Month: April 2014
The Ashmolean museum in Oxford offers daily free tours with different thematic concepts and contexts. This is, by far, a superb way to visit a museum on a course of some weeks. That is due probably because of the obvious reason that what is usually an interested curious walk amongst the eras suddenly becomes a learning experience about cultures and hence, about life.
One thing that is constantly repeating while visiting a museum is the multiplicity of faiths and general dispositions of belief-based traditions and ceremonies that qualify and quantify the society.
In one of these visits I had the pleasure to walk through the Egyptian era. While listening to the explanation of the volunteering Egyptologist, I couldn´t help myself but take few notes I find to be extremely relevant to the way we perceive the interaction between older cultures and traditions and our own. Today, any curious person that is interested to know where and when her beliefs began can simply look at the vast and growing number of web pages (both official and amateurs) that delightfully narrate the passing of concepts and faith from one culture to the one that followed. This tour was no different, staring at Amun Ra’s human or ram´s face, one cannot not be awe striking by its majestic power. This divine Sun God usually appears holding in one hand a spear and in the other the Ankh, the key of life by the gods (still represented to this very day in various beliefs). As creator god, he is considered to be the father of kings, meaning the father of the great Pharaohs.
As even the great god cannot stay without the universal need of a feminine wisdom and natural connections, the belief in the Mother God (known as Mut) was also part of the divine. The Goddess was venerated as both Virgin and Mother and in many representations was depicted as a gyps (a vulture). The Pharaoh, on the other hand, was praised as an earthly god, as the son of both the creator god and the great wise goddess (though by parthenogenesis of course). He can no doubt create miracles and even holds the balance between Ka and Ba (concepts of the soul). The first being the sheut (close to the word ‘sheol’ in Hebrew which in general terms means ‘hell’), it is the shadow of the human soul. In direct opposition to Ka is Ba, depicted by a bird with a human head that flies to the field of Reeds (or Aaru, similar to the modern notion of paradise). No doubt, the assimilations and reconfiguration of cultures and symbols gave way for Ba to have a strong resemblance to the famous Al-Buraq that followed in the same region.
A museum, the great palace of knowledge, where a person not only journeys to the past but also to her own culture and origins. It is our universal, our extension to the farther realms that altogether are closer than we can imagine to our own perception. As pattern seeking mammals, it seems that there is a desire to create these magnificent artifacts of aesthetic emotional experience in order to give rise to reasons and explanations. Yet let us not forget (and any visit in a museum should reminds us), what was once sacred, today, is a mere curious piece of history and beauty.
A Meaningful Life Leads to a Longer Life
“Many studies have linked meaning in life to health. People who perceive their lives as full of meaning and purpose are less vulnerable to mental illness and are better able to cope with stress and trauma. Having a strong sense of meaning in life also inspires a desire to live healthy: it makes people feel like they have something to live for. But does a meaningful life actually lead to a longer life?
Initial evidence suggests that it may. In a study published in the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, Dr. Neal Krause, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, found that older adults who indicated having a strong sense of meaning in life in an initial assessment were more likely to still be alive at a follow-up assessment than older adults who lacked a strong sense of meaning. Moreover, Dr. Krause identified a feeling of purpose as a driving force. Older adults who felt like their lives had purpose were healthier and thus less likely to die.”
A Brief Tour of British Accents: 14 Ways to Speak English in 84 Seconds
“Visiting London a few months ago, easily as I could make sense of everybody speaking my native tongue, I pre-emptively gave up hope of picking up on the nuances of all the accents people had brought to the city from their hometowns — much less the numerous and subtle dialects native of London itself. Everyone I met insisted that a Briton’s accent says more about their origin, class, station in life, and degree of self-regard than any other quality, but not knowing Newcastle from Southampton when I first set foot on English soil, I had to take them at their word (however they happened to pronounce it).
The video above, in which professional dialect coach Andrew Jack demonstrates fourteen British accents in 84 seconds, might help sort things out for my fellow confused countrymen. “Received communication is the great communicator,” Jack says, using the accent I assume he grew up with. “As soon as you deviate from that and you go into London speech, for example, you lose a little bit of the communication.” By that point, Jack has seamlessly transitioned into Cockney, from which he then shifts into the accents of East Anglia, the West Country, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Liverpool, Northern Ireland, Dublin, the Scottish highlands, Glasgow, North Wales, and South Wales. “
Teenagers’ IQ scores can rise or fall sharply during adolescence
“IQ scores can change dramatically in teenage years in parallel with changes to the brain, according to a study that suggests caution in using the 11+ exam for grammar school entrance to predict academic ability. IQ is thought to be stable across a person’s life. Childhood scores are often used to predict education outcome and job prospects as an adult. But the study suggests scores are surprisingly variable.
