K. was thinking about Wednesdays, caught in the middle with little or no respite, nearly always a working day, without any one questioning why weekends should always get the big breaks, then wondered if the predicament of Tuesdays or Thursdays was any better and answered yes, since Tuesdays were like Mondays fresh with work spirit and Thursdays bound up with the excitement of weekends breathing at their neck, and yet, the moment he remembered Jalil’s voice informing him recently that as of late Thursdays were being treated in government offices as an extension of Fridays, i.e., a longer weekend, he quickly shelved any comparison of poor lonely Wednesdays and Thursdays. It was past 7 pm and he was sitting across the table from Dr. Assadi at his small office on the second floor overlooking the yard where a trickle of patients were still milling about.
“You know Dr. I think it is only fair if we switch Fridays to Wednesdays once in a while to give the poor day a break sometime.”
”Ha?!” Dr. Assadi, reviewing his file, sounded and then vaguely added with a tinge of irony, “I thought you were going to tell me more about universal reason.”
“Well, I suppose this is a token of the unreasonable, don’t you think? I really feel pity for Wednesdays you know.”
”But come on now Kemal. Since you mentioned it, I have made it a priority to read Kant,” Dr. Assadi protested.
“Yes,” Dr. Assadi said and, intent on impressing his unique patient who veered between a complete lunatic and a genius, elaborated, “Kant’s argument is brilliant. He claims that an interest of the moral person justifies the belief in God. I am convinced his interest in this question is psychological, it’s an interest in overcoming moral paralysis, so he placed the emphasis on orientation in thinking.”
“Yes you’re right, that’s in the Critique of Practical Reason. But why do you think he also said that, in the Second Critique, that if we can’t fathom the idea of the Highest Good, it would be practically impossible to realize it? He did critique Spinoza’s idea of “proportional happiness” as you know and found his “righteous man” in dire straights.”
Dr. Assadi answered with an evasive question, “do you think Kant’s argument is valid?”
”I am not sure Dr. and that, to be honest with you, has been bothering me a lot. I do agree with your point about psychology though, and his postulate of a Supreme Being seems the only psychological condition that would make it possible to pursue the Highest Good in a world that is inherently hostile to moral ends. The problem is, in my humble opinion, that Kant doesn’t really meet the burden of proof that the Highest Good is not a duty but an ultimate goal that gives concrete meaning to duty and makes it psychologically possible for us to live dutifully. But that’s an assumption that almost all modern philosophers from Nietzsche to Camus have flatly rejected Kant’s assumption. A more moderate claim, rather than his categorical belief in God, may be necessary for moral agents, at least that’s what the existentialists argue and, frankly, I find myself still swimming between the two camps.”
“Well, you know, the metaphysical and the existential.”
“I see. So for a person who is torn between these beliefs, do you still recognize the rationality of religious belief?”
”I suppose so, but isn’t the task of religion really to supply us with the necessary images and ornaments that enhance our ability to see the future reality of the Highest Good, perhaps as a Kingdom of God on earth?”
”Well, good question and I tend to think that Rumi would agree with you, don’t you think?”
“Yes, both Kant and Rumi made a strong claim that in order to prevent us from considering morality to be an illusion we must have trust in God.”
”But with Rumi it’s even more of a psychological or, how shall I say, intuitive, process than the rationalist Kant, I dare think.”
”Right again, Dr. You have now managed to impress me.” They both laughed and then noticing K.’s vacant stare at the ceiling, Dr. Assadi asked, “what are you thinking now?”
“About how Wednesday would feel if all of a sudden we give it a six months or a year vacation. It would go nuts, who knows what fireworks it may start.”
Again, Dr. Assadi felt a bit demoralized. He was hoping to get a noticeable sign of his patient’s mental improvement and just two days ago had expressed optimism to K.’s family that with the depression of broken love apparently behind him after a couple of weeks of intense therapy, he could be released within days, a conclusion that he now felt was no longer viable. He half-raised his heavy set on the chair to see what K. was staring at – a leaf stuck on the side of his shoe.
“Did you go outside today?”
”Great. Did you enjoy it? It was a nice day today, wasn’t it?
”Yes,” K. whispered without raising his head fixed down on his shoe.
”Do you want to wipe your shoe? Here,” said Dr. Assadi, offering a napkin. K. took it and then gently removed the leaf, tucked it inside the napkin and then carefully put it inside his shirt’s pocket.
“What are you going to do with that?”
”Return it to its family, mother nature.”
”Yes, of course. Good thinking.” Then after a pause, Dr. Assadi asked, “I like to know what you think about psychology?”
K. gestured with his hand and said, “an infant discipline, it’s a raw food Dr., gives people mental stomachache.”
”I see. So you don’t have too much respect for us here, am I right?”
”Of course I do. I have much more sympathy though, knowing the odds you face in getting it right.”
“Really? Enlighten me please, since you think you know so much about what we are about.”
K. was not inclined to go any further and wished to go back to his room but out of politeness asked Dr. Assadi if he had ever consulted Hafez in dealing with his patients.
“I am afraid not. Actually, I sometimes consult Rumi and a bit of Khayam, but for the most part Freud, Jung, and other contemporary psychologists. But why do you think Hafez is relevant?”
”Oh yes Freud, that most schematic of schematic thinkers, no wonder psychology has not gotten off ground yet,” said K. and, foregoing a similar remark about Karl Jung, whom he was only mildly familiar with save his interpretations of dreams, add, “you see Dr. The other day I was reading Hafez in the yard and this man, you know the war veteran, what is his name?”
