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Archive for the ‘Scientific Spirituality’ Category

Faith and Values: Reflections on spirituality, true humility

Posted: August 16, 2014 at 11:48 am

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Spirituality is often identified with the value center of life, especially with all we do to find meaning and purpose in life and connect ourselves to others by means of compassion and empathy. Cultivating a spiritual life affects our relationships and, more subtly, our thinking our perceptions, our evaluations and our ways of knowing. We all acquire frames of understanding that we trust will help guide us to the truth about ourselves and the world, but with spiritual growth comes a freedom to engage in deep questioning about our ability to see the truth we seek.

The spiritual point of view allows us to take seriously questions that challenge our ordinary ways of thinking and our culturally embedded assumptions. This was recently brought home to me when a friend asked, "Who understands more about breathing, the pulmonologist or the yoga master?" Many would no doubt respond, "the pulmonologist," and for this reason: if science is the arbiter of truth, and you want to know the truth about breathing, go to the scientist who specializes in breathing.

But there is more to the story, which is why asking questions about yoga masters and pulmonologists or about geologists and potters (who best understands clay?) is important. Such questions provoke reflection and self-confrontation. There are cultures in which people trust the deep understanding of yoga masters and potters, so what do we do with that? We might express our disagreement and give our reasons, or even dismiss such unenlightened thinking, but perhaps some humility is required. Perhaps the more important question to ask is this: "What is it they know that I don't?" Allowing ourselves to be stumped when confronted with our own assumptions reflects an openness to learning and even some deeper spiritual stirring or awakening.

Calling assumptions into question is the work of scientists as much as it is that of philosophers and theologians. William James, an early 20th century philosopher and scientist, refusing to be boxed in by the boundaries of disciplines and the artificial orderliness of academic structures, once commented that the universe is a "more many-sided affair than any sect, even the scientific sect, allows for." He then followed up by saying "science and religion are both of them genuine keys for unlocking the world's treasure house to him who can use either of them practically ... ."

On this understanding the geologist whose mineral and soil analysis leads to a decision about where to put a building to avoid a landslide is akin to the potter who whirls clay on a wheel, shapes it, glazes it, fires it in a kiln and makes a functional and perhaps beautiful pot to enhance daily living. Both understand earthen materials clay and both hold a truth that does not negate the other's.

If spirituality so affects thinking and understanding that it breaks down the barriers we have created to avoid complexity, then we do well to take James' serious point about truth that truth appears in what is practical. And the practical test of spiritual growth will appear not only in outlook and attitudes but finally in the most practical thing of all our actual behavior.

Consider a central spiritual value, humility, and how it is expressed in practical behavior. Humility has its critics and despisers, but there is no doubt that genuine humility is a difficult spiritual attainment. Humility poses a direct challenge to the egoism and competitiveness that is so fostered in our society, and if the English author and philosopher Iris Murdoch was right when she said, "Love is the extremely difficult realization that something other than oneself is real," then humility is actually necessary for the seeing beyond ourselves that is love.

What does it look like to see humility expressed practically in action?

In the 1960s, England's secretary of state for war, John Profumo, got himself tangled up in a sex scandal with a call girl who had herself been involved with a Russian spy. After lying about the affair and having the lie exposed, Profumo resigned. The conservative government of Harold Macmillan followed suit not long after.

Profumo never sought to excuse his behavior. He removed himself from the public eye, and for the next 40 years, until his death in 2006 at the age of 91, he worked in a charitable settlement, Toynbee Place, helping the poor in London's East End. This disgraced public official became a dedicated social worker who washed dishes and cleaned toilets, who visited prisons and worked to house the poor. When he died many considered him a saint.

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Faith and Values: Reflections on spirituality, true humility

Written by grays

August 16th, 2014 at 11:48 am

Shia man wanting to donate body stumped by family and clerics

Posted: August 14, 2014 at 6:46 pm

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MUMBAI: Abidali Lakhani is caught in a quandary. A member of the Khoja Shia Asna Ashari Jamaat, a branch of Shia Islam, 77-year-old Lakhani wants to donate his body after death but is finding stiff resistance from his family and the top Shia clerics.

