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Life

Blessed curses
Dichotomies of change among Iranians

June 2, 2004
iranian.com

It was in a short story I read long time ago by an Iranian writer, Hejazi. In this sequestered village somewhere by the Caspian Sea region they settled their dispute in a bucolic, yet interesting manner. If the row was over a territory, they resolved it by bringing two bulls to fight over the disputed field. However, sometimes one party cheats by bringing the bull to the area the night before to graze. This would give the bull a familiarity that would stimulate his territorial instinct at the right time and make him a tougher opponent. During the fight the signs of the winning bull is evident from the start. The experienced onlookers could immediately pick the winner with the way it prances about and digs its hoofs in the soil and intimidate the other bull before even the fight begins. And in unison they would cry out (in their local dialect), mihan karde! mihan karde!

Perhaps the advantage of familiarities to one's place had been a main factor in the survival of many indigenous people despite all the attempts of their colonizers to wipe them out. A historical relationship to the land is a lot more complex and genuine than any engineered plot to eradicate them. The attachment to the land comes from the very basic premise of touching, seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting and forming an emotional bond with it. And finally, embracing the soil with one's flesh as an act of total surrender to mother nature.

To leave one's homeland is never easy. But the lessons learned could make all the hardships worthwhile. Once the attachment, be it voluntary or involuntary is broken, the dichotomy of change (by change here I mean the person's maturation, level of his or her adaptation to the new environment ) becomes dynamic, unpredictable, floating and truth seeking, adventurous and lonely at times. In case of voluntary departure, usually people experience a greater degree of freedom to choose a more favorable way of life. The less suitable values and traditions get easily discarded. And the person's linear journey at the beginning changes into a circular one later.

By circumnavigating through the maze of cross-cultural landscape they experience the limits of freedom. By measuring the parameters of cultural spaces they fathom the restiveness of people. Then they begin to challenge the parochial values and the illusion of grandness. As travelers they grow more confident by incorporating more territories, values, and experiences. They see the relevance and irrelevance of their new and erstwhile culture to their aspirations and ambitions. Invariably they connect people and cultures together, creating meaningful diversity by mixing cross-cultural trends.

They move back and forth with great ease. They make more friends than enemies along the way. They acquire the invaluable skill of relating to people as who they really are. They know how to uplift the broken hearted and rebuke the arrogant ones. Their finesse to maneuver in the dark and sinister patches of their cultures make them enviable to some but attractive to most.

As artists they can create timeless and universal works of art that pay no homage to a particular political or racial ideology. No worldly power could use them as their propaganda. They are above time and regional spaces. They blend together internal and external component of the human journey and learn from their potent fusion. Their art add to the aspiration of the human soul and extends its boundary.

As doctors they know it's imperative to pay attention not just to the physical body, but to the astral and celestial body of their patient. They know the body and the universe share in each other's destiny, thus in one another's grief and ailments. They can now diagnose, not only the physical causes of their disease, but also the suppressed passions and desires. They have become specialist in the area of the human soul.

In whatever profession they might be in, they all have become formidable forces against prejudice, racism and ignorance. They are changing the world to an image that has its foundation in the human journey and promote the sacredness of all places.

* * *

Those involuntary passengers, who were forced to migrate, usually experience more hindrances and their path much thornier, piercing their flesh from every possible direction. Overcome by the dangers in their journey, some of them fall and die by the wayside. The perils of the journey prove to be insurmountable. They succumb to physical annihilation, an outcome they had thought about but never believed it would become their destiny. Their leaky boats would drown them in the rough sea and with it the hope of a new life in another place and another time. Others suffocate in containers hidden underneath trains and semi-trailers before the door open to their arcadia, choking to death the desires of work, education and a place where they could call home.

And some before they even cross over to the other side, get gunned down at the border of their dreams. And the ones who get apprehended in the land of their dreams are forced to spend so many years in limbo that no amount of freedom at the end could restore their wounded spirit. They become sacrifices, revealing the savage side of the civilized world hidden or denied by most.

* * *

Some willingly return. They berate their follies for giving away to the temptation of a better life. They see a long continuous struggle in their suffering rather a halt to it. They foresee the possible loss of their identity in their new world. They get tired of ever explaining their food, clothing, arts and music. New expressions begin to befuddle them. They are not sure whether they are loved, accepted or despised. They look forward to their sleep when they put their tired, confused minds to rest.

When they wake up to the reality of their situation they know that they have to leave before it's too late, before they lose their familiarities of their previous culture. They want life to be predictable, where a smile is merely a smile and not a series of complex gestures that need decoding. They return to the place where fate had chosen for them. They promise themselves to approach things differently and be more thankful for what they have and make small changes whenever possible. They accept their place with gratitude and become agents of small changes. They justify their return as part of a divine plan, the will of God.

* * *

Some hark back more than they should, missing out on what's around them. They are neither fully here nor there. They can never feel the total momentum of their new culture for their days are wasted with comparison for the sake of sentimentalizing. Their tired minds are constantly shifting away from their immediate world. They fail to see the organic growth of life that is waiting to nourish them and reveal to them beautiful new visions for their destiny.

Their eyes stare at you but their minds are still burdened with past memories that are no longer applicable to their circumstances. They waste the moments by looking back. Their potential withers away under the burden of daydreaming. Their prayers no longer reach the ears of gods who are busy creating and healing.

* * *

The ones who overcome their ordeals reach a higher level of existence. They realize they can enjoy a spiritual relationship with themselves, others and the universe like never before. They have learned to turn loneliness into solitude. They don't resist the changing hand of time but know how to fashion their destiny out of it.

They can now see the esoteric meaning of things. In blessings they see the hidden curses and in curses the abundance of blessings. They realize everything is part of the human soul and have glanced at the intricacies of this unfathomable depth that has brought them here, at this point in time. They have learned to change things with love and compassion otherwise any change is useless or not lasting. They know pleasure is a shining torch at the time of encroaching darkness.

They are in unison with mortality to glorify their immortal spirit. Death is not an end but a beginning to a greater life. They have found an eternal home next to the voice of God.

* *

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