Thoughts in Perspective

Saturday, March 31, 2012

RILKE, Rainer Maria - Duino Elegies and the Sonnets to Orpheus

I didn't discover Rilke when I needed him but when I finally started reading his works I knew there was something linking my soul to his through letters, rhymes and meters (metres). The reason I overlooked him on a few occasions was because of my reticence to read translated poetry, something I now overcame. The elegies and the sonnets are the last of his works, both finished around the year 1922. What more can I say, well... or better still, what more must I say? Just read the poems, you don't need me to tell you they are great.  

You can download the book here - A. Poulin Jr. [Provided for educational purposes only]
Or read it online here - A. S. Kline

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Real Sins: 2. Ignorance

My second article in the series entitled "The Real Sins" is something on ignorance. The subject itself is much more profound and complex than one may think at first but I will try to make your experience of reading this a fruitful one. We all know what ignorance is because we are human and there are things we don't know, so how can you no longer be an ignorant? In my case, I first accepted my limits and then I started to expand those limits more and more, there is no shame in acknowledging you don't know something if what you do next is research the thing you didn't know about, evidently, without making an obsession out of it. Another important element is never, and I repeat, never believe things 'just because'. You all remember of learning of a time when some ignorant people believed the world was flat because, obviously, if it was round you would just fall off by walking too far, yes, some people did not know about gravity. This type of thinking was actually not that widespread, scientists, or more exactly, learned men, of the time knew Earth was round, and so were the other planets, but the vast majority of the people did not have this knowledge. Apparently this knowledge was of no use for them.

People sacrificed themselves for breaking veils of ignorance of various types, these veils are not given to us by God or some other higher power, we ourselves impose these boundaries, mostly because of fear and ignorance. Simply research the status of 'scientists' during the Middle Ages and what the Church thought about them. If you are (even slightly) a spiritual person, read the following.

"2. Rise, wake up and look to the sky with the Eyes of your heart, and if not all of you can do this, let there be as many of you who can.
3. For the wickedness of ignorance envelopes the entire Earth and corrupts the Soul, it chains it in the Body and so its rise to the Heavens of Salvation is not permitted." - Corpus Hermeticum
This is from a chapter/book entitled "The Greatest Harm for Man is Not Knowing God" from the Corpus Hermeticum by Hermes Trismegistus (I wrote a small article some time ago about this). It's important to point out the fact that not all can escape ignorance, sad but true, there are people condemned to stagnation or even destruction. This integrates perfectly to what we observe in our reality where some people are incredibly evil and take decisions contrary to logic and goodness (or what we understand through the concept of goodness). I digressed a little by entering a subject in itself too important to be discussed here.

In the Quran and the Bible ignorance is an important issue, even if the words are not the same as in the above fragment from Corpus Hermeticum, the idea is basically the same.

"(17) Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. (18) They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. " 
- Ephesians 4:17-18 (New Testament)

"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him."
- James 1:5 (New Testament)

"/(61). It is those (illustrious ones) who hasten to do all kinds of virtuous deeds, and they are in a virtuous competition with one another in doing them. [62 ...] /(63). The fact is that the hearts of those unbelievers are utterly ignorant and heedless of all this, and apart from this, they have some evil deeds that they habitually commit (which prevent them from seeing and accepting the truth), /(64). Until the time when We seize (them) with the punishment – those of them who have been lost in the pursuit of pleasures. They will then begin to groan for help. /(65). “Stop groaning for help today; you are not to receive any help from Us! /(66). “You know that My Revelations used to be recited to you, but you used to turn on your heels in aversion,[...]"
- Surah 23, The Believers: 61-66

Obviously I didn't even scratch the surface of the concept of ignorance in the Abrahamic religions, at least a couple of hundred pages should be dedicated to this alone in order to comprehend the beauty, so we have to stop here and make a short comment of the three fragments presented above. Accepting God, is in itself a decision against ignorance, but this devotion must be sincere because you must also do it with your heart, not only with your mind, you must do it because you need to, because you know that whatever will be, you want to. Pay attention to verse 66 of Surah 23 and also pay attention to the world around you, soon you will observe that people consciously move away from God and truth.

Not all of my readers are religious or spiritual, I know that, some may see a contradiction in quoting from two holy books in an article attacking ignorance but the truth is that if you put some time into studying these wonderful texts, and if you have the heart to understand them, your mind will be opened.

