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Old 26th April 2013, 03:26 PM   #1
Patrick
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Default INDONESIAN KERIS: Aesthetic and Philosophical Meaning

There will be a new book released about Kerisses:
KERIS INDONESIA, Estetika dan Makna Filosofi /
INDONESIAN KERIS: Aesthetic and Philosophical Meaning

This book describes Kerisses from the different regions of Indonesia in both English and Bahasa Indonesia. Both the aesthetic as the philosophical meaning.
A very good book with beautiful illustrations and detailed descriptions of the +/- 75 Kerisses decribed in 151 pages (of the in total 224 pages).
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Old 27th April 2013, 08:46 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Patrick
A very good book with beautiful illustrations and detailed descriptions of the +/- 75 Kerisses decribed in 151 pages (of the in total 224 pages).
Have you read the book then? What makes it a "very good book" for you?
A more in depth critique of the book would be useful here. I do want to point out however, that this is not the place to discuss prices and venues of availability for this or any book. Discuss the merits of the book here and place a post in swap if commercial content is the subject.
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Old 27th April 2013, 09:06 PM   #3
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I agree with David, there were several expensive Indonesian kris books published recently and some of them are repeating others and do not bring any new knowledge so anybody recommending a new book should indicate the basis of his recommendation. I saw the presentation of this book but cannot make any opinion about its quality except that it seems nicely presented.
I was told that there is another new kris book related to antique krisses called "Keris Kuno" being published as well and based on the collection of a well-known kris collector & trader from Jakarta, any information about this book will be welcome also.
Best regards
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Old 28th April 2013, 12:23 AM   #4
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What I will write here is probably not going to be well received, and many people will not agree with me. I accept this and I will not enter into debate to support what I will now write.

In my opinion the very best book that has ever been published dealing with the keris is the small (almost) booklet that was written by Garrett and Bronwen Solyom around 40 years ago. There is no identifiable error in this book, only varying points of view, and the information contained in it came from impeccable sources and was accurately repeated.

Every book on the keris that follows the Solyom publication fails in one way or another.

In recent years we have seen a plethora of beautifully printed coffee table books full of beautiful photographs. The focus of most of these books has been an artistic presentation of the keris. Some of these books have been really nice books to spend time with, looking at the pics, but I must admit, I’ve given up reading the captions, because many of these captions make me just a little concerned.

A recent book authored by Tony Junus varies a little from this theme and provides information which permits an interested reader to gain some sort of understanding of the fabric underlying the system of keris belief in Solo a couple of generations past. This book also functions as an advertising medium for the creations of its author, and has a very good presentation of beautiful keris.

Keris Jawa (Haryono Haryoguritno) provides a glimpse of the current systems of classification that are in general use, as well as many superb photographs and excellent illustrations.

The couple of editions of Bambang Harsrinuksmo’s “Ensiklopedi” provide lists of names and descriptions, something very useful to the pure collector, but possibly some of this information is rather questionable.

David van Duuren produced two excellent books on the keris:- The Kris (De Kris) and the one absolutely indispensable book dealing with keris knowledge:-

Krisses-A critical Bibliography-David van Duuren.Pictures Publishers,Polstraat 52,4261 BV,Wijk en Aalburg,Holland.


It would be an interesting exercise to measure the contribution to keris knowledge of the recent spate of picture books against the few books I have mentioned above.

However, even the excellence of some of the above publications does not provide an understanding of the keris in historical terms nor do any of these publications seek to address the big questions that surround the keris. Most of these books are essentially either eye candy or props to permit classification against a very basic present day comprehension, the exception being David van Duuren's bibliography, which functions as a key to keris knowledge.

More than 20 years ago I asked Empu Pauzan Pusposukadgo whether he had seen the most recent keris book that had hit the bookstores --- I forget what it was. His response as near as I can recall was something like

” No, and I have no wish to see it. All these books are written by people who understand next to nothing about the keris and they all repeat one another’s errors.”

Bapak Pauzan has written a book that is presently being produced and should be available around the time of Bulan Puasa. This should be an essential inclusion in every keris interested person's library, as it is the first modern book written by a practicing empu. Bapak Pauzan's orientation is the art of the keris, and I would expect to see this aspect of keris understanding prioritised in his writings.

