Sunday, June 10, 2007

What To Read Now

Hisham Matar recommends Tayib Saleh's Season of Migration to the North to Reading the World Project. Season of Migration is indeed a work of art that intelligently touches on many social, cultural, political, and economic aspects that are still relevant in today's Sudanese society. The vivid imagery and eloquent narration make it stand out as one of the finest works ever written about Sudan.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Heart of Islam

A great interview with one of Islam's most renowned scholars - Seyyed Hossein Nasr. He discusses his book, The Heart of Islam, here.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Generation Me

"Study finds alarming rise in narcissism, self-centeredness in ‘Generation Me’. Today’s college students are more narcissistic and self-centered than their predecessors, according to a comprehensive new study by five psychologists who worry that the trend could be harmful to personal relationships and American society." Link to the entire article here.

The findings of the study do not surprise me that much considering the US to be an industrialized and highly individualistic nation. We are talking about a society that values independence, personal choice, self-reliance, competition, among a host of other features present in individualistic societies that foster self- over collective- development. Growing up, kids are taught early on to engage in activities that will benefit them in the long run and set them apart from other college applicants who aspire to enroll in their dream university. Community service at the local church or hospital, fundraising marathons, holding office in a social club/organization, and clothes drives for the homeless begin to occupy the lives of students who consider rising above a high school diploma.

Undoubtedly, all these activities play a role in refining the character of students and add to their skill-set while helping to build communities. But what is often lost in motion is the real motivation behind those who seek such activities. Are they really volunteering their time and effort for the common good or merely for the attainment of a college recommendation? Or is it to expand their list of references? Or perhaps, polish up their resumes’ extra-curricular activities section? Remember, personal gain is key. How will this help “me” get ahead in life?

Many secondary schools today require students to fulfill a minimum number of voluntary community service hours to graduate. Hmmm, do you see the contradiction? This undermines the voluntary nature of the work and makes it more of a burden in addition to the set expectation of getting something in return for any work you perform. The meaning of “community” service thus becomes devalued. What happens in effect is that we create an environment that revolves around personal value. We measure value in terms of how unique our personal profile is as we await our 15 minutes of fame and set ourselves as "different". But if everyone is different, is anyone?

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Law of Attraction

Oprah Winfrey's show reveals the science behind the Secret --

"The Secret is defined as the law of attraction, which states that like attracts like. The concept says that the energy you put into the world—both good and bad—is exactly what comes back to you. This means you create the circumstances of your life with the choices you make every day."

This indeed is good and promising news for many - especially those who believe they lack faith/power/access in life, although I wouldn't quite call it a secret. Most of us have come in contact with people whose everyday presence emits radiance and happiness around them. We have witnessed them fall through the cracks of life and rise up again maintaining that same positive outlook on life. So for those who thought it was luck or being born into the right path, here's your chance to brighten up your life and for those around you.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Outside the Box

This picture is too powerful. In a nutshell it symbolizes globalization. One can also assume that the residents of this village are more concerned with entertainment than caring for the appearance of their houses. Another can argue that unemployment there is so high that satellite TVs become a must since people spend the bulk of their time at home. Makes me wonder how informed the people of this village are compared to those who live in urban areas; or for that matter, to any other connected home.

This picture also asserts the strength and influence that the media plays in our lives, both good and bad. With the myriad of program offerings one can almost always find something of interest – sports updates, election results, health tips, celebrity gossip, movie reviews, and the list goes on. So in essence, television can represent and report on the progress of societies in all aspects and disciplines of life.

But there seems to be a persistent negativity that surrounds this two letter word – TV. Many associate it with news, which more than often is not too delightful - epidemic outbreaks, crime, natural disasters, corruption, poverty, and on and on. And for some reason we keep watching. So is it that our taste for news has changed overtime? Could there not be enough accomplishments for us to highlight? Do negative reports always outnumber positive ones? Or has the definition of news simply evolved to become the record of human failure?