How is it possible to reconcile a deeper meaning and genuine empathy with a rationalist worldview that has emptied itself of the mystical dimension of life? our world needs more than laws and legal niceties: it has to be built on empathy, a genuine empathy; the capacity to feel the pain of others, to experience an intimate shared humanity, to accept discomfort and sacrifice in the path of a greater cause. In entering an authentic communion with others, we also discover a profound expression of our own dignity. Payam Akhavan
"... With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe. Arundhati Roy
"All humans(children of Adam) are inherent parts of one body, having been created of one essence. And when this life we share wounds one of us, all share the hurt as if it were our own. If we are indifferent about the troubles of others, it may not be appropriate to call us a human being." Saadi
“To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you...To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.”
“Perhaps it's true that things can change in a day. That a few dozen hours can affect the outcome of whole lifetimes. And that when they do, those few dozen hours, like the salvaged remains of a burned house-the charred clock, the singed photograph, the scorched furniture-must be resurrected from the ruins and examined. Preserved. Accounted for. Little events, ordinary things, smashed and reconstituted. Imbued with new meaning. Suddenly they become the bleached bones of a story.” Arundhati Roy
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Banish any thoughts of how you may appear to others, and rest content if you can make the remainder of your life what nature would have it to be. Learn to understand her will, and let nothing else distract you. Up to now, all your wanderings in search of the good life have been unsuccessful; it was not to be found in the casuistries of logic, nor in wealth, celebrity, worldly pleasures, or anything else. Where, then, lies the secret? In doing what man's nature seeks. Human soul is a part of a unity governed by a divine intelligence and can therefore stand, if naked and alone, at least pure and undefiled, amid chaos and futility. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
What becomes of someone who spent his life cultivating alignments between constellations in an extinguished cosmos? And what happens to the larger cultural enterprise without these props to the firmament? Living in a shadow, “homeless in all countries . . . We are just ghosts—or memories,”
“For I regard memory not as a phenomenon preserving one thing and losing another merely by chance, but as a power that deliberately places events in order or wisely omits them. Everything we forget about our own lives was really condemned to oblivion by an inner instinct long ago.” The World of Yesterday
“Everything I do I try to do quietly . . . There is nothing of the so-called heroic in me. I was born a conciliator, and must act according to my nature . . . I can work only from the connective, the explanatory; I cannot be a hammer, nor will I be an anvil.” Stefan Zweig Zweig’s stories are always nesting stories within stories and confessional revelations of deep secrets within secrets. No matter his subject, Zweig always put a great deal of his philosophical outlook into his work, almost as if he was looking into a mirror at his own soul.
Living in a shadow, “homeless in all countries . . . We are just ghosts—or memories,”
Living in a shadow, that irremovable shadow, it hovers over every thought of mine by day and by night; perhaps its dark outline lies on some pages of this book, too. But, after all, shadows themselves are born of light. And only he who has experienced dawn and dusk, war and peace, ascent and decline, only he has truly lived. What becomes of someone who spent his life cultivating alignments between constellations in an extinguished cosmos?
We who have been hunted through the rapids of life, torn from our former roots, always driven to the end and obliged to begin again, victims and yet also the willing servants of unknown mysterious powers, we for whom comfort has become an old legend and security, a childish dream, have felt tension from pole to pole of our being, the terror of something always new in every fibre. Every hour of our years was linked to the fate of the world.
Even from the abyss of horror in which we try to feel our way today, half-blind, our hearts distraught and shattered, I look up again and again to the ancient constellations that shone on my childhood, comforting myself with the inherited confidence that, some day, this relapse will appear only an interval in the eternal rhythm of progress onward and upward. Stefan Zweig, The World of Yesterday
Song of Myself by Walt Whitman "For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you." "In all people I see myself, none more and not one a barleycorn less/and the good or bad I say of myself I say of them." "I am the poet of the Body and I am the poet of the Soul, The pleasures of heaven are with me and the pains of hell are with me,"
In the poem, Whitman emphasizes an all-powerful "I" which serves as narrator who has transcended the conventional boundaries of self. He sets out to expand the boundaries of the self to include the entire world, and ultimately the cosmos. At every level of our being, we are incessantly transferring and exchanging materials, ideas, emotions, affections. The atoms that yesterday composed a living cow or a growing plant today are part of us, as the eternal atoms of the universe continue their nonstop interaction and rearrangement. Throughout the poem, Whitman probes the question of how large the new self can become before it dissipates into contradiction and fragmentation, and each time he seems to reach the limit, he dilates even more:
Song of Myself by Walt Whitman
"...Naked and alone we came into exile. In her dark womb we did not know our mother's face; from the prison of her flesh have we come into the unspeakable and incommunicable prison of this earth.
