недеља, 05. мај 2013.

Odyssey

Here I am, still in the same old city of Antwerp. The place is the same, that is the space, only its time has changed. It is spring time now, the weather is sunny and everything blossoms. And it is now over 8 months since I arrived. It's seems the right moment for another, perhaps last, reflection on my stay in the biggest city in Flanders; before the pressure of exams comes too close for another blog to be writen.

Today I found myself sitting in an outdoor terrasse of a pub in the centre of Antwerp. It is the same terrasse I had once already visited, just after arriving on my student exchange here. Like some 8 months ago, on the same place, today also I was reading a book. It happens that its topic suits the previous themes of this blog, which without my conscious planing turned out for the most part to be reflections on technology and its relation to our modern experience of the world. The book is called "Cyberspace Odyssee" and the chapter I read  was about literature ondergoing digitalisation, with for example the question whether the traditional paper book will survive this technological "e-book revolution", about hypertext (with this act the text of this blog hast just became a hypertext) and other interesting e-things. However, my intention here is not to further polemize on this subject. For my purpose it is enough to have a notion in your mind that I was reading today about something I have been thinking myself about and what I had wrote on this very web-place, web-site, up to now.

More importanly, and here comes the thought which struck me today, and which led me to write about it: the book was writen in Dutch. Of course, this fact was not anything shocking for me. After all, my studies here are in Dutch, and I was preparing myself for it, I wanted it to be that way. What came as a "shock" was more the idea, the realization  that last time I was sitting on that same place, I could clearly recall, I was doing some homework for my intensive Dutch course.
A much more exciting notion thus develops, namely that at one point in time, at the begining of my Erasmsus exchange, I sat there, struggling to fill in some quite basic things about Dutch grammar and vocabulary, and then at the next point, 8 months later, I read a regular book (as part of one university class, by the way) in Dutch, and I read it with no serious problems with understanding. For me it was an asthonishing thought, and not in the sense of some supreme (subjective) achievement on my part, but in the sense of an objective developement of an ability, of being able to see the world through the lense of another language in such a short time.


This is the image-ination of the book and of "when in Belgium do as Belgians do"- beer, both of which I consumed today. :)


The beer I had this time was a different kind than the previous time. But it was still beer. That way the same me could at one point struggle learning Dutch, and at another point read in Dutch smoothly.

That's how life continues going its spiral way, always repeating itself circularly, and yet, always being changed, positioned at new heights, with fresh offer of life-goodies and new things to be discovered.

Click ,,open in a new window/tab" for background music theme before reading the last paragraph!

With this I would like to slowly bring this blog to an end.  If  I will return to this same cyber place in our brave new cyber space to write a few words in a new blog entry again some time in the future, my body will probably not be in Antwerp any longer; I will be busy doing the same old different things; hopefully I will be able to speak another language I started learning recently; and the same me will have different ideas to share to the new you... in the Space Odyssey of our lives!




Did you know our galaxy is a spiral?

уторак, 19. март 2013.

Jim Jarmusch from the Future


Black screen. I paused the movie to go downstairs and make some tea. On the way there I go through the dark hall, down the stairs, with which I acquainted myself enough not to need the light. I am thinking of the tea I am about to make. It is going to be Zen green tea.
It’s not a brand called “Zen”. It has to do with the way I am going to prepare the tea. I am preparing the tea. Slowly I take out the pot. I set it on fire I just lit. No hurry.
With every move I am more and more close to myself. I breathe knowingly. The water reaches almost the boiling point, so I turn off the fire. Green tea is better when water’s temperature is slightly less than the boiling 100°. I insert the leaves into the cup. The box from which I took out the leaves has a nice design. The brand is Chinese.
Upstairs I go.
I start the movie again and here comes the new scene. So far there were always two people sitting at the table together. They talk, drink coffee and smoke cigarettes. Yes, the movie is called “Coffee and Cigarettes”. In the previous scene they talked about Nikola Tesla. I just wrote a poem inspired by reading an interview with him. And earlier today I received an e-mail from a friend from Vienna who asked me to tell him more about Tesla. Since I had mentioned I am his great fan. It seems like Jim Jarmush also is. And I am his, too.

