“In every community there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal.”
Our communities, the ecosystems of our society, the summation of individuals is often confronted with major challenges, and no communal struggle can be measured and compared; Norwich is no different from New York City. Essentially, the differences between the two are countless, yet there is one particular similarity regarding community sustainability worth looking at. Walking through both cities it is hard to miss the sight of kids/teenagers ages 13-17 roaming the streets, gathering in corners and ‘disturbing the community’ (it would be unreasonable to assume every group of kids, usually boys, is out to cause trouble, but I am referencing a particular segment of the population who clearly is). As I walked to meet with my mentee I came across this group of kids in Norwich, and as an aspiring educator my first thought was: “why are they not in school right now?”That day, my mentee and I had one of the most profound conversations, afterall, we both found ourselves bound by a common issue within our individual communities (across the world): “little gangsters.”
We both agreed that every community, regardless of its geographical placement, is injured by social diseases, which more than often includes child poverty— leading to violence and crime. My mentee, shared some of his own experiential knowledge with me regarding these kids. He claims that there is a particular group of them who sell drugs for an older (possibly adult) guy, afterall, the police would never stop a 13 year old for selling drugs. He claims they work with a “wanna-be gangster mentality,” meaning they are attempting to become the future leaders of gangs, the ‘kings’ of the drug industry: the next statistic of “ethnic minorities” who fail the system. Yet according to the news, crime rates are continuing to drop in the city of Norwich.
According to Ben Kendall, in his article titled “Big fall in Norwich crime rates,” from the Norwich Evening News “Almost 2,000 fewer crimes were committed in Norwich during the past year as police recorded significant reductions in burglaries, violent offences and anti-social behaviour.” The Latest figures show that during the last three months:
~Burglaries fell by 12.5% compared to the last period last year.
~Violent crime fell by 14.6% across Norwich and by more than 30pc in city centre areas including Prince of Wales Road.
~Robberies fell by 19%, vehicle crime by 4% and anti-social behaviour by 19%.
Norwich’s poorest areas are experiencing what is left of crime, as city officials claim to be having a solid impact on the recent decrease, there is still a wound too deep to ignore and not easy enough to heal. My mentee suggests, just how there are multiple programs instituted in order to aid refugees and asylum seekers both integrate and progress in British society and most especifically in the city of Norwich, there needs to be an increase int he number of organizations triggering the “little gangsters” populations. Although there is somewhat of an overlapping between the population of refugees and that of kids on the streets, the target needs to be set clear in oder to help all kids to stay away from drugs, crime and violence.
Joining together as individual parts of a community we can work together to heal the wounds that inflict the future welfare of everyone who is a part of it; my mentee understands this. As a part of the Norwich community he assures me he has and will continue to act as a part of the movement for change, ‘getting kids off the streets is going to be hard’ he says, but in response I suggest “no one said it would be easy.” (My mentee claims our program director, as well as the kid’s parents would never believe it if they knew what their children are doing on the streets, so he is fixed on not telling; I disagreed, but he has asked me to keep to not tell).
“What are the chances?!” I continued to question, as I watched my mentee strip, shout, drink and dance (as if no one was watching) at Club Mercy last Thursday night. What were the chances of him and I bumping into each other at the club?! I guess I had forgotten how small Norwich really is… afterall, there are only but so many night clubs in the city center. Fortunately, we both maintained our distance, it was already awkward enough to see him outside of our formal meeting environments— especially when he was obviously intoxicated! In my attempt to set a good example, I refused to buy any drinks for myself, and even though we are close in age I felt a sense of motherly responsibility to address his behavior during our next meeting.
When we met the following week he insisted on starting our convo by discussing Thursday’s encounter; I conquered. Bekre claimed he wished we would have danced together, but I disagreed in response, tried to explain to him why I thought that was inappropriate but he insisted: “It’s just dancing!” But it isn’t just dancing when I have been trained to be someone he must respect, someone he can easily speak to and rely on, someone he can look up. It isn’t just dancing to me when he was clearly drunk— the chances of him crossing the line were high in my mind. A part of me felt like I was taking my role too seriously at this moment… I’m not too sure. But I believe there is a line that must be emphasized in any formal relationship. I think in the end he understood where I was coming from.
