Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cat's Dream by Paulo Nerudo

*The simplicity of this poetry has occupied my time & caught my imagination. I love it :)

How neatly a cat sleeps,

Sleeps with its paws and its posture,

Sleeps with its wicked claws,
And with its unfeeling blood,
Sleeps with ALL the rings a series 
Of burnt circles which have formed 
The odd geology of its sand-colored tail.

I should like to sleep like a cat,
With all the fur of time,
With a tongue rough as flint,
With the dry sex of fire and 
After speaking to no one,
Stretch myself over the world,
Over roofs and landscapes,
With a passionate desire
To hunt the rats in my dreams.

I have seen how the cat asleep
Would undulate, how the night flowed 
Through it like dark water and at times, 
It was going to fall or possibly 
Plunge into the bare deserted snowdrifts.

Sometimes it grew so much in sleep
Like a tiger's great-grandfather,
And would leap in the darkness over
Rooftops, clouds and volcanoes.

Sleep, sleep cat of the night with 
Episcopal ceremony and your stone-carved moustache.
Take care of all our dreams
Control the obscurity
Of our slumbering prowess
With your relentless HEART
And the great ruff of your tail.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Same Hollywood, Different Treatment

This morning, I read an article telling that the famous Richard Gere is now in Indonesia. Tomorrow he'll visit Candi Borobudur -the biggest ancient buddhist temple in the world- then will have a luxurious dinner with Sulthan Hamengkubuwono XI (the regent of Yogyakarta Province). The local government has been cleaning up villages on the route to Borobudur. Gere will join Morning Peace Walk on sunday from Candi Mendut to Candi Borobudur. I remember how crowded the street was between both candis, and It’s still attached in my head how ugly was the road from Yogyakarta to Muntilan due to the attacks of “lahar dingin” from Mount Merapi volcanic eruption. I can’t believe that the Head of Borobudur Tourism Park dare to spend alot of money and effort just to clean up the surrounding area for Mr. Gere, while during my trip to the temple at Waisak (Buddhist holiday) to see the Buddhist pilgrims praying there the road was still unbearably suck. No excuses for the pilgrims who wanted to pray.

On the other hand, last night I read an article from Reader’s Diggest. It shows a picture of George Clooney -another Hollywood well known actor- come to Sudan in order to help the african children. They are the victim of never ending conflicts between North Sudan and the newborn state South Sudan. I saw nothing but a very common treatment to Mr. Clooney. Imagine, it’s superhot in africa, no red carpet, special dinner with the local land-owner, or even specific command to adorn the road from airport into mid of sahara.
Isn’t it ironic? You see my point? Its not about Mr. Clooney or Mr. Gere. Its about the treatment.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

memory pieces from early 2011 (now we are in the mid of it!)

The Influence of Latin

I love Latin (not refers to geographical region or people from specific racial group).

I've been doing a special ritual every Christmas morning for almost 5 years; wake up early  in the morning just to watch a live Mass ceremony from Vatican. The point of doing so is because the Roman Church use Latin in their rituals. I even keep a note on what are they saying and the translation of it, like "venite adoremus" (let us adore), or simple words such nobis (us) and pacem (peace). 

I don't care if Latin is a dead language. My passion on learning Latin comes from history books. As you know, I have a huge interest on reading stories from the past, especially about Renaissance and Medieval royals' bloodshed in Europe-Middle East. Latin was playing a very significant role during those entire periods, it was once the language of science & then took a part as the language of church in Christendom. Some magnificent sources of history that we familiar with nowadays are based on the discovery of Latin documents. 

Also, Latin has played a good role on the term of transferring scientific method from West to East then back to West again. The cycle of knowledge has come like this: first the Greek (Archimedes, Aristotle, Plato, Anaxigoras, Homer, etc) find out amazing stuff about this world. They are genious, they smart enough to write those ideas down on scripts. The Roman take those pearls into their account; by translating them into Latin, their imperial language. The ages of darkness came like nights when all the translations from antiquity are gone with the great fire on Alexandrian Library. Some of them are safed, transferred into the new heirs of knowledge; Islamic Empire. 

Umayyads and Abbasids caliphates hired lots of translator in order to absorb sciences from Latin, Greek, Persian and Sanskrit's books. This translation movement is official when Caliph Harun Al-Rashid of Abbasids build the House of Wisdom (Baitul Hikmah) in Baghdad as library & translation institute. His effort marks the Islamic Golden Age. Hundred of years later, the crusaders are lining up in front of Jerusalem's walls and ready to rock that city with swords. After several cruel battles, those crusaders back to their livestock in Europe bringing new things that they get from their Saracen counterpart: books about philosophy, history, and science in arabic.

