Archive for December, 2009

30
Dec

Good-bye, the 2000s!

   Posted by: Chen    in Journey of life

hr1I was hoping the year, or the decade for that matter, would end on a happy note. So we joined two other families on a visit to the Disney World, trying, at least for me, to escape facing the depression amounted from reflecting the decade about to end. Then on December 25, Christmas day, I learned, from my iPhone, that a Beijing court has sentenced Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo to 11-years in prison and “two years’ deprivation of political rights” for subversion in his writings.

By now, you have probably noticed that I am someone who is wholeheartedly longing for a peaceful world, a world that each member’s life and rights are respected. But my dream had been shattered time and time again in the 2000s. This verdict on Liu had just added another blow.

No. The Y2K computer black-out did not occur. In fact, the decade started rather smoothly. But at the end, it has been covered with the darkest clouds in recent history.

Since the rectification of the Declaration of Universal Human Rights in 1948, we had witnessed a steady progress in accepting the universal values of respecting individual rights. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 anchored a monumental victory for the pursuit of Human Rights in the world.

Looking back this decade, however, we saw perhaps the greatest regress since the end of the World War II. The horrendous 102 minutes of September 11, 2001 that took 2752 lives of innocent people changed everything, slapped the face of every peace loving soul. Not only the families of the victims will forever dealing with the grieves of the losses of their loved ones, the heroes who bravely responded the attacks are now suffering lung ailments, cancers and other fatal illnesses.

Military action is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, the way of survival and of destruction. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.”

This is how The Art of War, a book by Sun Tzu written some 2500 years ago, begins. Responsi­ble nations in recent history have in general approached wars with prudence and deliberation, because, as Sun Tzu pointed, it is a matter of life and death. However, the processes of engaging and invoking wars in this decade were rather lax, and the lack of sufficient inquiries were apparent. The world has been paying great prices. According to icasualties.org, the coalition military fatalities in the Iraq war amounts 4689. US alone lost 4371 service men and women. And the number of Iraqi civilians deaths is near ten folds, at a staggering sum of 46783.

Political and religious oppression around the world worsened, and oppositions from the free world weakened. According to the Prisoner Database compiled at the Dui Hua Foundation, there are 19935 Chinese political and religious prisoners as of September 30, 2009. Individuals who peacefully exercised their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association remained at high risk of harassment, house arrest, arbitrary detention, and torture and other ill-treatment. Family members of human rights activists, including children, were increasingly targeted by the authorities, including being subjected to long-term house arrest and harassment by security forces. Lawyers who took on sensitive cases were also at risk; several had their licences suspended, and others lost their jobs. Some lawyers were specifically warned by the authorities not to take on sensitive cases, including cases of Tibetans arrested during the unrest in Tibetan areas and Falun Gong practitioners.Amnesty International.

The number of Political Prisoners in Burma has surged to 2250 by the end of September, 2009. Burma’s military government has more than doubled the number of political prisoners in the past two years, including more than a hundred imprisoned in recent months, Human Rights Watch said in its September report.

Massive human rights violations take place in nearly every part of the world in this decade. In addition to the two countries mentioned above, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Belarus, Chad, Cuba, Eritrea, Laos, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Zimbabwe all recorded widespread human rights violations.

What’s troubling is that we have seen a disturbing trend since the end of the cold war, particularly in this decade. Talks on human rights have become more and more political tactics, instead of unshakable principles. We selectively leverage them only to serve as instant justifications to our immediate policies. We choose becoming silent when we fear it might jeopardize our trade talks. We show indifference to the victims who are longing desperately our leadership and support, when we seek economic cooperation from the regimes who are the source of the oppression.

As I am sadly putting down these words, another suicide bombing just took place, killing eight Americans. Protests in Iran …

And Mr. Feng Zhenghu is still living on a bench in Tokyo’s Narita International Airport, waiting a permission to go home.

It is painful even to mention the earthquake off Sumatra killing perhaps 200,000 people, the deadly Katrina that drowned the city of New Orleans, the earthquake hit Sichuan Province, China, taking 70,000 people and leaving over 18,000 missing…

I don’t even want to start discussing the financial melt down.

