Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Islam and Economics

I want to briefly devote a blog to economics and Islam. I have personally undergone a difficult financial period during the past year due to the sluggish economy and was reflecting on how Islam protects our economic freedom and sanity. I want to illustrate an important point with a simple economic paradigm - that of the farmer and the masses. To a large extent, a landowner or farmer can be seen as the first economic agent of modern civilization since industrialization is a product of agrarianism. Let's examine these concepts closely. Let us take the simple organizational model of the family farm. Here, a farmer who owns a piece of land is able to utilize simple or advanced farming methods to cultivate the land and produce crops that sell on the market. He might own farm tools such as wheelbarrows and plows, pitchforks and spades. He might also raise livestock and employ traditional or natural methods of farming and irrigation. The farmer is ultimately responsible for his farm and his machines, methods and know-how are essential for his continued productivity. The tools also depreciate in value as they are used over time. There is a unique balance that must be met for this type of economic activity to occur. Quality agriculture is almost always based on fairness and shared work ethics. The ability of the farmer's methods and machines to produce economic benefit is also an appreciable asset. The spade, one concludes, has investment potential and has depreciation value. Thus, the use of these tools must promote fair economic practices or they would be ill-used. Thus the farmer must maintain a unique agricultural balance to be profitable. The entire operation of the ideal farm is an economic greenhouse of sorts that sustains itself through a self-sufficient process. In reality, the farm benefits others who depend on the agricultural production. Thus, the farm supports civic and community life through the provision of food supplies to the masses. The masses must therefore be able to acquire the food at reasonable rates and apply it for their own sustenance or other needs. Thus, the farm is an essential component to the dynamism of civil life. For the farm to continue to operate in a proper way it must be supported by the masses, who in turn need to be highly sophisticated economic consumers. If this does not occur, the entire economic balance of the farm and the community it serves is threatened. This is where Islam can be most effective. Why - because its central tenets encourage good economic practices that support the natural order of economic conditions. It asks the masses to build homes, roads, mosques and schools to create thriving economic conditions that ultimately support and uphold agricultural efforts. Both are symbiotic and complementary. Ultimately, the burden is on the economic agents to fulfill their duties. Islam teaches us to be fair and fearful of God - and that is the ultimate check on our actions - thus, the farmer who is righteous will reap an abundant harvest and the public who buys his goods will also be well served if they are mindful of their roles and duties. Thus, the economy will thrive and individuals will prosper, civic life will flourish, peace and prosperity will spread and natural economic progress will be preserved. The farmer and the masses are a good basis for any discussion on Islam and economics.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Biology and Time

I'd like to follow-up my previous blog that addressed the topic of faith and time and the need for worship with a current blog on biology and time. Biology and time are important concepts and again share a symbiotic relationship. While time exists irrespective of biological beings, biology is a time sensitive matter. Why is that the case? We measure human and animal years in terms of time and over time, biology dramatically changes from the time we are born to the time that we die. Biology is an interesting concept and advances in science help us to prolong our physical states and increase our time on the planet. The planet too ages as we learn from scientific data and carbon dating, but does time age? Thus our relationship to overall time itself, is irrespective of our existence. Does science conflict with destiny? The answer is plainly no since science is a measurement of our collective human progress and is the result of our collective destiny. Why does time seem to evoke such wonder and awe for human beings. Animals and other biological organisms seem to accept life and death despite scientific intervention. One can contend that all is the result of divine destiny since biological inference doesn't preclude biology itself and only offers a vague objective view of the world around us. When we measure time, we learn that human beings as biological creatures have an average life span that they use to fulfill existential obligations like shopping, eating and working. However, when human beings utilize their free will for ill purposes, they undermine the value of time for the worship of God, which is our ultimate goal. While science prolongs our time, crime and other random occurrences can abruptly and arbitrarily end someone's life without a sufficient justification for time - though one can contend that all is the will of God. However, while we exercise free will, we acknowledge that crime and violence are a fundamental misuse of our time as it relates to universal laws. Time is the great onlooker that never lifts or rears its head to acknowledge our woes and suffering. Therefore, human beings must rely on each other. They must help each other cross the bridge of time that they traverse on their own two feet and worship in a collective manner to seek the favor of God. It is in our nature to accept the finite value of biological time when we are born and seek the infinite value of God's blessings. How do we cope as biological beings when faced with the uncertain and unpredictable nature of time and space and use our willpower to achieve good. Religion seems to be the key to unravel our worst fears. Every action that we take in this world is also inextricably bound to the dimensions of time and we must pursue our worldly goals in a way that does not obstruct our faith. We are able to love, pray, worship and care for one another not that this is a futile destiny but that this is our biological, human obligation. Time seems to stand outside of our ourselves and we seem to stand inside of time. What we endure as biological beings should not defile our souls nor our transcedence when we have carried out the will of God. We must heed the solemn words of Shakespeare when he writes:

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despis'd love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would these fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death, —
The undiscover'd country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, — puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know naught of?

And like Othello too, we must obey time and let time not slip but to seize the moment like a sharp sword and carry out God's will so that God will slightly reach out his hand. Our life is meaningless without sufficient adulation and praise for God.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I Am In Love . . .

Such powerful words. I was wondering the other day how unfortunate we are if we cannot be in the state where we can say "I am in love". Love seems to me one of the highest virtues and when one reflects on history, we find that love has been a guiding force for much of our culture, art, and human progress and development. In Islam, sufis are often in this state of mind because they strive to be in love with the Beloved, which is God. Love is a fundamental aspect of Catholicism, Judaism and other religions. It seems to me that love is an underlying component for our salvation as mankind. When we can be in love, fall in love, be loved, stay in love, and say that we are in love, we can achieve greatness, transcendence and inner peace and harmony. Of course, the absence of love shows in the world but we must not let that deter us from pursuing this consummate state and thereby, relieve our personal tension, prejudice, conflict or disinterest. We must pursue such a state vigorously and thoughtfully so that we can be productive, caring, blessed and elevated in the eyes of the supreme being. There can be no greater feeling than when we can reach out to someone and say "I am in love". No questions asked. Why - because love is consummate; it is eternal and everlasting. It is our sole trace on a distant, forbidden planet where we can only depend on ourselves. When we can reside in a world where we can overhear these words spoke often - I am in love - while sitting at a cafe, restaurant, park, train, bus or our homes, our ears are still wanting and we have yet to hear the flute of heaven impart its sweet sound. I am in love - a wonderful phrase that not only creates bliss among us and for those that are mutually loved, but honors all humanity. Whether you are in love or not in love, there is a special power when you say, I am in love. Let that not be confused with any distorted view of how we must show our love . . . all that's needed is to speak these words from the heart and to let others do the same. One thinks why the pursuit of love is not an inalienable right in our Constitution. While that might not be the case, it is an unconditional, penultimate birthright for each and every one of us that should not be muted by our uncertainty. My new film Love Happens is devoted to my own enduring faith in love.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hope Is Lost . . .

