Erenlai - Identity and Self-Realization 認同感與自我實現
Identity and Self-Realization 認同感與自我實現

Identity and Self-Realization 認同感與自我實現

 

 

Where do I come from? Where do I go?... These contributions offer tools to explore the complexities of identity, overcome contradictions and recognize one’s true self.

你的文化認同感很薄弱嗎?這裡的文章帶領你探索認同感的建立、矛盾的根源與自我意義的覺察。

 

 

Wednesday, 02 December 2009

網路新世界?

圖片提供/Wikimedia Commons 攝影/Gigabyte250
本文為節錄,完整內容請見2009年12月號《人籟》論辨月刊


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現代社會因網際網路的出現發生了重大改變,
究竟網路是實現美好未來的重要工具,還是各種新興罪惡的淵藪?
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網路深入你我的生活
星期一早晨,我帶著早餐走進辦公室,一坐定位就先打開電腦一邊吃早餐一邊上網瀏覽今天的新聞,然後再看看幾個固定會去看的blog,等到開始正式上班後,便打開MSN、撲浪或是直接掛在批踢踢上開始一天的工作。

上班閒暇之餘,同事mail批踢踢上看到的笑話給我,我則到Youtube上搜尋上回在高雄世運閉幕中大提琴演奏家呂超倫的演奏片斷和同事分享。噗浪的河道上出現又有颱風形成的消息,我於是上了中央氣象局的網站查看最新的氣象狀況,順便看看衛星雲圖和預測的降雨機率,因為下午可能要去客戶那裏一趟。朋友從MSN上丟來訊息,討論周六一起吃飯的事。確定時程後,我便上網訂了高鐵的車票,然後在網路刷卡付費,好享受高鐵公司提供的刷卡付費折扣,訂票完成的mail很快就寄到我的gmail信箱,等到要到車站搭車時,我只要帶著我的3.5G手機到車站上網查看gmail的信件內容,就可以憑著mail中的訂票號碼直接利用機器取票了。

下班回家後,母親說她今天和住在桃園的大嫂用skype討論下回拜拜的事,然後也上醫院的網站網路掛號,確定下次回診的時間,還用google搜尋到鳳梨茶的作法,想說下回找機會來做看看。

從1994年至今,不知不覺中,網路已經成了我們生活中難以忽略的一部分,這是任何人都無法否認的事,但是我們所處的世界是否真的因此變得美好呢?


十年間風起雲湧
1986年,美國國家科學基金會(National Science Foundation,NSF)建立了大學間的骨幹網路NSFNET,對於熟知網際網路(internet)發展歷史的人來說,這當然是網際網路發展史上的重大事件。即便如此,一路觀察網路發展過程的人,恐怕多半無法想像,當1994年NSFNET開始轉為商業運營之後,網際網路居然在短短的十年間,在整個人類世界掀起一連串翻天覆地的變化。

相當諷刺的是,1970年,當美國年輕學子為了反對越戰,發動美國歷史上第一次全國學生總罷課,十多萬學生湧入華盛頓進行抗議,以愛與和平的反戰訴求,讚頌和平的美好並痛陳戰爭的無益之際,現今網際網路的前身――美國國防部高級研究計畫署(Advanced Research Project Agency,簡稱ARPA)因冷戰所發展建立的「阿帕網」(The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network,簡稱ARPANET),正經歷其發展的第一個十年。阿帕網並在1973年正式擴展成網際網路,首先連結了英國與挪威的電腦。

沒人能夠預料,在戰爭這種人類以破壞做為目標的行為之中,居然隱含數十年後人類社會得以快速發展的契機。


泡沫化未成阻力
1994年,隨著Mosaic瀏覽器及World Wide Web(WWW)的出現,網路世界的興起幾乎已成定局,眼尖的投資者在目睹網路公司股價快速上漲的現象後,很快將大筆資金投入相關產業,在投資者刻意炒作下,網路成了新世界的代名詞。此時的人對於網路可能知道的很少,卻期待很多。雖然日後網路泡沫的爆發,證明這波號稱新經濟的投資熱潮雖然在一時間橫掃全世界,但是整個投資過程最終仍未能逃離最基本的經濟法則。

