December 25, 2009

A Christmas Message

http://www.sinfest.net/archive_page.php?comicID=3384



These days many people around the world celebrate the 2009th anniversary of the birthday of one of mankinds most well-known personalities in the field of religion: Jesus Christ.

I myself am not the most devout of believers in Christianity, but I definitely enjoy the festivities and the energy people devote to having a harmonic and peaceful time with their family and friends. Not all succeed of course, but the idea is the important point! Some even are more generous and more of us give the gift of kindness than at other times throughout the year.

So when I found this text from Rob Breszny's book it struck a chord with me and I would like to share it with everybody out there, Christian, Muslim or Hindu, Atheist, Agnostic or Eclecticist, Baha'i or Buddhist, Jew or Jain...

Some Christians might be shocked to learn that Jesus Christ is one of the Main High Magicians in the Beauty and Truth Lab's pantheon of deities and avatars.

They may believe that people like us -- Goddess-worshiping tantric Sufi Qabalist pagans who hang around with Zen trickster witches and espouse a socialist libertarian political philosophy -- couldn't possibly have an intimate and vivid relationship with the cosmic hero they claim to own. They act as if they have commandeered the trademark of one of the smartest wild men in history.

But many of us do have an intimate and vivid relationship with Jesus Christ. How could we not? He was a champion of women's rights, an antidote to the established and corrupt political order, and a radical spiritual activist who worked outside religious institutions.

The dude owned nothing and was a passionate advocate for the poor and underprivileged. He was uncompromisingly opposed to violence and war. Besides that, he was a master of love and he devoted his life to serving the Divine Intelligence. He even went so far as to say, "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you, and give away all your possessions."

I want to be like Jesus Christ when I grow up!


In the spirit of this idea I would like to wish you all a merry Christmas! Be good to your fellow beings and smile because you are alive :)

November 25, 2009

What should I do with my life?

There is this article (thanks Amy!) that has been in my list of "links to check out" for some months. The intriguing title both kept me from deleting it and from reading it just like that, when I had no real attention for it.
Now I found the time to read it in full. The author, Po Bronson, has written a book after interviewing 900 people, and then selecting 70 to analyse deeply how they had made their life choices. According to him, most problems in answering The Question stem from four basic misconceptions (about money, smarts, place, and attitude). He turns the misconceptions into positive assertions and distills some take-away lessons:

MONEY Doesn't Fund Dreams
Shouldn't I make money first -- to fund my dream? The notion that there's an order to your working life is an almost classic assumption: Pay your dues, and then tend to your dream. I expected to find numerous examples of the truth of this path. But I didn't find any.

SMARTS Can't Answer The Question
...the idea that smarts and intensity are the essential building blocks of success and satisfaction is a product of the past decade. A set of twin misconceptions took root during the celebration of risk and speed that was the 90s startup revolution. The first is the idea that a smart, motivated individual with a great idea can accomplish anything. The corollary is that work should be fun, a thrill ride full of constant challenge and change.
[...] What am I good at? is the wrong starting point. People who attempt to
deduce an answer usually end up mistaking intensity for passion.

PLACE Defines You
Every industry has a culture. And every culture is driven by a value system.
[...] One of the most common mistakes is not recognizing how these value systems will shape you. People think that they can insulate themselves, that they're different. They're not. The relevant question in looking at a job is not What will I do? but Who will I become? What belief system will you adopt, and what will take on heightened importance in your life?


ATTITUDE Is the Biggest Obstacle
Environment matters, but in the end, when it comes to tackling the question, What should I do with my life? it really is all in your head.
[...] Probably the most debilitating obstacle to taking on The Question is the fear that making a choice is a one-way ride, that starting down a path means closing a door forever.
"Keeping your doors open" is a trap. It's an excuse to stay uninvolved.



As there are some new ideas for the course of my life on the table these days, I am concerned with making good decisions. There is a lot in this article for me and I maybe those words can help me be clearer about my personal answers. So I am asking myself the question of What is the environment I wanna work in? because it will change the way I am in the future. I am asking How important should money be in my choice? because I know that it's not what will ultimately make me happy. I need to be aware of the danger of playing it all out in my head and never trying anything for real. And after all I need to be clear about the fact that nothing I decide today will set me to an irreversible course to the future.

My worries are soothed for now and I can get back to work. Reflection is good, but only if followed by action ;)

November 18, 2009

Uni Augsburg brennt

Eine Pressemitteilung zur Besetzung des Hörsaals I an der Uni Augsburg: hier.

Es geht richtig ab in Augsburg. Eher nichtsahnend, was alles kommen würde, bin ich gestern früh zur Demo des Augsburger Bildungsbündnisses gegangen, wo vor allem Schüler und einige engagierte Studenten sich versammelten und anschließend durch die Stadt zogen (anfangs 500, am Ende 1000). Wir kamen an allen Gymnasien vom Peutinger bis zum Holbein vorbei und machten Lärm und einige Schüler sprangen angesichts der abgeschlossenen Türen aus den Fenstern im Erdgeschoss. Ganze Klassen und auch ein Lehrer schlossen sich dem Protest an. Inspirierende Erfahrung! Mein Rucksack war zu schwer, denn mit dem langen Marsch von 4 Stunden hatte ich echt nicht gerechnet, und auch nicht mit der Fahne, die mir ein Freund von den Grünen zum Tragen überreichte ;) Aber der allgemeine Enthusiasmus reichte weit.

Nach Mensaessen gings dann direkt in den Hörsaal I an der Uni, wo gerade die Besetzung begonnen hatte. Die Presse in Augsburg ist mittlerweile voll von Bildern, aber dieser Video-Beitrag von Augsburg TV verdient eure besondere Aufmerksamkeit!