Surrounded by books on history and spirituality and newspaper clippings on Muslim issues, Lakhani, a former advertising executive and a regular contributor on Islamic affairs to a Gujarati daily, lives alone off a leafy lane in Bandra (West). He has been contemplating donating his body for quite some time. He wants the hospital he will donate the body to, to decide whether it will use it only for scientific research or whether it also wants to donate the cornea, skin, bones and heart valves. Other solid organs such as lungs, heart, kidney, liver, pancreas and intestine cannot be donated after death but can be retrieved from a brain-dead person.

"When I turned 72 in 2002, I brought a donation form from J J Hospital. It demanded consent from immediate survivors. Since my wife had passed away by then, I asked my three daughters to give their consent. They flatly refused, saying it was not permissible in Islam," says Lakhani. "Yes, we oppose it as we think it is not proper for a Muslim to donate his body after death," says Lakhani's youngest daughter Shabnam.

Undeterred, Lakhani took matters in his hand and started approaching senior Shia clerics. When the maulanas (religious scholars) in Mumbai "disappointed" him with their refusals, Lakhani wrote to Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Najaf (Iraq)-based top Shia cleric who commands immense respect among Shias across the world. "Can I donate my body after my death?" asked Lakhani. Sistani, who grabbed global headlines recently after he sent a letter to Iraq's embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa party against his re-nomination as PM, sent a one-line reply. In Persian it reads: Wasiyat e mazkoor mahalle ishkaal ast (the above-mentioned will is erroneous).

Leading clerics, both Shias and Sunnis, with the exception of Delhi-based Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, are against organ donation or donation of the body by a Muslim. "Islam demands respect to a dead body. Certain organs can be donated, but not the whole body as every departed Muslim must get a namaaz-e-janaza (funeral prayer) and a burial," says Mumbai-based senior Shia cleric and principal of a Shia religious school Maulana Ahmed Ali Abidi.

Maulana Roohe Zafar, another Shia cleric, refers to a book by Ayatollah Sistani and underlines that a Muslim can donate a part of his/her body only to another Muslim if the recipient's life can be saved with that donated part. "In no circumstances can a Muslim donate his entire body, whether before or after death," declares Benares-based top cleric Mufti Abdul Batin Noamani. "Our belief is that every dead Muslim will be resurrected on the Day of Judgement in the same condition as on the day of his death. That's why there is so much emphasis on respect to the dead," explains Noamani.

A human chain was formed on D N Road, Mumbai on the eve of World Organ Donation Day.(TOI Photo)

However, Lakhani is not convinced. He quotes senior moderate Islamic scholar Maulana Wahidudin Khan who famously said: "Organ donation is the noblest form of charity." "There is no problem if this gentleman wants to donate his body. It will be considered an act of charity," Khan told TOI. Khan's is a minority voice and he admits his own limitations: "Lakhani is a Shia and his daughters will not heed me (a Sunni scholar)."

While his daughters and top Shia clerics quote scriptures against donation of the body, Lakhani wants to take a scientific approach. "We take advantage of scientific research. So why can't the clerics see the reason that my body after death can help doctors and researchers? I have lived my life and have no complaints against anyone. I want to do my bit to the development of medical science with my dead body, which will in any way get wasted whether I am buried or burnt," he says.

A way out can be conversion, but he is reluctant. "How can I convert and leave my daughters horrified and repent eternally?" he asks.

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Shia man wanting to donate body stumped by family and clerics

Written by grays

August 14th, 2014 at 6:46 pm

Science and Spirituality: Making Room for Faith in the Age …

Posted: August 13, 2014 at 7:54 am

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Although I largely disagree with the author, I appreciate his willingness not to see science as the end of it all, to open the door for farther realities, and to tackle the difficulties involved. In the process, however, I find a too unquestioning commitment to the latest contentions of science. He correspondingly cites many recent thinkers, regrettably mainly philosophers, evidently because he is himself one.