公元2000年,當依賴電腦日深的人們正為安然度過千禧蟲危機(Y2K)感到慶幸時,緊接著在3月份爆發的網路經濟泡沫,則以迅雷不及掩耳之勢,奇襲了眾人對於網際網路過度樂觀的想像。網路經濟泡沫的災難雖然讓不少投資者受傷慘重,卻沒有因此阻礙了網路深入人類生活的腳步。在台灣,現今註冊總人數約150萬人,成立於1995年的批踢踢(PTT Bulletin Board System簡稱PTT)電子布告欄系統,便是在此年成立了批踢踢兔(PTT2)。發展至今,批踢踢已擁有超過兩萬個不同主題的看板,在尖峰時段批踢踢、批踢踢兔兩站更有超過十五萬名使用者同時上線,每日並有約四萬篇新文章被發表。



想深入瞭解網路究竟如何改變我們的生活模式,請看2009年12月號《人籟》論辨月刊。

附加的多媒體:
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Tuesday, 27 October 2009

An Eclectic Musician

I was born in 1975 in Bursa, the fifth most populated city in Turkey, but I have been living in Istanbul for the last 20 years. I started playing the guitar when I was eleven years old and took private lessons on guitar, jazz theory, composition, and performance within an ensemble. I graduated as an industrial engineer and continued my education with a Master’s degree in sound engineering and electroacoustic composition at the Music for Advanced Studies Department at Istanbul Technical University. Currently, I am working on my doctorate degree at the same institution where I have had the chance to study theory and the practice of sound engineering and electroacoustic composition with accomplished American professors. I have always been interested in the recording process, and started recording my demos when I was fifteen years old. Since then, I have recorded and released three solo albums in the United States and accomplished various other projects all around the world. I have received numerous prizes for my works from international competitions such as Luigi Russolo and MUSICA NOVA; I have also participated at prestigious contemporary and jazz music festivals like Huddersfield, Futura, Nuit Bleu, Sonorities, Visiones Sonoras and Akbank Jazz Festival. My album “Altered Realities” has been included in the “Best albums of 2007” in the All About Jazz, Textura and Cyclic Defrost magazines.

Meeting Luo Chao-yun
We have a common friend Otto Castro from Costa Rica. He is an electroacoustic composer and I have known him from the 2007 Sonoimagenes Festival that took place in Buenos Aires. When I listened to some of her performances on her MySpace page, I was very impressed. I thought it would be great if we could record together. I was not sure if we would be able to finish an album in such a short period of time, but when we started playing together at my studio, I became convinced that we could record some great things. Because I respect the far Eastern way of life, philosophy, aesthetics, art and culture in particular, I was very much impressed by her. The way she communicated with me through music and the musical space, allowed me to have incredible improvisation. I have never seen and heard such a thing. Also, the way she listened during the recording session at the university studio was something to watch. It was as if her soul traveled to another dimension at that moment.

Before collaborating with Chao-yun, I was not very familiar with Chinese traditional music, but I knew the works of composers such as Tan Dun, Ge Gan-ru. I have definitely enjoyed the sounds of instruments like erhu, ruan, and guan. The playing techniques, the timbres of some of the traditional Chinese instruments resemble the traditional Turkish instruments. So even though I do not have a thorough background about Chinese music, a general idea of the aesthetics and the timbres has been in my subconscious.

About the CD recorded with Luo Chao-yun (CD released with Renlai Monthly n.65)
We recorded for three days at my studio. I played the electric guitar with live electronics. Then, we recorded for a day at the MIAM studios, where I played the prepared piano on some pieces and electric guitar on others. We did not discuss anything before these recording sessions, and we did not know what would happen and I loved that feeling. It forces you to listen to the other musician much more deeply. In our case, I think this approach worked really well.

Future projects
I have received a commission for a new electroacoustic composition based on the soundscape of Istanbul , which will be premiered at the Novelum Festival in November. Another project that I am excited about is a new musical theatre/opera commissioned by the Bregenz Contemporary Festival, that will be premiered in fall 2010. Also, I will start composing for two new feature movies in November. I am about to finish mixing the duo albums that I recorded with Elliott Sharp, British percussionist Pete Lockett, American accordionist Michael Ward Bergeman, American saxophonist Neil Leonard, and American guitarists Bill Walker and Craig Green. Also an ambient album with Robert Scott Thompson will be released around January 2010. Lastly, I am recording new material for duo albums with Per Boysen, Leo Abrahams and my upcoming solo guitar and live electronics record.
I have not been to Asia unfortunately, but of course I plan to come. A tour with Luo in China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan would be great after the release of this record.