Monks have a well-known tradition as them who very pleased to copy holy scriptures in Latin. Now after the crusades, they have a new job inside the monastery: translating those books back into Latin. Triggered by several well-educated monks or scholars such Adelard of Bath, Michael Scot, and Gerard de Cremona. A very eccentric priest called Gerbert d'Aurillac gained his knowledge and arabic ability in Moorish Andalusia (Spain), then back to Rome with translated books in various field of science. He later then selected as Pope Sylvester II. From this era, Latin becomes more important as the spread of intellectual informations are sprouting from it. 

In these days, I can't tell you how wide is the influence of Latin toward European languages. Latin spread to many Mediterranean regions, and the dialects spoken in these areas, mixed to various degrees with the autochthonous languages, developed into the Romance tongues, including AragoneseCatalanCorsicanFrenchGalician,ItalianPortugueseRomanianRomanshSardinianSicilian, and Spanish (Bryson, Bill 1996).  Lex dura sedtamen scripta, pact sunt servanda, lex loci arbitri, lex specialis derogate lege generalis, audi et alteram partem, uti posidentis, nulla poena sine praevia, are some of example on the using of Latin as legal terms. Latin is also widely used in academic, philosophy, biology, and medical term. In abbreviations we are similar with Latin words such as subpoena duces tecumq.i.d. (quater in die: "four times a day"), and inter alia (among other things). Using Latin as organization name or motto could bring us a classical feeling, or if it's allowed to say, to make it more sounds professional & sophisticated. Take a look Nec pluribus impar (literally: "Not unequal to many"), a Latin motto adopted by Louis XIV of France from 1658. In varietate concordia or United in Diversity, the motto of European Union, and Semper Fidelis ("Always Faithful") which is well known in the United States as the motto of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Reading some phrases in Latin brings me a depiction of Roman Empire or medieval world, glory of the past. If this post still couldn't make you understand my desire toward this dead language, I guess this sentence will best respond my inexplicable feeling: disce aut discede ("take/learn it or leave it"). :)

The influence of Arabic

*I love Moorish-Andalucian culture so much! That's why I decided to repost this on my blog :)
While Spanish sentences and grammar resemble Latin more than any other living tongue, thousands of words have their origins in the language of the Muslims whose stay in some parts of the peninsula lasted eight centuries. And many of these “Spanish” words later found their way into other European languages.
Phonetically, too, Spanish may be the most similar language to Latin, but some sounds, like the guttural j, or jota, come straight from Arabic. Most household words beginning with al- (or with a-, since the article was often slurred and left without its letter l) are Spanish versions of Arabic words.

Examples which can be easily appreciated without much knowledge of Spanish are sugar,azúcar, originally assukar; and cotton, in Spanish algodón, fromal-qutun. Olive in Spanish isaceituna, and olive oil aceite, from the Arabic for olive, al-zeitun, while olive tree is from Latin,olivo.
Many place names are composed of Arabic words. Alhambra is said to mean “the red palace” while others believe it means “the palace of Alhamar”, the sultan who founded it. Almería means “the mirror of the sea”, while Algeciras is a shortened version of the full name al-jazeera khadraa, literally “the green island”. When the first Moors entered Spain through Gibraltar, they were so impressed by the relative fertility of the place, after the aridity of Morocco, that they likened it to an isle of verdure.
When the Spaniards shout olé at the bullfighter or the flamenco dancer, they echo the Muslim invocation of God, Allah! Some still say ala as a conversational interjection, as we would say “really” or “is that so”.
The cold soup, gazpacho, which was originally made of bits and pieces of stale bread and vegetable scraps crushed in cool water, oil and vinegar, has its name from an Arabic word meaning “almsbox”, because everything from coins to chunks of bread and cheese were deposited in to feed the poor. The Spanish word mezquino, and the French word mesquin, both of which mean “petty”, come from the Arabic word mskeen meaning “wretched”.

The English word magazine, and the French word magasin come from the Spanish almacénand the Arabic al-makhzan, for “storehouse”. Our sofa, and the Spanish sofá, come from suffa, Turkish and Arabic for rug or divan.
In Spanish, duck is pato, from the Arabic bata. The English and French “alcove” comes from the Spanish alcoba, meaning bedroom, which has its origin in the Arabic al-kubba, the central room in a Moorish house. Since this room is usually covered by a domed ceiling, kubba is also used to signify “dome”.
The Spanish word for corner, rincón, comes from the Arabic rukán, while the word for quarter or neighbourhood, barrio, originates in the Arabic barri, outside, since quarters were external to the castle or citadel). Which means that when a Spaniard talks about a corner of his neighbourhood –un rincón de mi barrio – he is basically speaking Arabic!
The French, and English massage comes from the Arabic massa, “to stroke”, and coffee is said to be named, through Arabic, for the place in Ethiopia which first grew it, Kaffa. In Spanish, an orange is a naranja, which comes from the Arabic naranj, meaning bitter orange, while the Arabic word for a sweet orange is portukal, from the Greek portokalls.

