Tuesday, July 22, 2014

THERE'S NO GOING BACK: The Act of Purging History

When the good guys find their way home and set a different course to history, what would happen to the bad ones? Author Siggy Buckley’s latest short story, “There’s No Going Back” is about those displaced individuals, whose leaders had played bad buys in textbooks for history. Siggy Buckley is the author of Next Time Lucky: How to Find Mr. Right. She was a very successful Irish matchmaker, and is a member of National League for American Pen Women.      

Can the wrongs enacted and sealed away in the vault of history be atoned in the present? Can we exorcise the demons of history with our understanding of the NOW? In “There’s No Going Back”, Ingrid and Rosemarie, On their way to reconcile their personal tragedy, come across the two questions above.

Image Courtesy: Google
I would term their journey as an act of purging history, personal and political. Ingrid and Rosemarie visit Rügenwalde, an outpost of Further Pomerania, present day Poland, their childhood home. A Polish landowner and wife now occupy this house and property. With the lantern of her memories, through a flashback, Ingrid shows the readers those events that transpired in their life and the lives of millions of others, who were similarly ousted from their homes. The war had ended and now the “Russian troops, along with the Poles, were pushing west, occupying the Eastern German territories, and driving the Germans out, slaughtering them in the process,” writes Siggy Buckley. Russian soldiers order Ingrid’s family to leave their home.

A journey thus began carries the family of six, one-year-old Robert, three-year-old Rita, ten-year-old Erich, nine-year-old Rosemarie and eight-year-old Ingrid, through the chaotic times immediately after the World War II. “There’s No Going Back” captures the suffering, hunger, death, and lack of security Ingrid’s family experiences through the journey. This, however, is not the tragedy of one family. Millions of others had to go through the same harrowing events in the post-war world.

There’s No Going Back” has two personal quests. The first one is the quest of a mother to take her five children to safety. It is also a terrifying path for the children. The second quest is that of two sisters, trying to experience once again their ancestral land and birthplace. “There’s No Going Back” begins with the second quest. It then opens our minds to the horrors of the first, to the mother’s promise to keep her children alive and safe.  
Image Courtesy: Google

Act of Hope
It often mystified me how people hold on to hope during times of emergency. Often hope is a metaphysical thought cloud that most reasonable people feel reluctant to preach, let along hold on to. Hope, in most cases, is uttered as a religious answer to dead ends in life. And due to this very reason in our secular societies, we are ashamed to talk about it. My first book, Wall of Colours was all about this fantastic antidote to all misery in human life, a series of 35 tales to cure the demons of misery from human life.  

Where does hope come from? Does it come from our ignorance about what the future holds, or is it independent of our expectations? In “There’s No Going Back,” hope follows no expectations. The family was ignorant about what might happen to them in the future. But hope survives in their minds and helps them, in turn, survive the long journey. “There’s No Going Back” is a fascinating example of how individuals feel strengthened in hope during their trails. They fear the worst, but have hope. It is this hope that leads them, finally, to the railway station, to their destiny. Our discussion of hope would not be complete until we acknowledge another crucial virtue exhibited by Ingrid’s family in “There’s No Going Back”: Faith.

Act of Faith
“Everything remains a big blur, one day blending into another: walking west in biting cold wind until exhaustion took over,” Ingrid remembers. Ingrid’s memories have a peculiar nature. They are vivid and yet blurred. Perhaps, the memories are blurred because clarity may invite unfathomable pain. She remembers one such event, with surprising clarity; “Bodies were frozen into ice; some horses’ heads were sticking out….” This event is not blurred or confusing. Ingrid is particular about what had passed in front of her eyes, at this particular location in their journey. However, Ingrid and the batch of refugees decide to cross the lagoon to Greifswald discounting the fear of impending disaster.

