The Sphincter of Odd;December Issue 2010 United World College of the Adriatic Philosophy Magazine
Religion: a pill best swallowed whole?11 If no: Please proceed to a rainbow of views and opinions of your peers. Enter a world not of separated physical bodies but a spectrum of spiritual experiences of thosearound you – how well the, do you know those you see everyday? Question, criticize, discuss – only in opening to the belief of others can we become aware of what it is wetruly have faith in ourselves.If yes: Please proceed to a rainbow of views and opinions of your peers. Enter a world not of separated physical bodies but a spectrum of spiritual experiences of thosearound you – how well the, do you know those you see everyday? Question, criticize, discuss – only in opening to the belief of others can we become aware of what it is wetruly have faith in ourselves.If maybe: Uncertainty -then you have found the prism. Shine a light through it and watch it divide into millions of streams of colours. Is uncertainty the essence of life –therefore belief the only true knowledge? Is God the creation of meaningless men or the meaning of men? Is it the search for belief that is most valuable? Can we trulyuniversalise something that will only ever be known individually or do we really sit on the edge of a gaping, indifferent abyss?Why swallow religion whole when we have the capability to chew?Here is the prism: now watch the colours divide… - Ed
Roberto Ganau Going beyond perception to grasp the reality of the unifying principle - what religions call God. All monotheistic religions speak of a god which is not perceivable, whose existence is not demonstrable by means of empirical proof. Apart from the religious meaning, that may or may not be approved of, all of them have quite an important invitation: to go beyond perception to grasp an entity which explains everything else. This message may seem superficial or simply anachronistic: we are now used to see our reality as divided into many parts, each of it being studied by its own science: Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Economics etc. Every science does study a part of what there is, but only aims at describing. Any intent to understand an aim, in support of some final theories, is not present anymore. This attitude, consisting of only perceiving, lacks the necessary instruments to conduct a serious and rigorous inquiry into what there is beyond perception. The concept of essence is now recalled as the eventual objective of such an enquiry. I think that, as affirmed by Hegel, the famous eighteenth century German philosopher, after the thesis (the affirmation) and the antithesis (the negation of the previous affirmation) it is possible to stop a 200 year long trend which has been influenced and influenced itself in order to perpetuate its own existence. I mean that, after centuries of empiricist thinking which supports only what is confirmed by empirical observation, we can turn again to logical reasoning, a logical reasoning which, in order to explain the structure of the whole reality, relates one thing to the other. This way of thinking does obviously need to justify its attitude. What we therefore would need is to highlight that empiricism is fallacious. In my opinion, this can be easily said by summing up the theory as follows: “This is how reality really exists and you are observing it through your senses. Thus, it is clear that, if you want to know reality, you have to rely on your perception”. This theory is obviously fallacious because the first assumption is that the reality you perceive is the true one. But this is not demonstrated. And, if we want to be really rigorous, Contemporary Philosophy and Natural Sciences should prove that the world is as we perceive it to be. Contemporary thought must stop arguing in favor of its own common sense in order to keep things easy, instead it must accept this challenge that has long been neglected.
Religion being the flavour of the month, The Sphincter of Oddsroving Philsophy Ninja tracked down a stray student and tackled them with one of the big questions of life: What is life without faith? There are somethings in this world that exist that are invisible tothe human eye and that science cannot explain. Great scientists have come up with theories about the beginning of the universe, but the real question is; who created it? We as human beings come up with questions like how did the universe come to be, What is the purpose of me living here, who am I?, etc. We are curious in our own nature to find out the truth. But the fact is, we will never reach the truth in a lifetime or in the future generations. Our mental capacity cannot achieve full understanding of this truth . We simply believe that there is a higher being that created everything and put us, the human beings as the center of the universe. Who created the universe? is the question that leads us to ask ourselves why are we here? But by having faith that thissuperior being exists and his plan for mankind are of pure goodness, gives us the motivation to live hoping that there will be a perfect world where peace and happiness governs everything and everyone. Something we try really hard to pursue and create in the world welive in, but find ourselves constantly in conflict and war with each other. Lack of faith brings us to a meaningless life where we arelost and ignorant, trapped inside our world of power over others and superiority.
