Thoughts in Perspective

Monday, May 31, 2010

Măgura sculpture park

În Buzău County, Romania, EU, near Ciolanu Monastery, the Măgura sculpture park was organized from 1970 to 1986. Here, U.A.P. (Artists Union) and U.T.C. (Young Communists Union) managed to make a productive and creative environment. The yearly camps held in August and September were not united by a main theme, and surprisingly, the communist rule did not intervene with the artists choices.

Many young artists found it difficult to enter the art market without some experience to push them forward, also, important state commissions could not be possible without participation to these kind of camps. There is no coincidence why this camp and a series of others from all over Romania started in the early 70s. Romania enjoyed an open society in that period, at least for a communist state. In 1968 Ceausescu opposed the invasion of Czechoslovakia and doing so it opposed the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact allies, good relations with the US helped.

This camp was, and i could say, still is the largest in Europe, comprising more than 250 works of art, many of them true masterpieces. From a stylistic perspective it continues the developments started by Brâncuși.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Thoughts on religion and man

I like to think that people who take religion serious tend to reject the rituals that for so long shadowed the inner teachings of the different faiths. I am not saying that all rituals are worthless, i am addressing the issue of people not reaching the core of their religion. For example, Romanian Orthodox Christians tend to pile up dozens of rituals that come from pagan traditions and have nothing to do with the message of Christ. This situation is not restricted to Romanians, it applies to all humans of all faiths.

The problem of grasping the idea of a supreme entity and of a system of the universe that is far beyond our every day life is that many uneducated people try to make foolish and repetitive actions in the hope of attracting the grace of God. Few really want to evolve and i think this is why humanity is in a downward spiral.

I am a religious person in the modern sense of the word, I try to learn from all of the sacred texts, because in essence, all of them teach us the same things. Goodness, the search for knowledge and truth, the love of humankind and of the Universe and to respect the basic principles of life. These are the things that mater, the things we must keep with us all the time.

Our present world is dominated by science, the pursue of knowledge, we must not forget that our mind must go hand in hand with our spirit. The way we perceive religion needs to change to accommodate our present level of development. We no longer believe in supernatural forces, instead we try to understand every aspect of this world. Taking life into our own hands is a must if we want to survive as a species, now we have the possibility to extinct ourselves to say so, no supernatural being will save us from our own stupidity.

In other words, the real religion of this millennium will be the search for God based on the understanding of God and incorporating Him in our conscience. Also, we must redefine what we are, based on what we did and what we want to do as a species. Human history is stained with blood as our aggressive nature many times is pushed in front and with our minds blinded with hate we kill and destroy until nothing is left. This is not the way and it seams that all the prophets, saints, and thinkers who addressed issues that make our species disgusting never achieved their mission. But i have hope that things will change.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Hiroshima and Nagasaki (The Real Holocaust)

The world witnessed awful times during World War II, all those involved had nothing to win, only managed to lose their humanity. I chose the title ”The Real Holocaust” because the United States, and its Allies, chose to kill tens of thousands of innocent civilians in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And unlike the Nazi leaders, the American leaders never really payed for what they did.

I present to you the story of Hiroshi Sasamura.

”By March of 1945 the war at home was becoming more intense. From the windows of our elementary school building in Hiroshima I could see groups of black fighter planes flying off toward Kure, just like flocks of birds. I felt the day of the decisive battle on our homeland drawing closer. I suspected that I would soon be drafted and sent off to war.

For protection from firebombs*, we were ordered to remove the ceiling boards above the corridor in the schoolhouse. Though I hated to destroy that grand old building, two or three male teachers and myself tore the boards off one by one. While we were at this task, one of the teachers received a telephone call informing him that he had received a draft paper* and should return home immediately. He left us looking grim, not even bothering to wash his dirty face. The next day another teacher received a draft paper and returned to his hometown as well.
Thus, the violent winds of war were now sweeping through the schools.

In early April we began to prepare for mass evacuations of the children to the countryside. Pupils from the third to sixth grades were divided up according to their neighborhoods, with one teacher for every twenty pupils. These groups then formed four larger groups that departed from the school on April 15 and 17, each heading for one of four temples. During those two days we held a final ceremony for the departing pupils. A representative of the pupils gave a little speech in front of his schoolmates. Then the first and second graders lined up along the road in front of the school entrance to wave to the older children as they took leave of school and family, heading for temples and schools in the unfamiliar countryside.

Life at the temples was extremely difficult. Food was in short supply - not even the children could eat their fill. Moreover, all soon became flea-infested, and the girls' hair filled with lice.
After about a month of this life, one child, unable to endure the pain of separation from his parents, stole off at night and began walking toward Hiroshima. When his absence was discovered a great furor arose at the temple, and they immediately telephoned the school. After several hours' search we finally found the child. I told him, "If you want to see your parents that badly you may stay with them one night. But the next day you must return to the temple because Hiroshima will definitely be bombed soon." The following day I delivered him back to the temple.