While in the Disney Parks, watching people from all over the world celebrating together, hearing songs beautifully advancing the messages of peace and love, I couldn’t help but ask myself: wouldn’t it be wonderful that the world we living in becomes a Disney park?

 

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17
Dec

Ode to Joy – Part IV

   Posted by: Chen    in Journey of life

 

A Celebration of Life – On Beethoven’s Birthday

Part I

Part II

Part III

 

bicolr29Oh friends, no more of these sad tones!
Let us rather raise our voices together
In more pleasant and joyful tones.
Joy!

Joy, thou shining spark of God,
Daughter of Elysium,
With fiery rapture, goddess,
We approach thy shrine.
Your magic reunites
That which stern custom has parted;
All humans will become brothers
Under your protective wing.

Let the man who has had the fortune
To be a helper to his friend,
And the man who has won a noble woman,
Join in our chorus of jubilation!
Yes, even if he holds but one soul
As his own in all the world!
But let the man who knows nothing of this
Steal away alone and in sorrow.

All the world’s creatures drink
From the breasts of nature;
Both the good and the evil
Follow her trail of roses.
She gave us kisses and wine
And a friend loyal unto death;
She gave the joy of life to the lowliest,
And to the angels who dwell with God.

Joyous, as his suns speed
Through the glorious order of Heaven,
Hasten, brothers, on your way,
Joyful as a hero to victory.

Be embraced, all ye millions!
With a kiss for all the world!
Brothers, beyond the stars
Surely dwells a loving Father.
Do you kneel before him, oh millions?
Do you sense the Creator’s presence?
Seek him beyond the stars!
He must dwell beyond the stars.

~ Friedrich Schiller – Ludwig van Beethoven

Conducting the 9th

Conducting the 9th

Beethoven shook the world with his thunderous Third and Fifth symphonies. He also showed us his supreme passion towards the nature in his Sixth, the Pastorale in F major. But it is his D monor Choral, the Ninth and the final, symphony that disseminates the compassion of this great man for the entire mankind. Beethoven, the lone soldier fighting relentlessly for broader freedom, through his final symphonic speech, transcends once again universal longing – this ultimate symphony is an enlightenment testament.

It is worth noting that in the premier of the symphony on May 7, 1824 in Vienna, Beethoven received five ovations at the conclusion, and left the concert deeply moved. 

In his thirty some years of splendid manifestation, Beethoven enchanted the world like nature did. We walk in the landscape of Beethoven that filled with melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic beauty, we instantly dismiss any personal anxiety, fear, and hopelessness. Our aspiration becomes so enriched as if we are venturing in a deep woodland, an echoing valley, a rocky mountain, or a roaring ocean. From one place to another, it is often surprising and breathtaking, but always enchanting and inspiring.

 We should be thankful! 

Thankful that when we passing by a park, a restaurant, a museum, that unmistakeable Beethovenian flows into our hearts through our ears, whether it’s an overture, a concerto, a sonata, or a symphony, we can whisper to each other: did you hear that? Beethoven

Thankful that with the epoch Beethoven created, many great masters freely acknowledged his sovereignty and willingly followed his inspiration, with their own personal endurance and creativity, greatly enriched our music life, in the names of Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Wagner, Brahms, Mahler, Richard Strauss, who extended the Austrian – German heritage, and Berlioz, Chopin, Liszt, Smetana, Grieg, the Russian Five, who infused music with their distinguished cultures, and Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, Sibelius, who blended the two schools, and Verdi, Puccini, who brought opera to such popularity. 

Thankful that when times arrive that demand the heavenly outcry for the ultimate joy, love, and hope, we have the Choral symphony to speak for us.

Thankful that Beethoven had created this manifesto for us that one day when we celebrate the universal brotherhood we have the finest form already prepared.

Ode to Joy!

