HUMANITIES
     
 
 

kernel of our cultural heritage:
literature & poetry

cultural values
&
identity

music Nexus Institute Nexus Institute: Passion for Faith, Death and Freedom, more than 1200 people visited the conference

arts

one of the patron saints of Europe: St Benedict ethics
Nexus Institute: George Steiner, Dominique de Villepin, ....

languages

religions (image 'God the Father: Fiat' open air festival in Szeged

artistic,
literary,
social &
intellectual
movements

Vatican, The Holy See

the ethics
of aesthetics

On health: The updated USDA food pyramid, published in 2005, is a general nutrition guide for recommended food consumption. Reformation: Matthew and the angel, Poussin (1640) Poetry, first page of the Old English epic poem Beowulf
Courage, wisdom and moderation
justice
Laudato Si

focus human rights

The Miroslav Gospel is the oldest Cyrillic memorial in Serbian. The Gospel was very likely produced for the Church of St Peter.

tolerance

 

The humanities are academic disciplines which study the human condition, using methods that are primarily analytic, critical, or speculative, as distinguished from the mainly empirical approaches of the natural and social sciences. Examples of the disciplines related to humanities are ancient and modern languages, literature, history, philosophy (within which ethics), religion, visual, performing arts and music, health.

Humanities provide opportunities and starting points that contribute to further promotion of the human condition. "You can not really understand what a human being is, when you don't study the past" says historian Simon Schama and music for example, expresses the emotions and ideas and is found in every known culture, past and present, varying wildly between times and places. "Music is mathematics in motion and algebra is its choreography", said George Steiner once. Together with maths and poetry, music is one of the tritones (the three languages of man) and a fundamental constituent of human life

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Read the first part of the famous Oration written by the humanist Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494). The extract contains the main ideas of Pico concerning human nature. Those ideas undermine any frozen and confined view of human nature and highlight the conviction that the human being is the master of his own life. According to Pico della Mirandola human nature is a repository of instruments by which each individual can shape his/her life. It is this freedom of choice and the responsibilities attached to it that constitute the dignity of the human being. (From 'Oration on the dignity of the human being' (Oratio de hominis dignitate), 1486.
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Tribalism or Humanism: Will Humanity Ever Resolve the Tensions?

In St. Petersburg, a group of people gathered at a time of uncertainty and discontent in our global order. The various modes and instances of dissention and divergence, from immigration to trade wars, unsettle markets, increase prices and frustrate growth. Debt created by sovereigns with their fiat currencies grows and so reserves of equity supported by real asset values are shrinking.

During the two-day seminar the participants discussed such critical questions of the convergence and fragmentation as the role of globalization and the UN Sustainability Development Goals, the role of religion and ethics, as well as the impact of modern technologies. The special attention was paid to the development of stewardship values related to the financial markets and the development of social, moral, and human capitals.

In terms of fair and principled politics and governments, necessary for the rule of law and a moral capitalism, our current moment also gives cause for concern. Values and ideals which lead to courage and constructive action amoung good people everywhere will have to be reconfirmed. It is in this context that CAUX Round Table for Moral Capitalism, together with the Graduate School of Management, St. Petersburg University, organized the research and practice seminar in order to find ways to diminish tensions between tribalism and humanism.

For one of the participants, the most valuable outcome of the Caux Round Table Global Dialogue happened to be the very formulation of the issue that embraced the entire spectrum of moral and ethical aspects for doing and developing business long term — primarily in the context of UN SDGs:

“The quality and depth of analysis and hypothesis offered via pre-read research materials, have shifted the panelists thinking towards a brand new dimension (e.g. a mutually exclusive impacts of tribalism and humanism over the nature of business) and to a larger extent determined a truly serious level of conversation. So, a decision by the Graduate School of Management at St.Petersburg State University to have CRT integrated into its annual international conference looks bold and the same time absolutely fair and timely”.

Parts of the proceedings report:

In the archtecture and practices of contemporary globalism - embracing business and finance, governments and civil society (including religions) - there is insufficient trust to constructively manage the tensions between a more universal humanism and the fears and selfish concerns we associate with the negative attractions of tribalism. Trust, or the lack thereof, happens in the moral sphere of human endeavor. Trust requires more in our interactions and our engagements with one another than self-interest, reciprocal exchanges of advantage, or self-abasement in the presence of power and influence. Trusting others has a precondition arising from our evaluation of their character and purposes: they must be trustworthy.