Hope is one of the greatest virtues and stands together with love. Hope is lost when the agents of hopelessness exact upon the world a heavy toll. The pavilion of hope under which all humanity stands is riddled and compromised when any of the following occurs:

1. When a mother cannot care for her young and a child starves out of wantonness.
2. When wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few who dictate how that wealth should be administered based on personal whim rather than servitude to God.
3. When men are murdered and criminality and economic hardship plague the land.
4. When children fail in schools and education fails to advance and edify them in the proper way.
5. When men do not worship or pray to a unified God.
6. When language becomes an impediment to communication and we cannot embrace one another as brothers and sisters.
7. When history fails to teach us how to live our lives and rectify our actions.
8. When imperialism of any stripe sweeps across the globe and war is declared on innocent civilians who cannot defend themselves.
9. When centuries-old culture is trampled under the feet of imperialist aggression and political skulduggery.
10. When moral leadership is scarce in the world and the light that gloweth in the bosom of our hearts no longer inflames our soul.

That is when hope is lost and we cease to be children of God and the world is no longer is our refuge.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Caliphate System of Government

With voter registration currently underway in New York and the general election only days away, I wanted to briefly discuss a form of government that is not widely known today but was highly effective during a period in history known as the golden of Islam - I am referring to the Islamic Caliphate, a form of government based on absolute rule. In theory, the Caliphate system could potentially govern diverse masses across several nations and perhaps, the entire world. This is very akin to monarchies in Europe where kings and queens reign with a mighty scepter over the land but their power and influence too has diminished over time but should be respected for its historic integrity. Why is democracy so vastly different from glorified forms of government? Perhaps, it caters mostly to majority rule - but we know that majority rule is never always right. My film version of An Enemy of the People, addresses this topic quite convincingly. Dr. Stockmann is singled out for his views and rises as a hero in the story and opposes the town government over a water purification act. It is a perfect context for a discussion on majority rule and governance and how one man can stand up for the truth despite overwhelming opposition. Thus, it gives credence to more monarchical, religio-centered forms of government and also, alludes loosely to the Caliphate system discussed here. We vote today for our elected officials who are appointed to oversee matters of social importance both large and small. But the most fascinating part of the Caliphate system to me is undivided allegiance to a single man - a man chosen by God to rule the earth as his divine birthright. This is unthinkable for many of us today. How can a single man be expected to hold so much power. Well, in the Islamic world - government is more symbolic and in many ways prior to the Balfour Treaty that broke up the last known Caliphate, again a single man controlled a vast Islamic region. We can also discuss how power corrupts and the Machievellian view of government. It's important to know that a Caliphate does not necessarily denote a hierarchy. There are many flaws to the Caliphate such as overcentralization and mismanagement and other abuses that I have closely studied as an educator. Further, the breakup of the last known Ottoman Caliphate was a historic moment in the long, gloried history of Islam, where societies thrived under the flag of a supreme Vicegerent. Allegiance to the Caliphate has lived on and we can still recognize its vestiges throughout the Islamic world or whenever we see someone wearing a fez. To a large extent, my book The Shadow of God, is mostly inspired by my intense fascination with the Caliphate system - a chosen ruler by the will of God to rule the earth holds for me a profound and special intrigue. We wonder now how democracy has evolved over time and how it compares to other forms of goverment. We shun dictatorships, Communism and military rule and praise democracy above all. But to be truly democratic, one must always know the history of governance that has preceded it.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Faith, Time and The Will of God

Faith and time are very important concepts and go hand in hand. They also guide our existence. Why is time so important? In a three-dimensional world, a one-dimensional, biological being is subservient only to time. We live and we die and in between, we can only have faith. When time ceases to exist, so will humankind and the world. This is not doomsday reckoning - it is simply an acknowledgement. God knows no time. He sees the entire parade as a whole, while the onlooker can only see a single float at a time. Thus, while the parade of our lives passes by, so too we perish with the passage of time. While we walk great distances, we are also standing still, forever at the mercy of the gravitational pull of a planet that is our only salvation. Why? Time is the key - worship and the will of God govern us to pay homage to time and ultimately, God who creates something from nothing. Time knows no bounds. Every strand, string, molecule or atom is subject to the grand design that only points to a higher being that calls us to worship him with our will and freedom. We do not control time, only ourselves - it guides us only because we control our faith. Our faith is our key to everlasting life. Our worship is intended to unlock the mysteries of faith so we can step into a divine realm and live as noble, God-fearing creatures. Once we enter that realm, we also receive divine love and time does not bear such a heavy yoke and the light of God touches our souls and we see more clearly and live our lives in a blessed, eternal way. The light of dreams and the reins of time, and the blessing of God are near to us as is the shoes on our feet and all that is needed is to reach for our toes in an act of submission. Worship and life everlasting is granted - idleness leads to more disbelief and we drift further from God. So let us embrace time with open arms and welcome the opportunity to use that time in the worship of God alone - that is the only way, the way of the good shepherd, the way of the carpenter, the way of the fisherman, the way of the slave, the way of the master, the way of the prophet and the way of the far wanderer.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Renaissance in America

In a nation that is reeling from natural disaster and war, I think it is very timely to consider dialogue on promoting an American Renaissance. What is an American Renaissance, you ask? Wasn't the Rennaissance a period of artistic and cultural rebirth in Europe during the middle ages? How can we adopt such a cultural movement in America and how does the word renaissance apply to us? America is a perfect place for such a movement. Why - because of its rich history and overall good standing in the world. We can do much today to build on the historical infrastructure in place in America today to produce substantial artistic and cultural progress throughout the nation. To do this, we need to examine several major historical points. Let's go over them:

1. The Culture of Migration - America is a country that is built on migration - as is the continent. We should reflect on the culture of migration to provide more insight into our way of life today and how we can go about becoming better people. The Jewish migration is especially unique - Jewish culture did much to enrich the current cultural and artistic fabric of America and produced some of its leading figures. Since many Jews sought asylum in America, we must define the experience in historical terms. Irish, Italian, German, Chinese, Japanese and Middle Eastern are all part of the same fold. How can we gather all the historical patchwork of these bygone generations to knit America a new cultural quilt that is worthy of a renaissance standard. To this extent, we might also devote a special section on American anthropology.

