Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Rationality in a Work of the Classical Period

Rationality always been a dominant subject or a predominant mode of thinking and acting in the Persianate world (or many other parts of the world for that matter), however, occasionally one comes across works from the past that were devoted to the topic. In a book entitled Aiin Akbari (which is the third volume of Akbar Nameh (The Book of Akbar), its author, Abolfazl 'Allami (1551-1602), Akbar Shah's minister, is preoccupied with the question of rationality. 

He believes rational person has fourteen qualities (as rendered by H. S. Jarrett):

1) intellect
2) pleasure
3) pain
4) desire
5) aversion
6) effort
7) merit
8) demerit
9) thinking
10) number
11) quantity
12) individuality
13) conjunction
14) disjunction

         Photo is from Here

The author goes on to explain that the first nine of these qualities are interconnected, and others including number, quantity, individuality conjunction, disjunction, and sound, compliment them. 

He also categorizes and attributes these qualities according to the elements of air, fire, water, earth, and odor; a predominate way of categorizing phenomena in the classical period. 

No wonder the author strove, as a minister, more than anything else to encourage his king, Akbar, to pursue peace and tranquility.  

Friday, January 11, 2013

Persian Poet Khayyam and Music

Tony Gatlif pays homage to the Persian poet, Khayyam Nayshaburi, at the Fez Festival of World Sacred Music.

It is an impressive performance for its multilingual and harmonious performances, all indicative of the universality of Khayyam's message.

There is however some chanting that is not part of Khayyam's poetry and is somewhat contrary to the Khayyam's poem highlighted on the program's website: "Sois heureux un instant. Cet instant c'est ta vie." This Zoroastrian concept is more reflected in the final parts of the performance when the music takes on a happier rhythm.  

Here are a few lines of Khayyam's poetry as rendered by Fitzgerald that convey his meanings very well.

Wake! For the Sun who scatter'd into flight
The Stars before him from the Field of Night,
Drives Night along with them from Heav’n, and strikes
The Sultan’s Turret with a Shaft of Light.

Before the phantom of False morning died,
Methought a Voice within the Tavern cried,
“When all the Temple is prepared within,
“Why nods the drowsy Worshipper outside?”

Yesterday This Day's Madness did prepare;
To-morrow’s Silence, Triumph, or Despair:
Drink! for you know not whence you came, nor why:
Drink! for you know not why you go, nor where.

(From Omar Khayyam, The Astronomer-Poet Of Persia, By Edward Fitzgerald)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Chahar Maqaleh

A short passage on the concept of Logic from book of Chahar Maqaleh written by Aruzi Samarqandi (1110 and 1161 AD)

From The Chahar Maqaleh   
از کتاب چهار مقاله

Unless the physician knows logic, and knows the meaning of species and categories, he cannot distinguish between what belongs to the category and what is peculiar to the individual, and so will not be able to diagnosis the disease. And, failing to find the cause, he will fail in his treatment. Page 107

تا طبیب منطق نداند و جنس و نوع نشناسد در میان فصل و خاصه و عرض فرق نتواند کرد و علت نشناسد و چون علت نشناسد در علاج مصیب نتواند بود. صفحه 107

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sadeh Feast

As the Iranians prepare to celebrate the feasts of Yalda and Noruz, I would like to recall an ancient festivity that is less frequently remembered, even less than Mehrgan, and yet is in all likelihood the oldest of all. The celebration of Sada is more ancient than many of the other Iranian traditions.

Photo from HarfeRooz.com 

Sade or Sadeh (سده) or Satak (in Pahlavi or Middle Persian), meaning one hundred (and some understand it as towing fire), is an ancient Iranian tradition celebrated 50 days before Noruz. It is named one hundred because on the day of this feast, there are fifty days plus fifty nights left before the New Year; i.e., before March 21. In this celebration, people used to honor fire as a means of cleansing and as a way of defeating the darkness and cold (thus its natural Zoroastrian association). Based on some sources, it is believed that this is perhaps the oldest festivity in Iran and even older than Zoroastrianism. It may well be the oldest festivity in the world. It is interesting to note that in recent decades, the Iranians living outside Iran often observe these ancient festivities more earnestly. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Inspired by the content of an email from a friend visiting Tehran, I wrote....

Just a jungle now
But not so green
Not so fresh
Not so innocent
Not with a single golden bough

A desert in the face of    
A big Lie
Massive burdensome dust
Deep rot
Absent is the blue sky

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"Iranians Have Democratic Values": A Survey

Regarding the survey done by a number of Israelis researchers entitled "Iranians Have Democratic Values" published in WSJ (or link 1 below), I still believe that the rise of the liberal values in Iran is obvious and a given fact (also support by a couple of previously conducted surveys). However, the result seems reassuring and experts seem to welcome the conformation.
There was an informative program about it on VOA Persian on May 22, 2012, the link to which is (link 5) included at the end. It featured an interview with the sponsor and head of the team who explained the methodology used for the research and the incentives behind it. The program also included interviews with as Mansoor Moaddel and Ebrahim Soltani, both experts on the topic, and both to varying degree agreeing with the results.
The conservative Iranian newspapers Qods and Kayhan also reacted to the news and the article published in WSJ by printing an identical review (link 2 and 3 below). Of course, as it is customary, they challenge the well intention behind the effort. Nevertheless, their reaction is indeed very mild comparing to other topics they cover.