In this scene they are drinking tea. So I am sitting with the characters in the movie. Together we are having tea. The three of us. 
For the first time in the movie they are drinking tea.

Now I paused the movie again because I want to tell something about another scene earlier in the movie. 
It is when the two African Americans are in Memphis, Tennessee.
You see, I am going to Memphis, Tennessee. Jim Jarmush knows it.

In his other movie “Night on Earth” people ride in the taxi and lead conversations in different cities. It all happens at the same time, it is one hour during the ,,Night on Earth”. 

The thing is that I had almost visited those same cities in the exact same order of appearance in the movie, before watching it. If only you would swap the first two cities, then I would have had the same chronology with my personal visiting experience as the movie shows them: Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Rome, Helsinki. Well, except for the last one. I hadn’t visited Helsinki when I watched it the first time. But I told myself: one day you will go to Helsinki.
  

I was couch surfing in Helsinki and I stayed with a guy, who was an amateur movie maker. He had seen “Night on Earth”. He gave me tips in which part of the city I should go, If I want to recognize some places from the movie. I didn’t really recognize them, but I had watched the movie long ago. I said I’d watch the movie again when I come home. The time spent with Sami was really pleasant. He is a cool amateur movie maker guy. His friends are interesting, and his little chiwawa with a reputation of finding strangers completely repulsive- actually liked me. And when I came home, I did recognize some scenes. There was this orthodox church and the square, where they drive the taxi car in circles. The driver was mad that they were making fun of his unfortunate life story.

Now I take sips of my Zen green tea and I am amazed as to how Jim Jarmush can be such a prophet. He seemed to know where I have been before watching his “Night on Earth”. He then invited me to go to Helsinki to meet Sami and have a great time with his friends and his Chiwawa.

Now he put one of the scenes in “Coffee and Cigarettes” to take place in Memphis, Tennessee. The city where I am going, because I will go on an exchange for a semester there at the University. Just next year.

I start to believe that Jim Jarmush is from the future. He comes back in time, “down to Earth”, and he informs me informally over “coffee and cigarettes”, or tea (because it’s more healthy) about my future whereabouts. I thank him for that. I am his fan.

среда, 06. март 2013.

Lost in the Beauty

Wednesdays are tough in my schedule this semester. They are demanding both mentally and physically. I am sure that I would manage following three different courses with little breaks in between  in one day just fine, but- providing they were all on one campus.

This is how it goes: I first have to go from my part of town (called Berchem) to the city centre, where the city campus is located. That is a bike ride of about 20 minutes. After the first class is completed there, I then need to bike to the second one, biking back the same way, passing by my house, and continuing in that other direction for another decent portion of the road. In total, it takes me about 45 minutes to get from campus A to campus B.
Then, finally, to get to the third class, I go the whole way back to the city campus. I attend the class and ride home. Around 6 hours of classes and more than two hours on the bike. Not bad for a single day, once in a week?

Today was one of those Wednesday days. And today I decided to take a shorter way from home to to this other campus (Drie Eiken). I was on a look-out a few days ago, biking somewhere nearer home, trying to orient myself and figure out which way I usaully take to Drie Eiken, and which way I could perhaps take instead, in order to make my pilgrimage to the course "Bio-ethics" a little less sacrifical. And I thought I found one.

After the first lecture, I stopped at home to get some stuff. Then I proudly went on the new way to Drie Eiken. In the last few days the Spring sort of came to Antwerp, so it was quite enjoyable to bike. I started thinking that this having to bike today was not that bad, since it was an excuse for me to spend some time outside, working on my thesis all day otherwise.