Sadly, due to my limited knowledge of Oriental philosophy, mainly Hindu and Chinese I am forced to leave this chapter of our discussion for a later time. The following is a short discussion of ignorance as a philosophical and psychological concept.

"There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action"
- Goethe, from Proverbs in Prose, 1819


Ignorance is by definition the lack of knowledge and knowledge as we all know is ever increasing. Either we are talking about the incredible paradox of the 'richest' country on Earth having a shocking illiteracy rate (1) or about some Christians believing that Muslims are aggressive and suicidal, ignorance is maybe the most dangerous of our sins, being rooted in those people's reluctance to search for information and to form a sound (firm) knowledge base of their own.

The eugenic ideas so popular in the last years of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th century are so naive that one is surprised that such stupidity can come out of people with a scientific education. Incomplete research led people to believe that two intelligent individuals will undoubtedly give birth to a child at least as intelligent (this lead to inbreeding in some wealthy families and soon to a massive degeneration of their genes). We now know that genes are much more complex and that these can actually change during our lifetime, either because of natural events  (1, 2) or more recently because or gene therapy. This ignorance led to hundreds of thousands of people being killed and sterilized in the name of a better human race (at origin, not a Nazi idea).

"The fundamental cause of trouble in the world is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubts."
- Bertrand Russell - Mortals and Others: 
American Essays 1931-1935, page 28


Simply put, the one who knows, knows he does not know and the one who does not know, knows he knows... maybe not that simple. Why are the intelligent full of doubts? Well, maybe because as you learn, more and more questions tend to come up, knowledge being like a tree that is perpetually branching out. In antiquity philosophers had an answer for everything, even now this attitude is mainly reserved for philosophers, the idea is that you may have an opinion, but you should always remain open to the possibility that your opinion is wrong because if you are not opened to this possibility you can call yourself stupid without too much difficulty. In science things are not that different (although stating a theory is much more difficult and less subjective), physics relies heavily on theories which have to be proved wrong or right. People can perceive Iran as a threat while in fact being just stupid. As a sidenote, I recommend reading Beyond Good and Evil by Nietzsche for his excellent, objective (maybe) opinions on the less impartial thoughts of philosophers, who in their search for truth don't know what truth is. I also wrote an article about truth here.
Formalized religion is the strongest where sin, slavery, tyranny and ignorance abound. Where men are free, enlightened and at work, they find all the gratification in their work that their souls demand—they cease to hunt outside themselves for something to give them rest. They are at peace with themselves, at peace with man and with God.
- Elbert Hubbard, 'Love, life and work'

What Hubbard says does not contradict what I said about religion in the first segment because one thing is to know religion with your heart and mind and another one is to know religion for the eyes of others. If you are free (and you are created to be free), enlightened (something desired also in the Bible and Quran) and at work (even Jesus and Muhammad at least started with some form of work), then you are at peace with yourself and with God, because then you do what is right to be done. These are nonetheless the opinions of one man and such a fragment can not encompass all his conception on ignorance and religion.

"There is no shame in not knowing. The problem arises when irrational thoughts and attendant behavior fill the vacuum left by ignorance."
- Neil deGrasse Tyson, 'The Sky is not the limit: 
Adventures of an urban astrophysicist'

I greatly admire Neil, the funny part is that he wants to be an example of the atheist, scientific modern man, without knowing that he is maybe closer to God than most priests. I like this quote because he makes a distinction between not knowing as being ignorant; and having irrational thoughts, something different than what ignorance is. In my opinion ignorance is also when one has irrational thoughts.

In conclusion I hope your journey of reading this article was at least as interesting as my work of writing it. If you have not read the first essay (about arrogance) in the series, pleas click here. So, we either understand through ignorance, not knowing God, not knowing 'things' or both, but in the end it's all about the same thing, people who do not open their minds and hearts to the beauty around them and to the truth (understood more as a state of mind and soul).

All the best to you and may God protect you. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Palace of Culture, Iasi, Romania [Architecture]

Iași is a city in north-east Romania close to the border with the Republic of Moldavia. In pop culture it is considered the cultural capital of Romania. Although it has important universities, theaters, libraries and so on, this title is more likely given because Iasi used to be the capital of the Principality of Moldavia before the union with Wallachia and so, this decision was made in order to appease the local citizens.

This Gothic Revival building was inaugurated in 1926 by King Ferdinand of Romania after two decades of construction. The chief architect was Ion D. Berindey and "the team" also comprised Xenopol and Cherchez.

