Thursday, February 24, 2011

Believing Without Questioning

Siddhartha, Religion, Spirituatilty, and Nihilism 

This is probably my fifth time to read Siddhartha, and it is my first time to actually starting to get the meaning out of this book.  Nihilism in German class has helped me to understand what this book is about; it has also helped me to reflect on my own life.  It is not until two weeks ago that I even started thinking the fullness of existence.  Like Siddhartha said, it’s not possible to put in words the fullness of being and existence.  I cannot describe the meaning of fullness, and I don’t think anyone can do.  The oneness of the universe and the oceanic feeling to me re simply imagination; different people can look at them in a different way, and there is no one that can describe them in an understanding way.  What Siddhartha was describing about the rivers sounded like words of a poet, I did not get the meaning of what he was saying.

I can now proudly say that I am a spiritual wonderer like Siddhartha, actually I have been a spiritual wonderer for a few years now, but reading Siddhartha, once more, has re-enforced my quest for true meaning of spirituality.  I was born in a Catholic family, my parents believe only in the teaching of the Catholic Church, and believing in other faith was not acceptable to them.  I was baptized in the catholic faith when I was ten year old and the same day I started to receive the Holy Communion.  During the time I was attending classes for my baptism, I was told to obey every ritual practiced by the church.  I was told that the catholic teaching is the only true teaching because it is the only church that Jesus Christ himself created before he went back to heaven.  I was taught that the priests are holy people, and that the saints should be worship.  I was told that I have to confess my sins to the priests because they have been given the power, by God, to forgive sins.  As a young girl and even in my late teenage, I thought all these teaching were true and should be observed and follow as required by the church.  I never questioned them and I learned so much about the church faith and practice.  Three years ago during my first year in college, and through mixing with people from other faith, I started having so many questions not only about the Catholic faith, but also about other religion. 
In the past three years, I have learned about Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, the Ancestral Spiritual Practice movement, and other religious practice.  Like Siddhartha, no one these religious or faith group can teach me anything that I do not know, and all of them cannot answer the most fundamental questions that I have.  Last summer, I had the privilege to talk to one assistant Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn.  I asked him to tell him where exactly can I find God, his answer did not surprise me.  He said that God is everywhere, especially in our hearts.  I asked him how can I talk to him, and he said through prayers.  I also ask him what is the benefit of going to Church, and he said it’s because the church is the house of God.  I told him that I wanted to know when God was going to come back to His Home because every time I visit His House, He’s never there.  At this time the assistant Bishop told me that I needed more prayers for my soul, because I seemed lost.
Two weeks after I spoke with the assistant bishop of Brooklyn, I had an opportunity to speak to three evangelical pastors who volunteer at my husband’s work place.  I asked them why no pastor is able to do any miracle that Jesus said they will be able to do if they believe in Him, and no one was able to give me any concrete answer.  All of them however continue to claim that miracles are performed in the evangelical churches allover the world.  I told them that I have been to so many sermons, and I have never seen any miracle.
Siddhartha is a good example of how we should not believe in anything that we do not understand, and we should always ask questions when we are not clear about something.  Just because our family belong to this faith or that faith should not mean that not mean that we have to follow in their footsteps blindly.  We should also distinguish religion from spirituality, and to know that it is the spirituality that is the more important between the two because the spirituality deals with inner development of an individual.  Siddhartha did not confined himself on one group or faith, he moved from one to another, and in the end he realized that he needed to know who he was inside and not accept what he was taught by different teachers.  I do not in evolution, and I have to believe in something, and at this time my journey continues.       

