before oneself.  Both Sartre and Levinas acknowledge that one is limited by the physical constraints in the world, yet Levinas believes that embracing those limitations lead to freedom. However, living on things we love is not enough to aid the formation of the self, Sartre thereby presents self mastery over the other as a solution, transcending biological needs and encountering others in a struggle unlike Levinas’s view of the world as a gift from the other. In Sartre’s works, the self sees the other but not vice versa, hence the self’s existence is disrupted by the presence of the other. The self becomes the object and the other is the subject. Notions like shame and pride are results of the power struggle and the realisation of the self as a being in itself leading to feeling alienation. Example is the relationship between the author and the reader, each require one another to bring itself into existence. The author requires the reader to create a freedom by a sense of appeal. This mutual recognition brings with it anxiety because there is a possibility of rejection. For the early Sartre, the self rejects the other hence struggles, while for the late Sartre, there is a sense of acceptance. Care and concern is important says Levinas, “responsibility comes before freedom”- subjectivity comes into being. The idea of the self is routed in others and is inescapable. The self is held hostage by the other’s encounter- similar to early Sartre. For example, the door bell encounter is a good example of an unmediated other that shatters one’s ego at the act of opening the door. Hence, the self struggles to accept the other’s world.

“Sartre and Women”: focusing on his relationship with Lena Zorina in 1967.
Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Lena Zorina
Sartre has witnessed his mother’s remarriage at the age of 11. And even though he lived close to her, he only visited on weekends from time to time. This may or may not have influenced, according to critics, his relationships with women and the struggle between the self and the other on a sexual level. In his 1940s war diaries, he talked about obscure and drowned women relations. Sartre expressed that he is bound to desire to write, he says “I write therefore I am”. He wrote that “by writing, I existed, the me who wrote”- he believed in living to narrate. Sartre’s women were mostly Jewish- perhaps he thought they have more sensitivity- free spirits, dependant on him financially and very beautiful. Sartre says he navigates himself on the sea of life without going under. He takes pleasure in women’s company, yet he says “passion scares me”. Many psychoanalysts related his lack of passion to his relation with his mother and the inability to make physical contact. Sartre, as the child king, the contingent of women were not enough for him, he couldn’t be satisfied with his female encounters because they were not motherly figures. He took a rather father like figure as they seemed to need him and be financially independent on him. For example, after having a relationship with a younger woman, he adopted her.

In 1962-1967, Sartre started a relationship with Lena Zorina who was a secretary and official interpreter in the USSR in line with communism. Lena said that Sartre saw communism through idealistic rosy glasses. In 1964, he refused a Nobel Prize and she thought he was naive to do so. She was not one of those drowning women Sartre writes about in his works, but rather a Jewish woman surviving under a totalitarian regime. She was very pretty. She had long dark hair, dark eyes and a deep voice- her sense of fashion was similar to that of Madame de Beauvoir [3] who was almost treating Sartre as her “baby” and was allowed to see the real him, he says in his memoirs. Sartre proposed marriage to both Lena Zorina and Madame de Beauvoir . He had a relationship with both women who appeared to be equal to him. Madame de Beauvoir said in one of her letters to Sartre that Lena is the only one worth of him if something happens to her. They had an intellectual relationship that could have been affected by Sartre’s relation with Lena fuelled by jealousy. In one of Sartre’s memoir he admits he is in love. In Moscow, he said she looked after him and he surrendered himself to the other. He repeats he had doubts about her love and fear of abandonment. He learned that he can be alienated. He obliged her not to worry about other women in his life and that his other encounters do not mean that he doesn’t love her- but naturally, promises are made to be broken. Even though Sartre claims that Lena gave him back his old fire, and that it is an authentic love, they have separated, yet he continued paying her a living allowance. Sartre associated Lena’s work as an interpreter as though she communicated with the world on his behalf. Lena refused to be the embodiment of a modern Russia but rather she wanted to be his lover. Sartre said that Lena was his refuge and he needed her to feel himself- unfortunately he said that also to Madame de Beauvoir - some critics say he was torn between child and man.