I kept going for some time, and then, when I saw no sign pointing to the campus, I asked an older lady on a bike, who was in front of me, if she knows the way. (I asked her by approaching her from behind, and so when we were moving parallely on bikes, which I found kind of cool). She gave it a thought, while just slowing down, but being still in motion, and then said that it should be to the right, somewhere further down the road. I followed her advise and biked on.
I came up to the crossroad, where I was supposed to turn right, and I did. I knew I was already in the suburbs of the city (called Mortsel), and now I was apparantly going (judging by the signs) to 'Edegem'. I knew I was kind of going the right direction, but I also noticed that the campus is not exactly where I thought of it to be.

Eventually I reached Edegem, and stopped there to ask for directions again. This time it was a younger woman sitting next to her baby car. She smilled and said there is still a long way to go, but that I should just follow the road. Another 15 minutes, she said. I thanked her, and with my student bag tied to the back of the bike, I continued peddaling, just around the corner entering the centre of Edegem. It was really neat and cute: orderly road with a nice bike path, a church, and nice older houses. That was my view to the left side. To the right I could see a row of trees, leading to some kind old castle/mansion. And then... The field.
I was out of the city, slowly leaving even the village of Edegem behind. I looked back to cast a one last look at the cosy small centre, and then,  on both sides, there were only the fields...

I felt really happy, riding unexpectedly throught this piece of Belgian countryside. I was reminded of my experience of riding trains here, going to the Netherlands, or Bruges, or Gent. I have seen something similar through the window then. But now it was different. I was outside. I was exposed to the air and I could see everything around me. Flat fields, like in my Vojvodina, but still with unique set of colors, with a unique mood, reserved for Belgian and Dutch fields. And the Sun, the precious light, making everything so alive, after the long winter.

I knew by then that I definitely didn't take the shorter way to the campus Drie Eiken. But I also knew that I was so delighted to have miscalculated the shorter way... and found a richer one instead. It was not more efficient, but it was more poetic. And it happened to me. I myself didn't look for it, didn't provoke it. It is, as wise man says, precisely that way that the best things in life occur to one.

Soon I arrived at the campus. And I made it just in time.
During the lecture my emotional background was the impression of what I had experienced. The beauty and vastness I saw on my "shortest possible way".

I took the old efficient way back to the city centre and came home after the third lecture was over. I am pretty exhausted now, after all that biking and lecture-attending today.
But the fact that I managed to write all this at the end of it bears a witness to the inspiration I got, when today I was lost.
Lost in the beauty.

среда, 23. јануар 2013.

'Cock Hatches Birds' or 'How I went to the Cinema and got out'

Going south in Antwerp might mean going to the cinema. I am glad that was the exact meaning of me going that direction last week. Not that there were no difficulties finding the place... But once I was there, I was positively surprised.

A very modern-looking cinema, with much fairer prices for <26 than other places in Antwerp with the same purpose. => I will be going to the Cinema South more often.



With my friend Anton, who is soon leaving Antwerp (so let this mentioning be a tribute and thanks to him for being my regular cinema-mate in this city :)), I have seen Hitchcock's "Birds".

It was really much different than what I had expected, and I certainly had a certain image of the movie (the use of an aliterative certainly on purpose), since I heard about it long ago; somehow I was imagining it being very dark and scary. But in fact, it wasn't that scary. And it certainly wasn't dark. Not a black&white movie this one.

I really liked how the shift in the movie is being made in the focus of the main theme. About half of the movie everything seems to be about "whether they will get together", a kind of a romance; and then, there is a transition into something that could be called a "horror", but then a very uncharacteristical one. Birds attack humans.