Robert Sternberg from Oklahoma State University, who studies intelligence but was not in the research team, said: “A testing industry has developed around the notion that IQ is relatively fixed and pretty well set in the early years of life. This study shows in a compelling way that meaningful changes can occur throughout the teenage years.” Our mental faculties are not fixed, he said: “People who are mentally active and alert will likely benefit, and the couch potatoes who do not exercise themselves intellectually will pay a price.” (…) The teens split evenly between those whose IQ improved and those whose IQ worsened. “It was not the case that young low performers got better, and the young high performers averaged out. Some highs got even better, and some lows got even worse,” said Price. (…) The study contradicts a long-standing view of intelligence as fixed. Alfred Binet, father of modern intelligence tests, believed mental development ended at 16, while child psychologist Jean Piaget thought it ended even earlier.”
TED’s Best Of The Week! Your elusive creative genius, by Elizabeth Gilbert
Funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk
“And then the Renaissance came and everything changed, and we had this big idea, and the big idea was let’s put the individual human being at the center of the universe above all gods and mysteries, and there’s no more room for mystical creatures who take dictation from the divine. And it’s the beginning of rational humanism, and people started to believe that creativity came completely from the self of the individual. And for the first time in history, you start to hear people referring to this or that artist as being a genius rather than having a genius. And I got to tell you, I think that was a huge error. You know, I think that allowing somebody, one mere person to believe that he or she is like, the vessel, you know, like the font and the essence and the source of all divine, creative, unknowable, eternal mystery is just a smidge too much responsibility to put on one fragile, human psyche. It’s like asking somebody to swallow the sun. It just completely warps and distorts egos, and it creates all these unmanageable expectations about performance. And I think the pressure of that has been killing off our artists for the last 500 years. (…) But the process, and the heavy anxiety around it was released when he took the genie, the genius out of him where it was causing nothing but trouble, and released it kind of back where it came from, and realized that this didn’t have to be this internalized, tormented thing. It could be this peculiar, wondrous, bizarre collaboration kind of conversation between Tom and the strange, external thing that was not quite Tom.”
Person Of The Week! Leopold von Sacher Masoch!
Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch (1836 – 1895) was an Austrian writer and journalist, who gained renown for his romantic stories of Galician life. During his lifetime, Sacher-Masoch was well known as a man of letters, a utopian thinker who espoused socialist and humanist ideals in his fiction and non-fiction.
“I feel justified in calling this sexual anomaly “Masochism”, because the author Sacher-Masoch frequently made this perversion, which up to his time was quite unknown to the scientific world as such, the substratum of his writings. I followed thereby the scientific formation of the term “Daltonism“, from Dalton, the discoverer of colour-blindness. During recent years facts have been advanced which prove that Sacher-Masoch was not only the poet of Masochism, but that he himself was afflicted with the anomaly. Although these proofs were communicated to me without restriction, I refrain from giving them to the public. I refute the accusation that “I have coupled the name of a revered author with a perversion of the sexual instinct”, which has been made against me by some admirers of the author and by some critics of my book. As a man, Sacher-Masoch cannot lose anything in the estimation of his cultured fellow-beings simply because he was afflicted with an anomaly of his sexual feelings. As an author, he suffered severe injury so far as the influence and intrinsic merit of his work is concerned, for so long and whenever he eliminated his perversion from his literary efforts he was a gifted writer, and as such would have achieved real greatness had he been actuated by normally sexual feelings. In this respect he is a remarkable example of the powerful influence exercised by the vita sexualis be it in the good or evil sense over the formation and direction of man’s mind.”
“Throughout history it has always been a serious deep culture which has produced moral character. Man even when he is selfish or evil always follows principles, woman never follows anything but impulses. Don’t ever forget that, and never feel secure with the woman you love.”
Watch interesting talk on the subject: <
Love others as you love yourself (or the negation version: “do not do to others what you do not wish to be done to you”). Many (religious/believers/influenced people) claim this Golden rule to be God’s commandment (by god, of course each person believes it to be her god that said it). Unfortunately, it is a common mistake. Many cultures around the world have it as an implicit social rule (whether they are an Amazonian tribe or a lost Asian tribe). Actually, by limiting this basic human behavior to such a narrow cultural ownership, one might miss so much of human’s cultural beauty and variety. Meaning, aside of the fact that all cultural have this rule as a finite and ultimate goodness to follow, what is interesting is how they reach it and how they so beautifully described it.
