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May 3, 2006

When I was visiting Iran
I went to a village
Not far from Isfahan
Where I met
A most interesting man
A likable old fellow
Called Mash Ahmed-Ali
a. k .a, the chameleon

This man was well-known
To have the remarkable ability
To transform himself into another
To adapt the characteristics
Of anyone that happened to be nearby

He could change his expressions
His speech, attitudes, and behavior
To be anything he liked
To blend into any crowd

If he was in the presence of
Kurds, Turks, Afghanis, or Arabs
He would soon become one

And soon after our arrival
He became animate and excited
Began speaking and gesturing
In the ways folks from Shiraz do
He talked about his love
For our old poets and the city
The generosity and good nature
Of its inhabitants

I found him to be a good copy
Difficult not to like
He was simply fascinating
But I remained quiet
Watching him attentively

Then one of my cousins
Mentioned that I was American
That I've had much schooling
Suddenly the chameleon
Began speaking in broken English
Which he was keen to tell me
Was not as good as his Russian

When we left his house
To look at an old ruin nearby
I asked the local teacher
A man leading our party

Who is this curious man
When he is not impersonating
Those around him?
He told us that the chameleon
Has no personality of his own
His views and preferences
Are always changing
To conform to those around him

He explained:
The story is that
The man was born
Into a large family

When he was young
He wanted to be liked
He was always eager
To please everyone
He laughed at everyone's jokes
He contradicted nobody
Consequently he distorted himself
Above all measure

On the way back
Before leaving
We again saw the chameleon
He had come to
Have a word with me
On the side

He wanted me
To not think of him
As too vulgar or mean
For being a chameleon

I thought a few seconds and said:
The way I figure it
Human life is very finite
We must always take some blessings
Loosing out on others

You want the love of common folks
But catering to them
Leaves you no room
For having a deeper connection
With yourself

No doubt
If you attended more to yourself
To your strengths and failings

You would have more substance,
More self-regard and self-trust

In time you would perhaps work out
Your own ideas and views
Instead of deferring to others

But enjoying your own company
Books and seclusion
You would slip away from the crowds
Loosing their affections
The last thing which you want

I then told him not to worry
I once lived in a great land
Inhabited by a protean people
Where blending in is a key virtue

It is a pity you are here
If you lived there
Given your abilities
You could do anything
Or be anyone, an actor, an entertainer
A politician or a businessman

Without thinking I added:
Mash Ahmed-Ali
Truly, it takes all types of people
To make the world go around
People like you who go along
They are like the grease on the wheel
Essential to the smooth running of things

-Rotterdam, Netherlands

For letters section
To Sasan Seifikar

Sasan Seifikar



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