For me it was interesting to notice how people in the movie were wondering why are the birds doing that.  It seems so strange and horrible, completely impossible to grasp.
I made a connection with this aspect to another element, which is present in the movie: the caged birds. In the begining there is a scene in a bird shop, and in fact that is where the two main characters meet. And then there are also two loving birds in a cage, which are brought as a gift.
From a philosophical point of view the observation is: for us there is nothing strange or horrible about keeping birds, who are creatures able to fly, in a cage, and even making money out of that. Yet when birds get together and attack us, it is something so terrible and we have to ask ourselves the famous 'why?'.
A little bit of good ol' shift in perspectives (perhaps a switch to the "bird's perspective"?) would do us good!

When we got out of the projection room, it felt we we were still in the movie. We headed towards the exit of the Cinema South, and we could see through the glass door an ambulance car in front of the building.
It had a symbol of a bird on it.

недеља, 02. децембар 2012.

Modern Plato


About 2,400 years ago Plato divided the world in an interesting way (what is known as the analogy of a line). That will find its place in this blog today. It will be used to discuss some very current issues.

He said that the things in the world can be viewed as belonging to either of the two realms: of the visible or of the invisible. Both of these have in themselves two parts. So let's start:

The world of the visible consists  of the physical things, objects, such as chairs and horses. Further it consists of the shadows or reflections of those things. So like the shadows of chairs and hourses and refections of these things in water or in the mirror would belong here.

This world, ironically for today, is the lower world, less valuable in a way. And respectfully, within this lower world, the reflections of the visible things stand hierarichically  lower than (physical) things themselves.


Here is a picture of me:

I seem quite happy, being a physical object on a bike, on one of the Dutch islands.

But at the same time, here I am, typing this blog right now. I am what I am now, and what you see on the photo (and I see it as well) is merely a reflection of me.

The modern technology enables us to capture the reflections of things, and preserve them for longer time.

Now, the invisible world is for Plato much more signifacant. It consist of the mathematical objects, reasoning which includes certain accepted hypotheses (for example geometry, which has certain axioms which are not questioned, like: "between two dots only a single line can be drawn", or any reasoning in the empirical sciences, when exploration is used to further develope the existing theories, without questioning the fundamental assumptions). It is because of this realm that this blog is at all possible. Because for blog you need internet, for internet you need computers, for computers... You need plenty of thinking and figuring things out (doing things which are not visible) in order to make technology, like internet, possible (thing, which is visible). So far so good.

But I can freely claim that without the last category, which represents the highest world according to Plato, there also would be no mention of this blog. The reason is that the very essence of this blog is thinking in terms of philosophical insight, which represents the world of ideas. In that world (the upper world of the invisible realm) you question the hypotheses and suppositions themselves. You ask about the meaning of things and why you should or should not do certain things. It is in this world that you can think about what does it mean to write a blog, or to read about Plato and try to understand what he means to say.

I disagree with Plato that the world of physical objects is less valuable than the world of things. I am a great fan of looking at things and enjoying the aesthetics of them, whether it is Nature, people, streets, or little details. I think in fact that we pay too little attention to just seeing things. Purely. As they are.

I do however agree with Plato, that the visible things themselves are higher than their reflections. Talking with a friend is higher than chatting with him online. Saying things that really matter to you to another person is higher than saying something cool to 500 people who you have as "friends" on Fakebook... oh, I'm sorry: Facebook.

And I do think that science and technology are important and give us many opportunities. But if it has no humane direction, if it does not serve us but enslave us (think about not being able to resist spending two hours on facebook every day, or looking at your cell phone every 5 minutes...) I am not sure what is the meaning of it. With other words, I doubt that the lower realm of the invisible things, which is so strongly stimulated by the society today for the sake of the world of visible things (and in most cases in purely utilitaristic terms) will survive on its own.

I think we do need to consult the realm of philosophy, though we needn't call it the highest, and questions the hypotheses themselves. To ask where are we going with all this technology and what is the reason for things we are doing. Wikipedia offers you information about every possible thing that you can imagine. But it cannot tell you to look up Plato and connect it to the world of technology today. It offers you to be reachable every single moment via cell-phone. But who wants to be reachable every single moment? It offers you to communicate with people on distance and with many people at the same time. But is talking with many people at the same time on distance as meaningful as seing another person, one person, in front of you, and look her in the eyes while you share something that is important to you?