Finally, in 1973, in Paris, Lena visited Sartre but he hardly communicated due to his ill health. He said he only felt whole with her and Madame de Beauvoir . He enjoyed a sexual relationship with Lena and an existential fusion with de Beauvoir , with Lena he felt “happy, free and content”. After Sartre spent three weeks with Madame de Beauvoir in Spain, Lena broke up with him and he expressed that he will not be going back to the USSR....

[1] Institute Française, 17 Queensberry Palace, London, SW7
[2] Adler, A. (1929). Individual Psychology (rev. edn.).
[3] Sutkus, Antanas. Sartre & Bouvoir.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Reflections of a Day

Life....just a funny thing. One day you are on top of the world, the other you are alone...all by yourself. Does it scare me? perhaps, does it scare you? it should. Who wouldn't be scared of loneliness? Scared of the moment of reflection? Rene Descartes says leave all, leave the world and welcome a life of solitude, a life full of reflection, reject all distractions, embrace yourself. "Turn an inward eye on itself" Emerson says. But can we? Can You? Are we content with solitude? How can one reject what makes us whole? Can we reject love? I've always wondered. Love of the family, the parents, the partner, the son/daughter, or the friend. Once I was in an empty secluded place- call it the countryside if you wish- nature, animals, mountains and hills. All the time in the world to reflect. Time to see everything as they really are. But I was afraid. Sartre says "Hell is other people", do we agree? Are we afraid to see that all our present actions affect our future? Afraid to see that those we call friends will only be there for a short time. How long would it take a person to show his true colors to the other? People are usually surrounded by crowds and yet feel lonely. I have always wondered what many philosophers would say if they lived in our world today. Have we let them down, I wonder... Have we destroyed their works by our misunderstanding, naivety and greed for fame. Destroyed every word and every page. Has Socrates died for nothing? I have lately been hearing talks that refute the every essence of philosophy. He said this and she said that, but who is the judge in this game? What is Philosophy? A question that persists. I wonder if people know how much a word loses its meaning when it is repeatedly talked about and unfortunately misunderstood. Is it a medium of free expression, an ability to argue endlessly, an expression of thought & ideas, or is it the love of wisdom as the books say? In today's world philosophy is a "tool" to crush the other to nothing to prove dominance, to claim fame and to feel superior. The unfortunate person will have to work hard with sweat and extreme effort to prove himself worthy of the other and suddenly, get caught in a vicious circle where he grows his own claws, joins the crowd and find his next victim....

*Image:    John Picton:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/arthurjohnpicton/