Summer came, but we had no holiday from school. The first and second-graders continued to come to school, as did third graders and up who could not be evacuated. These latter were those who had to see their doctor frequently, bed-wetters, and any other children ill-suited for community life.

August 6th arrived. The presence of enemy planes in the sky the preceding night had triggered a state of alert, but the yellow air-raid warning was lifted at around 7:30 a.m., letting us know the planes were gone. Parents had been told to keep their children at home during such a warning, but to send them to school as usual when it was lifted.

Because the principal was busy with some other obligation, I, as head teacher, assembled the other teachers for the morning meeting to discuss the day's activities. At 8:05, as time was running out, I put off the remaining items on the agenda for later and closed the meeting. I then rang the bell hanging under the eaves outside the window to announce the children's morning assembly. We teachers walked out of the staff room together and headed for the playground, rounding up along the way any children we found in the building and schoolyard. At the time, in order to increase food supplies, the central part of the playground had been turned into a sweet potato garden. Tending this garden was one of the children's duties. The only open area remaining for assembly, therefore, was the space between the sweet potato garden and the school house. One hundred twenty first and second graders and more than twenty children from the upper grades gathered at this spot, and I stepped up to the platform to begin telling a story.

The sky was cloudless and clear. The sun beat down, and the day promised to be hot. I felt sorry for the pupils standing under the blazing sun and impulsively announced, "Boys go stand under the willow to the right; girls, under the willow to the left."
The children happily complied, and I began the story. In the middle of the story, I noticed two or three sixth-grade boys standing in the back under the willow tree's shade staring up at the sky. In retrospect, I think these boys had either seen the A-bomb plane itself or heard the droning roar. Because the warning had been lifted, I had no reason to think planes were flying over Hiroshima. I was not paying attention to the sky; I was loudly telling my story. I was about to admonish them, as usual, to pay attention, but was abruptly cut short: "Be sure you -"

Suddenly a white light shot across the clear sky like a powerful ribbon-flash of magnesium. I may have heard a whooshing sound. "We've been bombed!" I thought instinctively, and shouted "Take shelter!"

This order meant that everyone should immediately let go of anything in their hands and crouch low on the ground. This was because standing maximized the possibility of injury from the blast. We knew we might be bombed one day, and had all been trained to adopt this posture automatically. The children standing in the shade probably dropped into this position but I never knew, as I had to drop from the platform onto the ground immediately. Just when I stepped back to climb backwards down the steps, the two-story wooden schoolhouse exploded, raining a shower of debris atop the children and myself

I have no idea how much time passed. When I regained consciousness I found I had been thrown three or four meters from the platform, and rubble from the school building piled over my body. I heard other objects continuing to fall from above. The sky, so clear earlier, was completely black. The air was so clogged with dust that I could hardly see. I was lying on my stomach. "I'm not dead, I'm alive," was my first thought.
Probably no one knows the joy of life so well as he who has stood on the threshold of death. Then I noticed a girl lying under my left armpit. I wondered if a sixth grader and I had been thrown together, but a closer look revealed that she was one of the teachers. I asked her, "If you can move, crawl out, find out what has happened to the children, and report back to me." Though it was not reasonable to expect that my two arms were strong enough to move the schoolhouse collapsed atop me, I nevertheless tried to prop myself up. After a while the woman teacher, whose name was Kitamura, managed to extricate herself. But she did not return and I learned nothing of the situation outside the rubble.

As I lay face down I gradually felt something lukewarm dripping from my scalp to my forehead. Realizing I had incurred a head wound I became afraid that I would lose consciousness. "I must free myself while I still have my senses!" I thought. (Later on I seemed to remember a long nail sticking into my back at this point, but I don't know how or when I got it out and I don't remember any pain.) I was then able to work my way through the debris and crawl out to the playground.

All was dark as dusk, and I saw that most of the children had somehow congregated at the sweet potato garden, where they were standing and crying. Being under the willow at the time of the blast had given them some protection from the falling building, and most were not badly injured. They were huddled together, crying, "Mother! Mother! Teacher!" Just a short time ago they had been lined up next to their closest friends. Now they could not even recognize each other in the darkness and through the white dust covering their faces and hair. Walking over, I addressed the group loudly, "This is your teacher. I am with you so don't be afraid. Now stop crying and sit down! And don't move until I tell you to!" My voice, neither clearly angry nor clearly authoritative, nevertheless got the children to sit. I encircled the group with the rope that had been stretched around the sweet potato garden, then ran off for help.