Only unwavering internal courage can account for the type of clarity with which Ingrid recounts her painful story at this point. The question of what would happen to the refugees, including their family, once they reached Greifswald, does not hold them back from taking the step, from giving it a try. They saw dead bodies of people, who had previously attempted to cross the lagoon. All of them perished when the slabs of ice that covered the water broke under the weight of the people and their heavy load. This sight would have become the ultimate dead-end to their journey. However, on the contrary, the refugees, including Ingrid’s family, pushed on to meet their destiny. They weren’t sure if they would be welcomed by bullets in Greifswald. They crossed the lagoon and walked all the way to Greifswald through an act of faith. Just like what I mentioned about hope, it is surprising to see how people, while enduring troublesome experiences, exhibit these virtues with tremendous ease. The ‘realness’ of faith becomes manifest through the journey Ingrid and her family undertakes.

Act of Love
Instead of being just a conceptual thing, faith becomes the binder of people and hope becomes the path itself, tangible and real. Another essential commodity for survival that appears in “There’s No Going Back” is love. Again, with a catastrophe or chaotic event in the background, the virtue of love appears to be emboldened. Ingrid’s mother promises her children that she would keep them all safe. Her maternal love doesn’t take so much of a shape at this instance as it does when Ingrid says, “our mother and the other women continued their gargantuan task to keep us alive and on the move.” The implication is clear. Motherhood is universal and identifiable as the unending fountain of love.

There are the Wahnkes and the farmers they meet on the way, who exhibit generosity and love towards the children. On the road to an uncertain future, these tiny flickering lights of humanity and love bestow upon them the hope and faith to move on, to survive.     
Image Courtesy: Siggy Buckley
      
Any act of atonement requires three fundamental ingredients: hope, faith, and love. When Ingrid and Rosemarie meet a closed door in their journey back to their past, one can observe a cruel repetition of history. Still, one can reasonably hope that the lessons the two girls had learnt on their way through the mire of hatred and atrocities, would lead them, and lead them well.       

T. S. Eliot bewails about the lack of respect the British readers exhibited towards tradition in his legendary essay, “Traditional and Individual Talent”. “Seldom, perhaps, does the word appear except in a phrase of censure. If otherwise, it is vaguely approbative, with the implication, as to the work approved, of some pleasing archeological reconstruction,” begins the author. For most of us, tradition is removed from the present with the thick veil of time. However, as Mr. Eliot attempted to prove in his famous essay, tradition or history is very much a living spirit among us, at present. “There’s No Going Back” serves the best example for the undying spirit of the past living among us.  

Saturday, July 12, 2014

I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW: The Wisdom of a Memoir

To see future and to learn from it may not be a practical choice. But for an individual, who would like to participate in the dance of consciousness to attain the elevated state of Higher Consciousness learning is unavoidable as well. How then can be see clearly, what every moment that transpires in our small lives mean?

I Can See Clearly Now does precisely that. This book tells us how.

In his latest bestselling book on higher living, self-reliance and self-development, I Can See Clearly Now, Dr. Wayne W. Dyer ushers one into an arena of lessons he garnered through his life. I Can See Clearly Now is a memoir that narrates how a young Wayne in his formative years and the years to come in his journey of being a master of new thought, contemporary metaphysics, and self-development faced many challenges without knowing they were all part of the mission he was assigned to on his earthly incarnation. In this sense, I Can See Clearly Now is also a confession from Dr. Dyer about his ignorance of a future in which he was meant to be a teacher for millions of people, who changes their lives through his ideas and writings and speeches.
Image Courtesy: Dr. Dyer

In I Can See Clearly Now, Dr. Dyer attempts to stand out of the circle of his life and observe it clearly by taking a detached look. An appendage follows each chapter narrative a certain crucial event in his life, in which he analyzes how with clarity that now he can understand the purpose of each positive experience as well as negative in his early life. However, one might also wonder, while reading I Can See Clearly Now, if the author had known beforehand all the principles and virtues he would be a channel for, later, in his teaching life. Such is the evocative picture of the young Wayne he draws in this book. Even as a young boy, Dr. Dyer seems to possess, in this narrative, the depth of awareness that is to pour forth from him, for others, at a later stage. Even as a young boy Wayne was kind, benevolent, and mindful of helping others and unbending in front of brute force or silly rules that is part of the idiosyncrasies of school life, like collecting leaves for Biology class.