Back in the mid-1980’s I gave a recently published book to my teacher , Empu Suparman. As he quickly scanned through it he became more and more agitated, and finally closed it, put it down and quietly said:-

“It’s a pity that people don’t learn about keris before they begin to write about them.”

I’m beginning to feel the same way.
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Old 28th April 2013, 09:34 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
]

Bapak Pauzan has written a book that is presently being produced and should be available around the time of Bulan Puasa. This should be an essential inclusion in every keris interested person's library, as it is the first modern book written by a practicing empu. Bapak Pauzan's orientation is the art of the keris, and I would expect to see this aspect of keris understanding prioritised in his writings.
Hello Alan,
Excellent news about the forthcoming book from Pak Pauzan, and I hope that it will include an English translation of the text as in the book Tafsir Keris by Toni Junus?
I attach the picture of the cover of the book mentioned by Patrick.
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Old 28th April 2013, 03:19 PM   #6
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Well, i think we all remain hopeful with every new keris book that appears. I find many of the beautifully produced "eye-candy" books useful solely because they provide well produced and detailed photographs of keris i probably would never otherwise get a chance to view, but i must agree with Alan that the text in these books is next to useless.
I too would hope to see Bapak Pauzan's book available with English translation. Alan, do you have any idea if this will be the case?
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Old 28th April 2013, 10:57 PM   #7
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I did not raise the question with Pauzan, but it would surprise me if it is published in two languages. My present understanding is that it is to be a small book that is concerned primarily with Pauzan's work.

Possibly another Forum member may feel inclined to comment?
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Old 30th April 2013, 08:43 AM   #8
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Hello Alan,

Quote:
I did not raise the question with Pauzan, but it would surprise me if it is published in two languages. My present understanding is that it is to be a small book that is concerned primarily with Pauzan's work.

Possibly another Forum member may feel inclined to comment?
Well, I for one would love to obtain an English translation!

If this is going to be one of the few books with important tidbits to be found in the text (rather than pics only), an English version would certainly find a much wider audience and help to spread valuable information on keris Jawa. I'd appreciate very much if you were to suggest this to Bapak Pauzan for his kind consideration, Alan!

Folks, speak up!

Regards,
Kai
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Old 30th April 2013, 09:01 AM   #9
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Kai, I feel it is probably too late to suggest anything. As I understand it, this book is already in production, and Pauzan is not the only person concerned. The gentleman who is behind this publication is a very canny, experienced person who is well aware of interest in keris outside Jawa, and S.E. Asia, and additionally has English as a second language. My guess is that he has already thoroughly assessed the market and would have a good understanding of the bottom line. If he has been able to see a return in publishing in Indonesian and English, we will possibly see some English text, if, after analysis he has seen a decline in his percentile return if he provides English text, then I doubt that we will see any English text.
If I were involved in something like this, as an Indonesian, I very much doubt that I would provide English text, I believe I would find that the increase in sales measured against the cost of providing that text would be insufficient to convince me to get a translation done and fund the additional cost of production.
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Old 30th April 2013, 09:02 AM   #10
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I agree with David that these coffee table-style books offer us an opportunity to see what kinds of kris are out there (and out of our reach, by and large).

They may not provide much information but for beginning collectors, such as myself, there are still some tidbits to be found.

But considering their high price tag I do look for second-hand or otherwise discounted copies.
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Old 30th April 2013, 09:22 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
If I were involved in something like this, as an Indonesian, I very much doubt that I would provide English text, I believe I would find that the increase in sales measured against the cost of providing that text would be insufficient to convince me to get a translation done and fund the additional cost of production.
Hello Alan,
If the space allocated to the text is not much as compared to the pictures, the additional cost of the English translation is low as the number of pages of the book will not significantly increase. The book Tafsir Keris from Toni Junus is a good example of such combined text and the fact to provide an international audience to the book is not negligible but it is too late anyway.....
I attach the picture of a blade purchased from Pak Pauzan at his home in 1996 and supposedly made by him.
Best regards
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Old 30th April 2013, 10:54 PM   #12
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I have never been very impressed by "authorities" who pronounce their negative opinions about somebody else's books without even bothering to read them or after only a " quick scanning".
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Old 30th April 2013, 11:48 PM   #13
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Ariel, the core of the keris world is really very small. The population of that core is known by name, and in many , if not most cases, by nature to the other members of the core.