He also speaks amply of historical figures and their deeds, although I was early in the book discouraged by careless inaccuracies. He writes (pp.12-13): "The Egyptians...knew that a 3, 4, 5 triangle is right-angled. It was Pythagoras or someone in his group who generalized it to all right-angled triangles (the square on the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides)..." But the "it" only speaks a right-angled triangle, not mentioning squares. Worse, the author then describes Euclid's fifth postulate (he also oddly applies "postulate" to "common notion") as stating that "parallel lines never meet". This is the definition of parallel lines; the postulate states that certain lines meet.

Notwithstanding such weaknesses, the author takes us through numbers of progressions in scientific, philosophical and spiritual thought, the progressions in my view not always constituting progress. Here I will concentrate on alluded to recent views and arguments the author concurs with and I find decidedly faulty.

The author cites (pp.138-9) philosophers Paul and Patricia Churchland as making "some very good points" about us being "hung up on folk psychology. We think that what we believe today must be the absolute bedrock of inquiry. Our sense of consciousness must be untouched. However, they argue that that is not the way things go in science".

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Science and Spirituality: Making Room for Faith in the Age ...

Written by grays

August 13th, 2014 at 7:54 am

Review: ‘I Origins’ finds the balance between science and spirit

Posted: August 8, 2014 at 11:45 am

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Whether soft connective tissue or screeching dissonance, modern cinema seems set on exploring the relationship between science and spirituality.

That exploration is at the heart of the biggest box office hit of all time, Avatar, it fueled the recent Scarlett Johansson hit Lucy, and it rises again this week with the release of the more subtly fascinating I Origins, in which the quest for clear fact becomes a search for more.

The film, written and directed by Mike Cahill (Another Earth), is essentially broken into two parts. In the first, Ian (Michael Pitt), a molecular biologist whose lifelong fascination with eyes drives his work, meets and falls in love with Sofi (Astrid Bergs-Frisbey), an eccentric French model. Meanwhile Ian and his lab partner, Karen (Brit Marling), are on the verge of a major scientific discovery.

Jump ahead some years and Ian and Karen are married and have a child. One day they get a call from a doctor saying their child may have autism; can they bring him in for some tests? They do, but soon realize the tests are bogus. These doctors are looking for something in their child, but it isnt autism.

Its the eyes, of course. Every person is supposed to have a unique iris pattern, like a fingerprint. But their childs pattern matches someone elses. This opens up all sorts of spiritual possibilities and sends Ian first to a remote dairy farm, and then on to India.

If this sounds jumbled, its not, its just that key plot points must be reserved. Cahill spends the entire film bringing a sense of wonder to the desperately rational Ian, and if the film takes on a glow toward the end, that glow feels well-earned.

The tie between the science and spirituality has been made.


Rated R for some sexuality/nudity, and language

Running time: 107 minutes

Review: 'I Origins' finds the balance between science and spirit

Written by grays

August 8th, 2014 at 11:45 am

Brain’s reactions to symbols suggest we’re hard-wired for God or not

Posted: August 7, 2014 at 10:52 pm

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Written by grays

August 7th, 2014 at 10:52 pm

/Film Interview: I Origins Director Mike Cahill Talks Post Credit Ramifications, Follow Ups and Religious Philosophy

Posted: August 3, 2014 at 3:45 pm

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Normally when discussing a movie, you dont get to have a conversation about how science can potentially explain religion and the impact that has on the world. But not every movie discussion is with director Mike Cahill about his new movie, I Origins. The film is now in theaters and if you like intellectual sci-fi, you should check it out. Its an engaging, mysterious love story that evolves over the course of its run time to be about the entire nature of life itself. Michael Pitt (Boardwalk Empire), Brit Marling (The East), Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead) and Astrid Bergs-Frisbey (Pirates of the Caribbean 4) star in the film.

This is Cahills second feature. Much as in his first one, Another Earth, Cahill takes a mind-blowing sci-fi conceit and filters it through a human story. This time its about a scientist who, while doing research about iris recognition,falls in love with a girl because of her eyes. But its about much more than that.

In person, Cahill is engaging, eloquent and easy to talk to. He has big ideas about his films, not just their content but their presentation and marketing too. In our interview with him (which weve highlighted twice already) we talk a little about the spoiler-filled marketing for the film before getting deep into a conversation about the implications of the films scientific and religious philosophy, how the magnificent end credits scene leads into a potential sequel, the real science that went into writing. and finally the new Hollywood model of taking filmmakers like Cahill, and giving them massive blockbusters.