 

My favorite recordings

Symphony no 1 in C major, Op. 21
Symphony no 2 in D major, Op. 36
Roger Norrington – London Classical Players

Symphony no 3 in E flat major, Op. 55 “Eroica”
Symphony no 4 in B flat major, Op. 60
Herbert von Karajan – Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Symphony no 5 in C minor, Op. 67
Symphony no 7 in A major, Op. 92
Fritz Reiner – Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Symphony no 8 in F major, Op. 93
Leonard Bernstein – Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

Symphony No.9 in D Minor, Op.125 “Choral”
ODE TO FREEDOM
Bernstein, 1989

Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 61
Perlman, Giulini, Philharmonia

Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, op. 15
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major, Op. 19
Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, op. 58
Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73 “Emperor”, Op. 73
Bernard Haitink, Murray Perahia & Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

Triple Concerto in C Major, Op. 56
Fantasy in C minor for Piano, Chorus, and Orchestra, op. 80
Daniel Barenboim, Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma
Berliner Philharmoniker, Chor der Deutschen Staatsoper

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17
Dec

Ode to Joy – Part III

   Posted by: Chen    in Journey of life

 

A Celebration of Life – On Beethoven’s Birthday

By now, Beethoven had single handed ended the classical era. Music is no long just for entertaining the audience or showcasing the artistry of the composer and the virtuosity of the musician. Beethoven dignified music as the vehicle of conveying personal emotions, ideas, and beliefs and for the expression of universal longings – thus, the chapter of the Romantics. The Eroica symphony, without precedent or prototype, abruptly erased any doubt about Beethoven’s intention.

The Storm

beethoven1The E flat symphony is often described Grand. It is grand in the sense of its scale. Beethoven doubled the size of the orchestra and the length of the symphony. But it really does not capture the intensity of the quantum leap this symphony imposed to the music evolution as well as the endurance of the audience.

Let’s put this in perspective. The gap between this symphony – his Third – and the Second symphony, which it followed by an interval of only one year, is so deep and wide that perhaps only Beethoven himself was readily to comprehend the new intellectual conception.

When it was performed in first audition in 1804, at prince Lobkowitz’s court, it was dedicated to Napoleon. Upon hearing the news that Napoleon was proclaimed Emperor of the French in May 1804, Beethoven became disgusted, scratched the name Bonaparte out so violently with a knife that he punched a hole in the paper.  According to Ferdinand Ries, friend and student of Beethoven:

In 1803 Beethoven composed his third symphony (now known as the Sinfonia Eroica) in Heiligenstadt, a village about one and a half hours from Vienna….In writing this symphony Beethoven had been thinking of Buonaparte, but Buonaparte while he was First Consul. At that time Beethoven had the highest esteem for him and compared him to the greatest consuls of ancient Rome. Not only I, but many of Beethoven¹s closer friends, saw this symphony on his table, beautifully copied in manuscript, with the word “Buonaparte” inscribed at the very top of the title-page and “Luigi van Beethoven” at the very bottom. Whether or how the intervening gap was to be filled out I do not know. I was the first to tell him the news that Buonaparte had declared himself Emperor, whereupon he broke into a rage and exclaimed, “So he is no more than a common mortal! Now, he too will tread under foot all the rights of man, indulge only his ambition; now he will think himself superior to all men, become a tyrant!” Beethoven went to the table, seized the top of the title-page, tore it in half and threw it on the floor. The page was later re-copied and it was only now that the symphony received the title Sinfonia Eroica. - From Biographische Notizen über Beethoven, F. Wegeler and F. Ries, 1838

Title Page, where Napoleon's name shown erased

Title Page, where Napoleon's name shown erased

The first public performance took place in Vienna on April 7, 1805. Clearly some audience felt the suffer and outraged with the incomprehensible passage, as one concert goer yelled: “I’ll give another Kreutzer if it will just stop.” Even the most equipped music critics had difficulties to grasp the spirit of a whole new set of resonances, “At any rate this new work by Beethoven has great daring ideas, and, as can be expected from the genius of this composer, is very powerfully carried out. But the symphony would gain immensely (it lasts a full hour) if Beethoven would decide to shorten it and introduce into the whole more light, clarity and unity….”, as the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung reviewed.

