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Hafiz... Jogging!
Meaning is the salt of conscience: Did 9/11 kill it?

Tucson, Arizona
October 23, 2002
The Iranian

An old poetic Persian proverb says:

Har cheh begandad namakash mizanand.
Vaay beh roozy keh begandad namak!

My suggested trans-literation:

Salt is added to whatever is going spoiled.
[to preserve against more spoilage]
Woe onto the day
when salt itself is spoiled!

This salt brings me to meaning, and I know that I am not the first person to be worried about the fate of meaning in our "1984" kind of world.

I dedicate this essay to George Orwell, the man who wrote one of the most meaningful novels of all time, 1984. Although he did not know Persian, I am sure that Orwell knew that meaning, especially genuine meaning, is the "salt" of conscience, because he predicted the rise of "Newspeech" in 1984, the kind of speech that allows Mr. Donald Rumsfeld to be called the Secretary of "Defense" (instead of War), or Ariel Sharon, a war criminal, to be called a "man of peace!"

Why am I so concerned about meaning?

Well, I am a psychologist, and hopefully an ethical one. So, I have simply no choice, but being concerned about meaning. You see, psychologists' primary concern is human experience and behavior. What gives primordial shape to human experience, which "leads" to behavior? Meaning, of course. It is that simple.

Meaning is as primary to consciousness as air is to breathing, or as light is to the perception of color. Whether we are, or are not, aware of the primordial operativeness of meaning, when we become conscious of any reality, languaged or not, our "instinctual" next-step is to seek its meaning, to verify its authenticity, in other words, to see if it is in fact real.

Put another way, meaning is our primary means of relating to and being grounded in conscious reality, and because we need to know what is real in order to survive, we need to be able to rely on the authenticity of meaning.

This is why in every religion, spiritual tradition, or ethical system, it is a "bad" thing, or a sin, to lie. To lie is to undermine the foundation of trust. When someone like Ariel Sharon is called a "man of peace," then the meaning of peace itself, for example, becomes suspect.

But, here I am not talking about the meaning OF anything. I am talking about meaning itself, the meaning of meaning, if you will.

I am sure you know the proverbial story of the shepherd boy who would falsely cry wolf, in order to tease the villagers, so that he could have fun. The moral of that story is that abuse of trust will eventually harm the abuser.

In other words, repeated abuse of a concrete "thing" will eventually hurt that same "thing" also in abstraction, in meaning.

One may say, loosely, that meaning is the abstract representation of reality in consciousness.

For example, if you say to a child that hot things will burn her/his hands, and when s/he finds, in reality, that indeed such is the case, he will realize the association between a concrete hot stove to his/her hands being burned, again concretely. In addition, the child will do two other kinds of association:

1- S/He will eventually associate, in "concrete-related" abstraction, the notion or meaning of being burned with other hot objects.

2- S/He will associate, also eventually, the "primordial" abstraction of the meanings of hot and burn, with the notion of meaning, as meaning. Of course, this kind of association will happen "unconsciously."

So, the child will "learn," not only what hot and burn "mean," but also what the nature of meaning is.

Now, if you tell the child that the stove is hot, but that s/he will not be burned if s/he touches it, you will eventually negatively interfere with, not only his/her ability to form informed judgments about his/her concrete reality, but also with her/his ability to make healthy abstract associations. If a child is repeatedly exposed to such basic abuse, s/he will eventually lose his/her primordial ability to relate to meaning itself, and will go mad.

In summary, one may say that repeated abuse of words, such as peace, will eventually lead, not only to its meaning being undermined, but also to our collective eventual inability to trust language as our shared medium of communication, the ultimate role of which is to help us recognize, whether we appreciate it or not, our primordial interconnectedness, in the fragile bosom of our mother, the tiny miracle called Earth, and also in the infinitely gentle "ocean" (as Rumi would put it) of our awesome cosmos, in US.

In my own helpless way, I (as a poet--mediocre one--I know) have been meditating the fate of meaning in our "civilized" era. In the following 4 poems, I am in fact shouting out my deep desperate worry about what is happening to meaning, what is happening to us as living beings, and what is happening to our mother, the Earth. I hope you like these "dark" poems, which are reflections of my fears, but also of my perhaps naive hopes.


To the frustrated and fragile yet indomitable and imaginative soiled soulful wings, of all disgusting cockroaches

Images From Within

By Moji Agha
September 18, 2002
Tucson, Arizona

A simple question
from the birth-ful insight
that: "Art is the reflection of
images from within."


Images from within
emerge from the womb of
images from within,
which reflect the essence of
images from within,
which are washed onto
the surprised shores
of the mysterious ocean of
images from within,
which erupt
thankfully and inevitably
from the self-birthing
submerged and troubled
and deeply troubling
volcanoes of
images from within,
which are connected to the unending
images from within
which are humble rings
of the everlasting chain of transitory
images from within,
which connect reality
to the true nature of
images from within,
which connect separation
to the truth of
images from within,
which connect,
image to image
birth to birth
love to love
soul to soul
breath to breath
moment to moment
form to form
essence to essence
bubble to bubble
mirror to mirror
mirror to mirror
bubble to bubble
form to form
moment to moment
breath to breath
soul to soul
love to love
birth to birth
image to image
within to within
without to without
without to within
within to without
mirror to mirror
mirror to mirror
within to without
without to within
without to without
within to within
annihilation to permanence.