there must be a god somewhere : by Lindokuhle Msimisi Simelane I open my eyes and I see the sunshine ...it’s a sign, a new day has begun but I wonder how could this be? Out in the open I feel the sun on my skin… am alive...yes indeed I am alive, but I wonder how could this be? With my nose I can smell the fresh, pure and unpolluted atmosphere as I breathe air into my body and it gives me life, but I wonder how could this be? I sat my foot on the ground beneath. Along it I get to new places and meet new people. Life is well, but I wonder how could this be? I make decisions every second of everyday…my mind comprehends all the information fed to it, but I wonder how could this be? I have seen opportunities, many of them and when I decide to go after them it all turns out as if it’s been waiting for me like some form of preplanned life. I always seem to be the missing piece of the puzzle, but I wonder how could this be? Some say it’s coincidence some call it fate, but I always wonder how could this be? My momma taught me to always say a prayer before I go to bed. At the time this was just a habit that I had become accustomed with but then with time it all changed. Prayer was not just a bunch of words but there something more to it. Not knowing what it was all I could do was wonder how could this be? Who has the answer? Science? Philosophy? I may not know, but I know that what I feel in my heart is more real even than the stars and the sky. Every time I close my eyes to pray heaven comes over me. Every time I sing a hymn my heart sings with me and heaven joins in the melody. Every time I go to sleep I can feel heavens eye watching over me… I know I am safe. So then I come to a conclusion -driven by the priceless, inexplicable, life-transforming and divine experience that my heart has encountered- there is a god somewhere! And with this my whole being, in flawless unity, is more than content.
If Last week, walking out of mensa with an armful of books and an umbrella still wet from the morning‟s shower, I saw from far away a boy gently stroking a cat. „How beautiful!‟ I thought, before walking on past the trees in the fore courtyard, all glittering with rain.Flowers We have all encountered beauty in some form or other. Individually we experience them but also in groups (an audience sitting before a staging of the Phantom of the Opera for example, or a group of climbers standing atop the snowy Dolomites). Some encounters are more powerful than others,Could but nonetheless, a beautiful song, a beautiful game of chess, a beautiful cake, a beautiful smile, a beautiful mess of hair, a beautiful lab report, and a beautiful Thursday afternoon are all precious to the people who love beauty.Talk What is beauty? And what is this desire to pursue it and posess it? What is the strange power of beauty to lift our spirits and fire our imaginations? In his Auguries of Innocence, the poet William Blake wrote a poem that began: “To see a World in a Grain of Sand,/ And a Heaven in a Wild Flower…” The images conjured of the sand and flower, besides beingMusings on the beautiful, are microcosms of a more magnificent reality. Nature, having the potential to overwhelm us, often teases us with just hints of theexistence of God: divine, and glimmers of glory. Many people like to take walks in the forest, travel to places of great natural beauty, and are sincerely inspired by nature. They often make nature an end in itself. They celebrate its splendour, but are left to see it all as a random outcome of chance and necessity. If everything in this world was simply a product of, as Bertrand Russel famosly put it, „an accidental collocation of atoms‟, then what we call beauty is nothing more than a neurologically hardwired response to particular data. Stripped of all deeper significance, beauty is nothing more than an illusion. However, many people, even the most secular, have testified to the fact that whatever their religious views and beliefs, they inescapably feel in the presence of great beauty – whether from art, music, the natural world, or a relationship – a sense that there is real meaning in life, order amidst the chaos, goodness that will not fail us, and truth that will never let us down. Perhaps, then, something greater than us, greater than random chance, greater than meaningless coincidence indeed exists?