This encounter/discussion brought me to understand the some of the cultural differences between my mentee and I, as well as the ways in which he has been influenced by English culture in his nine months of residency in the UK. As we (Dickinson Humanities) have all learned over the past seven months, there are countless differences and similarities between English and American culture; as there between English and Ethiopian culture (where Bekre is from). Regardless of our known distinctive cultural upbringings/characteristics, we come together every week to share experiences, to support one another, to engage in intellectual conversations and motivational chats; NOT to boogie dance! Besides, what are the chances of bumping into him at the club again!?!
My mentee refers to life as an exam which we must prepare for in order to pass; these are the words he leaves me with as we walk away from one another after our weekly meeting. Bekre, is a young inspiring individual, a refugee from Ethiopia and an aspiring intellectual.
Since last term, Bekre and I have been meeting up at the Forum once a week, our usual routine includes a cappuccino, four sugars and an hour and a half of ‘life-talk.’ We start of by summing up the week, that usually gives us enough to ramble about for quite some time. As he speaks of his adventures, I take mental notes and ask away in regards to particular details. During my mentor training at New Routes Mentoring Center, I learned about the different ways in which we can ask questions in order to expand/sustain a conversation, so I put my skills to practice with him. The first time we met, I remember being way too conscious of the questions I was taught, robotically, in fear of awkwardness or unnecessary moments of silence, I kept asking him questions. I wanted him to find a friend in my voice and comfort in my words. After our first meeting, comfort was the least of my concerns, I’m sure he would agree that ‘we were off to a great start!’
New Routes’ motto states: “Finding ways to achieve together,” and as my relationship with Bekre has progressed, this is exactly what my weekly meetings have been about. Every week we think of a new goal, something he would like to accomplish by the next time we meet; sometimes he makes me tell him my own goals for the week. We later converse about our goals, what took to achieve it and how we overcame any challenges. Even though, we have been learning from each other, sometimes I find myself contemplating the things I want him to learn, since week after week he seems to be the teacher of me (as opposed to vise versa). He has made me aware of the personal struggles he has endured as an Ethiopian refugee in the UK, opening my eyes to a subject I had no previous knowledge of before coming here. He faces obstacles common to refuges and asylum seekers in Norwich, and also problems affecting thousands around the world.
According to our Mentoring Project Training Manual, which seeks “To challenge some common myths through giving some facts, and encouraging participants to reflect on the reality of being an asylum seeker/refugee,” the U.K. receives numerous annual applications for asylum seeker/refugee status. As defined by the manual, an asylum seeker is someone who has left his/her country, is asking for another country’s protection and wants to await refugee status recognition in the country of application. With this said, a refugee is not the same as a “migrant worker” (someone who fleeds to another country in search of work), which is one of the myths associated with asylum seekers. However, a refugee can seek work, unlike asylum seekers who receive a weekly stipend of roughly £35.18 (single adult, over 18) (National Asylum Support Service; 2009). During the long training process we were told many statistics, watched a video and had long discussions on the current economic, social and political status of refugees in Norwich, yet this only touched the surface.
This semester, I am choosing to write my term research paper on the challenges facing refugees and asylum seekers in the city of Norwich. I am eager to learn, so that I can share with Bekre the history of people, who like him, came to the UK in search of shelter. He has taught me so much already and I want to teach him something he will always remember— in this world, we are never alone, and if we are then, we are together in that too.
I had the chance to attend the Feminist Literature tour in which I not only learned about women writers who resided in the Bloomsbury area, but also on how spaces affect who we are and everything that we do. I am intrigued with this notion. Recently I posted a blog on space, specifically focused on sacred/holy spaces, in this blog I will look back and focus on a few others others.