[The last part has no images, because: it is the invisible world ;)]

уторак, 06. новембар 2012.

An Unusual Meeting

After "Museum Night" in Amsterdam, Spinoza's hometown, I decided to continue with the "museum atmosphere" by following some of the foot-steps and I could say "door-steps" of the great philosopher: I decided to visit Spinoza's house in Rijnsburg, close to Leiden, and after that the house where he died in 1677, in Hague.
It was a personal philosophical pilgrimage for me and a perfect way to use the ticket from Amsterdam to Antwerp, which allowed me to make multiple stops on the way.

Leaving the bus leave me behind at the station "Spinozalaan" in Rijnsburg, I spread my umbrella and started looking for the house. After receiving instructions from a couple walking a white dog, I made my way to the house through the rain, experiencing "typical Dutch weather" thereby.
I have to admit that the rain added to the mysterious atmosphere of my visit, as everything about Spinoza in a way remains having some touch of mysteriousness.

A very young-spirited old man opened the freshly painted green door of the house for me and welcomed we into the Spinoza house. I was allowed to use the lenses of my camera to create some photographs in the house of a lens-maker/philosopher Spinoza. It is therefore only adequate for this blog to support the text with some of those pictures.

Small library. Spinoza's study room. Old books on the shelve, the material that had been going through Spinoza's spirit and had been sharpening his own perspective on the world. Today there could exist a library of books, solely dedicated to the study of Spinoza. Books affect books, libraries affect libraries, perhaps Spinoza would say.

Accompanying several portraits of a previous inhabitant of the house and the hero of this story, a portrait of Rene Descartes too lays on the wall. A good way to symbolicaly contrast the two philosophies: on one hand the dualism (represented by Descartes), which is the doctrine saying there are two separate substances in the world: the mind and the material things, and  on the other hand the monism (represented by Spinoza), a doctrine indicating that there is only one substance: the mind and matter, and even other to us unknown things can only be modifications of the one substance. That substance Spinoza calls Nature or God.


In an other small room there was an old device, which seemed to had been used for some kind of craftsmanship. An older couple who was also in the house with me thought it may be what Spinoza used for carving lenses, his working tool of some kind. However, the device didn't have anything to do with Spinoza and his work as a lens-carver, we later learned from the host. But whatever device Spinoza used, it represents a tool for freedom, a mean to write what he gunuinly thought. The work as a lens-maker made him financially independent and able to be dedicated to philosophy in his free time. He once refused an offer to make a living out of teaching philosophy (at the Univerisity in Hedelberg), arguing it would limit his freedom of expression, and saying,  "I do not know how to teach philosophy without becoming a disturber of established religion".





My plan was that my next stop would be Hague, where I will search for the house where Spinoza lived after living in Rijnsburg and in Voorburg (the house in Voorburg doesn't exist any more). That house in Hague is the house where eventually the soul of the philosopher "remained in this world", so to say, as it would be contrary to Spinoza's philosophy to say it "left" it... Beacuse where could it go other than back to the one substance?

Well, whatever the case may be, the two other modifications of one substance, namely the older couple, which I above mentioned as also being present in the house at that time, offered me to take me to Hague. It was pouring rain and they were there with a car, intending to go back to Hague. I ofcourse accepted their kind offer. A nice coincidence about visiting Spinoza, which in that case couldn't possibly be called a coincidence, as everything happens according to the necessity, says he.

Before entering the car I stoped to take a photo of the house from outside. The figure of the kind host, framed in the green door of Spinoza's house, was captured between my lenses.