Friday, 19 November 2010

Liverpool Biennial International Festival: TOUCHED_Philosophy Meets Art

Today, 19th November 2010, I attended a day conference organised by the Philosophy Department, entitled "TOUCHED: Philosophy Meets Art"which took place in Victoria Gallery & Museum from 9:30 am till 5 pm.
were: Prof Berys Gaut (University of St Andrews); Prof Sue Golding (Greenwich University); Prof Mathew Kieran(University of Leeds); Prof Derek Matravers (Open University); Prof Peter Osborne (Kingston University); Dr Panayiota Vassilopoulou (Liverpool).
An interesting talk was given by Mathew Keiran, University of Leeds, entitled "The Resonances of Art". Kerian started by showing an image by Jane Alexander, "The Butcher Boys" which he saw in an exhibition in 1984 in South Africa. The artist Alexander is mostly referred to as South Africa's most difficult and least definable artist. Keiran expressed that this work of art triggers an emotional repellent, yet with consideration to how the body was idealised by the artist.
Those three mutants, as he called them, may seem threatening to many and to some extent predatory. Seeing this image for the first time, as an objective viewer and hearing Kerian's comments made me wonder whether they are predators or in fact petrified? For those on the other side of the world, those unknown to us and those who do not conform to our physical appearances, we may seem more of predators than the vice verse, perhaps because of our mannerism. Hence, it is rather hasty to jump to a conclusion that we, human beings, have the upper hand in actually deciding the "norms" and universalising the principles of art and beauty. Keiran claimed that experiences of works of art are subjective. There is critical disagreement where we present an impersonal meaning to the work, secondly, we transform our experience with the work, thirdly experience with works can become richer- meaning we take the time to reflect and evaluate, and finally, we revise our judgements. This latter perhaps suggests that works of art are interchangeable as well as our taste & judgement. For instance in David Hume's Standard of Taste, Keiran claims that there is a judgement of nature and colour. An example is Giuseppe Cesari called Cavaliere Aprino's painting "The Betrayal of Christ" painted between 1596-7 which has a narrative representation, in contract for instance to Cavaliere d'Aprino's painting "The taking of Christ" in 1602. The painting on the right has more subtle colours and depth while the one on the right "The Betrayal of Christ" suggests conflict and tension which gives the painting a further artistic dimension beyond color. Kerian explains that these kind of paintings push one towards relativism. He quoted, "human beings are inherently social hence inter & intra group identifies are central to us" (Sherif et al). One tends to value more aesthetic works that conform to ones' appreciation and caring notions, in other words works that relate more to personal experiences where one becomes "passionate" about them. However, Keiran gives an example of a person who has been brought up in North Wales and have been exposed only to a certain kind of music, i.e. Rock. Hence, identifies only with this kind of genre and acts upon that by seeking gigs that play such a genre. By this way, "access" plays a big role in forming our tendencies, taste, preference and sensibility to different works of art. Question then: How much can our previous experience contribute to forming what is or is not art? Kerian points at the danger of limitation if one always relates works of art to one's background, knowledge and experiences. One should maintain an openness to the work itself, Keiran adds. I agree and add onto this- no matter what the author/artist did in the past or while producing the work and regardless of who he/she is. A work of art can be relative, can be universal, it stands alone as it is and should not be judged otherwise...or should it?!




Thursday, 18 November 2010

Osho...Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

Osho...(Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh)
born in 11th December 1931 in India, Chandra Mohan Jain (Hindi: चन्द्र मोहन जैन), and died in 19th January, 1990. (aged 58)

He said, "my effort is to bring man back to his natural self. I will be condemned, I will be criticized. Every religion, every tradition, every morality, every ethical code is going to condemn me. That does not surprise me! I expect it, because what I am saying and doing is changing the very course of human consciousness."

Influenced: Jivan Jagruti Andolan, Neo- Sannyas

Works: Over 600 books, and audios & video discourses.

Osho speaks on virtually every aspect of the development of human consciousness. His talks cover a staggering range – from the meaning of life and death to the struggle of power and politics, from the challenges of love and creativity to the significance of science and education.

He has an uncanny ability to translate ancient teachings into modern day understandings. He speaks on a vast array of spiritual traditions, such as Christianity, Sufism, Hassidism, Zen, Taoism and Buddhism. He also shares stories of the colorful history of mystics from all over the world!

Some of my favourties:

Remember that you are only a watcher.
You are neither the body nor the mind,
but only a mirror reflecting, without any judgment,
a pure reflection of the moon in the lake.

Witnessing is a key word for all meditators.
Witness that you are not the body...
Witness that you are not the mind...
Witness that you are only a witness.

Man is mind...

The word ‘man’ itself comes from the Sanskrit root man, which means mind. If you understand the workings of the mind, you will understand the reality of man and the possibility too. If you understand the inner mechanism of the mind, you will understand the past of man, the present and the future too.

Man in himself is not a being but a passage. In himself man is not a being, because man is continuously a becoming. There is no rest in being a man. Rest is below man or above man.

Below is nature, above is God. Man is just in between – a link, a ladder. You cannot rest on a ladder, you cannot stop on the ladder. The ladder cannot become your abode. Man has to be surpassed, man has to be transcended.

Man is a journey between your two infinities. One is your nature, one infinity; another is your hidden God, the other infinity. And man is just between the two, a ferry boat. Use it, but don’t be confined by it. Use it, but don’t be defined by it. Always remember that you have to go beyond.

