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?

недеља, 09. септембар 2012.

A cosy afternoon in Ossenmarkt. A short Philosophy of Blog.

Much more important than the topic of this specific blog itself is the fact that I actually decided to keep a blog, about some interesting things I observe in Antwerp.

I never wrote blogs before, and with writing diaries for example I always had a little problem: being regular. 
With this blog (daće bog) I hope to see some regularity in articulating the things that go through my mind and I think them to would look interesting on paper (or nowadays perhaps "on screen"), but never actually physically write them down.

So, in the first place, this blog is for myself. 
I simply follow the urge to write, and this seems to be a convenient form for that expression. And as for the second place, the place I am in right now is Antwerp, Belgium, and this city will be the subject of my blogging. At least for now.

But then again, doesn't blogging equal sharing? Of course. This blog is also for all the people that may have, for any reason, some interest in the occasional output of the mechanism that is running in my head.

As for the language, I chose English, so as to be able to convey most accurately the international atmosphere, that I feel to be "breathing" here, as an Erasmus exchange student.
All human beings are subject to making errors. Warning: this subject also will be making some errors on purse pass
And also, this way the sharing can also go not only one way: in the direction of my dear Serbian-speaking friends (who are also English-speaking), but also to some of my also English-speaking, but not also also Serbian-speaking friends.... Something like that.

Now to start with the topic, A cosy afternoon in Ossenmarkt.

Ossenmarkt is a square in the university area with a few cafés and many block-like benches to sit on.
So far I always saw many students there and it seems like a perfect place to hang out, outside.

[Having approximately this view, I decided I wanted to keep a blog.]

I also went to sit in the "ciffie" (as officer Crabtree from ''Alo 'Alo' would say. Good mooning!), that you see in the photo above.

[With approximately this view I was pondering over re-producing reality.]

That is what blog is all about. Isn't it?

That's what happens: you talk about something you did. And if you had a camera with you to capture what you saw, you can also make a visual hint about it. Like I did just now. 
Right now, I am looking at the photo and I am making a connection with the time I spent sitting at this table, that I see on the image.
I write about it. It has already happened, in its unique way. It is unrepeatable. But reproducable.
It possible to talk about it, to communicate something regarding it, and that itself is a mode of happening. It is something that I now do.
And you, the reader, also are doing something by reading this, by following my stream of thoughts, which have found their way to the canvas of your screen.
Stop for a moment. 
This is the (w)holy moment. 
The moment in which the whole universe is breathing. 
Slowly, slowly.

     .     .     .

In this little cup was brown suggar, which is significanlty healthier than the white one, and in the upper-middle part of the photo, slightly to the left, you can see a gray little something. That is a public pissoar. A very practical thing, in my opinion!