When we arrived to Hague, it was a bit difficult to drive through the center, as they seem to be closing the roads for cars in that part of the city. But that actually turned out to be good for me, as we had to go around and around and I managed to see a bit more of the city, such as the Dutch parlament and the international court of justice. And I was lucky to be riding with a man, who is orinigally from Hague (while his wife is American) and he eventually found a place where he could drop me off, from where I could find for me the second house, and for Spinoza the last house. The last place where he was in the form of being a body of Baruch Spinoza.

And I was able to make pictures myself, to capture my own Spinoza, from an intimate closeness.
I once heard that Gilles Delueze said about Spinoza that he is "The Prince of Philosophy". Portrayed in the form of statue in front of his house of death, he indeed reminds of a prince, sitting on his philosophy throne. I had seen the pictures of the statue before, but now I was there, on a place where Spinoza was entering and exiting the house, walking, thinking... 




      [An old postcard from Hague, with Spinoza's statue in the middle, and children around it]


I stood under my umbrella, looking at the house, imagining Spinoza living there. And he indeed did, that was an exciting fact. He was a really existing body in that really existing house, and I stood there, also as a really existing body. It was a moment of an unusual meeting. 

   

It rained heaviliy, I turned and left the house of the dead Spinoza behind me, heading along "Spinozastraat" towards the train station Hague HS. Soon after I was in the train to Antwerp, looking at the photos I just made, thinking about my philosophical visits that day.

субота, 13. октобар 2012.

My name is Surfing. Couch Surfing. (An example of using the internet in a good way)

The internet shapes our lives in two ways. First, it enables us to do things online: to surf the web, chat, talk on Skype, write e-mails, share files, watch videos... and many other handy things.
To stop and think that so much of that, what we take for granted today, was not possible just some 10-15 years ago is quite astonishing...

One asks himself, what will we be able to do in 10-15 years? And more importantly, would it really make us happier and our lives richer?
We will have to wait and see.

However, the topic of this blog deals with not this first aspect, with doing things online, but, so to say, with the second mode of internet's influence on our lives. That is the influence the internet has on what we do when we are not online.

I find this aspect to be at least as equally important to reflect upon as the first, as it enables us to use the virtual world to organize and plan our real lives in perhaps more creative ways and to make it richer.

And I would argue that if we fail to use the internet for that purpose as well (it's therefore not being said that doing things online is wrong), that it can do just the opposite than making our lives richer- it can completely alianate us from natural, human interactions.
Internet in itself, as any techonology, is not good or bad. How we use it is what makes all the difference.

So as to support the creative ways of using internet, an example of a good internet usage I recenly experienced, something that enriched my real life:

A few nights ago, I was at the Antwerp's Couch Surfing monthly meeting.
It took place in "The little Hedonist" (De kleine hedonist), a nice cosy cafe in the center of the city.
The concept is simple: all couch-surfers are invited to come, to meet new people, to see again the people they already know, and to have fun socialising. In addition, while socialising, you hold a glas of good Belgian beer (altough I think that "good Belgian beer" is a pleonasm [for a definition of pleonasm: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleonasm]), which added to the specific "taste" of the meeting in Flanders (apart from people speaking Dutch), and it also justified our rolle of "a little hedonist" that night.

And altough there was this unique taste, my biggest impression of the meeting was how similar the atmosphere of a couch surfing meeting is. I have been to many meetings in Vienna, and each time it was a very positive experience. A meeting in Vienna, Antwerp or anywhere else in the world, the result is the same: positive vibe, openeness and friendliness.

So many connections I wouldn't have made, so many enjoyable discussions with people from all over the world would not have been possible if it wasn't for www.couchsurfing.org. A portal [a door], a place [web-site] in the virtual world of internet.

I can only be thankful for this network, which enables me to go from my daily concrete live to the abstract virtual world of internet, and then go back to my daily concrete life with good ideas how to make it richer.



I hope that writing this blog was another "good example".

And you? How do you use internet?