Nach einigen Stunden voller inhaltlicher Diskussionen im Plenum (Demokratie ist alles andere als einfach!) fand ich dann, es sollte eine Gruppe gebildet werden, die die Brainstormingpunkte für die Abstimmung zusammenfasste. Die Gruppe wurde mit Freiwilligen aus dem Plenum gebildet und die Ergebnisse zum Thema Bologna-Prozess und wie wir uns Veränderungen an der Uni vorstellen, wurden danach präsentiert. Eine Delegation wurde auf Betreiben der Fachschaft Sozialwissenschaften ins Rathaus geschickt und konnte bei einem Festakt des Uni-Fördervereins sprechen. Großer Erfolg!

Ich war da aber nicht mehr dabei, denn Entspannung in der Aikidostunde war wichtiger für meine mentale Gesundheit. Zu viel Input und Action muss man eben ausgleichen. Einige haben im Hörsaal übernachtet und jetzt sitze ich wieder hier und bin einfach dabei :) Bin sehr gespannt, was die weiteren Stunden und Tage bringen!

****
For a summary in English: There are currently huge public protests in Germany, Austria and other European countries that aims at reforms in the educational system. There have been demonstrations in more than 50 cities and many students have occupied the biggest auditorium at their respective universities, effectively blocking the usual classes from taking place. (map)

The main subjects of discussion and claims by students involve the rolling back of increasing education fees (they have only been introduced in Germany a few years back, before that, all school and university education was free) and improvements of the implementation of the so-called "Bologna Process" (main points: europe-wide introduction of Bachelor and Master degrees replacing the old established systems of degrees, introduction of a credit point system to create European comparability).

In this context, I spent yesterday walking around the city for 4 hours, making noise and chanting in front of schools with around 1000 fellow students from middle school to university. I had not planned on it and carried a heavy backpack, but the energy was electrifying. After lunch we occupied a big auditorium, formed workgroups for media contact, food and communication among others. I went on to work with a group to create a clear list of claims from a bunch brainstorming points and present it ot the plenum. Needless to say that by the end of the day I was done with the world, but today I am back (some 50 students stayed in the auditorium overnight). Let's see how this continues...

October 28, 2009

Not exactly myself

ARIES (March 21-April 19): You may be as flooded with briny emotion as a Pisces on a meandering binge. You might be as embedded in a labyrinth of your own creation as the Geminis who verge on being too clever for their own good. You may be as cagey a listener as a Scorpio who's searching for a hidden vulnerability in an ally. In other words, Aries, you're not exactly yourself. But it's one of those rare times when that's a good thing. Halloween costume suggestion: the opposite of what you think you
are.

****

What I think I am, you ask? Well, there is a lot to that question and I could think of long and detailed answers. Would any of it have to do with reality? I couldn't say, probably not.

October 13, 2009

October 09, 2009

Seite 124 - Bedienungsanleitung meines Gehirns

Dieser Text stammt aus einem Buch des Neurobiologen Gerald Hüther mit dem wundervollen Titel "Bedienungsanleitung für ein menschliches Gehirn":

"...Kinder können einen anderen Menschen so offen, so vorbehaltlos und so um seiner selbst willen lieben. Sie übernehmen deshalb auch die Hoffnungen und die Sprache der Menschen, die sie lieben, am leichtesten. Und manchmal gelingt es auch noch Erwachsenen, einander so vorbehalt- und selbstlos zu begegnen, als wären sie Kinder.
Liebe erzeugt ein Gefühl von Verbundenheit, das über denjenigen hinausreicht, den man liebt. Es ist ein Gefühl, das sich immer weiter ausbreitet, bis es schließlich alles umfasst, was einen selbst und vor allem diejenigen Menschen, die man liebt, in die Welt gebracht hat und in dieser Welt hält.
Wer so vorbehaltlos liebt, fühlt sich mit allem verbunden und dem ist alles wichtig, was ihn umgibt. Er liebt das Leben und freut sich, an der Vielfalt und Buntheit dieser Welt. Er genießt die Schönheit einer Wiese im Morgentau ebenso wie ein Gedicht, in dem sie beschrieben oder ein Lied, in dem sie besungen wird.
Er empfindet eine tiefe Ehrfurcht vor allem, was lebt und Leben hervorbringt, und er ist betroffen, wenn es zugrunde geht.
Er ist neugierig auf das, was es in dieser Welt zu entdecken gibt, aber käme nie auf die Idee, sie aus reiner Wissbegierde zu zerlegen. Er ist dankbar für das, was ihm von der Natur geschenkt wird. Er kann es annehmen, aber er will es nicht besitzen.
Das einzige, was er braucht, sind andere Menschen, mit denen er seine Wahrnehmungen, seine Empfindungen, seine Erfahrungen und sein Wissen teilen kann. Wer sein Gehirn auf diese umfassende Weise nutzen will, muss also lieben lernen."

:)

October 07, 2009

Newsflash

Things happening in and around my life right now:

- After the parliamentary elections 10 days ago, politicians in Germany are "coaliding" to form a coalition. Some "big brother" related issues on the agenda could be crucial to the future development of personal freedom in this great nation (just auto-repeating expressions I've heard, that seem to sound good together)

- My Portuguese intensive course is over and I already speak another language. Thanks to an absolutely wonderful teacher and the small group size fast studying progress was a piece of cake for my language trained mind. Yeah, I know, I am just bragging, but seriously: Portugal and Brasil, here I come :)

- Geocaching (here) and Couchsurfing (here) both get better and better the more you get involved in them. And they can be easily combined, as I found out yesterday when I visited the so-called "Devil's Kitchen", a beautiful nature spot and clear water well not far from here. I got to pet a wild boar and found two treasures via GPS-coordinates. All the time I was accompanied by a charming Canadian travelling duo that happened to be around for the Oktoberfest and afterwards wanted some quieter down-time from partying. I think they enjoyed themselves quite a bit and will have great memories of Bavaria!

- I am having interesting conversations about spirituality these days and my belief system is being challenged and nourished by different yet inspiring perspectives on the world. Do you think that there is of benefit to imerse into end-of-the-world-scenarios or are you more adherent to the old school of utopians? What can I learn from that for my daily behavior?
Also, in the light of a recent murder of a courageous life saver by some brutal teens, how do you act in situations you are confronted with aggression? Questions for personal growth... I might lose a word or two about it in my gradauate thesis that's coming up.



