Monday, December 28, 2009

Quote from "The Journey into Yourself"

I did not know that I would be captivated by Eckhart Tolle simple words...
After "The Power of Now" I bought "The Journey into yourself" - the recording of long, 9 hours lecture Eckhart gave at one of his seminars.

I made short transcript of short passage that reflects his thoughts.
I did so because they were quite close to thougts of one of my friends - who was practicing monk and buddist. And they are close to deepest level of understanding in all mystical traditions I met...

I could make some errors, hope my readers and Eckhart will forgive me:

"The empty space is left behind by death, whenever a form dissolves in your life. It may be an actual death or it may be a loss of something that happened to be important to you. If you can face that hole that is left behind by the form that is no longer there, it is a temporary hole into the dimension of formless, now I could almost say, into God, the formless one life, the formless, timeless one consciousness, that underlines all manifestation. It momentarily shines through whenever there is a hole in the tapestry of physical existence.

There is a kind of tapestry of forms, and in this tapestry of forms, which is gigantic, regularly, and at all time (...) holes open up continuously and are replaced by something else, but if you can be aware of the holes, of the openings, something shines through them that has not to do with a form but with essence of all forms.

And it is enormously peaceful. There is enormous peace and aliveness there, and that is the grace that lies concealed in any kind of death, accidental death, seemingly premature death, in any kind of loss…
And then you cover up the hole with reactions immediately, so that you do not have to face emptiness…. So when emptiness comes in your life, that is a beautiful, potentially , a beautiful opening in which you can actually find yourself, You find yourself by not resisting that, and so you begin to welcome death when it comes because it is inseparable part of this world of form.

But when we look at death and judge it from a point of view of an identity, a sense of self that is identified with form – and from there death looks horrible!"

No more words for tonight...

Friday, December 25, 2009

What to do about this book ? - "The Power of Now" enigma ...

This review is about Eckhart Tolle first and fundamental book "The Power of Now". Eckhart Tolle is German-born Canadian spiritual teacher. But unlike other spiritual teachers he does not belong or even relates to any existing religion, even though he often cites Buddha and Jesus. He came to the today's fame (almost all celebrities are fascinated by his teachings) through quite unusual life. Despite almost 10 years old refusal to acquire traditional education, he was admitted to the University of London and matriculated at Cambridge in 1977. It was in this year when he felt into depression and came out of it after undergoing, what he describes as enlightenment or "inner transformation". In 1995 he moved to Vancouver, and soon after, in 1999 he wrote "The Power of Now". As the book became later the New York Time bestseller, his fame started to grow. His frequent performances with Oprah Winfrey and admiration of many celebrities positioned him among top spiritual teachers of the western hemisphere.

He promotes his message through a company he created and named "Eckhart Teachings"....

His history and fame could easily make my mind very suspicious about the quality of his message. But, I must admit, here comes a great surprise. The message is very simple, very basic and obvious - and expressed in such sincere and explicit words, that we should read it with attention. In a most concise description, the message is about the discovery of our inner consciousness, the silent "I" which is not reduced to our mind, thoughts or even our ego.
He beautifully describes it as the "no-thing", as the background of our thoughts and perceptions.
The discovery of the true inner center of our awareness, reveals also all negative consequences of mind domination - both on personal and also on social level. His analysis of the concept of pain-body which describes the negative emotional component of our life - is really deep and profound.

I also found his basic advice or "tool" one can use to self-wake up as very interesting - it is attempt to live in the "now"- in the Present. The past, and future are mental creations, the first through memory, the second through imagination. The focus on our "Now" on things and thoughts that matter for presentness - opens us to the awareness of the deeper level of existence, to true being, or "is-ness" - the another term, Tolle uses in an interesting way.
Even though I disagree with the apparent diminishing of the importance of the past, I must admit Tolle analysis of time is convincing.

In some sense, Eckhart Tolle rediscovers the truths well known to almost all meditational traditions of the world, however he does so in truly universal way - in language that the modern world can understand and can accept. It rediscovers what almost all religions of the world were telling us for centuries, but what was forgotten or maybe simply obstructed for many by the organizational or even political aspects of many religions.

Finally, even though many aspects of Tolle career are not what I like the most, he, by no means can be called "revitalised New Age mumbo jumbo" as it was done by Independent in an article published on June 21, 2008.