To improve trust in our community:

  • comity, the ethical standard of respect and reciprocity, was discussed, recognizing at the same time both the legitimate need for values and identities as a member of a community and a more cosmopolitan, inclusive, level of moral concern to provide free space for others and their personal identities as long as they reciprocate with respect and acts of solidarity on their part;
  • methodologies for valueing companies, enterprises, and financial instruments were presented through a background essay prepared by Oxford-Analytica;
  • to achieve SDGs
  • impacts of social media (protection of private integrity and of social values).

Cosmopolitan lifestyles and personal identities promoted by social media pull individuals away from the psycho-emotional benefits of feeling rooted and supported by a community. Cosmopolitan identities place people anywhere when most of us need to be somewhere. A sense of home is becoming harder and harder to expierence in the digital age of information overload and the emotional chaos of shifting, unreliable interpersonal relations.

There is a search for moral leadership. The equality demanded by elite cosmopolitanism conflicts earning trust. When everyone is equal in marching to the beat of their own internal drummer, impermanence comes to dominate society, driving reliance on others into the ashcan of history. Without reliance, there can be no lasting trust. A Hobbesian war of all-against-all comes into being and the resulting commanding presence of nihilism causes most to fear that they have no solid moral or political ground on which to stand.

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"Societies Between War and Peace: Overcoming the Logic of Conflict in Tomorrow’s World":

We are not determined to stop the multiculturalist crusade against Western civilization. We are not ready to defend our values, our culture, our religion, our life-styles. We are not ready to sacrifice our relatively comfortable life (Václav Klaus, former President of the Czech Republic).

"The problem for those who feel – like me – personally and existentially threatened by the current developments is that we are, together with our fellow citizens, weak, opportunistic and indecisive. That our inactivity suggests our loss of vitality, our lack of self-confidence and our growing fatigue. That we are without courage and without a clear positive vision of the future. That we are forgetting common sense and our common purpose. That we are showing our apparent incapacity to learn lessons from the past and to appreciate the meaning and role of history. That we passively live with disillusionment over the state of the world. That we are victims of failed isms or humanrightism, of multiculturalism, of environmental ism of homosexualism, of cosmopolitism and transnationalism. That we have again become victims of – and at the same time contributors to – the fallacy of political correctness. That many of us consciously or subconsciously believe in the omnipotence of human mind and its ability to rationally mastermind human society".

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Albert Einstein's Surprising Thoughts on the Meaning of Life (Big Think, March 12, 2017 by Paul Ratner)

Albert Einstein was one of the world’s most brilliant thinkers, influencing scientific thought immeasurably. He was also not shy about sharing his wisdom about other topics, writing essays, articles, letters, giving interviews and speeches. His opinions on social and intellectual issues that do not come from the world of physics give an insight into the spiritual and moral vision of the scientist, offering much to take to heart.  The collection of essays and ideas “The World As I See It” gathers Einstein’s thoughts from before 1935, when he was as the preface says “at the height of his scientific powers but not yet known as the sage of the atomic age”.  In the book, Einstein comes back to the question of the purpose of life on several occasions. In one  passage, he links it to a sense of religiosity.

   
“What is the meaning of human life, or, for that matter, of the life of any creature? To know an answer to this question means to be religious. You ask: Does it many any sense, then, to pose this question? I answer: The man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unhappy but hardly fit for life,” wrote Einstein.

Was Einstein himself religious? Raised by secular Jewish parents, he had complex and evolving spiritual thoughts. He generally seemed to be open to the possibility of the scientific impulse and religious thoughts coexisting.

    "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind," said Einstein in his 1954 essay on science and religion.

Some (including the scientist himself) have called Einstein’s spiritual views as pantheism, largely influenced by the philosophy of Baruch Spinoza. Pantheists see God as existing but abstract, equating all of reality with divinity. They also reject a specific personal God or a god that is somehow endowed with human attributes

Himself a famous atheist, Richard Dawkins calls Einstein's pantheism a “sexed-up atheism,” but other scholars point to the fact that Einstein did seem to believe in a supernatural intelligence that’s beyond the physical world. He referred to it in his writings as “a superior spirit,” “a superior mind” and a “spirit vastly superior to men”. Einstein was possibly a deist, although he was quite familiar with various religious teachings, including a strong knowledge of Jewish religious texts.

In another passage from 1934, Einstein talks about the value of a human being, reflecting a Buddhist-like approach:

    “The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he has attained liberation from the self”.

