On a Few More Things…

Monday Musings for Monday July 15, 2019
Volume IX, No 28/445

potpourri

Potpourri of Literary Concerns (Part II)

By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, ScD(Hon), DLFAPA*

US Women Soccer Team

Delighted to see our country ‘s women soccer team to claim another win. We rejoice the victory. However, the cacophony generated by the super-enthusiastic rah, rah, rahs, the unwelcome meretricious behavior of the champs and their arrogant, narcissistic aura call for some moderation. We suggest infusion of a modicum of humility and temperance. America is a noble and altruistic country. Let us demonstrate it to the world by word and by action.

Etymology of the Word “Religion”

Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) and John Calvin (1509-1564), two disparate theologians of the 13th and 16th centuries, along with Persian physician Abu Ali Sina, Avicenna (980-1037), the famed medical diagnostician and clinician of the eleventh century have written independent treatises on the “religion.” Here is a summary of their work on the topic

The etymology of the word “religion”, re-ligion”; re: again, ligating: binding, connecting (surgeons ligate veins and tie up arteries); thus, re-connecting, re-binding, re-attaching…what to what is the question. Perhaps to the beatific vision of eternity and transcendence of love…

A Euro for Asia

The wire services just unloaded a very heart warming and personal story: Robert Mundell, Raegan’s Chairman of Economic advisors, father of trickle down Reaganomics (Ibn Khaldoun ‘1332-1406’ was the real father, Robert Mundell was a promulgator!), but he was the true father of the “Euro”, the 1999 Nobel Laureate in Economics, is now back in the news. He wants to foster or father the equivalent currency of Euro for Asia. The name has not been conceived. The Sultan of Abu Dhabi, owner of the multi-trillion dollar “Sovereign Fund” which has been rescuing American Banks and Financial institutions (including Bank of America, UBS, Citibank, and Washington Mutual) is behind the effort.

A personal note: We had the privilege of having lunch with Dr. Mundell in his Palladian villa in Italy on Friday June 25, 1992. It was a memorable occasion.

Joy of Death: Is it an Oxymoron?

Many years ago, Randy Pausch’s name was being considered by some members of the National Humanities Center Nominating Committee for membership to the Board before we learned that he was dying. I was fortunate to be in the audience when he gave his “Last lecture” at Carnegie Mellon. It was a fascinating experience. He was a picture of health. He did summersaults and push ups during his lecture, and at the conclusion of his speech, carried his wife off the stage. It is very sad that he died. Yet, it is glorious the way he lived and the legacy he left for us. I am reviewing his book which will appear in a future issue of WCP.

The Dope on Cannabis

In response to a reader’s question about cannabis and alcohol:

The scholarship on cannabis and data driven research on this controversial drug show that cannabis may and does affect not only the higher cortical structures but also the subcortical parts of the brain, what is known as the Limbic system, causing bipolar disorder (radical mood swings and irrational and impulsive behavior) but actual psychosis. Alcohol has the same adverse effects on the brain through different pathways. So, I really condemn both. I am absolutely against legalizing cannabis. I would be happy to give you reference to these studies. A drunken parent should not hypocritically admonish a pothead child. It does not work. This is one of the astonishing teachings of Saint Augustine of Hippo, the ultimate role model to humankind. Although he was addicted to sex, after his conversion to Christianity and soon after becoming a Bishop, he had enough discipline to stop sex altogether. The same, I condemn tobacco and its ill effects on the body in general. However, I guess the reason tobacco is not banned is that it does NOT cause bipolar disorder and psychosis. Some states are legalizing the use of cannabis because it is a cash cow and produces huge tax revenues.

The ultimate answer to these problems is education which starts in utero. Mamas must adopt Augustinian discipline to love themselves and their fetus(es), stop tobacco, alcohol and over-eating while they are pregnant, and continue to be role models to their children.

Hypocrisy and Greed of University Leaders

I am opposed to lowering drinking age in college as many, including 100 college and university leaders, promote. While prohibition is often counterproductive, I believe the answer to binging, abuse and unreasonable use of alcohol is education. The answer also lies in curtailing greed and hunger for money. The University leaders ought to cut out advertising of beer from all TV sports. It is sheer greed to have alcohol products sponsoring sports events, and it is sheer hypocrisy for the university leaders to tolerate this practice because it produces revenue for their institutions. Ban alcohol ads from all television sports.