That’s exactly what man is: a disease, a constant tension – to be or not to be, to be this or to be that – a constant fight between the soul and the body, the lower and the higher, unconsciousness and consciousness. To understand man as a conflict, to understand man as a constant tension will help immensely, because then you stop clinging to man as such. Rather, on the contrary, you start thinking ’How to go beyond, how to transcend, how to surpass?’

Friedrich Nietzsche is right when he says that man is the only animal who tries to surpass himself, the only animal who can surpass himself. It is the greatest miracle in the world: to surpass oneself. But it has happened. It can happen in you! You are a great promise, a project, an adventure. But don’t start thinking about yourself as if you have arrived. Then you cling somewhere in between, and a part of you will be pulled to one side and the other part to another side – you will be torn apart. And you will remain in anguish, and your existence will be nothing but a long on-going nightmare.

The first state of mind we can call ‘pre-mind’. It exists in a very small child – very primitive, animal-like. Hence the beauty of the children, and the innocence, and the grace – because that anxiety which we call man has not yet evolved. The child is at ease. The child is not yet a traveller; he has yet not left his home in search for some other home. The pilgrimage has not started yet. The child is at rest – perfectly at ease and happy to be whatsoever he is. That’s why his eyes have no anxiety, and the child has a certain grace around him.

But this grace is going to be lost. This grace cannot stay forever, because it is unconscious, because it has not been earned, because it is a natural gift, and the child is completely oblivious to it. He cannot hold onto it. How can you hold onto something when you are unconscious of it? It has to be lost. The only way to gain it is to lose it. The child will have to go into corruption, into perversion. The child will have to go into the cunningness of the mind, and then the child will understand that he has lost something – something immensely valuable. But one can know it only when it is lost. There is no other way to know it. Then the search starts.

Something has been lost, something has been forgotten, something was there which is no more there; something is being missed, and one starts searching for it. here is no responsibility, because a child knows nothing of duty, the child knows nothing of values, virtues. The child knows nothing of sainthood, so he is not aware of sin either. He exists before the diversion, he exists before those two paths of sin and sainthood diverge, separate and go apart. He is in a kind of primitive unity. The child loses his innocence, loses his virginity, loses nature and becomes part of the civilised world – really becomes man.

And yet in anger we become more childish, in love we become more childish. Listen to the dialogue of two lovers, and you will find it very childish. Remember your own memories when you first fell in love: how you behaved, what you said to your beloved or your lover, and you will find childishness. Or remember when somebody provokes you and you become angry – you start doing things which are very illogical, unintelligent, undisciplined, chaotic. You repent for them later on, because later on, when the second layer comes back, the second layer repents for the first layer. When the civilized mind comes back, takes hold again, it repents. It says ‘It was not good of me. It was not good to do what I did.’ You regret...

People said about Osho..

"He is an enlightened master who is working with all possibilities to help humanity overcome a difficult phase in developing consciousness." -The Dalai Lama

"I was inspired by Osho's wisdom when I wrote the song 'How Fragile We All Are'. Reading his books gave me hope for humanity. It is a must for everybody to have a look into his words ....." - Sting, Singer & Performer







Monday, 15 November 2010

The Philosophy of Education: The tragedy of Lecturing in Halls

It has been known that in teaching one cannot see the fruit of a day's work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years...

