Tuesday, April 18, 2006

What is Ananda?

SRI AUROBINDO, Letters on Yoga,
Volume 1, Section Four, REASON, SCIENCE AND YOGA
What is this Ananda, after all? The mind can see in it nothing but a pleasant psychological condition, — but if it were only that, it could not be the rapture which the bhaktas and the mystics find in it. When the Ananda comes into you, it is the Divine who comes into you, just as when the Peace flows into you, it is the Divine who is invading you, or when you are flooded with Light, it is the flood of the Divine himself that is around you. Of course, the Divine is something much more, many other things besides, and in them all a Presence, a Being, a Divine Person; for the Divine is Krishna, is Shiva, is the Supreme Mother.
But through the Ananda you can perceive the Anandamaya Krishna, for the Ananda is the subtle body and being of Krishna; through the Peace you can perceive the Shantimaya Shiva; in the Light, in the delivering Knowledge, the Love, the fulfilling and uplifting Power you can meet the presence of the Divine Mother. It is this perception that makes the experiences of the bhaktas and mystics so rapturous and enables them to pass more easily through the nights of anguish and separation; when there is this soul-perception, it gives to even a little or brief Ananda a force or value it could not otherwise have, and the Ananda itself gathers by it a growing power to stay, to return, to increase.

Raga grammar of music

One cannot forget to admire the dexterity and meticulousness of the Western people in furthering the human excellences. But, strangely enough, the elaborate Raga system practiced in India from ancient times has never received the attention and aesthetic curiosity it deserves. It is also difficult to imagine how such invigorating music has failed to stir the non-Indian listeners. Is culture such a dampener? musicindiaonline.com

Odets's 'Awake and Sing!'

Dreams and disappointments, hopes and fears, encouraging words and bitter put-downs clash by day and night in Odets's turbulent comedy-drama about a Jewish family struggling to stay afloat in the 1930's. Conflict suffuses the stale air with a tension that almost seems to have mottled the walls. Dinner becomes a simmering battle between factions, in which grievances and recriminations are passed around the table along with the salt and pepper.
In the stirring revival that opened last night at the Belasco Theater, where "Awake and Sing!" was first produced in 1935 during the brief but influential heyday of the Group Theater, the tension derives above all from the question marks on the faces of the younger characters onstage.
Ralph Berger (Pablo Schreiber), toiling away at 22 as a clerk for a measly salary, comes closest to putting it in so many words, articulating a query that Odets posed in much of his work, occasionally with a defiantly American bluntness: What's life for, anyway?
The answers proposed and debated in this vigorous, still pungently funny play sometimes emit the hissing sound of old radio transmissions. "If this life leads to a revolution, it's a good life," avows Ralph's grandfather Jacob, a Marx-worshiping barber. "Otherwise it's for nothing." But even for Jacob life is also for listening to Caruso sing of a paradise that no social upheaval could really bring about.
Odets was writing at the height of the Depression, when economic disorder had led to a sudden, urgent questioning of some fundamental tenets of American society. "Awake and Sing!" and his other early plays are fired by a belief that art could play a role in transforming the culture, creating a world in which life wouldn't be "printed on dollar bills."
But his impassioned desire to proselytize for a better future didn't obscure his sensitivity to the everyday despair that tinted American lives long before the stock market crashed, or the humble forms of solace available even to a guy without a dollar to his name, like the rush of joy in his heart at the gleam in his girl's eye.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Juan Goytisolo and Orhan Pamuk

By FERNANDA EBERSTADT Published: April 16, 2006 NYTimes.com Homepage
He sees "seeds of modernity" in the Arab world and even dares to hope that radical Islamist parties may be tempered and matured by partaking in national governments. This optimism perhaps accounts for why Goytisolo's work appears to have found a whole new generation eager to embrace his "Babelization" of language and cultures, his plea for ethnic, religious and sexual pluralism, his defense of the outsider. "What was appealing to me when I first came across Juan Goytisolo's books in the 1980's," the Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk told me recently, "was that here was an experimental European novelist who had renounced the flat realism of the 19th-century novel and who was paying attention to my part of the world with an extraordinary humility, searching in his life and prose to create a different style enriched by what he's found in this culture."
The Café France, where Goytisolo goes every day, overlooks Jemaa el Fna, the centerpiece of Marrakesh's old quarter, a square where the open-air storytellers, snake charmers and witch doctors that enchanted writers like Bowles and Elias Canetti still ply their trade. Much of Goytisolo's organizational energies in the last years have gone into a campaign to preserve Jemaa el Fna from the Moroccan government's periodic efforts to sanitize it. At one point, there were plans to turn the medieval square into a parking lot. Thanks largely to Goytisolo's zeal, however, Jemaa el Fna has been classed by Unesco as a site preserving "the oral heritage of humanity."
"People ask, 'Why do you live in Marrakesh?' " Goytisolo told me with a chuckle. "I ask them, 'Have you seen it?' " In Jemaa el Fna, Goytisolo explained, he finds all the heterogeneity that is in danger of disappearing from Western cities. "In the 70's, when I was very poor, I was offered a permanent teaching post at Edmonton. I realized I would rather starve in Marrakesh than be a millionaire in Alberta."

