Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Lion and the missing half-hour

Life has a way of wreaking havoc on one’s expectations. And the passage of time doesn’t help matters much. All those hopes and aspirations of the yesteryears become the delusions of today and this latter, I suppose, the lost opportunities of tomorrow. With that record, it becomes easy to see how one could anticipate the worst even in the best of times--which this clearly is not.

Iran is an odd place. Adjectives are always good indicators. At least adjectives are the ones that stand out for me about some of my more unsettled posts. And I don’t think it has much to do with that voice inside satisfied with nothing short of profanities these days. Iran is a truly feverish country.

And I suppose that’s what makes me sensitive to the growing fever all around me these days. Fever has a way of making the air heavy. The sort of heaviness that is harbinger of some irreversible murderous degeneration and corruption!

Sights and sounds strike you as obscene, exaggerated, and surreal. From the basics to the more complex! From the fistful of gel that adorns the hair of some football player in the heat of a match to the heated assault on the right of women to wear as much thick makeup as they please. Somethings are constant.

And those exaggerated contours and colors. The shape of the eyebrows and the puffed up poutie lips or pedicured tulip colored toenails and steroid induced bulging muscles or aggressive postures! Easy to understand, of course, if you’re stuck in such dreary, colorless place. And the loud music and the flamboyant chatter and those discombobulating calls to prayer.

But it is also a place that draws you in. As if a vortex! And then all the expectations, desires and dreams—almost Godlike in scope—go on to collapse back on themselves. As if something from deep inside impedes the movement forward.

So concerned has everyone become with the impressions, perceptions and outside forces that focus on the animating impulses within are lost. Or has it always been like that? Some thing just doesn’t add up about the whole space. Even the structure of time itself hasn’t been left untouched.

Think about it.

From Washington to London, 5. From London to all of China 7. Even from London to Libya 2. But try Tehran and there’ll be that half-hour differential. It has not been clear to me where the other half has ended up as time zones go. None standard, it’s called, but not exceptional.

Some remember well how this one came to pass long ago. And all the quick back and forth which gave us this missing half. That’s what happens when elites come to have an “exaggerated sense of self importance.” Time itself then becomes a central battleground in all kinds of silly ways.

And a grotesquely bloated notion of power seems to be at work these days as well. And a lack of appreciation for negotiating hurdles. A refusal to see subjects for the struggling subjectivities they are. And the false hopes of some imaginary folks ultimately reduced to occupants of an imaginary non-space of docility! Fear at work promoting fear and fear manifesting as resistance or “sudden seditions.” Hence this monstrosity threatening us all today

And that perennial mistake of not taking the notion of limits seriously, of course

That I am becoming convinced is the key here. Only by acknowledging the limits can one push forward. And this latter initially will have not much to do with the presence of others. It has its own rhythm. There has to be a conscious choice first and then matching the pulses and impulses. Who knows, perhaps it might even then become possible to fully overcome them in collaboration with others.

It might be that by embracing the powerlessness alone can one discover the true strengths! And learning to absorb and feel the exhilaration of the blows the essential beginning if one is serious about unleashing what lies immured. Fear of negotiating with others, of course, has a way of drowning the voices within. Along with that fear of letting go and of the pain!

But then there are limits! Once one abandons the perpetual attack vector, perhaps, it becomes easy to appreciate the need for certain boundary which is protected instinctively from stomping. Even when it might take drums!

What might there be left for one worth defending once that absolute minimum of collective dignity is finally lost?

Besides, glitter is on the outside. Twinkle is what actually counts. And this latter only comes with what compels for a reason from within. We usually choose what we must. A question of time again! For time here can be a plague dimming memory as it flows. It is important to rediscover limits of iterations by remembering sources. One must perpetually encounter and burnish what has become hidden or tarnished. Gems not routinely encountered become lost treasures. That is partially our problem today.

I often suspect we all do “know” the nature of this misfortune plaguing us and yet we remain too afraid to let go. Control freaks afraid of pain and perceptions end up having to tolerate more than any sane human being should bear. And this last was partially Thucydides talking in case you wonder.

And so the collective enterprise that began with hopes of building heaven on earth has ended up reproducing an atrociously dysfunctional society with hundreds of thousands of dead and wounded. And more all too familiar scenes of death daily. With millions more condemned to slow deaths and we, of course, not too hesitant in pointing the finger of blame at others!

And torture, torment and abuse are what remain. Along with countless victims of chemical weapons in an age when every corner of our planet clamors “civilization.” And I suppose it is not hard to imagine how it might be that the other shoe would come to be dropped soon. A few nuclear blasts as icing on an already too disgusting a cake!

An “exaggerated sense of self importance,” the words Mr. Pollack aptly uses to characterize the dominant Iranian attitude at work these days, seem to leave no other direction to go but down. Mindless negativity then seals the fate. Expectations, passions and desires recoil back on themselves. And thus pain, pain and even more pain! And this mostly rooted in an irrational fear. And an unwillingness to negotiate when fears might have sound foundations!

This all my round about way of getting to one of Iran’s greatest poets! It helps to remember. Especially in times so out of joint.

Poets have a way of getting at the crux. The idea is simple enough and we all know it. Another “Western” creation, yes? Anyways, I prefer the way he imbues.

The following an slightly abridged version of a famous tale about one more idle dream of possessing lion in an old city.

Now one day a man of that city went to a barber and said to him,

‘Do me a favour, kindly tattoo me.”

‘What figure do you want me to tattoo, my brave/’ asked the barber.

‘Tatoo the figure of a raging lion,’ the man directed. ‘I was born under Leo, so prick out the picture of a lion. Put your back into it, prick in plenty of blue.’

‘Where shall I prick the figure?’ asked the barber.

‘Prick the pretty picture on my shoulder-blade,’ said the man.

As soon as he started to stick the needle in the customer, feeling the sharp pain in his shoulder-blade, squealed right bravely:

‘Noble sir, I declare you have slain me: What sort of figure are you tattooing?’

‘Why, a lion, just as you ordered.’

‘With which part of it did you begin?’

‘I started at the tail,’ the barber answered.

‘Omit the tail, my dear fellow,’ said the man. ‘The lion’s tail and rump fair took my breath away; its rump has completely choked my windpipe. Let the lion lack for a tail, lion-maker; the prick of the needle has made my heart faint.’

The barber began to prick in another place, without fear, without favour, without compassion.

‘Which part of his body is this now?’ the man yelled.

‘This is the ear, my good man,’ said the barber.

‘Let him be without ears, wise physician. Omit the ears, and cut the cloth short!’

The barber stuck his needle in yet another spot, and once again the man started to howl.

‘Which part of his body is this in the third place?’

‘This is the belly of the lion, your honour.’

‘Let him lack for a belly,’ the man entreated. ‘The picture is full enough already; what need for a belly?’

The barber was reduced to complete bewilderment and stood for a long time finger in mouth. Finally the maestro flung the needle to the ground.

“Did ever the like of it happen to anyone:” he cried. “Who ever saw a lion without a tail, a head and a belly? God him-self never created such a lion!

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