I think it is fair in today's Society to say that good teachers are costly, but bad teachers cost so much more. The cost of bad teaching is not financial only, but also catastrophic to society in general and individuals in particular. How many times have one questions how a person managed to secure their current job with such poor skills, qualifications and general abilities. It is tragic to see many people holding major important roles who are incapable of switching on a computer, producing a basic document or preparing an interesting speech. Education today unfortunately is getting worse- perhaps not many share my pessimism, however the evidence is there. One method of teaching that certainly allows students to hide into each other and cross their finger not to be detected is teaching in lecture halls. As seen in the image, the seating arrangement not only alienates the student from the tutor by keeping the students as inaccessible as possible from the tutor/lecturer, but also encourages students to avoid a tutor/student relation which is vital for reinforcing their learning process. Besides, student tend to lose the will to listen or learn after 20 minutes from a teacher's monologue, so imagine having the opportunity to hide behind the person infront of you for a quick nap unseen...
Teaching in lectures, no matter how much the lecturer attempts to make it interesting and enjoyable, has this effect on students. It never helps maintain a health attention span. The solution that some lecturers uses often is giving 20 minutes break within the lecture. This may not always be possible specially that at this current age and time, everything has to follow a schedule. Using multimedia like projectors, and powerpoint, is good if one knows how to produce stimulating slides that engages the students as well as get them involved. There is really no point doing so if one is not confident enough- it can become very boring and usually referred to as death by powerpoint which trust me, many lecturers/tutors today use it whether consciously or not.

So unfortunately, most education systems in middle eastern countries rely more on lecturing in halls. There is of course a significant difference from private universities who attempt to keep the number of students enrolling on one course low so that the tutor has a chance to engage with the class, while other universities- I would say this is more common- who rely 99% on lecturing where the tutor enters the class, give a talk, few questions here and there, then leaves without noticing much who is who or getting the chance to know the students capabilities to a great extent. One may argue that exams and other assessments methods will solve this problem, however, it is not usually enough- some students need more encouragement and personalised method of teaching to reach their potential and feel a sense of belonging, hence do their best and excel. Others are happy to continue attending lectures, getting a degree and taking on posts to survive- whether or not they are suitable for the job or have shown enough skill, knowledge, and ability to do the tasks or job- that will remain a never ending question....


Sunday, 7 November 2010

Lose yourself in love...


is the emotion of strong affection and personal attachment...
is not about oneself, it is about the other. The way they talk, smile, walk, and go about in life...
is loving those who deserve it.
is the discovery of ourselves in others, and the delight in the recognition...

Love the other as you would like to be loved yourself... Better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all...

I have always wondered how a mix of emotions can be called love... What makes "love" so important to us? Why is it important? Why are those who never find it, are in such distress? Can love be right in front of our eyes and we can't see you? Can love be easily found? Many philosophers have talked about love as either an emotion that makes us weak, faint, or that which makes us stronger...whichever way we see it, love is a necessary state that we value enough to spend all our lives looking for it. Whether we admit it or not, it seems that life has taught us that love does not mean gazing at each other but looking outward together in the same direction...People say that a woman has to be with a bad man to appreciate the good one, maybe that is true, but may not always be the case. A good heart finds its way, it is capable of sensing another good heart. One that believes that love has to be made, it does not create itself, it needs to be made, remade, and made new all the time. Unfortunately, it is true that love can be made in years and destroyed in minutes...

Saturday, 6 November 2010

The Beauty of Rumi

Thoughts by Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī (Persian: جلال‌الدین محمد رومی), and popularly known as Mowlānā (Persian: مولانا) muslim poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic.

The drum of the realization of the promise is beating, we are sweeping the road to the sky. Your joy is here today, what remains for tomorrow?

The armies of the day have chased the army of the night.
Heaven and earth are filled with purity and light.
Oh! joy for he who has escaped from this world of perfumes and color!
For beyond these colors and these perfumes, these are other colors in the heart and the soul.
Oh! joy for this soul and this heart who have escaped the earth of water and clay,
Although this water and this clay contain the hearth of the philosophical stone.

We are as the flute
, and the music in us is from thee;
we are as the mountain and the echo in us is from thee.

We are as pieces of chess engaged in victory and defeat:
our victory and defeat is from thee, O thou whose qualities are comely!

Who are we,
O Thou soul of our souls, that we should remain in being beside thee?

We and our existences are really non-existence;
thou art the absolute Being which manifests the perishable.

We all are lions, but lions on a banner:
because of the wind they are rushing onward from moment to moment.

Their onward rush is visible, and the wind is unseen:
may that which is unseen not fail from us!