Realizing I must first go to the office of the Civilian Guard*, I passed through the school gate and ran out into the neighborhood. I thought the school had suffered a direct attack, and wanted help freeing the others from the debris right away. I ran 50 meters, then 100 - no matter how far I went it was still dark. Running down the streetcar avenue I noticed all the houses tilting this way and that. I saw no one, but maybe this was because my mind was so frenzied and agitated. I remember seeing only an old horse, lying dead on its side.

When I finally reached the office, only one member was in sight. He lay completely still on the road, and I assumed he had been thrown by the force of the blast from the observation deck on the roof. No help was available here, so I turned to hurry back to the school. Just at that moment I saw a fire starting northeast of me, a large red flame climbing up through the dusk. Then it died down, and something like white smoke rose up in its place. The next instant, that white smoke burst into an even larger flame. That fire was terrifying. I was sixteen years old at the time of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, and I remembered my teacher telling me that more people died in the ensuing fires than from the earthquake itself. Fearing that Hiroshima would go up in flames, I hastened back to the school.

Upon returning I found the pupils waiting exactly as I had left them, their expressions still dazed. I remember telling them, "All right, everyone stand up. Fires are heading this way, so we're moving over there." I led them to the southwest corner of the playground, the farthest spot from the school building. Then I told them, "If your parents come, you can leave with them."
Next, I set about trying to free the people trapped under the building. I found one teacher who had been struck on the back and was unable to move; another was lying injured on the ground. Along with those teachers who still retained their strength, I searched through the debris and helped free the trapped children. I considered it my responsibility to see that not one child died or suffered injury, so it was with deep sadness that I discovered two of the little girls I picked up from the debris had already died. They both had tiny name badges sewn by their mothers onto the fronts of their blouses. I called out their names repeatedly as I held them in my arms and shook them, but no answer came. One child had lost both ears, and her white summer shirt was soaked red with blood. I felt so sorry. I spread a straw mat under the shade of a tree, and gently laid her on it.

When all the children seemed to have been extricated from the building, I allowed myself a short rest. I had absolutely no sense of time at this point. I was wearing a bandage around my head like a headband. When I returned from the Civilian Guard wiping the blood from my forehead with my arm, a woman teacher noticed my bleeding and wrapped a cloth around my head. But when I had some time to take stock, I saw that the wound was on the top of my head, completely outside the wrapped area. In addition, I had been wearing canvas shoes that morning as I stood on the platform. Now I saw that one of them was gone. I had been running around barefoot and had not even realized it. Later on, this made me realize how intensely absorbed we had been in our duties.

Meanwhile, the fires were gradually spreading, and hot, black smoke poured onto the playground. Along with the smoke appeared crowds of people, injured and wounded from the blast, seeking refuge at the playground. The preset emergency plan called for doctors and the neighborhood chief to gather at the school to provide relief. As nearly everything was destroyed, there was no true relief we could offer. The best we could do was to have the injured lie down in a corner of the playground and give them water.

The children were taken to the southwest corner of the field farthest from the schoolhouse. There we believed they would be safe from fire; a woodpile gathered from dismantled buildings was also in this area. It had been carried up to the school for firewood in preparing school lunches. Suddenly that pile of wood caught fire. I ran to get water from the fire-prevention water cistern and extinguish the fire before it got out of hand. I was utterly mystified that this wood, nowhere near any of the fires, could have spontaneously ignited like that.

One after another, parents and other family members appeared to collect their children. In the end I was left with about ten who had no place to go because their parents were dead and their houses burned down. We decided to lay a straw mat in a corner of the schoolyard. We had the children sit down, draped some mosquito netting* over them, and took care of them all night. One of the girls had a badly swollen head wound, round like a pomegranate. In a weak voice she said, "Teacher, I have to go to the bathroom." The thought that she would have to die tonight without seeing her parents made my chest hurt. "Go where you are, and I'll get you all cleaned up later," I told her.

Darkness fell, and the night of the day of the atomic bombing was upon us. The remaining pupils and two teachers spent the next few days huddled in one corner of the playground.

Forty-one years have passed. This year too, August sixth came and went. A woman who saw my article and picture in the A-bomb commemoration issue of the Hiroshima Naka-ku Ward Newsletter happened to meet me one day in town. "It's you, that teacher!" she said, grasping my hand. "I was a sixth grader then. Because you happened to put us under the trees that day, we escaped without serious injury. I saw the airplane that day, you know." She spoke with deep emotion of that day in the past.
She went on to tell me that she had not told her children of her experience. Those words resounded in my heart. The town of Hiroshima has been greatly altered to conform to the image of a

"City of Peace." The boulevards are grand, and the trees have grown stately and beautiful. Yet it grieves me to think that there are still people scattered throughout the city who live in secret fear of what the atomic bomb may have done to their bodies, who tell no one of their experience for fear it will hurt their daughters' chances for marriage.”