You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood, ... back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame ... back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time-back home to the escapes of Time and Memory... I believe that we are lost here in America, but I believe we shall be found. And this belief, which mounts now to the catharsis of knowledge and conviction, is for me — and I think for all of us — not only our own hope, but America's everlasting, living dream. Excerpt, You Can't Go Home Again byThomas Wolfe
"September" by Hermann Hesse The garden is in mourning. Cool rain seeps into the flowers. Summertime shudders, quietly awaiting his end. Golden leaf after leaf falls from the tall acacia tree. Summer smiles, astonished and feeble, at his dying dream of a garden. For just a while he tarries beside the roses, yearning for repose. Slowly he closes his weary eyes. Richard Strauss's Four Last Songs suffused with a sense of calm, acceptance, and completeness. The words are deeply felt appreciation of the world before leaving and the purity of the sentiment and the intense beauty of the soaring solo soprano voice for the ways one is drawn into the tremendous arc of heartbreak. The overwhelming effect is a feeling of serene peace. The composer drops all masks and stands before you naked. And you dissolve.
Richard Strauss's Four Last Songs
At sunset by Joseph von Eichendorff
At sunset by Joseph von Eichendorff Through trouble and joy we have walked hand in hand: From our wanderings, let's now rest in this quiet land. The valleys fade away around us, as the sun goes down. Two larks soar upwards dreaming into the fragrant air. Come close, and let them fly. Soon it will be time for sleep. Let's not lose our way in this solitude. O vast, tranquil peace, so deep in the evening's glow! How weary we are of wandering--- Is this perhaps death?
My greatest preoccupation hitherto has been the problem of decadence, and I had reasons for this. “Good and evil” form only a playful subdivision of this problem. If one has trained one's eye to detect the symptoms of decline, one also understands morality,—one understands what lies concealed beneath its holiest names and tables of values...—A profound estrangement, coldness and soberness towards all that belongs to my age, all that was contemporary: and as the highest wish, Zarathustra's eye, an eye which surveys the whole phenomenon—mankind—from an enormous distance,—which looks down upon it. The Case of Wagner / Nietzsche contra Wagner by Friedrich Nietzsche
What is the first and last thing that a philosopher demands of himself? To overcome his age in himself, to become “timeless.”
Mozart - The Magic Flute
Music, for Mozart, is about constructing your own world through melody and harmony, not reflecting the reality of the world outside, and if that’s illusory, then we will love the illusion all the more for how temporary it is and how sweet it was to believe it. The magic, is, of course, music, and its beauty lies neither in cold rationalism nor in hot emotion, but in the combination of passion and form that Mozart so amply demonstrates.
"It was his bequest to mankind, his appeal to the ideals of humanity. His last work ... he compressed the struggle and victory of mankind, using the symbolic means of polyphony; working out, laborious working out in the development section; struggle and triumph" Alfred Einstein. "Mozart His Character, His Work".
Without solitude of some sort there is and can be no maturity. Unless one becomes empty and alone, he cannot give himself in love because he does not possess the deep self which is the only gift worthy of love... Be still. Listen to the stones of the wall. Be silent, they try to speak your name. Listen to the living walls. Who are you? Who are you? Whose silence are you? Who (be quiet) are you (as these stones are quiet). Do not think of what you are still less of what you may one day be. Rather be what you are (but who?) be the unthinkable one you do not know. O be still, while you are still alive, and all things live around you...
"In Silence" by Thomas Merton, from The Strange Islands
my religion is rain my religion is stone my religion reveals itself to me in sweaty epiphanies
every leaf, every river, every animal, your body, every creature trapped in the gears of corporate nightmares, every species made extinct was once your body...