I Can See Clearly Now stands as a proof of personal transformation the master of self-transformation himself has undergone throughout his life. As a young child, Wayne had a wrathful disposition towards his father’s memories and even in his dreams, he had furious arguments with the man, who was a serious threat through his unruly behavior to his mother and many other women, who he married later. The man had serious alcoholism and engaged in stealing money. However, Dr. Dyer, declares from the elevated perspective he owns now, how clearly it appears to him that the reason his father deserted his family and especially him, was to help him grow self-dependent. “Perhaps my father agreed to come into this world from the world of Spirit and live with his own life in such a way that it would require his youngest son to learn how to live a life of self-reliance as a toddler, a teenager, and then a young adult.” (47)
Image Courtesy: Google

With each chapter, the appendage titled “I Can See Clearly Now” urges the readers to cogitate the events that appeared at each stage in his life to devour the peace and harmony of his life, but at a later stage became foundations of his grand ideas and practical tests supporting spiritual truths.

My first encounter with Dr. Dyer was when I came across his book You’ll See It When You Believe It. I felt at home with Dr. Dyer’s concepts and they showed me what I so eagerly was awaiting, a path of self-conviction and learning. Along with new things to learn from without, there is more clear-sightedness hidden within us that we should unlock. We are not just physical beings, on the contrary, “spiritual beings having a human experience”, You’ll See It When You Believe It taught me. Each time I came across a book or concept taught by Dr. Dyer, my life has taken decisive turns towards the direction that was meant to be my mission during this lifetime.

Needless to say, I feel connected to Dr. Dyer like a student with his teacher. I consider him my teacher and feel that our encounter was not just a chance encounter or accident, but a predestined one. Without You’ll See It When You Believe It I would not have known his teaching, and without the realizations I gathered through his writings, I would not have been able to live out my dream to be a writer to the fullest extent. My writing has taken crucially beneficial turns after reading Dr. Dyers messages. Although a storyteller, I am now moving on to non-fiction as well, through personal essays, like the one you are currently reading. However, the most important message I deciphered from Dr. Dyer was not a truth residing outside of me. The greatest lesson I had from Dr. Dyers book You’ll See It When You Believe It was the conviction that what I had been thinking about myself and about others around me, about life and death, about being alive and being a writer, were reasonable, logical and not insanity. What I had in my mind as a spark of creative thinking about ‘my ways’, the ways in which I would love to lead my life, weren’t mere fantasies of my young immature mind. I learnt this crucial lesson and that was the second time it happened in my life. First time, it was when I read The Fifth Mountain by Paulo Coelho.

The Fifth Mountain lit a fire in my mind that was going through a confused darkness. I was at a juncture where making a certain choice was inevitable. However, I was tottering on my trust on the ability to make any choices. I was afraid of making mistakes. While reading I Can See Clearly Now I am taken back to those days of confusion and apparent relief and solace I received after reading Paulo Coelho’s great book. Elijah, the prophet, a man of God, a “God-realized being”, to use Dr. Dyer’s terminology, was facing challenges similar to those any ordinary mortal might. This thought hooked me. I realized, for the first time, that the thoughts on ‘fulfilling a dream’ or even having one, isn’t totally nonsensical, as many others had already advised me.

“Being a winner” isn’t always necessary. I could just live out my destiny and travel the path the universe has chosen for me, and follow my dream, without shame. I realized.
Image Courtesy: Author Anu Lal

I used to remind myself during those days of enlightenment that I have to work ‘double’ hard. I was in college, doing my graduation. Whenever I felt down or lacking in enthusiasm and energy, I would remind myself of this: I have a dream, which is not the same as anyone else’s; they might not be working as hard as I do, but I have to do it my way. And my way meant, pushing myself as hard as possible and making the impossible happen.

Today, after nine years, I have three books to my credit. I believe this was my first step in fulfilling a higher mission. This awareness makes me feel that I have surely done what was meant as my mission and I am at the right place, in time. This awareness fills me with gratitude and peace.   