2. Slavery and African-American Equality - we need to examine this closely. African Americans are the backbone of our common heritage, culture and history. How can we look at America and fully ascertain the advances of African-Americans and create a new appreciation for African American art, culture and history and the enormous contribution of blacks to democracy that shines like a beacon throughout the world.

3. Native American Culture - nothing fascinated me more than Native American culture in the United States. These are indigenous people and we must preserve their heritage in its totality. The simplicity, the plainness, the creativity, the common sense, the bravery, the pride, the mystery and the pragmatism of the native tribes has long inspired me and will continue to inspire future generations. This important aspect of American history should not be neglected with the passage of time but celebrated in a way that not only considers the American view but offers a more holistic anthropological perspective.

4. The Legal System of the United States - the legal system of the United States, and the stature of the Supreme Court and for which it stands, is admired throughout the world. We need to study the legal system in a holistic way? What has transpired in the last 300 years or so? How can the system of jurisprudence in America advance human progress and produce more justified and justifiable laws that can be corroborated with the laws of other nations. Perhaps, we may be inclined to consider a jury that is full of Twelve Happy Men rather than Angry. How can we sum up the important legal precedents that have shaped much of our life here in these great states - should we should establish specialized schools that can gather this information so that our legal concepts continue to develop in a way that is worthy of a Renaissance seal. I hope so.

5. Literature in America - the history of literature in America is vast. Why can't we establish schools that study the history of literature and produce informed, positive inquiry on the value of literature to human progress. Who are the great writers, playwrights, novelists and poets and how have they advanced American values in their work that can now be passed onto future generations in a concise way. How can this bring us closer to higher knowledge, being and ultimately, God? This work is greatly needed.

6. Education in America - I formerly studied at Teachers College, Columbia University. I relished the opportunity to study at such a reputable institution. Why - because the entire college was devoted to one goal - promoting education and was founded by such Newtonian giants as Dewey and Butler. Why is their work important to us today? How can we preserve their legacy and build on their achievements? Who are their progenitors and how can we better define our long-term commitment to education. We must turn the soil once more to till the ground.

7. Religion in America - what has been the advances of religion in America? How has tolerance increased throughout the years? How can Christians, Jews and Muslims and peoples of other faiths gain mutual understanding and importantly, embrace one another in a positive way. How can this lead to a religious Renaissance?

8. Science, Math and Engineering in America - we were the first to land on the moon. America has boasted some of the leading scientific inventions by prominent thinkers such as Einstein and Edison. How can we build on the scientific advances of this country and bring this knowledge across the globe - how can we teach green building initiatives to other nations and allow them to embrace and utilize that knowledge to advance their societies in the ways they see fit. We must reflect on past scientific progress and assess how science, religion and culture can coexist and establish a proposed commission that can define science in transcendental terms to universalize, restore and unify our existential dreams.

9. Agriculture in America - how has American agriculture transformed human society in our time? How can we study agricultural advances and develop ways of assessing the impact of current agricultural methods that include farming and mass production. Since Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle, can we produce an updated study on our commmitment to agriculture - and emulate the ways of the wise farmer. This should help us to better quantify and account for food production in the United States much in the same way as oil production in Arabia and help America feed the world.

10. Technology - technology is a great part of our lives. Technology governs much of our existence and daily work. How can we use technology better and utilize technology in the most beneficial way and preserve also, the value of the technological content that is transmitted through these means. We must not let technology override our desire to harness technology for the overall good. We don't necessarily want a society that resembles the war-torn overture to the movie Terminator. Let's use technology wisely and perhaps then, history will be kind to our renaissance effort.

Let us reflect on these ideas and keep these goals in mind as we move forward to renew America during a time of crisis. Let us also remember the agents of the former Renaissance who brought us so much art, culture and humanity to form a new Renaissance that embodies that same spirit. I hope the people of America will take heed.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Very Simple . . .

1. Faith
2. Hope
3. Courage
4. Love
5. Friendship
6. Will
7. Beauty
8. Strength
9. Knowledge
10. Destiny
11. Trust
12. God

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Purchase College . . . A Good Choice for the Aspiring Student

I've been meaning to devote a personal blog to SUNY's Purchase College. I was there on a visit a short while ago and was very impressed by the school and all it had to offer. Having undergone privatized college education, which was very expensive, I have a keen interest in low cost educational choices for young adults. Further, as a long time educator, I have met with many students who dropped out of school at an early age - which, always makes me wonder whether they might be intimidated by college altogether or that their families cannot afford higher education - and they feel overburdened or embarrassed. This is a great concern for all Americans. And you can't blame them - as someone who has incurred exorbitant debt as a result of his higher education experience, the feeling is mutual. Among other things, alternatives to a private college education include CUNY and SUNY. I have family members who have attended both CUNY and SUNY schools and they have fared nicely in their professional lives. Purchase College seems to stand out most in my mind. It is nestled quietly in the hills of Westchester County, which is only a short distance from New York City and it boasts a large, sprawling campus with modern facilities. Mind you, I was only there for a short while and it did leave a strong impression. Moreover, if you're interested in the arts like me, Purchase is the school for you - to pursue your artistic goals at a reasonable cost. It's a great commuter school for New Yorkers and likewise, founded by a famous New Yorker, Nelson Rockefeller. When you enter the campus, you will first notice the ample parking space and queer, contemporary garden sculptures. The campus welcomes you warmly and unlike other colleges, it's not too overcrowded or cluttered with buildings and annexes but formed mostly at the juncture of a long undulating path that takes you through the heart of the campus and provides easy access to all the major buildings. I was most impressed by the fact that the school houses the Neuberger Museum of Art, a contemporary museum that delivers diverse arts education and cultural programs throughout the region. You can only think of all the ways a fully operational teaching museum on campus can do for the up and coming student. This is a wonderful aspect of the college. Aside from the overall aesthetic appeal of the campus, there is also a Performing Arts Center, which serves the entire region and is a perfect venue for students to collaborate, perform and take part in numerous cultural events. This is WAY better than sitting around in a residence hall or student lounge and provides a wonderful outlet to enhance the overall educational experience. Looking back, this would be unimaginable when I attended college. In short, Purchase is a great choice for many students who are interested in arts and humanities subjects and worth a visit for the would-be college grad seeking a quality four-year education. What I like most about Purchase - is that it can nurture the student during a formative time in their lives and provides a unique platform to elevate the educational experience through a greater focus on a single academic discipline, thereby promoting that desired area. More power to Purchase!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Five Pillars and The Pursuit of Happiness . . .

