Wednesday 30 June 2010

Back home

Just back in amchi Mumbai. Good to be home! Weather wise not much to choose: North America was as hot and practically as humid!

I watched two rather nice movies on the flights: Dear John, starring Channing Tatum, and Wake Up, Sid! starring Ranbir Kapoor. Both young men are extremely good actors. Channing has a very underplayed way of emoting, and very effective. As for Ranbir, he is probably one of the most gifted young actors we have these days here in Bollywood, and I think his directors are making good use of his potential. Interestingly, both movies deal in some way with the father-son relationship. The Tatum movie was especially good on that.

As for the Mumbai Airport, I must say things have kept improving over the years. I got through immigration in a matter of minutes, and my baggage came out immediately too.

Monday 28 June 2010

Chinatown and Governor's Island

Mass at Transfiguration Church, Chinatown. Wonderful seeing this Chinese locality in the heart of New York: Chinese shops, restaurants, and of course people. The park was filled with older Chinese origin people playing cards, making traditional Chinese music.

A huge restaurant serving Chinese food, different from our Indian Chinese... including tripe, and hens legs. we had to wait in line for half an hour before we could enter.

Then to Governor's Island, which used to be off bounds, but is now likely to be developed as real estate for housing. Free ferries from South Ferry, short distance. A quiet afternoon sleeping on the grass at Icecream Point.

Then to Strand, one of the biggest secondhand bookshops in the World, I guess. Picked up some good philosophy books.

We passed the City University of New York library. No time to go in, and besides it was closed. The State University of New York has also moved some of its departments to the City.

Sunday 27 June 2010

New York Public Library and things

Wonderful day in New York. Met Joe Braganza at his downtown St Agnes Church and had lunch with him. Then to the Ford Foundation Building near the UN, with its absolutely wonderful and extraordinary interior garden, lush greenery fed solely by rainwater and water condensation... a way for the future.

Then to the New York City Public Library. What another wonderful place! The riches that these libraries have, and the numbers of people who frequent them. I got into the main hall, and searched for the Khristapurana, and guess what: Nelson Falcao's book on Thomas Stephens came up. Then I searched for my name: they do not have Hermeneutics and Method, but strangely they do have an ACPI volume with an article of mine, I think it was my Rorty article.

Then I went to the huge reference section, and discovered many series dealing with Manuscript collections in different countries. MS collections means that the individual holdings are not necessarily listed, so it is difficult to really find anything like MS of the Khristapurana at short notice. But I did learn two things: that there are published resources dealing with MS; and that many collections / libraries have holdings that are not yet fully documented, among them the Vatican Library! So maybe, just maybe, there might be a printed edition of the Khristapurana lying around somewhere...

One place that was missing was the Portuguese libraries. I need to follow up Pollard's hints.

And then, in the Oxford National Dictionary of Biography (Oxford, 2000), I came across what is probably a rather new entry on Thomas Stephens, by Charles Borges.

Cecy and I went to Ground Zero, where the new construction has just come out of the ground, and then walked along the Hudson River, very beautiful riverfront place. Then to Columbus Circle where the Central Park begins, to pick up Venny who was just finishing with his sensei, and then to a Korean food place. The many little dishes of savouries reminded me of Burmese food, as did also the very large bowl of noodles in soup.

Saturday 26 June 2010

Boston to New York

Just arrived in New York, from Boston via Megabus. The bus was a different experience. I have done this once before, also that time with a heavy bag, and Sue Lawrence remembered that Sebastian Moore had carried my bag.... I was dreading the trip this time, with no Sebastian Moore to help me, but had a feeling that there would be elevators and things.And there were. Boston South Station is a spanking new complex, beautifully maintained.     Trains on one floor, buses on another, security personnel who were helpful, and elevators too. I sat a bit, the bus came in, the driver, a lady, gave her speech, and then we were loaded on. No problem with the baggage. Choose your own seats. Toilet in the bus. And the speed!

Cecy was waiting for me from 3.45 a.m. - but the bus stopped in a different place. An angel told her, and she came running 5 blocks....We took the metro to Washington Heights, walked a bit, and there...

Friday 18 June 2010

Historical conditioning

Wonderful article about the Northern yearning for the South by ethnologist David Signer.
We like to think of feelings as natural, losing sight of the fact that fear, indignation, dreams, hopes and wishes are also socially and historically conditioned. Everyone understands what is meant by a 'yearning for the South,' forgetting all too easily that this sensation is actually an invention of Northern Europe. And indeed, historians can trace it back to a specific date: April 5, 1768. For it was on this day that the explore Louis-Antoine de Bougainville first set foot on Tahiti.
The article goes on to speak of Italy and its inner topography, the ambivalent South, the pioneer dropout, the healthiness or not of the South. Goethe, for example, writes:
No man wanders under palm trees with impunity, and convictions change somewhat in a country that is home to elephants and tigers.
The way all our cherished conceptions are culturally and historically conditioned!

See David Signer, "Yearning for the South", Bulletin [The Credit Suisse Magazine since 1895] issue 2 (May-June 2010) International Edition, 8-9.

Do not disturb

I took the flight from Mumbai to Zurich yesterday, 16 June - seems such a long time ago. The pilot's announcement: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, etc. ... We could land in Zurich before 6 a.m., but that's against the law, because it would disturb people. So we will be landing shortly after 6 a.m....

How do you like that? Laws to prevent noise in Zurich. And in amchi Mumbai we have all the international flights landing all through the night.

Better for us ultimately, because it means we land abroad mostly in their daytime. Much easier to find your way in the day.