Our wind whereby we are moved and our being are of thy gift; our whole existence is from thy bringing into being.

From Masnavi Book I, 599-607



Thursday, 4 November 2010

Philosophy in the City festival & Bluecoat’ Chapter & Verse literature festival

The Celebration of a Troubled Genius: John Lennon (1940 –1980)

Maybe I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one... those were the worlds of John Lennon, one of the most talked about founding member of The Beatles who made a name for himself by writing timeless lyrics that touched everyone in the past, in our present time and will continue to influence many more in the future. The song-writing partnership formed by Lennon and Paul McCartney was one of the most successful partnerships of the 20th century.

On the 16th of October, 2010, in the Bluecoat, many people met to celebrate the lyrics and music of John Lennon. The event was part of the collaboration between the Philosophy in the City festival and the Bluecoat’s Chapter and Verse literature festival. This was a great opportunity to reconcile literature, philosophy, and music as disciplines that strive on each other to flourish.

John Lennon, according to the four contributors who were forming the panel to discuss his song writing and music with members of the public, was seen by many critics as a troubled soul. He lived a life surrounded by many yet felt alienated. His music presented a deep look into one’s consciousness, one’s relation to others, and one’s stand in society. Born and raised in Liverpool, his love for music started at a very early age. He formed his first band the Skiffle Craze as a teenager, later on the The Quarrymen, evolving into The Beatles in 1960. According to critics and biographers, Lennon had a rebellious nature and acerbic wit in his music, his writing, his drawings, on film, and in interviews, that were very controversial. But where did John Lennon stand in society? He was famous, loved as a member of The Beatles who took UK by storm. A time of The Beatlemania, and yet he felt lonely, and in capable of living a happy life which led him to drugs. The panel mentioned that, according to biographer Ian MacDonald, Lennon's experience with LSD brought him "close to erasing his identity". The use of such a drug profoundly affected his songwriting, as a product of his self-examination, and in the "hallucinatory imagery" he captured in his lyrics. For example in his song, Strawberry Fields Forever", Lennon sang "'Strawberry fields...Nothing is real.' Those simple phrases had a powerful effect sharing a rhythm and a rhyme. Hence, the image and the ethos are fused in meaning for the duration of the song. Even as The Beatles disintegrated in 1970, Lennon launched a solo career including his albums John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Imagine, and iconic songs such as "Give Peace a Chance" and "Imagine" which became title track anthems for anti-war movements, yet some of the lyrics offended religious groups. Lennon's explanation says the panel of contributors to the public, was, "If you can imagine a world at peace, with no denominations of religion—not without religion, but without this 'my God is bigger than your God' thing—then it can be true." Moreover, the contributors discussed how through Lennon’s work as a peace activist, his lyrics touched all generations as if he sang what everyone else, including himself, was feeling at the time in response of global events, such as his views on Vietnam War which were very criticised. Using his lyrics as a tool to address the world, he revealed his deepest fears of the future, anxieties and troubles. He addressed everyday man and woman, of all ages and said “maybe someday you’ll join us and the world will be as one.” His lyrics had such an impact that other song writers started to realise that music is about the people, the events, the worries and the troubles that life brings.

Listening to the songs of Lennon in the Bluecoat again was a revival and a reminder of how words that touch our deepest sense of humanity are valued and should be treasured forever. What Lennon felt through the good times and hard times were beautifully conveyed in his songs and thankfully he caused such a revolution in song-writing and music genres to the extent that thankfully other musicians took notice which means today that he will no longer be the only one...Members of the public showed their appreciation of the event by taking part in the discussion noting that if Lennon was alive today, he will have so much more to say about the dramatic changes and divisions in our society, the ongoing invasion, where one feels alienated, unnoticed and merely attempting to survive on a daily basis a survival of the fittest scenario. Lennon says, “My role in society, or any artist's or poet's role, is to try and express what we all feel. Not to tell people how to feel, not as a preacher, not as a leader, but as a reflection of us all”.