Sunday, October 22, 2006

Can we design access to good literature?

All right, I don't just want to complain about the state of fiction and non-fiction literature, but find a solution. Can there be a system of making suggestions for literature of the meaningful kind? For those who might be wondering if I am looking for a favorite novel, then no. I am looking for titles on development sector and N.G.O. management, and titles on the practice of traditional art.

I've found that some of the most awesome books are only available as photostats in the market, while trash is selling in the name of good fiction and non-fiction in leading bookstores.

My tip: realize that most writers never even touch the world of their subject matter. Stay away from the theorist writer, find experiential writers: people who have actively dabbled, physically, mentally, emotionally, financially in what they have written about.

Words of such persons change us in fundamental and profound ways. The rest is all commentary that anyone with access to Google can find or make.

Back on track: Liberty Books informed me they need at least 70 confirmed orders/ expected demand projection for a book to order it if it's not on their list. And I have been getting regularly frustrated that some of the most amazing books are never stocked by Liberty. (I do prize my ability to recommend very good literature on a variety of subjects.)

Can we devise a way to rally for the truly good books on matters close to our heart? How can we bulk-order the books we love? On the aside, it would be interesting anyway to have a group of people whose literary taste is un-quenched in the land of the pure - and who make Amazon their shrine, often to end up in cold sighs.

I am clueless on the subject and the logistics. Help!


Literature: Opium for the psuedo-intellectual mind

All right, I despise this term "pseudo-intellectual" because it's often applied freely by those of low intellect who want to escape the responsibility of thinking by labeling the thinkers with all sorts of titles, but... I am going to use it.

What's up with this Liberty Books storing the kind of literature that is fodder for the pseudo-intellectual brain? I respect knowledge, but I no longer respect a kind of coffee-table, cafe-something knowledge that leads to endless chatters peppered with irrelevant literary references.

It was interesting for a little while when I was in the teens - to feel empowered by quoting the obscure and far-fetched. But it's no longer fun. No just because I am a practical adult, but because that's just not relevant to our world anymore. Who wants to know what you've read? Honestly, even the paindoos are laughing inside - nay, on the face. What we'd want to know is, do you have access to literature that has made you a better person, and made you able to talk to me, not at me?

Besides, I do have a personal preference for practical and experiential things. If only for fun.

I don't the best books that I am looking for in the top bookstores. The latest activity is often in the section of the latest hot-cake fiction. The non-fiction, I have realized, is primarily being written by the clueless who have gained authority by way of their access to sophisticated sounding, irrelevant knowledge. All right, this part of my rant is generalizing, but I won't steer back on course without reminding that "relevance" - to one's people, times, culture, and life - is one of the most critical characteristic of anything that enriches us or becomes part of our life. Be that a spouse, a product, or a book.

So. Let's steer back from the general world of publishing to non-discerning readers to BOOKS. More specifically, non-fiction literature available in Pakistan.

I want to see and read more practical, relevant literature that adds meaningful value to my life, enabling me to pass the same on to those around me. I don't care about the Russian slang of Clockwork Orange, about which Jugnoo the AAG TV VJ was recently enlightening the audience. Honestly!

In bookstores, there are terribly beautiful novels about "a profound sense of loss," and "shock and denial," and endless books about what turned Muslims intro terrorists and how America should fight back or get out and what Bush's got to do with it - but very books that truly enrich lives and lead one to meaningful action. Speaking more practically, most books I see are of the type that are just a better alternative to staring at the idiot box. What most of the selected literature in the bookstores does is to borrow our minds for a while, give them a tour of fantasy land or dip them in a quagmire of terrible thoughts, and return them to their place.

Yes, I know not all literature is like this. But speaking from the results end, it's hard to find many people whose lives have changed for the positive better (not the cynically educated) by reading the kind of literature we have access to.

More practically, I have not found some of the most profound books I have been looking for on the bookshelves of Liberty Books (and nowhere in their e-store) which makes this rant slightly personal, but still insightful on what I think is truly the state of literary taste...

Saturday, October 14, 2006

My Name is Red: novel for the Renaissance Soul - 4

My nomination for the Wednesday blogwordoftheday # 19: Red.

Continued from Part 1 & Part 2 & Part 3


Now we know the premise of the ____________ that I am creating.