I would suggest that a similar situation applies in all areas of discrete knowledge. For example a department head of neurology at Johns Hopkins is unlikely to spend his valuable time on reading a book dealing with neurology that has been authored by a new graduate who is working in a rural hospital. Time has a value, as does money, and to spend either on something that appears to have little worth is close to criminal.

That same dept. head may perhaps read the new graduate's book --- or parts of it --- if a colleague recommends it to him, but it is unlikely that he will spend his own time in the empirical exploration of all published matter in his own discipline.

In my own profession I have an immense amount of reading that needs to be covered, it seems there is a never ending stream of magazine and journal articles that need to be read as well as things that are published on the net. I don't have time to read them all. I am very selective in what I spend my time on. I need to be or I'd never make enough money to feed myself.

I tend to adopt the same principles in my hobby:- I have limited time and limited money, I try to place both wisely.

I am certain that Bapak Suparman, and Bapak Pauzan Pusposukadgo adopted a very similar position. When we consider these two people, we are considering men who are elevated beyond the highest position in their chosen professions. Professors do not spend time reading the compositions of children in grade school.
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Old 1st May 2013, 02:16 AM   #14
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I am in the business of writing and publishing books and peer-reviewed articles. I know most of the people in my field. Let me assure you that GPs from rural hospitals and undergraduate students do not publish books.


There are books that interest me and books that do not. I might skip the latter ones: I also value my time. But we are not talking about providing constructive critique: the issue is the manner of critiquing.

” No, and I have no wish to see it. All these books are written by people who understand next to nothing about the keris and they all repeat one another’s errors.”

“It’s a pity that people don’t learn about keris before they begin to write about them.”



Neither myself nor any respectable specialist in the field I know would utter such snide remarks about a book without even bothering to read it and point out specific reasons for their critique. Most importantly, no one I know and respect would insult the authors. This is spiteful, undignified and self-aggrandizing. If the "authority", who denigrated both the author and the book, is publishing his own on the same subject, one can cast legitimate doubts about his real motives.


In my professional community, people who engage in such behavior, acquire bad reputation and lose a lot of respect, despite being "elevated beyond the highest position in their chosen professions".
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Old 1st May 2013, 04:45 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Neither myself nor any respectable specialist in the field I know would utter such snide remarks about a book without even bothering to read it and point out specific reasons for their critique. Most importantly, no one I know and respect would insult the authors. This is spiteful, undignified and self-aggrandizing. If the "authority", who denigrated both the author and the book, is publishing his own on the same subject, one can cast legitimate doubts about his real motives.
Ariel, obviously haven't read too many books on keris. What would you think if, say, Salvador Dali (yes, i know he is dead) said something similar in regards to the latest book on the Surrealist movement in art?
The gentlemen whose quotes you find so disrespectful are not just specialists in the field, they sort of are the field. I hope you can see the difference.
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Old 1st May 2013, 05:37 AM   #16
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Thank you for your detailed response Ariel.

I find it an intensely interesting response because it very probably is an accurate reflection of the world and profession that you know, and I guess, know very well. As such, I can appreciate your point of view and considered in the light of the society and background that has helped you produce these remarks, I can probably endorse them.

However, as extensive as it may be, your background and experience do not equip you for an informed opinion on matters that apply to either the World of the Keris or Javanese society, ethics and modes of behaviour in general. The overwhelming difference between Javanese society on all its levels and the society which has helped to provide your experience, and given you the necessary foundation to enable you to form opinions is that Javanese society is a society that is based upon hierarchical principles, even now in the 21st century at least two levels of speech are in common use, the hierarchically superior person using the lower level of speech and "speaking down" to the person who sits below him in the hierarchy. To act in any other way would be to act in a way that was totally gauche in this society. It quite simply would not be understood and would be viewed at the very least as an eccentricity.

Now, within Javanese society the World of the Keris is perhaps the most traditional of all the sub-sectors of this society. The keris, the wayang, the Court, these are all corner-posts of traditional society, as such the Javaneseness of these sectors is magnified in comparison with the standards that apply with the greater body of society.

Within a society based upon hierarchical principles that in effect reflect the standards of a bygone feudal age the leaders of that society have not only the right, but the obligation to act in a way that reinforces their superior hierarchical position. To fail to fulfil the expectations of those below them on the societal ladder would result in undermining the very foundations of the sector of society of which they are a part.