Islam's five pillars have always intrigued me. As a Muslim, I have found that these fundamental concepts of the Islamic faith, while obscure and unknown to many, have recourse to the American Constitution . Thus, as American Muslims we can create a life here in America that is both unique and dignified in an American sense. Let's outline the five pillars quickly. Important to mention here that the five pillars are key elements of early childhood education.

1. Profession of Faith
2. Five daily prayers
3. Giving of alms or charity
4. Fasting during Ramadan
5. Hajj or the Blessed Pilgrimage

How might you ask does this coincide with the rubric of the American Constitution. Let's examine closely. The profession of faith is a serious matter. Born Muslims are simply accepted as Muslims and converts "profess their faith" by reciding the Shahadah. How does this relate to the Constitution? Foremost, the Bill of Rights provides for freedom of religion and other freedoms. The profession of faith easily fits the mold. One might liken this to the Ten Commandments - that may have also inspired the framing of the Bill of Rights. Moving along - five daily prayers - this is a tall order if one lives in America. Firstly, there is never enough time in the day for the average American to take time out to perform such a rigorous ritual. Working Americans can be hard pressed to live up to these standards. However, the Constitution does not deny us this right in any way - but remember also that it does not praise any faith and quite understandably, seem arcane and agnostic to the religious and spiritual observer. This is a great challenge for any follower - to affirm their faith and impress upon a historical governing document a lasting glorification of religious rites - the sword of faith rises from the grave tearing the strands of parchment asunder - or in this case illuminating. The Consitution seems to invite religious struggle, which is also consistent with faith matters. After all, it never denies religious freedom or expressly or specifically condemns any religious practice. Thus, we are compelled to take part in citizenship. Fasting, pilgrimage, and charity all coincide with natural Constitutional rights and we come to know that life in America is defined either by faith or democracy. When Rudyard Kipling writes, "Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet," we may be disheartened by the conundrum of democracy but reassured that faith is not limited to carvings on stone walls. The National Constitution Center and Museum in historic Philadelphia is a worthwhile resource to study the Constitution at more length.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

On Visiting Georgia

I visited Georgia over the weekend. Augusta - on a business trip for the fist time. For the most part, the city lived up to its reputation and altogether, took my breath way. It was an enchanting place and a highly diverse region - and for me my first look at the historic South. While I've traveled far and wide, I have never been below Washington D.C. and thus, Augusta was virgin country for this invariably northern soul. While I was there primarily to visit a historically black college, my experience of Augusta was amplified by a stay at a historic hotel called the Patridge Inn. You must know that my trip was short and I hardly traveled in the city at all and so, the hotel was a lively adventure in and of itself. From its large verandah overlooking a historic road called Walton Way, I was mesmerized by the simple charm and decor and the warm skies, that recalled grandiose images of history in my mind and heart - I could hear Martin Luther King, Jr.'s voice bellowing through the pastoral expanse of the horizon, declaring freedom for the black race - and Lincoln's abolitionist sentiment carved into the bedrock. While this was strongly evident, it also produced an overwhelming sense of the racial divide - perhaps justified or caused by my own displacement as a New Yorker who was suddenly gone with the wind. No matter - the feeling was palpable - the historic hotel seemed to recall the wealth and prestige of a golden age in America but also showed the splintering racial divide in its historic structure. What was it? The hotel employed both white people and blacks. There was even a Mexican-American working as a manager - neatly dressed and highly professional. But no one talked unless talked to. Thus, the spirit of the city was lacking. There was an eerie quiet in the denizen halls - no laughter, no pats on the back or jovial hellos among the hotel staff - just going about daily business and never crossing that invisible line of the racial divide - lest a delicate social balance be disrupted. Interestingly, the Nationals are played here that bring a commercial hype to the state and indeed, golfers who participate are both black and white. Perhaps too my impression was colored by the fact that I was there visitng a largely black college. While I was greeted warmly, I could sense that all was not well in Augusta or that the old racial dust had settled and that life had neatly folded away as a lawn chair in the back of a cluttered garage full of bygone memories - could it be the half-smile of the hotel clerks or simply the perfection of their craft or the overwhelming hospitality, which seemed perfectly natural and exemplary of Southern hospitality. The experience was both haunting and hopeful. What if Augusta was founded by Buddhist monks, Hindus or Moslem conquerors - would it be the same place that it is today? Would it still boast the Nationals that are largely governed by whites in a historically black region with a tradition of slavery? Then during a night of jazz at the hotel, things for me came more into focus. Here on the same verandah where I could hear history speak, was an all-black Jazz band with a black male lead singer - I assumed this man was a long-time Augustan resident and I wondered whether he might indeed, be descended from slaves. He was a great singer and his all-black entourage formed a great band and for me recalled a golden age of blues and black music in the South. I sipped on a glass of Pinot and laid back on the couch, taking it all in. I was not alone. The audience on the terrace was mostly white. Young white people - some of them business professionals with Christian values and a love of beer and music - all well dressed and well groomed - either vacationing or just stopping by for a relaxed evening had gathered peaceably on the terrace to enjoy the calm atmosphere. Then a great oddity - a young white woman who was with several friends including white males - commenced to dance where the band was playing. This woman was white - and in an all-white party, it seemed very odd that she would approach such a large, black man in a historically segregated state - and take up the stage in such a brazen way - I sensed something was wrong when the singer seemed to hedge at her advance. The outnumbering of whites to blacks was alarming for someone like me who has for long enjoyed the diverse communities of New York. It was somewhat disturbing and showed that racial tensions can still come into play in the state albeit, they are very toned down thanks to all who reside there, especially young people who are co-existing in a peaceful manner - it's quite an accomplishment for the young lady with the derby hat, if you ask me. But how do we truly embrace fellow man in the historic South without fear, uncertainty or confusion. Indeed, much of the South is largely Catholic - and there is common ground, common belief and common values. Are whites condemned to be divided by the color of their skin forever or is this the start of a beautiful rennaissance in the South where whites and blacks can co-exist happily and share economic growth, prosperity, love and fairness. I'm sure alot more remains to be done to achieve such an absolute goal. How can faithful men of other religions assist this process. What is God's view of this matter? I scratch my head when I ponder the question - in a city where blacks are undervalued, underpaid and perhaps altogether, undereducated how can they advance their lives and gain universal respect and hegemony? Education is one answer - while the historic quest continues to improve the situation or at least shun the spirit of segregation or any physical, emotional, or metaphysical trace of that period, it can stil linger but to an indomitable American spirit, present a hope that one day, we will achieve redress, reconciliation, remuneration and reatonement in a post-segregated society. While the words, "free at last" echoes throughout Georgia with an unmistakable historic resonance, how do we set about being truly free? The poem In School Days by Whittier comes to mind, "still sits the school-house by the road, a ragged beggar sleeping; around it still the sumachs grow, and blackberry-vines are creeping".