I found myself a little worried yesterday and frustrated today after I spoke with the artist's rep and Tazeen, respectively. I assured Tazeen that somewhere, somehow, many more people have thought of the same idea and are working on it. But we are not well-known nor are we connected.

I also told Tazeen that though un-named, un-nicked with a popular word... this concept is a living trend. It is living, and it is growing in this very 21st century world. I believe in this concept, whatever its name will be.

But I have just synthesised my life's long learning recently, and I was terribly alone - I knew few people in the modern world who have thought on this line. And even fewer in the Muslim world. (Oh by the way, another time I will tell that Muslims were the pioneers of the Renaissance, and that the ancients and the European Renaissance just fell short of the Great Synesthesia that Muslims would ultimately have moved towards if not for the eradication of knowledge from the Muslim world?)

And then tonight, while checking the Amazon Bestseller Books rank for In the Line of Fire, I found My Name is Red : an intellectual mystery novel about a Muslim miniaturist's murder. Written by Orhan Pamuk, and riding the bestseller wave as Pamuk just became the 2006 Nobel Laureate in Literature. Orhan's Nobel win confirms my thesis that persons with this line of thought represent a strong though non-popular trend in contemporary human thought. And that it is reason enough, if passion & belief alone were not, for me to create [the gallery].

I haven't read the book, of course, but overviews & my instinct tells me I have found a twin soul... there is no co-incidence this co-incidental. I can't begin to tell in how many ways this is just the book that answers my many, many questions!

Post-script thoughts:
"Islamic Renaissance Art"... "Global Renaissance Art"... great words to capture this concept, but sadly over-used in all the wrong contexts. ??????? Hmmmm.

Similar earlier thoughts:
Will Robert Langdons of Linguistics Save the World?
"Whole World Thinking" - the Third Way
Divine Beauty


My Name is Red: novel for the Renaissance Soul - 3

My nomination for the Wednesday blogwordoftheday # 19: Red.

Continued from Part 1 & Part 2

In my view, a true renaissance soul is one that is beyond art and science, or for that matter, any common conflict. It is the soul that has learnt to embrace the many without prejudice or question. That is why, such souls not just have multiple talents, but little resistance to any new hobby or learning that comes their way.

In our boxed-education-ridden human society, we often call these people "unfocused." By God, it is our gift to be not focused on any one thing! We are like museums and encyclopedias - timeless and spacefree. We embrace everyone and everything... we sacrifice a single identity, to find many!

And so I am creating this __________ for [Islamic-human Arte-Scienza/IHAS]. These species need names.

IHAS's idea is: differences between east and west and north and south are meaningless. True knowledge and art and science are those that realize that the four fingers and the one thumb are sticking out of One Hand. Humanity has a common source of knowledge - even though all humans see that through their own lens. The human "arte-scienza" is an aesthetic approach to real (vs. fantasy) knowledge that embraces all humanity. In other words, the real human knowledge presented artistically.

This is not the idea of a lone nut. We have heard just these ideas, by many other names: The Da Vinci Code was all about knowledge of the world (scientific, mathematical, truly renaissance) hidden in/ represented by art. Only, the novel had a Christian context.

Enter Islamic-human Arte-Scienza.

The European Renaissance is the only time in modern history to which this synesthesia is attributed. Actually, the ancients have always been aware of this concept - and their learning is now surviving in Pagan and Shamanic faiths. Don't judge yet... I don't advocate paganism. I only say that a pagan sees the same Fibonacci sequence in a sunflower petal arrangement that a Muslim or a Christian or an atheist does. Therefore, there is really no grand behind-the-scenes-conspiracy in the symbols that were so masterfully described in The Da Vinci Code.

There is nothing shocking about the fact that the blade & the chalice are actually rather prevalent symbols. In fact, the dome & the minarets of the masjids also are blade and chalice! What is shocking is that humans are blind to what is right in front of our eyes!

Darlings, a circle is a circle... and we may find it in a flower, or the dome of a mosque. Big wonder?

Now: Islam. A monotheist religion. To skip a very possible second essay, here's the summary: at least the prevalence of similar symbols must indicate to One God? Or whatever you want to call it, but a Common Design behind it all?

This Common Design is above (picture it ABOVE/ ATOP right now) and it is beyond (picture it BEYOND/DISTANT) all cultures and times and spaces. It is above and beyond only Science and only Art. It is above and beyond only Yin or only Yang. It is above and beyond only East or only West. All our existence and consciousness and creativity is contained in this One Design. And no artist or scientist or renaissance soul ever created anything ex nihilo.

