Iran, a Faith: Imam

In 1989, when I was in my twenties, like a good American, I didn’t know much about geopolitics, or even geography, except that I wanted a better world Geopolitically, it was a cataclysmic year. And I wrote a poem about three cataclysmic events that had rocked my view of the world, and which seemed both very remote and very near. The poem had no title. Much later I titled it “1989”. This was the poem:


in Poland people vote

in China people die

in iran the man with the eyebrows

meets his turbaned god in his mosque in the sky

the agitated crowd flocks to the rooftops

in iran maybe people will vote

in iran maybe people will die

probably people will vote and die

the angry crowd rocks the rooftops

and I am troubled

by a great desperate and dictatorial love

for the poles the chinese

and the man with the eyebrows

saying save us we are drowining

to his turbaned god in his mosque in the sky

if I love you can i kill you

ayatollah ayatollah

i am drowning i am drowning


Almost two decades later I found Iran and Iran found me. And then we lost each other again. And then for some reason, part destiny, part choice, and part accident (as I have come to feel that most really important things in a person’s life are), we found each other again here. What a strange place this is, isn’t it?

When I joined this blogging community two years ago, at its inception, I did it because of a particular blog, where I saw how much you loved each other, and how dictatorial that love was on all sides. And so I thought well it can’t hurt, I’ll give it a shot. And I was very shy but I decided to try to mediate. And surprisingly I had some success, so I stayed. At that time I was Rose T. (the T. stood for Tapurestaan, a place, I felt, that both exists and does not exist, in the Persian imagination, just like Rosie, and Iran for me and for the expat community, and C-space itself).

Rosie T. was a peacemaker, and not a bad one at that. But then things happened here, as things will do, and Rosie is Roxy is not a peacemaker. This is clear. And Rosie is troubled by a great, desperate and dictatorial love within herself as much as the one she still sees in you. Rosie is also deeply by what Obama, who she campaigned for, said yesterday. And by the trials and the murders and what may be of the fate of Iran and the fate of the world. Rosie believes Iran’s historical imperative is to be a light that leads the way for the world. Rosie is very troubled indeed.

But most of all Rosie is troubled with Rosie. This great desperate and dictatorial love exists in us all. It is our individual and historical imperative to transcend the dictatorial part and make the love part pure. Accept it all, embrace it all, and purify it all. Rosie T. always used to say, ‘the war begins and ends in oneslef’, and now I know better than ever that she was right.

I have to think about it.

There is a concept in Ismaili Shiism, the ‘Imam of One’s Own Being’. It means to have mastery over oneself, over the darker part of oneself. To have mastery over something means first to understand it, then to embrace it, then if necessary to dissolve it. All the great spiritual traditions, at their greatest level, except this concept each in their own way (including the best, btw, of atheism). It means the mastery of oneself, of the best part of oneself over one’s lower self. In Mazdaism, it is called ‘Good thoughts, good words, good deeds’. In Mayahana Buddhism the heart of compassion.

Rosie has a lot to think about. Mousavi has a lot to think about. Khatami, Obama, Ahmadinejad, all have a lot to think about. And so do you.

So let’s all try to think about it, shall we?


I wrote that poem exactly two decades ago. I’ve learned a decent bit about and China and certainly Iran, and I myself am going to turn fifty this month I have to think about what I’ve learned about me. My sign is Leo. The lion and the sun.

Nothing can be mastered until it is understood. Nothing can dissolve until it is understood and embraced.

Vive le roi. Imam of one’s own being.

Sing it from the rooftops.

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