One such culture is from the land of the Hundred Schools of Thought, where Chinese philosophers were debating about existence, faith, heaven and earth. Those were philosophical reflections ten folds the ones that were taking place simultaneously in the deserts of the Judea and Samaria. One philosopher that is worth remembering is the great Mo-Tzu (also known as Mozi, ca. 470 BC – ca. 391 BC). He is the founder of the school of Mohism, a contemporary and rival to the school of Confucianism. Mo-Tzu’s teachings were about authenticity, simplicity and self restrain. He believed that Love is a universal concept and should be given to the entire universe in an equal manner (unlike Confucius that believed in measures of love to different proximities). This also means that Mo-Tzu was strongly against rituals, especially the kind that worships Heavens and different spirits and entities. One should reflect and search within himself -he repeated- and through nature to attain self-knowledge. Rituals make your mind stagnate and inhibit your spirit by dulling the energy of curiosity and freedom. For that reason he was also against music and ceremonies (while some say that some music inspires them, I do have to agree with him in regards to the large majority of popular music).
Unlike Confucius that continued the Western Chou tradition (1111-770 BC), Mo Tzu was inspired by the ancient Hsia (2183-1752 BC), with the concept of righteousness. Although both had a strong emphasis on human value and valor, it was Mo Tzu who was against the belief in faith. For him, the doctrine of love should be embraced and everything in the universe should be loved like one’s own. Thus, while walking ceaselessly between the different rulers, he preached for peace and egalitarian society. For Ti Mo Tzu, the Heaven were passive and indifferent and the spirits (angels) did not exist, thus it was strictly by the knowledge and love of men to create a world kind and prosperous.
On his many travels, he saw a world of poverty of the mass, wars inflicted by unfit and greedy rulers, classes that weight on social well being with extravagant luxuries of the few. Mo-Tzu strongly believed that helpless believe in faith undermines the will of all, and only by becoming aware and self-conscious with knowledge human will overcome those maladies of natural beings.
read full text at –ctext.org/mozi
Why are there so many religions, all of which suggest that God is on their side and holds the same values that they do?
One answer comes from a 2009 study by Nick Epley and some of his colleagues from the University of Chicago, which asked religious Americans to state their positions on abortion, the death punishment and the war in Iraq. (This study is described in Dr. Epley’s recent book, “Mindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want.”) Participants were then asked to predict the opinions of a few well-known individuals (such as Bill Gates), President Bush, the “average American,” and—and uniquely to this study—God on these issues.
Interestingly, the respondents were rather objective about predicting the opinions held by their fellow humans, but they tended to believe that God had similar opinions to their own. Conservatives believed God was very conservative; liberal believers were certain that God was more lenient.
To find out why we can view God so flexibly, a follow-up experiment asked another group of participants to take the position on the death penalty diametrically opposed to their own and argue this viewpoint in front of a camera. A large body of research on cognitive dissonance has shown that people who are forced to argue for an opinion opposite to their actual one feel so uncomfortable with the conflict that they’re likely to change their original opinion. After giving their on-camera speech, participants were again asked to express the views on these hot-button issues of the study’s famous individuals, President Bush, the “average American” and God.
The results? After expressing the opinion opposite their original one, individuals became more moderate. Those who disliked the death penalty became less opposed, and those who were for it became less so. But there was no such shift in participants’ predictions of the opinions of the well-known individuals, President Bush or the “average American.” And what about their predictions about God’s views? Participants tended to attribute the same position as their own new, more moderate viewpoint to God.
God, apparently, is something of a clean slate on which we can more easily project whatever we wish. We subscribe to the religious group that supports our beliefs, and then interpret Scripture in a way that supports our opinions. So if there is a God, I believe—no, I’m sure—that that (s)he thinks the way I do.
Dishonesty Debate with Dan Ariely, Paul Bloom & Peter Singer
Cross-Coursera Dishonesty Debate brought together moral philosopher Peter Singer of Princeton, behavioral psychologist Paul Bloom of Yale, and behavioral economist Dan Ariely of Duke, to engage in a debate on dishonesty, morality, and ethics. It is a thoroughly informative and accessible synthesis of their respective fields.
Ted’s Best Of The Week! Tony Robbins: Why we do what we do?
In this older 2006 talk, Tony Robbins discusses the “invisible forces” that motivate everyone’s actions — and high-fives Al Gore in the front row.
Anthony “Tony” Robbins (born February 29, 1960) is an American life coach, self-help author and motivational speaker. He became well known through his infomercials and self-help books, Unlimited Power and Awaken the Giant Within. Robbins writes about subjects such as health and energy, overcoming fears, building wealth, persuasive communication, and enhancing relationships. Robbins began his career learning from many different motivational speakers, and promoted seminars for his personal mentor, Jim Rohn. He is deeply influenced by neuro-linguistic programming.
“When do people really start to live? When they face death.”
Person Of The Week! Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis!
Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, was a physiologist, medical doctor, psychologist and influential thinker of the early twentieth century. He was born in Freiberg, which is now known as the Czech Republic, on May 6, 1856. Freud’s innovative treatment of human actions, dreams, and indeed of cultural artifacts as invariably possessing implicit symbolic significance has proven to be extraordinarily fruitful, and has had massive implications for a wide variety of fields including psychology, anthropology, semiotics, and artistic creativity and appreciation. Freud developed psychoanalysis, a method through which an analyst unpacks unconscious conflicts based on the free associations, dreams and fantasies of the patient. His theories on child sexuality, libido and the ego, among other topics, were some of the most influential academic concepts of the 20th century.