Between 1806 and 1812 construction on the Royal Court of Moldavia was started by Prince Alexandru Moruzi. It featured a Neoclassical architecture. The Royal Court eventually burned down in 1904 and so, in 1906, work on the present day palace was started. A Curtea Domnească (Royal Court) built in 1434 existed in the area although recent studies tend to put this fact under a big question mark.

During the Second World War it housed German troops and then Soviet troops. After the conflict ended till 1955 the building was home for the County Law Court.

The materials used for the construction were all new in spite of the antiquated look but the thing that is really special is a new type of cement created by Henri Coandă (who also discovered the Coandă Effect and invented the jet engine) that perfectly imitates oak, named "beton-bois". For its time and place this building was an engineering marvel, with electric lighting, air ventilation, pneumatic heating and for making it fireproof, Berindey treated the floor with "orniton" and the roof with "eternita" (*).

Currently the palace is the home of four museums and a library. The History Museum has four sections, prehistory, old history, medieval history and modern and contemporary history. The Science and Technology Museum "Stefan Procopiu", the Museum of Art and the Museum of Ethnography of Moldavia are the other three.

The main thing people notice while looking at the facade is the tower. This massive element also functions as the main entrance. There are a total of 298 rooms with a surface area of about 36 000 square meters.

Among the halls there are the Gothic Hall with mosaics representing a medieval bestiarium and the Voievod Hall (Sala Voievozilor) with paintings of Moldavian rulers made by Stefan Dumitrescu and his students.

Here is a 360 virtual tour of part of the palace.

* http://www.palatulculturii.ro
For more info just search Google and go to a library. / Article originally published on factoidz.

Main photo by Maria Draper







Friday, March 23, 2012

Hassan Rana (visual) and Junoon (audio)

Junoon is a Pakistani Sufi-rock band, actually the only such musical project I know about from Pakistan, that achieved world fame. Their success was far from being the criteria on which I selected them, this is just a recognition of their work and creativity, instead it was something like love at first hearing. I don't understand the lyrics but I can see the beauty. The song Dosti (frindship) was written by Kannan Rashid and is from the album Inquilaab (revolution) released in 1996. The band is no longer active.

Hassan Rana studied fine arts at the National Collage of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan where he specialized in printmaking, however, now I will show you a small selection of his photographs. The first thing I sensed in his works was a type of creativity struggling to get out, the works shown here may seem simple, especially the first four which are part of the 'still life' series, but in fact they obscure a series of meanings and emotions. It may very well be the case of the art critic seeing more (or something else) than the artist intended, but after all, this is what art is. The last three are much more creative and could be an interesting road to take, 'Hope' is my favorite.





Landscape from Neelam Valley, Pakistan

Hope
Untitled
Junoon links: official web
Hassan Rana: flicker, facebook, myshutterspace

Sunday, March 18, 2012

On Spirituality

In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. My Muslim readers will find this introductory statement quite familiar, to say the least. I don't label my religious beliefs, I simply am aware of the greatness of God and I try to see the truth in everything, because God is everywhere, starting from the heart and mind and going to the most distant stars and galaxies. I don't search for various "mathematical links" in the Bible, I don't search for miracles, and don't practice my spirituality because of tradition and because of social norms, I just believe.

What I search for are beauty, goodness and in my case, above all, I search for understanding. No matter how clear, obscure or arguable these concepts are, I know what they mean regarding the divine nature of things. I want to understand as much as I can, as much as I am permitted and I want to share with those who want to listen just like others shared with me.

Religion (I'm referring to monotheistic spirituality) is a blessing and a curse at the same time, on one hand it offers people the possibility of getting closer to God, on the other hand, people who can and want to get closer to God, to understand Him, do it regardless of religion. Sadly most people believe they work for God when in fact they serve ignorance. You may not even consider yourself a religious or spiritual person, yet, there comes a time when you discover that you have an innate type of spirituality/illuminated (a word that received some negative connotations) mentality, these people exist, but they are rare. Some examples are the Romanian philosopher Petre Tutea and the physicist Einstein.

People often think that if they are protected from bad events they are protected by God and they are righteous. Prophets, saints, all had times of hardship and faced temptation, how can one be so arrogant as to consider himself more righteous than them? The more you know evil, the more you understand the right path, this of course if you want to see the right path. God gives hardship to those who have the power to overcome it and turn their heads towards Him.