Green Green GREEN
Spaces of recreation, golden flowers and perfectly trimmed grass is what I think of. It is impressive to me how well kept they are. When we visited Regent’s Park during class for the first time, I was at a loss of words, for I had never in my life seen a space so beautiful. William Blake captures this beauty in his poem titled “The Lily:”
The modest Rose puts forth a thorn,
The humble sheep a threat’ning horn:
While the Lily white shall in love delight,
Nor a thorn nor a threat stain her beauty bright.
Regent’s Park could not be touched, human hands could never be gently enough to handle a flower’s delicate body. So untouchable, the flowers arranged almost to perfection. Ralph Waldo Emmerson once said that “Earth laughs in flowers,” and I believe him.
Hyde Park, almost as magical, but words cannot capture the immensity of this park. The amount of green that surrounds you at any given moment is difficult to describe. This park in particular serves as more than just a space for recreation, it is also a place where history is preserved, where various neighborhoods unite and where kids grow up to later bring their own kids to play at Kensington Gardens or near the lake. Green Park, a sort of gateway to Buckingham Palace (if you get off at the Green Park Tube station), can never be compared to Hyde Park for it lacks in immensity. Even though the deck chairs are a nice touch to the park, the area I visited lacked some color (as in floral color); I was not impressed. (Buckingham Palace itself was not very impressive. I was surprise to discover that it actually isn’t an enormous, glorious and royal-looking mansion… I guess it’s a good thing that it isn’t after all!)
Let’s start the show!!!
Sometimes walking in for the first time takes my breath away, and sometimes the shows blows my mind, other times the idea of sitting there makes me wonder… wow. The three different halls of at the National Theatre, The Globe, Duke of York’s, the Phoenix and last but not least Royal Albert Hall! So here’s the list: “Troilus and Cressida,” “Arcadia,” “All’s Well That Ends Well,” “As You Like It,” “Pitmen Painters” and the not-so awesome musical “Blood Brothers,” oh and the amazing violin concerto at the Royal Albert. In London, I am never too far from New York City’s Broadway experience! The difference, the London experience always feels fulfilling no matter how horrible the play was. This is probably because Broadway shows are not exactly affordable, and while the National Theatre insists on having a wide range of prices (so that everyone can enjoy the theatre), Broadway just seeks revenue and to maintain it’s current status and popularity. I mean, to have Rick Fisher (who by the way is a Dickinson alum), winner of of a Tonny award, come to speak to us about his thoughts and experiences with London’s theatre scene, that within itself was enough to top all of the Broadway shows I have seen in my life! I <3 the London theatre experience!
Intricate architecture, imagination, creativity and grace is what comes to mind when I think of churches. I’ve written a blog about them but I wanted to look back at a few of them. Westminster, ridiculously sacred, marvelous, immense and glorious. The same can be said about St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Hindu Temple we visited. At Brixton (where I directed a tour along with my teammates), I learned that religious spaces play a huge role in the community, one that extends beyond any religious affiliations. One specific church we visited during our research, Corpus Christi Roman Catholic church was involved in the reconstruction of the Brixton area after the Brixton riots, when parts of the neighborhood where damaged/destroyed due to violent protests. It always brings joy to my heart when people come together to help each other, regardless of any religious/cultural boundaries.
Clubs NOT Pubs
Ooooh pubs…. I’ve heard that you can see London’s history evolve in these spaces, and although they are known as spaces of leisure and social interaction their walls can tell unknown stories of both know and unknown visitors. I am always intrigued by pubs, so intrigued I am intimidated by them. I now that sounds a little ridiculous but in pubs I feel pressured to consume alcohol (after all that is the main purpose of a pub: to provide alcoholic beverages) and to maintain conversation when really all I want to do is dance to the awesome music playing in the background. Rebbeca (who along with 4 others constructed a tour of London’s historic pubs) has attempted to both enlighten me as well as persuade me to engage in pub culture, but I have yet to fully explore the wonderful world of London’s historic pubs.