The listeners did not really have a choice. They had to surrender themselves to the unparalleled passion, the irresistible outburst of creative energy, and the impeccable mastery exhibited in Beethoven’s musical creations. It did not take long for people to start to recognize that the Eroica, or heroic, symphony is impersonal as the tomb of the unknown soldier, a monument to the deathless spirit of man. It is as if a mysterious destiny, in causing Beethoven agony by tearing down an idol before his eyes, had taken the ultimate pains to insure the greatest destiny for his creation. We have in this work not a personal outpouring so much as a masterpiece which balances form and profound feeling, and looks down from its height on the music of two centuries.

In this monumental transformation, Beethoven clothed symphonic forms in a dramatic atmosphere that he forced the delicate, chamber-music style of the symphony to give way to a new abundance of chords, to music that speaks in thunder tones of mighty power. Through his music, we feel the dynamics charged with explosive energy, as if man had become once an elemental being, passionate and wild with unstoppable desire to inner freedom and liberty. Music once for all became the language of humanity, through the funeral marches and fantastic scherzos, as well as prayers and hymns whose solemnity had never before been claimed. “What is beautiful in science is the same thing that is beautiful in Beethoven. There’s a fog of events and suddenly you see a connection. It expresses a complex of human concerns that goes deeply to you, that connects things that were always in you that were never put together before”, as Victor Weisskopf points out.

The revelation was elevated to a new height in his Fifth symphony in C minor. This is undoubtedly, in my opinion, the highest expression humanly possible to disclose inner confrontation, struggle, and will to overcome. It is timeless, boundary-less, and universal. Guided by its powerful opening motif, the C Minor Symphony conveys one of the fundamental elements of human beings by steering the listener “from night to light,” from defeat to triumph.

Beethoven himself conducted the premiere of his Fifth Symphony, performed together with the Sixth Symphony (“Pastorale”), in Vienna on Dec. 22, 1808. In the same Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, celebrated author, composer, and music critic Ernst Theodor Wilhelm Hoffmann (January 24, 1776 – June 25, 1822) offered the following:

Radiant beams shoot through the deep night of this region, and we become aware of gigantic shadows which, rocking back and forth, close in on us and destroy all within us except the pain of endless longing – a longing in which every pleasure that rose up amid jubilant tones sinks and succumbs. Only through this pain, which, while consuming but not destroying love, hope, and joy, tries to burst our breasts with a full-voiced general cry from all the passions, do we live on and are captivated beholders of the spirits.

Do you feel the power and the inspiration now?

Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825)

Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825)

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16
Dec

Ode to Joy – Part II

   Posted by: Chen    in Journey of life

 

A Celebration of Life – On Beethoven’s Birthday

As the century was about to turn, the entire Europe was rattled by the French Revolution politically. But that didn’t seem have much immediate impact on the music world in Vienna. Music enthusiasts were still consumed by the fertile variety delivered to them by the classical masters. In 1788, the three “Great” symphonies of Mozart, the E-flat (K.543), the G Minor (K.550), and the “Jupiter” Symphony, Symphony in C Major (K.551), were premiered. In 1795, Haydn completed the 12 London symphonies. Those were the finest artistic expressions in the symphonic repertoire of these maestros.

Prelude To A Storm

On the second of April, 1800, a benefit concert was announced in Vienna. Tickets and stalls were to be had of “Herr van Beethoven at his lodgings im tiefen Graben, No. 241, third story, and of the boxkeeper”. Concert programs, as printed on the announcement, included

A new grand symphony for full orchestra by Beethoven.
A symphony by the late chapel-master Mozart
An aria and duet from Haydn’s Creation
A grand concerto for pianoforte, played and composed by Beethoven, and
A septet for four strings and three wind instruments, composed by Beethoven

