Thursday, July 29, 2010

Art Imitates Life. Oh, and Vice Versa

'Dragons are fantasy. If there's magical talismans
or a magic sword or wizards or loving crazy not-real animals...
all these basic things that break laws of reality:
that poo poo's all fantasy. I'm into hard sci-fi.'

Roman Debeers, Party Down

This morning I read about an Indonesian scholar arguing that the pursuit of civilisation begins from the smallest things. God is in the detail and that by questioning art, we can make sense of how we see the world. In 'Western' countries, this idea has been followed through in such a focused way that the difference between fantasy (i.e. Harry Potter) and Science Fiction (i.e. Star Wars) are taught in universities and invariably used as examples to explain to students phenomenons from the Cold War to Bush's invasion of Iraq.

Perhaps it's like how Naturalistic and Impressionistic paintings are differed ideologically, with what is accepted in medieval Western Europe and how it relates to history and political power. Through art, we learn about our past and plan our future better. Some would say, seni adalah penjaga peradaban. It's the same premise behind why Picasso's abstract art is significant, because by then Western civilisation has begun criticising the frigidity of the modernist thought and how society is in an identity crisis collectively searching for a spiritual entity amid a materialistic world. In a more modern context in Indonesia, it's like studying about pornography censorship and how the discourse explains the struggle between ideologies in the world we live in now.


Although I personally didn't choose this discipline because I needed a line of career that achieves a (somewhat) tangible set of goals - I think it's important to maintain our sense of aestheticism, because it indirectly affects our empathy and compassion.

Indonesian scholar Komarudin Hidayat - yes, this is the second time I've cited him the past week - argues that we need to nurture four important fundamentals of education (and in this case I reflect on my role as a parent and, by structure, an educator): art to soften empathy, sports to construct fair game, mathematics to sharpen logical thinking, and spirituality to understand the meaning of life. All four are significant but, particularly in a country like Indonesia, art (and sports!) is the easiest to ignore. Although in the end we might specialise in one aspect or a combination of several, I think it's important to be able to appreciate all four.

And that the conceptual and practical interaction between the four aspects is what makes society a whole entity.

* I feel the need to say that all of this came from my brother's tweet about a hypothetical battle between Voldemort and Darth Vader. Which, by the way, come from different (imaginary) worlds - by genre fantasy and Sci Fi. Voldemort should go against Sauron instead. This is the geek in me talking :p.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Cognitive Dissonance

Lately I've been confronted by individuals with dominant personalities. They are lecturers who could say 'This is trash' to a student in the middle of their defence, who acquires their air of authority if they've succeeded in proving they are intellectually superior to students. At first I, in all my lame attempt to avoid being self-righteous, gave them the benefit of the doubt.

But after consoling students who felt shut down and kicked around, somehow I just grew angry. Maybe it was the overprotective mother in me, but it really brought the worst in me.

I thought, these people should not become educators. They should perhaps choose a sector where it is part of a job requirement to mentally supersede someone else. But not as a lecturer.

Before I had a chance to pause and think, I felt that surge of motivation where I wanted to just beat them in their own game. Educate myself, be well-connected and climb higher up the ladder so I could shove them over.

And what purpose would that serve? Who am I protecting? What am I achieving? Who died and made me queen of all that is right?

I don't want to be that person.

And if my aim is to assist students to stand on their own two feet, to find a way to initiate ideas and structure their thoughts - then the point is to nurture their logical thinking and self-confidence. That with sound ideas, they should not fear anyone. That all of this is part of a learning process.

The world is full of black and whites anyway. If it's not these intellectual bullies it would be someone else. At the end, it's our individual battle to be brave enough to take a stand and defend ourselves. It is the tasks of educators (i.e. parents, managers, lecturers) to harness this trait in future generations - not (only) ensuring that the world is a better place once we've left it. But to make them believe in themselves and fight back when unfairly treated.

Embracing Fear

Nobody is courageous all the time.
The unknown is a constant challenge,
and being afraid is part of the journey.

via Endah Triastuti

Independence is a State of Mind

Yesterday a former student of mine said an interesting thing;

Indonesia sudah merdeka, tapi belum mandiri. 'Independence' should not (only) refer to freedom but to an independent mindset.

A sound, concise review of our current condition: unfocused and frantic.

But alas, I am still hopeful. In Komarudin Hidayat's words: '-merindukan Indonesia sejahtera dan bermartabat.'

Saturday, July 17, 2010


A culture that respects weddings more than commitment,
births more than parenting,
and deaths more than life -
is not mine.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Dumb Luck


Last time I was traveling, I was so tired I missed my flight. I ended up buying a new ticket.

Now, arriving on time, dumb luck brought me to being checked in to first class. And now my first experience of flying executive.

Udik is an understatement.

But I can't help but sense the irony between both events. And that somewhere, someone up there is snickering softly at the light jokes.

Homeward bound!

*Browsing from the lounge eeeeeeee (I warned you, udik)*



After I was being seated, while the other passengers entered the plane, I found myself very uncomfortable because some were staring. Then people with children passed me, some of them asked their parents, "Dad are these the good seats?" Having had the experience of bringing a child with me to fly and sit for hours in cramped spaces made me feel really guilty.

And yet, like a hypocrite, I didn't offer to switch seats because I was too comfortable.

If the world were up to me I would make all seats business class (and while I'm at it, terminate the term 'class' altogether).