Thursday, October 8, 2009

$1B Debacle - Go Figure

The title is a worth a thousand words. How can a country squander $1B in government aid towards health reform. As a long time professional in the grants and contracts industry, I am appalled by this scandal and shocked that it may happen in Canada, a country long-held as a refuge for immigrants and praised for its all-inclusive, universal health programs. When it comes at the heels of Hollywood's glorified praise of the Canadian health system in Michael Moore's Sicko, one almost feels cosigned by the same title. Canada has long-been the front-runner of healthy lifestyles and health and medical administration and perhaps, it got carried away with its leading image. All that government aid did seem justified when one considers the goal - to create holistic, electronic health records for the province of Ontario through a program that boasts a catchy moniker, EHealth. Why not the would-be consumer asks? However, because of untendered contracts, poor regulation, unregulated price control, expensive consultation and a whole host of other problems, a public travesty has now unfolded. Procurement procedures are very tightly controlled in the U.S. and rightfully so - that competitive bidding and other such initiatives don't spiral out of control. In the audits that followed the scandal, it almost seems that the program failed only because of too much government aid that led to the misuse and misallocation of funds by the glamor-mongers of industry who by all accounts, seemed to suck the funding dry. The fly buzzes at the ears and we realize that this is the cause of human error, greed and lack of economic diligence and accountability and perhaps, overinflated professional egoes. While Canada is at the forefront of the health industry, perhaps it might benefit from partnership with American firms, who are more capable of broader regulation, have sound consulting capabilities and considerable training in this field, all in order to give Canada a leg up with its EHealth initiative that now stands out like a black eye and a sore chin in the global community.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Food for Thought . . .

From time to time, I will post articles that I have written in the past for a variety of news media that address important topics in education, spirituality, religion, politics and the like. This article was first published in the Yemen Times in January 2004.

Title: Ancient wisdom for the 21st Century

I sought a soul in the sea, and found a coral there; beneath the foam for me, an ocean was all laid bare” – Rumi.

In these uncertain times, when Muslims are increasingly coming under fire for their religious beliefs, it might be useful to look back at some of the more tolerant teachings of our faith, particularly those espoused by Mowlana Jalaluddin Rumi. Although Rumi is too often dismissed as a heretic, by some of his more orthodox critics, his life and works show just how Islam can be a tolerant faith that encompasses the complexities of life with a mantle of unbridled love and compassion. Given our current state of affairs, it is unfortunate that we could not carry on the legacy of men like Rumi, whose teachings could have prevented much of the woes that we suffer from today, both temporally and spiritually.

In “Signs of the Unseen”, Rumi gave us our first introduction to metaphysics, which if understood properly can do wonders for the reaffirmation of faith. Taking examples from the outer world, Rumi eloquently reaches the depths of existence and illustrates just how God can permeate down to the molecular recesses of our creation, giving meaning to the Quranic verse, “Have they not reflect on the kingdoms of the heavens and earth and the things that God hath created.” The following are five examples of how Rumi illustrates the relevance of God in our daily lives, which Muslims today, can astonishingly benefit from even nine centuries after the poet’s death:

1. In order to defend the common Sufi proclamation of “I am God”, which borders on the blasphemous for some Islamic clerics, Rumi defines the statement to be rather a sign of humility, likening it to drowned man who surrenders his individuality to the greater movement of the water. “We are like bowls floating on the water,” he says. “How the bowls go is not determined by the bowls but by the movement of the water.” His other example is that of the lion and the gazelle. As long as the gazelle is fleeing the lion it is distinct in being, like the man who turns his back to God, but as soon as the gazelle is captured, its individuality is obliterated and only the lion’s existence remains. Similarly, when a man succumbs to the power of the Higher Intellect, he too ceases to be an individual but becomes part of the greater being. This concept of complete capitulation may explain why Jesus is purported to be the first Sufi and explains why Catholics have come to consider him as God literally.

2. A second indication of God’s preeminence over man is illustrated by Rumi’s notion of the veil. All manner of trades, according to Rumi, like tailoring, building, harvesting, astronomy, medicine, etc. are found within man and “not under some mud clumps.” Therefore, in order to lift these veils and attain higher knowledge, one must first be attuned to the source of that knowledge. For Rumi, man can never be self-taught because even when Cain killed Abel, a raven had to show Cain how to bury his dead brother.

3. The preceding point is further elaborated by Rumi’s illusion to the shadow. It is Rumi’s understanding that as our shadows resemble us is some shape and form, we are shadows of God and resemble him in some or all of his attributes.

4. Being a proponent of the mystical approach to God, Rumi tells us not to focus on coincidental, which he compares to the scent of musk, which ceases to exist when the actual musk has evaporated. The knowledge of bodies and knowledge of religions are distinct for Rumi, because while one is to only see the “flame and light of a lamp” the other is to burn in that same flame and light of the lamp. “It is like a ray of sun shining into a house. Even though, it is a ray of sunlight it is still attached to the sun. And when the sun sets, its light will cease. One must, therefore, become the sun in order for there to be no fear of separation.”

5. After 9/11, for all those people who could not understand how God could allow such evil, Rumi’s answer is very simple. God wills motivations for evil in man’s soul as a teacher wills ignorance in the student, or the baker wills hunger for the people. But the baker does not wish the people to remain hungry lest he cannot sell his bread. Similarly, God wills evil so that he can teach us the meaning of good. He further illustrates this point by comparing the thief or murderer who is hanged to a model citizen. Both are preachers, in Rumi’s examination, because both preach a message either by being hanged or by living a good life.