Wednesday, 07 October 2009

Stinkiness has no borders

It was another beautiful day in Taipei. The sun was shining and even the sweat itself was sweating. I was just walking down the street, when I saw a familiar image. Apparently the new Tomb Raider video game has entered the market in Taipei. And with this monumental event there is now a commercial poster in front of every other 7-11 store. There is nothing wrong with that of course…but then I saw it was not quite the same Lara Croft as one would expect…Lara Croft? Honestly, we all know that the extraordinarily well-developed pair of sidearms wrapped in those tight curves-revealing cases is not the only reason why we like her. But it helps. Don’t mind that she forgot her pouty lips in the locker, but those blue-eyed contact lenses make her look like she just escaped from a sanatorium. Which brings me to the point, why do the locals need to translate even the images? Imagine if we made our own blond and blue-eyed version of Bruce Lee.

But I’m sure I’d find some people who would say: “Well, it’s just a different culture.” But “culture” comes from Latin ’colere’ that means “to cultivate” and you’re certainly not broadening your horizons if you need to make Lara Croft flattened and Asian, so people won’t start worshipping her enormous near godly qualities. Because if you do that, then don’t try to make me feel bad about not wanting to eat your stinky tofu. But no matter in how many odd ways the skin of your face can fold and form an expression of utter disgust, I’m pretty sure there will always be someone saying: “You haven’t tried our stinky tofu? How come, it’s a Taiwanese speciality!” For which my answer is; tofu doesn’t run, fly or swim, so stop trying to feed me with this shit!
The culture might not be as different as it seems though. Not in this case at least. I am talking about the crown jewel of Czech cuisine, that is the stinky cheese and I can say with a clear conscience that it may very well compete with the Stinky tofu. In both cases I can’t help but wonder about the logic that stood behind the creation of such culinary masterpieces. I bet it was some guy living in a time of war and starvation. The poor fellow lost his nose in an unforeseeable explosion and so he decided to come up with something eatable but with such a foul aroma, that a normal human being would never even dare to come close to it. The Czechs however are most proud of their beer and we all know that after a few pints of that earthy vintage, you can be talked into almost anything. Hence the common knowledge argument; that the stinky cheese goes best with a cold beer. Do you see the strategy?
This brings me to the notion that in the interest of further broadening Taiwanese cultural background, one of Lara Croft’s guns should be exchanged for a bowl of tofu. First of all, if she throw’s it, it’s equally as deadly a burst of bullets and secondly the cultural reference is so much stronger.

At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter if you decide to cripple all your rhinaesthesia cells via tofu or cheese. You are just a member of a different sect, as the true meaning of the word “culture” reveals. It is nothing more than cult - urges and you will always meet someone who will proudly announce how he ventured into the unknown, tasted the unimaginable and now he’s bringing the wisdom to his own people. Don’t let this guy bring you down. On such an occasion you should take comforts in saying: “I think I would like to keep my sense of smell a little longer.”
It’s the little things…


Thursday, 01 October 2009

Weaving traditions

Outside the house, an older duangong creates a ritual field that extends the protection of the spirits of the mountain, water, heaven and earth on the surroundings. Such a ritual acquires even more meaning after the ordeal of the earthquake, which destroyed the old house.

The methods of divination used to predict the fate of the house and its inhabitants are directly borrowed from the Han: Qiang religion blends elements of animist and Taoist influences. Its pantheon includes Han deities. And the short interlude performed with masks, through which neighbours convey their wishes to the master of the household, reminds one of scenes from the Sichuan opera. But the dance of the two duangong and their assistant speaks of beliefs rooted into the familiar forces of the mountain, of the sky nearby, of the water roaring in the deep valleys - beliefs and rituals of a mountain people ... The embroidery of the dance displays its patterns on the boundless canvass of the cosmos, allowing Man to dwell harmoniously in its midst.