Life has its own way of teaching us. I Can See Clearly Now is Dr. Wayne W. Dyer’s way of telling the world about his “quantum moments” that helped him be what he is. Combining autobiography with metaphysical cogitation Dr. Dyer spiritualizes every important turn in his life, and urges the readers to see clearly this same is happening in your lives too, only that you, at present are away from your vantage point. Once you reach a position from where you can look back and comprehend the greater meaning in every event that transpired in your life, you will see clearly, how each failure and each success had their own ways to pave way to bring you closer, with each step, to who you truly are.       

Browse through Dr. Wayne W. Dyer’s books HERE                            

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Thugs and a Courtesan: A Review

This relatively short novel is on the life of a thug named Firangia and his extramarital affair with a Maratha princess named Chanda Bai. Author Mukta Singh-Zocchi’s narrative style is folklore-type and the story is woven with a historical background that of the Maratha prime minister, Balaji Baji Rao II’s exile imposed by the British.

In Chanda Bai, one can see the semblance of a patriotic warrior, who on the face of a foreign invasion attempts to save her motherland. The folktale-style narration keeps the story together even though the rituals and events in the story seem a bit absurd to the fanatics of ‘written’ history. However, with the background of historical events, The Thugs and a Courtesan stands out among other Indian writings in English in our time in its ambition and impact.
 
Mukta Singh-Zocchi
Mukta Singh-Zocchi is born in Ithaca, New York and raised in New Delhi. The Thugs and a Courtesan is her first novel. The story begins as the narrator Zalim Singh raises the curtain to a series of curious events, people and locations. Zalim Singh himself belongs to the clan of thugs, who at a time long ago ruled the wooden landscapes and lonely trade routes in Northern India. They looted the travelers and lived on the plunder.

In the novel, however, thugs aren’t mere robbers. The Thugs and a Courtesan is crucial in terms of how the protagonist is portrayed. He is not the all-good, kind and benevolent single hero who falls in love with the love of his life. Instead, the protagonist is a cruel, merciless thug, who does not hesitate to execute his prey in the name of the goddess Kali, the pagan goddess of violence and death. The Thugs and a Courtesan questions several norms of morality using its subtle narration and plot. One might read questions of moral urgency such as ‘why is killing unacceptable?’ and ‘why cannot a man take more than one woman as wives?’ while reading between the lines as being asked by the novel.

Image Courtesy: Google
Chanda Bai represents the spirit of nationality and also the quest for power and ambition. Firangia is involved in the mission of his life that is to put to an unhesitant death whoever he or his gang of thugs come across. Killing seems to be the only motif the band of thugs is born to perform. And in the stage of the novel, this motif seems to fit not so naturally either. The lacking logic behind all the strangling and murders are explained away as the mindless and immoral commitment to Kali, the death goddess. In this sense, the apprehension that Mukta Sing-Zocchi’s novel brings back India from the textbooks of the age-old orientalists, who were dedicated to prove that India is a land of snake charmers and magicians cannot be dismissed.        

For those who are interested in an Indian English fiction with a folklore touch to its narration, The Thugs and a Courtesan would be satisfying. Mukta Sing-Zocchi has succeeded in bringing tension and emotional conflict even through the haze and matrix of life and times in the pre-independent India. Published by Srishti Publishers and Distributors, The Thugs and a Courtesan has a beautiful cover art too. Sometimes, covers do speak the truth.

Monday, July 7, 2014

NEW THOUGHT AND A NEW HORIZON

An excerpt from UNCLASSIFIED INTELLIGENCE
Creating something new is like cleaning a well. Each time you go down, one is sure to come up with something new. Sometimes, this might be something gruesome, sometimes curious, and occasionally pleasant. However, each time, the excitement is renewed. We experience the joy of discovery.

I have not known a single individual, who could not experience this sense of wonder about the things that he or she faces when one becomes active in creation. Of course, you got me, I am about to suggest, creation is Divine. I have no doubt about that whatsoever.

The same excitement was coursing through my mind when I started a blog, about six years back in Google blogger, which still is a free and easy-to-use service. “The Indian Commentator”—I named my blog. It has become a part of my life. I have written hundreds of posts for my blog, through these years and thousands of people from all over the planet visit my blog, each week.

It has become a part of my life.