You regard the remarks I have repeated as snide.

In the context of present day Australian society I may well do the same, however over a very lengthy period I have made the effort to gain an understanding of the way in which Javanese society functions, and within the context of that society I cannot regard these remarks as being in any way snide, nor as being anything less than would be expected of men who have a status that approximates that of Gods. Gods make their own rules, and mostly they are not known for having very forgiving natures. In a hierarchical society, those who do not behave in the manner expected of them soon find that they are replaced by more lowly placed people who have no hesitation in using every means at their disposal to climb the ladder to a higher position.

In Java, and possibly in Indonesia in general, the way which we function in American, Australian and other societies with an Anglo heritage, would see us buried in very short order, and being regarded as fools into the bargain. In Rome we act as do the Romans.

Ariel, I have reviewed your posts to this Forum over a very lengthy period, and I have found that overall your remarks are well constructed and often very well informed. I like your posts and often will read them even though they deal with subjects about which I know nothing.

The remarks that I have reported in a previous post were made within the context of a very traditional sub-sector of a society that is organised in accordance with completely different principles to the ones with which you are familiar.

I accept that within the context of the society with which you are familiar, you, personally, may find these remarks to be less than admirable.
However, I most humbly suggest that before you take it upon yourself to pass judgement upon the nature of the remarks which I have reported, you take the time, and make the effort to gain at least the beginning of an understanding of the societal context in which these remarks were made.

Your assurance that people who are placed upon a relatively lowly level in the medical profession do not publish books reinforces precisely the point I was attempting to make:- if one is recognised as being extremely unlikely to possess any worthwhile knowledge, one is best advised to refrain from providing others with his as yet inadequate opinions by the publication of books that contain no new or worthwhile information.

EDIT

I just now noticed your comment on this matter of "snide" remarks David.

Your point of view had not occurred to me, but you are of course absolutely correct. Even in our own societies there are people who are so universally respected and whose knowledge and ability is so far in advance of any others that not only are they exempted from the rules that apply to the rest of us, we mere mortals more or less expect these luminaries to act and react in a way that is simply not available to the rest of us.

EDIT II

Ariel, there's probably something else I should mention in respect of this keris book matter we've been discussing, and that is the sheer cost of the present crop of coffee table publications that keep coming out of Indonesia.

These are heavy books, by the time you add cost of postage or transport of the book to the original $100 or so price tag, cost can easily double.

I've been very fortunate, because a generous friend has given a number of these books to me as gifts, but if it were not for his generosity, I doubt that I would have seen these books. The cost would quite simply deter me. I'm in a position where I can get probably any book published in Indonesia that I really want, but for people who do not share my resources the actual acquisition of these books can be almost impossible. It is just not all that easy to do business with Indonesian booksellers.

So, by the time we measure cost + plus difficulty of acquisition against gain in knowledge the bottom line does not really show any profit.

I do enjoy looking at the pics in any of these books that I've seen, but the inaccuracies and plain misinformation that is contained in most of the more recent productions would not seem to encourage anybody looking for knowledge to purchase them. There have been notable exceptions to this, "Keris Jawa", Keris Bali", Tony Junus' book, but many of the other books have unvetted captions that could probably be considered as no more than bad advertising copy. This type of thing does educate, but perhaps not in the way that we might desire.

Even "Keris Bali" is more notable for its superb photo presentation than for anything that can be found in the text.

There is another thing too, one that I do not feel at liberty to expand upon, but the philosophy behind the writing and publication of a book in Indonesia, particularly a book that deals with an area of knowledge that is connected to money, is completely different to the philosophy of book production in western society. A western writer in most cases will seek to impart knowledge , in some other societies this is not necessarily so.

The whole thing gets back to what I was trying to express earlier:- we simply cannot measure the standards that apply in another society against the standards that apply in our own.

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Old 1st May 2013, 05:12 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David
Ariel, obviously haven't read too many books on keris. What would you think if, say, Salvador Dali (yes, i know he is dead) said something similar in regards to the latest book on the Surrealist movement in art?
The gentlemen whose quotes you find so disrespectful are not just specialists in the field, they sort of are the field. I hope you can see the difference.

David, I have WRITTEN more books , book chapters and articles than you have ever READ :-)

This is not the first snarky remark you have directed at me. Please reconsider this attitude in the future.

