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Virtual reality

Australie Janvier 2012 357A week ago I accompanied a school trip to Paris, France. Apart from the fact that it took me a whole week to recover, it reminded me how amazing the city is. As I walked in the streets of the Quartier-Latin I used to haunt as a student (and my father before me), this time followed by my students (including my son) I had a real experience of “déja-vu”! We took the students on the line 14 of the metro which is totally automated. You can stand in the first car and have the impression you’re driving the train. This is where one of them exclaimed “Wow, it looks like a 3-D movie!”.

And I thought that encapsulated so much! For so many of us the virtual world feels more true than reality. We think others talk about us, we feel the need to get back at them for some harm they have done to us, we fill our head with imaginary scenarios, clever dialogues or witty comebacks in which we of course show ourselves in the best light. Reality is much more simple.  These people live their lives without a thought for you, they have forgotten all about you stuttering or being silent because they are too busy with their lives. So should we all be. We should be so consumed with the passion for living the moment that it becomes the only reality. And as we are all plowing the soil of our selves to get rid of our ego and let the fruits of our souls florish, we cannot afford checking and criticizing each other’s labor or we might end up having a very crooked furrow!

Nostalgia…

Funny how nostalgia is sung all over the world in very similar ways. It is the Portuguese Saudade, the Bosnian Sevdah, the African-American Blues or the Ethiopian Tizita. It stirs your soul and reopens the wounds of the heart longing for a time gone, a love lost, a country that has ceased to exist. You understand the music even when you cannot grasp the words. But somehow you revel in the music as it finally soothes an ache that is the base sound of  your life’s soundtrack.

Here is my father’s and then mine :

 

Life’s big questions

Sarajevo Fevrier 2012 036Yesterday, I had one of these great days. I did not start too great with a class of biology with very indolent teens who kept asking “why do we have to know about the skeleton?” , “what is the point of going to school when all we need is on the internet?” .  Growing up in a country where going to school felt like such a privilege I find it difficult to be patient with these questions but nevertheless I tried to answer to the best of my ability. On a side note it seems my own children can read my mind because they never dared to ask me that!

Anyway, the next hour was a class of “Ethics and World Religions” with the same group. This time their attention was very focused. They shared their plans for service projects and listened to each other. They then asked me to stay in circle instead of breaking in small groups (usually they insist on groups). As we were studying the material which follows the life of an orphaned African teenager and his moral dilemma, there were more questions:

“How do we balance taking care of ourselves and taking care of others?”,

” How do we know how to be happy?”  ,

“Why are we actually on earth?”

“What is the purpose of us being on earth?”

I did not really give an answer because I was afraid I’d launch in some hours long speech but I told them that asking these questions is the core of our humanity and they should seek and find answers all their life. As I left the school I felt very blessed to be associated with such a group of amazing people. They’re work-in-progress but going in the right direction!

My identity coat

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I wear meany layers under my coat. The thin air and fragrances of incense of Ethiopia as a singlet, the wealthy colours of Burgundy as a jersey, the high sky of Holland as a scarf and the embracing hospitality of Bosnia as a jumper. Come the storms of life and the winds of change, I shall never be cold.

Learning

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs I start the last day of my period of fasting (from 2 to 20 March, the last month of the Baha’i calendar), I pray that I have cleansed myself from at least some of the dross of the ego. It is a learning curve but I get frustrated about how slow I am to get it right sometimes! For example, I was quite proud of how I handled our break-in when I slowly made a count of all the files that I lost in the missing laptop. Re-writing some of them is pure torture and it is even worse when one is seething with anger. Well, that moment of pride should have tipped me off from the start!

On the topic of learning, this year was quite special as our son who turned 15 started fasting the day after his birthday.  He mentionned that as his body was slowing down during the day, his mind seemed to be sharper and he felt he was able to ponder and meditate on the meaning of his life. His whole demeanour was so joyful compared to the usually grumpy teenager we see in the mornings.  I was truly humbled.

Tonight starts the new year. I wish you and me many learning opportunities!

Happy Naw Ruz!

P.S: I have added a gallery page on this blog for those of you who wish to see my paintings. See here.

Detachment

Exposition - Potoklinica 050-1The night before we were meant to enter the period of fasting, our house was broken in. Although the thief did not take much he stole two things I find difficult to detach from: my grand-mother’s watch and my camera which was the last birthday gift of my late father. I remember someone telling me that to be detached from things or people we need to love them. If we don’t love, it is not detachment but indifference.

During the fast, we learn to detach ourselves from our bodily needs and specially of food which I simply love!  So apparently I’m in a crash course in detachment and my soul needs some serious work.

As this accidental pattern I photographed a long time ago on a wall of Sarajevo which looked like a portrait, I hope that one day I’ll get a bird’s eye view on what kind of design events and efforts in my life will finally compose. Hopefully something beautiful. Even if it is by accident.

 

It’s all relative

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As I was reading the article on the BBC news website about how people in Northern Europe put their babies to nap outside in winter in temperatures down to -10 degrees, it reminded me how often we believe things to be written in rock. Here in Bosnia, babies are not even taken outside in winter and are covered with many layers of  clothing even if it is 15 degrees! I’ve often had comments about my kids not wearing stockings under their trousers or scarfs around their necks. My own body does not seems to get accustomed to cold but I am quite happy to see them not being bothered by it as they are growing up here and not in Africa like me! Not doing things because “we always did so” has helped us humans move on. If there had not been one man who thought “why should we keep living in a cave, why not built a home instead?”, we’d still be hurdled around the fire, covering our kids with animal fur and watching mammoths painted on the wall.