By now you have all heard about Scientology, but in case you are eager to learn more about it, here are some historic facts. Scientology emerged in the 1950’s United States, through the thoughts of the American Lafayette Ronald Hubbard (1911-1986). This man was a writer, member of the Explorers Club, and particularly interested in ships. Having served in the navy during World War II, after it he started to focus on a “science of the mind”. In 1950 he published his ideas in Dianetics : The Modern Science of Mental Health. For Hubbard, the most basic human instinct is the quest for survival. Moreover, he considered that in some part of our mind we store negative experiences, which he called “engrams”, which are prejudicial to us. To counter these engrams and help people eliminate them, he created “auditing”, a counseling process to help people fight their engrams. Getting rid of engrams, meant that people gained a “clear” mind. Scientology was invented because Hubbard also believe that there must be a separation of consciousness from the body, where one can see his “spiritual self”, the “thetan”. For him, thetans had emerged in the beginning of the universe creation, and they were the ones that created matter, energy, space and time (MEST). For Scientologists, thetans pass from one body to the other (in a kind of “reincarnation”). Without even understanding how and who they were, thetans arrived to the Earth. Thus, the most important belief of Scientology is that individuals must be free (that being the goal of religion according to Hubbard) and therefore its purpose is to assist the individual to make of him a conscious and functioning thetan. The controversy around this belief is not small, and the recent movie The Master, although not explicitly, narrates its emergence.
Imagine a place where there is absolutely no sound. You cannot imagine it, since it does not exist… Unless you are in an anechoic chamber (anechoic means “with no echo”). This latter consists in a completely insulated room, where there is no resonance, since the walls absorb all sound and sound-waves’ reflection. The first anechoic chamber was built in 1940 in New Jersey, but there are now several around the world. In South Minneapolis, USA, in the Orfiled Laboratories, there is a chamber which is 99.99% sound absorbent. While a normal conversation is at about 30 decibels and the human ear can hear as low as 0 decibels, the noise in this anechoic chamber has been measured and is about -9.4 decibels. This means that people who are inside that chamber are completely sound deprived, to the point that they can hear their organs functioning. However this is very disorientating, and most people are not capable of staying there for more than 45 minutes, while some even hallucinate. The chamber is mainly used for scientific purposes, to test machines, or as NASA, to test our next astronauts. Check it out!
Discovered for the first time in 1926, the Nazca Lines decorate the arid soils of the Pampa Colorada, north of the city of Nazca, in south Peru. These lines extend through an area of around 500 square kilometers, illustrating people, animals, plants and even geometrical figures, and it is almost impossible to see what they represent from the ground. No one knows exactly who draw them, nor what was their purpose. Geologists believe they were made around 2000 years ago by the people of the Nazca culture (≃ 200 BC – 600 AD), some even predating them and belonging to the Paracas culture. There is a lot of speculation around these drawings. Some people nowadays believe these lines represent sacred paths, which one must follow to understand a higher meaning, or were used in spiritual rituals. Others see in it an astronomical calendar, turned to the skies. In 1994, UNESCO added this site to its World Heritage List. You can read more on the Nazca Lines here.
Like its name indicates, ‘spoken word poetry’ is the artistic performance of making poetry out-loud or storytelling. The art of spoken poetry has existed for centuries and was actually a category in Ancient Greece Olympic Games. Yet, in the 1960’s, modern ‘spoken word poetry’ became popular with The Last Poets, a group of African-American poets and musicians who were part of the Civil Rights movement and of the Black Nationalist Movement. Nowadays, Spoken Word Poetry’s artists do not publish books but rather prefer to use video and audio recording. In 2004, Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye created project V.O.I.C.E. i.e. Vocal Outreach Into Creative Expression, which is an international movement for spoken word poetry’s promotion. It brings together writing and theatre and “a supportive environment to inspire youth to recognize that their views are significant, valid, and necessary”. Check out this amazing video telling their original story.
“We keep repeating that Islam has been hijacked, we ain’t like that”
Native Deen is an American Islamic musical group formed in the 2000’s by Salaam, Ahmad and Muhammad who met through the Muslim Youth of North America. Their band combines hip-hop with lyrical themes from Islam. Their songs seek to inspire young muslims to remain faithful to Islam despite the pressures of the daily life and they criticise the erroneous vision that so many people have about their religion. In 2005, in a context of animosity of the Muslim world towards the American government, the State Department invited them to do a good-will tour in Mali, Senegal and Nigeria. The band accepted it and has now about 40 shows a year, mostly at Muslim cultural conventions and summer camps.