May you be happy! Desejo que todos estão felizes :)

September 19, 2009

With winter coming it feels cosier to be inside with friends

Now it's not that cold yet in Augsburg, but summer definitely feels like it's over. So while my weeks are pretty busy at the moment I am here today to share some of the things I experienced in the last weeks.

There was this great project by the very talented photographer and great human being Tyler Knott Gregson which I contributed to and which was meant to show the world some love :)

Hello World, I Love You from Tyler Knott Gregson on Vimeo.


The other day I went to a café to chat and study with a close friend. As often with her I learned a lot about myself, which is always a good thing :) We talked about our childhoods, about how we became the way we are. We talked about circles of friends and how we manage our friendships. We also talked about relationships and what our ideal partners are like. So many important things that I cannot go into detail about them right now (maybe some other time), but I will recommend this to you: Just go one of these days and call a friend to spend a relaxed afternoon in some café with them, just chatting about the important things in life :)

Not only free time holds great human episodes but my university life is also full of brilliant people and interesting stuff. I am currently immersed in an intensive Portuguese course of three weeks where Spanish speakers learn all one normally learns in the course of one whole year. So it's not only intensive, but an intense
experience and absolutely inspiring. Language is my thing anyway and here I get it in compact form and enjoyably presented free of charge!! It does not get much better than that for language learners :) The teacher rocks, too.

Oh and there is my buddy Sebastian in Rome who just now started an inofficial riddle group to solve some logical puzzles together, like this easy one here: You have a 3 liter jar and a 5 liter jar. Measure exactly 4 liters. I solved it, go have a try!

For now I will leave you, I want to see some family on this Saturday afternoon! Be happy everybody!

August 21, 2009

If the right was right

I highly recommend you read THIS ARTICLE. I have little to nothing to add to the point of view as presented by Cynthia Boaz and plenty of my own perceptions of America from the outside point to the same conclusions.

Here are just two central points that are made:


*******
A genuinely Christian lens on international politics would not call for violence against one people by another in the name of God, but would ask that all people recognize that our moral and democratic obligations extend beyond our own borders, and that our political, economic, and spiritual development is deeply interwoven with the corresponding development of others.
*******
Jesus was a socialist. There, I said it. To read the Gospels and come away from them with a picture of Jesus as anything but an advocate of communally-shared resources requires a level of cognitive dissonance that I simply cannot fathom.
*******

Thanks to Leila for passing me this :)

August 16, 2009

The Manifesto

We live in urgent times.

We are more connected than ever, but still do not see it.

For many students in school, school is a punishment.

They are forced to be there, and they don’t see the value of being there.

Right now we organize learning around consumption,
where an expert tells a novice what to learn and that novice consumes it.

There’s a big emphasis on the acquisition of knowledge.

We don’t live in a world where one person has the answers anymore.

We live in a world where the questions are so complicated
that you need to have collaboration among many people to learn.

You don’t just interact with the teacher who knows everything
and you have to soak up that information,
but you actually work with a group

students collaborating with each other,
students collaborating with the teacher,
and in the world that they are entering outside

there is a recognition that there is a new worldwide platform
that we are just beginning to sense its potential,

the internet, our relationships with others, the oneness of the world,
and the complex and interrelated nature of the problems that we are facing all around the world

It helps connect people globally

Digital learning represents a new kind of learning
which means that children are both critical consumers and producers of new information.

We think that students have really valuable knowledge to add to the world in terms of solutions

and the students own this knowledge by creating something with it.

Students become more engaged when they are asked to create the content
rather than passively accept it.

Meeting kids where they are,
by getting them to address the questions that they have, that matter to them,
really engaging them, in a way that they can feel a real impact in their life,
a genuine empowering impact,
so they own it both creatively and scientifically and they are sharing it, all the time.

It’s all about themselves becoming broader people, more knowledgeable, more capable,

We’re not just talking about how students learn in the classroom
but how they learn outside the classroom,
how they participate as citizens in the world,
how they interact with one another,
the way they form a sense of their own identity,

And there’s a bigger reason ….
they are helping other people
solve some of the world’s most pressing problems
improve the condition of humanity

We want to save the planet.

For us, it’s not so much about digital learning as it is about learning in general,
out in the real world

And the only way we can do this is if people participate.

Self-government itself depends on participation.

And it’s the only way that people are ever going to be able to get knowledge.

That is the way of the future, there’s no doubt about it.

And moving the discussion from education to learning more broadly,
means that it applies to all of us,
and all of us can bring our unique perspectives.

It is very easy to have a worldwide impact in today’s world,
so what will your impact on the world be?

via MrBurns's Blog and Digital Ethnography
Thanks!

August 04, 2009

Contrasts

Picture taken by Tyler Knott Gregson tylerknottphotography.com
Be soft.
Do not let the world make you hard.
Do not let the pain make you hate.
Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness.

Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree,
you still believe it to be a beautiful place.



When I read the news, there are all kinds of voices. The idealistic ones think about the grand opportunities a situation holds, the realistic ones emphasize the dangers and risks. The optimists choose topics that highlight the fun and hope in a situation, the pessimists turn angry or sarcastic over the daily problems of politics and power.

I myself deeply believe that we all should be realistic idealists and careful optimists :) This would make the world a better place. No one would be called a pollyanna again for limiting themselves to the positive aspects of a situation. And pessimists might cut their criticism to the part that is constructive. Balance is key as in most areas of life, I think.

Although it may seem incoherent, I will include this little wish of loving kindness below, because reading the news today I am just grateful to be alive and well here where I live. I wish everyone everywhere was!


May all beings be happy.
May all beings be safe.
May all beings be healthy.
May all beings be peaceful.