This theme of liberating the self is also echoed by Einstein later in life, in a 1950 letter to console a grieving father Robert S. Marcus:

   
“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us "Universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish it but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.”

In case you are wondering whether Einstein saw value in material pursuits, here’s him talking about accumulating wealth in 1934, as part of the “The World As I See It”: 

   
“I am absolutely convinced that no wealth in the world can help humanity forward, even in the hands of the most devoted worker in this cause. The example of great and pure characters is the only thing that can lead us to noble thoughts and deeds. Money only appeals to selfishness and irresistibly invites abuse. Can anyone imagine Moses, Jesus or Gandhi armed with the money-bags of Carnegie?”

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10 Things Progressives Owe to Western Civilization by Steve Balch

Among academics, the term “Western civilization,” once totemic, has grown impolite. To use it without sneer or smirk can rouse suspicions of Eurocentrism or even bigotry. Many academics who think themselves “Progressive” today equate Western civilization with racism, sexism, imperialism, homophobia, greed, plutocracy, and almost everything bad. They prefer to think of themselves as “global citizens,” believing the prideful invocation of Western civilization is best avoided. Yet if Progressives were to reflect more deeply, they would see that in all these attitudes, and just about everything that goes with them, they themselves are quintessentially Western. Let us count the ways, shall we?

#1 As “Progressives,” they believe in progress, indeed equate themselves with it, and progress is a concept first explicated during the period of Western history known as the Enlightenment—though it was prefigured in earlier strands of Jewish, Hellenistic, and Christian thought. Most other cultures had static or cyclic conceptions of history, or imagined their “golden ages” as belonging to an unrecoverable past. Forward-looking secular improvement is a Western idea.

#2 “Globalism,” in any practical sense, was made possible by the West, whose voyages of discovery and distance-annihilating technologies first knit the world together in a way that makes what happens in each of its parts significant for the rest. Globalism would be inconceivable without the West.

#3 Equally inconceivable would be “citizenship,” an ideal whose roots are wholly Western. Other civilizations had subjects and rulers, the former more or less the chattel of the latter. Only in the West, beginning with the city-states of ancient Greece and Italy, were hoi polloi considered to have a rightful role in public affairs. Applying this principle worldwide has been an act of Western proselytism.

#4 In wanting to design a new global order, Progressives reject the take-it-for-granted outlook that non-Western cultures have had toward politics and society, one in which ways of life are pretty much fixed by changeless traditions. Because they think them fully amenable to rational understanding, Progressives believe that political and social institutions can be systematically “de and re” constructed. Even foundational notions like gender can be readily redefined, they imagine, through public policy. To be sure, Progressivism, especially in its academic guise, has lately become somewhat uncertain about reason, itself now subject to deconstruction. Plato, the first great Western social engineer, would hardly have approved. But as social architects of various brave new worlds, Progressives can still be said to march in his footsteps.

#5 Also like Plato, and many Westerners after him, Progressives frequently tout utopias. Utopias combine the ideas of reason and progress and extend them to the nth degree. While the dream of a perfected hereafter isn’t exclusively Western, one entirely realized by human effort is. Secular perfection is pursued in a variety of forms, sometimes hierarchical with everyone assigned to a prescribed role or caste (as with Plato), others severely egalitarian—“from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” (as with Marx and kindred). What these all have in common is the suppression of genuine individuality, which is inevitably too messy for any perfectionist scheme. In utopia everyone labors for the good of all, a situation the atheoretical non-West has been, until we started reeducating them, too commonsensical to accept.

#6 The peddling of utopias is best done among those whose day-to-day wants have been abundantly satisfied. When much has already been given, unlimited satisfaction seems more plausible. Capitalism created the cornucopia at whose mouth we all now sit, with the mass plausibility of utopias flowing from its success. Nineteenth-century radicals were chagrined to discover that proletarians preferred a 10 percent pay raise to pie-in-the-revolutionary sky. The school of hard knocks inclined them to settle for half a loaf. Twenty-first century “consumatarians” can be easier marks.

#7 Most of the specific utopias current among Progressives are altogether Western in origin. Marxism not only was Western but also saw the West as the driving force behind worldwide revolutionary change. Feminism is an ideology that only expansive Western notions of meritocracy and civil rights could have spawned. Environmentalism would be unthinkable in the agrarian, largely subsistence economies that the West’s industrial and scientific revolutions displaced. Pacifism and the panoply of international institutions ostensibly devoted to conflict resolution are the natural outgrowths of market economies productive enough to do without conquest, as well as political systems where the soldier in the trench is also a man with a vote.

