Monday, August 01, 2016

What are these images to whose worship you cleave?

Around 20 million selfies appear on social media each week. Each member of the Generation Y cohort will take more than 25000 selfies during their lifetime, and more people were killed taking selfies in 2015 than in shark attacks. As can be seen from the photo above, which appeared in BBC Music Magazine, selfies are now an integral part of classical music. The culture of rabid self-promotion of which the selfie is just a part, is not confined to celebrity maestros. In fact it is particularly evident among music journalists, where the written selfie now supplements the visual selfie. So to further distance myself from what Canadians accurately term egoportraits, I recently changed my semi-anonymous Facebook profile picture to the graphic below. It was a change of little consequence, but much to my surprise it has been greeted with widespread approval. Was it because I had forgone posing in full fig behind a bust of Sir Henry Wood? Or was it because of the visual impact of the graphic? If it was the latter, which I hope it was, the exquisite artistry of Yazi Sanatcisi from Istanbul must be credited. His graphic is an example of Islamic calligraphy, an art form that developed as an alternative to figurative art which was proscribed in the early days of Islam. Times have changed, but Surah 21, verses 52-54 of the Quran contain much wisdom of contemporary relevance: '[Abraham] said to his father and his people: 'What are these images to whose worship you cleave?' They said: 'We found our fathers worshipping them.' He said: 'Certainly you have been, you and your fathers, in manifest error.'' But it puzzles me that some of the most prolific purveyors of selfie images among my social media contacts come from the worlds of Islam and Buddhism, faiths that teach the annihilation of the ego.

Inevitably, also on Facebook and Twitter. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).

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