/Film: I have been avoiding all spoilers and trailer since Sundance and Im so glad I did.

Mike Cahill: It was weird cause we Searchlight was, I was very involved in the process. Theyre very inclusive with all the marketing material. Theyre very, very cool like that. And my wife designed the poster basically, which is kind of badass. I mean, we have a really bold poster. But when we first put together the trailer and I was like, You know, this gives away so much of the film. Maybe we shouldnt give so much of the film away. And we had these long debates. And then we started testing it in different ways. And we sort of did our due diligence. We made a trailer that didnt give anything away. And it didnt really inspire one to wanna go see the movie. So I was like Gosh, I dont know how you guys do this job. Its so hard.

Yeah, I know, totally. I was talking to Nicholas Stoller about Neighbors and he said you dont wanna spoil the jokes, but research says people laugh harder the second time.

Oh thats brilliant.

But I guess if it gets them in the theater, thats really what matters. Okay, theres some super spoiler stuff I wanna talk about, but to start it off

Thats cool. On the topic of spoilers.Its fine. Im totally down with it. I actually I find that viewing it on a second time is better anyway, you know.

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/Film Interview: I Origins Director Mike Cahill Talks Post Credit Ramifications, Follow Ups and Religious Philosophy

Written by grays

August 3rd, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Keyframe-Entertainment Adds DMT: The Spirit Molecule to its Automated Community Film Screening Platform, Keyframe …

Posted: July 28, 2014 at 8:44 pm

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San Francisco, CA (PRWEB) July 28, 2014

Keyframe-Cinema has added DMT: The Spirit Molecule to its catalog of Transformational culture films. Created by Keyframe-Entertainment, Keyframe-Cinema is an online service that allows Transformational filmmakers to share their work with fans, film buffs, and festivals. The platform is designed to facilitate the community film screening process, and also automates the licensing and delivery of media to film screeners. Keyframe-Cinema aims to display a variety of Transformational films, including documenting the evolution of Electronic Music Culture by unearthing, gathering and sharing films through community screenings.

Created by Mitch Schultz, DMT: The Spirit Molecule is a documentary film that uses Dr. Rick Strassmans research to investigate dimethyltryptamine (DMT). DMT is an endogenous psychoactive compound, which exists in humans as well as in numerous species of plants and animals. The film condenses over 80 hours of interview footage with cutting-edge computer-generated imagery to capture critical elements of the DMT experience.

The story revolves around Strassman's research, and the experiences of the human test subjects, and draws on a variety of experts to voice unique thoughts and experiences with DMT from within their respective fields. The experts include research scientists, doctors, religious leaders, writers, artists, anthropologists, psychologists, physicists, psychonauts, et al. As Strassmans story unfolds, these contributors weigh in on his remarkable theories, indigenous use of DMT, the history and future of psychedelics and psychedelic research, and the current news about DMT; including a recent Supreme Court case allowing the use of ayahuasca in the United States within the religious ceremonies of the UDV, a hybrid of indigenousness beliefs with that of Christianity. Other areas of exploration include possible roles for endogenous DMT production, DMTs role in near-death and birth experiences, alien abduction experiences, and the uncanny likeness to ancient religious texts describing prophets with DMT-like experiences. The contributors offer a comprehensive collection of information, opinions, and speculation to help understand the nature of the DMT experience, and its role in human society and evolution.

To better navigate the expansive realms of Strassmans DMT universe, popular actor, comedian, and social satirist, Joe Rogan, serves as tour guide. His own personal experiences with DMT, and a fascination that borders on reverence, have motivated him to be a central component of the project. In stylized scenes reminiscent of Rod Sterlings famous Twilight Zone bookends, Rogan shepherds the audience through the great unknowns of the DMT space.