My belief in God is not blind because in order to believe, one must understand and He gives us the power to understand if we truly have this intention.
Muhammad (pbuh) said: "He who seeks a path to gain knowledge therein, God will make easy for him a path to Paradise."
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." - Matthew 7:7
"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God,who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." - James 1:5

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Learn Other Languages

1. Introduction.

This is the introduction, if you already know a few things about language families, skip to the second part. I usually write in English, even most of my personal notes are taken in this language and sometimes I find myself thinking in English. Nevertheless my native language is Romanian, spoken by no more than 25 million people around the world. In school I also studied French but because it never managed to conquer my complete indifference towards it, I now limit my vocabulary to oui and non, oh, and also je t'aime. Having a good understanding of Latin (Vulgar Latin is actually the foundation of Romance languages) will be very useful in learning the languages that formed from it, or were influenced by it, like Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian.

On the other hand, English, German, Dutch, Afrikaans, and northern European languages all share a Germanic background. Then we have Slavic languages like Russian, Polish, Serbian, Croatian, Bulgarian (the Southern Slavic are much the same). Going further in history these all have an Indo-European ancestor from which Persian also originated. Chinese, Japanese, Korean, which although developed in close proximity and have Chinese for inspiration are quite different from one another. Hindi is also Indo-European in origin although this doesn't mean a French man or a Russian woman can understand or find Hindi easy, we are talking about a tree where languages branched off in different times and evolved on their own. I am also going to mention Semitic and then I will stop with this introduction (I haven't even gotten into ancient languages and native American and Australian). Arabic and Hebrew are like brothers, while the first thrived and now has hundreds of millions of speakers, the second needed political intervention (Zionist movement) to be revived.

Not all languages are part of the 'tree', some don't seem to have any predecessors, like Sumerian.


2. So now what?

I don't have any special aptitude (and you don't necessarily have to) regarding learning a new language, I am studying Persian for three years with pauses now and then, I also began Chinese last year and plan to begin Russian (had to choose between Russian, Polish and Turkish). In my opinion you truly learn a new language if you are able to think in it, when you are no longer translating your thoughts and it all comes natural. Conflicts arise from misunderstandings an when people act without thinking first. It's very easy to see the mistakes in others than to correct your own issues, it's far more comfortable to badly judge someone just to make yourself feel better and it is sadly all too common when people close their minds, no longer seeing the truth and thinking goodness.

Learning a new language isn't a solution to everything, but it's a start, if you do it with an open heart, this journey will be its own reward. Put an hour into it every day, an hour when you give up on television for example. Buy/download a book about whatever language you choose, go find classes and attend them. Make this a fun thing to do and try to engage others, even if you know English, this isn't the only language on Earth.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Vladimir Putin, Russia and the changing world

Two decades ago the world was like a cake, more or less divided in two. The standoff that was the Cold War turned into a victory for one of the players, the United States and the west, the winner takes it all, as the saying goes. We fast forward to the present and find a world in turmoil, economic storms endanger almost all the countries, tensions risk to ignite wars and changes in life style and society represent threats but also opportunities. This article written by Vladimir Putin is a clear statement of what Russia stands for and what Russia will never accept and to be honest it's the best geopolitical analysis that I read for some time.

Russia had a devastating 1990s, a decade that represented for America a form of renaissance by comparison. It lost industry, influence, economy, technology and practically everything else. The emergence of people like Putin made it possible to stop the decline and start an energetic climb to the top. Now Russia needs peace in her immediate vicinity, it needs commerce and trade in order to develop. That's why I now tend to like them, unlike the Americans, they don't want to stay on top by keeping others down and to be honest are far less hypocritical. Putin talks about mostly everything, Asia, North Korea, Iran, Europe, the relationship with the US, the economy, etc.

Download it here
Or read it online

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Niavaran Residential (visual) and Kahtmayan (audio)

I was looking through the Duo archive wondering what to present next, and it hit me, why no architecture? That's why I went out (out on the web I mean) searching for some sustainable, clean, green and overall beautiful buildings. Regarding architecture I will be concentrating on one or maybe two buildings, never on more works like I do with paintings and photographs.

This article has an Iranian theme and after a few days of trial and error in trying to make an interesting "Duo" I decided to go with a modern, not at all monumental building.

Design intentions:
Niavaran Residential Complex is located in Tehrans, Shemiran area. Shemiran, being spread along Alborz Mountains slope, used to be a summer resort of Tehran until 40 years ago due to its numerous gardens. Presently, still a good number of old trees exist in Shemiran area. The parcel of land allocated to this project accommodates a number of these old trees too, whose conservation has been considered as the first priority in designing this complex. The preliminary design concept based on including the existing old trees in the building site and considering the main axis of the inner trees, the building mass was divided into 2 main sections. The green area alongside this axis has also affected the formation of the side kernel of the building mass and the overall shape of the building.