"I am a Qiang" ... Slowly overcoming the trauma of the earthquake, recording its memories and beliefs into songs, rituals and cloth patterns, mixing and weaving the various traditions that travel along its mountainous corridors, the Qiang people still surreptitiously embroiders its own history on the fringes of the Chinese Empire ...

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Thursday, 01 October 2009

Who are the Qiang?

"I am Qiang" ... But who are the Qiang? Today the name refers to a small ethnic minority group in western China, 300 000 people, established on the foothills and mountains that separate the plains around Chengdu from the highlands of Eastern Tibet. In the past, the term "Qiang" was for the Han Chinese a formidable one: it referred to all pastoral peoples who inhabited the territories situated west of the central plains. The pictogram coined for designating these peoples - the one still used today for the Qiang minority - consisted of the combined images of man and sheep...

The Taiwanese scholar Wang Mingke states that “from the Late Han to the Qing period, the concept of the Qiang as a western ethnic boundary of the ancient Chinese, first referring to a huge range of people in the west, gradually came to denote only the non-Chinese people living in the upper Min River Valley and Beichuan area. This process was the result of more and more western ‘barbarians’ becoming Chinese or being classified by the Chinese into new ethnic categories. (…) The history of the Qiang is a history of a minority nationality, and also a history of the Chinese in respect to boundary formation and changes. ”

It is thus difficult to assert whether the people known today as the Qiang are truly the direct heirs of the semi-nomadic peoples who threatened the fledgling Chinese civilization, before the expansion of the Han Empire dispersed and later on assimilated them. The Qiang have long lived in contact with the Han and they also communicate with the other minorities who dwell in the Tibetan corridor. Only half of them still speak the Qiang language, or rather one of its variants, as this land of isolated valleys knows an impressive variety of dialects.

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Thursday, 18 June 2009

Listening to the Body

Sometimes, our body seems not to respond or ’obey’ us anymore: why can’t I make that movement? Or why does it hurt suddenly? When the body doesn’t ’listen’ anymore, it might be time to ’listen to one’s body’.

Interview with I-Hsiung Hsu

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Friday, 12 June 2009

Transpersonal psychology : A bibliography

  

There have always been psychologists who have felt that academic psychology, as embodied in its curriculum and its textbooks, was not adequately reflecting the whole range of human experience. Due to its too rigid paradigm, which originally was borrowed from the natural sciences, academic psychology still tends to overlook or even arbitrarily discard some areas which in all cultures - in the East as well as in the West - have always been considered as essential or, at least, as very important parts of human life.

Since the 1940’s, the demand for an expansion of the psychological paradigm became ever more insistent and widespread, giving birth to the humanistic revolution in psychology. For nearly three decades, Maslow was one of the pillars of that movement. In 1968, Maslow was elected President of the American Psychological Association. He then realized that even humanistic psychology was not enough, and that there was a need for a still further expansion of the psychological paradigm. He then became a co-founder of transpersonal psychology, which he described as “transhumanistic psychology”, “transcendental psychology”, or “height psychology”. While still incorporating and confirming all the positive contributions of behavioristic psychology, Freudian psychology and humanistic psychology, it adds the spiritual dimension (“spiritual” in a broad sense, i.e. either in a religious sense or not) as an essential part of the human potential: an insight already found in all cultures
 

For the past thirty years, I have continually observed the growth of the transpersonal movement. While reading numerous books and articles on this new development, I became interested in accumulating relevant references, i.e., those usually listed at the end of scholarly books as well as those found at the end of relevant articles in various journals of psychology. As the bibliography kept growing, I was amazed at the tremendous abundance of psychological materials dealing with transpersonal or spiritual themes, even though these writings do not always appear expressly under a “transpersonal” label, and even though some of the writers would not necessarily call themselves “transpersonal” psychologists.

The compilation work, just described above, led me to a second discovery: namely, academic psychology, as it is transmitted to students through its curriculum and textbooks, not only fails to faithfully reflect the whole range of human experience (as I have already remarked) but, ironically, it even fails to reflect the wealth of psychological literature itself. As a result, we are faced with two partially different psychologies: the psychology found in many textbooks (with a few exceptions), and the much more comprehensive, human and meaningful psychology found in the psychological literature.