The film also features guest speakers such as Alex Grey, Eric Davis, Daniel Pinchbeck, as well as footage from Terence McKenna. DMT: The Spirit Molecule has met with wide acclaim and recognition, coming in at as the #1 most-streamed documentary on Netflix at time of release and ranking at #3 on the Documentary & Independent lists on iTunes. The film has also gathered a vast network of supporters, consisting of a 3,000,000 direct Partner network reach, over 400,000 Facebook page likes, as well as over 3,000,000 Youtube views.

That the films featured on Keyframe-Cinema share an ecosystem of supporters is highlighted by communal collaborators involved in related cultural projects. As such, another Transformational film which features Alex Grey, Eric Davis, Daniel Pinchbeck and footage from Terence McKenna is Electronic Awakening, also available for screening via Keyframe-Cinema. Produced and Directed by A.C Johner, Electronic Awakening investigates the spirituality of Electronic Dance Music culture. Additional film in the catalog includes AYA: Awakenings, a narrative documentary that dives into the world and visions of ayahuasca plant medicine and shamanism, adapted from the cult book Aya: a Shamanic Odyssey by Rak Razam.

Given the ongoing changes of the film industry, Keyframe-Cinema provides a platform that not only facilitates film screenings but also provides community engagement. As Director Christopher Nolan mentions in an op-ed published by the Wall Street Journal, "The cinema of the future will depend not just on grander presentation, but on the emergence of filmmakers inventive enough to command the focused attention of a crowd for hours." As such, Keyframe-Cinemas intention of providing the tools to create events that go beyond a typical film experience, for example by having the Director present their work, the Producer Skyping in or having a Q & A panel discussion, enhances the viewing and participation experience.

Keyframe-Cinema encourages filmmakers to tap into their existing fan bases to produce community screenings that viewers can enjoy together and interact thereafter. To learn more and view Keyframe-Cinemas current film catalog, visit:

About DMT: The Spirit Molecule DMT: The Spirit Molecule investigates dimethyltryptamine (DMT), an endogenous psychoactive compound, which exists in humans as well as in numerous species of plants and animals. The feature-length documentary traces Dr. Rick Strassman's government sanctioned human DMT research and its many trials, tribulations, achievements, and inconceivable realizations. This includes looking deeper into the intense psychedelic experience that DMT causes when consumed, and examining DMTs scientific, spiritual, and cultural relevance. Ultimately, The Spirit Molecule explores the connections between cutting-edge neuroscience, quantum physics, and human spirituality.

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Keyframe-Entertainment Adds DMT: The Spirit Molecule to its Automated Community Film Screening Platform, Keyframe ...

Written by grays

July 28th, 2014 at 8:44 pm

Star Apps: Michael Pitt

Posted: July 26, 2014 at 2:52 am

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The "I Origins" star dissects scientists, spirituality, and software.

Actor Michael Pitt is best known for playing a gangster on "Boardwalk Empire," a murderous psychopath in "Funny Games," and a drugged-out grunge rocker in "Last Days." With "I Origins," he demonstrates range with his credible portrayal of Dr. Ian Gray, a molecular biologist studying the evolution of the eye, who makes a discovery that challenges all his deep-held scientific theories and spiritual beliefs.

Weird scientist: Michael Pitt plays Dr. Ian Gray in I Origins.

This role seems like a definite departure from your previous work. What drew you to playing a scientist? Maybe that. One of the things I was really interested in was that people have never seen me play a character like this. That's interesting for me, and I hope that's interesting for my fans.

What interests you about scientists? Their quest for unlocking the mysteries of the universe. That's a very noble thing to be passionate about, and I draw a parallel between scientists and artists.

Do actors function in the same way? I think any good actor is trying to understand and break apart and contemplate the human condition, so I think that can be similar.

In the movie, you play a molecular biologist, who is obsessed with eyes. When you meet someone for the first time, do their eyes stand out to you? Absolutely. But I would be really curious to hear that someone doesn't notice the eyes, or the eyes don't speak to them. There's an intuitive sense that people gain about another person, and I think it usually comes -- at least for me -- when you look into their eyes.

She blinded him with science: Dr. Ian Gray fixates on Sofi's eyes in I Origins.

You filmed part of the movie in India. Had you been there before? No.

