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Archive for September, 2008

Here is a small list of songs I recommend from 1969-1975 about the harshness of city life; materialism, poverty, racism.

The music is as relevant today as it was then.

Links to the songs are provided.

1. The Get Out of the Ghetto Blues-Gill Scott Heron (1972)

Classic blues tale about getting out of the slums.

Played on the piano and sung by Gill Scott Heron; the American poet, singer and proto-rapper.

Interesting fact: Scott-Heron’s father, Giles “Gil” Heron (nicknamed “The Black Arrow”) was a Jamaican soccer player who, in the 1950s, was the first ever black player to play for Glasgow’s Celtic Football Club in the U.K.

2. Living for The City-Stevie Wonder (1973)

This is a song about living to work, rather than working to live, but specifically, about the harshness of living in a city. One of Stevie Wonder’s best songs, on Innervisions.

3. Woman of the Ghetto-Marlena Shaw (1969)

Its hard for a woman in the ghetto. Marlena Shaw, one of the original soul divas, evokes this well.  This song has been sampled more than once in 90s hip hop. The track I’ve linked is from the live version.


4. Inner City Blues-Marvin Gaye (1971)

Great song, probably my favourite in this list. Not much to say, but except its from ‘What’s Going On?’ album. It’s funky and Marvin is playing the mellow vibes on the piano. Simply amazing.

5.When Seasons Change-Curtis Mayfield (1975)

Song about the gritty life of urban living. Taken from the album ‘There’s No Place Like America Today,’ one of the albums featured in 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die published in 2005 by Cassell Illustrated.

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S.A.D.

I write this post from the exotic location that is known as Southend-on-Sea, in Essex, a county just outside London, where I will be ‘stationed’ at a Dental clinic for the next month (except at weekends).

Now Southend-on-Sea, is a pleasant place in the summer time, but as we approach Autumn (or ‘Fall’ for our friends across the pond) it becomes a very dreary and grey place.

This might have something to do with the fact that central Southend is a concrete jungle.

When the heavens open in Southend, one feels very inclined to go home and indulge in some form of escapism, whether that’s watching a movie, using the internet, or reclining to bed with a cup of white tea and a good book. No prizes for guessing what my favourite option is…

Is this sad?….or is this seasonal affective disorder?

Is seasonal affective disorder a symptom of a world that has lost hope?

Possibly.

However, I think the merits of sunlight are very clear.

The Sun gives life to all on Earth, plants need the sun’s light to grow, and we and all animals rely upon the energy of the Sun to survive.

The sun has remarkable healing properties on mood, health, and general well being.

In religion for example, the Egyptian’s worshiped ‘Ra’ the sun God, specifically the ‘mid day sun.’

Ra was the one god of Egyptian monotheism, of which all other deities were aspects.

In Zorastrianism, one of the world’s oldest faiths, ‘the energy of the creator is represented by fire and the Sun, which are both enduring, radiant, pure and life sustaining.’

The Bible uses instances of the Sun to explain spiritual concepts. The Sun is given a special significance in Genesis as well as the New Testament. In one parable, a woman representing the Light of Christ is said to be ‘clothed with the sun.’ Conversely, later in Revelation, when describing the End of Days, John describes one of the signs of the Day Of Judgement being the darkness of the sun.

Also, in the Qu’ran, Sura 91 is called ‘The Sun:’

“1 By the sun and his brightness,
2 And the moon when she followeth him,
3 And the day when it revealeth him,
4 And the night when it enshroudeth him…”

Baha’u’llah, founder of the Baha’i Faith uses the analogy of the Sun to represent, God and His Manifestations; ‘Sun of Truth’, ‘Sun of Divine Utterance,’ ‘Sun of Revelation’ to name just a few instances…

One quote in Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah that springs to mind is:

Consider again the sun when it is completely hidden behind the clouds. Though the earth is still illumined with its light, yet the measure of light which it receiveth is considerably reduced. Not until the clouds have dispersed, can the sun shine again in the plenitude of its glory. Neither the presence of the cloud nor its absence can, in any way, affect the inherent splendor of the sun. The soul of man is the sun by which his body is illumined, and from which it draweth its sustenance, and should be so regarded.

(Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 154)

There are many more instances of the positive imagery of the Sun and negative imagery of clouds in Baha’i and other religious texts…

However, lets not bash clouds and rain completely, there is also positive imagery of clouds, and (I’m not talking about Care Bears.)

Without clouds we would have no rain. Without rain, we would have no life, literally and symbolically.