Beyond simple appreciation, what is evoked in all our experiences and encounters with beauty is an appetite anddesire, which Goethe referred to as selige sehnsucht – blessed longing. It is a longing we all possess for meaning,significance and fulfilment that is more than what knowledge, career, family, fame or fortune can satisfy. Wealthybusinessmen, devoted lovers, distinguished academics and glamorous pop stars alike have spoken of theirdisillusionment with life at the highest point of their own „success stories‟. We too, in our daily lives, grapplewith that inexplicable emptiness we have all felt inside us, which we continue to try to fill with relationships,music, work, or even Facebook.St Augustine in his Confessions reasoned that these unfulfillable human desires are clues to the reality of God. C. S.Lewis put it this way:Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there issuch a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well,there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the mostprobable explanation is that I was made for another world.1The desire for significance is a puzzling one in the atheist‟s worldview. If we are merely products of a whollyindifferent materialist universe, why are we not more at home with our own insignificance, and the apparentmeaninglessness of life? Why do we desire the immortal, and with songs like „Gone‟ by Switchfoot, (“you‟re going goinggone/ like summer break is gone/ like Saturday is gone/ the world keeps spinning on/ just try to prove me wrong…”)bemoan the fleetingness of life? Why should we care about seeking peace instead of war, telling the truth instead of alie, to care and nurture instead of destroy? Why does it all matter if we‟re all going to die anyway?Yet we believe that these choices are not pointless, that it matters which way we choose to live. The playwrightArthur Miller writes through the character Quentin in After the Fall:For many years I looked at life like a case at law. It was a series of proofs. When you‟re young you prove how braveyou are, or smart; then, what a good lover; then, a good father; finally, how wise, or powerful or [whatever.] Butunderlying it all, I see now, there was a presumption. That one moved… on an upward path toward some elevation, where…God knows what… I would be justified, or even condemned. A verdict anyway. I think now that my disaster really beganwhen I looked up one day… and the bench was empty. No judge in sight. And all that remained was the endless argumentwith oneself, this pointless litigation of existence before an empty bench…. Which, of course, is another way ofsaying – despair.If the Cosmic Bench is truly empty, then the whole span of human civilisation, even if it lasts a few million years,will just be an infinitesimally brief spark in relation to the oceans of dead time that go before and after it. Noneof it will be remembered. Our own lives would mean nothing.But what if it were not empty?The image of a boy stroking a cat in a rain-washed afternoon would perhaps be more beautiful.1 Mere Christianity, Book III, chapter 10 Nancy Jiang
Religion of the month:Absence of choiceOne can argue that the one thing that makes us human is our abilityto choose. We choose to do right or wrong. We choose to learn. Wechoose to live. Yet, when it comes to the fundamental aspect ofreligion, do we really have the right to choose? I don’t mean ‘choice’as in the choice of following particular rules of religion or in thechoice to follow certain doctrines of a religion. What I meant wasthe core element of choosing religion in itself. Do you realize thatwe, humans, do not get a choice in choosing our religion as we areactually, naturally born as destined to one pathway of a religiousconformation? In our modern day society, we are surrounded by anabundant amount controversy between each different types ofreligion. Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism and allother religions are distinctly different from one another in terms ofits teachings, which make way to a contradiction in the source offaith between believers. Subsequently, this leads to so called‘religious wars’ and ‘killing in the name of God’, which in turn leadsto loss of lives and more importantly the lost of the faith thatinitiated the lost of lives. The issue that still lingers however is how the foundation ofdilemmas between religions arises when we did not really chooseour religion. We are given them. First off, we are born with thehanding down of religion based on the beliefs of our parents.Secondly, our religious beliefs are immensely influenced by thecultural context of society that we live in. This can be based on theculture of our society we live in or the time/era we live in. Theculminating factor is that it is so vital to understand that we do notreally have a choice when it comes to religion. Thus my question toyou is, how can we fight and argue over something we do notintrinsically believe in but in something we are prescribed to believein? by Allisha Azlan
The R word:When I say the word ‘religion’ what’s the first image that comes to your mind?A church, a cross, a mosque, a veil, a synagogue, a cap, the Vatican, the Pope, Mecca, Jerusalem, maybe nothinghmmm.. may I ask what concepts come to your mind?Identity, main stream behavior, faith, culture, pretext, means, an end, trouble.Maybe when you were back home you were part of a group that shared the same “image” and “concept”. Some of us mayhave practiced religion because we felt that is what we should do according to our family or societal values.But here (in Duino)we are isolated from such influences, distractions, or oppressions, we are free to choose what we want tobelieve in and act accordingly…Well for me, Religion is like a guidebook that tells you how to be! I have found that my guidebook is inaccordance with reason, ethics, and virtuous values and don’t think this is a strange as the guideline that itoffers has to agree with these general concepts otherwise it would be abominable. I don’t really rememberwhat came first, but for sure religion and morality have been walking side by side until now. Here, I was very lucky to speak to other people from different religions or peoplewho are not religious at