My stupid question is:
Given the magnificence,
the multiplicity,
and the undoubtedly crowded nature,
of this humbling mother of all bubbles;
why do we still feel alone?

Rather than expecting art
to answer this nagging question,
should we look for the answer
on the soiled wings
of persistent desires
under which fragile filthy cockroaches
hide their,
and our,
awesome images from within?


To Doctor Al-Zakaria, who is trying, in every brave moment, to "refine" his soul

Hafiz... Jogging

By Moji Agha
Aug. 11, 2002
Tucson, Arizona

I am a walking poet.
At least I try to walk.

In the air of these days
I find myself
walking around bruised verses
who become bruising verses,
at times,

mainly due to desperation,
because the more
these bruised and bruising
despairing verses
try to expose themselves
to the "illuminating" inner essence of meaning,
for they desperately need reliable mirrors,
they become exposed
to the terrifying reflections
of their meaningless attempts
at becoming coherent
capable of reducing suffering.
It is the role of any decent walking poem
to reduce suffering; Right?

My limping verses
pretend to walk;
No, they genuinely TRY to walk,
whether I walk or sit
in the helplessness
of my loneliness,
meaningful and meaningless
hopeful and hopeless
verses like these:

The color of vulnerability;
Can it be successfully smeared
with a stroke of calculated luck?

here is the question for today's air:
Do walking poets
love genuine meaning

more than other mortals?

I wonder if Hafiz* and Rumi*
or for that matter Ferdowsi*
could jog
or at least walk
in today's air?

What about Omar Khayyam*

whose bruising Rubaai'aat

kick simplistic meaning in the ass
making ordinary mortals
run faster and faster
because in today's air
there is no time
to be truly simple
truly ordinary
truly cognizant of

In today's air

we have to run, run, run

and be constantly extra-ordinary
till we run Earth
into the ground
till we collapse
from the self-inflicted exhaustion of meaning
in the carefully manufactured bosom
of selfishness.
Why aren't we safely resting
any longer
in the bosom of our mother?
Let's ask ourselves
some hard questions.
Laziness is suicide.

* Ferdowsi, Hafiz, Khayyam and Rumi are four of the greatest Persian poets, and in my humble opinion, four of the greatest poets, which this planet has ever produced. Every time I read what they have written many centuries ago, and I have the privilege of reading and hopefully understanding the depth of their thought in their own language, I feel truly humbled as a ?poet.?


To the "freed" soul of my late mother, Batool "Khaanoom" Mazaheri

[In Chemistry: Direct transformation of solid substances into gas]

By: Moji Agha
November 11, 2001
Tehran, Iran

As I see
in every moment
my mother's gradual death
from my pollution
from my selfishness
my cells try to sublimate
their helpless rage
into "positive action"
into the cancer of

these days
as we become more "civilized"
we manage to experience
another kind of sublimation:
Our solid substantial meanings,
born out of the witnessing
of our gradual death
of the gradual death of our mother,
turn directly into gas
into the hazy state
of "anything goes"
as if life
is a genuinely superficial game
of public relations.

these meaningless days
our mother,
the fragile Earth,
our relations
the stars
and our very soul
go to the highest bidder.
We are truly truly stupid,
Woe and pity on us!
Shame on us!


To the soul-ful Mehdi who "asked" for a "grand" poem

The Self-raping Word: Celebrating Superficiality

Moji Agha

Aug. 7, 2001
Tucson, Arizona

a self righteous politician
a merchant
with a soul buried deep
raped the word.

At first there was word
with meaning
then the word became me,

then I became the word
with meaning.

the word is numb
a faint smile paints its face
as it lies in a pool
of meaningless blood.

As the word dies slowly
it whispers to other words
saying in calculated honesty
which it has learned from its new teacher
the politician the merchant
the teacher that it seduced,
in unconscious self-destruction,
that the rape was not all that bad
that the loss of meaning actually felt good
that meaning begets responsibility
that responsibility begets discomfort
that no one wants discomfort
that everyone wants to
just feel good
so what that it is superficial
and transitory
and begets more and more
and more suffering.

dear politicians and merchants
here is the word
my probably sincere word
come on
go ahead
rape it again
and again
and again
because after the word
meaning is no more
then we all can feel good
at least for a passing moment
who cares that it does not mean anything,
but our own stupefied demise.


O' My fellow co-inhabitants of Earth, in this age of selfishness, shortsightedness, and shameless "PR," let us not spoil our salt of meaning, because in doing so we will for sure kill our own mother!

In the words of my favorite contemporary Iranian "Sufi" poet, the Late Sohrab Sepehri, "aab raa gell nakoneem" -- Muddy the water, not! PLEASE!

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By Moji Agha



September 11


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