Picture taken by Tyler Knott Gregson, a gifted photographer with a nice blog.
"Be soft" was taken from
quote book.
The last verses are taken from a guided Metta-Meditation by zen teacher Gil Fronsdal.

July 28, 2009

Of course I'm a vegetarian!

From time to time people ask me why I am vegetarian. Obviously every vegetarian knows this question and I found myself thinking some time ago that actually the question should be answered by another question: Why do you eat meat?

Most carnivores of course hardly ever thought about their decision in detail because nobody seriously asks them. It's just the normal state of being. It's enough reason to just like meat. Vegetarians on the other hand need to mull over their decision and their reasons will be questioned. Yet maybe meat-eaters should be considering this topic just like they consider not drinking as much pop because they are worried about their figure.

Having said that I will give you my major reason for being a vegetarian. It is more important to me than the concern about ethical treatment of animals and I actually like the taste of meat quite a bit. It is an ecological reason.

When you think about the food chain you find that to produce a certain amount of meat you need to feed the animal with cereals that could also be used for the starving millions in the world. This wheat or soy is produced on huge acres in places where there was rainforest until some years ago which was keeping our climate oxygenized. On the other hand, huge food plants with tens of thousands of cattle emit massive amounts of methane, a very strong greenhouse gas (18% of greenhouse gases attributed to livestock production!).
If you follow the steps further back that lead to this mountain of cereal you have water, and vast amounts of it. Water is the most important resource of the planet and arguably the wars of the 21st century will be about access to clean sources of it. As if that wasn't enough, livestock production takes place in remote Argentina which means that the average meat consumers in Europe and the North America have their steak shipped halfway around the globe. Here is a map of meat consumption from here.

Well, my point is made :) I hope you were open for all this today and will think more consciously about food. If you want data and entertaining talk about how to better eat, just watch this TED video. And if you still would like to know more, watch the founder of treehugger.com, why you should and how you could be a weekday vegetarian (starting minute 9).

Btw: I don't smoke either, but that's a whole different story ;)

July 07, 2009

Peace - A poem



Do you think peace requires an end to war
Or tigers eating only vegetables?

Does peace require an absence from your boss, your spouse, yourself?


Do you think peace will come some other place than here?
Some other time than now?

In some other heart than yours?



Peace is this moment without judgement. That is all.
This moment in the heart-space where everything that is, is welcome.

Peace is this moment without thinking that it should be some other way.
That you should feel some other thing.
That your life should unfold according to your plans.

Peace is this moment without judgement.
This moment in the heart-space where everything that is, is welcome.

Namaste

(by Dorothy Hunt)

July 01, 2009

Represent love



"Aren't we privileged to live in a time when everything is at stake, and when our efforts make a difference in the eternal contest between the forces of light and shadow, between togetherness and division, between justice and exploitation? Oh, be joyful that you are a warrior in this great time!

"Will we rise to this battle? If so, we cannot lose, for rising up to it is our victory . . . If we represent love in the world, you see, we have already won."

- Doris "Granny D" Haddock from her 93rd birthday speech

June 19, 2009

A Sea of Green


I have been reposting and retweeting and sharing links on facebook and through Skype these days. I followed all the news and spent hours reading articles and refreshing my twitter page. I feel involved in this historic event that is the so called Green Revolution of Iran. Although I am usually careful about what political statements I make publicly I think in this case facts are facts. These days I am learning once more how wonderful it is to live in a country that actually allows me to speak my mind whenever and however I choose to.

I feel like a part of this movement not only because I know people there or from there, but because all those individuals' opinions, their wishes and aspirations are resonating enormously with mine. Today more than ever, Iranians and people all over the planet seem so close. The feeling of solidarity is immense among those who share the daily news about this movement. It is so impressive what happens when people are allowed to connect at an individual level as the internet and its tools have made possible.

As some of my friends have been doubtful I hereby tell you this: That this election was fraudulent has been out of the question for some days. The only question for me is whether Ahmadinejad cheated by 10, 30 or even 50 percent. Just look at these graphs by fivethirtyeight.com:

This is a graph of the provinces that Karroubí, the second reformist candidate besides Moussaví had won in 2005






In 2009 the same people in the same provinces voted for Ahmadinejad and less than one percent of them for Karroubí.






Today, Khamenei has threatened his people, who have been peacefully marching in silence for days. He told them basically 'to stop protesting or else'. He justified again what all reasonable people already see has been a wrong step. One twitterer commented: "Khamenei, the election was not fair. Look at faces of mullahs at Friday Prayer, they knew this was a mistake."

My urge to share this with you comes from the deep belief that what is happening in Iran right now is of concern to the whole world. So much depends on whether this ends peacefully and who comes out of this strengthened or weakened. Peace in the Middle East and the whole region is hugely determined by how Iran is governed. And as we have seen in the past with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, what happens there can change the balance of the world. Everything is connected.

I am impressed by how this crisis is being handled by most people involved and I am praying for non-violence to persist as it has before. May it lead to a peaceful revolution in this beautiful country for the betterment of humanity. I for my part am hopeful.

If you have 5 minutes more to spend on this, please read what some people in Iran have written and how they describe their situation. It is heart-breaking as well as heart-warming: 'The fear is gone'

Be good everybody, stay safe, and don't lose hope :)

June 15, 2009

Human beings are members of a whole



This video with the text below was posted to facebook by the great Iranian music group Kiosk. I would like to express my support by spreading the information that is getting out of Iran, sharing links and pictures as much as I can.

This whole situation is enraging, frustrating and scary. Here is the majority of the Iranian people and the world should react to their call for a working democracy. It is the only way tyranny can be fought, by peaceful protest and the rest of the world looking after those who are entering in peril.

****************

Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain.

- Saadi

This week Iranians turned out in record numbers not seen since the beginning of the Iranian revolution to change their current President Mahmood Ahmadinejad.

