By Roya Monajem
7th Street in Downtown Los Angeles is one of the boundaries of Skid Row,
Home of Homeless…
The first initiation to Downtown LA actually happened on the second day of my arrival in this land of America.
The reason was to join a parade held by the initiation of LA Poverty Department (LAPD) celebrating the 27th anniversary of AA foundation in Los Angeles, next to Cecil Hotel where the first AA meeting was held those many years ago…
As the first translator of 12 Steps (addicted anonymous) program in Farsi, it sounded like a blessing to be able to have a taste of the miraculous effects of this program on people in its homeland.
Then and there while waiting for the parade to start, squeezing my bobtail brain to remember the exact words of Saint Assisi's prayer, recited at the beginning of any 12 steps group meeting, and counting my own addictions…
I was asked if I liked to actually take an active part in the parade…
And serendipitously, coincidentally, or synchronously a card was handed to me to recite with that very prayer written on it?!
"Lord, grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change,
Give me the courage to change the things I can, and
The wisdom to know the difference…"
7th Street as the home of homeless sounds quite ironic as the 7th City of Love in Persian Mysticism, is called the city of poverty and dissolution…
I was there in the 7th Street at LAPD's headquarter this time to watch the play Biggest Recovery Community…
Upon leaving the place in an overwhelming emotional state and noticing a homeless caught and handcuffed by the police, there was this strange curiosity to find out the other end of this 7th street:
"If this is the 'hell' side, wouldn't be ironic if it extends all the way to the 'heavenly' side of Hollywood and Beverley Hill?"
Feeling excited to have an 'aim' in the next aimless walks around the city, and bursting out laughing inside at the arrival of a thought, comparing these long walks to those of pilgrims, followed by an even more hilarious thought calling: America the Mecca of the present center of Western Civilization, I decided to start the 'pilgrimage' from Temple Street…
While passing through McArthur Park, apparently now quite different from its hey days in late 60s and 70s when singers were singing Jimmy Webb's song to its glory starting with Richard Harris…
And watching homeless, tramps and lunatics sitting here and there on the grass or on benches gazing at its still beautiful pond with its skyscraping fountain…
Feeling the palpation of life hovering above, and
Remembering the surprisingly opposite feeling when sitting on a beautiful bench along the Beverley Boulevard bordering the rich neighborhood...
Wondering why it is as though the whole area was covered by dust of death of course of a paradisiac kind …
Once again this long lasting thought crossed the mind:
Wouldn't it be great if the learned scientists here would invent a kind of 'meter' which could measure and compare the amount of pleasure and gratification that these 'unlucky' people here by the greenish pond of McArthur park are experiencing, and that of those 'lucky' people there sitting by their blue pools in their heavenly mansions?
And wondered further whether Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Amygdala of the brain Limbic System couldn't be used for making such assessments and comparisons.
It really seems those huge geese are understanding what the well-dressed, yet obviously psychologically deranged woman – as her whole complexion and eyes betrayed it- is telling them?!
From her gestures and poses one could bet she were once a very good teacher…
Passing her the next wondering was:
What were the names of other Cities of Love in the right order?
Quest was the first, the second was…
Hell, why do I always confuse the second and third after all these years of reciting them over and over in my mind, even comparing them with the stages a woman goes through after giving birth.,..
Is this forgetfulness a sign of some mental derangement?!!!
Yes, Love must be the second, followed by "Knowledge-Understanding."
The fourth is "Independence", followed by "Unity" and the sixth Amazement (and not Bewilderment as it is usually translated in English.
