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Life Spans and Relativity 4 June 2008

Posted by mecca in ABUSHARIF, Arts, Poetry.

Here’s a nice poem I came across. It’s in an old paperback I’ve got: Immortal Poems of the English Language. Language moves. We all know that. It can make familiar information so pointed. This poem (“On a Fly drinking out of his Cup”) is by William Oldys (1696 – 1761).

Busy, curious, thirsty fly!
Drink with me and drink as I:
Freely welcome to my cup,
Couldst thou sip and sip it up:
Make the most of life you may,
Life is short and wears away.

Both alike are mine and thine
Hastening quick to their decline:
Thine’s a summer, mine’s no more,
Though repeated to threescore.
Threescore summers, when they’re gone,
Will appear as short as one!


Story Impacts 28 May 2008

Posted by mecca in ABUSHARIF, Arts, Psychology.
1 comment so far

I came across this nice quote on the impact of stories and what they do in human life. The Quran and most other scriptures employ stories that carry urgent meanings. It remains a marvel how we humans, creatures of common flesh and mean fluids, can be so suspended, arrested, taken, and moved by stories.

Thank God for stories—for those who have them, for those who tell them, for those who devour them as the soul sustenance that they are. Stories give shape to experience and allow us to go through life unblind. Without them, everything that happens would float around, undifferentiated. None if it would mean anything. Once you have a version of what happened, all the other good stuff about being human comes into play. You can laugh, feel awe, commit a passionate act, get pissed, want to change things.

— Tomas Alex Tizon

Waterboarding Language 23 April 2008

Posted by mecca in ABUSHARIF, Culture, Politics, THEMES.

Caring about language is not an egghead sport. Nothing exists outside of its reach. Why would “revelation” itself be entrusted to words if there wasn’t something special or supernal about them? Like air and water, language can be corrupted, though it’s hard to notice the toxins. Apparently, the struggle for the meaning of words (especially common words) seems to precede the struggle for control, be it political, social, or even religious. The quote below is from a highly recommended book called Death Sentences (by Don Watson), a serious critique of how political- and business-speak are damaging language and its use in public dialogue. I like it for its content, but also because it is the kind of work that helps us decipher meaning from background noise.

“All totalitarian regimes, regardless of their ideological origin, pervert language to delude, intimidate, and mystify their subjects. They also take the humor out of it, even when the circumstances are laughable. Stalin sent his erstwhile comrades to their deaths confessing ludicrously concocted crimes, and countless intelligent people were persuaded to believe them. What is it that torture and brainwashing try to extract? Words. They need the word as the corpse. If words define reality, you cannot control the one without controlling the other.”

And while I’m at it, read this too, please.

“[A] cathedral is the property of the church, whereas a language belongs to civilization, and if [language] is dragged down it takes civilization with it. Language is not just a preserver or bearer of tradition. Words do more than the elemental thing of linking one generation to another. The great works of public language like the Book of Common Prayer are poetic works. In the poetry is the mystery with which religion is concerned and on which it depends. . . . Many churchpeople will tell you that when it adopted everyday modern prose, the church cut off an artery to its soul.”

The Art of Grief 9 April 2008

Posted by mecca in ABUSHARIF, Spirituality.

Before my father passed away many years ago, he lived in an hospital connected to a respirator for five months. Fully conscious, aware, and fatherly, it was difficult for him to accept the fact that he couldn’t breathe on his own.

Nearly every day of my father’s hospital stay, I visited him for several hours, usually in the evenings, while my mother took the longer day shift. He was never alone except when he slept at night. It’s still hard for me to imagine the startled thoughts he may have had when awakening alone in the dark to the sounds of an unaffectionate machine pushing and pulling air, effectively taking over a human’s first obligation in the post-womb existence. At times we thought he’d be weaned off the device, but after weeks of respiratory therapy that really didn’t work and when we saw “signs,” we knew the inevitable was approaching. It was a hard edge in time, a sharp turn in the narrative of his life. He himself felt the sensation of imminence; I saw it in his face. The meaning of our visits changed.

Sadness is ultimately a personal course that we each take, but there’s hardly anything more conducive to “community.” The grief-stricken, without deliberate thought, expand their sense of identity to a wider swathe of humanity. Commiseration and external comfort are part of the deal, but there’s something more, something revelatory to think about as the ship of human relations in the world continues to sink.


Stepford Religion 2 April 2008

Posted by mecca in ABUSHARIF, Culture, Psychology, Spirituality.

Many nations in the Muslim east continue to tax their societies with particular educational practices, in which the nation’s brightest students are encouraged (or compelled) to study the natural sciences and technologies. Conversely, the mediocre students are relegated to fields like Sharia studies. What happens is that the best minds of a society (minds capable of sophistication and high levels of critical thought, minds protected from the blight of literalism and nuance-denial) are not encouraged to apply themselves in an area that demands such sober intellects.