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Vinegar into wine
The power of love

By Ali A. Parsa
February 3, 2000
The Iranian

Valentine's Day has been a Western tradition of paying tribute to love since the early years of Christian era. This day can be more meaningful if we combine it with our own cultural view of Love. No one can explain or define love but we do know that life without it, is no life. We cannot explain God either, and for that matter, most of us find it easier to believe in the two or consider love and God as two words for the same thing. I was taught in Iran that love is one of myriads of attributes of God or just another name for God.. We know for sure that only belief in love, like belief in God or in any form of supernatural can do marvels.

Whatever it is, love seems to be the stuff or the mysterious force that, as they say "makes the world go around". We also know that if nurtured by awareness through effective education, ethics and role model, love can brighten our lives and enable us to do what we normally can't. Those who have experienced that surge in power of love, know that love contributes to our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health in the most effective way than any method ever devised by man. That kind of love was the mysterious force that energized our greatest philosophers, poets, writers and mentors to produce the greatest works, mostly under the conditions abject poverty and yet they were able to discover and describe the beauties of our world far better than the people with unsurpassed material wealth.

Genuine love inspires our awe, motivates us to learn; to be humble rather than arrogant and selfish. It makes us sensitive to discomfort of our fellow creatures and contributes to the maintenance of harmony in our society, our environment and our world. By submitting ourselves to the power of genuine love, we will have no choice but to be an instrument of unification rather than division and will believe in "one for all, all for one," in the best sense of the term. If each individual is empowered with this blessing, then the repression of the majority by minority, hypocrisy and bureaucracy in any form would fade away or would be kept in check. There is a Chinese saying "if everyone swept their front door, the whole town would be clean."

Hypocrisy or dictatorship in disguise have found that the best way to exploit and take advantage of the people is by misdirecting the energy and the synergy of genuine love . This is done by keeping the masses ignorant and through trivializing love and portraying it as the ultimate means of physical sexual, and mundane pleasures. It is done by lack of emphasis on humanities, spread of corruption, and watered down education. The Western world is paying the highest price for this setback economically, socially and politically.

Manifestation of this trend is apparent in the unprecedented rise in breakdown of moral and ethical fiber of society, breakdown of families, greed, overindulgence, crime, violence and substance abuse. The more the people take a refuge in these seemingly satisfying means the less meaning they find in their lives, no matter how many times a day they resort to extrovert means of saying " I love you!" One major source of escape from the loveless and cold world is resorting to substance abuse. In the United States alone, where the most reliable statistics can be found, substance abuse costs $100 billion and thousands of lives each year.

It is ironic that while this is happening in the Western world, some developing nations are still trying to abandon their own values in order to reach the status of the West. It is more ironic that being fed up with this upside down value system, there is a trend taking place that I call Easternization. That is, now Western people's hunger for meaningful life and love is leading them to Near, Middle and Far Eastern libraries and scholars of bygone centuries.

My own secret of survival in this era of runaway hypocrisy is to take a refuge in our own culture and seek counseling from our own scholars and mentors some of whose works are unparalleled in the world. Our beautiful poetic language, Farsi, makes the work of our scholars heavenly music that can soothe the soul like what I call literary tranquilizers. I developed a great taste for Farsi literature as a child and that has actually intensified rather than gone away since I have lived in America. I love some of these so dearly that I have tried to translate some of them. Here I share a few with you that have to do with love. I often hum Saadi's verse "beh jahaan khorram az aanam keh jahaan khorram az oost...." which translates as:

I am in love with that mysterious power that made us all,
The power without which the skies would fall.

It's uplifting when I think of that power,
Without that uplifting my life would be dull.

Sometimes I murmur a verse from Hafez, "dar tarigheh eshgh baazi...":

The pain of your love is such a great pleasure,
For which I'll never take a preventive measure.

Other times I resort to Rumi who equates the power of God and power of love that is within each of us. I especially like this one taht starts as "aanaankeh talabkaareh khodaaeed khodaaeed..."

O' seekers of God, your are it, you are it,
God is within you, just admit, just admit.

You look silly looking for what you have not lost,
God and you are one, just admit, just admit.

I often recall my frequent visits to our Saadi's tomb when I was teaching in the lovely city of Shiraz. I especially recall the verse engraved on the iron gate of the tomb,"zeh khaakeh saaieh Shriaz booye eshgh aayad, hezaar saal pas az margeh oo garash booi.":

You will detect a fresh fragrance of love in his breath,
If you exhume Saadi a thousand years after his death.

But yet the greatest verse I enjoy from Saadi is where he expresses his universal outlook the best way I have seen anywhere, the corrupt version of which is called globalization these days. That verse starts as "bani aadam azaayeh yekdigarand...":

Regardless of color, creed and shape of our face,
We are members of one body called Human Race.

If one member is in pain and I don't offer a solace,
Within the Family of Man, I don't deserve a place.

Here is one of my translations of Khayyam on love and enthusiasm for life. In Farsi this starts as"ay vaay bar on del keh dar oo soozi nist..."

Life without love is only bad news,
As is a headlight without fuse

Each day spent without love and hope,
Is a day wasted, a day with no use.

If I seek a different spiritual uplift, I read and translate some of the Rumi verses. Here is one example:

Love can make your bitter moments sweet,
Love can sweep your beloveds off their feet.

Love can turn your copper into gold,
Love can multiply your gold a thousand fold.

Love can turn your vinegar into wine,
Love can make a devil into divine.

Love can cure your incurable pain,
Love can make the sunny skies rain.

Love can make a plowshare out of a sword,
Love can make steel out of a board.

Love can create happiness from your blues,
Love can make all news good news.

Love can make poison be your cure,
Love can make your polluted waters pure.

Love can make a serpent's venom a salve
Love can render a have-not into have.

Love can squeeze oil out of your stone,
Love can send happiness through your bone.

Love can turn your vice into virtue,
Love can make all your dreams come true.

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