Tag Archives: Spirituality

Rote Memorization

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Some people memorize poetry, and some people memorize song lyrics or rap lines (which is really just a kind of poetry anyway); some people memorize movie or TV show lines and some people memorize jokes and one liners. Overall, in the end, everyone either knows someone who has an extensive listing or memorized content – or, they even do it themselves.

But why? Why do people feel such a drive to memorize and recite content? After all, who doesn’t get a thrill learning and singing along to a favorite song? Or who doesn’t have a flush of happiness at being able to drop a line from a favorite TV show at the appropriate point in a conversation? Why are people almost seemingly programmed to love memorizing and reciting content? Continue reading Rote Memorization

The Stars Above Us

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This past weekend I went skiing for the first time, and for some reason it made me start thinking a lot about how language works and how it shapes our general understanding of the world around us. What really got me was the general idea of how you slow down while skiing – by digging the metal sides of the skies into the ground, making sure it catches against the snow and ice beneath you.

Language at work

Of course, a more scientific explanation for why turning your skis sideways – ‘snowplowing’ or ‘pizzaing’ – and digging them into the ground slows you down would probably take into account things like how you increase the surface area of the skis against the ground, increasing friction, drag, etc, thus slowing you down. And, while this is all a very good explanation, I want to know, how did people describe these phenomenons before concepts like friction and drag were ‘discovered’ and explained.

Skiing, for example, as an activity is believed to date all the way back to 5,000 BC in Scandinavia. How then, in that case, did they explain how the concept of snowplowing would slow you down while skiing? Surely, they could describe casually that doing this one movement would slow you down greatly, but could they describe why that happened? Would those early people have the necessary language and knowledge to even discuss matters like drag, or friction?

Likely, this matter goes beyond skiing to all manners of thought. Before humans learned how fast speed travels, could we ever really imagine going the speed of light? Or intergalactic travel? Or time travel? If not, then it is amazing to think how much more we can now discuss and think about due to linguistic evolution due to scientific discovery.

Following, imagine how much more people will be able to discuss in even just fifty years, at the current pace of human discovery. Languages very rarely create new words, so old words will be re-purposed at incredible speeds and given meanings that before would have been baffling. It’s amazing how much knowledge can change language, which in turn influences what we can truly imagine and think of.

Langauge and the firmament

I remember taking a philosophy class – that I hated. One point from that class always stood with me, though. The professor mentioned how some philosophers believe that new knowledge fundamentally changes the way we see and understand the world before us. So, these philosophers believe, thousands of years ago when people knew that the stars above them were gods, they actually did see gods above them.

Their language, and knowledge of the world, wouldn’t allow otherwise.

The Pull of Mevlana

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As I wandered through the Mevlana mosque complex, caught up in my own thoughts and the beauty of the area, I didn’t notice the two covered young teenage girls shyly making their way towards me. Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement. I almost certainly bumped into one of them when taking a step back to frame a picture properly.

The Pull of Mevlana
Seeing Rumi’s tomb from afar may have been one of the most exciting moments in my life.

The Pull of Mevlana

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Bonobo

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There are few things in the world I would say I fawn over – even less when music and musicians are taken into account. I can say with absolute certainty, though, that Bonobo, real name Simon Green, is one of those rare musicians that not only do I love, but that I must also share with everyone. People speak of artists that manage to change their lives and I always wrote it off mere exaggeration. Now, though, I do realize funnily enough that Bonobo has had an actual impact on my life.

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Deyrulzafaran Monastery

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Mardin’s environs are full of priceless, and not quite so priceless, treasures. One of the must sees though is the old Syriac Monastary – Deyrulzafaran. Originally built as a chamber on a hill overlooking Mesopotamia for the purposes of worshiping a sun god, this place of worship was later adopted by Christianity. On top of what was once a small chamber a great monastery was then built.

Deyrulzafaran Monastery

Rising out of the dusty arid hills stands the monastery. Long baked dry by the sun from scorching summers, the building stands constructed from yellowy orange, almost saffron, colored stones. Turkey is full of old churches from it’s days of being one of the gateways of Christianity’s spread. Today, most of these churches have now been converted into mosques or have fallen into disrepair. The Deyrulzafaran Monastery is unique in it’s uninterrupted use as a living place of worship until today. Continue reading Deyrulzafaran Monastery

You Are the Universe Experiencing Itself

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A few days ago, a friend posted on my Facebook a link to a website full of amazing wallpapers that he said reminded him of me; the picture to the left is from that sight, and is currently my active wallpaper.

At first I was just drawn to the quote because it completely summed up my own world philosophy – it was not until a few minutes ago, when I was reading up on what the name of this philosophy might be so I could share it in this post, that I realized that this is a quote from a Alan Watts, a renowned Western philosopher who tried to bridge the gap between Eastern and Western thinking. So, what drew me into this line of thinking was not Watts himself, but rather the ideas embodied in this quote.

Religion for me is a difficult and intriguing question. I used to be a strident atheist – although never a very good one, I admit, as I was still always terrified of ghosts and other inexplicable phenomenon. In time, however, my positions softened and I ended up becoming a fairly strong believer in God; this in turn then softened to an exclusively personal ever-evolving inclusive spiritualism.

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Şanlıurfa, Glorious Urfa

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Never has a city evoked so many varied emotions from me within such an exceptionally small space of time as Şanlıurfa – Glorious Urfa – managed to do this past weekend. The three days I spent there were actually so amazingly eventful, and unexpected in the most peculiar ways, that I will be splitting my experience into three posts. This one will focus on the city of Urfa itself, in all its glory.

View of Glorious Urfa

I left Malatya for Urfa at 5:30 AM, and I was lucky enough to arrive on a quick intercity bus – made by Mercedes Benz with personal TVs, which I did not take advantage of as I promptly fell back asleep – by around 10:30 in the morning.

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The Vibrations of Music

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I was watching a movie in a seminar about Rumi last Fall semester, struggling to stay awake as always when in a three hour long class at night with the lights off, when something caught my ear. The film was a documentary about the role of music in Sufi practice and a particular Turkish sheikh – whose name I unfortunately forgot – was being interviewed about the vibrations of music. Although I can’t remember exactly what he said, the general impression was something like:

[quote style=”1″]All things in this world vibrate. Drums vibrate when you beat on them just as your voice box vibrates as you sing. Even atoms vibrate and spin, creating inaudible music as they take part in creation.[/quote]

The general idea of this message really caught me off guard. It suddenly made all the music I loved seem like much more than music; instead they became gateways to my soul. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that sometimes, in the exact right conditions, certain songs have extreme power over us. For instance, when I saw mewithoutyou last Friday the opening band – Buried Beds – closed their set with every member of the band playing a simple beat on a drum. The rhythm became so strong it simple washed over me and I felt very open, in some way, as if the music was freeing me. Continue reading The Vibrations of Music