Monday, January 29, 2007

How to make notes in non-fiction reading

An easy guide on how to take notes and group important information while reading non-fiction.

The Story
Five years ago, I opened "A Brief History of Time," physicist Stephen Hawking's classic treatise on Time, with a great deal of excitement.

Intuition suggested that I devise a method to understand the book. I developed this brief annotation guide which helps me classify my thinking. Works very well most most non-fiction.

(!) Important/ Info
(Check mark) Fact
(?) Question
(\) Idea
(u) Understanding
( ) Anything else

A Quest for Beauty...

I have been, since long, in the quest of the beautiful design of life, and now I feel I have reached a certain point where I can look back and say: "I have been a seeker of the truth."

A Vision
I have always had a vision of a world where people of varied languages, ethnicities, talents, and tastes are doing their best, enjoying their rights, giving back to the world, and are oriented towards a common, larger direction. I see all people in a large circle, holding hands, with their glowing faces turned upwards.

And this strange vision has been driving most of my work in this life.

A Quest to Understand Art
This is a personal quest that began not with the arts, but with science, and progressed through fields as varied as business and technology. I learned about Einstein's general theory of relativity and the theories of time and space as a child; and spent the teen years discussing theories with my brother - an able math-minded person.

Last year, I designed the People-Centered Model of Business (PC-MOB) (read blog; download paper) which puts humans at the center of the "universe" of business. I put "belief system" at the top/ start of the cycle of human behavior.

Belief determines everything. However, I saw that the model lacked dimensions, and that perhaps belief (or the lack/distortion of it) must be at the center; around which everything revolves. Anyhow, belief is a very strong determinant of the shape and actions of the human society... and the PC-MOB shows this dynamic in action.

Recently, I have been learning the Sufi concept of cosmology. And very recently, I have turned my attention towards art.

Art is tricky; in the words of John Bielenberg, the art scene (globally) is dominated by "postmodernist nonsense."

Divine Art Movement - a new way of understanding art
I have been searching for a new approach to arts as part of my project on a new thinking about everything - a general theory of everything - an integrated approach towards being, with humans at the center. Now I've learned they call it "cosmology."

Why do I seek? Because this is an eternal human quest. Besides, I have found life so disintegrated by fragmented beliefs, that it is my mission to have a coherent system of life that weaves humanity together, and weaves humanity into its larger context.

Through the Divine Art movement, I hope to bring a new understanding to what art is, and what good is it to humanity. There is a lot to explore; and I am already excited by discovering that there are indeed many like-minded souls out there.

The Divine Art Movement

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Divine Art: the icon

More about the Divine Art Movement.

I have talked to some artists online and off-line about the idea; it has sparked interest... more to follow.

This is the icon I drew; but I am already thinking of replacing it with a diagram by Keith Critchlow that shows creation in action.

The Divine Art Icon
See it on Flickr
Join the Divine Art Movement community @ Flickr

I am excited to discover that my idea has serious potential, both philosophically, and as a strong trend in the art world. Today I discovered an exhibition at the James Cohan Gallery, Cosmologies, "an exhibition which explores the wide ranging strategies used to depict notions of 'the universal.'"

A brief history of my (very private) quest, as I wrote in a letter to Sushma Sabnis today:

"I have been wondering and wondering about this approach towards arts - calling it everything from Islamic art to spiritual art to humanist art - but none of these titles got it. I have actually been trying to find art that shows how people of various faiths, times, and geographies understand their place in the Universe - especially with reference to the Divine. The problem was that I could not exactly define what I was looking for."

Now I think I have found something.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Soul Never Dies

For a good part of my life, i.e. since mid-teens, I have been what I call "work-oriented." Being in the know of my gifts, I have been rather more blessed than most others. (Mind you, I think all humans are superbly talented, most just don't "see" themselves to my great personal annoyance.)

Somehow, for a critical part in my life, I developed the unfortunate linear thinking that prevents the development of human thinking generally. That is, I concluded, work is everything. More precisely, it was my work - my ideas and my successes - that were more important.

In someway, it's always true - but only in a relevant, and not absolute, way. My work is most important to me (i.e. I am the one to take care of it and take interest in it when and if no one else does), naturally, but it's not as if my six billion planet mates don't matter.

I had been a little worried about the tremendous damage other such persons, who believed that their big idea was everything, have caused to humanity. Sadly, my personal favorite - for he understood God like few else have - Einstein, falls in that sad, sad category of humans whose brilliance has so far produced more death than life.

So I went looking for the missing piece. That little alchemical agent which, when added to the equation of all human endeavour, produced miracles, produced life.

And through a series of unfortunate but ultimately rewarding events I found: Love.

I was talking to Sha, a person with whom I can brew the thickest of thoughts, and shared my experiential conclusion that Love is what I want to do as a life-long career. To my inward surprise, he agreed readily. He said he was coming to believe that Love is all that matters.

Love is the spirit of the world.

It's so strange how Humans have been born such an ignorant specie - us, wretched, close-minded beings - that we call animals, animals. Whereas it's humanity that's been the single most catastrophic force in the history of the Multi/Universe.

I discovered a documentary on Discovery by chance. A man was lovingly stroking a shark which looked rather as pleased and obliging as my little kitten Doxy. The entire documentary was about extraordinary congenial animal behavior. I sat stunned but satisfied that my new-formed hypothesis - nay, theory, since it's been tested - about love is correct.

