Yearly Archives: 2015

15 posts

What is Zen?

Thomas Merton describes in his 1961 book “Mystics and Zen Masters” how the tradition of Zen resonates and overlaps with mystical traditions worldwide. He also examines various Christian monastic traditions in order to show us the similarities and differences in the search for mystical experience across cultures and religions. The following comments, based on quotes from his book, illustrate that […]

The Rivers of Europe

The rivers of Europe are the veins that run through European culture and geography. They are the main lines of transportation and commerce, they irrigate and feed the surrounding landscapes, but they also serve as natural borders. European rivers are celebrated in songs and poems; they play a major role in the economy as well as in politics. Hundreds of […]

Kierkegaard: The Inwardness of Existence

Kierkegaard’s works are interesting to read, they have a freshness and intensity that separates them from other philosophical writings. It is easy to get lost in his aphorisms – but what are the main features of his thought? I will examine his view of becoming a Christian, his idea of a “subjective truth,” and the “dialectic of existence.”  

Existentialism Today

The task of facing one’s life cannot be met by reasoning alone; it cannot be captured in an abstract system. It requires concrete choices and actions of existing individuals in order to make it meaningful. Existentialism is a philosophical approach aimed at understanding human existence from the point of view of the experiencing subject, not from an academic distance. In the words of Søren Kierkegaard: ‘It is perfectly true, as philosophers say, that life must be understood backward. But they forget the other proposition, that it must be lived forwards. And if one thinks about that proposition, it becomes more and more evident that life can never really be understood in time simply because at no particular moment can I find the necessary resting place from which to understand it—backwards.’

Gestalt Psychology

WHAT IS GESTALT THEORY? Gestalt psychology (sometimes also “gestaltism”) is a theory of mind created by the Berlin School of Experimental Psychology in the first decades of the 20th century. The German word “Gestalt” means shape, or form. Gestalt psychology tries to understand the laws that govern the human ability to acquire and maintain perceptions of meaning in a chaotic […]

You are my Creator, but I am your Master.

“Nature” has different meanings: It is the horizon of civilization, it is the material from which everything is made, and it is the origin to which everything wants to return. By “nature” we also mean the basic form which determines what something is. Aristotle thought that this natural form also determines the purpose something has. And finally, we human beings have a nature too – but how do we define it?

The Life of a Bee

The following video shows the 21 day transformation of the honeybee from larvae to nature’s greatest pollinator in a 60-second timelapse. The video was produced in a partnership between Anand Varma and the Bee Lab at the University of California, Davis. And here is his commentary, from a TED talk: Like most advanced insects, bees go through a complete metamorphosis during their development. The […]

What is life?

The study of life is the domain of biology as a natural discipline. Biology examines all living organisms, and focuses on structure, function, growth, evolution, distribution, as well as the taxonomy of life forms. Life itself is hard to define, because there is such an extraordinary diversity in its manifestations. It is more like a process, rather than a substance or state. […]

Josef Koudelka: Photos from the Underside of Europe

Josef Koudelka, a Czech photographer, was born in Moravia, Czechoslovakia, in 1938. He began to take photographs as a student in the 1950s. He started a career as an aeronautical engineer in 1961; during that time he began photographing Gypsies. He also worked part-time taking photos of theater performances in Prague. In 1967, he became a full-time photographer. In 1968, […]

The Getty Museum in LA

The Getty Center has a very impressive collection of paintings, sculptures, and photos, but what makes it truly unique is the architecture. It sits like a castle on top of a hill, overlooking LA, and is build with Travertine stone, glass, and steel. The garden is truly extraordinary – it is itself a piece of art, surrounded by the museum buildings. It was […]

Venice Beach, the Hyperreality of California

Venice Beach is California at its best: the diversity, irreverence, and playfulness of Venice Beach attracts millions of visitors every year, and whenever I am in LA, I feel a strong urge to go there. With all its diversity, it seems to remain what it always was: Street shops for tattoos, marijuana, and T-shirts, entertainers performing their shows with sizable […]

What is characteristic about Human Rights?

Human rights are universal: all human beings have these rights, for no other reason than their humanity and the values attached to humanity; this means that human rights precede and trump considerations of national sovereignty and that national sovereignty, therefore, does not provide a means to escape human rights obligations. They are also moral claims, and therefore they are grounded in morality, not just law. They are necessary for the protection and realization of certain fundamental, basic and universal human values and interests. They are instrumental principles in the sense that we don’t want them for their own sake; they are means for the creation of better life quality and not just goals in themselves.

What does it mean to have rights?

When thinking about what it means to have a right it is sometimes useful to replace the word “right” with another word that expresses something similar. Let’s review some of these words in order to get a more differentiated notion of what it means to have rights. Each of these translations only capture an aspect of what we usually understand by the […]