Similar earlier thoughts:
Will Robert Langdons of Linguistics Save the World?
"Whole World Thinking" - the Third Way
Divine Beauty

Continued in Part 4...
Next: My Name is Red

My Name is Red: novel for the Renaissance Soul - 2

My nomination for the Wednesday blogwordoftheday # 19: Red.

Continued from Part 1

All my life, I have believed that humans and human minds and hearts have a tremendous undiscovered potential. I believe there is a vast reservoir of knowledge out there, and that our hearts and minds have as deep and wide an access to it as we wish. I believe that in this world, as always, we need people with a generalist knowledge - the wise Oracle of yore, the know-it-all of today. In fact, there is a name in the world of knowledge for just such a person: the renaissance man. Or in contemporary, more gender-friendly terms: the renaissance soul.

This specie is quite different form another one that we commonly encounter: the... the "person" with an opinion on everything, just because they have heard something about everything, and if they have not, it still does not matter. Yes, we know who this type is, and sometimes they are literate and equipped with the latest quotes and facts & figures which baffle a normal person. You know they are just parroting away at your mind, but you can't block them out with as many facts.

But these are not renaissance souls. The quick & dirty test is: is, in any field of their life, the experience of that knowledge evident?

We will leave this specie here and move on to the Renaissance Soul. There is a growing number of literature and research that is now advocating the "rise" of the creative, the right-brained, the artistic soul. Because of the elitist and erudite nature of art, it is easy to once again believe that artists have renaissance souls. Possibly, but not automatically.

Similar earlier thoughts:
Will Robert Langdons of Linguistics Save the World?
"Whole World Thinking" - the Third Way
Divine Beauty

Continued in Part 3...
Next: Beyond Art & Science - And...

My Name is Red: novel for the Renaissance Soul - 1

My nomination for the Wednesday blogwordoftheday # 19: Red.

Wow. God is always listening, and answering. Today Hu answered with " My Name is Red."

Yesterday, I met the representative of an artist and had a long, drifting talk about an idea. Today, I talked to Tazeen and asked her to try understand "the idea." All this month, I have spoken with quite a few persons about the idea... and none have really understood my idea of Islamic-human Arte-Scienza, though they did a good job of nodding along.

I call it Islamic-human Arte-Scienza because this "thing" has no popular name.

But first, the context of this out-of-the-blue post: I am creating a __________. I don't know what to call it either? A gallery? A museum? A collection? An experimental studio laboratory?

For very easy reference, and to escape the indifferent scrutiny of the common mind, I call it a gallery. An art gallery. Yet I just realized that we start believing in what we say, and I have much more to say and believe in and do than create an art gallery. So it's not an art gallery. Not just that.

I have decided that the time has come in my life where I start living out my knowledge. After all, wise men such as Hazrat Ali (blessings be upon him) say that knowledge without action consumes a person. What is the point of knowledge, truly, if we don't use it or pass it on - through demonstration?

Next: The Renaissance Soul...

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Studies of Beauty/ Truth: da Vinci's drawings

Our man Leonardo da Vinci was in a constant state of awe. He observed with an aware mind, and didn't let slip in oblivion most of what he saw. He captured his observations and studies in great detail.

[I'll update the rest of this entry when I have time. The old post has been removed for driving crazy stat-distorting traffic to my blog.]

My Daily 15 Good People List

Are there 15 good people in the world that I know? At least 15 good people? Then I can sleep well and happy...

This is mantra that I have been using since this past week. About a week ago, I found myself unusually sad and let down one night - unable to sleep. Now this was funny, as a mere month ago, I had prayed to God: "I can feel no sadness in my heart, and I am extremely happy. And I think I may forget You and the real life of the people around me." That prayer was immediately answered with a dream full of sad memories and un-happened terrible futures. (As I was just saying to Yawer a moment ago: "Never posit any awkward propositions to The Universe. The Universe answers!")

Then again, I felt this sadness - usually brought on by a change of circumstances, of weather, and by an inadvertent encounter with people of ill intentions.

So unable to sleep one night, I realized that my mind was more occupied with complaint than with thanks. And that I had been thinking too much about the kind of people who make no heart happy. It's true that they exist, and so do their problems, and their actions - but they are not the only type. Besides, I was just a little too overwhelmed with all the news that I am sensitive to... not right!

