So interesting to get a view of the current world from the perspective of Ramadan, a season and tradition I know very little about.
I'm in a collaborative group right now which includes a CA-based scholar of Islamic Studies who believes we are in a time now with great potential for positive change. But how? What kind of new birth, or renewal of something lost? In circumstances where
shared positive connections, innovation, contemplation seem so crucial they have never seemed more impossible.
Hypothetically I wonder if the Mona Lisa could be related to Ramadan and help create, in some tiny quantum, the sort of "aesthetic nexus" which could help us seek and find the positive, restorative, new/old cycle of re-balance. What are some hypothetically
possible "shared traits" of the ML and Ramadan? Perhaps calm, patience, contemplation, reserve, or the caution toward appetite which Leonardo described in his notebooks (he advised we eat what we need and relish, chew it well, and avoid excessive spices).
He advised we avoid excessive company, because it can drown out the inner voice and eye. But connection and celebration are part of the cycle too: the ML looks us straight in the eye, from a state of vast contemplation, the contemplation of the all.
Ramadan the word comes from "scorching heat" or "dryness," calling forth the great vegetation myths of prehistory. To appreciate the value of wellbeing we cannot take it for granted. We must anticipate the transitory nature of things and modulate ourselves
accordingly. Or as Plato said, "he who will not answer to the rudder must answer to the rock." I just watched a great PBS show last night called "H2O: the Molecule that Made Us," and it really reminded me of Leonardo's love for the complexity of water and
all its dynamics, so central to so many of the networks and fabrics of the living earth.
Still, perhaps our process of comparison, what Leonardo called "comparazione" or "comperatione," must be a bit sharper in these more-acute times, given our symptoms of some new urgency. Contemplation, let us not forget, is far from intended to induce dullness.
On the contrary: its purpose is to bring clarity, detail, and resolution, even to that which is flowing, fleeting, complex, and both ephemeral and fundamental. The "icastic" or memorable image; image that functions in system rather than simply sitting on
a drive somewhere buried and unread. Hofstadter compared this to "The Art of the Fugue," of the unfinished, of the unfinishable (to quote Godel as both Hofstadter in GEB and Calvino in Six Memos did). Who could have imagined such a bridging of Bach with
Musil, Flaubert, Balzac, and Melville? With no less than a key core of number theory at stake, even of quantum, the balance of mind and machine, a puzzle of functors made quite plain in Perec's
Life? Leonardo declared all of his artworks unfinished, a statement which may be less about the laziness of a dilettante (a safe but absurd caricature of such honesty of achievement) and more about Godel and the unending cyclicality of every complex
Leonardo wrote that the connections are there, in ample abundance, for those who seek, and that those who seek will not tire if they strive to serve, to submit with dignity to the Good, and strive not to consume in blindness and let appetite run riot over all
that nourishment is meant to preserve. He called such people "fillers of privies," who pay "no more account of the wind that came out of their mouth in words than of that they expelled from their lower parts."
Leonardo designed for Sultan Bayazid II, around 1502, a bridge of mythic scope to cross the Bosphorus. Leonardo was no stranger to designing bridges. He also happened, while following the employment granted by nobility with enough motive and resources to
fund his art and protect his collections for later beings (like us), to design festivities for the Medicis and other rulers. These entertainments included special architectures for the celebrations and tournaments, as well as uniforms for the employees of
the court and costumes for the courtiers and the nobility of the day. No stranger was Leonardo to designing clothes, nor to the vain pretense of such, the academic robes woven richly but not by their wearers, nor to all the brutality behind the money that
paid the bills.
The water of life, and of time, is ever-flowing, or as the PBS show describes it, like a "pulse" of all life on the planet. Leonardo knew it carved riverbeds, built cities, destroyed cities, carried wealth, and brought mountains back to the sea. He wrote
plainly and well of all these. The ML has two rivers: one prehuman, before all science and art, before all human technology; this is the river on the left. The other river, on the right, is spanned by a bridge, and bridges carry flows of their own; sometimes
blind and ignorant but rarely still. Stuff happens, and stuff changes. The bridge Leonardo so modestly depicts in the ML, the only sign of human activity in the entire landscape, flows indeed, on a smooth curve into the symbol of water's power to change
and move the earth: a vortex or whirlpool, "retrosi" or "revertigini," in the form of the sitter's shawl. This is how the garment of human technology, science, engineering, and art is woven: by flowing processes.
Yet Leonardo reminds us, and admonishes us to remind ourselves, that it is we who create the garment and it is not the sum of who and what we are or can be. He wrote of "prescience," "the knowledge of things which may come to pass, though but slowly." It
is experience, the spirit within each living human (indeed each being), which is the unfinished part of the unending symphony, that weaves and wears the garment. Experience cannot be represented (Godel's theorem) by what already exists. We are blessed and
cursed to be required to experience it directly, for ourselves, or not at all. Leonardo called experience "the mistress of all who wrote well," who he "would cite in all cases." He contrasted this description of experience, in the same paragraph, with those
"who deck themselves in the labors of others, but will not allow me my own." He knew the penalties of death inflicted on those who wrote of that which was prohibited.
So he left us an image of experience, encompassing all nature, time, and humanity, a mirror and a map in which we can sit with the intelligent face of another. Maybe an understanding of this image, discussion without the endless academic bickering, could be
a gathering of sorts, after the contemplation, the scorching, the drought, a renewal of those cycles and paths which carry life itself, our own and that of the planet too? Remembering to experience and not hide, oblivious, in the poisoned robes of stagnation.
All very best wishes for a contemplative and creative season,
From: NetBehaviour <email@example.com> on behalf of Patrick Lichty <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Sunday, April 26, 2020 1:05 AM
To: email@example.com <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: [NetBehaviour] Virus Diary Day 6: Ramadan Kareem
Virus Diary: Day 6, Day 46 of Isolation
The month of fasting that teaches compassion for others, for the starving, for the sick.
Ramadan will happen almost entirely within the period of confinement in the UAE.
In a way, this restraint/confinement is almost concidental. During ramadan, you cannot eat, drink, smoke in public.
But in an odd turn of events, how can this happen if there is so one in the streets to begin with?
Suhar and Iftar are other matters. Getting up before dawn for morning prayer isn't the easiest thing (I actually observed last year)
However, iftar, the nightly family/community dinner is a different matter It's literally one of the sources of the cultuar notions of siting down and breaking bread together, The Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi normally has a huge (and actually amazingly good) iftar,
which is now silent.
Contrary to Western Beliefs, Ramadan is not this totally austere holiday as one might think. People typically go nocturnal, and the fasting all day breaks into family food and music in the evening. But with social distancing and the lockdown, How much of this
will be disturbed is questionable.
I once did a stand-up comedy routine once where I said, "White Guys Can't do Ittar." The point being was that at the time, i was single in the UAE and had no family to celebrate with Even though I am not Muslim, I decided to try to see how my Arab college students
dealt with it. While I got phne calls from Arab friends shouting "Ramadan Mobarak!", I was in Subway with my Veggie Delite and Bag of Doritos.
Ramadan is different for different people, and I guess that is the point.
In the center of the lockdown, Ramadan Mubarak.