Much worse for foreigners who have to land in Mumbai in the dead of night.

Long halt at Zurich.... 7 hours! Zurich is a 'peaceful' airport when compared to Heathrow. Very few people most of the time. If I had a visa I could have visited friends perhaps. But then being Wednesday they might have been working.

For some strange reason, I got thinking about Lonergan's essay, "The Absence of God in Modern Culture." There was a magazine called "Man ist was man isst" - You are what you eat. wonderful mag, dedicated completely to food. Glorious descripitions of traditional Sunday roasts... with Gemuse and Potatoes and all that. But there it is: food is god, clothes are god, fashion is god, holidaying is god. The new religion. So attractive. But no mention of God. That would be embarrassing. Like the guy who would purposely say O God in Camus' novel, the Stranger, just to enjoy everyone being embarrassed....

Sunday 6 June 2010

Food and hunger


This is from Zorba the Greek

"What is your favorite dish, grandad?"
"All of them, my son. It's a great sin to say this is good and that is bad."
"Why? Can't we make a choice?"
"No, of course we can't."
"Why not?"
"Because there are people who are hungry." I was silent, ashamed. My heart had never been able to reach that height of nobility and compassion.

Zorba normally does not speak of sin. This is interesting. And very significant. 

Saturday 5 June 2010

Philosophy and the Salesian

Savio Silveira, enterprising editor of SDB West: Salesian Mumbai Province Magazine, has published an article of mine called "Rediscovering Philosophy" (the mag is available online if you are interested, folks). Savio has turned SDB West into quite an elegant affair, and I was particularly impressed with his layout of my article, and especially with the photos of MacIntyre (much rounder than I had imagined him to be), and of Lyotard (quite what I would have expected him to be, if somewhat older - why does one not expect rebels to grow older?).

The article was written at Savio's express request, so there was no problem getting it published.

But I was thinking the old question again: why philosophy for the practical Salesian?

So why philosophy?

Perhaps social work does not really require academic philosophy.

But then we are not defined by our social work, exactly. We are social worker Salesians, educators, religious, priests.

As priests, we are called to break the Word of God today: in this world, with its history and its cultures. And our study of philosophy should really be seen as our immersion into the history of our world and its cultures.

Certainly much the same thing can be said about the educator. Education is not the same as schooling or passing examinations for the sake of getting a job and making a living. Education is the larger affair of growing up and taking our place in the wide world. And so the whole world is of relevance to the educator. And for the Salesian religious educator: not only the whole world, but the whole world as reaching up to God, as shot through with God. Anything less would be simply a-Vidya: ignoring the essential rootedness of all this in That.

And of course there is the discipline of reading, grappling with the thought of another, organizing one's thoughts, learning to express them with a modicum of effectiveness....

And there must be more there... Because the fact is that even our hard, concrete, practical reality is the product of the past. And our attitudes and options are products of the past as well as of the present, mainly through a media that has invaded the very cells of our being....  

Few want to be academic philosophers, and few see the worth of any philosophy. But there remains the fact that no one wants to be stupid. All over the world, we want to do the intelligent thing, and hopefully the right thing too. But what is the intelligent thing to do, what is the right thing to do, those are large questions, and those are philosophical questions. How much of what I think is intelligent and smart is really the product of my culture and upbringing, and how much of that inheritance needs to be examined closely and taken apart? How much of what I think is right and good is really the product of culture and background and TV?

Not that philosophy will provide the answer to it all. But every openness helps, every bit of dialogue helps. Lonergan spoke about the inbuilt tendency to truth in every conversation and dialogue, simply because conversation and dialogue are dynamics of questioning. Ricoeur spoke about dialectic as the royal road to truth. Plato immortalized dialogue, the medievals both in India and the West turned the bhasya and the quaestio into a formidable technique, and of course all Indians love an argument.

I, personally, have never regretted the decision of my young provincial of many summers ago who decided to send me for specialization in philosophy. It was a daring decision and a great one, and I have loved the journey.

It has taken me into quite some bylanes of thought - or perhaps they were the speeding express ways, and I don't regret that at all just now. But I want to say it once again: I am Catholic with some conviction partly because of the writings of a chap called Bernard Lonergan. Lonergan has certainly been part of God's providence for me. And one day I must write more about that!

On this feast of Corpus Christi, of the Body of Christ, I thank God for those parts of that great Body that have been the great men and women of thought. Hopefully all of them have found their place in that great Reality that overflows our words.

Friday 4 June 2010

Home Schooling

Home Schooling has finally hit the national scene: article in India Today (24 May 2010) 60-62, "The De-School Brigade" by Malini Bhupta. Families in Pune, Gandhinagar, Bangalore. No one from Goa! They probably do not know as yet about the home schooling movement there.

Some of the families interviewed are extremely radical: no program of study at all for thier kids; they grow up finding out their own interests; not even NOS exams for some, I think.

Tuesday 1 June 2010

The spirituality of editing

I was just speaking to George Panthanmackel about the anguish involved in editing contributions to the ACPI Encyclopedia of Philosophy. He said we need lots of patience, and told me what his novice master used to say: When you ask for patience, God will not give you patience, but will you plenty of circumstances in which you can learn to exercise patience!

That really makes of editing an occasion for spiritual growth! But then, what is not an occasion, you will ask. True. But maybe editing is one of those striking occasions!

The ACPI Encyclopedia should be out by October 2010. The board of editors is hard at work at present, led by Johnson Puthenpurackal, OFM Cap, George Panthanmackel, MSFS, and John Peter Vallabharaj, OFM Cap. We are hoping to have it released at the hands of the Vice President in Delhi.

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