Clubs, on the other hand, I’ve also had a difficult time with. I’ve realized that there isn’t much dancing that goes on, but rather an attempt to dance, which actually means jumping around to Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance” (pop/techno song). Over all, I have enjoyed late hip hop nights at Metra (dance club a few street corners off the Leichester Square tube stop) only because I have shared that space with amazing people who can turn any floor into a dance floor. (Thanks Anthony, Jeyla and Patsy!)
Spaces, our everyday living takes place within them, whether they are churches, clubs, parks or theaters. We lack to realize their importance, we never stop to think of how a room may affect how we feel about ourselves and about the rest of society. A room can change our lives, like the reading room at the British Museum that the feminist writers group spoke of on their tour. This room clearly changed Virginia’s Wolf literature, among other authors, I’m sure.
Note to self: Whether this room is physical or mental, it is important. We must take more time to appreciate a rooms ability to change the way we exist in our own individual worlds.
This past Week we had the privilege to visit Barclays Wealth Management, the Royal Albert Hall as well as the Globe and the National Theatre (both on the same day). I am an American Studies major, therefore the fields of business, economics and “wealth” are, unfortunately, of no interest to me, yet something about Barclay’s sparked my interest in more than just the economics of wealth.
We sat through an intricate presentation titled “The City of London and the Banking Sector,” from which I learned the following:
-The City of London and Canary Wharf are London’s financial center
-London is the main European banking center and hosts the largest international insurance market as well as the largest foreign exchange market
-There was a credit crash in 2006 which caused a major job loss and the downhill slope of the stock exchange
-Barclays Bank is located in 60 different countries, 140,000 employees
-The company manages the wealth of people who own a “fair amount of assets,” “fair”=”wealthy”= £1,000,000
-The GDP in the world’s major economies dropped to the negatives by 2009, and are expected o rise in 2010
-UK’s average salary is £28,000 a year
-Most wealth still resides in the US but Asia currently houses the fastest growing economies in the world; Barclays seeks to expand to Asia
Oh and last but not least, the workers of Barclays Wealth Management are given two days of the year to go and do community work at an assigned institution.
After their very interesting presentation, I approached one of the employees and asked him to tell me a little bit more about the type of philanthropy they are engaged in, he was excited to explain. He stated that there is a philanthropy department of the company who is in charge of helping wealthy people decide where to put their money, in other words which charities are more logical to donate to. I did not take this idea very well, but what can I do, I guess at least they’re pretending to care about the community. Evidently, based on their presentation, all that they really care about is making money. I am glad to be embarking on a path extremely distant from the business world.
All of this money talk and then “As You Like it,” a play of comedy and love the next day, “Pitmen Painters” later in the afternoon. To be capable of attending two plays in one day after a presentation about wealth management makes me feel extremely privileged. I just had a moment where I realized how lucky we are to be in our very own shoes. Dickinson (and all affiliated donors and organizations) has truly blessed us with the gift to see and experience a world not so different from our own, yet filled with new adventures to seek.
Summary: Braclay’s Wealth Management cares about making profit and I care about plays that both inspire and entertain the soul.
For the past few weeks we have been bombarded by tours, museums, tube maps, and sightseeing. We have been living the life of the London tourist. However, just last night, for the first time during our trip here, Anthony, Flow, Jeyla, Audrey, Rebecca, and I got a chance to play tour guides to fellow Dickinson students Gina, Luis, and Leslie on layover on their way to study in Malaga. Having been on many Karl-Qualls-Tours, the six of us were fully capable of navigating the city and hitting all the major tourist attractions in the four hours our friends had before they needed to get back to the airport. We took them to the South Bank, Big Ben, Parliament, the Roman Wall/Tower of London, the London Bridge, Tower Bridge, the Millennium Bridge, and St. Paul’s.