How did India treat you? It was an amazing experience, going to India. It's India. I would have loved to stay even longer than we did. We would shoot in this very low-income area. It wasn't that uncommon to see the kids playing in mounds of garbage. Then we'd go back to the hotel that was this billion-dollar estate. Having that intense experience and the big contrast between those two worlds was just amazing. Also, working with the young actors was amazing.

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Star Apps: Michael Pitt

Written by grays

July 26th, 2014 at 2:52 am

The Source Of The Nile Decoded 2

Posted: July 24, 2014 at 11:44 am

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Feature Article of Thursday, 24 July 2014

Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis

Citizenship; social equality; accountability; mass quality (critical thinking) education; probity; gender equality; tolerance; transparency; social justice; mutual respectability; strategic planning; and patriotism capture the idiomatic essence of nation-building. Thus, Chinua Achebe, an antagonistic hero of the so-called The Biafran War (The Nigerian Civil War) realizing clear-cut instantiation of ideological tendency toward gradual Afghanistization of The Country if care is not duly taken to arrest or reverse it, reminds the yechy unrecognized self-styled poet and writer, a bastardized ideological scion of The Brethren, writing:

The fiction which imaginative literature offers usdoes not enslave; it liberates the mind of man. Its truth is not like the canons of an orthodoxy or the irrationality of prejudice and superstition. It begins as an adventure in self-discovery and ends in wisdom and human conscience.

Question: How dare he, Achebe? Everyone knows it for sure! It? About what? Moral, spiritual, and intellectual decadence in the body politic, The Country! Well, everyone is fully aware it is not beyond the bounds of decorum to acknowledge Achebes advisory agency as a timely gesture of agreeable community, for the yechy unrecognized self-styled poet and writer, so-called, stands intolerably short as a hopelessly irretrievable national disgrace in the pageantry of civilizational sentience. Everything he supposedly poetizes about emanates from his schizophrenic, scrappy persona. Yet he sees himself essentially a scholar in his self-contrived wasteland of deranged consciousness. As a matter of principle, the scholarly community lacks a critical scope of accommodation with regard to his shallow, shoddy scholarship, hence his euthanasic narcissism, hence his manic persona.

That kind of scholar, a fetishistic victim of penile atresia, is the bane of civilizational de-colonialism, the proverbial spoke in the wheel of intra-national coherence. Even of his own mental integrity. Importantly, his viscous relationship with citizens whose progressive sense of community is not in question usurps the aristocratic conscience of national discourse, whence comes Chinua Achebes intercessory wisdom. In consequence, the moral caliber of the fiction, Achebes phraseology, is all there is to it, no doubt, though it resists the textural candor of George Orwells Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Even of George Orwells Animal Farm. Realpolitik. DoublespeakThe poetic realpolitik of the scholar. The poetic doublespeak of the scholar. Achebe said it in the nebulous archeology of Yesterday. In the substantial space-shuttle of Today. And in the nebulous time-warp of the Future. That what? That the poetic realpolitik of the scholar, that the poetic doublespeak of the scholar, that he, the scholar, has no patriotic interest in the compromising unity of The People, in the positive development of The Country. Stoking the embers of disunity, of ethnocentrism, of ethnic nationalism, is his thing, his patriotic duty! The scholars yechy poetry, the scholars yechy writings, O Great People of the World, are merely leprotic expressions of yellow journalism; no more, no less. The scholar intimately knows all about the dialects of the anatomy of lies!

Piecemeal Somaliazation of The Country. In one sense, therefore, the phraseologic aesthetics of Achebes the fiction beggars his, Achebes, advisory largesse. Surprising? Not essentially! In another sense, however, Achebes the fiction is the kind of national ethos whose cultural and philosophical actuation The Scarab Beetle strove to graft onto African PersonalityThrough The Scarab Beetles conscious replacement of old-fashioned colonialism with progressive instruments of de-colonialism, of poetic consciencismUntil The Brethren subverted it. The Scarab Beetles consciencism; Chinua Achebes imaginative literature. With The Janus-faced scholar being literarily antipodal to Achebes imaginative literature, his popularly despised yellow journalism scholarship, to The Scarab Beetles consciencism! The sick scholar and his well-known bounded rationality!

