Saturday, 28 February 2009

ETERNAL LONELINESS: ART AND RELIGION IN KIERKEGAARD AND ZEN

So i am posting a good but a bit hard-to-read article:

Eternal Loneliness: Art and Religion in Kierkegaard and Zen
Author(s): George Pattison
Source: Religious Studies, Vol. 25, No. 3 (Sep., 1989), pp. 379-392
Published by: Cambridge University Press


GEORGE PATTISON

ETERNAL LONELINESS: ART AND
RELIGION IN KIERKEGAARD AND ZEN


When we compare a thinker as complex and many-sided as Soren Kierke-
gaard with a cultural phenomenon as significant as Zen Buddhism it is
unlikely that we will be able to come up with any simple formula by which
to summarize the results of the comparison. But the value of such compara-
tive studies need not in any case lie in the conclusions we reach but in the
intrinsic interest and importance of the material itself, in the questions and
insights raised by both similarities and dissimilarities. All this is still true if
we confine the field of comparison to a very specific area, as here, where we
are concerned with the relationship between art and religion in Kierkegaard
and Zen. For this is of course no marginal issue: the distinction between the
aesthetic and the religious is fundamental to the whole structure of Kierke-
gaard's authorship while the arts provde one of the main manifestations of
the spirit of Zen. Our line of enquiry may be narrow but it takes us straight
to the heart of the matter and the questions which it raises are crucial to the
overall assessment of both Kierkegaard and Zen and of the relationship
between them.

I have alluded to the likelihood that we will find both similarities and
dissimilarities in the course of our comparison, but at first glance it might
well seem that the glaring dissimilarities far outweigh any possible similarity.
For Kierkegaard it is axiomatic that there is a yawning chasm between the
spheres of the aesthetic and the religious, a chasm which can only be crossed
in fear and trembling by the leap of faith, a leap which brings us to religion
only at the cost of abandoning the aesthetic. The relationship between
aesthetics and religion is thus a matter of Either-Or rather than Both-And, we
cannot have both together but must choose between them. Zen on the other
hand seems to represent an essentially aesthetic form of religion, a religion
which easily and naturally expresses itself in the arts: in painting, in poetry,
in gardening, in flower-arranging, in the ritual of the tea ceremony and in
the martial arts. Here art seems to be regarded as a highly appropriate way
of embodying and communicating the essence of religious experience.
Going one step further we may say that this contrast rests on a more
profound contrast regarding the attitude taken towards the natural world by
Kierkegaard and by Zen respectively. For Kierkegaard's rejection of the
aesthetic is ultimately a rejection of the life of the natural man, the man
whose life is bounded by the materiality of his bodily being, the man who is


subject to all the constraints of finitude: sickness, death, misunderstanding,
the fluctuations of inner feeling and external fate. Zen, by way of contrast,
expresses a delight in naturalness, finding in nature and in the unique
particularity of human life the very key to Satori or enlightenment. Kierke-
gaard, then, represents a style of religion which flees from the imperma-
nence and contingency of this earthly life whereas Zen finds in these very
qualities of impermanence and contingency an unfathomable source of
religious experience and innumerable opportunities for religious awakening.
But in the light of my opening remarks can we really expect this to be the
whole of the story? We must go very carefully here, for when we are making
a comparison between two such different cultures as those of Europe and
Japan we cannot assume that words such as `art' and `religion' carry the
same connotations in each case. How, then, can we assume that Kierkegaard
and Zen mean the same thing when they speak of `art' and `aesthetics'?
And so we have to ask more precisely : what understanding of art is pre-
supposed by Kierkegaard in his attack on the aesthetic or by Zen in its
affirmation of art's place in the religious life? What is the `nature' which
Kierkegaard wants us to slough off and which Zen takes such a delight in?
Is it the same 'nature'? Then we have also to ask whether Kierkegaard's
attitude to art is simply and solely one of rejection or whether there is not
also an element of affiirmation : conversely, is the Zen approach to art and
nature just a matter of unqualified yea-saying or is there also here an element
akin to the Kierkegaardian melancholy and Weltschmerz? In pursuing these
questions we can allow ourselves one certainty: that if either Kierkegaard or
Zen have anything worthwhile to say to us it is because they are capable of
taking into account something of the ambiguity and many-faceted nature of
human life. No out-and-out rejection and no naive affirmation of life, or of
any significant aspect of life such as aesthetics, can give lasting satisfaction
to the mind which is striving for awareness.

I shall arrange the discussion of the issues which this comparative study
raises under four headings: The Aesthetic and The Religious in Kierkegaard ;
Nature and Spirit in Kierkegaard; Art and Nature in Zen; Zen and Eternal
Loneliness. This will then lead on to a few concluding (but not conclusive!)
reflections.


1. THE AESTHETIC AND THE RELIGIOUS IN KIERKEGAARD
In his retrospective survey of his authorship entitled The Point of View of my
Activity as an Author Kierkegaard explicitly claims that the whole strategy of
his work had been to devise a way by which to lead people from the aesthetic
attitude (which he assumed was actually the prevailing attitude of contem-
porary society) to the standpoint of Christian faith. Although his charac-
terization of this aesthetic attitude makes it clear that it does not necessarily
involve an overriding concern with art as such the fact that he deliberately
chooses the term `aesthetic' does point to an analogy between the aesthetic
attitude (in the wider existential sense) and the sort of attitude appropriate
to involvement with the arts, whether as creators or recipients of art. It
follows that if we want to understand what he meant by describing the
modern age as aesthetic we have to look at how he understands the aesthetic
in the narrower sense, that is, in relation to the world of the fine arts. I cannot
attempt a full exposition of his aesthetic theory here, however, but shall
limit myself to highlighting those aspects of it which are relevant to the
comparison between Kierkegaard's thought on this matter and Zen.'

Kierkegaard's view of art took shape within the horizon of contemporary
idealist aesthetics. For Hegel, one of the most formative influences on the
aesthetic theory of the period, art depends on man's need `to strip the
external world of its inflexible foreignness and to enjoy in the shape of things
only an external realization of himself'.' It follows that `owing to the feeling
and insight whereby a landscape has been represented in painting, this work
of the Spirit acquires a higher rank than the mere natural landscape'.' This
is true even if the painting is, critically considered, mediocre or even bad art.
As art, as the product of a free human agent it is `higher' than any `mere'
natural phenomenon because it is imbued with consciousness, with the
conscious intentionality of the human subject who does not just exist as rocks
and plants and trees and even animals exist but who wills to be conscious of
himself in his existence, something that is beyond the capacity of any natural
being. By means of artistic activity humanity projects itself out of the un-
conscious stream of wordly life in which it would otherwise be totally
immersed. Art thus reveals the possibility for creative initiative on the part of
the human subject or self. In doing so it also gives order, harmony and unity
to nature as it draws the spatial and temporal dispersion of experience into
the definite form of an artistic representation. In using the external matter
of nature to express its own spiritual life it suffuses that matter with the inner
life of the spirit. Art therefore points in two directions, towards nature and
towards spirit and it represents the unity of these, bringing together external
and internal reality, matter and form. This is its value and dignity but also,
for Hegel, its ultimate inadequacy: because of its dependence on the external
and material world art can only represent spirit in a form foreign to itself. A
truer form is provided by philosophy which expresses spirit in the truly spiritual medium of pure thought.

Kierkegaard shared a number of these presuppositions. Art, at least art as
it exists in the modern age, is not a product of naive `natural' genius, of
nature unconsciously and spontaneously expressing itself through the artist
as its passive instrument or channel. Art is permeated by reflection, con-
ditioned by and grounded in spirit, i.e. self-consciousness. It is invariably the
expression of an idea, and ideality for those like Kierkegaard who had passed
through the school of Kant and Fichte meant that which was rooted in the
unconditioned productivity of the human mind. But though it is ideal in this
sense art is also constrained by the limitations of its material form. These
limitations ultimately restrict art to expressing human reality in spatially-
determined categories - whereas for Kierkegaard the most significant dimen-
sion of human existence issues from the essential temporality of selfhood,
from our possibility of concernful being-for-the-future. Human life is dia-
chronic, running through time, but art can only express itself synchronically
by freezing the flow of time into a fixed and definite form. This may be more
obviously the case with regard to the plastic arts of sculpture, architecture
and painting in which materiality and spatiality are present in the finished
art-work itself, but Kierkegaard argues that even in the temporal arts of
music and poetry, in which the sensuous form is reduced to the status of a
means to the end, the work is, so to speak, slowed down by the burden of its

material means and cannot express the full actuality of temporal life. All art, he claims, even music and poetry, tends towards the moment, compressing the flow of time into a timeless spatiality.' As in idealist aesthetics generally art comes to stand between two worlds, neither purely natural nor fully spiritual. It is `higher than finitude and yet is not infinite'.2

Kierkegaard makes two fundamental criticisms of art. These are speci-
f i cally directed against Romanticism and against the Romantic theory of
art. But because he sees Romanticism as the philosophy of art par excellence,
articulating the premisses which underly aesthetic productivity in general,
these criticisms can be taken as being directed against (or rather as setting
limits to) art as such.