For those of us who stand on the precipice of faith and are unable to make that crucial leap forward, Rumi’s wisdom can show us that the kingdom of God on earth is in fact all around us. Rumi’s ability to extract deeper meaning from ordinary experience can give us more enlightened view of the world and our situation at present. Instead of being reactionary as many Muslims are today, Rumi offers us an alternative to the way we normally view our circumstances and process them in our minds so we maintain a more accurate perception of a given situation. So while we are forever plagued by misguided judgments in the political arena, it might be wise to pay Mowlana Rumi back another visit at least for the sake of auld lang syne.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Poverty of Wealth . . .

In my last blog, I talked about boycotting as a means to eradicate economic oppression imposed by the wealthy. In this blog, I would like to briefly address a common social malaise that I have come to call the poverty of wealth. To many of us, this grinds against the anvil of our common understanding of wealth that is defined largely by the formative works of Adam Smith and Karl Marx. To put plainly, the poverty of wealth is an appropriate term to expose the baser nature of human beings to aggrandize and accumulate wealth through questionable means. Wealth for wealth's gain should never be an end in and of itself. Thus, we regulate the means that we attain our wealth through an inherent moral barometer that must always be tethered to our minds and hearts so that greed and ruthless business practices are cut off at the knees. This does not ring more true when we recall the works of great economic thinkers who inspire us to reach with outstretched arms for that great Utopian ideal of social equitability, fairness and accountability in all our business dealings no matter how small. Take a simple example - if a thief steals a valuable Monet from a museum and sells it for twice its price and attains great wealth - the downside can be very costly to the balance of our economic lives - the museum may have to pay heavy fines; insurance companies will dole out large sums for a stolen item; law enforcement will spend time and money to search for the purloined painting; the overall educational and social value of the painting will be diminished; and the thief himself may be apprehended in the process and lose his freedom. Thus, the act of pilfering the artwork will lead to immeasurable economic loss and chip away at the Utopian ideal that admonishes such an action - and advance our hypothesis. Once we realize that our actions are judged on a higher social level, we will always fail to see or understand the wisdom of our teachers who guide us towards rightful economic success - and once our worldly affairs are in order, we will also fall in line with our religious and ascetic duty as citizens to live out our lives in a highly discriminating way in a complex economic universe. Let us not promote the poverty of wealth when we set out to seek our own rightful share of the economic pie but also reflect on what it means to be of sound and magnanimous heart if not only because the alternative pales in comparison.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Benefits of Boycotting . . .

Many of us today have forgotten the benefits of boycotting? Boycotting got a bad rep, so to speak, during the civil unrests in the United States in the 50's, when Martin Luther King, Jr. promoted boycotting practices among African Americans and was later assassinated much like Gandhi who was also a proponent of boycotting and the methods of both are closely linked. Let's look back at boycotting to truly understand its causes and benefits: the concept originated during the Irish Land War in the late 1800's when a wealthy landowner Charles Boycott imposed heavy tarriffs on his properties and in lieu of violent protest, the tenant farmers ceased all business dealings with the disingenuous landlord - giving way to boycotting as a social practice. Thus, began the history of boycotting in the industrialized nations and became an effective way of dealing with unfair economic practices and banning illegitimate production of goods to disadvantaged buyers. We are reminded once again of Kant's categorical imperative that we know well from this blog that dictates: act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law. This is obviously ignored by many ruthless barons of the business world that extort and manipulate buyers to their advantage. Plainly put, this is akin to punching someone in the face for wearing a yellow shirt when you know that such an action cannot be turned into a universal law insomuch as it may bring chaos and upheaval to a civilized society - personal feelings aside, of course and instances of war. No amount of rationalization can dictate such an action that promotes the use of violence to undermine human freedom and our collective ability to reach mutual understanding under the pavilion of divine love, grace and mercy. Thus, the agents of this universal truth must be recognized for their ability to uphold such a message (police, firemen, teachers and social workers come to mind) and boycotting can facilitate their work when the balance of our spiritual lives is offset. We ascertain that Kant's categorical imperative is deeply rooted in religion. Boycotts have been very effective throughout history during the liberation movements in South Africa, India and the Arab world. Indeed, capitalism too breeds excessive greed and economic hegemony over the few and can sometimes go unchecked. Thus, boycotting can be very effective in banning products that are harmful to consumers and that ignore or trample their personal rights to be self-sufficient or deter self-determination. As a non-violent approach, boycotting is a truly noble action when one is faced with great economic hardship and oppression. But for an effective boycott to take place, one must truly believe in themselves and resist the temptation to boycott for boycotting's sake - it is arguable that the antisemitic boycotts during Nazi Germany were misguided. But boycotting can certainly undo and correct an oppressive business action to relieve social duress. This is a wonderful right and we must exercise it sparingly and wisely. Much good can be accomplished through boycotting and help communities to move forward and prosper. Let's not let the vague image of boycotting in America prevent us from studying this practice and utilizing it when necessary.

Dress for Success . . .

As educators, we must constantly remind children and those under our tutelage the importance of dressing for success. What is dress for success? It's a concept I first learned about at a literacy organization where I worked as a professional fundraiser - we partnered with an organization by that name to encourage youth to dress appropriately when interviewing for jobs. But this concept extends to our personal and social lives as well. When I see parents walk out in my own community with pajamas and robes to do household chores no matter how small, it is discouraging and lowers the quality of life in our neighborhoods. Since time immemorial, human beings have felt an intrinsic need to cover up their naked forms with appropriate cultural attire - from kimonos to hijabs, veils and turbans, neckties and bowler hats and whatever else that is fashionable, imaginable and appropriate to disguise the shame and embarrasment of the naked flesh - we have adorned ourselves in so many ways to adhere to a common social ethos (women bear the brunt of this burden due to their effeminate sexuality). As modern citizens, we encourage children to dress appropriately when out in the world - to achieve success and realize that wherever you are, a certain dress code applies. I was recently watching a unique program on the Travel Channel that showed men in South Africa presenting an underground fashion show where they dressed in fine European garb and imitated runway models a la New York City's fashion district. This is very commendable indeed considering that it's taking place in South Africa - a country with developing industrial and economic prowess. It is an activity that deserves praise and reflection - that no matter where you are or what culture you are a part of - that it is best to promote that culture through proper dress. When we hear that image is everything, we realize that much of our perceptions of others are contingent on the way people dress - the butcher with an apron, the child with the uniform, the sherriff with the gold star - all has a symbolism and cultural value to the eye of the beholder. Let us encourage dressing for success and limit our own lack of fashion sense when we go out in the world - it is important that we set the right example for others - and show that we understand the importance of gaurding the human form with social grace and historic piety. Because not everyday is a day at the beach . . . you can visit Dress for Success at