But having already seen these sites, and been in London now for about three weeks, another tour didn’t seem that exciting to me. I went along just to be with my friends, but ultimately I learned something about myself along the way, and it has to do with IDENTITY: I’m now a Londoner. Leading the way, knowing the tube routes, does that make me a Londoner? Knowing the history, the significance of each spot, does that makes me a Londoner? Or was it feeling so jaded the past few days that the thought of more sightseeing made me a little sick? I think it was a combination of both. But seeing the look in Leslie, Luis, and Gina’s faces, the excitement they felt at seeing Big Ben for the first time, made me realize that now, we members of Humanities 309 are no longer tourists, but rather Londoners. And it is not because of any reason other than our ability to give that moment of awe to a group of our friends. -Megan
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On Sunday night three members of my posse Leslie, Gina and Luis flew into Europe. For the academic year they will be studying abroad in Spain however their layover for a night was in London. A couple of students decided that it would be great idea to take them out and see our new home, London. Granted they would only be here for a night so we decided to cram in our best London Tour in the span of literally 5 hours.
Jeyla and I wasted no time, and rushed on the tube towards Heathrow airport. Our tube cards only go up to zone 3 on the tube, and whenever Jeyla and I passed the boundaries of a new zone we felt petrified that we were venturing out too far. However we got to the airport safely, picked them up, and quickly returned to the hotel. As soon as we arrived they visited some other Dickinson friends of theirs, ate, and we headed out on the town.
Now when I say that London is a beautiful city at night, I am not giving it enough credit. It was definitely a night to remember, in that we saw, what we as “Londoners” thought were the most important tourist attractions in such a short time span. We walked bridges, greeted Big Ben, climbed statues, took pictures, walked skate parks, saw bridges rise and fall, and of course had an amazing time with great friends. I felt so blessed that I was able to take my friends out in the city that I have grown to love, and even more amazing, that I knew my way around. The time spent that night is one I will cherish forever. Next adventure will definitely be in Spain!!!! See you then. -Anthony
* * *
Arrival Time 3:00 pm Sunday
Last Sunday we got a visit from three of our Dickinson friends, who on their way to study abroad in Malaga, stopped by to get a taste of London! Luckily, we had the day off on Monday, so Audrey, Megan, Jeyla, Rebecca, Anthony and myself decided to show Gina, Leslie and Luis everything that we have seen in the past two weeks. Interesting enough, we all had the opportunity to see something we had never before witnessed. For instance, Tower Bridge was raised, gracefully, to allow a ship to continue to make its way down the Thames. It all happened in a matter of about fifteen, maybe twenty minutes, but it was my first time seen a bridge being raised, and it was Tower Bridge for that matter! It was a magic moment.
(Video of Tower Bridge rising coming soon)
We walked along the Thames, from the National Theatre to the London Eye to Big Ben to the Tower of London, across Tower Bridge and over the Millennium Bridge towards St.Paul’s. We spoke of everything we knew about, taking the time to explain to them (the “new tourists”) why St.Paul’s was so special and why London Bridge isn’t as cool as Tower Bridge, and to answer their questions on what is Westminster Abbey so important or what is inside the Tower of London… among many, many others. I definitely took some time to show off my knowledge of Nelson Mandela, as we made a quick stop at his statue located near Westminster Abbey. It was a night full of fun, recollection of knowledge and moments that will always be unforgettable.
This night will be remembered as the time when we all felt like true Londoners! The night when “Professor Qualls [(or Quallzie, as Jeyla calls him)] would be proud!,” the night when I described the system of Apartheid as a system where “whites segregated that shit to the T!”
Departure Time 2:00 am Monday
* * *
I’m normally pretty good with directions, but for some reason during our stay in London I have managed to disrupt that pattern in some pretty fantastic ways. My group has had to run for a good 20 minutes because of my decision to take the wrong tube line when we could have just walked to our destination in 10 minutes in the first place. I led a friend on a two-hour walk trying to find the hotel that was only two blocks away. Oopsies. But when a few friends stopped in on their way to Malaga, my sense of direction seemed to be right on. They were incredibly jet-lagged so taking any additional steps than those that were necessary was not even an option if we wanted everyone to be happy by the end of the visit. To get from the Tower of London area to St. Paul’s Cathedral isn’t necessarily that difficult, but the way my luck has been going I was nervous about how we would get from point A to point B without stopping at any tube or bus station. Thank goodness for our walking tours. Just when I was getting nervous about where we were, I looked up and saw a pirate ship on the sidewalk. Normally, such a site might throw me for a loop, but in this situation it was a sign that said ‘don’t worry, everything is working out’.
