Signs, Symbols and Rituals ☆

A few weeks back we had an interesting class guided by Dr Athan, since our fearless leader was unavailable. Of course after the life changing experience we had with our Fearless Leader we had come to expect so much and Dr Athan has such a calm and quiet demeanor that the possibility of more revelations seemed moote.

And how we did not know Dr Athan for once she reached the podium she became a fire breathing Dragon of a lady who raised her saber and led us on a trip to the land of symbols,signs and rituals. She had come prepared with slides, picture and Devine guidance.

She took us away on a journey in realm of possibilities. Realm of discovery and wonder. We went so far that she had to yield us back. By then we had experienced all sorts of emotions. GOOSE Bumps and tears ; those soothing tears that our fearless leader had gotten out of the depth of our souls in our first class. Tears so pure and emotional even the most skillful MULLAHS in Tehran or any major metropolis in the Middle east cannot get from their audience.

We also came to know that Dr Athan was a student in our Fearless Leader’s classes. I  did write to Dr Athan later on and accused her of being a precious soul and charged her for  taking our breath away. And believe me she was guilty of both charges.

I was raised in Iran during the reign of Mohammed Reza Shah.  Those were golden years of major cultivation for our country and our old culture. I like to emphasize on the world CULTURE, and not religion. Culture is much more multifaceted and fluid in its expressions , symbols, and signs and lasting in its rituals. Religions do affect Cultures yet they are a much more self serving and limited enterprises created to manipulate masses for the sake of their perpetrators and their political and monetary purposes. Cultures do not have  intentions, they are accidental and organic flow of ideas and behavioral tendencies based on the geographical and other natural dispositions and elements. Cultures are fluid and expansive, there is no intentions or agendas in cultures. Those of you who know me and those who don’t. I like to present myself as the product of the Iranian Culture. Though I came here in my teens and has spent over thirty years in this beloved country I am an Iranian man. My personality was shaped and cultivated in that society. I am not a good represetaive of my religion.  My father though at some point was a radical Muslim in his youth he had become a moderate due to the extent of the time he worked to raise his large family and also my mothers very moderate progressive beliefs. My fathers family; his brothers in particular were much more strict and religious and raised their kids by more disciplined rules of religion and that was also due to some extent to their wives educations, religious backgrounds and if they had any curiosity for more than what they received.

We were brought up mostly by our mothers. Our fathers though present figures in their emotional reach to us,  they were absent from our daily rituals. The country was experiencing such a dynamic economic growth that most fathers were out there building their wealth and legacies. There is also the natural bonds between mother and child, an awareness that I have become envious as I have had the privilege of fatherhood. Mothers also design and harbor the fibers of morality within the circumstance of relationships and ideas at home. Fathers are the enforcing element called to preserve, enforce and guard the discipline.

Yet some of my most endearing tender memories do come from the religious rituals we had. Gathering with my cousin early Friday mornings for reciting Quran and receiving advice from our clergy ( every family had a  clergy , chosen by the elders to further interpret and resolve the reaches of the religions within the fluid social movements). We all sat together on the rug and labored trough the lessons for the promise of warmth and joy that we would receive afterward in the hot bread and persian delicacies we would have for breakfast and the tales our uncles and elders would tell us (the clergy would leave after the Quran lesson which made the gathering more relaxed and fun). The musings and the wit they brought to their personal stories reached  us so deep in our psyche that we still harvest it in the way we raise our kids and show our love and emotions to our family and whoever we meet and touch.  Our family trait is to laugh hard and cry hard. We have compliments for whoever we meet and find the positive in all we experience which allow us such an abundance of energy. We are kind and gentle (always praised even by our wives and mothers for our close, emotional parental virtues). The way our mothers raised us to be.  And Still when we get together with my cousins we reminisce about our fathers and those gathering.

Another ritual that was rich in its symbols and we looked forward to join every year, was called AHYA , Which was the month of mourning for the beloved figure in our religion,  Ali’s death. Also observed during the month of the Ramadan. However the night of Ali’s death(he was cut by an assassin with a poisoned saber while kneeling for prayer) was the height of the live theatre called Roazeh;  a Very special sermon by the clergy, usually well practiced and enthralling for it is was recited and sang to enhance the imagery and shake the audience to their knees. The main Ceremony would be in the middle of the night. When as audience you are so out of your your elements physically and emotionally , most venerable to be put in a trance by the hypnotic potency of the sermon. You are seduced, taken and inoculated for life. We get together with the uncles and cousin and drive down town where there are larger audiences and (Uptown was mostly desensitized by the new forces in the society) and much larger Mosques to enhance the effect. After an hour drive our caravan of cars would reach the destination. Down town streets were lit by few wooden  light posts which created patches of lights, shadows and darkness., The landscape was so different, it seemed like a different country,

