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What makes us
What is "ghessmat"?

By Mahyar Etminan
August 2, 2001
The Iranian

Imagine the following scenario: You finally meet a special person in your life and when you think about the circumstances that led to finding that person, you find that the chances of finding him or her are next to impossible.

When you explain the story to your mother she turns to you and says, "Ghesmatet bood." Because you are Iranian and have heard this type of response before, you agree and don't think about the issue any more. You are happy that you have finally met that special someone and don't really care how you met, whether through destiny or otherwise.

Well, I have thought about this issue quite extensively and would like to share some of my views. Unlike many, I took the answer -- "It's destiny" -- a step further and tried to see if I can come up with another explanation, preferably a scientific one.

I have heard Iranians talk about ghessmat in many different situations. When a rare event has a positive outcome and touches our lives, we automatically say it had to be ghessmat.  I can't be hundred per cent certain but I have a feeling that if a European or an American has a similar event happen to them, most likely they would say t it happened by chance, pure luck. So I think Iranians rely on destiny more than Westerners.  We for some reason believe it had to be more than just chance -- it had to be ghesmat.

What amazes me is that we think that many positive outcomes that affect our lives occur because of destiny. But for some reason if a bad or negative event occurs, it is less likely that we blame it on destiny. I can't imagine if a person had been in a car accident with eight broken limbs lying in a hospital bed, the mother would turn and say "Ghesmatet bood." It just wouldn't make sense.

A scientist may say there is not such thing as ghessmat, that we can explain pretty much anything by using probability theories derived from statistics. Specially in the twenty-first century, where super computers can solve complicated equations that can actually calculate the probability of any random event happening.

The science that we use in predicting different outcomes, such as whether drug A works better than drug B or which presidential candidate is most likely to win the elections, all rely on on the theory that events in this universe occur by chance. Things happen at random. So why not just say any event that happens to us happens due to chance?

Why is it that we use these scientific methods in our daily lives for almost everything around us but try to rationalise positive events by crediting destiny? Maybe it's what makes us Iranian. Maybe it is for the same reason that Iranians like  to have raw eggs on rice with their chelo kabab.

Having said all that, there have been instances that have occurred in my own life that I don't think even science could explain. In these circumstances, many factors had to have worked together at a specific time to bring about that certain event. After thinking about the situation over and over again, I still could not explain it using any of the statistical theories I know. So maybe there is some supernatural force that can affect all of us and we have named it "ghessmat".

Iranians' belief in ghessmat is, in my opinion, at least in part the reason what makes our culture unique. What I have concluded from my own analysis of this topic is that there may be circumstances that affect our lives that can be explained by science. On the other hand, there are others that we simply can't and we just say "Ghewssmat bood." Why not.

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