Their willingness to exercise their democratic right was both historic and uncommon in the Middle East. Iranians longed for change the same way people in the United States, and indeed worldwide, longed for a new beginning after the Bush years. They were tired of an increasingly delusional President who has thrown their country into economic turmoil and portrayed their country as a conflict seeking entity in the Middle East.

But today the same Iranian regime that has denied a dialogue with the world, denied human rights, denied democracy, denied the Holocaust, is blatantly denying the will of its people by committing massive election fraud to reelect Mahmood Ahmadinejad, and arresting journalists and opposition leaders in broad daylight.

Accepting this deception will be costly not only for the people of Iran but also for the people of the Middle East, with far reaching consequences worldwide.

As you read these words, the people in Iran have taken to the streets in nationwide protests. Despite brutal government suppression tactics the Iranian people are courageously fighting for their rights. As antiriot police batons crush the bones of demonstrators whose only protest is election fraud, Iranians are screaming for the world to hear them: WE DENOUNCE MAHMOOD AHMADINEJAD!

The people of Iran now ask for your support!

We do not expect you to fight our struggle but to help us fight it. We expect people worldwide to put pressure on their governments and politicians not to accept the legitimacy of the Iranian elections and the fraudulent presidency of Mahmood Ahmadinejad. Democratic societies worldwide must not leave the Iranian people alone now that they have risen to the challenge. Instead they need to align their policies with the will of the Iranian people.

Friends, we ask you not to let 70 million people in Iran be taken hostage. Any government that accepts Mahmood Ahmadinejad as the new president of Iran has betrayed the Iranian people, endangered world peace, and has no sympathy for human pain.

Iranian Artists in Exile

June 14, 2009

Drop all ugliness




I long for a man
A blind man
Who would know Braille.
And read through my body
Cover to cover
Chapter to chapter
To discover my literary wit.

Then I would take his hand
Walk arm in arm
Describing the world for him,
Be his eyes,
His cane
And drop all ugliness
Of the world
In my description.

Sara Mohamadi Ardehali, Iranian poet

June 10, 2009

Weightlessness



I saw this and smiled :) Feeling a little stiff after training hard in my Aikido class yesterday, I would probably enjoy some weightlessness right now ;-) Have fun!

June 06, 2009

6 billion others

Watch HOME! And if you don't have the time right now, at least watch this to get some of the spirit and the mood! Everything on earth is interconnected, I really hope everybody starts to see it soon!

June 05, 2009

HOME



Here is the link to a movie I am watching just now. It takes a while to load, but it is worth it because those images deserve HD-quality. The most amazing shots of our beautiful planet from bird's eye view in smooth camera movement. It is like watching a 3D version of "Earth from Above" and actually the author of the book is also the maker of the movie, Yann Arthus-Bertrand.

He shows the viewer with horrific intensity the beauty and force of nature and soon the highlights and horrors of human ingenuity. I am overwhelmed by the hypnotizing images and left breathless by the clear language. Try it! Watch it here: HOME by Yann Arthus-Bertrand

"It's too late to be a pessimist!"

Little thought on the side: How can you not go at least half-vegetarian after this? Because it tastes so good?

May 31, 2009

Information overflow



Once again I have been collecting stuff on the internet that I found funny, things that made me thoughtful and in general things that I would like to share. Come with me on a short tour and feel free to comment :) (btw the comic above is purely random *g*) To all images applies "click-to-enlarge".


This picture of worldwide airline connections by Mario Freese has impressed me greatly because I like to be reminded of the busy web that is the earth.



Lately in the cafeteria of my university I was asked once again if I wanted to test a newspaper without any charge for two weeks. I was half way through signing up for it, when I realized that I actually do read three newspapers on the internet per day ^^



This quite intelligent chart shows the respective probability of different consequences of a decision for accepting same sex marriage. It's pretty drastic ;-)


This comic here made me thoughtful about how we see people differently when they are close to us. And it makes me wonder how we would treat others if we felt they were all family and actually taking care of us...



If you did not catch the story in my recommendations box to the right, I suggest you read it here: FBI terrorist interrogator on the uselessness of torture and the efficacy of cookies. I find it a brilliant example of how kindness is a stronger weapon than aggression.


Let me end on a smiling note :) Be happy everybody!

May 22, 2009

Shadow images

I really like this picture :) It shows how things are not always what they seem, as obvious as they may be. It made me think of Plato's cave, too. People sitting against a wall seeing only shadows passing and holding them for the only reality there is.
Sometimes I guess we all need to reexamine how we interpret things around us, detach from judgement and see the rabbit! I shall try this today, question myself and be open to alternate interpretations...

On a slightly different note, the change of perspective can also be a disillusioning or hilarious (might call it a bird's eye view *g*) SMBC webcomic and a explosm webcomic


A little update: Peripeteia :)

May 19, 2009

Unite, don't divide

I was made aware of this speech held by Barack Obama by openculture.com and I am once more inspired.


Part 2, Part 3

If you remember I just recently posted a call to the Charter for Compassion. Obama obviously has taken that principle to heart and it is the best feeling I have had towards politics to find this powerful person so deeply endowed with a loving understanding of the world.

Now I will study sociological institutionalism some more. Studies can sometimes bore you, but every so often I feel so motivated and in the right place that hopefully one day I will be one of the people that "know what they are doing" ;)
You guessed right, the sun is shining on my balcony. It is a brilliant day! May your day be the same way :)

May 15, 2009

Global Connection

Us Now from Banyak Films on Vimeo.



Ok now, I should be excerpting a book chapter about foreign policy right now, but this here caught my attention immediately. I could not stop watching this stunning and absolutely breathtaking documentary about the ways in which our society is actually changing and what it could become. I think it helps us all to recognize and understand better what we are doing on the internet every day. We have impact: myself writing this, and you reading this, staying with couchsurfers in Morocco and hosting French students, giving and receiving advice on computer forums, voting on political questions in online polls, microlending via kiva.org.........

The economic aspects of this change towards an open source society reminded me strongly of the Cluetrain Manifesto (supplied in many languages), a landmark book that states 95 theses about some things today's companies have to understand about consumers and the market they are acting in by now. You should check it out after watching the video.