Young Beethoven

Young Beethoven

Unlike his fellow musicians in Vienna, “Beethoven is the friend and contemporary of the French Revolution, and he remained faithful to it even when, during the Jacobin dictatorship, humanitarians with weak nerves of the Schiller type turned from it, preferring to destroy tyrants on the theatrical stage with the help of cardboard swords. Beethoven, that plebeian genius, who proudly turned his back on emperors, princes and magnates – that is the Beethoven we love for his unassailable optimism, his virile sadness, for the inspired pathos of his struggle, and for his iron will which enabled him to seize destiny by the throat.” – Igor Stravinsky

It never was doubtful in Beethoven’s mind that he was about to transform music. In his first symphony, he tried to respect the forms and standards of Haydn and Mozart, restrained himself to confine in their mold. But even with his first entry to the symphonic repertoire, the C major symphony clearly revealed the cloven hoof of the revolutionist beneath. Though the third movement of the symphony retaines the name of the Mozartian minuet, it is obvious a suggestion of something much more energized – a Scherzo.

Born on December 16th, 1770, in Bonn

Born on December 16th, 1770, in Bonn

Compare to his later symphonies, the C major is hardly a “major” piece in his music output. But, in 1800 this was nothing short of major, because even his contemporaries realized that this piece changed the conception of the genre, that this symphony represented Beethoven at the height of his Classical powers, building on the achievements of Haydn and Mozart while not hiding his debt to them. The First Symphony, as described by his contemporaries, is “a masterpiece that does equal honor to [Beethoven's] inventiveness and his musical knowledge. Being just as beautiful and distinguished in its design as its execution, there prevails in it such a clear and lucid order, such a flow of the most pleasant melodies, and such a rich, but at the same time never wearisome, instrumentation that this symphony can justly be placed next to Mozart’s and Haydn’s.”

But, still, no one realized this would actually put a period to their beloved classicism.

Despite his deteriorating hearing, and the suicidal thoughts he expressed in an unsent letter to his brothers, Heiligenstadt Testament, Beethoven injected boundless humor and vitality into his second symphony, the D major written in 1802. “This Symphony is smiling throughout”, as Hector Berlioz later remarked. In this symphony, the Minuet is officially replaced with the Scherzo. It might be Beethoven’s way of seeking refuge in the charm of music at the time of his personal struggle. 

Nevertheless, maybe by now his contemporaries began to realize that the music language of Beethoven and the energy he exerted in his symphonies, so far only two, were not temporary experiments but, indeed, a representation of a revolution they were not ready for. The reaction to the second symphony, shockingly, was politely dissenting: “It is a noteworthy, colossal work, of a depth, power, and artistic knowledge like very few. It has a level of difficulty, both from the point of view of the composer and in regard to its performance by a large orchestra (which it certainly demands), quite certainly unlike any symphony that has ever been made known. It demands to be played again and yet again by even the most accomplished orchestra, until the astonishing number of original and sometimes very strangely arranged ideas becomes closely enough connected, rounded out, and emerges like a great unity, just as the composer had in mind.” 

But, Beethoven had determined to recover from his depression, to throw himself with renewed vigor into the work of musical creation. He did the unthinkable. He turned his deafness, a catastrophe for a composer, to motivation. He turn the criticism into challenge. He’s about to storm the world with the historical Eroica.

Was the world ready?

French Revolution

"Liberty leading the People" by Eugène Delacroix

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15
Dec

Ode to Joy – Part I

   Posted by: Chen    in Journey of life

 

A Celebration of Life - On Beethoven’s Birthday

A few individuals extraordinaire with their will of change steered the history away from the path it was on.

I am not referring those exceptional scientists. Science is a pursuit for understanding of the natural law, which can only be discovered but not changed. Of course, then there’s case of Albert Einstein, who at least shortened a great deal the enlightening process with his disclosure to the certain physics laws.

Here, the topic is regarding the humanities and social progression, along the lines of politics, literature, law, philosophy, and, of course, music.