All I wanted to achieve over the years was to write well and good stuff. The contents of my blog range from film reviews to book reviews, social criticism to academic sarcasm and humour.

By this time, you must have understood that I am shooting the bull around without reaching anywhere specific. You are right, my friend. I am unsure of how to tell you this. This is such a wonderful thought.

I was sitting at my home, after lunch on a hazy Sunday noontime. And this thought crossed my mind.

It is also true that I was thinking along this line for some time, but all those thoughts were mere thoughts and I did not have any idea how to make it practical.

A Kindle version of The Indian Commentator.  [Download it FREE]

My dear friend, creating something new is like cleaning a well. You are going deep down in your mind to pick up the residues and other exclusive gems hidden there. Our mind is a reflection of what the universe is made of. An intelligent design has an active hand in creating and maintaining the cosmic happenings. The intelligence that we observe in the cosmos is unclassified, open.

The source of intelligence might be hidden, but cosmic intelligence is open to all. It cares for all, irrespective of race, gender, nationality and any other bias.

As a writer, I always attempt to tap into the creative intelligence that creates and controls the cosmos and learn from it. How could I or anyone else achieve that state?

“Treat others the same way you want them to treat you” __Luke 6:31, NASB   

You have your answer within this statement. First thing to note, would of course be the sentiment of this sentence. It doesn’t show any religious empathy. This statement purely emphasises the presumed conduct of a seeker of truth. If you are a seeker of truth, the answer is in that statement, open and free for your contemplation.
 
If you replace the word meaning of ‘others’ with cosmos, rather than within a strict social context, you will read the sentence like this. You will see the Unclassified Intelligence right in front of you.

“Treat cosmos the same way you want cosmos to treat you.”

If you expect unclassified intelligence from the cosmos, be open yourself, first. If you open your mind, the wisdom lying at the bottom of you spiritual consciousness, bring it forth, and you will see the cosmos doing the same. You will see the cosmic intelligence going unclassified, for you and for all. This is the path of a writer.

Read More...Free download UNCLASSIFIED INTELLIGENCE here
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Friday, July 4, 2014

DON’T THINK I AM AN APP!

Whenever asked what I wanted to become when I grew up, I had a firm little girl answer: “Veterinarian.” It was quite an influential treat to be seated like royalty atop a gorgeous animal every time my dad took us along to his research trips to horse breeding compounds. In elementary school, I fell out of love with my father’s profession as soon as I met my beautiful first grade teacher with the bluest blue eyes and a smile almost as sunny as my mom’s. I knew then: I wanted to become a teacher. While in high school, I tutored the children of several family friends and acquaintances on various school subjects. Long before my graduation from college, my wish had become a set passion. 

Much time has passed since the world saw that fresh graduate with her never-ending enthusiasm for teaching. Thirty-seven years to be exact. Also, much has changed in higher education – my profession, that is. Significant modifications of teaching techniques and methods took place along with field-specific curricular developments. Nothing unexpected, nor anything I will get into. The dramatic transformation of students’ approach to learning is, rather, a concern to me, as I am still alive in this arena (“approach” in the singular form is no typing error).

During my many related eager readings, “Rethinking the Way College Students Are Taught,” an American RadioWorks Tomorrow’s College Series article by Emily Hanford had my full attention at first. The more I read, the more I realized though there wasn’t going to be any “Eureka!” moment in me. For I had been relying on the same insights I had attained on my own for decades already: don’t lecture, involve students in their own learning process as active participants and adopt technology in class. What has, however, been happening at least for the last decade in my classrooms (and those of my colleagues – good friends with whom I commiserate on this matter often enough)? A competition of the oddest nature for the students’ attention: namely, one between their electronic extensions and the instructor – who by birth is not connected to a high-speed Internet service.