If I was about to point some weakness in his teaching it is in his forgetfulness of the importance of unchangeable past, our freedom and grounds for moral teaching. Paradoxically if one extends his basic teaching of awareness - the foundations for these concepts are there !

It is also funny, how I found this book and Eckhart Tolle teachings. It was thanks to Raymond Harrison who posted some comments on my blog about time and its dimensions. He pointed out to me Tolle teachings and I'm grateful to him for this reference...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Next 100 Years: A forecast or geopolitical fantasy ?

As with many books I have very mixed feelings after reading George's Friedman "The Next 100 Years". When it comes to reading experience, the book is just excellent. It is a true page turner and gives to the reader the great satisfaction of reading.

In short: the book analyses the global geopolitical trends of XXI century and tries to predict the events of nascent centennial period of time. The analysis of the current situation is breathtaking - it is one of the first analysis that describes the real trends behind such events like Iraq war, seemingly stupid errors of American administration and explains how such acts work on a deeper strategic level. The basic conclusion of this part of the book is that the American global dominance is of unprecedented scale, not known in history of civilization. What is more, we are not in the period of a dusk of "American day" but - rather - at its dawn.

All the events , including those that seemingly put US into some inferiority, work in the opposite direction. For example, even though the American-Jihad war, started by the events of 9/11 does not look as successful, it has in fact caused the great disruption in Islamic countries, essentially blocking any major power to arise.

There are many such excellent conclusions and inferences ...

But, as you continue to read it, the book becomes more and more a sort of fantasy than a well grounded forecast. For example, the conclusion that by the mid of XXI century the most important powers of the world will be: US, Japan, Turkey and ... Poland - made my sides split with laughter. On the surface, I should be proud (and I truly am) of the author estimation of my own country great potential - but, I think he simply forgets or ignores the large geopolitical change that just started to shape the Euro-Asia - the dawn of European Union, in which Poland has already its place, and to which Turkey aspires. The author, with typical ignorance, thinks of EU as of failed project, and it fails because it does not follow American example.

This is, in my opinion, one of the great faults in George's reasoning. The truth is different, EU is a project that breaks the traditional nation-state paradigm, and, as such, escapes the classical geopolitical trends. Of course, EU may fail. It errs. It joins the new active generation, hard working young people in many countries with somehow decadent societies of "Old Europe".

But in this weakness lies also its power - and it is highly unlikely that we may see a "Polish block" rising in power and challenging Germany, France, UK - also in military sense.

Turkey maybe more problematic, as seen from 2009 perspective, but its efforts to join EU will finally make this country a powerful, yet, peaceful part of the region.

Whatever we say, the thinking in XXI century in terms of almost tribal, nation-state struggle, seems to be anachronic and quite strange...

Having this in mind, I found this part of "The Next 100 years" as highly unrealistic.

When the author finally comes to the mid-XXI century war, and describes it with details worth good sci-fi novel, I came to conclusion, that the real value of the author prophecies are of the same sort as of any, maybe good, science-fiction author....

I also think that the author expresses some other strange opinions worth to oppose. For example, when he describes role of the computer in modern civilization it does so with complete ignorance to the true meaning of digital technology, Internet and new media. The only two aspects he notices is the reductionism of the digital world (because it reduces everything to bits) and the emanation of American philosophical pragmatism...

He seems not to understand what software is all about and how computer and Internet enhanced the human communication, collaboration and hope for better future - on a global scale...

Finally and despite my criticism - I recommend to read this book. It is deeply moving and fascinating. But don't believe in its prophetic power :-)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Manuscrit trouvé à Saragosse

Even though I read this book when I was young, the return to it in my fifties, and the reading of the final chapters in Paris was a kind of circular literature experience I did not predict to touch me so deeply in the end of 2009...

"Manuscrit trouvé à Saragosse" or "The Saragossa Manuscript" is an epic novel originally written in French in the beginning of XIX century. Its author, Jan Potocki was Polish nobleman, off-spring of famous lordly Potocki family, which was so important in the history of Poland. The family was far from being a dull aristocratic dynasty - see a note about Walentyn Potocki as an example.

Jan Potocki was highly educated person, known as ethnologist, Egyptologist and a linguist. He wrote in French. It is interesting to find that the final complete edition of the French original was published only in ... 2006.