Firstly, Romanticism absolutizes human creativity. This absolutization is
carried to an extreme in the Romantic doctrine of irony, of the complete
transcendence of material externality by the creative Ego. By arguing for the
complete freedom of the self in this way the Romantics thought they they
were securing the unity and coherence of the self. But, Kierkegaard argues,
this is not so. Human beings do not possess an absolute independence from
the given reality in which they find themselves, and it is utterly mistaken to
claim or to assert such independence. We are free to choose ourselves absol-
utely but not to create ourselves. There is a dimension of givenness which any
sane view of life must take into account. By ignoring this the protagonists of
irony cut themselves off from reality. Although he imagines himself to be
supremely free and unqualifiedly creative the Romantic artist has in fact
simply turned away from the reality of life. Actually he is impotent in the
face of life's problems and far from being the master ends up as the victim
of life's constantly changing moods and circumstances. In The Concept of Irony
Kierkegaard laid the conceptual basis for this critique of Romanticism and
in Either-Or and other aesthetic works gives a more descriptive account of
what such an ironic attitude to art and to life leads to. The aesthetic ironist
fails to become a self in the full sense of the word, that is, one who accepts
himself and possesses himself in all the concreteness of his actual situation in
life. He may be powerful in the realm of imagination but he cuts a pretty
poor figure in the real world.
Secondly, but closely related to the first point, art not only fails to come
to terms with the conflicts and contradictions of existence but is essentially
a way of avoiding them. The arrogance of the ironist is in fact a compensation
for his inability (or, literally, unwillingness) to come to terms with the suffering
that characterizes the human condition. The artist's concern to create an
image or appearance of order, harmony and unity is motivated by the desire
to hide from himself the actual disorder, discord and dispersion of life. The
timelessness of art is in this respect a flight from the recognition of the
implications of our radical temporality : decay, dissolution and death. It is an
attempt to take revenge on time, to destroy the process that will ultimately
deprive us of our being.' This desire to conceal the truth about ourselves is
only conscious in extreme cases. Usually the artist is what Kierkegaard calls
an `unconscious sacrifice" and the liberation which religion brings with it
is precisely the liberation that comes from gaining insight into our subjection
to suffering and death and from fully and humbly accepting the situation.
Because religion offers an awareness of our predicament it is also able to offer
us the possibility of a genuine and thorough-going deliverance from it.
The most decisive contrast in Kierkegaard's authorship is therefore not
that between the decadent young aesthete `A' portrayed in Part I of Either-
Or and the ethical optimist Assessor William whose view of life is expounded
in Part II. It is rather the contrast between the aesthetic stance and the
radical Christianity of, e.g. Kierkegaard's later pseudonym Anti-Climacus,
a form of religion which puts suffering (rather than ethical resolve) at the
centre of the religious map. At the heart of this radical Christian view is the
conviction that the whole burden of human salvation comes to rest on the
believer's relation to Jesus Christ as the Saviour, the God-Man. In Training
in Christianity (ascribed to Anti-Climacus) Kierkegaard emphasizes that
Christianity will always contain the possibility of causing offence to the
natural man who is guided by the standards of this world. For the sign by
which the Christian God makes himself known is what Kierkegaard calls a
`sign of contradiction'. Because a sign is not that which it signifies all signs
stand at a certain distance from their signfcatum, but in the case of a sign of
contradiction the possibility of misunderstanding (which the distance of the
sign from the signified always contains) is increased enormously. Here the
sign is not merely distinct from but is actually in contradiction with that
which it signifies. Jesus Christ is such a sign of contradiction for two reasons.
Firstly, because as a human individual he also claims or is claimed to be
God; secondly, because his life as a human individual was characterized by
betrayal, rejection and, humanly speaking, the failure of the cross.' The
mystery of the inner life of Christ was concealed under an external appear-
ance which contradicted who he really was. This contradiction makes it
impossible for art to portray him, since art depends on the congruence of
inner and outer, spirit and form.' The basic structure of art, as the synthesis
of spirit and matter, or as the idea in sensuous form, makes it impossible for
art to provide an adequate representation of the crucified Saviour. Recog-
nizing the distance which all sign-making presupposes, art nonetheless seeks
to achieve as direct and as appropriately expressive a relationship between
idea and form as possible. With regard to Christ, however, this is not possible
at all, and Christianity can only ever be communicated indirectly, by con-
fronting human consciousness with the scandal of the cross. The meaning of
Christianity can never be identified with the meaning of any set of direct
signs, symbols or ceremonies, and it is the fundamental failing of Christen-
dom, of established religion, that it does not see this and tries to communi-
cate the faith by direct teaching. But whatever can be communicated
directly is not Christianity.


Eternal Loneliness: Art and Religion in Kierkegaard and Zen
Author(s): George Pattison
Source: Religious Studies, Vol. 25, No. 3 (Sep., 1989), pp. 379-392
Published by: Cambridge University Press

Quebec's churches need miracle

Let me post a report i found on THE TORONTO STAR  

Parishes can't afford to keep them, no one wants to buy them – even at fire-sale prices
Feb 28, 2009 04:30 AM 
 Andrew Chung ( QUEBEC BUREAU CHIEF)

MONTREAL – It might be quite beautiful, with its golden cross next to the steeple, its triumphal arches inside, its extraordinary Casavant organ presiding, but that hasn't stopped Notre-Dame-du-Perpétuel-Secours from steadily becoming abandoned. Barely 100 seats in its pews built for 1,000 are taken on Sundays, and that's on a good day.

"We take in maybe $100 or $125 during the collection," says Father Pierre Charbot, shrugging. Not nearly enough to even pay the heating. 

As a result, the church is for sale. But the west-end edifice has been on the market for more than a year, and so far, no one's buying. 

Officials are still hopeful, but as of now, the majestic grey-stone church is a white elephant. 

The fire sale of Catholic churches in Quebec continues unabated; they are victims of a population that, more than elsewhere in Canada, has turned its back on organized religion.

Fewer than 10 per cent actually attend mass. 

This has meant that virtually no parish has been free from the dilemma of what to do with a church it doesn't want to part with, but can no longer afford.

Some churches have found new lives as community centres, libraries and social housing projects; others as condos, factories and even a rock-climbing gym. 

And though the provincial government has stepped in to help, a new headache is creeping up. Parishes are facing the prospect of finding no buyers for their churches, not even the municipalities of which they're a part, and so they're being increasingly abandoned, barricaded and demolished.

"There are churches that are not finding takers and it will be necessary to barricade them," said Germain Tremblay of the Montreal-based Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Quebec. "Even in selling them for $1, it's happening that no buyer is interested in the churches for sale. This is new."

Well more than 100 churches have been sold in the last decade, a very conservative estimate considering that in the dioceses of Montreal, Quebec City and Sherbrooke alone, 74 have disappeared in roughly that time frame. However, that's only three of 25 dioceses in Quebec. The exact number sold has never been tabulated.

"It's sad, but it's reality," said Gérald Baril, spokesperson for the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Canada. "People don't care much about spirituality and don't care much about the church."

"We simply have too many churches under our charge," said Rémy Gagnon, who advises parish administrative counsels for the diocese of Quebec City. "And so for those judged in excess, we must mobilize all the organizations, public and private, to propose new uses for the buildings we can save."

A few years ago, Quebec did an inventory of churches with the most historic value. The province also launched a program to help parish administrative councils, or fabriques, pay for 70 per cent of the costs of keeping the churches standing, but only for those built before 1945. 

In 2006, concern that the province's religious history was in "great peril" led a National Assembly committee to call on the Liberal government to halt the sale of churches. The then-culture minister refused, saying it would put local parishes in financial dire straits. The sales continued. 

A church's historic significance does not mean it will be saved. Take the case of the dual-steepled Church of Saint-Eustache, north of Montreal, whose stones still bear traces of cannon fire by the British in 1837. Quebec Patriote leader Jean-Olivier Chenier and 100 of his followers died there in the decisive battle.

The church's maintenance has become so cost prohibitive for the parish, they're giving it away. The fabrique's president, Nycole Pepper, said it must, however, remain a church. But to make it viable, they're considering turning it into a music recording hall, because of its good acoustics.

More churches have been sold in the region of Sherbrooke than anywhere in the province because, officials there say, an activist bishop in the 1950s wanted to make sure a church was accessible in even the smallest place. Twenty-five churches have changed hands, some for $1, in the last few years. 

And it's also in this diocese where the most varied uses for unwanted churches have been realized. One has been turned into a rock-climbing school and gym. Another is a concert hall. Still another is a factory. There are community halls and the finishing touches are underway on a library.

Eight of the 14 churches sold in the Quebec City region in recent times have gone into private hands, and two have been demolished.

"What should we expect for the next 20 years? Well, remember that the majority of people in the parishes nowadays are in their sixties to eighties," said Louis-Philippe Desrosiers, who's in charge of selling churches for Montreal's parishes. 

"People are not interested in the life of their souls anymore. Less and less of them means less and less churches."

Finding the Power to Overcome: There is real freedom in the cross

The Word Among Us is just beautiful place if you search for something spiritual .