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Bharat Natyam lacks surprise

DÉJÀ VU? YOU, TOO? Cupid’s arrows always come at the lovelorn nayika at a pree-cise angle of 45 degrees Renuka Narayanan Hindustan Times Sunday, April 2, 2006
I ’VE BEEN watching dance from the womb because my mother was a dancer and I absolutely had to learn Bharata Natyam, like brushing my teeth. But even I, the mad classicist, find most performances one big yawn today, except for the few magic-leaguers. I’m sad but not surprised that girls now prefer the bumpand-grind of Shiamak Davar or Ashley Lobo. B’Nat lacks surprise. And I think these bad habits of the dance are why it’s so boring:
CUPID’S ARROWS They always come at the lovelorn nayika (heroine) at a pree-cise angle of 45 degrees. Rukmini Devi Arundale of Kalakshetra, the pioneering dance academy set up in Madras (not Chennai) back in the ’30s, decreed they should. And the nayika always gives a little twitch when it strikes, just so.
PINING PYTs Each item is explained in a fruity, breathless voice that makes you giggle. And just how often can you endure the plaint, “O Krishna, come to me! O Lord of the sacred temple of Appalam Swamy Pappadam Perumal, you are my hero, I pine for you.” Leaves me muttering, “Get a life, girl.”
TANTRIK FAN-FAN That fan-pleat in garish orange silk teamed with a screaming pink blouse. The obscene blouse-accents in gold. The ghastly sweat patches in the armpits after twenty minutes of stomping. The trailing threads from a tatty kunjalam (fake plait). The klutzy jewellery in loud green and red from Sukra Jewellers, North Mada Street, Mylapore, Chennai. Eeuh. Go away. You offend my eyes, vulgarian.
SPEED KILLS Perhaps it’s because they know they’re up against Shiamak, Ashley and Saroj Khan. But dancers now whiz through slow, sensuous songs like how the Concorde used to break Mach 2. My fave example is actor-dancer Shobhana, the new Padmashri, whom I saw speeding madly through Kuru Yadu Nandana. It’s the sexiest song across the Big Six classical dance forms of India from Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda. Radha tells Krishna, “O Yadava hero, rub sandal paste on my burning breasts with your cooling hands.” But what we got was heartless wham-bam, with Krishna dumped unceremoniously in the kadambvan afterwards. Nooooo!
The other truly awful one was Kuchipudi guru Vempati Chinna Satyam trying to be Satyabhama. Now Satyabhama is the most fiery, wilful, imperious, luscious nayika ever invented by the Male Gaze. You need to build her up nuance by delicious nuance. To see her made to skip like a springbok in mating season…
THE WONDERBRA VERSE This one slays me each time. When they’ve done pining for the hero in the first two verses, the nayikas always get darshan in the last one. Do they show ecstasy with subtle, beautiful netra bhava (eye language)? Naah, that’s work. ‘Upliftment’ always means a cheap, easy pectoral leap. I call it the “Wonderbra Verse” and you can see it coming a mile away. Forget it. Let’s watch Indian Idol.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Nearly all of my entertainment choices are produced by people openly hostile to my worldview

Kahntheroad said... Just by having to deal with the frustrations you express from reading this site you are learning more than you know about what it has been like to hold a conservative viewpoint in this country for the last few decades. For most of my life your views - meaning left of center - was the default position. There was rarely any serious debate, or resources to even hear an alternative view (especially before the internet).
In school I was taught one side, in the media one side was clearly elevated, even in pop culture "Republican" was a punch line. In college I found myself reexamining the liberal orthodoxy and becoming more and more conservative. And, believe me, this was no whim. I had no choice but to do my homework. Not only did I have to know what I believed, I had to know why I believed it and I had to know, inside and out, what the other side believed. If I so much as raised certain questions in a class I had to be ready to defend myself against a professor armed with a PHD and mob of affirming students. If politics came up in a social setting and I opined I had to be ready to explain myself thoroughly.
As a conservative I have to be prepared to overlook the fact that nearly all of my entertainment choices - from music to books to film - are produced by people openly hostile to my worldview and will often include pointed insults to beliefs I take seriously. This is not to mention politics coming up on dates, jobs, etc. I'm confident in my views, and I'm happy to explain, but there are times I don't want feel like discussing it, but can't be silent when someone presumes that everyone thinks as they do.
And once I found myself on a spiritual quest? Forget about it! Trust me, I know how you feel as a liberal reading Bob - I've dealt with the same thing in reading or listening to just about every modern spiritual guru on the bookshelf. Fortunately many years of practice prepared me for the critical mind required to discern wisdom from politics. By none of this do I mean to portray myself as a victim - it's just an explanation of my experience and how it's something I simply deal with as a fact of life.
I'm secure enough in my views that I can enjoy a great film or album made by a liberal artist. Also, I understand why people are liberal; like many here I was once liberal myself. I also have many friends with a broad range of views with whom I disagree, yet have a deep respect, and i gain much from debating. I have not come to my conclusions lightly, and I'm not afraid to be challenged or even proven wrong, as I have had to reevaluate, and sometimes alter, convictions many times. So welcome to the arena of ideas. The first steps will be bumpy, but if you stay in the ring I guarantee you'll come out more enlightened - and, who knows, maybe you'll enlighten some of us know-it-alls.