Dichotomies of change among Iranians
June 2, 2004
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
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
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
To leave one's homeland is never easy. But the lessons
learned could make all the hardships worthwhile. Once the attachment,
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.
suitable values and traditions get easily discarded. And the person's
linear journey at the beginning changes into a circular one later.
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
grandness. As travelers they grow more confident by incorporating
more territories, values, and experiences. They see the relevance
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
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
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
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
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
their dreams. And the ones who get apprehended in the land
of their dreams are forced to spend so many years in limbo that
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
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
They promise themselves to approach things differently and be
more thankful for what they have and make small changes whenever
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
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
Their eyes stare at you but their minds are still
burdened with past memories that are no longer applicable to their
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
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
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
lasting. They know pleasure is a shining torch at the time of
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.