All right, so apart from being patient, which is challenging for the heart, I had to be thankful too. Certainly, life isn't all "challenging" - but also "rewarding?"

So first, I let out all problems of my system. I laid down a list of complaints for God to worry about while I slept; as Hu reportedly doesn't sleep all day, night, or eternity. Then I told Hu my strategy: I have to think of all good that happened to me that day. Upon counting, I realized that it was only my impatience that prevented me from seeing that this day was indeed better than the last. And for heaven's sake, that is what a good life is all about!

And then suddenly, I was inspired! Why was I letting my mind brood about the wrong sort of people? Surely, there were at least 3 - no 5! - no, even 10! - wait: 15 good people out there, right now, who I knew personally and closely. People who are wonderful unto themselves and they have been especially kind to me recently. I made a list in no specific order:

1-6. The Mohsins (1 boy pal+1 his wife+2 his sisters +2 his cousins). We share all kinds of stuff, and support each other. They are one family who really listen to me, and I am honored for this.
7-8. My parents. While I was thinking of only having non-family persons on the list initially, I realized suddenly that this is not the moment to rank or separate, but just listen to my heart. And my heart said I must always be mindful of those who we generally take for granted: the ones closest to us.... the ones who make the most sacrifices without getting effusive thanks or even a nod.

Note: I am totally upset at my brothers for not helping me out with cleaning our house, so I postponed their entry until I had found other people. Yes, brothers, you don't know how I get back at you! No Oscars for you gentlemen tonight!
9. O. A. - an azeem babaji person who loves and sacrifices unconditionally for everyone. And for me, despite my extreme bad-tameezi.
10-13. M. Joyo + her three sons: my hosts on the Khairpur tour. Terrific, spiritual, hospitable people.
14-15- on and on: a string of people who have been kind to me or others. Including my villager hosts in Haramosh valley, and a friend who manages charity ops on her own. Plus my brothers. My girl pals... who I don't get to talk to often since they've moved out of town and country.... but who've been there for me... so many people!

Why was I upset to begin with? So it was true - I *was* looking the wrong way!

The list has just swelled on! I chucked out a few persons I have been upset with - sorry, but the heart had to sail on effortlessly through the list and not start worrying afresh. But still, after that one night when I needed a list of absolutely worrying-free people, I have expanded my outlook to those with whom I have multi-tiered relationships. People who are easy to forget because they are always there. People who have so much to offer to themselves and the world. People who on the paths of self-discovery... people who are at a different level from me, but essentially good people.

So each night now, I think of 15 new names... or new things about names who've already made it on My 15 Good People List. If I have been thinking about someone unpleasant, I bring up themup mentally after I have made my daily list, and tell them: "Well, darling, I know at least 15 good people, and somehow you are looking really insignificant rigiht now! So *POOF!* you go!"

Sleep well.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

End of Maybelink. Welcome Warid.

This one is personal, and I am going to have to serve this below the belt:

What an entirely pathetic and unresponsive company Mobilink is! Since July, I have been approaching this company to help me block unwanted anonymous callers. But, no. Private investigation reveals that Mobilink account holders who are involved in harassment and otherwise the misuse of the service have fake account information - and contacts within the company.

I once managed to get a number blocked, which was promptly re-opened the next day. The company's response is non-sense and basically means I waste more of my time telling them what happened, what happened, what happened.

It takes a lot for a person like me to disbelieve in something good - and for now, I neither believe that our system serves ANY justice to a citizen, nor do I believe that corporations like Mobilink are interested in the welfare of their customers at all.

They have the nerve to ignore the request for help by a female customer, and bring out a "Ladies [Fooled] First" package! I don't believe they put ladies first, or last!

Islam and afterlife: answering a Hindu's question

Understanding life and my own faith is a project that I am devoting a large time to, lately. I do this because I feel that our minds are so badly indoctrinated with false, incompatible, and often non-sense beliefs, that we do not see what is right in front of us. Besides, it is part of the human quest to always understand the reason and mystery of being. As Neo of The Matrix felt, there was something more to life than we all can see.

Anyhow. This Ramadan, I am going to share some of my understanding. Below is a Yahoo! answer that I gave to a Hindu questioner who wanted to understand Islam's concept of Heaven and afterlife.