Finding the Power to Overcome 
There is real freedom in the cross 

© 2009 The Word Among Us.

Sometimes Jesus made his point by speaking in exaggerations. Nowhere is this more clear than when he talked about the dangers of sin.

According to the Gospels, he taught that we should cut off our hands and our feet and pluck out our eyes if they are leading us to sin (Mark 9:43-47). The church has always taught that Jesus was not literally encouraging his followers to maim themselves. Rather he spoke in this dramatic wasy to emphasize his warning about the potential of sin to rob us of eternal life.

Why did Jesus feel it was necessary to speak in such extremes? Because he knew that we risk becoming enslaved to sin if we let sin fester, if we do not repent, and if we do not resist temptation.

So in this article, let’s examine how we can take hold of the power of the cross to free ourselves from any slavery to sin and to draw us closer to our Lord. Let’s see how, rather than cutting off our hands or our feet, the cross has the power to cut sin away from our hearts.

Destroying Strongholds. One of the most important discoveries we can make about the Christian life is the truth that faith is not simply a matter of human effort. It is not only about our striving to act the right way and to believe the right things. Rather, the Christian life is about the power of God alive in us and in our world. It is about God filling us with his power to overcome sin and live in his love. The Christian life is about bringing glory to God and loving one another by the power of the Holy Spirit.

How does this relate to the cross? It shows us that the cross of Christ is one of the greatest spiritual “weapons” we could ever have. The cross opens the door to the grace we need to live the Christian life. St. Paul once told the Corinthians that “the weapons of our battle are not of flesh but are enormously powerful, capable of destroying strongholds. We destroy arguments and every pretension raising itself against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive in obedience to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

As we said in our second article, there is a huge difference between “noble” striving and relying on God’s power. Human striving alone, which is good and necessary, does not open itself to God’s spiritual weapons. But Paul tells us that these weapons are stronger that the temptations of Satan. They are strong enough, in fact, to break down strongholds of sin that have made their home in us.

We may have allowed anger or moodiness or lust to establish a stronghold in us. But these strongholds, which tempt us, control us, and separate us from Jesus, can be destroyed as we take hold of the spiritual weapons God has given us—mainly the cross. It is the cross that gives us God’s power to defeat the arguments of temptation that come into our minds. It is the cross that helps us say “no” to sin’s deceitful and empty promises of joy.

The Cross and the Spirit. Scripture tells us that blood and water flowed from Jesus’ side when he died on the cross (John 19:34). From the earliest days of the church, believers have seen the blood as a symbol of the work of the cross, and the water as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. From the time of the church fathers, we have seen that if we want to know God better, overcome sin, and love and serve the church, we need both the cross and the Spirit.

In his Letter to the Galatians, Paul was very clear about this relationship between the Holy Spirit and the cross. When he saw how the Galatians had lost the spiritual clarity they once had, he became very passionate and asked them: “O stupid Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? I want to learn only this from you: did you receive the Spirit from works of the law, or from faith in what you heard?” (Galatians 3:1-2).

Paul told the Galatians that the cross of Jesus Christ gave them full rights of sons and daughters. Consequently, they were no longer slaves to sin but coheirs with Christ himself. He told them that the Holy Spirit, who lived in their hearts, was constantly calling out, “Abba, Father!” (Galatians 4:6-8). Paul wanted to make sure that the Galatians understood that the cross had set them free from all of their sins (5:1). And he wanted them to know that they were called to be free (5:13). But he cautioned them that they would not experience the freedom that Jesus won for them on the cross unless they asked the Holy Spirit to show them how to be free.

Paul summed this all up by saying, “Those who belong to Christ [Jesus] have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit” (Galatians 5:24-25). In other words, we have to take up the power of the cross in our lives, and this can be done only by the power of the Holy Spirit.

How to Apply the Power of the Cross. As we said in our second article, Jesus died once, for all. His cross has set us free. This is the truth. However, there is a difference between knowing this truth and seeing its power applied to our lives. The application depends upon our allowing the cross to do its work in us, removing the strongholds of sin and replacing them with the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

If we want to see the power of the cross active in us, we have to believe in it. That means telling ourselves that Jesus died for our sins and that sin has no power over us. As Paul says, “Our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin” (Romans 6:6). This is the truth that we must put our faith in. This is the truth that should become part of our daily proclamation of faith. Every day, as soon as we wake up, we should proclaim that Jesus died for all of our sins and that sin has no power over our lives. Then during the course of the day, especially when we are feeling tempted, we should restate this truth and yield in faith to the power that we are proclaiming.

One way to proclaim this truth is to take Paul’s words and make them our own: “I believe that I am dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. I will not let sin reign in me, making me obey its passions. I will not yield myself to sin as an instrument of wickedness. Instead, I will yield myself to God as a person who has been brought from death to life. I want to be an instrument of God’s righteousness. Sin will have no dominion over me, since I am under God’s grace” (Romans 6:11-14).

This is not just a psychological trick. Rather, this is how we can come in touch with the power of God and experience this power helping us fight temptation. The more we declare these truths of the cross of Christ, the more we will see the power of the cross released in us. As we place our trust in Jesus’ cross, his grace is released in our lives. We find ourselves being strengthened and comforted more, and we find a new sense of joy and hope for our future.

More than Conquerors. As amazing as it sounds, we will experience God infusing us with his power as we recite these truths of the cross and as we try our best to avoid sin. We will find a new ability to say no to sin and temptation. We will see the fruit of the cross as temptations that used to drag us down and strongholds that enslaved us lose their power until they melt away to nothing.

All this talk about the cross can sound quite overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you want to experience the power of the cross, simply choose two or three areas of your life that you sense need some work. Then every day, join St. Paul in proclaiming that you are dead to sin in these areas and alive to God. Try your best to surrender them to the cross, where they can be put to death. As the weeks unfold, keep an eye on these situations to see if anything is changing. If you are experiencing increased peace and freedom, you can be sure that the power of the cross is at work in you!

This Lent, let’s assume the role of conquerors. We can overcome everything that separates us from Jesus. Paul was convinced that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). He was convinced because he knew the power of the cross to set him free from sin and temptation. And he was convinced, too, that all of us can know this power. May God bless you during this season of grace and freedom.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Can Sufi Islam counter the Taleban?

The spring-break has begun...
and i continue to read......now i just completed reading this on BBC website...


 Can Sufi Islam counter the Taleban?
By Barbara Plett
BBC News, Lahore

It's one o'clock in the morning and the night is pounding with hypnotic rhythms, the air thick with the smoke of incense, laced with dope.

I'm squeezed into a corner of the upper courtyard at the shrine of Baba Shah Jamal in Lahore, famous for its Thursday night drumming sessions.

It's packed with young men, smoking, swaying to the music, and working themselves into a state of ecstasy.

This isn't how most Westerners imagine Pakistan, which has a reputation as a hotspot for Islamist extremism.

Devotional singing

But this popular form of Sufi Islam is far more widespread than the Taleban's version. It's a potent brew of mysticism, folklore and a dose of hedonism.

Now some in the West have begun asking whether Pakistan's Sufism could be mobilised to counter militant Islamist ideology and influence.

Lahore would be the place to start: it's a city rich in Sufi tradition.

At the shrine of Data Ganj Bakhsh Hajveri, musicians and singers from across the country also gather weekly, to perform qawwali, or Islamic devotional singing.

Qawwali is seen as a key part of the journey to the divine, what Sufis call the continual remembrance of God.

"When you listen to other music, you will listen for a short time, but the qawwali goes straight inside," says Ali Raza, a fourth generation Sufi singer.

"Even if you can't understand the wording, you can feel the magic of the qawwali, this is spiritual music which directly touches your soul and mind as well."

But Sufism is more than music. At a house in an affluent suburb of Lahore a group of women gathers weekly to practise the Sufi disciplines of chanting and meditation, meant to clear the mind and open the heart to God.

One by one the devotees recount how the sessions have helped them deal with problems and achieve greater peace and happiness. This more orthodox Sufism isn't as widespread as the popular variety, but both are seen as native to South Asia.

'Love and harmony'

"Islam came to this part of the world through Sufism," says Ayeda Naqvi, a teacher of Islamic mysticism who's taking part in the chanting.

"It was Sufis who came and spread the religious message of love and harmony and beauty, there were no swords, it was very different from the sharp edged Islam of the Middle East.

"And you can't separate it from our culture, it's in our music, it's in our folklore, it's in our architecture. We are a Sufi country, and yet there's a struggle in Pakistan right now for the soul of Islam."

Sufism is a mixture of music, chanting and meditation


That struggle is between Sufism and hard-line Wahhabism, the strict form of Sunni Islam followed by members of the Taleban and al-Qaeda.

It has gained ground in the tribal north-west, encouraged initially in the 1980s by the US and Saudi Arabia to help recruit Islamist warriors to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan.

But it's alien to Pakistan's Sufi heartland in the Punjab and Sindh provinces, says Sardar Aseff Ali, a cabinet minister and a Sufi.

