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The Lights of the Night

By Roya Monajem, Tehran

(An intellectual advertisement)

Yesterday, holding a light, the wise-man

Wandered around the city crying:

Heartsick of devil and beast

I long for a human.

The last time I found myself at zero point again for the fourth, fifth, six or perhaps more times ...,' I still had not realized how lucky one can be for this very reason... And by zero point, I mean finding oneself without a profession, a job, an income, and thus daily bread... constantly pondering: what now with the natural accompanying emotion of fear, apprehension and insecurity.

This time however, by virtue of repeated experiences, each time the fear and apprehension reach a seemingly unbearable peak, somebody inside starts humming and singing: Creator-Love-Life is gracious enough to feed and support all its creations, no matter how insignificant any presence, from a whole galaxy or solar system down to a microbe is to our seemingly infinite universe...

To be at zero point again mainly because of the outside circumstances when having lived already for over a half century, having already experienced several professions can be a disaster from one window, yet as the law of opposite holds true for everything, it is bound to be a blessing from another. This is what is good about aging: the kind of existential certainty one develops in regard to universal laws. One no longer doubts that there is light after dark or the end of any black night is white.

The blessing of finding oneself repeatedly at the zero point lies in the fact that not only one has to learn new skills for finding a new job, but it also has this healing aspect that it more or less automatically associates all the "first" times in life, such as the memory of the first breath (i.e. release from the prison of the womb, even though perhaps nobody can remember it), the first time one is lovingly hugged, the first time one falls in love, the first time one is rewarded for one's efforts, the first salary, etc.

No doubt as a rule of life, everything has its own price as the wise-men say, who also say: Pray to pay the price of your pleasures before actually having them! The wise-women, however may say: try to be as sexy, artful and crafty as possible when young and particularly if living in a still traditional patriarchal society, find a rich or hardworking husband, sit at home like a lady and let him work, toil and serve your highness!

Alas, one learns some lessons too late in life!!!

Leaving the sense of humor alone, some lessons are harder to learn and internalize in life, such as the above reality that Creator-Love-Life feeds and supports all its creations, if only for the very simple reason of maintaining Its own gracious existence. It becomes particularly harder when the feeling of uncertainty and insecurity has become the icing of our daily life due to intimidating outside circumstances.

So no matter how much one may turn up the volume of the voice singing the creator-love-life would do this and that, nevertheless, the background music of fear and anxiety may sometimes rise to the extent that it gives the feeling as though one is nailed on the cross or hung from the gallows, which must be more or less the feeling all the so-called bread-earners share when left 'jobless' for whatever reason.

Thus it was indeed a miracle when during one of those suffocating moments of 'what to do now' I remembered my cousin with her project of making lamp shades and chandeliers since a decade ago, but never found the chance to get along with it for various reasons. And as her workshop - overlooking the beautiful Caspian Sea - was ready we immediately began the work. Our developed masculine side was a great help, giving us the ability to stay as independent as possible and do the technical parts of the job as well.

While working, whether on choosing and assembling the pieces to make the bases of the lights or sewing the covering of the shades with hand (indeed one of the best feminine Zen type meditations), the question constantly crossing the mind was: Where does lie the separating line between artistry and artisanship and who is to draw this line? Art academicians, the spectators, both or who?

And immediately, the following lines would pass the mind:

No modern artist could expect anyone to kneel in front of his or her work in prayer, demand practical assistance from it, or use it to avert danger. The most one is prepared to do nowadays is to find an artwork interesting, and of course to ask how much it costs. Price immunizes the artwork from public taste to a certain degree-had economic considerations not been a factor in limiting the immediate expression of public taste, a good deal of the art held in museums today would have landed in the trash a long time ago.[i]

I suppose, like the priceless Cyrus tomb and many more historic sites and monuments of this country now landing in the trash...

And with every screw turned and tightened by hand, with every needle piercing the fabric of the shades there was this heartfelt wish: may these lights tear apart the black canopy hanging over our lives for years now; would these lights rupture the dark veil of ignorance ruling the human heart, while the question of the separating line between the artistry and artisanship continued dancing in the mind as the main subject of meditation with the background music of a voice singing Mulla-na Rumi's opening verse of these lines, and with that, as always wondering whether Nietzsche's story of the mad man, wandering in the marketplace while holding a lantern in day time, crying out: god is dead, we humans killed him, has been inspired by this same verse or not?

The show was held accidentally during the exceptionally hot days of this summer coinciding with a strike in the marketplace - the famous great bazaar of the capital- for the "first" time after the revolution. The question that now kept crossing the mind was the role of luck in the sale of artworks whether the fruit of artistry or artisanship.

The work is continuing with the same meditations and the same essential wish: may these handmade lights lighten our hearts, give us the strength to drive away- hand in hand, even if thousand kilometers apart - the black ghost of ignorance, cruelty, self-interest, love of power hovering over us threatening the life of our beautiful blue planet ever more seriously than ever in the human history.

[i] Boris Groys': Self design and Aesthetic Responsibility , E-flux, journal, with its Farsi translation at

... Payvand News - 11/07/10 ... --

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