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Rambo - Violence at its Worst

I was recently browsing cable channels and seemed to stop at a Showtime presentation of Rambo, the newest film in the famed series by actor Sylvester Stallone. While I am not a huge fan of Rambo, there was nothing else on and I seemed to be intrigued by the concept of the return of Rambo after all these years. First Blood was a movie I liked very much as a child and enjoyed the rustic, Americana quality of the film that introduced Rambo to the world. I found myself laughing hysterically while watching the current film - not so much that Sly Stallone is too old for such a hardened role but the nonsensical plotline and lack of dialogue or coherency. The movie seemed to me like a psychological window into the mind of Rambo - as the violence ripped across the screen with deafening intensity that greatly defines the legacy of Rambo to many fans. Then with one sudden blow when a combatant viciously stabs another, I realized that the violence was deliberate - in a moment of clarity, I understood that the violence was undue, extreme, repugnant and vile. For the latter half of the movie, the violence seemed to erupt like Vesuvius unleashing terrible clouds of hate and despotism on a grand, Hollywood scale. I was quite taken aback and shocked by the breadth and totality of the violence displayed with such bravado and relentlessness. In one scene, Rambo kills someone with his bare hands - ripping out the man's larynx in a gross and bloodied display. Arrows pierce through the eyes and skulls of enemy combatants. Women are stripped naked and the citizens of Thailand are behaving lesser than animals - prisoners are kept in cages or are beaten or threatened with execution style murder, prostitutes are begging for their lives as drunken soldiers are beating and harrassing them - then, Rambo arrives and saves the day but not with more undue violence as bombs blow up bodies to smithereens and larger bombs level entire villages, destroying and defacing the natural habitat of the Burmese jungle. Rambo's image is tarnished - the representative of America abroad - the cool, collected and highly talented Commando that can rescue POW's singlehandedly but in the face of a ruthless army does not seem to stand a chance - further, belittling the image of the American soldier abroad. But the enemy is no better - there are no subtitles when the Burmese generals speak so they are dehumanized as a people and we accept that they are scoundrels - most are depicted as tyrants, womanizers, bandits and criminals with no cultural conscience or moral standards. The rules of engagement that are common for any war are simply non-existent and the viewer is left wondering why they are even watching such senseless violence. Has Hollywood stooped so low? Has Hollywood become so gluttonous and self-seeking that it cannot draw a line in the sand? Has Hollywood lost all respect for brilliant actors such as Sylvester Stallone who is an icon of American cinema? As a filmmaker myself, I cringed at such a low and abased representation of a Hollywood legend on screen. This film should be banned. It is despicable by all standards. It makes me even more concerned that Sly Stallone himself directed this film . . . I just can't see how it may promote a good, proud or positive feeling among any moviegoer.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Divine Knowledge

What is Divine Knowledge? All knowledge is an extension of the divine or our interpretation of the divine. Our belief in God as religio-sapiens and sentient beings compels us in so many ways to define our world and our existence through a divine lens. We must remember that as teachers and educators and be very careful that we be consistent with the goal of our collective journey that justifies the effectuation of our human soul - to study the divine and find means to reach the core of divine knowledge to promote human progress and return. This harkens back to the ancient Egyptians and their efforts to seek out divine knowledge or the Italian Rennaissance or the spiritual rise of the Islamic expansion. When our minds and hearts accept that all is the result of an Unmoved Mover - the a priori tarot - the finger that breathes life into an animate object by moving it with a gentle push is the epitome of God who moves us all through His free will. It's the marionnette that moves at the tug of divine strings but gains spiritual salvation when instilled with free will to worship and serve in the realm of the divine and face the satanic verse. As human beings, we can form communities, nations and world orders but to each his own when divine knowledge dawns upon our marble heads like the eureka moment of the philosophers descending upon those who are preordained to receive that knowledge and to share with others like the light of heaven above. Let us not forget our true purpose in the world - epitomized by the inscription on Kant's gravestone - "two things fill my mind with ever-increasing wonder and awe, the more often and the more intensely the reflection dwells on them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me." That for time immemorial has been our goal in this life and whence we forget to reach for those heights best spoken by the father of the categorical imperative - we cease to be human beings unified for the worship of the unified God. I recently republished a book I had written several years ago titled The Shadow of God. While it is a novel of war and the lust for power, it does tell of a time when divine knowledge was the highest order of the day and a society that drank and thrived rightfully from its heavenly chalice. While we rise and fall, succeed or fail in our hope to achieve divine knowledge, we must at least try to stay the course and do what's ultimately right in our efforts to redeem this timeless honor. I encourage you to read The Shadow of God, now available in paperback as a casual study on divine knowledge:

Friday, August 28, 2009

Good Parenting . . .

It's very important that we be good parents. Parenting is the key for children to achieve success in the world. As a professional tutor for many years, I am a big believer in parenting as the ultimate lifesaver for our children. Why do some children succeed and others do not? Why are some children more confident of their innate abilities to achieve the highest goals when others are not? What is the great divide - the answer may lie in the bosom of the parent - the will and courage that they may show to steer their child towards hope and personal enrichment. Some children fail to reach those heights - they might be easily distracted, overcome by fear of being themselves, peer pressure and the like or plain old laziness and what I've come to call as the GREAT ACCEPTANCE (the general, univeral attititude among many children to keep the status quo - that if at first we don't succeed, we can rest on our laurels - that our situation cannot get better; that we cannot unseat ourselves from the cushions of depravity and slackness - that we cannot be proactive - that we cannot seek out universal truths in books and become great, learned men and women who can truly guide civilization towards a rightful path). What are parents to do? Of course, many of us are working parents and may not have time to give the care and attention that our children deserve? Thus, many children fall victim to social ills and are led astray. We must hold their hands - we must give them meaning - teach them higher truths - that life is a gift that should be cherished and that should be valued - that all of us have a higher calling - a spiritual journey that we must undertake to reach our salvation. We must not kick the wisdom of thousands of years to the curb like errant stones - we must embrace that wisdom - wrestle with the demons that reside there - and find light at the end of that long, dark tunnel - that platonic cave of the psyche where the dancing shadows on the walls keep us from seeing the light and glory of the day. I think of my play The Dinner Table, where the father in the story - James Molloy - is the personification of the best parent - the one that gently guides with an even hand and an open heart - one that clears the way for his children through the dark, wooded forests of the unknown with great understanding, charm, courage and gentleness. As we approach these holier months, let us resolve to be great parents - not good - not average - but great parents that our children can look upon with admiration and respect and do likewise or even exceed our own hopes and expectations. Parents bring children into the world and must shoulder the responsibility to give them rightful passage through life - let us not bend to the pressure of this task but embrace wholeheartedly. A child goes out into the world with hopes, dreams and aspirations, carrying the breath of life instilled by their parents that may rise or fall in the world but in the end form a more blessed union with a divine power. We must prove in so many ways to children and ourselves that their journey like a blank slate will be scarred and scratched but in the end through all the turmoil and adversity, the carvings on the walls do not decide their true destiny that is also written in the stars. Never in some many ways that I dedicate this blog to my own mother, a single parent.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bill Gates' Problem