"Wahhabism is a tribal form of Islam coming from the desert sands of Saudi Arabia," he says. "This may be very attractive to the tribes in the frontier, but it will never find resonance in the established societies of Pakistan."

So could Pakistan's mystic, non-violent Islam be used as a defence against extremism?

An American think tank, the Rand Corporation, has advocated this, suggesting support for Sufism as an "open, intellectual interpretation of Islam".

There is ample proof that Sufism remains a living tradition.

In the warren of Lahore's back streets, a shrine is being built to a modern saint, Hafiz Iqbal, and his mentor, a mystic called Baba Hassan Din. They attract followers from all classes and walks of life.

'Atrocities'

The architect is Kamil Khan Mumtaz. He describes in loving detail his traditional construction techniques and the spiritual principles they symbolise.

Huge crowds are attracted to Sufi gatherings


He shakes his head at stories of lovely old mosques and shrines pulled down and replaced by structures of concrete and glass at the orders of austere mullahs, and he's horrified at atrocities committed in the name of religion by militant Islamists.

But he doubts that Sufism can be marshalled to resist Wahhabi radicalism, a phenomenon that he insists has political, not religious, roots.

"The American think tanks should think again," he says. "What you see [in Islamic extremism] is a response to what has happened in the modern world.

"There is a frustration, an anger, a rage against invaders, occupiers. Muslims ask themselves, what happened?

"We once ruled the world and now we're enslaved. This is a power struggle, it is the oppressed who want to become the oppressors, this has nothing to do with Islam, and least of all to do with Sufism."

Sufi people are often actively engaged in social welfare programmes

Ayeda Naqvi, on the other hand, believes Sufism could play a political role to strengthen a tolerant Islamic identity in Pakistan. But she warns of the dangers of Western support.

"I think if it's done it has to be done very quietly because a lot of people here are allergic to the West interfering," she says.

"So even if it's something good they're doing, they need to be discreet because you don't want Sufism to be labelled as a movement which is being pushed by the West to drown out the real puritanical Islam."

Back at the Shah Jamal shrine I couldn't feel further from puritanical Islam. The frenzied passion around me suggests that Pakistan's Sufi shrines won't be taken over by the Taleban any time soon.

But whether Sufism can be used to actively resist the spread of extremist Islam, or even whether it should be, is another question.

Mysticism

Mysticism
The Path to Power & Higher Consciousness

In recent times many people have wondered what a mystic or what mysticism means. The
most general misconception about mysticism is that it concerns weird, awesome, or strange
phenomena. However, nothing can be far from the truth. The mystic is one who definitely
desires and seeks true knowledge.

The mystic believes in the unity of reality. To him, matter, body, and mind are but One
manifestation of a Single Divine Intelligence. Even time and space are but indications and
limitations of human perception; for he considerats them but variations of the Absolute
One. For him, the fundamental nature of reality is energy - at different vibratory levels.
Seen through an electron microscope, matter - never at rest - is but moving electrons. And
what are electrons but energy.

But he holds upon these concepts not MERELY AS BELIEFS - for, in the first place, what then
differentiates him from the huge mass of humanity who wallow in ignorance? Rather, he
holds upon these concepts which he has VERIFIED to be TRUE through the practice of
certain methods that validly brought him to these conclusions. These he has verified thru his
own experience of samadhi or Self-realization; for UNLESS a person experiences this, he is
likened unto an animal driven by desires and prey to the twists and turns of mighty karma.
This method is scientific for whosoever practices the same methods - like kundalini yoga -
will necessarily arrive to the same conclusions. Mysticism is the only way out of solving the
great riddle of existence. All great saints, authentic masters, and mystic philosophers went
through this process that it needs no more substantiation.

Mysticism molds man into a well- rounded individual. Its purpose is to bring out the best in
man - to let his personality blossom into its fullest capacity and its most beautiful and
perfect manifestation. Mysticism is man-making. Some would even say it is " superman" -
making because man's exceptional talents, skills, and abilities, which normally remain
hidden and untapped, are induced to come out in the open, to grow and flourish in stunning
magnificence. Mystical personalities include Socrates, Plato, Francis Bacon, St. Germaine,
Galileo, Sir Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci, Rene Descartes, Beethoven, Bach, Mozart,
Benjamin Franklin, Nicholas Roerich, and, the Filipino hero, Dr. Jose Rizal.
The true mystic is then very rarely the ascetic who shuns society and escapes the necessary
vital experiences of being with people. More commonly, mystics are the individuals at the
forefront of various fields of human endeavor. They are the leaders, pacesetters, inventors,
philanthropists, exceptional artists - whom, more often than not, the public knows next-tonothing
about. They are the unheard-of success stories. For the gifts of mysticism include
not only the ways and means to the heights of success and accomplishment, but also the
zealous love of privacy and seclusion - the mystic sees no need for flattery and public
adulation. Vanity is alien to him.

How does mysticism help one to succeed?

Mystical knowledge, as every member of our Order learns, includes insight into subtle but
powerful laws of the cosmos. These are laws that govern everything - from the movement
of microscopic atoms to the intricacies of human behavior and relationships and on to the
complex flurry and bustle of huge man-made systems and macrocosmic phenomena.
With knowledge of these laws, the mystic has a decided edge over his uninitiated
fellowmen. He can use his extraordinary wisdom to manifest everything that he so desires.
One such law is the very basic, ironclad law of karma. It simply says that whatever you sow,
you reap. Sow good, reap good. Sow evil, reap evil. It is neither positive nor negative.
Whenever we think, say, or do something, we create actions and these actions, in turn,
create reactions. This law is immutable.

In India, it is generally understood that we come into this life with predestined purpose or
activity based on the accumulated actions called sinchit karma. This destiny of the body in
one lifetime is called pralabdha karma. So we see that our present existence, the destiny of
our being, is "fated."
But in our choices, we are always free.

Unfortunately, the destiny or pralabdha karma, because of heavy karmic load, can take
away that freedom of choice. Tendencies from past lives (samskaras) make a slave of us in
the present incarnation. Today we are rich, in the next life paupers. Birth after birth, this is
what happens. We still have krimayan karma, garnered every second, every moment which
allows us to immediately equalize out thoughts or actions. If not equalized or
counterbalanced, thoughts and actions become, again, sinchit karma and the chain never
ends. But the law is merciful as well as just. It shows a ways out.
Mysticism.

On this road, we can create our own destiny. We can build the program of our character to
regain full control of our lives and free ourselves from the clutches of karmic domination and
the overpowering influence of destiny karma.

How?
The human body is composed of cells. Cells are composed of electrons. Within an electron is
vibrant energy which is wholly of the nature of consciousness. This consciousness is
impersonal. It is called prakriti. It can be tapped and programmed by certain techniques and
mental cybernetics. Once tapped, its powerful secrets can change our lives from one of
mediocrity to one of greatness. By knowing the electron composition of cells, we can
reprogram our habits. Habits beget personality. Personality begets destiny. But ours can be
a prakriti field of destiny, a prakriti field of success.

All authentic esoteric schools teach that within the body too are, at least, seven chakras or
psychic centers. In the casual plane, these are seen, by clairvoyant vision, as wheels of
light; in the astral plane, as luminous petals of lotuses; and in the physical plane, as glands.
These are vitalized and awakened by using concentration and appropriate meditation
techniques. One such center is the ajna chakra or pineal gland which, when roused, results
in greater appreciation for the high arts such as poetry, music, and painting. The brute
transforms into a man of culture! The poor man becomes a millionaire! A seeker gains an
understanding of the mysteries of existence!

Knowledge of the powers latent in the chakras has been the secret of the fame, wealth,
power, magnetism and charisma of kings, pharaohs, and emperors.

Each chakra is infused with God consciousness. It is the source of knowledge, the fountain
of truth, the abode of power. The great master Jesus said, "Know you not that you are God's
temple, and that God's spirit dwells in you?" The chakras, once awakened, take the student
into a higher form of consciousness that even a simple shoemaker like Jacob Boehme turned
into an erudite philosopher!

A mystery school is always afforded to man suitable and appropriate to his level of
development. God gives the knowledge, the power, the talents but it is up for man to bring
those innate potentialities into full fruition. In the words of a mystic:
"None is poor, O Bhika
Everyone hath rubies in his bundle
But how to untie the knot
He doth not know and thus remains a pauper."
(Bhika)

The awakening of the chakras and kundalini is the means through which the seeker can soar
the heights of divine or cosmic illumination. Within the archive of the Order are the secret
techniques, handed down through the ages for his noble purpose. Ultimately, your choice is
your key.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/7799869/Mysticism 

Different faces of love: paulo Coelho

The third cardinal virtue: Love By Paulo Coelho
( www.warriorofthelight.com/engl/index.html )


The third cardinal virtue:

Love According to the dictionary: from the Latin amor: strong affection that drives us towards the object of our desires; inclination of the soul and heart; affection; passion; exclusive inclination; theological grace.

