I had the pleasure of meeting one of the most influential scholars in my thesis, Prof. Sayyed Hussein Nasr. In his office in George Washington, DC... He welcomed me and started asking about my research and then he immeadiately recommended people and books for me not to miss.
"A traditional person can live and still ran his traditional life to a certain extent... he can accommodate himself, but as a total philosophy it cannot be."
Nasr is indeed a traditional man in heart.
Prof. Nasr's passion about the philosophy of Islamic arts and its spiritual dimensions can be felt right away from the way he talks about it. He was very fond of the renovation of Minbar Salah-i-din as one of the successful architecture examples - in his opinion- on maintaining the traditional approach and the respecting the sacred in art and architecture.
Coming from profound theological and philosophical background I was interested in what Prof. Nasr can say about the idea of reconciling the traditional philosophy with contemporary design thinking... When I asked him can he see a way that these two reconcile he immeadiately responded "NEVER!":
"Tradition is God-centered, modernism is man-centered. No matter how is the argument you are giving, [...] there cannot be a synthesis of them, there can be an accommodation [contemporary] that's quite something else..."
It is rather obvious that Prof. Nasr is supporting the Sufi teachings, with the lack of references to the philosophy of Islamic arts, the hidden gems of Sufi writings are arguably the only references that touch upon this subject from symbolic and conceptual point of view.
This meeting has left me wondering whether is what I am approaching in my research is doable... applicable? Or am I asking an impossible question... ? The direct and clear approach of traditional school seem to be rigid in some way to be broken, or informed... Can tradiotional art be seen in some form in design practice today? Or is it only appearing in renovation or restoration projects?