The answer is to the best of my knowledge. I draw heavily upon modern metaphor and knowledge of science to "decode" the scripture. Call it the Da Vinci approach. :-)


At last, one question on Islam that seems to invite genuine opinion.

First, very briefly, the concept of life and death:

God created Humankind, and indeed other species, for Himself. Much as we see artists everyday creating works of arts as expression of their talent. God said, "I was a Hidden Treasure, and I wished to be known."

So He created the Universe, and perhaps the multiverse (Western scientists have acknowledged this concept*), and many species therein. Even Space, Time, and apparantly lifeless things are His creation, and are treated as entities unto themselves by gnostics and upon close understanding, even scientists. By the way, "He" is genderless, it's just a pronoun commonly used for God.

God created cognizant beings of higher intelligence so that they may know Him - and worship Him - and that is the purpose of all life. These beings include Angels, Humans, and Jinns - and humans are the supreme creation as they are both sublime and earthly.

Angels are bound by God's command, and humans and Jinn are by His principles. However, they have a degree of choice to opt between the principles of life and creation and society, or not.

All souls were created and given consciousness before they came to Earth. All souls that will ever come have been created. And it is not a concept beyond understanding for those who observe how an entire oak tree hides in its seed before birth; and indeed, in some ways, its children are also in that seed. Actually, all life around us hides signs and codes of Divine principles.

Anyway. "Life" as we know it is a part of the entire journey of creation. The purpose of life is to know God, and to live life according to His Design.

Personally, the best example of this is in theater where a director creates both good and bad characters, and gives them a script to act on. The act on stage is similar to life - and "death" means real life, when the actor gets off the stage. Shakespeare understood this well when he said, "All the world's a stage/ and all the men and women merely players**."

Islam treats men and women equally in matters of faith, and respects their gender differences in a few social matters.

Now to your questions:
(1) what the purpose of one's going to heaven
A reward for the good they did in "life" - i.e. time on Earth
(2) what exactly the souls that go to heaven do
Enjoy Divine nearness, and understand the truth behind life. They enjoy a world without cause & effect, and extra dimensions - often portrayed as a grand fantastic place in the scriptures. They will enjoy pureness, and in the words of Quran, will not hear anything crass or tasteless.

It is said that there will be a time, however, when they will go in a state of foreverness. I understand that best with the analogy of a writer: we are a novel being written by a Just Writer: near the end, good guys get good things, bad guys get a bad end, but eventually the novel ends. The story ends then, but it stays in that  state forever.

(3) whether women who believe in the religion also go to heaven and if so do they also get the reward there that men get there?
Women will go to Heaven, of course. Women are part of the one being that God created.... Chapter 4, line 1***. Islam address men and women equally in matters of faith. As for the "hoors," the beautiful celestial beings, I am not sure. I have only heard a couple of writers claim that hoors are not only the companions of Men. Yet this has weak support, and it may be that there are ifferent rewards for men and women. Yet the biggest reward is the sight of the Lord and the revelation of the secret of being. It is common to all - human and jinn males and females.

(4) How it is more important than the life on earth?
(5) Why god can not give that reward in this life on earth itself?
He can, but it's like writing the end of the story without writing a story; I hope my answer above answers this question. Life after earthly death is more imp as it is the actual destiny of Humankind etc. to meet their Lord; they will also be answerable about their choices. Also, God *does* give rewards to good deeds in life - one doesn't need any religion to believe that what goes round, comes round. And the basic good deeds, as understood by humanity regardless of religious beliefs, lead to good results - even if the results show themselves over time/ generations.

Yet this life is merely a pretext of the other. Once again, an actor was made an actor by virtue of acting. One could ask what's the purpose of finishing a play? Why doesn't the hero get the good end in the middle of the play? Why the play at all? Why not an Oscar just without it?

I read the interviews of J K Rowling, author of Harry Potter sometimes, and it astounds me how she sounds like God in some ways: she has written the end of the series, and is deciding who to kill or not in the story in the 7th book. She is not cruel; she is just a creator.****

The issue is how we perceive life; all the messgaes sent by God, inclusing Bhagwat Geeta and other ancient texts before Quran were to remind Humans of this reality.

Thank you for creating an opportunity to have Islam's view understood.

****** General Islamic teachings + my own understanding. I have been working with creative arts...