In the New Testament: So faith, hope and love endure. These are the great three, and the greatest of them is love. (Corinthians 13:13)

According to etymology: the Greeks had three words to designate love: Eros, Philos and Agape. Eros is the healthy love between two persons that justifies life and perpetuates the human race. Philos is the sentiment that we dedicate to our friends. Finally, Agape, which contains both Eros and Philos, goes far beyond “liking” someone. Agape is total love, the love that devours those who feel it. For Catholics, this was the love that Jesus felt for humanity, and it was so great that it shook the stars and changed the course of the history of men. Those who know and feel Agape realize that nothing else in this world has any importance, only loving.

For Oscar Wilde:
Yet each man kills the thing he loves
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword! (Ballad of Reading Jail, 1898)

In a late 19th century sermon: Pour your love generously on the poor, which is easy; and on the rich, who distrust everybody and cannot see the love that they so need. And on your neighbor – which is very difficult, because it is towards him that we are most selfish. Love. Never lose a chance to give joy to your neighbor, because you will be the first to benefit from this – even if nobody knows what you are doing. The world around you will become happier, and things will become easier for you. I am in this world living the present. Any good thing that I can do, or any happiness that I can bring to others, please tell me. Don’t let me put things off or forget, because I shall never live this moment again. (Henry Drummond The Supreme Gift, [1851-1897])

 In an e-mail received by the author: “While I kept my heart to myself, I never had a single morning of anguish or a single night of insomnia. Since I fell in love, my life has been a sequence of anguish, losses, confusion. I think that God, by using love, managed to hide hell in the middle of Paradise” (C.A., 23/11/2006)

For science: In the year 2000, researchers Andreas Bartels and Semir Zeki, of University College in London, located the areas of the brain activated by romantic love by using a series of students who claimed to be madly in love. In the first place, they concluded that the zones affected by the sentiment are far smaller than they had imagined, and are the same as those activated by stimuli of euphoria, such as in using cocaine, for example. Which led the authors to conclude that love is similar to the manifestation of physical dependence provoked by drugs.

Also using the same system of scanning the brain, scientist Helen Fisher, of Rutgers University, concludes that three characteristics of love (sex, romanticism and mutual dependence) stimulate different areas of the cortex, and further conclude that we can be in love with one person, want to make love to another, and live with a third.

For a poet: Love possesses nothing and does not want to be possessed, because it is enough in itself. It will make you grow, and then throw you on the ground. It will whip you so that you feel your impotence, it will shake you to rid you of all your impurities. It will crush you to leave you flexible. And then it will toss you in the fire so that you can become the blessed bread to be served at God’s sacred feast (The Prophet, by Khalil Gibran [1883-1931])

The Cloud and The Sand Dune: Paulo Coelho

The Cloud and The Sand Dune
(From Paulo Coelho's "Like A Flowing River")

“As everyone knows, the life of a cloud is very busy and very short” writes Bruno Ferrero.. And here’s a related story. A young cloud was born in the midst of a great storm over the Mediterranean Sea, but he did not even have time to grow up there, for a strong wind pushed all the clouds towards Africa. As soon as the clouds reached the continent the climate changed . A bright sun was shining in the sky and stretched out beneath them, lay the golden sands of the Sahara. Since it almost never rains in the desert, the wind continued pushing the clouds towards the forests in the south. Meanwhile, as happens with young humans too, the young cloud decided to leave his parents and his older friends in order to discover the world. ‘What are you doing’ cried the wind. ‘The desert’s the same all over. Rejoin the other clouds, and we’ll go to Central Africa where there are amazing mountains and trees!’ But the young cloud, natural rebel, refused to obey, and, gradually, he dropped down until he found a gentle, generous breeze that allowed him to hover over the golden sands. After much toing and froing, he noticed that one of the dunes was smiling at him. He saw that the dune was also young, newly formed by the wind that had just passed over. He fell in love with her golden hair right there and then. ‘Good morning’, he said. ‘what’s life like down there?’ ‘I have the company of the other dunes, of the sun and the wind, and of the caravans that occasionally pass through here. Sometimes it’s really hot, but it’s still bearable. What’s life like up there?’ ‘We have the sun and the wind too, but the good thing is that I can travel across the sky and see more things.’ ‘For me,’ said the dune, ‘life is short. When the wind returns from the forests, I will disappear.’ ‘And does that make you sad?’

 ‘It makes me feel that I have no purpose in life.’ ‘I feel the same. As soon as another wind comes along, I’ll go south and be transformed into rain but that is my destiny.’ The dune hesitated for a moment, then said: ‘did you know that here in the desert, we call the rain paradise?’ ‘I had no idea that I could ever be that important,’ said the cloud proudly. ‘I’ve heard other older dunes tell stories about the rain. They say that, after the rain, we are all covered with grass and flowers. But I’ll never experience that, because in the desert it rains so rarely.’ It was the cloud’s turn to hesitate now. Then he smiled broadly and said:’if you like, I could rain on you now. I know I’ve only just got here, but I love you, and I’d like to stay here forever.’ ‘When I first saw you up in the sky, I fell in love with you too’ said the dune. ‘ But if you transform your lovely white hair into rain, you will die.’ ‘Love never dies’, said the cloud ‘it is transformed, and, besides, I want to show you what paradise is like.’ And he began to caress the dune with little drops of rain so that they could stay together for longer, until a rainbow appeared. The following day, the little dune was covered in flowers. Other clouds that passed over, heading for Africa thought that it must be part of the forest they were looking for and scattered more rain. Twenty years later, the dune had been transformed into an oasis that refreshed travellers with the shade of its trees. And all because, one day, a cloud fell in love, and was not afraid to give his life for that love.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Slumdog Millionaire: Gritty portrait of real India on reel( SHASHI ON SUNDAY)

let me continue to post on SM...
this time by on eof my fav. writers: Sashi tharoor

 Slumdog Millionaire: Gritty portrait of real India on reel

Movies made by westerners about India have rarely been worth writing home about,
ranging as they've done from the appallingly ignorant racism  of Steven Spielberg's
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom to David Lean's well-intentioned but cringe-making Passage to India, with Alec Guinness in brown face and dhoti, warbling away as Professor Godbole. But once in a while an exception comes along that makes up for the lot of them. I've just seen Slumdog Millionaire, directed by Trainspotting's Danny Boyle from a script by The Full Monty's Simon Beaufoy, based on the page-turning novel Q & A by diplomat Vikas Swarup. Exuberant, exciting, gaudy and gritty in a way that can only be called Dickensian, Slumdog Millionaire brings contemporary Mumbai to life from the seamy side up, and it does so with brio, compassion and all-round cinematic excellence. For the first time since Gandhi, there's genuine Oscar buzz around a movie set in India, with Indian characters, Indian actors and Indian themes.

I'm a huge fan of Vikas Swarup's novel, one of the most delightful reads I've enjoyed in years. It's about an orphan boy called Ram Mohammed Thomas who is about to win a TV quiz show based on Kaun Banega Crorepati and is arrested on suspicion of having got that far by cheating. He's rescued by a female lawyer who gets him to tell his life story and explain how he, an uneducated slum kid, knew the answers to such difficult questions. Ram then tells a number of stories, each of which explains how he knew what he happened to know. Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy has changed pretty much all of Swarup's stories, introduced a romantic element and even re-baptised the hero (who is now Jamal Malik). But he has retained the novel's structure and premise, and Danny Boyle has brought its spirit alive in a way that i believe even Swarup would appreciate.

The film will be released in India, both in its original bilingual version and in a version dubbed in Hindi, in January. One fair warning to Indian viewers: its depiction of Indian poverty and slum life is searingly real. It was filmed in large part with small hand-held digital cameras on location in Dharavi and in the Juhu slums, and the mounds of garbage, the cesspits, the overflowing drains are all very present. There is even a scene involving human excrement that is both revolting and hilarious. But this is not, despite all of that, an exercise in the pornography of poverty. Slum life is depicted with integrity and dignity, and with a joie de vivre that transcends its setting. It is easy to see why this movie would appeal to international cinegoers in a way that a bleaker film like City of Joy could not.

I saw the film in New York with an audience made up largely of Indian expatriates. In the enthusiastic discussion that followed, only one person reacted negatively, saying that the film seemed to show all Indians as conniving, unprincipled and ruthless, and that the only compassionate people in the film were a pair of white tourists who give Jamal some money. Danny Boyle reacted to that charge by pointing out that his Scottish characters in Trainspotting were also conniving, unprincipled and ruthless, and that he happened to like to depict people like that. Something tells me that most Indian viewers will take this in stride - we live in a land largely devoid of larger-than-life heroes, and we have learned to take human beings as they are, which is to say, as grossly imperfect. And the film's hero, played by the teenage British Indian actor Dev Patel with a look that combines intensity and expressiveness and yet seems utterly genuine, is as sincere a protagonist as you could hope to find.

The casting of Slumdog Millionaire is a dream. Anil Kapoor, as the sleazy TV host, diamonds winking in his earlobes, has never been better; the quietly understated Irrfan Khan turns in another bravura performance as the police inspector whose questioning brings out Jamal's story. And the trio of children who play each of the principal characters - at ages 6, 12 and 18, roughly - could not be more appealing, more convincing or more gifted. The casting was such a triumph that the casting director, Loveleen Tandon, got promoted to the unusual credit of co-director. She plans to make her own film soon, and her association with Slumdog Millionaire is a great credential.