all. Unsurprisingly, I have found that we believe largelyin the same values and generally act ( morally) in the same way. I truly respect andadmire those people who – with no defined religion, have beenintelligent enough to come up with these complex combinations ofvirtues on their own where I might have needed a ‘guidebook’. However, in mydefense, I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have it. I like to think that, ‘probablywould have reached the same place too,’… well, eventually.What I would like to say is: religion is not just a practice or as some people think, a cause for conflict - it is a way of life and a way of being. While most of the time this isgenerated and accompanied by a higher power that judges our actions, on the other hand I also think that this power can be your conscious, if you like. So the fact we may‘believe’ in different things, or nothing at all, doesn’t necessarily mean that we have religions but that we have the same religion ( or system of belief) just under differentnames. We may be as varied as apples, bananas, kiwis and oranges - but in the end we are all fruit. by Alaa Badr
The symbiosis between art and religion - past,present or future? (Philosophy of Art)Ever since we have been aware of our existence on Earth humanity has created twoconcepts – religion and art - quite different in appearance, but essentially pointed atthe same target – the soul. The specific purpose of art is culture, the enrichment of thesoul and spirit. The purpose of religion, stated or not, is to cure the human soul. Bothconcepts provide humanity with dozens of different perspectives, especially in thesedays. Looking back through the ages, we will realize that one of the first uses of art wasto picture elements that we observed in the world and that brought feelings to oursouls. This, of course, includes the images of spiritual elements transformed intosymbols that humans could use to evoke spirits or to pray. Primitive cultures didn’tdistinguish art from its uses – observing the tools that humans created for differentpurposes, many of them had shapes of animals, or symbolic designs.While developing new techniques for thousands of years, people used art to portraythings that they believed in – pictures, music, statues and again symbols of differentgods and rulers, and to worship them. Fast forwarding through the timeline ofcivilization, it can be seen that new perspectives of art were brought, art started to bevalued for its intrinsic worth, its contribution to culture, rather than for furtherimplications upon life. The evolution of drama and literature described not onlycontemporary social problems, but also came up with ideas that were not alwaysagreeable from a religious point of view. In the relative modern society, the religionceased most of its influence upon many sectors of society, like art, as opposed to theiroriginal relationship where art was almost inseparable from worship. Nowadays, thereare still some pieces of art, music, sculptures or paintings created for their specific rolein the service of religion, but the amount is proportionally insignificant compared to theamount of, let’s call it, pure art.Concluding the arguments, we can state that even though religion and art started theirjourney into history as a symbiotic couple, as centuries passed and humans realized thatthe two concepts might have more power if separated; they parted mutually andstarted to become independent entities, only intercrossing from time to time to by Robertocelebrate the memory of their origins. Drilea
With the Christmas season coming up airports are buzzing with travelers, eager to get to their holiday destinations. But many passengers flying from or to the United States feel that going through security has turned from being a necessary evil to just being evil. After introducing the controversial body scans that were compared to virtual strip- searches, the TSA got a lot of bad press recently for the new and very invasive pat- downs agents have been giving travelers of all ages. The new method involves agents frisking your crotch and pretty much any other place you normally wouldnt like to be touched by a government employee. Shocked parents have filed complaints saying that they arent comfortable with TSA agents doing this to little kids. Meanwhile alarming videos have surfaced on the Internet showing a twelve-year-old boy being publicly strip-searched, right at the security checkby Anna Hotter and not according to TSA guidelines in a separate room. A more practical issue that has been pointed out by annoyed passengers is the fact that the pat-downs are time consuming and that they add to the already long lines over the Thanksgiving and Christmas period. Homeland Security has responded assuring travelers of their importance referring to the "underwear-bomber" who was able to smuggle explosives onto an airplane in his briefs. But exactly how much is the public willing to sacrifice in the fight against terrorism? More and more people agree that the issue has reached a point where security measures are unreasonable and even counterproductive considering the impact they could have on peoples flying habits. In an age shaped by the endless possibilities on the World Wide Web, security cameras and increasingly drastic invasions of our privacy, this is just another step into a troubling direction. Of course a TSA agent feeling your privates isnt the end of the world, but it is an insult to common sense - at least in the fashion it is done today. You dont have to believe in government conspiracy theories to insist on your rights as dignified being. Should we really let our personal freedom be compromised in such a way? Is it even responsible of us to allow those decisions to be made without the public opinion being as much as considered? When I am flying to New York next month and kindly asked to step up, I wont be making farm animal noises or doing the "Scan-Dance" as proposed by more passionate privacy advocates, but I definitely wont feel any safer either. Because if the goal of those pat-downs is to ensure your well being not just on bard but also at the airport, then this might be a spectacular own goal that will cost the TSA more than just the game.