Experiencing Bewilderment in the penultimate city of Love, after already transcending the city of unity, how could it be?! Shouldn't one just feel amazed in the most blissful way at the Work of Creation, having put behind all doubts and questions in passing through the previous cities? And shouldn't the best well-known source, Attar's manteq-ol-tayr be translated as "Logic of Flying (Journey)," instead of "Speech of Birds" or "Conference of Birds" which is really a translation of the Arabic meanings of the words in the title, forgetting the fact that the book is in Farsi and those words though derived from that tongue and even written in Arabic proper, but have found different meanings in Farsi? In those days, Iranians had to dissimulate (ironically like today) and either write in Arabic or use Arabic titles, and aren't parables the main if not sole language of mysticism, which explains whey it is told in the language, speech of birds! Don't Know)
… Leaving Literalism or rather Pedantry alone …
Upon coming out of the park and into the 7th Street
A bookshop attracts the attention…
The smell of books brings along the memory of:
Reanimation of Out of Print art show, and my imagined participation by hanging myself from a wall in that Gallery, with a placard on my chest reading:
A Live Collection of the translations of certain out-of-&-in-print Books…
With this new image of simultaneously reciting the beginning of Kirill Medvedev's poem:
I'm tired of translating
I probably won't translate
I think it's only worth doing
If you really feel
You can become one
With the author
To every line
Pick up and amplify
There is another part in this poem, which like this part
Is as though coming out of my heart
In my opinion translators are
On the whole
With some rare exceptions
Other people's blood
Because translation is like
A sweet dream
Whereas actually creating something
Which is why
I will probably stop
Happy to have found one of those kind of "… Made Easy" Books on Heidegger?!?, leave the bookshop and 'get lost' in 'sightseeing,' noticing how step by step the air of the 7th Street changes, and suddenly:
Oh, No, is that really so?
How ironic, cynical, satirical, whatever-ical…
The 7th street is a dead-end, cul-de-sac from this side…
For sure those in "Quest" of wealth, fame and power, wouldn't want the street of poor and homeless even get anywhere near them, lest the breeze blowing from the other end reminds them of impermanence and ephemerality of All & Everything…
Remembering the life-stories of some of the 'actors' in the aforementioned play: Biggest Recovery Community, and how they were resurrected like Lazarus, Phoenix from the deathbed and ashes of the most tragic human dramas, with their eyes now scintillating with a kind of beautiful sorrowful light of love, their being radiating the feeling of detachment, and their heart burning with compassion to serve others looking for their helping hands, now leaves little doubt that they must be standing at the threshold of Love's 7th city …
The definition of this 7th city: the city of deprivation, poverty and dissolution resonates so well with Jesus' saying:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!
And what is really bewildering is that one of the most striking revelations of straying around like a "Wondering Jew" in this 'Mecca' for so many days now has been how the number of churches here far exceeds that of mosques there at home in Iran! And not only that, but how contemporary Americans on the whole seem to be far more religious (in the conventional sense) than us Iranian Moslems on the whole!
What a distorted image both nations have developed in regard to each other! Americans mainly by virtue of News-Media, and Iranians in the light of Hollywood Movies.
Standing at the dead-end of the 7th street
Wondering what that blocking building might be
Noticing a Chinese woman leaving the place
Attar's verses cross the mind:
It was in China, late one moonless night,
The Simorgh first appeared to mortal sight –
He let a feather float down through the air,
And rumours of its fame spread everywhere.
The cooling drizzling rain suddenly changes to a spring shower
While looking for a shelter, Marx's famous words:
Religion is the opium of people crosses the mind, followed by what
Gurdjeiff says about Opium being the only plant on Earth, which absorbs radiations coming from our Milky Galaxy and beyond (that's the abode of God isn't it?) and burst out laughing inside thinking:
What about starting a new 12 Steps group called
Now that even Buddhist Monks can commit the worst mortal sin of killing
As they did in Burma…
The laughter brought back the memory of the day
When on noticing a Buddhist kind of Temple in Broadway
Just before its curve towards China Town
Was automatically drawn into it
And on hearing rock music coming apparently out of some radio
Jumped out not to laugh so loud to be taken as a mad woman
After peeping into its glorious building with a huge
Golden Status in the middle
Which I took as Kali
... Payvand News - 05/21/13 ... --