August 10, 2006
The Name of the Rose
It all got a lot more personal for me when Iran’s name came up. My great grandfather was a Zoroastrian and I have cousins living in Perth who are very active in the Zoroastrian community here, bringing out priests and other guests from Bombay and putting them up in their home; even holding some of the events in their lounge room and back yard. Technically, they are Parsis; members of a close-knit religious community based in India who descended from the Persian Zoroastrians. The Zoroastrians (who practice the oldest of the revealed world religions, widely considered to be the blueprint of all subsequent religions) left their homeland for India to escape persecution after the Islamic conquest. This all happened over 1000 years ago, but Parsis remain very connected to Iran, or Persia, as they still call it. I feel a lot more connected to Persia than India, for reasons which need a whole separate entry, and which I don’t really have the words for anyway. Because many Parsis have tried to preserve their Persian bloodline by marrying within their own community, they are a very distinctive people and quite traditional, and the scent of Persia is never far away from them. All up: feel very close to Iran, and am wondering what the fuck is going on over there right now.
It is a consternation made all the more bewildering because I know Iran to be an incredibly intellectually sophisticated country, not just in the fields of science and mathematics but (perhaps most of all) in those devoted to art and literature. I become completely perplexed: I am not aware of any country that prizes knowledge more than Iran (except maybe Israel), and my curiousity, in addition to my empathy and horror, is well and truly piqued. There is now no doubt for me that I am going to study this part of the world, and the origins of the Judeao-Christian religions in particular. It’s something that has been brewing for a long time, as every week for the past year and a half I have bought home precious antique books on religion, the holy texts and the bible lands themselves. My first read after my November deadline will be H. V. Morton’s “In the Steps of the Master”, a very old travel book tracing Jesus’ footsteps. After that, well, there are other books.
But I know also that I must travel to these lands. I have said for years that I will swim in the Dead Sea before I die. Now I hope to sooner rather than later. And the Red Sea. Or, actually, the “Reed Sea”—-apparently it was mistranslated in English.
I long to write more about that call, about the richness of the beauty that I sense coming from those lands, as well as the screams, the torpedos, the hatred and fundamentalism that’s playing out as the frontline of the whole Earth. The war has nothing to do with the Damascus rose of Syria (whose ancient name is Surirston—-Land of the Roses) but in another sense it has everything to do with that rose. Everybody wants control of the energy, the beauty that is endemic to that place … the currency of beauty is so much greater over there; it was a paradise, and I’m guessing paradise has a very strict door policy. Or something. I need to know more. I’m a human being. And I need to know why so many of us are killing each other.
I think education is a good start. It makes sense for me, anyway.