thoughts of a dying atheistThe blade is raised, I am lying and my head is pinned to the block: people are screaming, I am goingto die. They caught me yesterday. The star is throbbing on my forehead, and I still don’t know how Igot here. The star is the wicked symbol that everyone fears to see in a mirror, because it meansdeath without hope of salvation. Today, another three people will be eliminated after me. One isbegging for mercy, the other trying to slink off the grasp of the two guards, neglecting the fact thathe could never succeed. I am still thinking about the oddities that brought me here and that they willkill me, in a while.The religion and the reason of it being forbidden are the first mystery, which no one questions: it hasbeen like this from immemorial time and the legends do not agree on this topic. There exist peoplethat do not accept this rule who begin to believe, secret associations of priests that only rarely areuncovered. All of them are menaces society - capital punishment is the only right one.The second mystery is the one of the stars. They appear on the brow of a man when he becomesreligious, they shine and cannot be erased, no one knows if they arise from science or magic and itdoesn’t matter. Avoiding the stars is everybody’s main concern because they appear withoutforewarning and there are different reasons for their arrival. Some decide to devote their lives to thestudy of a subject to convince themselves that there is no need for religion, others choose differentlevels of atheism and never change their mind. Seldom do people disappear without being executed:usually they had seen him days before, studying the few books that are left about religion withoutany star. They are treated with suspicion because of their involvement with this stuff, and soon theyare forgotten, when they have lost all their friends.My own death is the third mystery. I don’t lower my eyes when I admit that I used to be one of themost fanatic atheists that I, myself, reported and caused the death of several of my transgressors.We laughed, me and the others like me, at the believers. I used to collect their objects – crucifixes,veils, incense – if only to place them in a room where we would go naked and get drunk with whores.Some days ago I recognized the belief in a man above suspicion, who used to support me in all myconvictions: he averted his eyes from two guards catching a starred boy, and he shook his head. Irealized that he was thinking dangerous things. After two days his head was falling: still there weren’tstars, but they told me that he confessed to the judge that maybe a god did exist.
Yesterday I found myself thinking of him withnostalgia. Perhaps in that instant ofweakness I condemned myself but my santa lives here.atheism has always been perfect: I forgotabout him and I went to work. When I cameback the guards were waiting for me, and Isaw in the glass of a window the loathedsign.Now I die, and I will die ignorant. A madmanwas executed one week ago, and before theblade could caress his neck he shouted thathe saw his god: his docked head wasdreadfully smiling. Perhaps so it goes, beforedying we see that which we believed in sostrongly as to sacrifice our life to it. In mycase, I would not see anything anyway.Now I see and I understand, I would like tocry and scream but it would be useless, so Ismile, imitating that madman. For a momentI thought that I got it all wrong in my life, I letthat thought because in the end all is futilebut I was right on the former, I still don’t seeanything… and the void that I worshippedthrough all my life, with unmatcheddedication, is smiling sneeringly at me, morethan any of their gods ever could. The star isshining on my brow of unaware belief,everything is clear: but it is too late. Theblade is falling. by Andrea Dotto
I am timeI run on dynamic heart beatsUsually kept constantYou can hear it struggling against my chestWhen I aim I runWhen I am I stop, sometimes, to tie my thoughts’ laces so Iwont tripAnd off I go againI have parents, theyre human beingsThey created me to be what they had never beenThey watch me grow as they grow old Shai SlomkaAs they die and I stand tall ; I am timeThey have nostalgia about my pastHow sweet I was, how innocentWith regard to relationships, I always fall for the impossibleI once dated art; it made me feel more flexibleBut she stayed behind when I needed to move on.I had to leave the moment,Though she was my favourite girl
My eyes are tired.Tired of senseless crying.Tired of fake make up,Tired of seeing the world that surrounds us.We live an illusion,Where nothing is but confusion.Where is the trust, where is compassion,Where are the values of old fashion?My eyes are tired, and so am I,But I still hope and I still fight,Against the splendor and invented lies.People, open your eyes.
Remember me… Herinner mij… Can we find focus!Can you carry my words? Only when we start to look with both eyes Kan jij mijn woorden dragen?When I’m no longer there? Only the perspective changes Ook als ik er niet meer ben? As when you look with your right eyeCan you savour my words? You would see the same thing Kan jij mijn woorden dragen? When you look with your left eye Paradigm shift.Will you carry my words? Wil jij mijn woorden dragen?When I’m no longer there? Ook als ik er niet meer ben?Will you savour my words? Wil jij mijn woorden dragen?You will carry my words. Jij zal mijn woorden dragen.When I’m no longer there? Ook als ik er niet meer ben.You will savour my words! Jij zal mijn woorden dragen! Job van der Poel
With many thanks to:Allisha Azlan, Shai Slomka, UrskaKosir, Job van der Poel, RobertoGanau, Lindokuhle MsimisiSimelane, Alaa Badr, RobertoDrilea, Anna Hotter, Nancy Jiang,Andrea Dotto, Joshua Biggs(Layout) Sana Kadri(Photographs), Phoebe Maloney(Editor)Send your articles, drawings,thoughts, comments and poemsfrom the Winter Break to theSphincter of Odd:firstname.lastname@example.org