The Rise of the Specialist (The negative aspect)

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Below is an excerpt of a book I’m reading now for Sir Ken Robinson, called “Out of our minds”. Mind you, the book was written almost a decade ago. The problem was spotted since then, and yet many still fall into it! One day the idea of a specialist will ridiculed,, one day they’ll realize.

The Rise of the Specialist

We are witnessing an exponential growth in knowledge and information on a scale that for earlier generations would have been unimaginable. The store of human knowledge is now doubling every ten years and the rate of expansion is accelerating. One result is increasingly intensive specialisation in all disciplines: a tendency to know more and more about less and less. The output of modern science is so far, for example, that any individual can properly understand only small sections of it.

Individual mathematicians, for example, can usually deal competently with only a small part of mathematics. It is a rare mathematician who fully understands more than half of a dozen out of 50 papers presented to a mathematical congress. According to Michael Polanyi, the very language in which the others who are presented goes clear over the head of the person who follows the six reports nearest to their own specialty. It seems to me that the situation may be similar for all major scientific provinces, so that any single scientist may be competent to judge at first-hand only about a hundredth of the total current of science.

As knowledge expands, greater specialisation is inevitable. The risk is that we lose sight of the larger picture of how ideas connect and can inform each other. In these circumstances we need more than access to information and ideas: we need ways of engaging with them, of making connections, of seeing principles and of relating them to our own experiences and identities. This too has important implications for the culture of organizations.

Making a Commitment

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Almost a year ago, a friend of mine introduced me to a daily mailing list called “I Believe God Wants You to Know”. Its for ” Neale Donald Walsch”, the author of “Conversations with God”. The concept of his book was kinda, mm how do I say this politically correct, well it was different and a bit controversial! I didn’t read the book, but from what I understood, the author went through a series of misfortunes in his life, through which he used to write questions to God; asking why certain things happened in certain ways. Eventually, God responded and gave him the answers.

Not to go further in explaining a book I didn’t read, neither do I really attune to, the author started this mailing list upon the experience of that book. The mailing-list claims to be directly connected to you in each post. But you need to find how.

Though mostly I tend to ignore this mailing-list, some days I decide to read it, and some of those times it strikes me how relevant and guiding it is! Call me spiritual, but I do believe in signs and divine intervention. And sometimes I like to believe that one of those emails were really meant to point something for me..

Today’s email is below,, I loved it, I instantly related to it from the first phrase. You never know if its for you too :)

On this day of your life, I believe God wants you to know…

…that you need to make a commitment, and once you

make it, then life will give you some answers.

Les Brown said that, and he was right. And making a

commitment means more than saying “I’ll try.” It means

saying “I’m all in. I’m totally committed here. Even if

the going gets rough. In fact, especially then.”

Someone once said, aging puts wrinkles on the body.

Quitting puts wrinkles on the soul.

You will not have to think but a second to know

exactly why you received this message today.

Love, Your Friend….

Neale

ظاعن شاهين

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ظاعن شاهين كان من الشعراء في احدى الجلسات اثناء مهرجان الامارات للأدب. يتميز شعره بين استخدام الجناس و بين الشاعرية مما أضاف رونقا لتلك الجلسة. اترككم مع بعض المقتطفات من بعض قصائده.

1

ما تم لي صاحب عقبك ابد ما تم

بعدك طويت الورق وفصلك نقص ما تم

الناس ترقص فرح وعنهم أنا أفماتم

يلي رحلتوا، غصب القلب تابعكم

مهما فعلتوا . . ترى روحي تتابعكم

أخذوني سايق لكم، حسبوني تابعكم

بارض خلت منكم حلفت أنا ما تم

2

وفي قصيدة “حمد” يقول شاهين

لي صاحب يا حمد، محّد أبد شرواه

لو باعني برّخص غالي أنا فشرواه

ما همني لو نقد، من حاسد وشرواه

بدفع حياتي ثمن لحبيبي الغالي

وبهدر ثواني الزمن لجله واشغالي

لزله عيوني عمن، يبقى ذهب غالي

بعطيه أنا رويحي وبرخص له الشروا

3

“تسأليني”

تسأليني ليش أحبك

وليش أنا مهتم بيك

ما قريتي في عيوني

أني متولع وأبيك

ما قريت في خطوط الكف

اني ملك ايديك

وانك انتي لو ختفيتي

عن عيوني

قلبي يتولّه عليك

4

أعشق تراب الوطن ومن يعشقه أهواه

واحن له افساعتي إذا تركته.. آه

هذا الوطن عزتي روحي ودمي ماه

أصرخ وكلي فخر أنا إماراتي

دبي والشارجه، أهلي وإماراتي

الكل يغني فدا، وتبقى الإمارات

Literature Festival day 1: 3. Historical Fiction

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The author of Wolf of the Plains discusses his historical fiction ( Conn Iggulden)

History is where we’re from, what we are, and who we are. Reading about history, about real people, inspires others to persevere.

We all need to know about history, it simply teaches us not to make the same mistakes. But history is often presented as a serious of disconnected facts. They are mostly not humanized, so you wouldn’t be able to relate to the facts. This is where the History fiction fits in. It highly depends on historical facts, but it connects them with an amount of fictional writing. This humanizes the historical characters, approaches the readers with a capturing script, and delivers historical facts in an easy to ready novel frame. By that, more people are able to read and understand history.

This was reflected on in a later session in the day with Dr Youssef Zeidan on his novel: Al Azazil

Literature Festival day 1: 2. The Importance of Quality Books for Children

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The Importance of Quality Books for Children & Young Adults (Nadine Touma, Fatima Sharafeddine, Taghreed Najjar, Qais Sedki)

This was a very interesting session discussing the current state of Children’s books, why is it there, and how can we change it. Children and young adults are the category of those who are 18 years old and younger.