It was at the pirate ship that I realized that London has become more than just a big city with a confusing street lay out. This bridge connects to this theater which is caddycorner to that cathedral. It’s not a home for me yet and I’m not sure that it will be any time soon. But it’s not a place in which I feel completely out of place anymore. I am familiar with some of its alleys, I have a good-ish grasp of which tube stops are on which line, and I know which areas of London have which personalities. The pirate ship is in quirky Southwark and not in the swanky West End. It’s also something that can help a group of Dickinson students around London on a fun night of exploration. I only wish that I was more at home in the city that I could have climbed aboard and said Argh. Another time. -Audrey
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Seeing Big Ben lit up at night, running across the streets, crossing the Millennium Bridge, witnessing the Tower Bridge being lifted. This was all experienced in one night when my three good friends from Dickinson had their 15 hour lay-over in London’s Heathrow Airport before going on their way to Malaga, Spain for their study abroad program. The adventure began when Anthony and myself decided to pick our friends up in the Zone Six area of London which is farther than one would expect to be from our “regular” Zone Three expeditions. It was fairly easy to get to the airport on the Picadilly line on the tube and we were pleasantly surprised to see out friends hanging out at the arrival gate. As we made our way back to the Arran Hotel we explained to them what we have seen so far of London and of course they have seen our facebook photo albums to go along with our stories. Arriving at the Hotel, Anthony, Flosha, Megan, Audrey, Rebecca and myself decided that we wanted to show Leslie, Gina and Luis the “real London” which meant a lot of walking in the few hours that they have had left to spend in England. It has been a great experience to have spent a month exploring London with my fellow Dickinson class mates, some whom I knew while attending Dickinson and some whom I got to know better by living in the Arran Hotel. However, a whole new appreciation came upon me when three of my friends, whom I have known for almost three years, were able to explore London with me. As we made our way to Embankment stop, we made sure to show them Big Ben peaking through the bridges, the Westminster Abbey, the statue of Nelson Mandela, the Tower Bridge, the Globe, London Bridge, and of course the magnificent Saint Paul’s. We ended the night by taking a ride in the legendary London double decker bus. I can just imagine how exciting it must be to be able to see another European country before heading to their destination of Spain. Their arrival to London also made me realize how easy it is to travel across Europe, and seeing London full of lights gave the city a romantic notion for me instead of the historical side that I am used to.
I am so happy that we were able to not be tourists for a night and show someone else around this beautiful city. Quallzie would be proud! –Jeyla
Jack Sturges (American author and photographer) once said that “The world is shrinking as we see more and more of it in the media, and the more we see of the world, the smaller we are, the more aware we are of how insignificant any one of us is.” This is how I felt today at The Sir John Soane’s Museum, as if the world had shrunk into one house (a work of art) and I was there, insignificant.
I was surprised to arrive at the museum and realize that it used to be someone’s home, self constructed and designed. While waiting in line to enter I attempted to make friends with the doorman, and so I asked him to tell me a little bit about Sir John, who he was and what the museum was about. He responded by saying: “Well why are you here then? Why did you come to a museum that you knew nothing of, you should have done your research.” Him and I were off to a bad start. I expected him to enthusiastically respond, after all, I knew the basics and thought he could have shared a few things about the museum I didn’t know. I forgave him for making me feel stupid at that moment, but I guess he had a good point, I should have done my research. He did tell me about the importance of sunlight to Sir John and how he designed the house to have as much sunlight as possible entering in every room; I was now on the look out for the infamous windows.