As to Dali, or any empu you have in mind, - no personal achievements in a particular professional area are an excuse of rude behavior.
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Old 1st May 2013, 06:46 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
David, I have WRITTEN more books , book chapters and articles than you have ever READ :-)

This is not the first snarky remark you have directed at me. Please reconsider this attitude in the future.

As to Dali, or any empu you have in mind, - no personal achievements in a particular professional area are an excuse of rude behavior.
Ariel, there is nothing at all "snarky" in my commentary. It is direct and straight forward. Perhaps you could list for me all the books on keris that you have indeed read to date. Frankly i could care less about how many books you have written. If they were truly of any interest to me i would have read them by now.
I am sorry that you have somehow interpreted what i have written as an attack on you personally. My point was that if you had read a number of these keris books you would have a better perspective on how the same old incorrect information is recycled again and again in these publications and have a better understanding of why an Mpu might well disregard them.
My point about Dali was not one of "personal achievement". I was trying to point out the difference between the source/creator and those who set themselves up as experts who claim to understand and/or explain the source/creation. Dali is a creator of Surrealism (one might even argue that he personifies the movement), not simply some academic who claims to understand it. Likewise an Mpu is the artist/priest who actually brings the keris into being. And the making of keris on this level is more than simply a profession. This is not a matter of simply forging a blade as a ordinary blade smith would. I think this places the Mpu in a unique position to be critical.
Lastly let me leave you with something to consider. If you think you have been slighted, delve a bit more before taking me to task in a public forum. Put your ego in check and send me a PM first or if you think that gets you no where complain to another Mod or even Lee. This forum is not the place for you to air your grievances or attempt to start a pissing match. Please consider that in the future.

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Old 1st May 2013, 07:44 PM   #19
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Gentlemen,
I feel sad to watch this interesting discussion ending in personal arguments.
Could we please come back to the original question: Has anybody got the opportunity to read or at least see the book in question: "Keris Indonesia: Estetika dan Makna Filosofi" or the other new book "Keris Kuno: Estetika, Simbol, dan Fisafat" and what would be his opinion and recommedation for acquiring them or not?
Best regards
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Old 1st May 2013, 07:59 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jean
Gentlemen,
I feel sad to watch this interesting discussion ending in personal arguments.
Could we please come back to the original question: Has anybody got the opportunity to read or at least see the book in question: "Keris Indonesia: Estetika dan Makna Filosofi" or the other new book "Keris Kuno: Estetika, Simbol, dan Fisafat" and what would be his opinion and recommedation for acquiring them or not?
Best regards
Jean, there is no "argument" here nor is this discussion at an end if members have new information to add to it. I am afraid that Patrick never returned an answer to my first two questions to him.
1. Have you read the book then?
2. What makes it a "very good book" for you?
So i guess we can extend those questions to others. However, if no one here has read these books then we have very little to move forward with.
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Old 1st May 2013, 09:55 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David
...... if no one here has read these books then we have very little to move forward with.

A very healthy attitude.
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Old 1st May 2013, 10:24 PM   #22
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Ariel, as I have already remarked:- I enjoy reading your posts; you have a style that is quite unique in this Forum and that does make a change from the usual warm, touchy-feely comradeship that characterises most participants in our discussions here. I like a little bit of colour in discussion. There is nothing quite so refreshing as seeing a CEO begin to froth at the mouth during a board meeting because he feels some other member of the board has slighted him. Even though some of us might sound like a CEO at times, I'm not suggesting that you, nor any of us here are in fact CEO's or in attendance at a board meeting, but sometimes vitriol can become a source of amusement.

If one thing in this world is true, it is that we can never change the behaviour of another person, but we can change our own.

I do apologise to you for my overly long posts. I often find that I need to make the Mark Twain plea:- "forgive me for the long letter, I did not have time to write a short one". I'm sure that as an experienced writer you would understand exactly the problems of presentation that is both accurate and concise, and since we are relaxing here, not producing words in hope of financial reward, nor enhancement of reputation, I am equally sure you will forgive my verbosity.

However, had my previous post dealing with societal variation been shorter, you might have read it, and having read it you may have given consideration to the points I attempted to make, and possibly even have come to an understanding of those points. Clearly this did not happen, for had you considered what I presented in that post, being the intelligent, educated man that you are, you would have realised that the standards of behaviour that apply in New York, London, and even here in the antipodes, are not necessarily the standards of behaviour that apply in other places on earth. Most certainly, the standards that you consider to be proper are not necessarily the standards that are considered to be proper in Jawa.