As a novelist myself, i wondered about the changes made to the book on its way to the screen. Some i could understand; cinema and novels are distinct art forms, and what works well in one medium does not necessarily translate well into the other. In particular, novels can afford to digress in ways that the attention span of movie audiences cannot accept: a film requires one clear over-arching narrative, fewer characters to keep straight, and a common thread from beginning to end. But some of the changes were arguably unnecessary: I lamented, in particular, the loss of 'Ram Mohammed Thomas' and his mongrelised Amar-Akbar-Anthony exemplifying of Indianness. I hope that people will both read the book and see the movie to savour the differing strengths of Swarup's original premise and Danny Boyle's transcreation of it.

But above all, Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire is the work of an artist at the peak of his powers. India is his palette and Mumbai - that teeming 'maximum city', with 19 million strivers on the make, jostling, scheming, struggling and killing for success - is his brush. The portrait that emerges has been executed with bold strokes, vivid colours and striking images. It will stay in the mind's eye a long time.


http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Opinion/Columnists/Shashi-Tharoor/Gritty-portrait-of-real-India-on-reel/articleshow/3746015.cms 

Barack Obama dépasse Jésus-Christ dans la liste des héros préférés des américains

another post for my french readers...

English readers pls visit this link

Barack Obama dépasse Jésus-Christ dans la liste des héros préférés des américains

                                                                                                                                                                             

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Les mages: "Un bébé? Mince, on espérait que ce soit Obama"

Un sondage récent de Harris Interactive sur les héros préférés des américains montre que Barack Obama dépasse Jésus-Christ en popularité.

A la question "Qui admirez-vous au point de la qualifier de héros?", 2600 adultes ont fait des réponses intéressantes et assez inédites. Après Obama viennent dans l'ordre Jésus-Christ, puis Martin Luther King, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Abraham Lincoln, John McCain, John F. Kennedy, le pilote d'avion Chesley Sullenberger et Mère Teresa de Calcutta.

Viennent ensuite Dieu (!!), Hillary Clinton, Gandhi et Sarah Palin. Et si l'on compare cette liste avec celle de 2001, on peut constater la disparition de Dwight Eisenhower, du pape Jean-Paul II et de Nelson Mandela.

Lessons from Slumdog Millionaire.

Hi friends,
Even though, i am not a big fan of SM, i follow this movie closely
This movie evokes quite a lot of thoughts...
Iread this  post on Marketing Lessons from Slumdog Millionaire. on the Hopkin report
enjoy!


 Slumdog Millionaire is a love story surrounded by the harsh realities of life wrapped in a game show. While many inspirational and thought-provoking life lessons can be taken from the movie, I’m going to look at 12 Oscar-worthy marketing lessons from the film.


 MARKETING LESSONS FROM THE STORYLINE

1) Beware expectations
If you haven’t seen the movie yet, there are some ***spoilers*** in here so don’t say I didn’t warn you. The bigger problem for you right now is that if you haven’t seen the movie, now that it’s getting award show buzz and your friends are raving about it, it’s nearly impossible to live up to expectations.


The same goes for your marketing plan. It’s easy for marketers to get ahead of themselves and over-hype their new product. But remember the glitches that can sneak up to bite you when you set expectations too high. It’s not always a bad thing to under-promise and then over-deliver.

2) Some people will lie, cheat, and steal to get to the top
I’m looking at you Bernie Madoff. Fortunately for the educated Wired reader/listener, these are pretty easy to spot. Can’t believe you got approved for that $500,000 dream house on your $34,000 salary? Shocked when you don’t get the body of a Navy Seal by purchasing the perfect pushup mobile unit for just two easy payments of $24.95? Don’t buy the hype.

The movie casts Jamal and Salim’s eventual escape from the slums as enterprising Robin Hoods, stealing and re-selling shoes and giving tours to unsuspecting tourists. But you sure wouldn’t be laughing if you had to walk barefoot back to your hotel before cutting your vacation short because all your cash was stolen. So monitor your marketing budget closely.

3) The crowd loves an underdog
As Jamal advances to the final round, the entire country comes to a standstill to rally behind this unknown Cinderella story. While this is a common thread in everything from Rocky to American Idol, it applies to marketing as well.

In fact, the internet has made it easier than ever to take on big business. Independent bloggers trump the The New York Times as a news source. YouTube had a huge head start on the television industry in terms of online video. A guy named Craig created an empire that dominates anything you used to get from newspaper classifieds. And if you’re waiting till Slumdog comes out on video, are you more likely to walk down to the corner Blockbuster, or add it to your NetFlix queue?

4) To get close to a celebrity, sometimes you have to be full of crap.
Definitely the funniest part of the movie, and maybe a good lesson if you’re thinking about getting a celebrity spokesperson.

5 MARKETING LESSONS FROM THE MAIN CHARACTERS

1) The cops
What did we learn from the police in Slumdog? They’re bullies. They’re bumbling. They’re corrupt. They control the system. Sometimes they’re pure torture to deal with. But in the end, maybe they’re a little misunderstood?

On the marketing side, check out the recent Wired Magazine story about Comcast Cable, titled “The Dark Lord of Broadband Tries to Fix Comcast’s Image.” A lawsuit against them effectively called them broadcast bullies, using their might to exert control over internet traffic. Their missteps in customer service are well-documented, but it seems that with bright spots like “Fantastic Frank” “Famous Frank” and embracing platforms like Twitter, they’re starting to turn the corner.


2) Latika
Throughout the movie, Jamal had an unwavering focus on Latika. Many marketers would do well to follow that same lead. Whether the goal is increasing unique users, driving more page views or getting more people to subscribe to your podcast, a company that can create a singular focus will benefit from those efficiencies.

3) Big brother Salim
So… is he evil or not? How can the brother that leaves your dreamgirl behind on the train and humiliatingly steals her from you later in the movie, also save you from being blinded for life and help reunite her with you in the end?

And so it goes with Google, the company with the motto “Don’t be evil.” Another recent magazine article titled “The Plot to Kill Google” illustrates people’s concern with the personal data being collected and monopoly fears. But if there was only 1 thing you could have by your side with millions of dollars (or rupees) on the line, wouldn’t it be a laptop with a browser pointed at the all-knowing search engine? You bet it would be.

4) The Host
The lesson here? Even a smiling, familiar face that appears to be your most trusting friend can have ulterior motives, so be careful who you trust and what information you exchange with them. Think about that next time Bank of America sends you an email verifying your account information, and make sure to safeguard your user’s personal information to the highest standards.

5) Jamal
As we saw with the main character, sometimes you get on a roll and everything falls into place. Your marketing plans are thriving as you move from level to level, but be careful about believing your own press clippings. Keep a reality check by phoning a friend (build out your network and work with a mentor), asking the audience (conduct regular site surveys to elicit customer feedback), and use 50/50 (do a/b split testing on various creative). But most importantly, in the end, trust your gut.

3 SLUMDOG / MILLIONAIRE COMPANIES

1) SUBWAY SANDWICHES
Slumdog: The “5 Dollar Footlong” ad is killing me. Are we a nation of idiots??? Do they think we believe these ruggedly handsome, girl next door cute, ethnically diverse co-workers, firefighters, and construction workers are really singing this song? Does anyone believe that a high def camera crew rolled into a Cleveland suburb and found these guys on a construction site just palling around? Really? The fake laughter, the unbridled comraderie around a sandwich? Or do they know we’re in on the acting and are just taunting us? It’s horrible. Horrible!

Millionaire: For the love of Pete they’re selling giant footlong sandwiches for only $5! This is fantastic!!! As Jared told everyone, you really only need a 6” turkey sub to stay fit and healthy, so you’re actually getting TWO halfway decent sandwiches for $2.50 each. Tough to beat that.

2) SAMSUNG
Millionaire: I have to say that there’s really nothing in my apartment that I love more than my Samsung 46” Flatscreen TV. I did hours of research in November 2007, and whether it be sports or an Oscar-nominated DVD, it’s amazing. Just last week, I helped a friend make the jump to an LCD, and went through the myriad of research options again, reviewing all the latest models with an open mind, and once again the Samsung emerged as the best balance of price and performance. Of course, also check with Wired’s Gadget Lab guys for the official tech reviews.



Slumdog: But sensing my one year anniversary of my purchase, I received a letter from Samsung, urging me to sign up for their Extend Service. For the low price of just $245, I could extend my warranty a year, and for just $590, I’d get 3 years of coverage. Is there anyone who still doesn’t understand this? Is anyone paying Samsung $600 to protect their current TV, when you can now get a bigger, better one for that price? And doesn’t simply offering this say that you don’t believe in your own product quality? Shame on you.

3) iFART MOBILE
Slumdog: I mentioned in a recent podcast that iPhone apps are the new land grab. That anyone and everyone is rushing to market to get their piece of gold. So I’m sure some of you aren’t surprised that some of the content has resorted to the gutter, where farting applications recently became the # 1 downloaded paid app on iTunes. Have we no moral compass?