The Background

Giuseppe Torelli

Giuseppe Torelli

Emerging from the Renaissance, together with its siblings in the forms of art and architecture, western music was reborn with a new life. Specially in the next two centuries since the beginning of the 17th century, western music had endured a pleasant, progressive transition, from the introduction of the textured Polyphony, to the delightful Baroque period, finally arrived in the glorious Classical Era. The beginning of this transformation can be characterized with the following revolutionary breakthroughs: in music language, the beginning of a new structure of the vertical aspect of music which is essentially the foundation for harmony, distinguished from the horizontally compiled melodic line as the only aspect existed previously (let me point out that even today oriental music is still predominantly horizontal); the breakaway of instrumental music to become an independent performing form, instead of a mere companion of vocal music; and the addition of opera. Even through the existence of opera can be traced back to the last decade of the 16th century, it only became a popular form with the opening of the first public opera house in Venice in the 1630s.

Together, these elements elevated music to a new domain what we call today the Performing Arts, and marked the dawn of the Age of Harmony. Great composers emerged during this transition, provided their contributions in formulating the new structure for music. The first testimonial of the beauty of this new Age of Harmony was the appearance of the concerto grosso, which was evolved at the end of the 17th century by the Italian composers Torelli (1658 – 1709) and Corelli (1653–1713), with a structured usage of three or four movements. The form reach its fullest expression in the works of Antonio Vivaldi (1678 – 1741), George Frideric Handel (1685 – 1759), and Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750).
Bach

Bach

The word sinfonia began to appear in the early 18th century. At the time sinfonia functioned as an introductory passage or overture before the scenes of an opera. It was Alessandro Scarlatti (1660 – 1725) who standardized the form with three movements, and advanced it with its own sufficiency to be performed as separate concert pieces, which, as we can imagine, eventually led to the full scale symphony.

Joseph Haydn

Joseph Haydn

Even through Baroque music reached its grand climax in north Germany in the works of J.S. Bach, it was the composers in south Germany who embraced the influence from Italian and France that began the search of something new, something almost intangible, something with an evanescent beauty, something in the style of the French Rococo architecture, something no longer calculated or constructed as it was with Baroque music. This search which resulted in a grand reformation led to the evolution of a new musical language we call Classical.

Composers who pioneered this transition include the Italians resided in Vienna, the Bononcini – Giovanni brothers – Battista (1670 – 1747) and Antonio (1677 – 1726), Antonio Caldara (1670 – 1736), Giuseppe Porsile (1680 – 1750), among others, and Georg Philipp Telemann (1681- 1767), Domenico Scarlatti (1685 – 1757) , Franz Xaver Richter (1709 – 1789), Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714 – 1787), C.P.E. Bach (1714 – 1788), J.C. Bach (1735 – 1782) .

The emergence of the new classicism coincided with that of the middle class as an influential segment of society. As this increasingly wealthy bourgeois class pressed for recognition and demanded for participation in the music life, the scale of music reached its new extent, both in the size of the orchestra and in the volume of the instruments. Symphonic orchestra evolved as the predominant performing ensemble, and pianoforte gradually replaced harpsichord. Music, no longer exclusively performed in courtly circles, became the public concert to satisfy the appetite of the large audience.

Mozart

Mozart

The glory of the classicism was exemplified in the creations of two great masters, both with significance and relevance to our featured hero, Franz Joseph Haydn (March 31, 1732 – May 31, 1809) and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (January 27, 1756 – December 5, 1791). While Haydn is often called the “Father of the Symphony”, it was Mozart who sought greater diversity, charm and sweetness of sonorities, who was the first to make the symphony sing by introducing into the initial allegro an elegiac element conceived in the spirit of the adagio. Both men enjoyed enormous popularity. Their prolific compositions became constant celebrations.

Music had never gained this kind importance before in people’s life. In fact, it was pretty much the life in the city of Vienna. Music lovers and critics alike (most residents of Vienna at the time probably qualified both categories) were thoroughly enthralled by the enchanting joy of their musical surroundings. No one expected change. No one wanted change.

It was recorded that in their brief meeting in Vienna in 1787, Beethoven brilliantly improvised on a theme suggested by Mozart. Astonished, after having listened to him, Mozart said, “watch out for that boy. One day he will give the world something to talk about”.

Was Mozart sensing what was about to come?

Was that the forecast for a storm in the making?