Oh, the Sisyphean weight of guilt will forever intrude upon The Brethrens splintered conscience even as it denies them a scintilla of sleep in the agoraphobic graveyard of moral accountability. This is the kind of heavy moral burden, of spectral introspection, those who hate men and women of conscience without justifiable grounds bear. The scorching guilt of immorality, of indiscretions! As a matter of fact Maya Angelou recalls this physiologic-moral catch-22, Wole Soyinkas operations of homeopathy, in one of her famous poetic formulae Insomniac:

There are some nights when sleep plays coy, aloof and disdainful. And all the wiles that I employ to win its service to my side are useless as wounded pride, and much more painful.

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The Source Of The Nile Decoded 2

Written by grays

July 24th, 2014 at 11:44 am

“I Origins”: Science, Religion, Sex & Eyeballs

Posted: July 22, 2014 at 11:49 pm

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Mike Cahill's audacious I Origins touches on a number of Big Subjects, such as reason versus spirituality, scientific hubris, and the perils of hooking up with supermodels. It's probably going to end up on an equal number of "Best of" and "Worst of" end-of-year lists.

Protagonist ("hero," not so much) Ian Gray (Michael Pitt) is a scientist obsessed with eyes. In addition to taking close-up pictures of the peepers of anyone who doesn't find the request creepy, his work is to make colorblind mice see colors, with the goal of eventually bringing sight to species that never evolved eyes. It's your typical tampering-in-God's-domain kind of stuff, but since he says he doesn't believe in God, he willfully chooses to miss the point of the metaphor. Indeed, he hopes to end the whole Intelligent Design/"a watch needs a watchmaker" debate, which is a perfectly noble goal but, as atheistic scientists tend to be stereotyped in movies these days, he's a smug, charmless nozzle.

I Origins is by no means the same kind of overt anti-scientist propaganda as God's Not Dead, but since it plays its themes and emotions in broad, operatic strokes, Ian lacks the sense of joy and wonder found in, say, avowed atheists (and past and present Cosmos hosts) Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson. (That I Origins comes on the heels of Pitt's truly disturbing performance as Mason Verger on Hannibal only ups the creep factor.)

The working title was Sex Peepers.

Ian is also a floppy-haired New York hipster, and at a Halloween party he meets Sofi (Astrid Bergs-Frisbey), a fashion model who quite reasonably decides to flee Ian when he says a dumb thing during impromptu sex in a tastefully squalid closet. Thanks to a series of coincidences at 11:11 a.m. on 11/11 hey, ever notice how the numeral 1 looks not unlike the letter I, which itself is a homophone for "eye," and when you put two 1s together they look like a pair of eyes, especially if you're watching a movie that will probably inspire several academic papers on eyeball imagery in the cinema? Ian successfully stalks Sofi, and they pick up where they left off.

Unlike Ian, Sofi believes in souls and reincarnation and has reasonable ethical objections to mutating eyeless worms to make them grow eyes. She's the classic Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and while it's typically the MPDG's job in these movies to teach the boy how to lighten up, I Origins is playing a longer game than that. When a bizarre accident at the end of the first act cleaves Sofi from Ian on what was supposed to be their (ill-considered) wedding day, the picture jumps forward seven years and starts playing the cards it's dealt, moving into the realm of spiritual science fiction.

Though it moves at a brisk pace and is gorgeous to look at it, I Origins is a frequently confounding movie, one that will anger as many people as it will enchant. It's a film about not just the male gaze, but the reciprocal gaze it would make a wonderfully abstract double feature with Godfrey Reggio's Visitors but the gender politics are still troubling, particularly the character of Karen (Brit Marling). She's Ian's lab assistant turned wife and mother of his child, and writer/director Cahill gives her a Stepford-level tolerance for Ian's occasionally literal masturbation over that one hot girl he was involved with years ago.

Still, few recent films so motivated by the leading man's boner have such deep thematic ambitions, or are likely to inspire such heated post-viewing conversations.

"I Origins": Science, Religion, Sex & Eyeballs

Written by grays

July 22nd, 2014 at 11:49 pm

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