While I was accumulating and classifying this huge amount of materials, I constantly had in mind graduate students in psychology and in other closely related fields. To them this bibliography on transpersonal psychology is especially offered as a source of suggestions for their term papers, master’s theses, doctoral dissertations, and other research projects. They will find in it a variety of “new” areas which might attract their curiosity and interest, and challenge their intellectual abilities. Besides, within each of these areas, they will also find many meaningful research topics together with a considerable amount of references to relevant documentation. I also hope that they will get acquainted with the new methods presented in the section on methodology, and that they will be bold enough to use some of them in their research projects.

Download here the pdf version of the bibliography 

(Drawing by Li Jinyuan)

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

The Fantastic Teacher

A teacher always seeks to deepen and reinforce his knowledge by studying, reviewing and also memorizing, until it has completely infused his brain. But a good teacher is more than someone who masterizes his knowledge. A good teacher is able to be flexible; if he knows in depth his subject, he can adapt his courses to his students’ needs without altering his knowledge. A teacher might teach with a book; a good teacher can drop the book and speak from the heart.

Furthermore, there is a third level of teaching represented by ‘the fantastic teacher’. A teacher teaches from his book; a good teacher drops his book and speaks from the heart; a ‘fantastic teacher’ does not even need to speak at all. His very life and his total being lie in his teaching through his actions, his movements, his lifestyle, the choices he makes, and the commitments he lives. Then, one could say that his actions truly speak louder than his words. In a world becoming narrower, when our choices turn out to be more restricted, the ‘fantastic teacher’ is the one able to open hearts and minds.

Many of us here in the Ateneo are real teachers, because, at least we try to improve our knowledge and what we have been taught. I believe some are already good teachers, but only a countable few will qualify as fantastic. Nevertheless, I would like to think that we are all trying.


Saturday, 25 April 2009

King of Engineers

A week ago, as I was preparing myself to the award as “King of Engineers”, a question came to my mind: “What does it mean to be King of Engineers?”

Pondering on this question, I thought of Herbert Spencer, a sociologist and philosopher. He said that “human life is full of adversities and the law that governs the human race is one of survival of the fittest.” This is the maxim of today’s world. Therefore, in this world of make or break, where opportunities for work and better living become leaner and leaner due to global economic crises, most schools, companies and institutions train people to be highly-skilled and competitive in order to survive. For this reason, knowledge does play a very important role. It is knowledge that brings people like Tim Patterson of Microsoft or Charles Steinmetz of General Electric to the top.

Without exception, all of us are endowed with a good amount of knowledge and capabilities. Perhaps, we differ in how much we appreciate or how much we value those gifts. Some would care so much that these gifts become part of their lives. Others may take them for granted or even ignore them. For five years, I have dedicated myself to learning, for knowledge is not something that I can acquire overnight. It is a continuing process. But then I asked myself, is this the reason why I am here before you now? Perhaps, it is more than academic knowledge that brought me here.

Since my elementary days, the Cebu Institute of Technology has been my training ground. Like a soldier being trained for battle, my training here was tough. For sure I had my bruises and wounds, but they are nothing compared to the joy I am feeling right now. And it is the people around me that brought me where I am right now and what I have become. They trained and continue to train me to be tough, and lead me to my desire of becoming the best Juan Miguel Exaltacion I can be. It is these people around me that formed not only my head, but also my heart, body, and spirit that I may be fully human. The series of trainings and formation I have experienced here will surely prepare and brace me for future battles, where at times, the enemy is my own self... I guess this is what it really means to be a king. It is not the king that our dictionaries define him to be: a male sovereign, a competitor who holds a preeminent position, a dominant ruler controlling and reigning over his subjects. On the other hand, any man can be king if he is able to rule over himself, mastering himself in overcoming his wickedness and weaknesses, and having the strength to rise above all self-defeating obstacles; mustering enough courage to rise again and again every time he falls, never giving up. Yes, it is the people around me who taught me that to be a real man is to master and tame his own fears, his pride, his passion, his very self.

