Art and Literature

Entries about creativity in all its forms, plus original creative material.

Music for the Soul


Welcome to the new website of Ali Youssefi, Pam Hill, and Gustaff Besungu! Thanks for visiting.

“The diversity in the human family should be the cause of love and harmony, as it is in music where many different notes blend together in the making of a perfect chord.” – Abdu’l-Baha

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Citizens of the World: How to Build a Global Pop Sensation—or At Least Try

It’s a musical super-group that comprises an underground New York City rock band and pop stars from Algeria, India, China and Nigeria. The project’s financial backer, who has poured $1 million of his own money into it, is a Lebanese-born industrial magnate who became wealthy selling soap and agricultural products in central Africa and now lives in Paris.

And the goal is as ambitious as the back story is unlikely. Like the Gypsy Kings in the 1980s and the Buena Vista Social Club a decade later, Pangea, as the new group is known, is aiming to make its song “Citizens of the World” a trans-cultural pop phenomenon—the song you’re just as likely to hear in a café in Bali, Bolivia or Bavaria.


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Perfection and conservation in Gate of the Heart

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Continuing with the readings from Nader Saiedi’s Gate of the Heart. I’ve selected a section beginning on page 315, where it is headed ‘Perfection and refinement’ — a title that doesn’t do justice to the implications of these concepts for a theology of positive stewardship for the natural world.

If action is a process of spiritual journey, and if it is performed for God and to attain God’s good pleasure, then every single action must be a means of realizing the potentialities of things and the beautification and refinement of the world. This principle is one of the main criteria of an acceptable action in the Persian Bayan. In the writings of the Bab, the two concepts of perfection and refinement are inseparable from each other. The principle of perfection refers to the duty of all human beings to exert their utmost efforts to realize the potentialities of all things in the world. This duty is based on the idea that heaven and hell apply to all beings and that a thing’s state of perfection is its paradise. Humans, however, are required by the Bab to ensure that all phenomena achieve their perfection because “no created thing shall ever attain its paradise unless it appeareth in its highest prescribed degree of perfection.” Thus, in whatever activity the Babis are engaged, whether in the realm of industry or art, they must perform that work in the best possible manner and realize the utmost perfection in all things.

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Book Review: Beyond the Culture of Contest

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As a telecommuting programmer and father of a two year old, I am not the most social of creatures. But I do have several family members who would likely describe themselves as social activists of one stripe or another. I recall one particular conversation on a late night a few years ago with a cousin of mine where I asked whether protest had ever achieved any real change. I am very sorry to say that I do not remember her answer, but by that time I had been exposed to ideas that suggested that there were more constructive ways of effecting change.

In that light, a few months ago I finished reading Beyond the Culture of Contest, by Michael Karlberg. I thought I’d write about it, as I feel it should be on the reading list of anyone interested in sociology or social change.

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Beyond King of the Mountain


Introduce democracy and you will solve a nation’s problems, right? If only it were that simple. “By the people for the people” sounds attractive in theory, but its current application is increasingly perplexing analysts, politicians and ordinary citizens all over the world. Democracy as we see it today emerged under a particular set of circumstances at the onset of the industrial revolution in the West. The changes that have happened to our world since have placed new and unexpected challenges on many democracies, both young and old.

But is this really the end of the road? Award-winning filmmakers Leyla and Ryan Haidarian make a case for an evolution in the democratic notion. Beyond King of the Mountain unpacks some of the current challenges many democratic systems are facing and specifically proposes that their future may lie in a win/win, non-adversarial paradigm. The film questions the fact that we have come to view democracy exclusively as a contest and suggests that “by the people for the people” can be realized in other, more inclusive ways…

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