Freud’s self-analysis, which forms the core of his masterpiece The Interpretation of Dreams, originated in the emotional crisis which he suffered on the death of his father and the series of dreams to which this gave rise. This analysis revealed to him that the love and admiration which he had felt for his father were mixed with very contrasting feelings of shame and hate (such a mixed attitude he termed ‘ambivalence’).
Instead of treating the behavior of the neurotic as being causally inexplicable—which had been the prevailing approach for centuries—Freud insisted, on the contrary, on treating it as behavior for which it is meaningful to seek an explanation by searching for causes in terms of the mental states of the individual concerned. Hence the significance which he attributed to slips of the tongue or pen, obsessive behavior and dreams—all these, he held, are determined by hidden causes in the person’s mind, and so they reveal in covert form what would otherwise not be known at all.
Freud’s account of the sexual genesis and nature of neuroses led him naturally to develop a clinical treatment for treating such disorders. The aim of the method may be stated simply in general terms–to re-establish a harmonious relationship between the three elements (Id, Ego and Super-ego) which constitute the mind by excavating and resolving unconscious repressed conflicts. When a hysterical patient was encouraged to talk freely about the earliest occurrences of her symptoms and fantasies, the symptoms began to abate, and were eliminated entirely when she was induced to remember the initial trauma which occasioned them. Turning away from his early attempts to explore the unconscious through hypnosis, Freud further developed this “talking cure,” acting on the assumption that the repressed conflicts were buried in the deepest recesses of the unconscious mind.
Last week, Professor John Picton, Emeritus Professor of African Art at the University of London’s School of African Studies, spoke about West African masks. The talk held place in the recently renovated and renewed Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. Professor Picton says that it is important to understand that the relationship between a mask, the person wearing it and the mask-in-performance, is neither simple, nor straight-forward. This asseveration is very interesting in relation to Trispectivism, recognizing the three perspectives interacting in one performance. Picton also elaborated on aspects of power, performance, disguise, secrecy, colour and imagery in specific masks from Nigeria.
The renowned expert explained about the mysterious subject of masking and masquerade in Nigeria. One of the main mask destinations he discussed was in Nigeria. In the Yoruba tribe there are three types of masks for different ceremonies. The most impressive one is called Epa, which is an incredibly decorated masks with variety of symbols.
As you can see in the photos, there is a large variety of colours and shapes (i.e. the color of white means hard work in the fields but for a Muslim it is purity and closeness to God). Not every detail has a meaning but certainly some forms, shapes and symbols have meanings. This is where the knowledgeable will be able to distinguish between the important and the not important aspects of the mask (i.e. a wheel have no important message but two red colors on the forehead mean a certain deity). So does the chant and the music. A good wearer has to know to distinguish music, words, and steps and of course the symbols of the deity he represents.
The ceremonies which the tribe uses the masks for are known to be a form of a test, where the most famous one is the representation of death (of a person). The spirit is entered into the mask before the ceremony and the wearer of the mask is supposed to embody the spirit or re-embody the dead person. Actually, in some cases, as with the masks of the Ebira, the mask maker incorporates body relics of the death person (possessions and even skin tissue, hair, bones etc).
The secrecy of the wearer is important. The mask wearer cannot appear to your eyes as the neighbor’s son or a relative that you grew up with. In order to keep the mysterious aspect and the holiness belief, it has to be the transcendental divine. The human body (again) becomes a mere vessel. That is the reason why both the spectators and the performer have a belief that a person cannot see the wearer of the mask naked in any other occasions; otherwise, they will fall ill. One cannot see the inside of the mask.
The masks are created with images about the authority, army, spirits, kings and other power position essence (in some case even an American or other foreign symbolism). It is believed that the masks dance, sing and tell stories, they make you laugh and sometimes think, they initiate children into adulthood, lead armies to war and celebrate their achievements.
Masks create distance, with no exception, which, in a small community, brings to life some dramatic distance between performer and audience. It is a wonderful interaction in a trispectivist manner where the human agency dissipates into the cause of the ceremony, meaning the metaphysical one. The fact that the wearer actually has the physical strength to dance and jump with those heavy masks in midsummer is also believed to be thanks to magical intervention and medicine with special powers.
The notion of the mask blurs the individual All into an ambivalent, sometimes ambiguous identity, one that is depicted by the universal All yet still represented by an individual. This anthropomorphic deification of a symbol repeats in different cultures and in this one, probably the most intriguing issue is the use of masks. This creates an acute interaction between the spectator in the physical world and the mask as a door for the spirit world to intervene.