Furthermore, it is the people around me who taught me the value of relationships. People like my teachers taught me the value of giving and sharing; dedicated teachers and mentors who unselfishly shared to us students their knowledge; people like my classmates taught me the value of real friendship; faithful friends who never abandoned me in my darkest moments; people who encouraged and supported me in all my endeavors. Most of all, people like my family, especially my parents, who taught me the value of humility, service and love. They helped me see and understand this so-called “survival of the fittest” in a different light. They taught me that to be a great man, or a king, is not to compete and defeat everyone else in order to survive or get to the top. Man’s survival is found in his relationship with others. What makes him great is determined by the kind of relationship he builds with others. The real survivors, the so-called fittest, are the ones who are not afraid to give and share so that others may survive. They are the ones who have the capacity to love more, allow themselves to become the least and the last. This is what it really means to survive and live.

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Friday, 20 March 2009

Literature, sci-fi, imagination

From literature to science

I developed a passion for science very early on in my teens and saw them as a realm of infinite possibilities.

My brother was the one who helped me realise it. I have to acknowledge it, because I was so unkind to him most of the times. It so happened that he loves to read Sci-Fi novels, and I being the ever-so competitive one, would read them after him… My favourite ones are the oldest, the novels by Jules Verne. Jules Verne’s novels are works of imagination but they are also startlingly accurate anticipations of modern times. I loved reading Paris in the 20th Century : it described air conditioning, auto mobiles, the Internet, television, and other modern conveniences very similar to our real world counterparts. How was he able to imagine all that? Another favourite of mine is From the Earth to the Moon, which is strikingly similar to the real Apollo Program, as three astronauts are launched from the Florida peninsula and recovered through a splash landing. In the book, the spacecraft is launched from "Tampa Town"; approximately 130 miles from NASA’s actual launching site at Cape Canaveral, or so have I read. And in other works, Verne predicted the inventions of helicopters, submarines, projectors, jukeboxes, and other devices. He also predicted the existence of underwater hydrothermal vents that were not discovered until years after.
Jules Verne is indeed. my hero. When I am told I am too dreamy or imaginative I simply shrug my shoulders. If you want to have new ideas where are you going to find them, except in your dreams and imaginations? I am now convinced that humankind owes much more to dreamers than to hopeless realists… I had tried to convince my maths, physics and biology teacher - not an easy lot, I tell you, as they were so hopelessly realistic…

From helicopters to guitars

OK, I might owe a little more to my elder brother than I am willing to admit. In fact, when we were growing up and were both seen as rebellious, sulky teenagers, we felt much closer to each other than ever. He had developed a passion for music, and played in a band, having convinced Dad and Mum to buy him an Ovation guitar. Thanks to him I now know how the guitar was invented and it makes me even more convinced that imagination is the world’ s driving force – only teachers and parents refused to recognise it.
The first Ovation guitar was developed in 1966 by Charles Kaman. Kaman, an amateur guitarist from an early age, then worked on helicopter design as an aerodynamacist and founded his own helicopter design company, Kaman Aircraft, in 1945. His corporation soon diversified, branching off into nuclear weapons testing, commercial helicopter flights, the development and testing of chemicals, and helicopter bearings production. But in the early 1960s, financial problems due to the failure of their commercial flight division forced them to consider expanding into new markets, such as entertainment and leisure. Coincidentally, Charles Kaman, still an avid guitar player, became interested in the making of guitars. Using his background in aviation engineering, Kaman designed a rounded-bowl back, hoping to improve the flow of sound through the guitar, and developed a new top bracing system. Finally, although he kept the idea of using a wood soundboard, the body and sides of the guitar were manufactured of composite. Since that time the company’s main focus has been acoustic and acoustic-electric guitars.
Applying helicopter’s technology to guitar-making... not bad at all.

Imagining discoveries

The history of science is fascinating, and I dreamt of the life of scientists and inventors the way I did of witches and wizards as a little girl.
When you look at the way science has evolved throughout the ages, you realise that when comparing theories to observations, scientists encounter more and more anomalies, which cannot be explained by the theory alone. When enough anomalies have accrued against a theory, science is thrown into a state of crisis – scientists become restless and sleepless, their wives can no longer bear their sudden shifts of moods, coffee no longer tastes the same as before, they rely on chocolate to struggle against anxiety, and so on... During this crisis, new ideas are tried. Eventually a new theory is spelled out, after epic battles. And it is always the ones who see nothing new to be imagined or discovered whom ultimately look like the fools. Take poor Lord Kelvin who, in 1900, stated, "There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement." Five years later, Einstein published his paper on special relativity, which challenged Newtonian mechanics...