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*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association; Life Member, American Medical Association; Life Member, Southern Medical Association; and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He is a Raleigh, North Carolina writer and dramaturge and the 2016 winner of the NC Award in Fine Arts.

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On a Few Things…

Monday Musings for Monday July 8, 2019
Volume IX. No. 27/444

potpourri

Potpourri of Literary Concerns (Part I)

By Assad Meymandi MD, PhD, ScD (Hon), DLFAPA*

The Birth of Existentialism

I am delighted to know that many of our readers are pleased with our occasional philosophical discourse. After all, philosophy means literally “love of wisdom.” Wisdom is not information, it is not knowledge; yet it is both of those, and more.

It is gratifying to receive reader’s mail who ask for more discussion of people who have made a difference in this world. People like Soren Kierkegaard, born 1813, died 1855, a brilliant sarcastic, humorous and incredibly prolific thinker theologian/philosopher. He, along with Martin Heidegger (1889-1976—I once went to Berlin to meet and talk with him), Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1950) and Albert Camu (1913-1960) are the four horses of Existentialism, all of whom give credit to St Augustine of Hippo for their start and cutting their teeth in understanding the basic premises and principles of existentialism… Soren used to write books pseudonymously, and then critique them harshly, calling the writer of the books, meaning himself, a no good “oeuf”…

A writer asked about Manicheans. The reader was stimulated by my review of James O’Donnell’s Book on the life of Saint Augustine which appeared in WCP in this space. Yes, Saint Augustine of Hippo for 14 years of his life, between ages of 18 (372) and 32 (386, the year he converted to Christianity) was a Manichean. Augustine was baptized by Bishop Ambrose of Milan on Easter morning 387.

Mani was a Persian. He was born and raised near today’s Basra which was a part of the Persian Empire. The religion is heavily based on Zoroastrianism and Zoroaster (Zaratustra) dualistic approach to heaven and earth, good and evil, body and soul… He is purported to have gone to China and converted Turan Shah of China (Puccinin’s Turandot which is really Turan-dokht, the daughter of Turan) is based on this Emperor’s daughter. Manicheans were sophisticated and learned. They often ridiculed Christians and their ”faith.” Manichians were highly educated, most master-rhetors, engaged in the art of persuasion, like today’s Law professors. They believed in dualism, rationalism and materialism. Augustine’s corpus of work contains19 volumes refuting Manicheans, Donatists, Palagirists and Arians. It makes for stimulating reading and ultimately giving reader a roadmap to true wisdom.

Is America Going Bankrupt?

Stories about fake bills being printed and circulated appear in the newspapers frequently. One wonders if printing money is fraudulent, bearing grave consequences of long prison terms, why nobody arrests the US administration, US Congress, Federal Reserve, US Treasury Department, and for that matter the World Monetary Fund. They print money in the trillions with no accountability or responsibility. Why do they not get arrested and prosecuted? Our beloved nation seems to be intoxicated with elusive rising stock market and low unemployment numbers. A little sober thinking is in order before we crash!

Health care disaster in US

Your recent lead editorial was timely and thoughtful. But it failed to identify one of the most egregious and unwelcome causes of health care crisis and cost over-run. And that is the “middle man”, such as the HMOs and the health insurance companies. These huge business enterprises with elaborate bureaucratic staffs and CEOs reward themselves with millions of dollars a year compensation, bonuses, and fatten up their pockets with back dating stock options, clearly an illegal and fraudulent act, are the problem.

Just three weeks ago, United Health ex-CEO, William McGuire, agreed to pay back 30 million in annual compensation he had received, and forfeit 3.7 million dollars in stock option backdating. The dollars that go to boost shareholder value and reward these huge billion dollar companies should be re-routed to patient care. These Enron-type companies coming between patients and doctors are many in number. They are poisonous to medical care. I submit that all health care ”middle man” business entities and health insurance companies ought to be reined in, if not eliminated, if there is any hope for the critically ill US health care system. Unfortunately, none of the 23 Democratic Presidential candidates health care plans offers much hope. We do not know what the Republicans plan to do.