I would now just like to give you some quotes from the film. Please invest the hour in watching it, because what is described is absolutely relevant to all of us!

"Every company is gonna be naked. ...We don't have to be ashamed..."

"Let's start being open source right now!"

"I call this Government 2.0."

"This is a powerful force for good."


For more material take a look at the website. Have a wonderful day everybody :)

May 13, 2009

On Judgement

Feeling pretty thoughtful these days, in spite of sun and a load of work about interesting sociological (theory of crime) and political (German foreign policy) topics. And one of the questions on my mind is about judgement, as in judging people.

As often said I try to be an open person withholding judgment on situations or people, if I can, so that I can see what's really going on. But sometimes I can't help it, I just speak, act, even hurt. Of course it is not helpful to react to every bad mood, to every bad hair day someone else is having. I know a lot about it, but when emotion is involved other rules apply and the game changes. Those are the moments one should step back and try empathy, and if you still feel justifiable anger, step back one more step and think if expressing this anger is the right course of action.

Funny thing that an all but choleric person like me should worry about getting angry, but I guess "we are only what we hate".
And then, on the other hand I think, other people should be empathetic of me, too. They can see as well as I that I am angry, hurt or just tired. Am I giving enough insight in my mind? I believe we all have the gift of seeing into other people's emotions though most of us do it subconsciously. Having said that probably the only thing to do is being expressive about what one feels without being entirely caught up in it. I will keep on trying...



My horoscope

ARIES (March 21-April 19): "Some people will never learn anything because they understand everything too soon," wrote Alexander Pope. Most of us have been guilty of that sin: jumping to conclusions so quickly that we don't bother to keep listening for the full revelation. My sense is that this behavior has become even more common in recent years because we're inundated by fragments of slapdash information mixed with blips of superficial analysis and echoed hearsay. But please avoid falling prey to the syndrome in the coming week, Aries. More than ever before, you need to gather raw data thoroughly, weigh the evidence with great deliberation, and come to careful understandings.

A game of chess?

When you have sacrificed your queen you can still keep on playing, but you are left with the stale feeling that you have already lost the game.
(a TV series)

I have won chess games without a queen.
Is it wrong to assume there is more than one game?

April 29, 2009

On Principles

I just watched this magnificent interview (in spite of the shouting match) by Jon Stewart of the Daily Show with Cliff May, who is known to defend the use of "methods to make terrorists talk" against the fundamental ideas of the Geneva Convention. The topic came up because of the recent publication of the CIA torture memos in the United States. The discussion now asks if there should be methods of pressuring prisoners into giving information and what that pressure could look like. Get a picture here:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Cliff May Unedited Interview Pt. 1
thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisFirst 100 Days


Part 2, Part 3

Although I fundamentally disagree with Cliff May - having watched quite a bit of the TV series 24 - I think I still get the way of thinking that lies behind his arguments. If in a given situation the safety of a whole city, or the country, or a number of innocent Americans, depended in a TV-like fashion on the piece of information you know this prisoner has, you should be able to do what it takes to get it out of him.
The point where I find this misleading is where reality is not TV-like, because you can never be sure that information you get from torture is worth anything. Going to far to find out later if it was of any use should not be an option in any country.

I would like to quote Jon Stewart with one sentence that I found not only true, but that seems to cut through the whole debate: "Defining where we push the boundaries of torture has nothing to do with the person we have in custody, it has to do with who we are." This sums it up for me. By our principles we define who we are, especially in difficult situations.

April 26, 2009

Planet of the apes


I feel too busy to write here, but it's not true. It's all about priorities. I have time because otherwise I would probably spend this half hour reading the news or watching videos on youtube or surfing around facebook. I know a lot of people in my generation do that.

But sometimes we need to ask: Where do we get all the time? Don't we have more important things to do? The answer is "probably", but I would not have known about some of the things that are important to me if it wasn't for the internet. In an information society we clearly are the ones who are figuring out how to use the huge stream of information, how to generate it. And it is getting better!

I am convinced I have learned a lot on the internet, probably more than in a year at the university, just from reading articles and listening to talks on youtube, and also from exchanging ideas with friends and reading their blogs. I am social, not only in the palpable reality surrounding me and have gotten some good advice or inspiration on the web.

So is the time we spend online just procrastination? It probably is of some use, I certainly hope so. And if that is not enough, consider this:



Be happy, my fellow monkeys :)

April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

Look at the video again and enjoy Earth Day :)




Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.
Khalil Gibran

April 12, 2009

A Tolerant Easter For All

First of all I would like to wish you all Happy Easter! May you spend this spring week surrounded by family and friends. I myself have worked in the garden, painted eggs, had easter breakfast with family and enjoyed spring on the terrace. Always living the good life :)

On a different note Easter is the most important Christian holiday. Given this, of course the topic of religion is on the table and although I rarely write about it, today I would like to say a few words.

While Pope Benedict XVI calls for peace in the Middle East, this news item (unfortunately only available in German), is an article about the Easter sermon by Walter Mixa, a German catholic bishop with a less peaceful message. He has been known for highly conservative ideas and tasteless comparisons. Apparently a politician of the green party once called him a "manic chief fundamentalist". I would like to say that I don't consider myself an atheist, but Mixa's current attack goes against most any world view that does not prominently involve God (especially the Christian one).

Two published quotes from the bishop's sermon really get me upset:

"Where God is negated and fought, man and his dignity will soon enough be negated and disdained, too. A society without God is hell on earth."

"In the last century the godless regimes of National Socialism and Communism with their penal camps, their secret police and their mass murders have proven in a gruesome way the inhumanity of practiced atheism."


To me this is backward thinking and although I won't enter into the atheist/theist discussion I just want to point out that this kind of attack no matter from which side is really hurtful. Of course the picture he is painting is factually untrue but more importantly it is a message of separation. It condemns people for what they believe or don't believe.