A French Painting in the Classical Era, The Swing, by Jean Fragonard (1732-1806)

A French Painting in the Classical Era, The Swing, by Jean Fragonard (1732-1806)

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11
Dec

His Holiness The Dalai Lama

   Posted by: Chen    in Journey of life

Peace, in the sense of the absence of war, is of little value to someone who is dying of hunger or cold. It will not remove the pain of torture inflicted on a prisoner of conscience. It does not comfort those who have lost their loved ones in floods caused by senseless deforestation in a neighboring country. Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where the people are fed, and where individuals and nations are free.

- His Holiness The Dalai Lama

17

There ware gatherings yesterday in various parts of the world commemorating 20th anniversary of the conferment of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Dalai Lama. Reading these news brings back profound memories of my first acquaintance with His Holiness.

It was in the fall of 1989. The Chinese Independent Union at the campus of UW-Madison extended our invitation to His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama. This gesture alone was of great significance, because all of us grew up brainwashed by the propaganda that views the Dalai Lama a separatist and traitor. This territory, as I was told, that a large group of students from mainland China openly embracing His Holiness was never acrossed before. Soon we received the response from his office stating that His Holiness is delighted to have an open dialog with the Chines tudents.

This was the second time the Dalai Lama visited Madison. In 1981, His Holiness came to Madison to perform a special religious ceremony for world peace in the Deer Park Buddhist Center, about 10 miles south of Madison. The Center, opened in 1975, is the only full-scale Buddhist monastery and teaching center in the Midwest.

withdalai_72That’s where our meeting took place. I could tell some of us were curious, even somewhat nervous. But all of us were in awe of the historical moment. I started with a humble, sincere welcome, introduced His Holiness to the fellow students. They gave him a warm standing ovation. Then the Dalai Lama began his speech…

Oh no, I said to myself, we are in trouble! Because it was in Tibetan.

Just as I became increasingly nervous, we heard His Holiness explaining, in Chinese, that it is the tradition to show respect to the culture and religion to begin a speech in Tibetan.

Sigh. And, His Holines told us, it is to show respect to us to say a few words in Chinese, now starting in English.

By that time, the place became alive. His kindness just brought us closer to him.

In the one and half hour address, His Holiness expressed deep sadness towards the tragedy took place in June in China, strongly condemned the Beijing regime’s oppression of the students peaceful demonstration. We were still at a stage of heartbreaking of the massacre. Many of us started sobbing.

Then His Holiness discussed the human rights situation in Tibet in the past 40 years, and his love to peace, and to the Chinese people, stressed the way to resolve conflict should be through dialogue and discussion.

It was heartwarming and enlightening. Many of us began to understand the suffer the Tibetan people had endured, and to realize that it was in our common interests to defend human rights and pursue justice. With his ever-hopeful and forward-looking perspective, we all felt the encouragement and hope within.

It was an unforgettable get-together. Many participants expressed their gratification for the opportunity. I was extremely thankful.

The story just got better.

A coupe of days later, while His Holiness was still in Madison, we heard the news that the Dalai Lama was the finalist of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize. We were overjoyed, and the news that His Holiness was actually in Madison flew quickly.

I got a call from our Chancellor Donna Shalala, now the president of the university of Miami. She said the university would like to host a ceremony for the Dalai Lama. I, of course, was completely thrilled.

Held in the Field House, the ceremony was nothing short of spectacular. The energy changed when the Dalai Lama entered, as one of the attendance recalls, “it was a quantum shift. He seems to radiate compassion – it’s a wonderful thing.”

That evening, the Chancellor’s office hosted a banquet to honor the Dalai Lama. On behalf of the Chinese Independent Union, I presented His Holiness a plaque with the following words engraved:

Freedom, Peace, and Justice Are Our Common Goals

 

X4EZB8DXZSGC

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9
Dec

Make a Positive Impact

   Posted by: Chen    in Community


The Internet is in its new era. “Everyone is now in the position to realize his or her own dream,” I offered my interpretation of Web 2.0 in a conference early this year, “whether it’s being a Journalist, a Writer, a Photographer, a Movie Producer, or a Musician. It puts the context of freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of assembly on a brand new level that was never possible before”.