Check out their single ‘My Faith My Voice’.
Jorge Semprún (1923-2011) was a Spanish writer, political activist, leader of the Spanish communist’s underground in the 1950s, and Buchenwald survivor. With the bursting of the Spanish civil War, his family escaped to France where he attended the elite Lycée Henri IV and the Sorbonne University. During the Nazi occupation of France, Semprún joined the French Communist Resistance and was subsequently deported to the Buchenwald concentration camp where he survived for 18 months. After the end of the war, he became the leader of communist activities against Franco’s dictatorship using the pseudonym Federico Sanchez. Yet by the 1960s, Semprún became a strong opponent of the Stalinist totalitarian repression and in 1964 he was expelled from the Spanish Communist Party. He lived in France for the next two decades where he dedicated his life to literature, by writing novels, memoirs and screenplays. In 1969 he was nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay Z. From 1988 to 1991 he served as Minister of Culture of the Gonzalez government. In 1996, he became the first non-French author elected to the Académie Goncourt.
Raymond Allen Davis is a former United States’ soldier who worked for the US Consulate in Lahore, Pakistan. On January 27, 2011, working under cover for the CIA, Davis shot two Pakistani men in a busy market area of Lahore alleging self-defence, and claiming that the two men were armed and were going to kill him. Davis called for help and the American vehicle that came to rescue him killed a third Pakistani in what was a “hit and run”. Davis was automatically jailed by the Pakistani authorities, causing an enormous crisis between Islamabad and Washington, which claimed he had diplomatic immunity. By March, a deal was made: the families of the two victims were paid $2.2 million and Davis was released. All charges were acquitted the moment he fled Pakistan. Spread the word...
The Valle de los Caídos is a catholic monumental memorial in San Lorenzo del Escorial, which is about 40km from Madrid. The Spanish dictator Francisco Franco ordered its construction and is buried there, along with José Antonio Primo de Rivera – the founder of the Falange Española – and with other 33 872 victims of the Spanish Civil War, in what is suppose to be a monument of reconciliation. On March 17, 2013, El Pais published an article entitled “Los Niños Cantores de Franco” describing the lives of children (from 8 to 14 years) who live in a Catholic public boarding school in the Valle. The majority of these children come from families with no resources, receive a very traditional catholic education, while at the same time acquire knowledge in music and singing. They are called the “white voices”. After visiting the Valle de los Caídos and becoming aware of these children’s lives, Italian film director Alessandro Pugno decided to make a movie telling their story. Check out a small bit here.
Born in 1946, Peter Singer is an Australian philosopher and activist who has taken interest in ethical and political issues. In 1975 he wrote his most well-known and influential book Animal Liberation: A New Ethics for Our Treatment of Animals, which was a manifest against animal abuse and torture in scientific research and in animal farms. This work highly contributed to the development of animal rights, since Singer believes that all beings who can suffer or have pleasure must have their interests taken into account. Also interested in social and political causes, in the aftermath of the 1971 Bangladesh cyclone he wrote a very influential essay entitled Famine, Affluence, and Morality (1972), where he argues that men have moral obligations towards each other. Indeed, he believes that whether one is near or far another person in suffering or poverty, one should help. Thus, there is a duty of charity in order to prevent pain if possible. Singer does not preach without practice. He himself donates an important part of his income to help poor and distressed people. For his thinkings he has been given many honors, and in 2004 he was declared the Australian Humanist of the Year.
The Lykov’s was a Russian family of six people who spent 42 years in complete isolation of the human society in Abakan, in southern Siberia. The family was part of the Old Believers, a fundamentalist Russian orthodox sect, which had been prosecuted since the 17th century. This prosecution only increased with the arrival to power of atheist Bolchevicks. At that time, many Old Believers isolated themselves in Siberia, and in 1936 the Lykov’s followed that path. Taking their two children, some possessions and seeds, they left to the Siberian forest. Their other two children were born there and up until 1978 they had never seen other humans, although they knew there were other people and countries. Indeed, it was only in 1978 that a helicopter flying over that region with a group of geologists, saw there were people living there. These geologists had several contacts with them, but the Lykov’s decided to stay in that same place. For those 40 years, they were unaware that there was a Second World War and a Cold War. You can read more about the Lykov Family here.