Sunday, June 22, 2008

p33 mixed bag

Sunday Roundup

By John Taylor; 2008 June 22, 18 Nur, 165 BE


For those who get the Badi' list and do not necessarily visit the Badi' Blog very often, I want you to know that sometimes I get lazy and post directly to the blog, leaving you out of the loop. Today, though, I posted to the blog but saved these two references for you.


The latest entry is Cogito on Video, an interesting restatement of Descartes "I think therefore I am," ignoring, as is always done in the West, the originator of this line of thinking, the far greater Persian philosopher Avicenna.


Cogito on Video



 This post is a bit of humble pie on my part. I recently was at the Hamilton train station and, fresh from the small town, I broke down and gave a couple of bucks to a panhandler. I knew that Baha'is are not supposed to, but I completely forgot how strong this law is. On the post I include the passage on this law, which is from none other than the holiest book of all, the Aqdas. If I had known how strong the law is, and if I had seen the video backing God up on the reason for this law, I would never have done what I did. Pardon me, God, and let my mistake be a warning to others!


I have kept one short saying of the Guardian scrawled on an orange, ratty piece of paper my wall since forever; whenever I get discouraged I look up and read it. It says,

 "The greater your handicaps the firmer your determination should wax, and the more abundant will assuredly be the blessings and confirmations of Baha'u'llah." (DND 81)

 Our study is in disarray, and this orange sign and the bulletin board on which it is tacked got buried months ago under a pile of junk. Last week I was tired, discouraged and depressed by weather and looming migraines, and I remembered it again. I dug it out and to make sure I am not deprived of this needed solace, I posted it at the top of the Badi' blog. I look at that every day when I complete my essay. I just wanted you to know it is there.

 Another possibility for a head quote is this:

 "Cling unto that which profiteth mankind, whether young or old, whether high or low." (Baha'u'llah, Tablets, 138)

 What do you think?


Reader Ed, who is of Dutch ethnicity, writes,

"It occurred to me in reading a short bio of Comenius that since he was alive around the same time as Rembrandt and that he lived the last of his life in Amsterdam that there must be a connection between him and that monumental artist. A 5-second Google turned this up."

 Speculation over Rembrandt painting: is the old man Jan Amos Comenius?


 The article says, "Millions of people have admired it at the Uffizi Art Gallery in Florence. Now, Rembrandt's painting of an old man has acquired a new significance for Czechs. According to Ernst van de Wetering, a Dutch art specialist, the anonymous old man in the painting is almost certainly one of the most prominent figures in Czech history - the teacher of nations Jan Amos Comenius." It goes on to say that the artist and the world reformer were practically neighbors in Amsterdam. I was very pleased to hear this. My observation, looking at the two paintings, is that I would be very surprised if the subjects of the two portraits were not of the same person.


I liked this "quote of the day" that came through the tubes lately:

 "It is a paradoxical but profoundly true and important principle of life that the most likely way to reach a goal is to be aiming not at that goal itself but at some more ambitious goal beyond it." (Arnold Toynbee)

 A good thing to keep in mind for Baha'is, aiming at the goals of the Divine Plan.


Many Baha'is tack the following quote from the Guardian, written in the 1930's, at the end of every email they send out.


"A world tribunal will adjudicate and deliver its compulsory and final verdict in all and any disputes that may arise between the various elements constituting this universal system. A mechanism of world inter-communication will be devised, embracing the whole planet, freed from national hindrances and restrictions, and functioning with marvellous swiftness and perfect regularity." (World Order, 203)


Many add to the quote that this was written in the 1930's. Taken alone, this seems like a bolt from the blue, a bold prophesy based upon divine inspiration. But the fact is that not only Shoghi Effendi but Abdu'l-Baha Himself read the newspaper assiduously. I am reading aloud to our kids Bahiyyih Winkler's account of her pilgrimage as a 12 year old girl in 1919, and she speaks of everybody sitting around in a room of an evening while the Master reads and comments upon the latest newspaper. Why is that relevant?


