Nothing like a book
Depressed? Homesick? Pick up a good Persian book
By Ali A. Parsa
December 23, 1998
Dear Mr. Masood Rad,
I was very much touched by your
letter in The Iranian Times. I, too, have been in America for
about a total of thirty years, both as a student and resident. I hope
you are familiar with the American expression "Misery likes company."
While that may be one reason for my interest to write to you, I am writing
this for several other reasons that might not only help you but help us
all through these difficult times. The greatest lesson I have learned in
America has been the idea of support groups and cooperation of people with
common interests. This is something that was not included in our school
curriculum in Iran.
First I admire your courage and honesty to write about your problem.
As you may know, unfortunately most Iranians keep their problems to themselves
or only take them up with their most trusted friends, if ever. This lack
of trust is the sign of the times in our so-called modern world. It only
compounds the problem.
In a recent study in the U.S. on Mexican Americans who were materially
successful, it was found that these people suffered from a variety of emotional
and psychological problems that could only be alleviated by visiting their
motherland. There are ample evidence about other nationalities including
us. This has to do with with mind-body relationship, a fact that is becoming
recognized more. In our culture, this was scientifically recorded by Avicenna
-- or Bu Ali Sina -- some nine hundred years ago. Therefore, it is very
important to be aware that denial of this principle is detrimental to mental
We should always follow our human instincts and cope with our problems
from that perspective. For example when we think we are homesick, we should
take a trip home and be sure that the high cost of that trip will be lower
than what it would otherwise cost us in terms of of visiting specialists,
taking pills and suffering the side effects and worrying about the consequences
of exchanging our old problems with new ones.
I have personally found reading Persian literature very soothing and
the best means of coping with bouts of mild depressions. Fortunately, in
addition to our traditional masterpieces such as the works of Sa'adi, Hafez,
Khayyam, Molavi, etc., many Persians have written great books in recent
years that are both enlightening and entertaining. There are also musical
tapes and CD's available, some of which might help. I love traditional
music but nothing helps me more than good books.
Your second worry seems to be due to the fact that you have not been
able to Americanize yourself.
Why should you, I or any other immigrant become Americanized? The higher
state of being is to become what I call humanized! Once you reach that
higher state you will be a world citizen, love everyone regardless of their
race, color and creed and enjoy their character. Naturally as like attracts
like, you cannot help liking those who have more in common with you. If
you take time and get to know the people, you will discover that you will
have more in common with most people than you think.
Remember also that immigrants everywhere, including America, can never
become fully Americanized. This is a scientifically proven fact. I am sure
you are aware of it but you have not thought of it. Consider immigrants
as uprooted people, just like uprooted trees. When you transplant a tree,
plant or animal to a new location, you will never see them behave exactly
the same as they do in their original environment unless the new environment
is exactly the same, which is an impossibility.
In your case or mine, you should probably expect your children or grandchildren
be Americanized, provided that they have no cultural contact with our homeland.
Until that happens, we constitute a subculture, and for the most part we
neither belong here nor there. We are somewhere in the middle. In our culture,
the expression is that we are neither in Heaven nor in Hell but in E'raf.
Once we accept that reality, we will be happier.
America is the most unique and dynamic country that is undergoing constant
change. It is sad to see that since the beginning of this century, constant
erosion of ethics, values, discipline and watered down education have given
rise to an unprecedented state of public ignorance. Apathy and cynicism
are threatening both America and the world that blindly follows it. Lack
of awareness and superficial education are the source of many economic,
social and spiritual problems. You should not forget that, not only us
as immigrants, but even many Americans are alienated from their so called
popular culture and have a difficult time educating their children.
America was once an undisputed role model for the world in many respects.
Unfortunately that is no longer true. Immigrants, including Persians with
a rich cultural heritage have the awesome responsibility of fighting ignorance
which gives rise to crime, substance abuse and life devoid of meaning.
We owe it to America as a gesture of gratitude for being here, to help
it through these difficult times in the hope that the future generations
in America, Iran and the world at large will reap what we sow.
To do my share of alleviating some of these problems, I have used the
bulk of my time for the past twenty years to write two books. The first
of Hakim Omar Khayyam. This is my own English translation of the robaiiat
with detailed analysis. I have ample reasons to prove that this great man
is an eternal role model for living a happy, healthy, long and productive
life. I call the robaiiat "literary tranquilizers and a great source
of comfort for any human being regardless of nationality."
The second book is Global
Hypocrisy and the Dawning of Neo-slavery. This book discusses the consequences
of ignorance and hypocrisy and their assault on education and democracy.
It also proposes a means to educate more at lower cost.