I take it a bishop's job is to 'spread the Good News'. What he is actually doing is bringing horrible news to an awful lot of people who will not appreciate the church for it, or for that matter Christianity as a whole. Truely a job badly done! In short: I could not disagree more with the opinion and the way of delivering it.

Now fortunately I don't have to end on this negative news story, but instead I would like to share this with you. A Charter for Compassion that unites rather than separates. Watch the video and be happy :)

April 09, 2009

Twitter

I now have twitter. The media have all kinds of conceptions and misconceptions about this new communication tool. It is simple as can be: Write what you are thinking or doing in a public site where people who choose to can read it. Mostly the critics say this is utterly irrelevant, unimportant and random information, so why bother.

But then again for the people, who select a twitter feed, do have some kind of interest in what the person behind it writes. Maybe the person is a friend, a colleague, a news source or a celebrity. To the one who chooses to read it, the information is obviously not irrelevant or they would not read it, right?

After all, twitter is a tool and tools depend on the user to make good use of them. I use it to virally spread information I consider worthwhile and let for example friends and family see, what I am up to. If I think it is superfluous I will leave it :)


Read this and think about this: "The time it takes for an idea to circulate is approaching zero."

April 03, 2009

Perspectives




"Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so. If you assume there is no hope, you guarantee there will be no hope."
- Noam Chomsky

Now Germany has me back. My car is broken and needs to be repaired. I have not gotten the job I wanted because I was unreachable while in Morocco and did not tell them beforehand. I need to find a job because travelling is expensive even when you live on a low budget. Still I have not completely thought out my graduation that I want to happen some time soon. I want a mid and longterm perspective!

For now I am planning a new semester. Spring is here and there are already new travels on my schedule. Everybody is writing to me and my friends are eager to see me. Life is in full swing and I will be busy like a bee soon enough. Have I mentioned that the sun is shining? :D

Have a great weekend everybody!

March 24, 2009

Shukran

Back from my journey I feel full and happy. I have truly lived these days, enjoying every moment. There was a lot of time to just stare and marvel at the world. Maybe I have even gotten a little wiser by learning more about myself.

I have been friendly to people, even those who apparently wanted just more money. I guess in some situations I was deliberately dumb because I am so trusting toward everyone. But then I think that I got back home safe and the universe has watched out for me. Most people recognize my weakness in my trusty (some say naive) nature, yet I still have not met the person that really wanted me bad. Will I ever?

There really is a difference between the traveller and the tourist. The people in the desert even have a word for the tour tourists, who they call Tamalou (pronounced French, freely translated as: "where does it ache you?").

Our group has not been aching. In fact we took everything that was offered without bothering if the lemonade glass was 'european style clinically clean' or whether the fruits were a little dusty. We slept on thin mattresses and tried to learn arabic wherever we could. We have been called uncomplicated people because it was easy to make us happy. And we were happy, which I suppose is the best gift you can bring if you are a visitor.
The last thing that makes the tourist a traveller is that he is asked to come back anytime to see more. And that is a real treasure.

This alchemist once again has returned to where he started!

March 19, 2009

People

Morocco is fascinating. And it seems that I am also interesting for Moroccans. On the 8 hour train ride today from Fez to Marrakech, I had two long conversations with young Moroccans who happened to be in the same train compartment.

They started the conversations, one by handing me a funny sketch of myself and my travel companions that read 'Welcome to Morocco'. He turned out to be a policeman, fighting drugs and practicing Aikido. He was also a big fan of Obama's and had the Yes we can speech on his mobile phone. We talked in English first, switched to Spanish and said goodbye at this internet café in French.

The other conversation equally describes the kind of feeling Morocco gives me. The guy started talking to me because he thought I might want to sleep and he was taking up too much space. From his hobby of breakdancing and music the conversation turned to the Coran. I had my German-Arabic copy with me and after initial hesitation to touch it without washing himself first he showed me some passages in the book he had found important. He was eager to show me and my interest spurned him further. When I asked him to write one Sura in my little book he did so by heart.

Morocco is different from Germany in so many ways, and very different in itself. I feel humbled again by what I don't know. There is so much I still don't understand and want to learn. Inshallah, next semester the Arabic language course will help me get on with my 'studies beside my studies' :) Have a great day everybody!

March 18, 2009

Marhaba, travellers

Halfway into my great trip to Spain an Morocco I am happy and relaxed and so in love with travelling :-)

Today it is Fez for me, my friends and random traveller connaissances from Spain and Germany. We have been sleeping on hostel rooftops the last two nights in warm sleeping bags and blankets for 30 Dirham (less than 3 Euros). We have eaten well and are about to head South to Marrakech across the Atlas mountains at the border to the desert. The people and the language are wonderful, interesting. The tourist guides are less unnerving than the last time, when the hasslers almost got to me with their pushing from one shop to another.

When I get a chance I will put some pictures in my album which I have no chance for now.

Hope everybody is happy, wherever you are right now! Your place is as good as any to remember how great a planet this is :-)

March 08, 2009

On the road again

I am about to go travelling once more. Excitement is in my heart as I don't know what is waiting for me in the places I am going. Some places are familiar with good friends waiting to welcome me, some are entirely new. I feel happy and grateful to be able to do what I do, to travel and see so many amazing things. And I can't say how much I enjoy to know so many interesting people from so many different places.

Three weeks from now there are gonna be some more items in every category named above ;)

If you don't feel grateful yet, you should watch this VIDEO and if you are as happy a person as I am you should consider this:

"If being crazy means living life as if it matters then I don't care if we're completely insane." (Kate Winslet in Revolutionary Road)

Enjoy your week everybody! And remember to smile :)

March 02, 2009

What if...



What if you have never tried before?
What if you don't know the steps?

What if it did not work out the last time?
What if you try again?

What if you could hurt yourself?
What if you could hurt someone else?

What if it changes your life?
What if it fails to change you?

