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.


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....