Let me give you an example:- let us imagine that you have entered the Golden Arches to indulge yourself in a Big Mac; in New York, or anywhere else in the conglomerate of western societies, you would expect that payment for your Big Mac offered with the left hand would be gratefully accepted, and rightly so. But if you offered payment with the left hand in Jawa you would find that the vast bulk of well-mannered people in that part of the world would refuse your payment and indicate for you to place it on the counter. It goes further than this:- if you attempted to accept your change with your left hand it could well be tossed in your general direction.
You see, in Jawa, and a number of other places, the left hand is considered to be foul, and may not be used to either give or receive; to do so indicates that you are either incredibly ill-mannered or simply a fool and not to be accorded the respect due to a civilised person. To proffer the left hand to another person is deemed to be not only ill-mannered, but in some circumstances may be considered an insult that could require further action.

You see Ariel, your standards, and I guess mine also, when I am in my home country are quite different to the standards of people who live in different societies to our own.

Because of this we must never pass judgement upon what is acceptable behaviour in some other society by measuring that behaviour against our own standards.

So where am I going with this?

Once again you have decided that you are qualified to arbitrate upon standards of behaviour:-

"--- any empu you have in mind, - no personal achievements in a particular professional area are an excuse of rude behavior."

Regrettably Ariel, in this instance you are quite incorrect; that which you have determined is rude behaviour would not be considered so in the society where we find Javanese empus --- any more so than your payment for a Big Mac offered with your left hand would be considered impolite in New York.

May I most humbly suggest that before you pass judgement upon what is correct behaviour in a society that differs from your own, that you spend just a little time in gaining some knowledge of that society.

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Old 1st May 2013, 10:35 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
May I most humbly suggest that before you pass judgement upon what is correct behaviour in a society that differs from your own, that you spend just a little time in gaining some knowledge of that society.
In light of the above: I am in the process of reading Mysticism in Java: Ideology in Indonesia. This book covers the Javanese mindset in detail and would be an interesting read for anyone wanting to learn more about Javanese society.
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Old 1st May 2013, 11:14 PM   #24
A. G. Maisey
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Mulder is a good start, Yuuzan. I find him very easy to read, but he tends to generalise a bit too much, which is OK as long as we can recognise that what he puts forth is not necessarily applicable in all cases. Additionally there is a distinct focus on kejawen which tends to orientate this particular writing towards a distinct segment of society.

In attempts at understanding Javanese society from published text Geertz is probably indispensable. "Religion of Java" was written a long time ago, but much of what it presents is timeless. Possibly not as easy to read as Mulder, but still, not difficult for a layman.
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Old 2nd May 2013, 02:37 AM   #25
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Thanks for the suggestion Alan. I have read Mulder and found it very useful information, but i can understand what you mean in regards to his focus on kejawen. I will look into Geertz.
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Old 2nd May 2013, 03:31 AM   #26
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There's another author you may care to consider too David: Koentjaraningrat, "Javanese Culture".

As with Geertz and Mulder, its a classic, and it has copped its fair share of criticism from other authorities, but it does have the advantage of being written by an academic with an inside view, rather than by somebody who was not born into the culture.

There has been a lot written on Javanese culture and society, even Raffles is still worth a read, because even now, 200 years later, some of what he reports can still be related to. There's probably no real substitute for being a part of the society, but these books we're looking at are certainly a very good start to getting a handle on how the place works, and what is and is not acceptable.
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Old 2nd May 2013, 05:23 AM   #27
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Alan,
I am quite familiar with the peculiarities of nonverbal communication, from showing soles of your shoes in Iran, to patting somebody else's head in Thailand, to showing the A-OK sign (middle finger and thumb forming an O) in Latin America. Believe me, I even know why in the Muslim Jawa offering something with your left hand is considered an insult :-)

I do not have time for a detailed response: we are packing like crazy for a very long trip, and I am on a 5 minute break allocated by She Who Must Be Obeyed.

In brief, I can see why you live in Australia, where you are just Alan, and not in some mystical Jawanese village where someone who can make a good keris is considered to be a demigod with a license to do whatever his left foot wishes:-)


I may return to this discussion later on. Sorry, don't intend to be rude, but visiting grandkids is more important than stories about sharp and pointy thingies.