Not all the words peculiar to Spanish culture have Arabic roots, though. Siesta comes from the Latin for sixth hour of the day, sexta, which would have been several hours earlier than the Andalucian after-lunch nap.
The formal second person pronoun, usted, has an even more curious origin. It was originally Vuestra Merced, “Your Mercy”, similar to “Your Grace”. In writing, this was abbreviated to Vd. (a form still used) but because it was impossible to utter a word composed of two consonants, those who refused to say it aloud in its full form devised the oddity usted, which later took its place.
And paella is really the word for the flat pan and not the rice cooked in it, in Catalonian, patella, which Castilians adopted without the t and vocalizing the double l.
Likewise, the suffix –ez at the end of Spanish names has older-than-Arabic roots. For the Visigoths, Sanchez was the son of Sancho, Rodriguez the son of Rodrigo, Vasquez the son of Vasco.
More than a source culture, the Arabs acted as a bridgehead between Asia and Europe, carrying with their caravans, from as far away as Indonesia, plants, inventions and words. The numbers we use and call Arabic because the Arabs imported them – although no longer use them themselves - are in fact Indian. The eggplant comes from the Persian batinjan, which the Arabs transformed to badinjanah and passed into Spanish as berenjena, and into French, with the article still in place but transformed from al- to au-, as aubergine.
The Arabs took many words from Latin and Greek before surreptitiously returning them to Europe, via Spain, in an exotic form. Tuna fish in Spanish is atún, from al-tun in Arabic, which in turn comes from the Latin thunnus. As in azúcar, only the a of the article survived the hispanizing process. But the Spanish word for “admiral”, almirante, comes from the Arabic emir, leader, and it was hispanized with the article intact.
When the Arabs invaded Spain, they found a highly organized Roman colony with cities whose Latin names they pronounced in their manner, and which, many centuries later, returned to the Spanish language in the Arabic form.
The most striking example is that of the military camp of Caesar Augusta, which was arabized as Sarakusta and, long after the Latin original had been forgotten, hispanized as Zaragoza.
Another is Mérida, on the western border. The Emperor Augustus founded a new colony near Portugal where land was given out to his most deserving veterans – meritii. It was called Augusta Emerita, or simply Emerita, which after the Arabs invaded Spain was pronounced Mérida.
The port of Seville was called by its Roman founders Hispalis, said to mean “palisade” for the stilts which kept its houses above water when the river flooded. Under the Arabs this Latin name was pronounced Ishbiliya, before taking its definitive form of Sevilla, pronounced in Spanish se-BEE-ya..
The word almuerzo, lunch, comes from a word used in Islamic Spain composed of the Arabic article al and the Latin for “bite”, morsus (as in morsel, a bite, and mordant, biting). So when a Spaniard invites you to a four-course midday meal with tapas, he is in fact offering you a bite to eat!
The river which passes through Seville is purely Arabic in name, wadi-al-kbeer, “the great river” (wadi=river, kbeer=great) hispanized as Guadalquivir. But the name of the city’s ancient poor quarter on the far side of the river, Triana, is the arabization of the name of the great Roman emperor Trajan, himself born in Seville.
Barcelona’s main thoroughfare, La Rambla, which plunges down through the city to the harbour, and Granada’s square, Plaza Bibarrambla, have the same Arabic origin in the word rambla which in Arabic means strand or riverside. The avenue was once a stream, and the plaza once had a gate - “bib” or “bab” – which faced Granada’s river. Its name would be in English “Strand Gate Square”.
Granada’s old casbah, El Albaicín, was once thought to have a purely Arabic name, but it is now believed that its origins are Roman, and Latin. In the Reconquest, when the Christian knights took the Muslim city of Baeza, the inhabitants fled south to Granada and settled on the hill, in a place which became known as al-Bayazin - "the place of the people of Baeza". But the name Baeza was only the arabization of the earlier, Roman Beatia.
In our times, Andalucia is the region which stretches across southern Spain, but the Moors called al-Andalus the entire peninsula including Portugal, even before they invaded it. As the Roman empire collapsed, barbarian tribes swept through the old colony of Hispania, one of which, the Vandals, crossed the Straits of Gibraltar and reached Carthage. They were so ferocious that the terrified North Africans called the land from whence they had come “land of the vandals”. But instead of saying “al-Vandalus”, they dropped the v. The Spaniards later hispanized the name al-Andalus to Andalucía, by which they meant the southern part of Spain which was still in Moorish hands in the 12th century.
The name of Granada does not mean pomegranate, even though it is homonymous with the Spanish word for that oriental fruit. It is thought to come from an ancient, but unknown word for fortress, which the Romans Latinized as Garnatum. The Arabs pronounced it Garnata and it entered Castilian as Granada.
And the name of Córdoba is neither Latin nor Arabic in origin, but Phoenician. The Carthaginians founded the port on the highest navigable reach of the Guadalquivir and named it for one of their generals, Doubs. The prefix for “city” in their Phoenician tongue was Kart-, as in the name Carthage itself – “new city”. The Spanish port became Kart-Doubs, which after being Latinized and then Arabized came down to us as Córdoba, with the accent still on the first syllable – the part of the name that meant “city”.
Algebra is Arabic for “the reduction” and came into European languages as part of the title of an Arab mathematical treatise. Alcohol comes from the Arabic al-kuhul, although the Arabs did not invent the still, as is often said. Avería, which in Spanish means “breakdown” or “defect”, with relation to machines, comes from the Arabic awarriyah, “defective merchandise”, the root of which, áwar, when applied to humans, means “one-eyed”. Baño, Spanish for bath, comes originally from the Latin balneum, but after transiting through Arabic as banyo, pronounced in exactly the same way but with a slightly more specific meaning, “bathtub”.
A pig, in colloquial Spanish, as opposed to the Latin-derived puerco, is called a marrano, which is also an adjective for dirty “piggish” person. Marrano is an Arabic-origin word coming from haram, best known to us in its English form “harem”. A harem, in Arabic haram, with the accent on the second syllable, is a place forbidden to intruders, which suggests that it is much less permissive than is often assumed. It is the direct opposite of halal, which means sacred, pure. Indeed, anything that is wrong, unjust or unlawful can be described as haram.
The Jews of medieval Spain commonly spoke Arabic, and they used a form of this word to label those brethren who to escape persecution converted to Christianity, contemptuously calling them marranos. This new word came to mean, in Spanish, anything foul or disgusting, and so made its way to the common pig.
When Spaniards bid one another farewell and say “Hasta mañana” they are, quite unconsciously as with most of these words, using the Arabic hattá which still means what it did in the Middle Ages when it entered Spanish – “until”. Even so, hattá was not an Arabic original, but a compression of the Latin words ad ista – “to this”, which, according to the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy, expressed the same idea of “up to”.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Your Lord has said: "Call on Me and I will answer you" (Al Mu'min: 60)