We want ‘Clouds of Mercy,’ and ‘Divine Will,’ not ‘Clouds of Waywardness’

Whereupon the clouds of the Divine Will were raised to rain upon thee the outpourings of heavenly wisdom, to divest thee of all that thou hadst acquired aforetime, to draw thee from the realms of contradiction unto the retreats of oneness, and to lead thee to the sacred streams of His Law. Perchance thou mayest quaff therefrom, repose therein, quench thy thirst, refresh thy soul, and be numbered with those whom the light of God hath guided aright in this day
(Baha’u’llah, Gems of Divine Mysteries, p. 7)

Without Clouds and Darkness, how could we understand and appreciate the Sun and Light?

Without pain and suffering, how could we know joy and happiness?

So whilst rain and clouds in the sky might be a reason to get down in the dumps. It could also be a reason to rejoice for something greater that is to follow.

Maybe your day/evening will be more productive at home, going through those tax returns/ writing that blog entry/sending that email you’ve been putting off, since, well since last time it rained.

Maybe frolicking in the sunshine not doing much is too much of a good thing.

Just a thought for a rainy day.

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Time waits for no man.

Come out of the circle of time
And into the circle of love.

Rumi

Time seems to be becoming a much sought after commodity more and more as everyday passes.

Is a seven day week inherently faulty? is a nineteen day month the solution to managing time better? I have no idea.

What I do know is that the more things I have to organise time, from my mobile to my planner, the more things I cram into those nooks and crannies in my schedule that were reserved for ‘me’ time, or should I say ‘reflective purposes.’

Finding the balance is key to the secret of time management. and so is knowing when to say no, and when to say yes……

Time and tide wait for no man. A pompous and self-satisfied proverb, and was true for a billion years; but in our day of electric wires and water-ballast we turn it around: Man waits not for time nor tide.

Mark Twain

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Getting Organised

“I should get one of those signs that says “One of these days I’m gonna get organezized”.”

Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver

The more storage space I seem to have, the more junk I keep.

That statement applies equally to digital media, as well as physical media.

As I get ‘organezized‘ for my penultimate exams of my final year of Dentistry, I realise that its no good having large amounts of storage (especially digital) unless you are O.C.D. about the way you organise (Brit.Spelling) your items.

How many of us need that blurry photo taken late on a friday night of someone’s nose as they were turning, or that cd you bought/downloaded of an artist who you ‘thought’ was cool but actually you’d rather listen to an audiobook of ‘A Brief History of Time’ read in the voice of Stephen Hawkings, than listen to it again?

Our Windows/OS X recycling bin is being underused as words like ‘Terabyte’ enter our lexicon.

It must be said, there are justified reasons for having uber large hard drives, e.g. you are an avid photographer or movie maker. However, not many people have music collection’s larger than 120 GB from songs they have bought legally.

If you need it for movies, chances are, you have downloaded those films illegally (unless you have been spending your weekly allowance on itunes’ movies)

And the larger the storage we buy, the more we feel we need to fill it up.

and its often with junk  we ordinarily would never waste time on had we had half the wardrobe/hard drive space

How often do we call up the Salvation Army to pick up those clothes you haven’t worn since the pilot episode of Baywatch was shown?

Detachment springs to mind, but, that’s not easy to achieve or understand always.

So why have we become a nation of hoarders?

Sometimes its the more we own, the greater the range, the more well-rounded we feel, whether its a music collection or your clothes collection.

But what defines you? when do your objects start owning you?

Its something to bear in mind. Even as an amateur photographer who often takes photos in RAW (which equates to about 13 MB per photo), I find myself storing things that I can “organise later….” but I never do.

In photography, software like Abobe Bride/Apples’ Aperture attempt to address these problems to some extent, but they often only alleviate the problem temporarily.

It doesn’t just apply to objects we buy, its applies to everything. Remember Super Size Me?

Do we need a LARGE Mc Meal when a medium would suffice (try a medium and wait 30 minutes after eating it, you wont’ be hungry when your brain has caught up with your fast eating…. though you might feel sick)

Prevention is better than cure.

Rather than having to constantly organise and be overwhelmed with things that don’t actually enhance our lives, maybe we should think twice next time we buy 9 Terabytes of Storage/Sex In The City Directors Cut/Star Wars Special Dulce De Leche Frappuchino Edition/store every photo that our trigger happy camera fingers create.

We might feel a little bit freer in the long run, and we might actually have more time for organising the things that matter in our lives.

At this time and at this period we must avail ourselves of this most great opportunity. We must not sit inactive for one moment; we must sever ourselves from composure, rest, tranquillity, goods, property, life and attachment to material things. We must sacrifice everything to His Highness, the Possessor of existence, so that the powers of the Kingdom may show greater penetration and the brilliant effulgence in this New Cycle may illumine the worlds of minds and ideals.

(Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of the Divine Plan)

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