Best wishes.
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Old 2nd May 2013, 05:29 AM   #28
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Thanks Alan. I'm reading Ricklefs' The Seen and Unseen Worlds in Java right now, but i will look into the others next. It looks like you can read Raffles' History of Java for free online.
http://archive.org/details/historyjava00unkngoog
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Old 2nd May 2013, 06:55 AM   #29
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Thank you Ariel, for taking the time to make a response when you are under pressure. I do understand:- wives, grandchildren and significant others can really be quite demanding at times.

I live in The Land of Oz, not because I choose to, but because I am an Australian. Although I do have a part of my left foot planted firmly in Jawa, it is not really a place I would choose to live, particularly as I grow older. Javanese villages, both urban and rural tend not to be mystical, but rather to be hotbeds of factions, intrigues, slander and gossip. They are places where the elected government official who has responsibility for the good order and political safety of the households under his administration has the right to enter any household at any time, day or night if his entry is in the best interests of the community. I much prefer to live in Oz where people need a search warrant before they can search my house. Jawa, indeed Indonesia in general is a wonderful place to visit ---

Body language is one thing that can be difficult for an outsider to come to terms with, and I used the left hand example as one that usually surprises, sometimes shocks people who are unaware of it, especially when one explains why nobody in Jawa possesses a left hand. I understand that in many parts of India the left hand is equally as unloved, but for entirely different reasons.

The head touching thing is another Javanese no-no, and it is not so long ago that it was deemed to be adequate reason to kill a person.

Jawa really should not be thought of Muslim, which could well be thought a very peculiar thing to say, when Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation in the world. The truth of the matter is the vast bulk of Javanese people --- and here I mean people who live in The land of Jawa, not upon the Island of Jawa --- remain faithful to their indigenous belief system. When Indonesia replaced the old Dutch colonial rule, it was decided that everybody could follow the religion of their choice and had the freedom to worship their own God, but the indigenous belief system was not recognised as a religion, so people who could not, or who did not want to identify as Buddhist, Hindu, Christian --- or whatever--- mostly jumped on the Muslim bandwagon and became what we call "Islam KTP" = "Islam kartu penduduk" = "Islam according to identity card". Maybe a bit like a lot of people in England, and Australia for that matter, are CofE. These non-religious people are sometimes referred to as "Abangan".Even the people who do consider themselves Muslim are very often Kejawen; the actual number of hard-core, mainline Muslims is very small, and they tend to be made the butt of humour by many other Javanese.

Still, with all that said, Islam has had a deep and a lasting effect upon the way in which the keris is understood at the present time. But that's a different story.

Enjoy your visit Ariel, and remind those parents of your grandchildren that visits are two way streets. We senior people are entitled to dictate terms to those who follow. Its one of the privileges of living long enough to do so.

David,

yes, there is some remarkably good stuff online now, have a look at Sumastuti.
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Old 2nd May 2013, 09:15 AM   #30
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I'll be sure to look into those books in future, Alan.

This reminds me, that while coffee-table books generally offer very limited information, at least in the case of the Invincible Keris 2 I do find that it offers a plethora of references to check.

A lot of these are not sources dealing strictly with keris but rather sources that delve into the world of knowledge that indirectly touches on the keris and the symbolism of it and its parts - and as we know, owing to Indonesia's syncretic nature that world is quite large. The intricacies of Javanese society, the Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms of old, geometric designs in Islam, Indian symbolism, etc. To me this all forms a fascinating realm to be explored further.

On a small side note, while living in a society itself is of immense value, at times reading a book can still teach you new knowledge. I've lived in Mainland China for some four years but was largely unaware of the symbolism of Chinese motifs on keris dress. I could recognize them as Chinese or Chinese influenced, but knew little to nothing about their meaning. I did inquire about such things while in China but found that, generally speaking, people had little knowledge of such things. No doubt, the Cultural Revolution played its part in that but I also suspect that modernization and urbanization contribute greatly to a lack of interest for old symbolism.

Alan, could you share with us how you find to be the state of knowledge in this regard in Indonesia? I imagine it is not dissimilar to China in that many - especially younger - people are no longer familiar with the symbolism and hidden meaning behind many patterns and designs as such knowledge is no longer relevant to their successful functioning in present-day society.
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