I was assuming that my life is over when I didn't pass the Erasmus Lotus selection and Beasiswa PPA a couple of weeks ago. The selection committee from Ghent University kind-heartedly sent me an email which tell why I wasn't qualified to get the honour; insufficient knowledge of language instruction (I pick Ghent University which uses Dutch as their teaching language if that could explained why). Only one procedural prerequisite and BAAM! I'm out of the case. I felt super sad, additionally, on the following weeks the result for Beasiswa PPA was out; didn't make it either.

I felt like God has left me. I'm a big loser. I lose all of the lucre on earth, and blah, blah, blah. I started to blame other; "this is not my mistake. I've done it correctly. This is just them! Goood, oh my Good Lord, why? I've prayed to You... But nothing has come to me?" etc. etc. 

Psychologically, my feelings are normal and can be understood. Predictable, I furiously created excuses from blaming myself. But all of sudden, something calls reality hit me back and I have to admit that I wasn't that grateful to God.

He tried to teach me; "Listen up! I've been pouring you with so many good stuff yet you can't really thank Me and do good about it. Now, I'm pulling your ear a little bit and you gone crazy like this? Be tough!". He woke me up. And on the next several days he replaced it with things that are small but matters. I got Android, I was chosen as Group Leader Coordinator on this year's AFS National Orientation Board, also was trusted as Program Coordinator at Debat Hukum Nasional FH UGM (first time in Faculty of Law's history. Literally, I'm making a history!).  

Maybe, Erasmus Lotus is not the best choice for me to develop my legal experience, or it could be not the best place for me to be educated by more about Business Law. Beasiswa PPA? Come on, be positive! Maybe someone who really need it outside there deserve that portion more than you (who will spend the money on some clothes, foods, snacks, and comics). Remember: you can't always get what you want, just like what the Glee cast sings!

When My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them): I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on Me: Let them also, with a will, Listen to My call, and believe in Me: That they may walk in the right way. (Al Baqarah: 186)

His beautiful words has enlightened me. He promises that He'll grant my wish, but as the vice-versa I must conduct the best to perform my written duty. I think this could be a lesson for all of us: God is good, but we are too demanding. We know that He is Superkind to His creations, then those creations are taking him for granted (in the same time, they beg Him to anwer their calls). God teaches us not to be so hasty and not to dispair in hopelessness.

He is there, friend. He plans the best for us. We could only throw some effort and pray. Let Him do the rest :)