Toumani Diabaté & Ballaké Sissoko
“Musically the piece fluctuates from broad dramatic gestures to childlike innocence... On the whole, the concerto deals with emotional concerns which, like so much music, delves into the inexplicable affairs of the heart. It touched me while composing it; I hope it will have the same effect on others when hearing it.” Marjan Mozetich, Affairs of the Heart
“Furthermore, we have not even to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us, the labyrinth is fully known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path. And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.” “The first step to the knowledge of the wonder and mystery of life is the recognition of the monstrous nature of the earthly human realm as well as its glory.." Joseph Campbell
Beard on the sky, I feel my brain on my hump, I have the breast of a harpy, and the brush constantly above me makes, as it drips, a rich pavement of my face. Michelangelo
Torture is the total perversion of all that is good in human relationships. Helen Bamber : Listen and bear witness as if it were our own.: “Yes, I believe you.” How can words speak the unspeakable? Torture destroys more than bones and dignity. It destroys language. "Torture smashes language: its purpose is to tear language from the voice and words from the truth." John Berger How do we bear witness without participating in this gruesome display? When you are a witness to something, you may be right in the center of the story, or you may be over on the sidelines looking on. Bearing witness doesn't mean that one is objective. We are all drawn to understand situations in light of our own values and experiences. So how does one bear witness to the reality of torture, which is by its very nature hidden, secret, disguised and euphemized? Who am I to stand up and say I think that torture is wrong? Why should anyone listen to me? "I remember; during those years, when we were dreamless old children in a kingdom called Night, we had but one wish left but it was a burning desire: to bear witness...One must write out of one's own experience, out of one's own identity. One must cater to no one; one must remain truthful...We are witnesses in the cruelest and strongest sense of the word. And we cannot stop. We must speak. This is what I am trying to do in my writing." Elie Wiesel
Throughout our lives, there all the disorders created by sickness, accidents, loss of work, loss of friends, all the crises which destroy our agendas and carefully laid plans. These disorders demand a gradual reordering of our lives, and the transition period such a crisis represents is not an easy one to live through. The walls that divide humanity are built on fear of meaninglessness, rejection, and weakness. We are afraid of showing weakness. We are afraid of not succeeding. Deep inside we are afraid of not being recognized. So we pretend we are the best. We hide behind power. We hide behind all sorts of things. Change of one sort or another is the essence of life, so there will always be loneliness and insecurity in the face of change. When we refuse to accept the reality that loneliness and insecurity are a part of life, when we refuse to accept that these are the price of change, we close the door on many possibilities for ourselves. The liberation of the human heart from the tentacles of chaos and loneliness, and from those fears that provoke us to exclude and reject others involves a growth in freedom and an opening up to others. It requires that we no longer hide behind masks or behind walls of fear and prejudice. It means discovering our common humanity. Communion is the to and from of love. It is the trust that bonds us together -- children with their parents, a sick person with their nurse, a child with a teacher, a husband and wife, friends together, people with a common task. It is the trust that comes from the intuitive knowledge that we are safe in the hands of another and we can be open and vulnerable one to another...Trust is continually called to grow and to deepen, or it is wounded and diminishes. It is a trust that the other will not possess or crush me, but rejoices in my gifts and my freedom. Such a trust calls forth trust in myself...The human heart can either opens up and becomes a heart that understands, or hardens and becomes a heart of stone. Jean Vanier - On Becoming Human
Jamatkhana soaring above it all is the great crystalline dome ... from the prayer hall will provide a glowing beacon, symbolizing the spirit of enlightenment that will always be at the heart of the centre’s life filled with the sounds of enrichment, dialogue and warm human rapport.
As a poet from Northern Ireland, Samuel Heaney used his work to reflect upon the "Troubles," the often-violent political struggles that plagued the country during his young adulthood. What is the good of poetry? How can it contribute to society? Is it worth the dedication it demands? Heaney himself described his essays as "testimonies to the fact that poets themselves are finders and keepers, that their vocation is to look after art and life by being discoverers and custodians of the unlooked for."