The Web 2.0 Social Networking has demonstrated its capability of erasing all sorts of boundaries and connecting people across the globe regardless of their gender, age, belief, and ethnicity. The level of participation and creativity among members is nothing short of revolutionary.

If such a powerful platform can be engineered for lifting the tendency of “being good” and “doing good”, and sensed by its members as a community that the platform is truly by-the-members and for-the-members, the positive impact that each participant brings to the world is enormous. It offers a natural mechanism for the enlightening process for civic engagements that will ultimately enhance the realization of the responsibilities of the world citizenship, and enrich the social capitals that have been depleting over the past half century.

This is why I am so passionate about the social communities.

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9
Dec

Human Rights Day

   Posted by: Chen    in Journey of life

Human Rights Day

Human Rights Day

Tomorrow, December 10th, is the annual observance of Human Rights Day. On this date in 1948, one of the most important document in the history of mankind was adopted by the general assembly of the United Nation: 

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The creation of this Declaration marked the beginning of new era: the recognition of the universality of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family.

61 years late on this date, can we declare these universal values are now embraced and celebrated in every corner of the world? Can we relax our pursuit for the cause of human rights because we think it is improved?

Well, we turn on the TV, we open the new paper, we browse the Internet – even the most abstractive summaries will demand a dedicated consumption, and, by no means, these brief headliners can even scratch the surface of the real happenings.

The UN has set the focus for Human Rights Day 2009 on non-discrimination. We certainly applause this noble cause for its recognition of the existence of discrimination and dedication to end such shameful acts. But, not for single moment should we lose sights of the oppression, persecution, and abuse that people under repressive regimes suffer each day.

In the Amnesty International Report 2009, it is stated that “IT’S NOT JUST THE ECONOMY, IT’S A HUMAN RIGHTS CRISIS”.

This extensive report reveals shocking realities of human rights abuses around the globe:

I have place a link to each region above, and hope you’ll spend some time to read through them.

On March 31, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Susan Rice announced that the United States will seek a seat this year on the United Nations Human Rights Council with the goal of working to make it a more effective body to promote and protect human rights. On April 27, 2009, the State Department released the US Human Rights Commitments and Pledges.

This is certainly an encouraging step forward for the administration in demonstrating its commitments in defending the universality of human rights.

We hope these commitments become the guiding core principles in our policy making process, whether it’s foreign relations, or trade practices. We must urge the administration to keep its Pledges.

And we should never become silence on human rights abuses.

Human rights education is much more than a lesson in schools or a theme for a day; it is a process to equip people with the tools they need to live lives of security and dignity. On this International Human Rights Day, let us continue to work together to develop and nurture in future generations a culture of human rights, to promote freedom, security and peace in all nations.”

– Kofi Annan, Former UN Secretaries-General

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2
Dec

First Snow

   Posted by: Chen    in Journey of life

Snow

Daddy, it’s snowing!” exclaimed Macy, woke me up early in the morning.

I quickly rolled out the bad, peeked out through the mini blinds. Wow, this is unbelievable! I said to myself, seeing beautiful white snowflakes dancing through a shallow space of sight. This is not just the first snow of this year. This is the first snow in two years! No wonder Macy is so excited. It is always a majestic moment when a kid sees the first snowfall of the season.

I got out, standing inside the swirling ballerina of this gracious choreography of nature, completely absorbed by the tranquility of the moment. Feeling the tiny crystals melting on my face, I could sense the spontaneous joy in the surroundings.

I was told, long time ago, that each snow flake is uniquely crafted with its own unmistakable intricacy of beauty. Its moment comes when it joins countless others to make this magnificent display of the motion in harmony. I am sure that each sparkling being knows its role in the grand performance, and together they make the world pristine and full of life.

We each came to this world like a snowflake. Our moments become glorious too when we graciously celebrate with our fellow snowflakes to bring harmony and peace to the world.

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