Once we passed through the narrow allies, we walked closer together and shared a breathless anticipation following our fathers.  we would come across the crowd and the mosque, well lit by the large gas lights. we would walk in holding hands, scared of getting lost in the crowd, The scents of sweat and living organic flesh mixed by the smell of tobacco and rose water would fill our senses and take us over as we were swallowed by the crowed losing ourselves and becoming a part of this mass of humanity that engulfed us and took us away physically and emotionally. We soon found our place and sat on the floor close to each other. The clergy came in the mist of loud SALAVATS (blessings to our profit and his disciples) so loud it would shake the walls. The crowd stood up in solidarity and signs of respect and after the clergy climbed to his seat a five or six steps up behind a Microphone, He would invite the audience to settle down and be quiet, The sermon would start and automatically we would look at each other daized by the pageantry of it all yet outside of it enough to smile at each other mischievously. For the next two hours we would be involved in whispering to each other, moving our confined bodies and trying to avoid the punishing looks from our fathers as we had broken  their concentration. They were preoccupied by the possibilities of redemption and salvation, seeking  absolutions and battling for their little parcels in heaven. And then the clergy became louder, and we heard the cryings of our fathers, knowing they are reaching their climaxing torturous end  as they would turn the lights off and we hear the loud overpowering OM (not same as Indian ritual, much loader , yet shorter) and then the wailing of the  shaking bodies all around us. This was the height of the emotional solidarity of the crowd and brought such release to the audience that they would come back for it the rest of their lives.

The lights were turned on as the audience reach out to each other saluting and offering their blessings . Now it was where we would come alive from our slumber as the smell of food, aromatic and rich in its potency would find us. soon there were large trays of Saffron rice and stews were handed down and we sat upright gathering around the tray and fill out greedy mouths with food so foreign in its textures yet delicious that made the whole experience worthwhile. after we were filled with food there would be trays of pastries and special treats and tea. The walk back was more laboreous. The younger kids sleepy would be carried by the fathers as the older ones try to stay close holding hands. The drive back would be a sleepy path within and out of consciousness lit by the  of the passing street lights and the noise of the traffic that muffled through. I still close my eyes sometime right before I am falling sleep and go back for another sampling as sleep finds me.

Well, I was planning to tel you about  My Dear beloved friend and mentor DR Gargiolo more in depth, we had dinner the other night and talked in length. The change of our circumstances have allowed us a closer relationship and to my delight I get to enjoy his wisdom and experience much more for he is a guiding light for many in my favorite field of psychology., I have already posted some of his thoughts in THE DARK ROOM, our new (in partnership with Felicia) blog. I also sent some of you one of his essays.   And yes,  my age  did catch up with me and I am not dancing on the tread mill due to pulled muscles here and there , yet if you look carefully you would see the mischievous smile on my face and the slight movement as far as I can in my extremities. I like you to find Graceland the album by Paul Simon and experience why it has been called by many the best album ever. I like to remind you that as Americans you are and America is exceptional in its culture, in its generosity mostly though to the genius of the men who separated our government from our religions.

There is also my new project  THE DARK ROOM which makes Mr Edison discoveries mote in Psychology and my new partner Felicia(she is smart, with an inquisitive mind ) , my CHINESE Connection Xio(a Math Genius) , and the discovery of  Sara; a bohemian gypsy, beautiful and wise whom I had the privilege of knowing through Elizabeth(The saint in residence) . I like to give a shout out to Dr Shvil for his unique approach to teaching and the warmth and the charm he brings to his lectures, To Dr Cooper whose lecture I enjoy for their depth and comprehension and helplessly compliment her after every class.
They are days that I still sit by the window amazed by my good fortune and so beholden and devoted to her who picked me; a face in the crowd(a movie masterpiece by Ella Kazan) and brought me here. I like to leave you by introducing you to Hafiz, the Iranian Poet, the lover, the sage, the drunken sufi of ages, look him up and enjoy, this is a sample of his shrewd wisdom;
“I will not take even the slightest dislike from this majestic universe,
I will break the wheels of its discipline if it designs against my will”
Namaste, live long and prosper, you can find me now on Pressible or even on the net, just type CALL ME JAVAD. that simple