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Baba was depressed
The collective neurosis shared by all of us

July 24, 2003
The Iranian

Looking at the Baba Taher poetry adorning the pages of Iranian.com these days, I can't help but wonder about good old Taher's state of mental health in 10th century Hamedan. Was he really suicidal or it's just my imagination?

Behold my awful translation of this particular poem:

How joyful is the day that a tight grave is my bed
With clay, mud, and stone as pillows to rest my head

If that isn't a cry for Prozac, then I don't know what would be. Baba Taher's poetry is rife with cries of loneliness and despair:

Oh lord, heed the laments of my heart
You are the lonely one and so am I

They say Taher is without friends
God is my friend, no need for others

Lonely, antisocial, suicidal, and naked. I bet he didn't have much of an appetite either, with minimal sex drive, and trouble sleeping at nights too. If and only if they knew about Serotonin in those days.

If only instead of discovering alcohol, Zakaria Razi had come up with the family of drugs known as Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SRI's for short. These drugs, in as little as a month, regulate the flow of Serotonin between brain cells, and, BAM!, feelings of loneliness and despair are gone.

Oh, what a beautiful morning
what a wonderful day

I have a beautiful feeling
everything's going my way

But that didn't happen. We produced generations upon generations of depressed people, every other one a poet, all introverted and all involved in their worlds within, oblivious to the objective realities in their surrounds.

As Salm and Tur came and pillaged and burned, we wrote poetry and never exited the house. We created the largest volume of literature the world has ever seen. When the pillagers had gone, we stood atop the rubbles and recited our verses. We proclaimed our greatness to the four corners of the world. Look at us, we said. "Behold the rhythm and the rhyme, you ignorant Children of Adam."

Baba Taher was but one of thousands who left their marks on the ravaged landscape that is Iranian-ness, that is the collective neurosis shared by all of us.

Maybe next time we will talk about the manic-depressive Sufi from Konya.

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A Fool of God
Mystical Verse of Baba Tahir
Translated by Edward Heron-Allen

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