”Well we have several, which one, what does he look like?”
”Habib, I think his name is Habib, the one with long hair and sort of crooked back.”
”Oh yes, I know him, he was a POW in Iraq.”
”Right, exactly, same man. Any way, he came and sat next to me and just listened without saying a word and then left with a big smile on his face. So I thought you should know.”
Dr. Assadi felt immensely moved by this and instantly thought of an idea.
”I am so glad you shared this with me. Habib has been here for months and I personally have never seen even a trickle of smile on his always serious face. Between the two of us, when I first saw him I thought he was a mowji, waivee.”
K. with his frowned face conveyed his lack of understanding of the word mowji, which he liked as it reminded him of Godard’s avant garde new wave movies.
“It’s for the soldiers who got the shock waves of exploding shells near them – that shattered their nerves. Some of them recuperated quickly but some would have bouts later on, even months or years after they had thought it was over for them. You obviously didn’t serve in the war, did you?
K. nodded negatively and, looking outside at the darkening sky, ventured a question.
“So why did you think Habib was not a mowji? He never talks, does he?”
”You’re right, he doesn’t. But he writes sometimes. Has been through a lot. May be you could get him to talk. Next time he comes near you ask him a question about Hafez.”
“You didn’t answer my question Dr.” K. replied instead. Dr. Assadi was not about to share a patient’s secrets however, stood and told K. that he should return to his room as it was getting late.
“Don’t forget my request for holiday for Wednesdays Dr.”
”Sure, sure, I will not. Good night now.” He had not liked K. at the beginning and was now starting to get addicted to their esoteric conversations, even secretly appreciating K.’s critical comments on his profession and letting him realize that he had until now overestimated his power of persuasion. “I will not live under the kingdom of Kant,” K. mumbled on the way out, “as long as you keep that view of the world, you’re in good hands.” Dr. Assadi shook his head in a twist of astonishment.
A few minutes later, Dr. Assadi reviewed Habib’s file and jotted down a few notes about K.’s observation, then closed the file and for a moment closed his eyes and tried to imagine Habib’s POW camp horror stories, which he had learnt by reading the notes that had been picked up accidentally from a nurse cleaning the stuff — of a once handsome young man who had been a victim of repeated sexual assault by his keepers, a shameful memory that Habib had sought to wipe out by subsequently trying to commit suicide and yet failing, now finding a safe refuge from everything in the hospital’s sanctuary, but only as long as he could sustain his insane act. Though feeling tired and ready to retire home, Dr. Assadi felt compelled to reopen Habib’s file and glance through the several pages of pocket size diary:
”Today is the fourth of Ramadhan and we now have a much easier time putting up with our measly food rationing. Our new offensive is called Karbala 6 and we are all excited, even though few came back alive or in one pieces from Karbala 5.
My friends Bahman and Siamak who are from south Shiraz are both dead and several others badly wounded. Iraqis tried to raid our trenches last night and we had a pitched battle that lasted into the morning until they retreated with heavy casualties. We were ordered to engage in hot pursuit and ended up trapped between a mine field and enemy trenches so we lost a lot of men and our counteroffensive was a dismal failure as any imbecile could have foreseen. I carried Bahman who was shot in the chest on my back and half way down had to drop him because he was too heavy for me and I just couldn’t lift him once he was on the ground. He begged me not to leave him alone and I ran to get some help and by the time came back to him he was dead. He probably died thinking that I abandoned him and that is what hurts me most. So much death and destruction I thought had desensitized me but obviously not.
My leg wound is getting better and they transferred me a week ago from a makeshift POW camp near Basra to a much smaller one in Tikrit they call Salahudin, along with dozens of others. The weather is extremely hot and we get the blinding desert winds once in a while. There is not enough blankets and I have to share one with three others. We are forced to labor all day, to grow food and build shacks, and we are not even allowed to keep our Quran classes any more. The commander of this camp is extremely harsh and unforgiving, the slightest fault and one gets whipped, either by batons or barb lashes, or hung upside down like an animal or even shot to death in a nearby ditch, like they did to this young kid who kept shouting ‘death to Saddam’ and ‘Khomeini rahbar’ no matter how badly they dragged him on the ground tied to a jeep. Yesterday I was horrified when I was standing on a dirt heap and suddenly noticed that it was the charred head of a POW, a revolutionary guard whom the Iraqis love to hate. The fact that I am a Basiji means they are a few degrees more lenient toward us. Not always though, last week, we all got a severe beating as a retribution for what they claimed was mistreatment of their POWs in Gorgan, all except a few who are pilots or collaborators that is. Some POWs have been here since the start of war and most of them are by now resigned to an infinite stay, are past our newcomers’ question of when will our misery end and when will we see the light of freedom. I am so proud of ourselves. We have fought bravely against all odds for our country’s independence and beaten the odds against us. How else could we have retaken Khoramshar and overcome their chemical attacks, etc.?
I write this confession only to keep the record of their atrocities for a tribunal in the future, or the day of judgment. Every day they take me and two other young POWs to the woods ostensibly to collect wood and then when we are out of sight they separate us and rape us. They quickly put in solitary and then strangulate to death at night any one who as much as whispers about it to any one. I desperately want to confide to some one but can’t, the shame weighs so heavy that I simply can’t…”
With teary eyes, Dr. Assadi raised his head and said hello to the protruding head of a colleague, Dr. Davoodi, through the door wondering if he was ready to go. “Long day Dr.?” Closing the file, Dr. Assadi grinned and replied, “not really, not as long as some others. You know I just had a revelation.”
To be continued