Bill Gates has a problem. A global problem that he cannot solve like so many of his computer algorithms. His problem is global health, poverty, malnutrition, disease and infant mortality and on and on and on. While his funding programs can do so much to relieve the poor, starved, huddled masses across the third-world spectrum, the road to hell might be paved with good intentions. He talks about Africa in his annual letter, a country that is the cradle of civilization and the poor farming and irrigation trends that span that country is a focal point of his philanthropic thesis. We must aid the lowly farmer and help him to grow more food in an efficient manner. This is accomplished through better fertilizer to grow sweeter yams that might promote an unnatural disposition of food production and agriculture on the African continent like kangaroos in the United States when throughout history Africa has been replenished by the torrential rains in the African plains that have for thousands of years nourished the soil and where animals have grazed freely and openly. I wonder about his medical programs that have brought an inordinate amount of healthcare like heaps of plastic needles that contaminate and pollute the grand expanse of the glorious continent and undermine its image in the world rather than quench its thirst from the cup of life. I wonder how much of the world's problems he can solve with his tamed charity that sweeps the world with a cold surgeon's glove and a rational heart. I wonder how the Africans and others truly feel about healthcare handouts and the unrelenting message of the Gates Foundation that "we are here to help," that "you need us," that "survival depends on this," that by hospitalizing the great African nation will make it more powerful and glorified in the end but in the process defy the ancient wisdom of the African shaman and the writing on the scrolls that have long been stored away in the recesses of innate memory. These notions to me, no matter the starvation, famine, illness that now plagues the innocent and unborn, are deeply without meaning or true salvation. Like the baptisms of the great religions, the Africans need a spiritual awakening, so that the land itself can yield greater fruit and a burgeoning civilization can once again thrive like the hanging gardens of Babylon that once mesemerized all human existence. It's hard to conceive that these programs are not in the least politicized and provide another proxy position to fight radicals in Somalia or awkwardly camouflouge U.S. forces fighting abroad and further downplay the desire of indigenous Africans to be liberated. For what reason . . . for purpose . . . for what intent. Bill Gates sticks out like a sore thumb in Africa and has branded the nation as a grieving childless mother that never nursed its young, cared for them or raised them to great intellectual, cultural and artistic heights. I am reminded of a quote in the Devil's Advocate where the devil exclaims, "There is no future." What future indeed, the righteous soul must concede, when Africa is now the slave to Dr. Livingstone - the imperial missionary who must be sought out and confronted. How do we do this? How can this be accomplished? More questions abound than answers when Bill Gates arrives in Africa.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Oregon Trail

The other day when seeing one of my students playing an online computer game, I was reminded of a highly enjoyable educational game that I used to play in my early teens. We quickly searched online for a playable version of The Oregon Trail, a computer game developed in the 70's that is uniquely sophisticated for its standards and traces the historic national trail that led to much of the expansion of the American territories in the West. The game was developed by three students at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota using a mainframe computer and became an instant success and began serving schools throughout Minnesota and beyond. A game like this is highly appropriate for students to learn an essential component of American history and its unique interface (a DOS-based, interactive and diagnostic format) enable the student to truly live out the historical experience. During the game, students assume the role of a wagon leader who is charged with migrating across the famed Oregon Trail to settle in the newfound western territory. Today, with many parts of the trail, recognized as national historic places, the overland route provides a highly appropriate study on the widespread settlement of the American West that stretches from east of the Missouri to the Oregon territory. In fact along the trail, one can exhume large historical footprints that traverse formidable annals of American history including the fur trade, the Lewis and Clark expedition, the California Gold Rush, the spread of the Catholic faith, the later development and uses of the Transcontinental Railroad and a study of the wondrous creature of the American plains, the majestic Bison. The online game is a good replication of the actual trail and can help students experience the long road to Oregon through the eyes of a migrating settler. This is essential to help them understand the challenges faced by the early settlers, and in fact during the game, wagon wheels can break off, fellow travelers can drown or perish from illness and food, hunting and clothing are essential for survival. Further, much of the trail passes over actual historic sites and thus, provides a good geographical reference for the curious gamer. Importantly, for the student, the game can stir the imagination and time can be well spent studying American history through a unique gaming forum. Unlike modern games, the Oregon Trail requires thought and strategy and importantly, provides a unique virtual window to the breathful grandeur and expanse of the American countryside where the ubiquitous dream of finding freedom and a way of life beyond the horizon is ever so real. The game can be played online at

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Knowing Cafe

Welcome to the Knowing Cafe, a forum where student learners can acquire exceptional tutoring services online and the opportunity to publish their student achievement as an ongoing affirmation of their professional tutoring experience. The Knowing Cafe celebrates "knowledge" foremost, which is deeply rooted in the overall human experience that recalls historical and cultural events that form the basis for modern dialectics and "Cafe", a place to cultivate ideas and thoughts in a free and open manner. Students and tutors are asked to come together and utilize the site to enhance their academic experience, engage in critical thinking and most of all, take part in an online tutoring clearinghouse that combines the joyous process of publishing with expert tutoring to motivate young learners and maximize their academic growth and achievement. All of us at the Knowing Cafe and our future members are excited for this opportunity to establish a clearinghouse of student work that celebrates professional and student achievement with curious minds online. So in the spirit of the Knowing Cafe, join us over a cup of knowledge and embark on the process of knowing, a magical and extraordinary journey across a vast intellectual landscape that has shaped much of our collective thought and progress. In the words of one famous Sufi poet, "I sought a soul in the sea, and found a coral there; beneath the foam for me, an ocean was all laid bare."