Jean Vanier - On Becoming Human
The Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada : The Garden of Ideas Beyond their beauty and aesthetic, gardens represent the human impulse to organize, contain, and collect the natural world. Without cultivation a garden would cease to exist. Similarly, without cultivation of the mind and the soul, it is believed a society cannot progress.
Gola Island by Mark M Ryan Out from the bay and make my way to my island home for one last time... Once more I climb the mountainside where as a child I’d run and hide Oh how we dreamed those days away that we might soon grow up and stray Our parent’s kind we’d leave behind and fame and fortune we’d surely find... Now all too soon my day is done I walk alone to Port Na mBhan No parents, friends, no false pretence no whispered prayers no heartfelt tears... And I’ll close my eyes think of childhood days for Gola Island’s where my heart remains
Fryderyk Chopin - Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23 (composed in 1831 during his early years in Vienna: a reflection about his loneliness in the city far away from home. "Father! Mother! Where are you? Corpses? Perhaps some Russian has played tricks—oh wait-wait—But tears—they have not flowed for so long—oh, so long, so long I could not weep—how glad—how wretched—Glad and wretched—If I'm wretched, I can't be glad—and yet it is sweet— . . . Alone! Alone!—There are no words for my misery; how can I bear this feeling-
Lewis Carroll's Alice's adventure down a magical rabbit hole holds the promise of endless possibilities and boundless dreams. Alice's initial reaction after falling down the rabbit-hole is one of extreme loneliness. Her curiosity has led her into a kind of Never-Never Land, over the edge of Reality and into a lonely, very alien world. She is further lost when she cannot establish her identity. Who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great puzzle! In Wonderland, Alice’s only defense against the maddening underground world she encounters is a flight back to childish innocence. Alice’s Looking-Glass adventures, however, constitute the dream of “a more mature psyche...one older, wiser, heroine who has already learned to see herself objectively and to externalize and manage much of the power inherent in her ancient fears". She is deliberate and self-assured, full of childlike wonder at the curiosities around her. Now, despite her timidity, the more mature Alice of the Looking-Glass world “made up her mind to go on: ‘fore I certainly won’t go back’.”
If every event has a reason or cause in the prior state of the world as in Leibniz's The Principle of Sufficient Reason:"..if someone could have a sufficient insight into the inner parts of things, and in addition had remembrance and intelligence enough to consider all the circumstances and take them into account, he would be a prophet and see the future in the present as in a mirror." As for Lewis Carroll's Alice as we become more childlike and become re-aware of our childhood and maturing experience in the reality we all “now” inhabit, he may have been influenced by the thinking of Laplace : “We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.”
Claude Debussy - Clair de Lune (Inspired by a poem by Paul Verlaine)
Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
We define ourselves through language, so language ultimately determines us. If we want to know what it is to experience deeply, to name that experience, we must unearth the tree roots of language buried in the brain. Eimear McBride in her book "A Girl is a Half-formed Thing", exposes a woman place in language as the unnamed female protagonist lives, suffers, grows, erases and is born again allowing us into her darkest thoughts, and while traveling uneasily with her we make our own discoveries along the way.
Gregorio Allegri - Miserere mei, Deus (Choir of New College, Oxford)
Chopin Andante Spianato e Grande Polonaise Brilliante Op.22 The Andante spianato has the character of a nocturne, and at the same time of a lullaby. Spianato means evenly, smooth, without any great agitation or anxiety. Thus interpreters are put in mind of the mood of a harmonious moonlit night, a landscape dominated by the reflecting surface of a lake, or even the singing of sirens on gently rocking waves or the immersion in a state of unwavering meditation.
“In Canada, I’ve learned to appreciate the value of accepting ‘the other’; of finding ways to accommodate differences; and of protecting the physical and ideological space granted to every individual to pursue his or her potential – regardless of ethnic affiliation." “If, as I am, one is fortunate enough to be able to be both here and there, perhaps this can help to build bridges. Inspired by a family heritage of learning, diplomacy and respectful, informed dialogue, I’ve tried to do this in a modest way.” Shira Herzog
Fantasy on themes from Bizet's Carmen by Pablo Sarasate, op 25 (Itzhak Perlman)