Hafiz… Jogging!

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!

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

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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