Friday, February 18, 2011

Siddhartha & Nihilism

Exildah Chishala
February 18, 2011

Siddhartha as as Nihilist

1. The last passage of Siddhartha first part is nihilistic in a sense that Siddhartha came to realized that everything that he was taught or made to believe were meaningless, they did not make sense at all.  Where many, including his best friend, Govinda, accepted the conservative teaching of the priests and the monks, Siddhartha on his part rejected these teachings.  Nihilism see things differently from everyone else, they believe that the world that many see as meaningful is actually with no meaning.  Like many nihilists, Siddhartha did not want to accept concepts that did not make sense to him; he needed to be convinced that what he was learning was actually meaningful; unfortunately nothing made sense to him.  I have to say that I admire his stance on many issues.  For his spiritual wellbeing, he questioned everything that his teachers, including his own father taught him.  They are very few people in the world that can do that.  A lot of people are raised to believe in a particular tradition or religion, and yet even when they do not fully understand what they are being taught, go ahead an accept those teaching.  Siddhartha concluded that in order for him to learn about the world, he must learn about himself, and no teacher was qualify to teach him about who he was, but himself.  Convinced that he has to learn about himself, he started seeing things in his own way, different from what he was taught to look and see things, and this is the wisdom of nihilism, and this is why the last passage is in a sense a nihilistic passage.  

2. Nietzsche & the Samanas

2. What would Nietzsche think of the Samanas?
In the Western Societies, Nietzsche saw a lot of people who were practicing nihilism without knowing it.  I think if Nietzsche was to mingle with the Samanas, he will classify them as somehow semi nihilists.  Samanas, also known as the wondering monks who renounce their world in order to abstain from all sorts of worldly pleasures for the purpose of spiritual development and liberation, are popular are in many Indian’s traditions.  They believe that each human being is responsible for his or her own deeds, and that each human being will reap what he/she sows.  I say that Nietzsche will classify the Samanas as semi nihilists because although they renounce their world to lead a simple or ascetic life, they still follow and abide by what their spiritual leaders teaches them.  When Siddhartha and his friend Govinda joined the Samanas, they had higher expectations; they thought that they were going to learn things that they did not know.  When they realized that the Samanas did not offer anything new or valuable, they started questioning, and eventually left the group all together.  Most of the Samanas are satisfy with the teaching of their teachers, and most of them don’t even questions these teaching.  Renouncing the worldly things is not enough for one to be classified as a nihilist; it is simply one step in the path of nihilism.  Siddhartha is a nihilist because he questioned when was not satisfied, he looked for more meaning and classification for things that everyone thought was well explained.  He believed that “neither yoga-veda shall teach him anything more, or the ascetics, or any kind of teachings.  Like many nihilist, he wanted to learn from himself, he wanted to be his own student, he wanted to know himself.    

Nietzsche believed and emphasized that there was no meaningful substance to political, moral, social, and religious values.  He argued that every traditional value that was imposed on society was indeed meaningless, and not worthy to believe in.  Where many believed in the higher power, and the spiritual world, Nietzsche questioned the meaningful of these practices; to him, the old values and morality didn’t make sense and they did not possess any power as believed.  On Spirituality, Nietzsche believed that some of the traditional values many thoughts to be essential were actually harmful to society and humanity.  On religion Nietzsche believed that “God was dead”; he argued that the belief that God is the only source of everything was useless because God didn’t really matter in the modern world.  Apparently what, Nietzsche was implying is that in order to believe in something, one has to know that something in and out, it is not wise for one to believe in something withou knowing or understanding it. 


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

John Heartfield

Exildah Chishala
February 15, 2010
LEH 300
John Heartfield

John Heartfield was a prolific artist, a pioneer of modern photomontage who was born Helmut Herzfeld in Berlin in 1891. When he was about 7 years old he lost both his father and mother.  When he was about 15 years old, he worked as a book seller in Wiesbaden; he later moved to Munich for studies.  Heartfield changed his name as a way to protest the World War I; he field ashamed and embarrassed to be a German.  Heartfield hated the war so much that he even feigned madness to avoid returning to the military service.  He later joined the Dada group of Berlin, and he’s remembered for being the first person to organize the first international Dada Fair in Berlin in 1920.  Like many German Artist of his time, Heartfield was anti-fascist and a communist.  His art was also revolutionary when it came to technique and taste. Most of Heartfield's art was targeted at Adolf Hitler, the dictator of Germany.  Heartfield uses is skill of photomontage to expose the contradiction between Adolf Hitler's anti-capitalist rhetoric and his pro-capitalist practices.