Technical data:
The project, having 30 residential apartments from 80 to 300 square meters, has been designed in 5 levels, each accommodating 6 flats, and 3 lower floors for common facilities. The ground floor has been allocated to the entrance lobby, building managers office, ceremonies and gatherings hall. The first basement is mainly for a parking lot and store rooms, while the second basement, in addition to a parking lot, includes central heating room, swimming pool, Spa and the gym.

Project team:
Mohammad Reza Nikbakht and partners

Research by Seyed Saleh Niakouei

Mohammad Reza Nikbakht
The curved walls give an excellent organic feel to the building, they ensure good air circulation and enough space for the trees to develop.
Just like living in paradise
An overview of the complex.




The interior
Photos: Masoud Niakouei

For the second part I was thinking of replacing music with poetry and I was ready to publish this article with the text but I decided to go with an Iranian trash metal band because it more clearly expresses the new Iran I wanted to show with the above architecture. To be a rocker in Iran is more or less like being a rocker in 50s America, and this is not such a bad thing. The censorship in the Islamic republic forces artists to search deeper in their hearts and minds for art, it makes them fight for what they want, to know that they are on a mission, not just to make money, but to make revolutionary art. The elements of rebellion and freedom have disappeared in western rock, but, ironically, are perfectly alive in Iran. The present members of Kahtmayan are: Homayoon Majdzadeh (guitars, vocals), Saeed Piltan (drums), Ali Azhari (guitars) and Bijan Majdzadeh (bass guitar). The song is entitled "Believe" and is from their 2009 album, Virtual Existence.

Kahtmayan link: www.kahtmayan.com

Friday, March 2, 2012

Ignoring the Obvious?

Time for some politics again, sometimes I feel like giving up on writing about global politics because some things never change... although, if we remain silent things will be even worse. Warning, this post might make you think. Right now Iranians are voting for their representatives in the Majlis (Iranian Parliament) and for some time I was preparing to point out the obvious, Iran is the only democracy in the Middle East, well... maybe with the exception of Turkey. What, you thought I forgot about Israel or that I'm "antisemitic"? Haha, Israel is a fascist-like ethnic totalitarianism (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) and apparently Jews survived the Holocaust to inflict it on others. I'm just pointing out the obvious, replace Israel with an individual and you will surely see that individual as totally fucked-up.

On the other hand Iran is the black sheep of the neighborhood, ever asked why? You may say nukes, I will ask you, what nukes? Did Iran start any wars? When was the last time when you heard about Iranian soldiers killing women and children from helicopters and being proud of it, or is Iran the one who gives weapons to drug trafficking cartels in exchange for drugs? Any ethnic cleansing in Iran that I didn't know about? I am tired with all the lies and all the mindless people who bow down to retarded propaganda. Iran should be a regional power because it proved that it is capable of sustaining industrial, scientific and economic developments even with sanctions. Why, in the name of God, people aren't taking to the streets in protest against the relationship between the west and Saudi Arabia, is it more "democratic" to have splendid ties with an absolute monarchy? They don't even have a constitution in the modern sense of the word!

Libya... give some Hustlers, beer and drugs to the predominantly young population of Libya and you have the heroic rebels. Those people lived very well, free housing, health-care, education, jobs... now what? Now they don't even have enough money to pay the wages and has any human rights moron seen how the heroic rebels treat the "opposition"? Or they are not allowed to have an opposition? Gaddafi wasn't a saint but at least he had a vision for a powerful Africa. Is Obama a saint... or any other Bilderberg dumbfuck? Or any simple individual even.

Syria, another playground for American arrogance. Who the hell can think that arming the opposition is a good idea? Oh, McCain and Hilary can, and if they can, than that makes it law for the rest of the mindless sheep that vote for them. Those who give death as a solution should be the first to get a dose of their own medicine. This cycle must stop, someone must somehow put an end to this dark age, if Jews will put aside their stupid religious nationalism, if Americans will put an end to their imperialism, if North Korea will renounce it's psychopathic society and so on, then maybe we will deserve to eat the food this Earth gives us and drink the water the rivers and lakes give us. All 6 billion+ of us must change, we should love work, love beauty and knowledge, strive for justice, peace...

Why do you ignore the obvious?