All these links (in Persian) are below.
For a report/article entitled "Could Iran Turn In to a Liberal Democracy?" on a survey conducted before, see its abstract and the link (link 5) to the entire document below.
This research proposes new lenses from which to view the Islamic Republic of Iran, different than the common picture portrayed in the Western World. Based on the theory of basic human values, developed by Professor Shalom Schwartz, this research formulates a new index "Societal Potential for Liberal Democracy" which measures the potential of a society to foster a liberal democracy based on a society's value structure. In order to study the values which characterize the Iranian people and to measure Iran's societal potential for liberal democracy relative to other countries, two separate surveys were conducted in Iran, consisting of over 900 respondents, and including two representative samples of Iranian society. Using the newly formulated index, this research placed Iran 22nd out of 47 countries in a world-wide continuum of Societal Potential for Liberal Democracy, above Egypt, Morocco and Jordan, thus proving the provocative thesis that the greatest potential for democracy in the Middle East lies not in Arab Sunni countries, but rather in the Islamic Republic of Iran. In addition, a significant gap was found between the societal potential for democracy in Iran and the actual level of democracy, indicating a high potential for future regime change. Hopefully this research will help ignite public discourse regarding new courses of actions for dealing with the threat posed by Iran, based on an alliance with the liberal forces discussed in this research, with the objective of promoting liberal democracy in the Islamic Republic.
5. Link to the entire article: http://www.iranresearch.org/readthefullresearch

The Growth of Poetry

Based on a report by the Mehr News Agency (link also below), Hojat al-Islam Mohammad Mohammadi Golpaygani, the chief of staff of the office of the IRI leader said "The growth of poetry is indebted to the leader's support."
Iran boasts more than a millennium of poetry during which time no other literary genre was as revered as verse. That is only until recently. Since, the revolution, many literary critics have argued that poetry has lost its hegemony. Indeed, this loss of hegemony and other factors explain the production, publication, and significance of numerous novels in recent decades. 
Golpayegani provided no statistic or explanation for the claim.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

An Excerpt from my Book (Iranian.com)

Searching for Shahrzad
"Modernity, Sexuality, and Ideology in Iran"
by Kamran Talattof at Iranian.Com
Modernity, Sexuality, and Ideology in Iran
The Life and Legacy of a Popular Female Artist