And more…

The more I progress in my studies, the more I am convinced that imagination is the Empress who reigns over all Sciences.
Did Copernic not need imagination in finding out that the earth turned around the sun rather than the reverse?
Did Pasteur and others not need imagination in deciding that “all life comes from life” rather than relying on the widely accepted theory of spontaneous generation?
Was Einstein not the best artist of the 20th century when he came up with the theory of relativity?
One of my favourites is Lavoisier. He showed that respiration was essentially a slow combustion of organic material using inhaled oxygen. He also showed that, although matter can change its state in a chemical reaction, the quantity of matter is the same at the end as at the beginning of every chemical change. These experiments supported the law of conservation of mass, which Lavoisier was the first to state. It is not for these discoveries that French revolutionaries beheaded him however.
I have yet to speak of Lamarck, Darwin or Mendel… To me, these people are the most imaginative artists that humankind has ever known- the real dreamers.

Image by C.P.

 

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Imagination: A Force for Changing Taiwan

Be it in science, in arts or in social movements, nothing new can emerge and happen if we are unable to imagine – to imagine new theorems, new visions, new ways of acting together, new dreams for the future. One could say that our memory is the stock from which we are able to perpetuate our knowledge and our collective being, while imagination is what makes us able to rearrange and renew our assets so as to discover new riches and to open paths that were unheard of.
Imagination is a force for change. Through imagination, mankind has changed the scientific paradigms that determine its vision of nature and cosmos; through imagination, artists have imposed upon us new ways of looking at external and inner realities; through imagination, thinkers have devised social systems that enhance our freedom and safety nets; through imagination humankind progressively invents a global system that creates a web of shared interests among nations and economies. The Internet, cell phones or digital cameras had somehow to be “imagined’ before being offered to us so as we creatively use them… For sure, there is always a reality check to be done when imagination begets new ideas, but the driving force is imagination indeed…

So, how do we nurture imagination, and how do we use the creative force we have been endowed with? The question has a personal dimension, but it is also a collective challenge. For it seems that, in the economic and political times that are ours, imagination has become a vital asset, the only one maybe on which we can truly rely. There is no clear project for the future of our economy and our social system. Old habits, slogans and ways of thinking are again dominating the cultural scene - and when was the last time you heard a truly new idea, an idea that was challenging your assumptions and usual way of thinking? Truly, imagination might be the energy that Taiwan, for example, is presently most lacking – though there is endless supply of it hidden in our midst. We might need “hope”, “audacity” and “self-confidence”, but more important… let us now bring imagination to power!

This month Focus is primarily concerned with imagination in Taiwan: how can our education system nurture so basic a talent in children’s minds? Can imagination change today’s Taiwan?

(Drawing by Bendu, colouring by Nakao)

Start with Hubert Kilian’s travel to the future:
Taiwan, 25 years later

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Friday, 27 February 2009

Tricky Appearances

We all know that fusion is exotic. It’s that urge that propels us to douse a hamburger with teriyaki sauce or pair your denims with a Cheong-Sam. Marriages of East and West are a harmless intermingling of culture, and second-generation Asians in the U.S and Europe are increasingly becoming the largest minority, but what are the complications for a generation of people of either pure or partial Asian heritage with a tendency towards Western orientation?

The world generally prefers its citizens in their own categories: Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Korean. They represent the sanctity of our nation-states. After all, if you’re not one or the other, what are you? Whether you’re half Asian half-Western, or purely Asian raised in the West, you are associated by ethnic groups by your facial features – not that it determines half of what you are – but it often elicits a certain regard from others. This is the case in Taiwan, where most are inclined to associate one’s character with the way one looks, talks, and their mannerisms. Mainly the way one looks.