#8 At the heart of Progressivism is redistributive public policy. Whatever the degree to which such policies may be thought demagoguery or social justice, they would make no practical political sense absent democratic electorates in which those with less outnumber those with more. In addition, their advocacy requires a system of civil liberties that allows—particularly when the redistributive process first begins—the advocates of the less to escape suppression by those with more. Majoritarian free-speech regimes arose solely in the West and until the spread of Western influence could be found nowhere else.

#9 The many policy successes of American and Western Progressives have depended on the heavy support they’ve received from intellectuals, and only in the West have intellectuals grown so numerous and powerful as to carry the day in debate after debate. A surfeit of intellectuals is partly the result of the West’s material superabundance. Not being makers of things, intellectuals (not counting scientists and engineers) are something of a luxury product. Poorer societies generally can’t afford to maintain them in the profusion with which they’re found, for example, on contemporary American campuses. And in earlier unfree societies, such intellectuals as existed were, like most everyone else, severely restricted in what they could do and say. Western liberty broke those shackles.

#10 The power of intellectuals has also been greatly augmented by their influence over modern mass media—both in its journalistic and entertainment forms. These media depend, in turn, upon technologies that are the products of Western science and engineering. Without modern technology, Progressive ideas would have had much greater difficulty overcoming the force of tradition and influence of primary institutions like the family, or, for that matter, of common sense. Of course Progressives aren’t the only beneficiaries of Western civilization. At the heart of Western exceptionalism are freedom and reason, and it is not the Progressives but the more genuine champions of liberty who make the most honest use of these. Progressives slip stream their currents that the more classically liberal (i.e., contemporary conservatives) directly ride. Nonetheless, Progressives would do themselves and the world a favor by waking up to all they owe the West. If the West goes down, it’s likely to take Progressivism with it.

Simon Schama: history is a luxury from the past.

History Lessons
. Simon Schama lectured 22 November 2014 at the NEXUS Institute. "You can not really understand what a human being is, when you don't study the past" says historian Simon Schama. The cruelty, courage, sacrifice and bestiality of man are not limited, but eminently visible in the shared history of mankind. But can we by learning to understand ourselves better, actually learn anything from history? Or are we doomed to keep repeating ourselves forever? What contributes history to ultimate knowledge and wisdom? According to Schama, tolerance, advancing fundamentalism and growing nationalism are the three major topical themes that dominate the world today. Schama is a professor of history and art history at Colombia University in New York. He is praised for the way he describes the history. How big the problems of fundamentalism and nationalism may seem, Schama knows placing them beautifully in perspective and explains that we should not get into a negative spiral. If young people are so eager to fight, why do we teach them not to fight for tolerance? His history is a special plea for a new form of shared decency without loosing our own identity.
Politics
has become too much economy, but with shopping alone you don't solve the problem, says the scientist. Schama talks impressively about the importance of pluralism, tolerance and freedom and pleads for storytelling. Because if we understand together more of our shared history, it will contribute to a better world.We can be a free society and at the same time live a cultural, religious life without being reduced to something else. A direction for a new understanding what Europe can be: doing daily business and at the same time seeing the whole culture, identities and philosophy of pluralism whereby a sense of common decency may arise
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A plea for humanising. Human nature is a repository of instruments by which each individual can shape his/her life.
It is this freedom of choice and the responsibilities attached to it that constitute the dignity of the human being.

We influence nature, humanities makes us human, the idea of Europe concerns common results through collaboration and innovation brings us progress

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Music can have immense power over us. Our tastes may differ but music’s ability to move us on a deeply emotional level is universal. Music can trigger profound memories which previously lay dormant, exciting our sense of nostalgia and creating intense feelings of joy or melancholy. There is something ineffable about the way in which music makes us feel, as if at its most profound level it takes us into the realm of the sacred, where words can no longer do justice and attempts to describe it only sully the experience. The idea that music connects us to something divine and spiritual is not a new one.

Johann Sebastian Bach, arguably the grandfather of the Western musical tradition, profoundly influenced generations of composers. He once said:  “The final aim and reason of all music is nothing other than the glorification of God and the refreshment of the spirit.” From Apollo, the Greek god of music and light, to the Gregorian chants of the Roman Catholic Church, the association between music and the divine is deep-rooted in culture and history. For some, music itself is their religion – in the words of the legendary Frank Zappa, “Music is the only religion that delivers the goods.”