John Heartfield Arts

Adolf, the Superman, Swallows Gold and Spouts Tin, 1932
© 2006 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

In this image, John Heartfield potrayed the German dictator as a greedy person who greedy and thirsty for power under any circumstances.  Here the dictator's hidden agenda is shown through the x-ray of his abdomen, which contains a lot of silver and gold.  I notice that the rest of his body is covered in shadows while the inner part is clearly exposed.  This image shows that athough the dictator was anti-capitalist, he was also a fanatic of capitalism, and it was his greedy for power and wealth that lead him to commit the horible deeds he committed.

In this art, Heartfield portrayed Hitler as someone who was not thinking properly, as someone who was not using his brain.

War and Corpses: The Last Hope of the Rich, 1932

War is not a good thing.  The German Dada movement was born out of hatred for war.  Many Dada members felt that the war would have been avoided had it not been for the greedy of the rich people.  The result of the the war is destruction to makind, and that include both rich and pooer.  This image represents the end results of greediness.  Here the hynna is stepping on the corposes of victims of the war.  The Hynna represents the powerful whose aim is to destroy mankind.

John Heartfield was forced out Germany by the Hitler's regime, and when he came back, he started creating arts as a way to fight back the system.  He spent a lot of energy antagonizing the image of Hitler.  The image above show Hitler as an ape with horns.  Many people considered Hitler to be the savior of the German people, but what many failed to see was that, Hitler did not care about anyone, but himself.  It's like he came from another planet to destroy.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The German Dadaism

Dadaism Movement in Germany
Dadaism movement in Germany emerged mainly due to the influence of the socialist movement in Germany, which was also the largest and most sophisticated and advanced socialist moment in Europe.  Although socialism originally started in France, Karl Max, who was a German evolved as the greatest socialist thinker.  Max and his partner, Friedrich Engels helped create the socialist movement in Germany.  It was through this socialist movement that Max and his colleague helped create that the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) was born.  The SPD enjoyed strong support from the members of the socialist movement until it gave a blessing to the war and the German cause of 1914.  Giving blessing to the war and the German cause was a direct violation of the international purpose and cause of socialism.  Out of this discontent rose the German Dadaism, an artistic movement that regards itself as anti-art.  In German Dadaists had different objectives and purposes than their counterparts in other parts of Europe, these included:
·         Dissociation to the German militarism and nationalism
·         Criticism of the middle that that failed to prevent the break out of world war I
·         The discontent of the German socialism which was thought as a betrayer of socialism values and principles.
NB: it is easy to see how out of discontent with the German society came the rise of Dadaism in that country.  People have the ability within them to create systems that can fight and defeat even the most powerful system.  Dadaism is one such system; through Dadaism, people were able to express their frustration, discontent, anger against a system that care less about the ordinary people.

The Rise of Dadaism Across Europe

Contrary to popular belief, Dadaism is one of the greatest things that have contributed to human’s development.  Dadaism has also a beautiful history that is worth of knowing.  I used to look at the work of Dadaists and wonder what the artists were thinking were creating their arts; thanks to my nihilism I now know the history of Dadaism and have started understanding the message behind Dadaism arts.
Although Dadaism originated from Switzerland shortly after the beginning of world war in 1914, the German Dadaism was more intriguing than any other Dadaism movement due to its political consciousness.  It’s not easy to understand Dadaism movement without understanding the roots causes of this movement.  According to what I have learned about the roots causes of Dadaism, the movement emerged as a results of different issues that were taking place even way back before the World War I.  Apparently 20 years before the war, many observers of European society observed that the European Imperialists were getting to the verge of collapsing due to the inner conditions of European cultures and civilization.  According to these observers:
·         Socialist powers across Europe helped or encouraged the formational of nationalist movements with the aim of countering the liberal values
·         Ordinary people in several imperialist systems across Europe started resisting the system thereby making it difficult and costly for the imperialists to maintain these territories.
·         Competition for control of territories among imperialist systems became stronger
These issues and several others gave rise to the Dadaism movements across Europe.  In Germany, however, Dadaism emerged mainly due to the influence of the socialist movement which was also the largest and most sophisticated and advanced socialist movement in Europe.