Classification by appearance can be good and bad news, depending on what you resemble. “In Taiwan most people think I am A.B.C because they think I sound American when I speak English”, says C.B Leeuwenhoek, who is a half-Dutch half-Taiwanese, and it is not necessarily a bad thing. “They look at me and they know that I’m not local but that I look like Asian…They look at foreigners a little weird here, but they think I am still one of them”. Born and raised in Rotterdam, the 21-year-old is not at all bothered by the recurring mistakes made on his nationality in Taiwan. ABCs (American-born Chinese) have the privileges in Asia of being the offspring of Asian immigrants whom are often associated with many of the Western qualities that many Taiwanese deem impressive i.e. ability in the English language, overt American/Westernised culture. A lot of it has to do with the general high regard for the American entity in contemporary Taiwan.

C.B recalls a time in his childhood when Chinese was all he could speak at the age of three, facing rejection from the other local kids in the Kindergarten at Rotterdam who could not communicate with him. “My teacher told my mum that she’d have to teach me either Dutch or English otherwise no one would play with me. From then on, my mum only spoke in Dutch with me.” C.B now speaks Dutch as his first language, fluent English, and consequently, little Mandarin. All that trouble, only to find himself now living in a predominantly Chinese-speaking environment.

“You do Kung Fu?” is a common question that French-born Belgium Jean-Jacques Chen hears on the streets of Brussels. Jean-Jacques is born to Taiwanese-Chinese parents whom immigrated to Paris during a particularly difficult financial time in Taiwan. They later moved to Brussels where Jean-Jacques spent most of his life growing up. “When I was little, the fact that I was the only Asian in my class, I was often gibed at”. In entering schools that were more multi-cultural, Jean-Jacques finally felt at ease in an environment where one would be less likely to adopt a condescending attitude towards foreigners who were now the majority.

“In Brussels, most would think I am Chinese, while in Taiwan, often people would think that I am either an old man or an alien, and very often, Japanese. Perhaps because of my moustache and the fact that I sport very traditional Chinese clothing that none of the young locals would wear...” When asked about the difficulties he faces living here with his looks and old-school fashion, Jean-Jacques laughs, “I face difficulties it comes to hitting on girls, it doesn’t work so well when one thinks you’re old, but in Brussels it does!”

Just as one may be approached with admiration for being or mistaken as an American-born-Chinese, one may also face hostility in Asian circles, with the latter of a visibly smaller extent in the Taiwanese society. Peter-Nam Hoang Dinh sports dreads and was born in Oakland, California to Vietnamese parents and looks little like any of the Asian-American crowd in Taiwan- or what I have seen so far. He is often complimented for his facial features and the fact that he is Asian-American, but upon hearing his heritage, a man responds, “Vietnamese? But your features don’t look Vietnamese.”. Having had just complimented on his good-looking features, one couldn’t help feeling a tad bit insulted for the Vietnamese person. Peter is often treated with much respect and admiration, with or without his thick-framed glasses, which apparently made him look more Taiwanese. “They generally treat me very well, when I have my glasses on they are less afraid to come up and talk to me- thinking I am a local. When I don’t have them on, Asian-American is what they see.” And Asian-American he is - Peter is in the lucky position for being recognised for who he is. Some us are less fortunate.

Growing up abroad it is hard to find a comfort zone with Asian features as kids of other nationalities can tease and be cruel. Despite being one the very few Asians at school in Africa, I myself was rarely teased with racial slurs growing up. In coming to Taiwan I was held at times with, if possible, a lower regard apart from the times when they mistake me for an Asian-American. Among many incidents, one that I often raise as an example for my friends is a rather unpleasant encounter in a taxi- whereby a taxi driver asks me upon boarding his car, if I was looking for my ‘Master’ in a tone that left me feeling rather undignified. “No sir, but are you?” was my wry response which he chose to ignore, “Philippines or Indonesia, you?” asked the nasty fellow.

Filipinas are largely employed as domestic maids in this country, a fact that I am well aware of. His reaction and the reactions of many others showed me a side of Taiwan’s bigotry with respect to Filipinas, Indonesians and Thais that came as a surprise. It occurred to me as highly unfair to be treated in this manner – whereas if I had been speaking in English loudly in open public, one would have given me more credit. In any case, I was pleased to be referred to a race of people whom I find beautiful, though it would’ve been admittedly nicer had they spoken with me in a more respectful manner.

False assumptions and stereotyping are passé, I no longer pay heed to what one may say about appearances.



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