Category Archives: Islam

Quote

A subject to which few intellectuals ever give a thought is the right to be a vagrant, the freedom to wander. Yet vagrancy is deliverance, and life on the open road is the essence of freedom. To have the courage to smash the chains with which modern life has weighted us (under the pretext that it was offering us more liberty), then to take up the symbolic stick and bundle, and get out!

To the one who understands the value and the delectable flavor of solitary freedom (for no one is free who is not alone) leaving is the bravest and finest act of all.

An egotistical happiness, possibly. But for him who relishes the flavor, happiness.

To be alone, to be poor in needs, to be ignored, to be an outsider who is at home everywhere, and to walk, great and by oneself, toward the conquest of the world.

The healthy wayfarer sitting beside the road scanning the horizon open before him, is he not the absolute master of the earth, the waters, and even the sky? What housedweller can vie with him in power and wealth? His estate has no limits, his empire no law. No work bends him toward the ground, for the bounty and beauty of the earth are already his.

In our modern society the nomad is a pariah “without known domicile or residence.” By adding these few words to the name of anyone whose appearance they consider irregular, those who make and enforce the laws can decide a man’s fate.

To have a home, a family, a property or a public function, to have a definite means of livelihood and to be a useful cog in the social machine, all these things seem necessary, even indispensable, to the vast majority of men, including intellectuals, and including even those who think of themselves as wholly liberated. And yet such things are only a different form of the slavery that comes of contact with others, especially regulated and continued contact.

I have always listened with admiration, if not envy, to the declarations of citizens who tell how they have lived for twenty or thirty years in the same section of town, or even the same house, and who have never been out of their native city.

Not to feel the torturing need to know and see for oneself what is there, beyond the mysterious blue wall of the horizon, not to find the arrangements of life monotonous and depressing, to look at the white road leading off into the unknown distance without feeling the imperious necessity of giving in to it and following it obediently across mountains and valleys! The cowardly belief that a man must stay in one place is too reminiscent of the unquestioning resignation of animals, beasts of burden stupefied by servitude and yet always willing to accept the slipping on of the harness.

There are limits to every domain, and laws to govern every organized power. But the vagrant owns the whole vast earth that ends only at the nonexistent horizon, and his empire is an intangible one, for his domination and enjoyment of it are things of the spirit.

— Isabelle Eberhardt – Pencilled Notes – The Oblivion Seekers

About Vagrancy

Eastern versus Western Culture

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Lately a question rose up quiet often in my mind. There is a big difference between eastern and western philosophies. I always had the feeling that western philosophers were very materialistic and dualistic in their view and I believed that the eastern philosophies gave much deeper, holistic answers to questions everyone should find by himself one day in order to gain freedom. This, as I called it, materialistic approach of western philosophers to the big ideas seemed for me just to scratch the tip of the iceberg (beside some exceptions). The following quote of Albert Einstein reinforced my opinion about that:

“The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description .. If there is any religion that could cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism.”
— Albert Einstein

But after some research I found a very interesting chapter in an essay from Matthew D. Lieberman (“What Makes Big Ideas Sticky?”) in a book from Max Brockman (Editor) called “What’s Next? Dispatches on the Future of Science: Original Essays from a New Generation of Scientists”. I think he has found out some very interesting scientific differences that have also to be considered and that made me analyze the whole subject from another point of view.

Since the early 1990s, there have been fevered debates in psychology over whether and how a particular culture shapes the minds of those raised in it. The conceptual breakthrough, which has led to hundreds of studies, came in 1991, from Hazel Markus of Stanford and Shinobu Kitayama of Kyoto University, who suggested that Eastern and Western cultures tend to inculcate, respectively, interdependent and independent frames for seeing the world and one’s place in it. In essence, East Asians are raised to believe that we are all connected and that the needs of the group outweigh the needs of the individual. In contrast, people from Western Europe and North America are taught to prioritize their own goals, feelings, and achievements. Social rewards and punishments follow accordingly, such that in interdependent (Eastern) cultures “the nail that stands out gets pounded down,”*1 whereas in independent (Western) cultures “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”*2 Being raised in one culture or the other is thought to shape one’s mind such that the world comes to be seen in interdependent or independent ways, leading individuals to live in accordance with their culture’s values.
Baldwin Way, a postdoctoral fellow in my lab at UCLA, has recently come across a key genetic difference between individuals of Eastern and Western descent that differentially affects their brains. A subsequent series of conversations led us to begin testing this idea. Way was reviewing research on genes that control the brain’s serotonin system. He discovered that individuals of Eastern and Western descent show differentially distributed variations within the regulatory region of the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR). There are three different forms of the 5-HTTLPR genetic polymorphism, based on the combination of two alleles; these variants (for shorthand) are called short-short, long-short, and long-long. Whereas two-thirds of East Asians have the short-short variant, only one-fifth of Americans and Western Europeans have it. This is an enormous and highly reliable difference, seen in multiple studies.
The serotonin system, and this gene in particular, is related to socioemotional sensitivity. For instance, in one study, children with the short-short variant were shown to be at higher risk for depression, but only if they lacked social support; whereas the risk for depression in those with the long-short and long-long gene variants remained unaffected by social support. Another study found that short-short individuals from nonsupportive families had the greatest depressive symptomology and short-short individuals from supportive families had the least depressive symptomology – with individuals possessing the long-short and long-long gene variants falling in the middle, regardless of whether their family background was supportive or not. These results suggest that the well-being of those with the short-short variant of the 5-HTTLPR gene is more dependent on the quality of the social environment and that these individuals are likely to be more sensitive to the social environment in general.

— Matthew D. Lieberman – What Makes Big Ideas Sticky? – Eastern versus Western Culture

As a conclusion I would like to add that the quoted text above was written by a western scientist and it creates again a division between east an west; and in division is the root of conflict. But anyhow, that’s what makes the beauty of it and both Einstein and myself have most probably the short-short variant of that gene. 🙂

*1 If you stand out, you will be subject to criticism.
*2 The person who complains or protests the loudest attracts attention and service.