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Jul 1, 2012

Travel has never been easier than today, and growing numbers of passengers are filling airports and bus terminals for long-distance journeys. If one cannot afford the fare, it is possible to make a virtual tour of a faraway country on the web and discover what other cultures have to offer. However, museums and works of art on exhibition continue to serve a great deal in cross-cultural relations and developing perceptions. The American experience of Islam has been a misinformed – if not completely an uninformed – one, especially in recent decades due to "obvious" reasons. The Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York started back in November 2011 a permanent exhibition in the New Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia, and Katharine Branning explains in this issue why this exhibition is a success story. Branning explains comprehensively the careful selection of twelve thousand items and how they are laid out in such a way to represent a vast geography of Islam and the cultural riches therein, preventing a monolithic reading of it. A prolific essayist, an expert historian, curator, the twenty-first century Lady Montague, a frequent traveler, and a New Yorker, Branning is the best to delineate the importance of this exhibition and situate it in the socio-political context of our times. You will have a sense of travel in time and cultures in her "The Missing Piece" in this issue.

The human life, likewise, is marked by an experience of exhibition. The entire universe is out there for us to visit every day and every moment and cherish the beauties therein. The human being is no less an exhibition. As eloquently mentioned in the lead article we are blessed with a perfect physical structure that "whichever organ we may study, it is impossible not to feel admiration before its anatomy." But the human is not only what it appears outside: "the depth of the inner world of a person has such rich potential to develop, and the potential to keep developing dimensions within; a complicated brain and a spirit with an elusive essence that evades material measure; and then the perfectly harmonious relation of these two phenomena-the physical and the spiritual together. . . mysterious beings... Within everything are meanings crystallized from the hues in the corona of that magnificent artwork-the human and her dignity." The lead article is complemented with other articles in this issue on some of the fantastic abilities given to the human: the miraculous human birth, sneezing as a protective alarm system for our body, and the amazing Endoplasmic Reticulum which is the "industry district" in our cell where "most of the factories of molecules produced by chemical reactions are found."

The Fountain continues to partner with civil society organizations and universities for international conferences and other events around the world. The earliest ones in the pipeline are the "Peacebuilding through Education" conference in New York, September 24, and "Ideal Human and Ideal Society" conference in Lahore, Pakistan, November 21. One concurrent event with the New York conference is Peace in a Frame photography competition. You will see ads of these events in this issue, and please refer to the listed websites for further information.