What if you change your mind?
What if you don't want anything to change?
What if it does anyway?

What if you decide the wrong way?
What if you never decide?


Life is complicated. Let Woody Allen analyze it :)



To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love is to suffer; to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be unhappy, one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness. I hope you're getting this down...

February 26, 2009

Driftwood

These days I listen a lot to a Berkeley social psychology class, which I downloaded for free from here and then here: iTunes. I have started to put recommendations from my google reader to the little gadget you see at the side and hope you enjoy some of the things I don't find the time to blog about, but really liked, without much of a comment.


When I surf the web I usually go about collecting a lot of little bits and pieces everywhere, like meaningful aphorisms, funny pictures with meaning and nice quotes. I am gonna share a pretty random selection with you today, so I hope you enjoy!





Learn from everyone! Follow no one! Watch for patterns! Work like hell!




Moral skill is chipped away by an overreliance on rules that deprives us of the opportunity to improvise and learn from our improvisations. And moral will is undermined by an incessant appeal to incentives that destroy our desire to do the right thing.
Barry Schwartz on TED.com








And I will leave you with one of my favorites : )


February 20, 2009

Reflections on Morality

I am writing an essay for one of my political seminars these days. The title might seem a little cryptic to you: "Legal positivism or natural law - Reflections on legality and legitimacy in the context of South African transitional justice".

I also have been reading two books in the last week, both of them I had actually read before. But it is funny with books. Although the words have remained the same they relate to your life and your experience in such a different way so that how you read them changes completely. Both books talk about love and guilt, about the past and about morality in the face of lies and responsibility.

Suffice it to say that my view of what is to be considered right or wrong has been challenged and mulled over these days. And so the books have hit me with a lot of intensity.
The books are Milan Kundera's "The unbearable lightness of being", which I had totally forgotten until a good friend gave it to me a short while ago, and Bernhard Schlink's "The reader", which is currently in cinemas and aspiring to an academy award.

I would like to give you some quotes that I found relevant when I read them...

He told himself the real question was not: Did they know or not?, but: Is man innocent, because he is ignorant? Is a dunce on the throne free of all responsibilty, just because he is a dunce?
*****
He went about pondering, until he finally reached the conclusion that it was actually normal for him not to know what he wanted.
You can never know what to want, because there is only one life that you can neither compare to former lives nor correct in ones to come.



I am not saying that thinking and deciding have no influence on action. But action does not simply follow what has been thought or decided before. It has its own source and my action is my action in the same independent way that my thinking is my thinking and my deciding is my deciding.
*****
No, I am not talking about order and obedience. The hangman does not follow orders. He does his job, doesn't hate the ones he executes, doesn't take revenge, doesn't kill them because they are in his way or because they threaten or attack him. He is completely indifferent towards them. He is so indifferent that he may just as well kill them as let them stay alive.


Take a moment to think about this,
don't be indifferent to other people,
ask why you are doing what you are doing
and remember that this is the one life that matters!

Take care everybody and have a great weekend :)

February 11, 2009

Some quotes...

...worth thinking about! --- Enjoy your week everybody :)

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I'm not frightened by not knowing anything.

Richard Feynman, physicist and nobel laureate (1918-1988)

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Love is everything it's cracked up to be. It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don't risk everything, you risk even more.

Erica Jong, US-American author (*1942)

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There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart.

Jane Austen (1775-1817)

February 04, 2009

February 01, 2009

How to live

Today I got an email with this list of ten things that can really make your life happier. I just wish everyone knew that. Don't be grouchy, keep learning, just be grateful for life. Amen to that!

******

1. Throw out nonessential numbers.
This includes age, weight and height.
Let the doctors worry about them.
That is why you pay them.

2. Keep only cheerful friends.
The grouches pull you down.
(Keep this In mind if you are one of those grouches.)

3. Keep learning:
Learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening, whatever.
Never let the brain get idle. "An idle mind is the devil's workshop."
And the devil's name is Alzheimer's!

4. Enjoy the simple things.

5. Laugh often, long and loud.
Laugh until you gasp for breath.
And if you have a friend who makes you laugh,
spend lots and lots of time with HIM / HER.

6. The tears happen:
Endure, grieve, and move on.
The only person who is with us our entire life, is yourself.
LIVE while you are alive.

7. Surround yourself with what you love:
Whether it's family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies, whatever.
Your home is your refuge. How about your relationship with God?

8. Cherish your health:
If it is good, preserve it.
If it is unstable, improve it.
If it is beyond what you can improve, get help.

9. Don't take guilt trips.
Take a trip to the mall, even to the next county,
to a foreign country, but *NOT* to where the guilt is.

10. Tell the people you love
that you love them, at every opportunity.

Lie to me

Yesterday my mother found an article about the world's best lie detector. However it is not a machine, but a human being, Dr. Paul Ekman. A trained psychotherapist and scientist through and through he dedicated himself to the study of human emotions and their manifestation in nonverbal language. Nonverbal language comprises everything from body language, to facial expression and the tone of your voice.

Here you can watch some videos about his work which is fascinating, but also has a scary aspect to it. Yes, at first it seems like a superpower, but the ability to detect any lie, and that is what Ekman claims for himself, has serious moral implications and can definitely change your life forever, not always in a pleasant manner.

You probably don't really wanna know that your best friend hates the present you gave them or that your family is only being polite about the meal you cooked with so much love. And of course knowing about others' feelings does not necessarily render you capable of dealing with that knowledge in the best way possible. You have to be able to distinguish when to ignore a lie, confront the liar or ask diplomatically if there is anything wrong. In some situations your life could depend on telling truth from lie, but in other situations you are just invading someone's privacy. And you need to be conscious of the fact that you may know the emotion, but not the reason for it. Take into consideration that "the average person lies three times per ten minutes of conversation" for totally different reasons.

Take a moment to reflect on that and think about the reasons you have for being less than truthful in your daily life. Let us at least try to lie for the right reasons, if we can't avoid it entirely :)