There was an argument whether such books are categorized as Children books or Children literature. The authors leaned towards it being more of a literature, because it is an art on itself to communicate with such a sensitive age-group with any topic at all. The problem is that due to this age-group’s sensitivity toward whatever they receive, it becomes a harder job to write for them, and hence it is easier to just avoid it.

The main questions that targets the writers for this group are: what value does it give the child? What did you want to establish with it? How will that affect them? This often kills the author from a side. From the other side, it is forgotten that a child at that point does not really care about learning, he wants to be entertained. That is why you find other cultures where kids do read, their books are not necessarily value derived, they are more towards entertaining the child, and allowing him to enjoy the process of reading. Sadly, our children books are very basic in their language and purely ideal value setting, e.g. Ahmad went to play with his friend, Sarah went to visit her grandmother, etc.

The statistics says that we have around 120 Million people under the age of 18 years in the Arab world. Sadly, according to the present authors, their books are merely printed for 3000 copies, which barely get sold out over a period of 5 years. Conclusion: no demand!

So what should be done? It was agreed that though the financial support is important, it is definitely not the key. It could be the key for additional publishing to more countries, but what’s the use if we are still stuck with the same content that didn’t get the children to read in the first place.

We have to realize that we have a problem with our generation reading, and then try to create the demand for reading. Learn from other cultures how they solved it, embrace the molds, but create our own content. This is not a call for translation, because translation will still look different, and deliver values we don’t accept for our kids. Kids need to read and see what they can relate to, and enjoy reading.

There was a question that was discussed and debated without reaching to a conclusion. The question was: whose responsibility is it to create a reading society? Is it family, schools, writers, publishers, media? It was argued that education ministry may need to collaborate with cultural authority to provide better books for schools, and to guide authors to be aligned with the new writing approaches.

I believe it is not a one factor solution; it is an equation of contributing factors. Families definitely play a role; media plays a role as well. You never find an advertisement, tv show, movie, or anything at all where a kid not even remotely far in the background is reading a book. So the idea of reading becomes marginalized, uncommon, and as they say “uncool”. Authors need to revisit their content, if it’s not selling, then producing more will not help either. Schools need to grow that in their students. This is not achieved with reading competitions, rather with discussion panels and debates. And the list goes on.

Literature Festival day 1: 1. Inspiration

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Inspiration (Bahaa Taher, Yann Martel, Imtiaz Dharker) (10th March, 2010: 2.30 pm)

Inspiration to write definitely differs from a person to another. Some find it within themselves, some find it in natural scenes, some in muses, and some in everyday’s conversation.

As Yann Martel says, to write, you have to be at discomfort towards a state in the world. You have to have that intellect curiosity of wanting to know how to help change that. Then when you write, you become momentarily in control, you become the painter of that change. You are overtaken with the joyful process of writing.

Imiaz Dharker, a poet, had a very interesting reasoning on writing poetry. You don’t write because you want to be published, not because you want it to be read, not because you want to get money of it. You just have to write, because this is all you can do to express it, because you cannot not write. You just write. For an audience that may never be. Writing gives that sense of harmony, a moment when everything internally is finally balanced. Beautiful!

A point that was raised by Yann Martel, is that he started writing when he was 18 years old. He stated that when you’re young, you don’t think of retirement or money, you don’t care about being poor, you got that optimism in you. You believe you’re immortal. That’s why he started writing then. He wrote horrible plays, but he wrote anyway, he kept trying, he had that hope.

This is opposed to what often is suggested for writers by surrounding people, to quit that nonsense, and submit self to that sense of corporatization, for the sake of job security, and guaranteed salaries. This was stated by Paul Blezard (the host) and confirmed by Martel.

I can’t help but to think, if the above is the reason why we don’t have that much of new young writers? Is the society holding them back? Are we still looking at corporate as the only right way to go? I know I don’t! But what is it about that fear of stepping into that land? Does the change have to come from the individuals alone? Or should there be a support system from the country and the society?

My Lit Fest Schedule

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Ok so here are the sessions I bought tickets for. I was planning for more, but I got a hunch that said not to. If anything I can buy them on the spot later!

Wednesday

2:30pm Inspiration
4:00pm The Importance of Quality Books for Children & Young Adult
5:30pm Conn Iggulden: In Conversation
7:00pm Launch of Looking Back with Love: Dubai Poems from the 1800s
8:30pm Youssef Ziedan: In Conversation

Thursday

2:30pm Art, Science & Creative Ideas for your Children
5:30pm The Uses and Abuses of History
7:00pm One Evening of Outstanding Contemporary Arabic Poetry
8:30pm Poetry as a Cure for the Ailments of Modern Day Society

Friday

2:00pm Women Writing from the Arab World
6:30pm An Evening with Five Contemporary Emirati Poets
8:00pm social media in publishing

Saturday

4:00pm Words and Music
5:30pm Panel Discussion: Robert Lacey, Turki Al-Dakhil, Richard Spencer
7:00pm Maha Gargash: In Conversation

The ones I’m still in doubt of:

Friday 12.30pm Imtiaz Dharker & Fadhil Al-Azzawi
Friday 3.30pm Francis Wheen: In Conversation
Friday 3.30pm Roger McGough 1
Friday 5pm Imran Ahmad
Saturday 11.30am Abdo Khal, Alawiyya Sobh & Bahaa Taher
Saturday 5.30pm Sara Al-Jarawan, Maryam Al-Saedi & Amal Al-Falasi
Saturday 5.30pm Panel Discussion: Robert Lacey, Turki Al-Dakhil, Richard Spencer