By Kamran Talattof
Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2011

Excerpt from the introduction:
On March 8, 1979 (International Women’s Day), less than a month after the victory of the Islamic Revolution, my friend Azar and I were standing near the front gate of the University of Tehran, which was filled with outraged women. They were preparing to protest the mandatory public veiling of all women. Two days earlier, this demand had been voiced by Ayatollah Khomeini in a speech he delivered in the city of Qom.
We were joined by another woman who told us the crowd at and around the University of Tehran was about to move to the prime minister’s office, where another rally was in progress. We all walked down the street and the newcomer, who like the two of us was young and secular, but somewhat more leftist, pointed out famous people who were marching. One woman was a former political prisoner, another was an author, and she laughed when she identified an actress whom I did not recognize at that time.
This rally and others that took place over the next few days were covered at length by the press. One newspaper reported the events in a supportive tone. Others attributed the demonstrations to supporters of the old regime and so called antirevolutionary forces. One published a photo of the demonstration that featured several women wearing makeup and mocked them as “the kind of women” who have been rallying against the revolutionary government. In the center of the photo was a woman with large glasses, a rare color photo in that newspaper in those days. I realized this was the actress whom we had seen on the day of the demonstration: Shahrzad, the dancer. I also learned from these reports that she was one of a few women who were arrested.
More than a decade later, in 1991, in a section of the Graduate Library at the University of Michigan known as “the Cage,” where they stored publications that lacked sufficient cataloging information, I was combing through Persian materials when I came across a book that aroused my curiosity. It was a short book of poetry entitled Salam, Aqa (Hello, sir), written by Shahrzad, whose picture appeared on the cover.
I sat in a corner of the dusty Cage and read it from cover to cover. Many of the poems were grammatically and thematically distorted and were filled with ambiguous references to deserts, horses, seas, and other natural elements. Yet, I believe that it was the book’s highly unusual imagery that made me read it through in one sitting. Later, I found and read two other books she wrote before the 1979 Revolution. I also gave some thought to her metaphors and her symbolic, surrealistic language.
Scholarly Views
In the late 1990s, I returned to Shahrzad’s books and tried to gather more information about her literary works, films, and life. My contemplation of her career and imprisonment was now an academic (pre)occupation. It was also relevant to my new enthrallment with what Nancy K. Miller describes as the “feminist theory’s original emphasis on the study of the personal.” “The personal,” especially when related to ordinary people, was an unknown theme in the leftist materials I read with eagerness in those revolutionary days. I grew suspicious of the sufficiency of the study of high culture and its elite producers and was interested in “what had become forgotten,” to use Susanna Scarparo's words. Yet other issues related to writing biographies can be taken into consideration. Elspeth Probyn, for example, encourages a move beyond the problems of representation, where no one can speak for another, by questioning the dichotomy of “moving selves and stationary others.” Perhaps Virginia Woolf could provide a lesson here. Her interest in biographical writing stems from her work on “the lives of the obscure,” which oft en translates to the lives of women and her reflection on the balance that should exist between fact and fiction in works of biography. Scholars such as Susanna Scarparo have been successful in overcoming the frustration biographers experience in locating the subject of their biographical works through an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural study. Scarparo writes, “I revisit the canonical separations between genres by placing biography at the centre of debates about the boundaries between genres and disciplines.”
I participated in those demonstrations, and later I wrote on women’s literature, but then I began to see the margins, from a farther breadth, in terms of both time and space.
I tried to track down Shahrzad in Iran to ask questions about her books and her careers. A prominent woman publisher was adamant when she told me that Shahrzad had been ill and disoriented and that she was in a psychiatric hospital. Others thought she was dead. But it turned out that Shahrzad was living in the streets of Tehran at that time and usually could be found near a place called the Cinema House. She would not talk to anyone.
An Enigma
If true, then Kobra Saidi, known as Shahrzad, who played in a great number of theatrical productions, danced in skimpy costumes in cabarets and films in the 1970s, acted in about sixteen movies (some of which were considered risqué for that time), worked as a journalist writing commentaries on cinema and culture and also as a published poet, had surely been the most famous homeless person in Iran!
To be sure, she received a number of cinematic awards, and one of her roles in a movie titled Dash Akol (based on a story by Sadeq Hedayat) was highly acclaimed. By many accounts, she was also a screenplay writer and a film director. At the height of her dancing and acting career in the seventies, she gave it all up to devote herself entirely to her writing. In other words, in a relatively short time, a woman who, perhaps due to the Shah’s modernization projects, was able to excel in several areas of artistic and professional activities was also agonized in prison, confined in a hospital, and left homeless in the streets of Tehran.
How is it possible?
Why did it happen?
Why Shahrzad?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My experience with the heat at the 2012 Boston Marathon

I returned to Boston to run the 116th running of the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 16, 2012. Record high temperatures were reached on race day. In addition to some social and political comments I received about my post on 2010 Boston Marathon titled "Persian for Peace," someone asked me about my experience dealing with the heat at the 2012 Race. Here is the summary of my warm memories.
It was so hot that ... 4000 people dropped out of the race.
It was so hot that ... 2100 ended up in medical centers.
It was so hot that ... my goal for a PR turned to RP (rest periodically).
It was so hot that . residents on the course offered runners ice and a dip in their pool.
It was so hot that ... some thought that Heartbreak was actually a hill
It was so hot that ...global warming deniers blamed Al Gore for their slow pace.
It was so hot that ... I became delirious.
It was so hot that ... I told someone I was from Iceland (not Tucson).
It was so hot that ... I thought Tucson's Rillito Dry River Path was in Alaska.
It was so hot that ... I thought Arizona's Old Pueblo 50-miler was a 5K race.
It was so hot that ... Wellesley Girls offered two kisses to this year's runners.
It was so hot that . BAA changed the rule to allow runners to do the course in reverse.
It was so hot that ... runners ran twice past Wellesley College.
It was so hot that ... some runners ran backward in search of shade.
It was so hot that ... they decided to move BAA to Houston and call it BAAH.
It was so hot that ... this year's monetary award included cash for a portable AC unit.
It was so hot that ... the Kenyan winners had home advantage.
It was so hot that ... my warm memories will satisfy me for the next ten years.
By Kamran Talattof

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Cell Phone Use and Texting While Driving Banned in Tehran

Here is an interesting piece of positive news from Tehran. According to ISNA News Agency (April 20, 2012), drivers who talk on the cell phone or text message while driving will receive tickets. This includes hand free communication as well. The penalty is heftier for higher speeds.
Announcing the new policy, the chief of the traffic police also said "the chances of getting into an accident are always high when drivers are talking on the phone, particularly if they are disputing and arguing with someone on the other end." Would this help ease the traffic jam in the big city?