About two years ago, in the face of the most catastrophic experience that I undertook in the name of all things good, kind, and loving - I found myself so badly burnt I felt I was beyond repair this time. Then I remembered an old, old belief of mine that had been lost beneath piles of inhuman school/college education: The Soul Never Dies!

I decided that despite all evil that I met personally, all hurt that was caused, all that is wrong with our world (and which is hurting humanity in general such that no one is safe from the layers of fear that are now part of our psyche) - I would not be counted amongst those who broke, split and sold their souls.

I spent two years nearly alone and away from the world, and had some astounding experiences. At one time, I learnt that no one can be friendless and alone if God sides with them - and in this period, I discovered a much deeper side of the people around me. I now truly see them and see what's behind these many names and faces. Above all, I learnt to see myself, and to see the Design of Creation through me.

In March 2005 I undertook a spiritual journey to Khairpur. It was almost like discovering a hidden world of love and miracles. I met many, many people who lived by love - and being with them extraordinary for the everyday miracles they made happen. We went to a tomb that oversees the Indus flowing beneath Sukkur Bairaj. My friend Afie stood on one side, closed her eyes, and "communicated" in her mind with the blind dolphins to appear.

The Blind Dolphin is called "Bhullan" in Sindhi. It was not the hour for them to come - around 6 p.m. But shortly, dolphins began surfacing, apparently with their young. So many, many of them... it astounded our hosts, the Joyo boys.

It was but one such journey. The last year - 2006 - was one where I experienced first hand the effect of "modulating" my own love... and understood that this indeed is the most powerful force in the world.

Two years ago, when I was facing the dreadful choice of either going the way of love, or of hate and revenge, I had found it a difficult decision. There is a word I despise, but it explain exactly some hidden prejudice of people who are kind and who choose love: Loser.

True love is no loss, only phantoms of love are. Ever the science-bent, I see a so-called failed experiment of love as one way that Edison could not make a light bulb - he finally did it after some 2000 attempts.

There is Light that I believe in...

I am listening to the Indian song "Maula" the final words of which reveal a great secret:

"My heart said this,
this is what my heart said indeed...

it revealed to me, O friend!,
the one who has love in their heart
is the one who is loved by God!"

P.S. I neither promote the "phantom" variety of love nor am I exploring how to adore fish.

"The Vacant Blue"

I have bought a miniature painting titled "The Vacant Blue." It is one of a pair - the other was the portrait of a long eye-lashed beauty in a golden frame. Mine is a serene blue frame - vacant - where the beauty's love(r)'s appearamce is awaited!

I loved it! And now it's part of my collection.


OK. It seems that spring haas sprung upon us. Two days ago, I was shivering. Now the fan is on full. At least I can wash my face without trembling from the cold!

P.S. mother has planted beautiful flowers all over!

Mending the broken

Last Thursday, I got a bit unpleasant with my laptop. The hard disk did not approve at all, and died. (Rather, it went into a very convincing coma.)  I spent the next two days as worried and hopeful as one can be in such a situation. At one point, I decided to foresee my life as it would be without all the hard work that I hadn't backed up, and could now possibly lose.

I saw, in my imagination, myself being able to carry on. In fact, I felt secretly happy. Ah, the possibility of starting afresh has never frightened me - and I don't see why I haven't got a glowing career in disaster recovery or new city planning!

Anyhow. My luck has cooperated. Much of the data seems to be back. My heart is in the right place. A movie that I saw by sheer chance - featuring Queen Latifah who laughed through the horrible challenges her budding business faced - proved to be a teacher that came in handy.

I had also read the account of a Sufi saint (Maulana Rumi, I think) who turned from being an academic scholar to a true "seeker" after he encountered a gang of robbers. He pleaded with thm to not take his books lest he lost his hard-acquired knowledge. At this the robbers chided: "What kind of knowledge is it that you can lose to robbers?" The saint was never the same again and rose to be a great Sufi teacher himself.

I searched myself during the few days while the disk was gone for checking (it's still on the operation table) and I found that - God be praised! - I had not lost my knowledge. I had also learnt that I was capable of being unkind to a poor defenceless laptop for which - shame on me! Shame!

Ah! May the best happen!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Divine Art Movement


I finally have a name for a concept: DIVINE ART.

The Divine Art Movement

I have given myself the freedom to describe what I feel must be a movement - not a way of creating art, but understanding art.

My philosophical statement can be summarized in one line: "Life is an act of waking up."

It is a limitation of human vision that we believe that we create things. We simply re-use what the Divine Hand has placed around us in our environment. Knowledge, to me, is understanding our surrounding. The objective of philosophy is to allow humans to see the truth of existence. Video gamers and other users of virtual reality, ironically, are in the best position to understand this.

The philosophy of the Divine Art Movement: there is a pattern to Divine Creativity, and human creativity is nothing but the identification of and re-arrangement of Divine patterns.

Throughout history, artists and craftspersons have dedicated themselves to understanding the Divine through identifying and using divine patterns. Geometric art and tribal patterns are the two great instances of this approach.

As a philosopher, I believe that every human, from their own "point of interest", is both entitled and "duty-bound" to know the Divine. The true path to Divine goes through humanity and a spirit of sharing. An artist, by this philosophy, does not make art for art's sake nor for their own sake, but for the sake of humanity and Divinity.

Divine Art would lead to art that is harmonious, beautiful, peaceful, serene, and truly embracing of the beauty of the natural patterns of creation.

-Ramla A.
Renaissance Soul