I have said it before Ad Nausium, and I say it again. The fact that we speak English -- the De Facto world language -- makes us think we are kings of the world, that we see everything that poor ignorant non-English speakers with their little ethnic languages miss, and it is too bad, but why not just have them all learn English? We forget that English is an ethnic language too, and it puts blinders on our eyes as much as anybody else. The origins of the Internet are a perfect example of our blinkered bias in the English speaking world. Anything that happens outside English countries is conveniently forgotten. The pioneering work of Jan Amos Comenius on what later became the United Nations is a prime example.


The fact is that when the Guardian wrote the above quote about a world-embracing communication system, he probably had just been reading the newspaper. Undoubtedly the news was full of events outside the English sphere of influence. In the 1930's visionary Belgian internet pioneer Paul Otlet was already well advanced on his "Reseau," which is French for "net," even by some translations, "web." There is even a museum in Mons featuring the remnants of his massive work, the precursor of Google, called the Mundaneum, his museum of world knowledge. Most of the Mundaneum was destroyed by Hitler's invasion that opened up the Second World War.


This is all documented in the following article,


"The web that time forgot" By Alex Wright, June 17, 2008, Herald Tribune



What really startled me when I read this is that Otlet had in mind a "city of knowledge" that would form the seat of the League of Nations. Unfortunately when Belgium did not get the bid, the idea was forgotten. This is just what I have been proposing here -- a rotating world capital city designed from the ground up for the information transfer of the entire planet. And here I did not know it but I was beating an old, long-dead horse already rejected by the League of Nations. The article says about this,


"Otlet and LaFontaine eventually persuaded the Belgian government to support their project, proposing to build a "city of knowledge" that would bolster the government's bid to become host of the League of Nations. The government granted them space in a government building, where Otlet expanded the operation. He hired more staff, and established a fee-based research service that allowed anyone in the world to submit a query via mail or telegraph -- a kind of analog search engine. Inquiries poured in from all over the world, more than 1,500 a year, on topics as diverse as boomerangs and Bulgarian finance."


Of course, we have far more powerful search engines and information processing capability than Otlet could have imagined, and we still are falling short of a world comity. We still put all our treasures in the snake pit of nationalism rather than world citizenship. What is missing is not the tools of data but wisdom, the ability to rule from a singular perspective. This is what Comenius envisioned, a world embracing educational system based on a unifying philosophy that he called Pansophy, or Universal Wisdom. Pansophy can give us a spirit of universal reform.


Another advantage that we have now is open systems, the building bee of the Information Age -- if we institutionalized the GNU public license internationally it would be worthy to be called this Wisdom Age. Slowly, we are learning to share educational materials, as this video demonstrates,


"Richard Baraniuk explains the vision behind Connexions, his open-source, online education system. It cuts out the textbook, allowing teachers to share and modify course materials freely, anywhere in the world." <>


Last time I talked about what I call "Plugged-in Meetings," which would coordinate the world-around reflection and planning process. Recently I wrote in a writer's equivalent of the "deleted scenes" section of a DVD:


"Specifically, how would the plugged-in consultation meeting work? Now that we have the Internet it would be easy to coordinate meetings to chat groups around the planet. Many technical means are becoming cheap and available to all. I am particularly excited about how the use of a "clicker," a remote control feedback device, might make such gatherings more democratic, responsive and effective. Another exciting development debuted at the latest TED meeting, a cheap way to turn an ordinary video projection screen into a touchscreen digital whiteboard."




One web site I visited showed an example from practice of how a lecturer in Introductory Psychology used a clicker to get feedback on how well he was getting his points across. He explained in his lecture the definition of schizophrenia, which is a split between thoughts, feelings and actions. "Even though he had just stressed that it is not a multiple personality disorder, most of the students got it wrong." Having the instant feedback of a clicker allowed him to correct the error right away. That kind of teaching ability is new, exciting and absolutely wonderful. I cannot wait to get my hands on an open systems version of a meeting clicker. It would really "plug in" our meetings.


A TED talk discusses another approach to using technology for teaching purposes, "Alan Kay: A powerful idea about teaching ideas"

 "Alan Kay envisions better techniques for teaching kids by using computers to illustrate experience in ways - mathematically and scientifically -- that only computers can."




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