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Roya's Corner...
By Roya Monajem, Tehran

Nostalgia, the universal feeling found among all races; the longing for a return to the past, the immemorial past. Return and Eternal return, with every word about the past, with every history book, with every old building with straw-clay covered walls, with every narrow tree-lined alley, with the terms Great, Empire... the heart is overwhelmed with the suffocating feeling of nostalgia.

Photo: Ali Moayedian

Nostalgia, the longing for a return to the Origins. With every look at a natural landscape, with every glance at a full-moon, with every word about god, spirit, cosmos, love; with every flying bird, with every birth and death... the heart is overwhelmed with the same suffocating feeling. Return and Eternal Return, why not departure, exodus? Why not Eternal abandonment of History, of the whole past, of the immemorial past? Haven't we had enough of this historical lamentation? Of this severe melancholic home-sickness particularly now that the word home is turning to a legend. What home? With this horrifying increase in broken homes, in homeless-ness, in bombarded homes, in occupied home-lands, in voluntary or forceful immigrations, exodus.

Haven't we had enough of this vain lamentation for something that no longer exists?

Nostalgia, the feeling arising from the idea of a lost paradise, lasts because it associates and is accompanied with the feeling arising from the idea of Bliss. That's why we can endure it despite its agonizing nature. And bliss as the opposite feeling is what is experienced in the state of unity; unity with something far greater than our petty individual self. In religions, it is described as the state of man before committing that unforgiving original sin and being driven out of Garden of Eden as the result.

Bliss the antidote, the panacea of nostalgia, what difference does it make how it arises, whether by remembering some past state of unity with something Great, or some future state of unity with something novel? Surely, the important point is to reach such a state. So why not look forward, instead of looking behind? Why not eternal reception instead of return? Why not thinking of an immemorial future instead of an immemorial past? Don't we know that time actually is a dimension like the other three dimensions now? That is timeless?

Reception of or greeting to another world, and this time not that 'afterworld' of religions that can be reached only through blind obedience of some Commandments, but an unknowable world; unknowable in the same sense that we experience when we expect something good to happen, when we have a positive presentiment. Like the feeling that a couple in love experience about the creature growing in the womb of the woman. Or when we are waiting to receive the reward of our - physical, intellectual or artistic - labor. Surely, no flower wishes to go back to its seed-state of being under the ground, no human being wishes to be in any kind of prison, including the womb. Could the longing of a butterfly be a return to its pre-metamorphic state?

In brief, nostalgia, as the world of mythology and theology shows has been a universal human feeling. Why? Because it associates Bliss. And bliss is experienced whenever we are oblivious of our individual self. And what is this individual self? The expression of a combination of genes and education, or of hereditary and acquired characteristics. Now if this self is the cause of our pains and sufferings and the idea of eternal return to the bosom of the creator arises from this agonizing pain and the need for its cure, it doesn't really matter how we achieve this unity, by going backward or forward. But is a forward move possible at all?

Scientifically both Genes and Education belong to the past as this is what they largely consist of. Even Marxism as the last major way of establishing a Utopia on Earth is still a form of return to the past, to the beginning of the human history (early communes) even if in a helically higher stage. Does this mean that there is no way to liberate ourselves from the idea of return and eternal return? Is this a function of our frontal lobes that differentiates us from all other living organisms? Or it exists because we still haven't discovered the capacity of this unique organ of ours- human brain?

The science of embryology tells us that morphology repeats phylogeny. In other words, during our embryonic development, we go through the life of our evolutionary past. So in a way we experience the life of all other animals and all life on earth for that matter. It is like going through a series of metamorphoses before actually turning to a human being. In other words, we are genetically aware of the process that a butterfly goes through as much as we know that for a river there is no return to its spring or underground source. We have all this information in our double helix of DNA and in our history books. We know that history even if it repeats itself, it will be on a helically higher stage. We know that there is no return. Change is the only absolute that we can not doubt and human civilization has been the fruit of the labor of courageous dreamers, artists who managed to look forward instead of backward.

In an interview, Heidegger, the great contemporary German philosopher says that 'any transformation of our way of thinking is only possible through European approaches and their recognition. Adoption of Zen Buddhism or other eastern experiences are not effective in this respect. Our thoughts can be transformed only through the ideas that are of the same origin and nature.'[i]

No wonder Iranians have stopped thinking for themselves in an effective ingenious way for so many centuries! If Heidegger is right and any change and transformation in world-views is only possible through recognition of the very ideas and views that have produced them, then considering Iranians as a federation of different people (Pars, Kurds, Turks, Turkmen, Arabs, Lors and...) constantly attacked and invaded by foreigners (explicitly by Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Mongols, Afghans, Turks and then implicitly by the English, Portuguese, Russian and Americans), they face an almost insurmountable situation in this respect as in reality Iranian way of thinking actually means an amalgamation of all the above world-views. This is what our past philosophers (e.g. Ibn Sina or Avicenna as the English call him) and poet-philosophers (e.g. Molavi or Rumi as the English call him and of course Sadii) actually did. They had deep knowledge of all the philosophies of their time.

If Heidegger is right and recognition of the basic ideas and world-views that have given rise to our present passive, imitative, ineffective way of approach to life in general (that includes politics) is imperative for its transformation, we are facing an almost impossible task. Taking refuge in the past (nostalgia) has made us more impotent because of the vanity and self-centeredness it brings about. So expressive is the Persian proverb "I am the one that Rostam[ii] is the knight." It is true that lack of freedom of speech and free exchange of ideas due to continuous tyrannical political systems play a vital role here, but weren't Ibn Sina and Molavi, Hafez and Sadii living under the same suppressive rules?

Nostalgia, the reminder of some sort of bliss that derives us to a return and eternal return to the past seems to be the first psychological veil (skin) that we have to cast away. Melancholy, grief, depression that are sub-emotions of this feeling only strengthen the will to death in the individual. This past that we so much long for does not include only our historical past, but because of the great influence of the Western way of thinking on us, it also includes the historical past of the West that in turn includes the humanitarian democratic movement following the Renaissance. We should dare to leave any form of Bliss related to the past. Enough of the conditional unknown afterworld of the religions. Let us dare to be receptive to an unknown world in the way that Da Vinci did.

[i] This is in fact an English translation of the Persian version of Heidegger's quotation published in "Bironuni, Farabi, Heidegger... (five articles), Ministry of Guidance and Culture Press, Tehran, 2003.

[ii] The legendry Persian Knight of Knights.

... Payvand News - 9/16/03 ... --

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