The house was lit up with sunlight. Today was a sunny day and I was able to appreciate the house’s illuminates passageways and sculptures in the various rooms. His collection of artwork, as well as sculptures and treasures was breath taking. For someone to design such a marvelous home, and to spend their life collecting such amazing works is truly admirable. He had a piece of the world in different corners of his home and in any given room/space one can experience Egypt, Rome, Britain and even the transgression of time through paintings or within the pages of Soane’s 6,857 books.
In one of the rooms filled with paintings, one of the museum’s curators opened up the wall-sized doors where suddenly more paintings became visible to our eyes. There, were the paintings of buildings Sir John had designed, for he was a prominent architect, including sketches of the house itself and a statue of a women (whose name I cannot recall). Hidden treasures.
To be inspired to build such a home, as well as to collect such magnificent and priceless pieces of art is the kind of inspiration I seek. The one that goes beyond boundaries to further personal growth while engaging the outside world. Although Sir John Soane lived from 1753 to 1837 his life, his collections and his home will live on as an example to the rest of us of a rich life. So that one day we can rest knowing that we have completed our lives significantly.
…simply because we allow our differences to overpower our commonalities. As both groups and individuals we spent a ridiculous amount of time investigating and calculating the differences between who/what we are and who/what we are not.
From the moment we are born, traditionally, we are dressed in colors that represent our assigned gender. Those wearing anything different must then be who/what we are not. From that moment on, we are being taught to differentiate people by the category of gender.
What happens when we grow up to realize that we are all, actually, just human? A definite challenge that will continue to trouble our society and many more societies to come. Religion, is a complex term that encompasses multiple definitions, it all depends on perspective. It can simply be a devotion or, as described by Kile Jones (a Ph.D student at the University of Glasgow (i found his quote while doing some research on the meaning of religion), “It is apparent that religion can be seen as a theological, philosophical, anthropological, sociological, and psychological phenomenon of human kind. To limit religion to only one of these categories is to miss its multifaceted nature and lose out on the complete definition.” Jones definition clearly being a more complex one, suits my personal ideas of religion.
A “phenomenon of human kind” which only exists to further divide our global population into sectors that have indefinitely branched from one another, to define our purpose in life. I would like to state that if I had to choose a religious denomination I would categorize myself as an atheist, for I do believe that “God” (when defined as the Supreme being, creator and ruler of all) is a human-made construct. Thus, I am aware that religious ideas and believes are made up of layers after layers of tradition, philosophical, sociological and anthropological values, therefore, I attempt to understand them (from an analytical/academic perspective).
When reading the various world religions profiles on BBC news I realized that they are all not so different from each other. Lets take Christianity and Islam, the two with the most followers in the world, both are monotheistic religions that have existed for thousands of years, are based on a holy book and teachings of God’s prophets. Christian believes can also be found in Santeria, which borrows some religious sense from Christian practices. Like Santeria, Rastafarians worship in ways that are somewhat uncommon, for instance, Rastafairians smoke marijuana to enhance their spiritual connection with their God, meanwhile Santerians sacrifice animals for their God. Both marihuana and animal scarification are illegal in the United States. These are only a few of the multiple comparisons that can be drawn along multiple religious practices and believes. They are all so similar and yet so different.
[Sometimes I want to ask people: Since when do you believe in your “God”? When did you decide that this is the “God” that you wanted to believe in? If you’ve believed in that religion your entire life, then someone had to decide for you… right? So you’ve been taught to believe in something that you never decided to believe in. It has been taught to you why? I think it’s all about power and control, and so many are immersed in a religious world that will never allow them to answer the above questions for themselves, after all, I may just be tempting “evil” thoughts!]
Sometimes, I wish we could break through religious barriers, bring down the walls of churches and temples and unite everyone under one roof of religious acceptance (not fake tolerance). Maybe if we start by deconstructing gender norms and stop dressing our children in either blue or pink when they are born, then that could be the first step towards deconstructing a religiously segregated world. After all, various religions still evoke a gender hierarchy in their practices, such as Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism and Islam are four religions which are obviously male-oriented. For example: In Christianity women are not allowed to become priests (a position of respect and religious power within the church), in Hinduism women are not allowed to become either monks nor Guru’s (leaders of the spiritual community) and in Rastafari women have an entirely different code of religion. For now, gender will continue to be a category that further separates us, physically, socially and within religions.