"The Saragossa Manuscript" is a frame-tale story. In modern literature it was one of the first, preceding Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights by more than 30 years. Critics compared "The Manuscript" to The Decameron and to The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, but Potocki story telling is much more elaborated and convoluted, with stories told in parallel, stories within stories, sometimes going to the fourth level of nesting, or stories affecting the other stories on different planes of narration ... This very construction make the reading not only pleasant but also intellectually challenging experience.

In the factual setting, the story is located in the Napoleonic war times, when a French officer, after the fall of Saragossa, discovers an XVIII century manuscript describing the life of young officer of Wallon Guard - Alphonse van Worden. The plot described in this manuscript form the most of the book.

Being the officer of the Wallon Guard, the famous catholic formation from southern Belgium, he happened to be the only surviving male of fictional Muslim Gomelez family. The family members, hiding in caves of Sierra Morena mountains, predicting the glooming future of their Shi'a dynasty, organized intricate probation for Alphonse, driving him through ecstatic erotic experiences, inquisition tortures and metaphysical and philosophical conundrums, rooted in Jewish Kabbalah, Dervish and Gypsy stories, enlightened science and history of the region. The challenge was to test Alphonse honor, loyalty to his faith, ability to keep secrets and integrity. This part of the story is written with such level of realism, that even modern reader is completely surprised when, at the end of the narration, the true is finally revealed to Alphonse. It is also written with true love for diversity and cultures. Christian, Jewish, Gypsy and Muslim heroes of the stories are pictured with equal admiration and respect…

In almost 700 pages of the book, you will also find a lot of philosophical deliberations. Some of them ponder on the nature of the mind and the difference between human and animal intellect. Some of Potocki's thoughts are surprisingly modern...

I must admit, when it comes to storytelling and imagination, Potocki XIX century novel surpasses by an order of magnitude that of Don Brown's XXI century narration. He could be a teacher for all who write about secret societies and mysterious events alike. You never get impression of a naiveté of the author knowledge.

I have been reading this book in audio, in the translation from French to the mother tongue of the author. When finished I watched the entire 1965 black & white film by Wojciech Has. This was culmination of my adventure with Potocki and his book.

FYI, I was once honored to talk to late Wojciech Has, when I gave lectures in the Lodz Film Academy. I also know very well the locations the film was set - as it was an area for my climbing training in my youth. I can only pity that there are no English subtitles on YouTube complete set of episodes from the movie... :

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Future of physical Books - a new discussion at Book Blogs

Some time ago, after the first discussion about Books and their future, I initiated another one on Book Blogs network. It happened to be very interesting, received "Featured" status and sometimes, even hot :-)
The majority of commentators shared my view, that simply says: "Physical Books will never die". But there were also good arguments in favour of eBooks.

See two opinions:
From Stacy - the Novelist - FOR pBooks:

As an author, I think about autographed copies of books and book signings. If physical books were no longer around, how would people get autographed copies of their favorite books from their favorite authors?

From Novel Reaction - the Reader - FOR eBooks:

(...) when I travel I take books with me to read on my down time. A year ago (before I had my ereader) I took 12 books with me on vacation to Hawaii, read all of the books while I was there and ended up purchasing more for the plane ride home. Because I took so many books I had to pay extra for the weight in my luggage. Again, the convenience of an ereader is HUGE for me!!

All in all - its good to consider these matters - we live in eventful times when it comes to books business. As one of examples - Nook is coming ...

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Tomasz Stańko honors Polański in his concert in Lodz

Tomasz Stańko - famous avant-garde and free jazz trumpter played "Rosemary Baby" - from Roman Polański film, in his incredible concert in Lodz - the town of Polański's youth and university years.

Stanko, who played music from his latest ECM production "Dark Eyes", when asked for an encore by public - made an incredible interpretation of the famous film theme. I was in the public - we all knew it was for Polanski. It was very emotional and beautiful...
You may listen to another, older Stanko's interpretation of this theme in an amateurish recording at Rotunda Club in 2008.

Macrospherology of humans. Globes - volume two of Peter Sloterdijk's Spheres

I have been reading the second volume of Sloterdijk's magnum opus for a couple of months now. I still haven't found the time for a f...