By Roya Monajem,
By Roya Monajem, Tehran
Our intention for starting this corner was to create a bridge between Iranians living outside and inside the country after the advent of the Islamic Revolution. The hope was to find a common language despite our common language!
But perhaps in reality there is no gap to be bridged not only between Iranians living in apparently two different worlds, but between any different nations or even human beings.
In my search for a "utopia," it seems that the deeper I go into my efforts to understand human nature, the more I realize the superpower of childhood cultural, religious, social and individual conditionings and programming. It seems that no matter how much we emphasize on the importance of the faculty of conscious mind and consciousness, the force determining our actual behavior in every day life lies somewhere else; in what is called unconscious mind and our unconsciousness. And when we try to see what this Unconscious Mind consists of, the first thing we find is those very cultural social and...conditionings and programming.
In his conscious mind, no ruler sees himself anything less than a prophet, a savior, a wise-man and in short one whose only preoccupation is the well-being of his people if not humanity in general. And for his inhuman, evil doings he can always present the most logical and 'human' justifications that are acceptable to his followers and perhaps even his critics. I remember when I read Hitler's Mein Kampf in my teenage years; I was very dangerously charmed by his logic. I still remember the scene that affected me most in this book. It was related to his youth when he was about 16 with no home, nobody to relate emotionally, sleeping in the streets, looking desperately for his livelihood, (that is his basic human needs, the 'base' of Mazlow's Psychological Pyramid of Human Needs), he finds the Jewish people running many (which in such a mind becomes all) the important economic enterprises from the top to the bottom, and he was a born Christian and Christ died on the Cross for our sins and he was sent on a cross by the intrigue of the Jewish clergies who found Jesus as a real threat to their power and...That is how his anti-Semitic emotions and later his world-view were formed. And he found so many followers that today we allow ourselves to curse and condemn mainly because we saw where such a world view ended. Similarly, in my little world, when I set up a court of condemnation for myself, and issue the verdict of "guilty" for playing an active role in the Islamic revolution, one of the members of the jury, who has a very detached, compassionate 'personality' stands up and objects. He reminds the rest in this way: "Don't forget human ignorance, gullibility, vulnerability. Don't forget the power of orators. Don't undervalue the power of words. Don't forget that 'beautiful philosophies, world-views, believes, faiths and...' show their real faces only in practice...."
In a way, who can understand Hitler's audience better than we? Are there any people in the world who could understand us (Iranians living in post-revolutionary Iran) with their flesh and blood more than the Palestinians and the people of Israel? We all experience more or less the same social insecurity, the same ruling morality, the same political brain washing and..., only in different forms. The content however is basically similar.
It is not very difficult to understand the behavior of the Christian Germans during the rule of Nazis as much as it is not difficult to understand and feel the contemporary Jewish people of Israel who are conditioned to think that they are the 'Chosen people' and the land of Palestinians is their lost Land. As much as it is not difficult to understand why did the Afghans, those unique warriors who defeated the British Army, the same army that was ruling the semi-continent of India, their neighbor for about a century, welcome Americans to get rid of Taliban for them, even if it meant to be ruled by them now; for the same reasons the Iraqi behaved and Iranians might behave.
Perhaps the main cause of such a behavior lies in what could be called "Human Desperation." And we are most desperate when our main pre-occupation in life is related to our basic needs of food, shelter, freedom and love.
This is what happens on the social scene, and on the inter- and intra-personal scene the situation is not different. We all crave for respect, honesty, respect to our individual freedom, love and many other beautiful words, and indeed we are un-loving, dishonest, possessive, aggressive and lots of other ugly words. Why? Because of all our cultural, religious, social conditionings and trainings that deep down are very similar all over the world. They intend to fill that very deep insecurity that each one of us feels. Alas that they only are effective in turning us to dependent sheep. And the more insecure we feel due to our economic, social, political conditions, the more we crave for anything that might relieve us from it. And when we crave, the conscious mind becomes an impotent, ineffective unusable faculty of our being, no matter how powerful it covers up that deep insecurity and emptiness and thus feels in control.
This is my present understanding of human condition. As a culturally, socially, individually conditioned person, the overwhelming part of whatever I think, say, even feel is stale, cliché and already thought, said and felt. No conditioned mind can act truly creatively and spontaneously. The world does not lack beautiful words, but creative individuals. That's what I need to do now, go deeper and deeper into the process of de-conditioning.
Desperately, looking for some "fresh beautiful" words (perhaps I should say guidelines), my son gave me a poetry book, "Break the Mirror" by Nanao Sakaki,[i] to read the following poem:
False Solomon's Seal
(1) Much eating makes stomach-ach
Much knowledge head-ache
Much sensibility mind-ache
Much thinking heart attack
(2) To know is to get lost.
(3) Go to the ant
Consider her ways
And be silly like her.
(4) Money makes the horse go
Honey makes the bear walk
Irony makes man run away.
(5) Give the tutor to an idiot
Give the dictionary to a scholar
Give a graveyard to the dead
Give the cake to me
(6) The early bird catches the worm
Spare eater the wisdom of belly
Jolly worker the wisdom of mind
God the wisdom of silence.
(7) Birthing ---------- for this encounter
Old age ---------- sky blue turquoise
Sickness --------- life so rich
Death ------------ let's go to bed.
(8) Even though
I love this wrecked earth
1+1 = 1.
(9) The sky is always blue
The moon always full
The sea always high
You always complaining.
(10) In a strange country
If you want to know the land
Learn the weeds.
If you want to know the culture
Check the craft.
If you want to know the future of the land
Listen to the folk music.
If you want to know the people
Naturally, I was infatuated and jumped to read the Forward to see who this man is. "...Nanao Sakaki was drafted into the Japanese navy in World War II as a radar analyst. His wide reading habits and his far-ranging critical conversations got him into near-serious trouble during the war years, but he scraped through. He sat on the farewell parties for young kamikaze pilots leaving dawn the next day for their death, and identified the B-29 that was on its way to bomb Nagasaki on his radar screen. Upon the announcement of the surrender of Japan, his outfit's senior officer ordered the men to prepare to commit mass suicide. Someone luckily turned on a radio, to hear the Emperor himself command, in almost incomprehensibly archaic Japanese, that there was no need for soldiers to kill themselves."
What an experience!
However, there was another poem that was the guidelines I felt I was in need of:
If you have time to chatter
If you have time to read
Walk into mountain, desert and ocean
If you have time to walk
Sing songs and dance
If you have time to dance
Sit quietly, you Happy Lucky Idiot
It is now a few years that amidst the hubbub of Reformation Movement and the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq and the hot debate on postmodernism and translation of Prison Diaries of political prisoners and... worrying about the future of our planet, witnessing the disappearance of true enjoyment, peace of mind, laughter from the lives of human beings, I have been endeavoring to tap on an inner source of joy that all the wise-men of the world claim to be hidden in us, and for this I did what is said in this poem, except the last part, that is to sit quietly and stop thinking altogether.
What would come out of that "Happy Lucky Idiot," if anything does come out, is something that I don't wish to foresee. Let's see.
[i] Nanao Sakaki, Break the Mirror, North Point Press, San Francisco, 1987.
... Payvand News - 11/20/03 ... --