But long before Bach asserted that “music is an agreeable harmony for the honor of God and the permissible delights of the soul,” another great historical Western thinker was developing his own theory of music and its place in the cosmos. After hearing the tones emanating from a blacksmith’s forge and observing their musical quality, Pythagoras went home and experimented with his single string instrument the lyre, leading to his discovery of the octave which was to have such a profound impact upon the nature of music.

Like Bach, Pythagoras saw music as a force that, in its highest form, offered something transcendental to the human experience, believing that “the highest goal of music is to connect one’s soul to their Divine Nature, not entertainment.” His deduction that sound was based on a purely mathematical formula would lead him to propose that music could be used to heal “non-virtuous” thoughts such as anger, as well as physical ailments including sciatica, sitting with the patient while playing the kithara and singing along with it. His ideas reflect what some ancient cultures appear to have known intuitively – music therapy is, after all, of ancient provenance, for example the aboriginals of Australia are known to have used the didgeridoo to heal broken bones.Pythagoras’ discovery of the “music of the spheres” went beyond its application as a means of physical and psychological healing -he conceived of the universe as a vast lyre in which planets harmonized with other heavenly bodies -an endless, intergalactic mellifluous interaction reverberating through space and time. “Music was number, and the cosmos was music.” There is something mystical about this interpretation which no doubt stems from Pythagoras’ extensive travels and possible initiation into the Egyptian Mystery Schools.
Pythagoras was without a doubt a candidate for what we consider a polymath; a man of a higher nature with the ability to reach celestial realms. Did he intuit something about the musical nature of the universe?
His theories had a profound influence on numerous thinkers over the following generations.

Philosophers such as Boethius, Johannes Kepler and Robert Fludd took Pythagoras’ monochord – the single string instrument – in new directions, with Kepler in the 17th century attempting to define a harmony of the world in his opus Harmonices Mundi, an attempt to unify music and movement within the solar system.

By the 20th century Pythagoras was influencing Werner Heisenberg and the new field of quantum physics. According to William Irwin Thompson in his book Darkness and Scattered Light, when Heisenberg lectured on Pythagorianism “you will hear him emphasize that the basic building blocks of nature are number and pattern, that the universe is not made out of matter, but music.” The energy of the octave – the magical number 8 – occurs not only in a number of mystical traditions, from the Taoists I Ching to the 8-fold path of Buddhism, but also features prominently in genetic science, with the “language” of DNA and RNA based in groups of 64 codons, or 8×8.

The very words we use to describe music directly correspond to emotional and spiritual principles. When something rings true to us it resonates, often with rich significance evoking a strong emotion. When simultaneous notes combine in a chord in a manner pleasing to the ear we call this harmony, just as when people concur in their opinions and feelings and live their lives in agreeable unison we consider this harmonic. Music which triggers certain emotions is understood universally, with scientific studies confirming that music with happy, sad or fearful emotions in Western music are recognized as such by native Africans, just as Westerners appreciate these same qualities in Hindustani music.
 
Just as music can provoke positive reactions in people, some argue that it can be used negatively in order to detune us from our natural harmonic relationship with the world around us. Since 1953 the International Standards Organization (ISO) has tuned music to 440 hertz, changing it from the previous 432 Hz which was thought to transmit beneficial healing energy. One theory is that this change in frequency was brought about by Nazi Joseph Goebbels, who sought to alter the collective mood and make the populace prisoners of negative consciousness. Music pioneer Leonard Horowitz stated in a paper entitled Musical Cult Control:It isn’t hard to see the negative impact popular music has on contemporary society – corporate music today is an anathema to the principles of music expounded by the likes of Pythagoras, proposing a crude value system of self-adulation, materialism and greed; manufactured music set the videos replete with negative occult imagery which sexualizes and debases the performer and, by association, the viewer. The power of frequencies to affect the universe has long been understood, and just as it can be used for our benefit so too can it be turned against us. Indeed, sound has already been weaponized in the form of the Long Range Accoustic Device (LRAD), a truck-mounted device which emits pain inducing tones which has already been deployed in numerous war zones in the Middle East as well as the streets of America to use against protesters.The power of frequencies to affect the world is vast, with the potential to trigger earthquakes and radically alter the geological make-up of the planet. Low frequency bass sounds can alter the path of flowing water so that it falls in a corkscrew, seemingly defying gravity.