Millionaire: The problem? I had this idea a few months ago! I was at lunch with a friend and although we didn’t sketch it out on a napkin, I certainly wiped some ketchup from the corner of my mouth with one. A farting app would be hilarious! Let’s build one. Too late. It was released on December 12, and was making upwards of $30,000 a day. $30 grand a day!!!

And it’s no surprise why… the economics are simple. Low cost of entry for a developer, low cost of entry for the user (99 cents). What it eventually comes down to is the marketing. And to be serious, iFart Mobile has done a good job of it… press mentions, viral videos, user contests. Everyone wants in. As of this recording, searching “fart” in the app store reveals 94 different apps to choose from.

So what’s my final answer?

In the game of marketing, keep your eye on the prize, surround yourself with the right people, beware of evil, and with the advent of new media technology such as the iTunes app store, suddenly the path from slumdog to millionaire just got a lot easier.

http://thehopkinsonreport.com/2009/01/22/episode-40-marketing-lessons-from-slumdog-millionaire/ 

Monday, 23 February 2009

The curious case of Slumdog Millionaire by Kaveree Bamzai

Kaveree Bamzai wrote on INDIA TODAY website on why Slumdog Millionaire wins...

The curious case of Slumdog Millionaire
Kaveree Bamzai
February 22, 2009


Will Slumdog Millionaire have its moment under the "neela zareewala aasman"? Well, I've seen all the Best Picture nominees and I can tell you it has every right to have the hype it does. Why? Well take The Reader, Stephen Daldry's movie starring Kate Winslet, or shall I say Kate Winslet's body. Almost three-fourths of the movie where she appears, playing a former Nazi prison guard having an affair with a 15-year-old school boy, she's naked. I know Monster's Ball has set a precedent for women being in the buff receiving an Oscar for Best Actress, but even by those standards, The Reader is extreme.

In fact, Winslet loves to go naked in her movies (ask anyone who has seen her sex scene on the washing machine in Little Children and you'll know what I mean) and has consistently shown her "commitment to her craft" by going without her clothes. Call her fearless or shameless, but she suffers for her art and Oscar loves that. Personally though I thought The Reader was an awful movie. I have moral issues with it (illiteracy is a crime worse than murdering innocent Jews?) and with its treatment (a plodding series of encounters between Winslet and the boy, where she bathes him, he reads to her, and then they fall to it on her bed).

Hmm. Then there's Milk. Now Sean Penn can be trusted to deliver a powerhouse performance as the slain gay rights activist Harvey Milk. Oscar loves movies about gay men. Think Philadelphia and Brokeback Mountain. Hollywood particularly loves movies about gay men who suffer. Gus Van Sant's Milk has Penn being pilloried for preferring boys to girls, and there's nothing that the gay mafia in Hollywood would love more. As played by Penn, all mincing manner and little fluttery flirtation, Milk is a tragic character who is inevitably marching to his doom. Its mix of documentary footage with live action recreation is enough to give the movie a historical perspective. Oscar loves to sound intelligent.

Then, there's David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, where the beautiful Brad Pitt tries to win points by spending most of the movie looking a. ugly, b. old. It's gimmicky, with Pitt aging in reverse, in a fantastical screenplay adapted from a Fitzgerald short story, but I tend to think of it as the Forrest Gump movie of the year. Smart for its use of special effects and quirky, with a short cameo from Varanasi where Pitt's character is on a journey around the world, but not much else.

Which brings us to Frost/Nixon. A tour de force performance from Frank Langella as Richad Nixon, every pore sweating and ever nerve twitching as the former disgraced president trying to absolve himself in the eyes of the world with a four part television interview with David Frost, considered till then a shallow pretty boy more interested in women than in world affairs. But too intimate and limiting to be The Queen of this year (even though it does feature Michael Sheen again, playing Frost rather than Tony Blair here).

Apart from that, as Ashok Amritraj told me, Wall-E, the wonderfully inventive animated movie, has not been nominated for Best Picture; neither has the grad Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood's self proclaimed final acting performance at 78, nor has The Dark Knight. Perhaps it was far too successful to be nominated and even if the blockbuster status could have been avoided (like James Cameron's Titanic) it can't get away from being a franchise film.

Which is where Slumdog Millionaire wins. One for being original (for them, for us, it's a Salim-Javed potboiler made in English). Two for being at the right place at the right time. Instead of going straight to DVD when its co-producer Warner Independent Pictures shut down, Danny Boyle's film instead got picked by Fox Searchlight President Peter Rice, a wise man who not only has a great relationship with Boyle but also has been responsible for picking up and running with gems such as Juno and Little Miss Sunshine in the past.

The world of underdogs: 'Slumdog's' Oscar victory sends a message to the world

Resilience is the key.
The "celluloid  Slumdog" risked everything and  took it all.
I saw this post  by Andy Goldberg on SM on INDIA TODAY website.
It s always good to read differently...


 'Slumdog's' Oscar victory sends a message to the world
Andy Goldberg (IANS)
Los Angeles, February 23, 2009

Before "Slumdog Millionaire's" amazing Oscar win pundits were wondering whether art might imitate life. On Sunday night, on the crystal-swathed stage of the Kodak Theatre, and in front of the world's biggest celebrities and a huge global audience, the cliche came true, and then some.

The Mumbai-based movie about the unlikely rise of an inconsequential Indian pauper to win India's most popular game show, won an even more remarkable victory when it swept eight Oscars, including the most coveted one of all for Best Picture of the year.

To put that achievement in perspective, the $14-million movie almost didn't get shown in the US, when its original distributor pulled out of the indie film market after deciding that there was no real chance for a film that was half in Hindi to succeed in the US.

That decision surely ranks alongside that of the producer who passed on the Beatles for failing to recognise how one piece of art can be so profound as to change the entire context which surrounds it.

"Slumdog..." did what all great art aspires to: it communicated across boundaries of culture, geography, economy and language. It shone a light into the heart of characters from Mumbai, but in so doing it taught everyone who saw it - from Mumbai to Milan, from Bangkok to Brazil, and from Lagos to Los Angeles, something about themselves and their immediate world.

Penelope Cruz, who won the supporting actress award for portraying a mentally unstable Spanish woman in "Vicky Christina Barcelona", best explained the magic that lay behind "Slumdog's" success.

"I always felt that this ceremony was a moment of unity for the world," said Cruz, "because art in any form has been will be and will always be our universal language."

The movie has already earned close to $160 million at the global box office, and the Oscar win will surely boost its earning significantly.

That could profoundly change the way films are made and distributed, giving filmmakers and the investors who back them more courage to pursue vibrant, global movies that celebrate cultures and characters that go beyond the usual Hollywood star system.

By choosing "Slumdog" as the year's best movie, the power players of the US film industry also sent a strong message around the world, one that echoed the political approach of the country's new underdog president. No more American hegemony, but new collaboration and respect for the other peoples of the world and their traditions, creativity and culture.

The uniqueness and unmatched energy of "Slumdog's" approach was clear even on the Oscar red carpet. As the regular phalanx of stars strutted the carpet in their glamorous designer togs, the cast and crew of "Slumdog" looked like a big happy family on an annual outing - albeit somewhat incongruously dressed in tuxedos and gowns.

The contrast between the glitz of Hollywood and the grit of Mumbai was striking, but it was also part of the message.

"Together we have been on an extraordinary journey," said producer Christian Colson as he was surrounded on stage by dozens of the cast and crew. "When we started out we had no stars or muscle, we didn't have enough money to do what we wanted to do. We had passion and we had belief and our film shows if you have those two things truly anything is possible."

As though to prove the point, the world's biggest movie stars howled their approval, and gave him a standing ovation.


its

Sunday, 22 February 2009

lets walk home....

lenten silence is an invitation into integrity.
from all the fragilities and brokenness
it calls us back home....
come lets walk home...

The Martyrdom of Polycarp:His story from eyewitness acount.

Who would have thought the old man had so much courage in him? The story you are about to read is the earliest known account of a Christian martyrdom. Written about a.d. 156, within a year of the event it describes, it is an authentic eyewitness report of the heroic death of an elderly man named Polycarp.

Polycarp was the bishop of Smyrna, today the city of Izmir, on the west coast of Turkey. He was part of the generation of church leaders who succeeded the apostles. According to one tradition, he was taught by the apostle John and was appointed to his office by the apostles themselves.

We owe the account of Polycarp’s death to the Christians of Smyrna, who wrote it up as a letter and circulated it to all the churches. No wonder they wanted to tell the world: Polycarp’s character and personal relationship with the Lord shine out in its simple words. The apparent defeat of his death becomes a triumphant witness to the resurrection.

Polycarp was martyred before the period of the great persecutions organized from Rome by emperors like Diocletian. His story reveals the tensions that were already building up throughout the empire, as Christians rejected the gods and goddesses that everyone else was worshipping. The pagans called the Christians “atheists” for this apparent lack of religious feeling. But as Polycarp made clear to a Roman government official, the real atheists are those who don’t worship the one true God. 