Let us consider a typical scene at the onset of a class session in the way Hanford describes in her article and has my complete agreement: students are sleepy, chatty, laughing and finding their seats; or they have found their seats and are sleepy, chatty and laughing. The class begins with a “shh,” she notes. In my realities of close to the first thirty years in my career, students’ chattiness, laughter and search for their chairs didn’t meet a “shh” from me. On the contrary, such behaviors used to give me assurance, for an actual engagement was transpiring between them and their immediate environment. One such conclusion, however, is a dire mistake for today’s circumstances that go back about twelve years, around the time when my students have been born into and lived in an electronically charged and charging life setting. The dilemma, therefore, is not to quiet them but rather having to instill interest in them for their own higher education to the point of outlasting their iPhones, iPads, laptops, iPods, etc. – an unattainable body snatching procedure for any college instructor. To what extent, then, learning takes place under such unrealistic expectations is the open-ended question here. Whether they are quiet or talking during the process, in other words, does not matter.
 
Baby with a frown

No course material or presentation style a college instructor is capable of delivering can come to the 21st century students as fast, as colorful, as illustrious and as etc. as the information flood in which they have been swimming right after their birth and continue to pass by at all times. The period between their walking year and attending a higher education institution seems to happen at warp speed. At the time they are in a college class, they still are – only for this informal commentary’s sake – babies together with whom I (or any other instructor) must work to contribute to their educational gain. Their babyhood, however, is nothing ordinary: they need and expect to be fed in the exact manner that technology has been offering them for long already. Regardless of the curricular objective, their expectation mostly equals a command: “Give me (relevant or not) data now but make it fast, appealing in color, shape and sound and free to download!” Hence, my choice of the two opposing pictures to help you visualize what I get to see in any given class session anymore: a baby with a frown – above (“Why isn’t this a high-speed connection?”) and as snug a baby as anyone can be – below (“Ahh! Great Internet service!”)  
 
Happy baby

“DON’T LECTURE ME!” is, after all, a valid plea by today’s students, as the article for my commentary’s inspiration stresses. My dilemma as a seasoned teacher still remains undefeatable, though: I am not an App; nor will I ever be one. What I am about in the pyramid called higher education constitutes merely to much accumulated knowledge in the field, some wisdom for life, numerous teaching methodologies to better suit my different learners’ styles and habits, countless innovative, creative and effective teaching insights and techniques. I guess I could also add my unwavering commitment and painstaking dedication to my profession – to the extent that my personal life stayed, until now, in the background. Oh, not to forget: my love for teaching and how I thrive from my daily interactions with my students. Besides, I so greatly miss those admiring eyes I used to find on my students’ faces whenever I introduced them to solid chunks of field-specific or outside information toward their well-rounded education. Without googling any of them.

Alas! The Apps on their seemingly truest companions are now the privileged ones to get their awed attention…

Confucius is said to have asserted the following once:

            Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

Had Confucius also had teaching in mind? I don’t know. I certainly did and do. Because every semester yet, I enter my first class with my by now notoriously known enthusiasm; to then survey the room to locate in my students eyes or demeanors that long-lost special glow, that succinct hint of excitement toward learning from their real-life teacher. Not much of any of it in sight…But I still refuse to consider that I am doing “a job” and therefore I am torn between two reactions of my own. Whether to make a counter plea to my students to say: DON’T THINK I AM AN APP! Or, to reveal perhaps an all-inclusive instructor’s wish of ultimate secrecy: IF ONLY I WERE AN APP!

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Author’s Biography:
 
Dr. hülya n yılmaz
Dr. hülya n yılmaz is a published author, a freelance editor and a Liberal Arts college professor with an extensive teaching career. Her debut non-academic work, Trance, a collection of poems in English, German and Turkish has been published on December 12, 2013 by Inner Child Press, Ltd. together with her own English translations of her foreign-language poetry. She maintains a weekly blog of poetic, fiction and non-fiction writings as well as her own literary translations. hülya recently launched her Services for the Professional Writer, a freelance writing and editing business. With this article, Dr. yılmaz invites attention to the dilemma in Higher Education in the US today on account of the irreversible impact of electronic developments on 21st century college students. Instead of merely diagnosing the problem today’s student generation’s have with their attention spans, she is stressing the significant role university instructors and teachers alike must assume now in order to meet the unique needs and wants of their pupils.  

Contact Information:




E-Mail – editorphd.hulyanyilmaz@gmail.com

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