…we can’t all just get along. Globally, we have divided ourselves, and we are all too deep in it. BBC features nineteen different religions on their “Religion and Ethics” site, which one defines you? Which one have you chosen to be the one that separates you from everyone else, from all of the others? Why can’t we all just get along? We’re all just humans.
“You’re sacred space is where you can find yourself over and over again.” (Joseph Campell)
The concept of space, so immense, so undefined. As intriguing as one may be with the notion of sacred spaces, either physical or internal, it is difficult to grasp the full idea of what it means to feel a part of a specific space, to immerse oneself in it.
As we entered the Gudwara, internally, I had just opened the door to a room of confusion, although physically I was right where I was supposed to be. The ability to learn extensively in moments of discomfort is something I attempt to take advantage of, but for some reason I was unable to keep an open mind. Throughout our tour, I felt a sense of indifference, not just because I am not a religious individual in any way, but also because I like to keep myself at a distance from spaces that with hold religious power over a community. Surprisingly, my experience at St.Paul’s was not in any way similar to the Gudwara’s. At St.Pauls’ I felt as if I was entering a museum, a sacred place of historical exhibition instead of worship. In comparison to Westminster Abbey, St.Pauls’ was less scary (maybe because there aren’t 3000 bodies buried there). I think tourism has completely changed the dynamic of these sacred spaces, converting them into exhibits for the general public.
So what differs a museum from a place of worship? In London, I think museums as well as churches are both worshipped in their own ways. We have visited multiple museums and various churches in our time in London, where I have realized that it takes more than just a space to create a place of worship, it takes the masses, the worshippers, to raise a space to a state of “holy-ness.” When we have class at the Victoria Gardens at Regents Park, the patch of grass surrounding us, the space chosen for our discussions is our sacred space for that moment; when we enter it, we become a part of it, not just literally but also metaphorically.
When we entered the Gudwara, most of us were encountered with unknown territory, strange feelings awakened. Although, this space was not at all a tourist attraction, our presence in that place made it feel like another museum exhibit, like something to study, observe and take notes on for future reference… not a place of sacred worshiping. Isn’t it interesting how this concept of space dominates our everyday lives, yet it is so undefined.
Indefinitely, whatever you’re sacred space is, make it yours. Personalize it, love it, breath it, worship it… define it for yourself, in the hopes that you’ll continue to find yourself in that place over and over again.
So this is an overdue post comparing our experiences at the National Gallery and the Tate Modern.
When we were climbing the steps of the National Gallery we were anticipating the beautiful pieces that would be displayed by world renowned artists. We were excited to see the works of Van Gogh, Da Vinci, Van Dyck as well as artists who are unfamiliar to us. While standing in front of Da Vinci’s Madonna and Child, observing his rather passionate and intricate work we felt a disconnect between our previous assumptions of how the work was suppose to affect us versus our actual interpretations. Based on our shared knowledge of these artistic “masterpieces” we hoped to feel the sense of awe. Although we were privileged to be viewing these works, we left feeling rather “eghhh” (for lack of a better term).
Our experience at the Tate Modern JUXTAPOSED our feelings of incomplete satisfaction at the National Gallery. We were immediately intrigued by the modern and uncommon artistic works. These revolutionized pieces made us question the true meaning of art. IN our interpretation of the works found at Tate, modern art in Britain completely attempts to move away from traditional, classical art found at the National Gallery. Although we do appreciate classical art, modern art speaks to us in a different form, and it relates to the ways in which we seek to see the rest of our society— in distinctive ways. The Tate Modern seems to be “pushing the envelope” when it comes to artistic expressions and we enjoy that sort of rebellious attitude.
Overall, art is an interpretation of the individual and it can exist in various forms. It is always inspired and interpreted.