I know that the title and what i wrote in the introduction is hard to grasp by the Jews who ”coined” the term Holocaust and by The Americans because i accused them of genocide, but this is the reality, the truth. We must realize that this is history and revenge is not an option, the only option is peace and evolution for all mankind.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Islamic Art and Culture in History (Video)

After seeing this video I must admit I wanted to take the plane to Spain. Sure I learned about the Islamic rule in Al-Andalus, sure I have seen dozens of photos from the places presented here, but this is not enough. I present to you a great documentary about an important moment in western and eastern history, a period that influenced Europe maybe more than we think. It could also be an example of how man could prosper if he sets aside the intolerance that darkens our mind.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Qur'an

I would like to start the "Religion" category with a short introduction about the Qur'an.  As you may know, this is the central religious text of Islam, the final revelation of God and divine guidance for mankind. The key phrase is "sent down by God", for God speaks directly in the Qur'an.

Historians agree that the first revelation dates back to 610 CE, when Muhammad was engaged in a spiritual retreat in a cave outside Mecca and the Archangel Gabriel approached him. So the first words of the Qur'an were heard:

"Read: In the name of your Lord Who created,
Created man from clots.
Read: And your Lord is The Most Honorable,
Who taught by the pen..
He thought man what he did not know."
(96: 1-5 / Dr. Ghali translation)

Qur'anic revelations are believed to have come to the Prophet over a period of twenty-three years. The scriptures are divided into 114 suras and each verse is known in Arabic as "aya". The material is not in a chronological or thematic order but as it is to be read by the believers (and also by how big the Suras are, the second being the longest).

The key to Islamic art could lie in the Qur'an. Hossein Nasr thinks that the verses influenced artistic thought, some of them being poetic while others direct in this way, leading to the floral and geometric motifs.

Before Abu Bakr, the first caliph, decided to write down and organize the scriptures, these were preserved by oral tradition. Also, a great part of the Qur'an was written down during the lifetime of Muhammad, but the content was not united in a single corpus. Abu Bakr managed to preserve the teachings which after the battle of Yamama were in danger of being lost.

The Qur'an contains three types of messages for humans. The first is the doctrinal message which includes moral and judiciary recommendations which is at the base of the Holy Muslim Law, the Shari'ah. It also contains metaphysical elements, a cosmology about the structure of the universe, and subjects like eschatology and the Afterlife.

In the second place, at least on the surface, the Qur'an is a vast history book, a commentary about the terrestrial existence of man. And last, it can be described as possessing "divine magic" (do not take it literally). The words from God have a special power just like the cross for the Christians.

We can see an emphasis on praying for protection against evil and the Qur'an helps man overcome difficulty with patience.

Friday, May 7, 2010

From the Middle East: Azam Ali

From the Middle East” will be a series of articles addressing the music produced by artists from Egypt, To Iran, from Turkey to Yemen. As i am an European, my taste in music is shaped by western standards, this is the case with most westerners i think, so i suggest keeping an open mind to all that is ”different”. We will not judge things as good or bad here, we must consider music as a universal language.

The year was 1970, nine years before the Iranian Revolution. The country enjoyed then a time of cultural openness from music to fashion. Azam Ali was born in Tehran, but her childhood will be shaped more by India then her own culture, having left with her family for Panchgani at the age of four. For eleven years she will study here with the accent being on arts and spirituality.

The American dream, the beginning of a new life in a country that's the spearhead of humanity motivated her and her mother to move in 1985. Here she will study with master Manoocher Sadeghi a series of instruments, especially the santour. This did not satisfy her searches so she decided to concentrate more on her vocal qualities.

She sings in Vas, a duet with percussionist Greg Ellis and with Carmen Rizzo and Ramin Torkian in the project Niyaz which in Persian and Urdu means yearning. She also released two solo albums, Portals of Grace (2002) and Elysium of the Brave (2006).

Portals of Grace is a complicated album, in the sense of beautiful, not hard to grasp. It combines Sephardic and Arabic music with medieval songs more from the region of France. It's the kind of album you would most likely want to listen in a warm summer night while daydreaming. The songs pave the road for a spiritual journey. 

Elysium of the Brave on the other hand is in a different ballpark, at least when it comes to the overall sound. Traditional and Arabic elements which abound here just as much as in the first album are offered to the listener with a more modern approach through the use of electronic music.




Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Fruit Museum, go figure...

Seriously now, Itsuko Hasegawa is one of the best Japanese modern architects and the one responsible for the great design of the Museum of Fruit from Yamanashi, Japan. The complex was finished in 1995, with the work on the design beginning in 1992. There are three buildings, the Plaza, the Workshop and the Tropical Greenhouse. 

The subject is not the relation human-nature, at least not directly. The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of a museum dedicated to fruits is the respect and the special relationship between us and nature. As we see, the complex is open, it's lightweight, the environment is in a permanent dialogue with the buildings and the visitors, the best example is the Plaza.