As the story opens in this adaptation of the Martyrdom of Polycarp, a local persecution of Christians has been going on. Some of Smyrna’s Christians have already been put to death, and search parties have been looking for the bishop, who has been persuaded to do the prudent thing and leave town. Someone has just tipped off the pursuers that Polycarp is hiding out at a farmhouse in the country.

The mounted police set out on Friday about suppertime. They carried their usual weapons, as if they were advancing against a bandit. Late in the evening, they arrived to arrest Polycarp and found that he was resting upstairs. He could have escaped to another place but decided to stay. “God’s will be done,” he said.

When Polycarp heard that the police were there, he went downstairs and talked with them. Everyone was amazed at his age and courage and wondered why there should be so much haste about arresting an old man like this. Despite the lateness of the hour, he had a table set for them to eat and drink, as much as they desired. He asked them to give him an hour to pray undisturbed, and they agreed.

So Polycarp stood and prayed out loud. He was so filled with the grace of God that, for two hours, he could not be silent. Those who listened were astounded, and many were sorry that they had come to arrest such a venerable old man.

When Polycarp had finished his prayer, after remembering everyone who had ever crossed his path—both small and great, high and low—and the whole Catholic Church throughout the world, the time came for him to leave. They set him on an ass and led him into the city.


“Save Yourself!” The chief of police, named Herod, and his father, Niketas, met Polycarp there and took him into their carriage. Sitting beside him, they tried to persuade him to change his mind: “What harm is there in saying ‘Lord Caesar,’ and offering sacrifice, and saving yourself from death?” 

At first Polycarp did not answer them, but when they kept at it, he said, “I am not going to do what you advise.” Then they gave up trying to persuade him and began to make threats. They forced him out of the carriage so fast that he scraped his shin getting out. Without even turning around, as though he had felt nothing, Polycarp walked on quickly and was taken to the noisy stadium.

As he entered, a voice from heaven came to him: “Be strong, Polycarp, and act like a man.” No one saw the speaker, but our friends who were there heard the voice. 

No Fear. Polycarp was brought before the proconsul. He also tried to persuade him to deny the faith. “Respect your age,” he said. “Swear by the divine power of Caesar. Change your mind. Say, ‘Away with the atheists!’ ” But Polycarp, with a solemn look at the unruly mob in the stadium, pointed to them and, looking up to heaven, said, “Away with the atheists!”

The proconsul urged him harder. “Take the oath and I’ll let you go. Curse Christ.” 

“Eighty-six years I have served him, and he never did me any wrong,” said Polycarp. “How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”

When the proconsul kept insisting, “Swear by the divine power of Caesar,” Polycarp answered, “If you vainly suppose that I will swear by the divine power of Caesar, as you say, and if you pretend that you do not know who I am, listen plainly: I am a Christian. And if you wish to learn the Christian message, arrange a meeting and give me a hearing.” 

“I have wild animals,” the proconsul said. “I’ll throw you to them unless you change your mind.”

“Call them in,” Polycarp replied, “for we are not allowed to change from something better to something worse.”

“Scorn the wild beasts and I’ll have you burned alive, if you don’t change your mind.”

Polycarp said, “You threaten with fire that burns for a short time and is soon quenched. You don’t know about the fire of the coming judgment and eternal punishment that awaits the wicked. But why are you waiting? Come, do what you will.”

Power to Endure. Polycarp radiated courage and joy as he said these and many other things. Not only did his face show no sign of distress, it was so full of grace that the proconsul was astonished and sent his herald into the middle of the arena three times to announce: “Polycarp has declared that he is a Christian.”

At the herald’s announcement, the whole crowd roared with wild anger and a loud cry: “This is the father of the Christians, the destroyer of our gods, who teaches many to stop offering sacrifice to the gods.” Shouting out with one voice, they demanded that Polycarp be burned alive.

This happened incredibly fast—faster than it takes to tell the story. The mob hurried to gather wood and kindling from the shops and bathhouses. When the pyre was ready, Polycarp took off his outer clothes, unfastened his belt, and tried to take off his shoes. 

Immediately they began to pile the wood around him. They were going to nail him to the stake as well, but Polycarp said, “Leave me the way I am. He who gives me power to endure the fire will help me to remain in the flames without moving, even without being secured by nails.”

Aroma of Life. So Polycarp put his hands behind him and was bound, like a noble ram out of a great flock ready for sacrifice, a burnt offering prepared and pleasing to God. Looking up to heaven, he said:


Lord God Almighty, Father of your beloved and blessed Child, Jesus Christ, through whom we have received full knowledge of you, the God of angels and powers and of all creation, and of the whole family of the righteous, who live before you: 

I bless you for considering me worthy of this day and hour—of sharing with the martyrs in the cup of your Christ, so as to share in resurrection to everlasting life of soul and body in the Holy Spirit. May I be received among them into your presence today as a rich and acceptable sacrifice.

For this and for everything I praise and glorify you through the eternal and heavenly high priest, Jesus Christ, your beloved Child. Through him and with him, may you be glorified with the Holy Spirit, both now and forever. Amen.


When he had said the amen and finished his prayer, the men in charge of the fire lit it, and a great flame blazed up. We who were given the privilege to witness it saw a great miracle, and we have been kept alive so that we might report to others what happened.

The fire took the shape of a vaulted room, like a ship’s sail filled with wind, and surrounded the body of the martyr like a wall. And he stood inside it—not as burning flesh, but as bread that is being baked, or as gold and silver being refined in a furnace. And we smelled a fragrant aroma, like the scent of incense or other costly spices.

Seeing that his body could not be consumed by the fire, the lawless men finally commanded an executioner to go up and stab Polycarp with a dagger. When he did this, there came out a dove and so much blood that the fire was extinguished. 

This indeed was one of God’s chosen ones—the amazing martyr, Polycarp, an apostolic and prophetic teacher in our time, bishop of the Catholic Church in Smyrna. 

By his patient endurance he overcame the devil and gained the crown of immortality. Now he rejoices with the apostles and all the saints. He is glorifying God, the Father Almighty, and blessing our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and Captain of our souls and bodies, and the Shepherd of the Catholic Church throughout the world.
http://wau.org/resources/article/the_martyrdom_of_polycarp/

Quebec: From Churches to Restaurants

In Quebec today, there are many catholic churchs that are forced to shut down despite the goodwill and immense financial sacrifice of christians who practise.

But yet we find many chruches that turn into appartements, and even restaurents.
 the following pictures are from quebec:
 
  
 
catwalk in the church-turned-Restaurant

http://www.lesaint.ca/ccfc/janvier_07/dejeuner_01_07-1.html 
http://www.ledevoir.com/2009/02/21/235071.html 

La fascination des profondeurs: why western minds often ends up with Sacred Cows...


Why the western mind often gets struck at the sight of a Sacred Cow?

Even in this ultra-technological era, India facinates the world.

India is not an answer to all the facination sof the world, but it indeed is an inspiration.

And that exactly the core of reason...

i came upon a well written response  online. the text comes in french: 

L'Inde ne s'est jamais intéressée à sa propre Histoire, mais il reste assez d'indications dans son immense littérature et dans les témoignages des anciens voyageurs pour en reconstituer les faits principaux.: observes Alain Joly in the small introduction 

Amaury de Riencourt obseves in the main text:

 La profondeur spécifique de la pensée indienne est, en conséquence, hors d'atteinte pour la plupart des étrangers, qu'ils soient asiatiques ou occidentaux. Les Indiens ont été capables d'outrepasser leurs limitations biologiques et de rôder à volonté dans les royaumes transcendantaux d'où l'intellect est à jamais banni. Mais peu d'entre eux sont revenus, probablement attirés, comme les plongeurs, par quelque irrésistible « fascination des profondeurs ». Les très rares qui en sont revenus sont les grands saints et maîtres qui illuminent la longue histoire de l'Inde jusqu'à nos jours, les seuls produits substantiels d'une civilisation pétrifiée à bien d'autres égards.

any way this makes a great read.

if you find an english version of it please add it up as a comment.

you can find the link to the original webpage below...

L'Âme de l'Inde:  "La pensée indienne", Amaury de Riencourt © Editions L'Age d'Homme.

http://pagesperso-orange.fr/alainjoly1/etude02.htm

Vache sacrée

Image:  http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fichier:CowHA.jpg

Monday, 16 February 2009

A small story...

I received this story by e-mail. 
It may be a common one..but it tells a lot... 
hv a happy read... 

A Small Story…  

A boy and a girl were playing together.
The boy had a collection of marbles.
The girl had some sweets with her.
The boy told the girl that he will give her all his marbles in exchange for her sweets.
The girl agreed.

The boy kept the biggest and the most beautiful marble aside and gave the rest to the girl.
The girl gave him all her sweets as she had promised.

That night, the girl slept peacefully.
But the boy couldn't sleep as he kept wondering if the girl had hidden some sweets from him the way he had hidden his best marble.

Moral of the story: If you don't give your hundred percent in a relationship, you'll always keep doubting if the other person has given his/her hundred percent.. This is applicable for any relationship like love, employer-employee relationship etc., Give your hundred percent to everything you do and sleep peacefully

"There is only one happiness in life, To Love and be Loved"