The Gift of Pistachio and a Pinch of Sufism

This is a personal note. I know that it should be handwritten. But legibility becomes a problem. I am writing to tell you how touched I was to receive your thoughtful card with your inserted personal note bearing syntactic elegance and rabbinical wisdom (Rabbi from Aramaic and later Hebrew roots means ‘My teacher’.)

Also thank you for the gift of pistachios, every individual kernel depicting the Hafez poem” Pesteh Khandan.” Pistachios were known to Sumerians. There are records in cuneiform (spike or Mikhi) alphabet what scholars have interpreted to be pistachio associated with green color. Sanskrit word PESTEH is the etymology of our word pistachio. During Achamenid Dynasty, in Persia, Shiraz became the center for growing groves of pistachio trees. And in the pre-Islamic world, they used to ferment and make a wine from pistachio. There was and continues to be to this day, one species of pistachio that actually opens in the pod/shell on the tree before they are picked. They are called “laughing or smiling pistachios.” The Shiraz poets such as Mosleh-Din Saadi (1210-1290) and Khajeh Shams-Din-Hafez (1337-1406) have romanced this species of pistachio as the smiling or laughing (KHANDAN) fruit. As one can see, a cracked pistachio looks like a smiling face.

Saadi and Hafez were Sufis. Sufi philosophy has given birth to the discourse and science of “ontology.” For the last 1200 years, it has evolved the beatific message “to be in the world but not of the world.” Sufism invites, encourages, and teaches the art and skill of “being” as a contradistinction of “doing.” We need to set aside time for introspection and reflection…All one’s “doings” should be in the ultimate service of “being” (ontology) and “becoming”….

Rumi, one of the most eloquent and influential Masters of Sufi in relation to ontology and being said: “Blessed are those who are in a state of constant worship….for the very act of worship is the essence is self-awareness and self-knowledge…”. I must assert that Rumi is very much exploited by literary charlatans and marketers who pose as Rumi authorities, yet do not know a word of Farsi language!)

May your faces like Hafez’ Pesteh be Khandan, smiling and happy forever.

More Potpourri, next week.

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*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association; Life Member, American Medical Association; Life Member, Southern Medical Association; and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He is a Raleigh, North Carolina writer and dramaturge and the 2016 winner of the NC Award in Fine Arts.

 

 

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On July 4…

Monday Musings for Monday July 1, 2019
Volume IX. No. 26/443

July-4-OTD---Thomas-Jefferson-and-John-Adams-jpg
Thomas Jefferson                      John Adams

 

Happy July 4th! Natal Anniversary of America and Mortal Anniversary of John Adams Thomas Jefferson -What Kind of Music Uncle T.J. Liked?

By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DSc (Hon), DLFAPA*

Happy 243th birthday to our beloved nation. We thought it is fitting to honor the US flag by flying it in today’s Monday Musings, instead of our regular book logo. On July 4, 1826, on the 50th golden anniversary of signing of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams died. Historians put his death at around 9:00 AM. Adams and Thomas Jefferson, political arch enemies for decades, had reconciled and become good friends and pen pals in the last two decades of their lives. They exchanged more than 300 letters before that fateful day, July 4 1826. According to reliable history, Adams’ last words were “Thomas Jefferson still survives…” not knowing that Thomas Jefferson too had died that morning at age of 83.

Tuesday July 4, 1826 was a very hot day. The sun seemed to have a notion of what was happening, since it hurriedly rose and climbed to the top of the sky in mid-morning. No wonder, two US Presidents, both belonging to the super exclusive club of the “Founding Fathers of America”, both signatories to the Declaration of Independence, and one the actual author of that sacred document, died that morning on the same day.

Faithful readers of this space recall that we have examined the books the founding fathers read. In this essay and subsequent ones we will examine the music they loved and played. We will start with Thomas Jefferson. In a way, we celebrate July 4 by getting to know the musical taste of staggeringly curious and intellectually superior polymath of all time, Thomas Jefferson, the third President of our beloved nation.

Thomas Jefferson was an accomplished violinist. He even bought a pocket fiddle that accompanied him wherever he went. He was an active member of chamber music ensemble that played for the royal governor of Virginia. According to musicologist and former Meymandi Fellow at the National Humanities Center, the learned author and researcher, Professor Stuart Isacoff, Jefferson loved and admired Corelli, Haydn, Gluck, Handel, Vivaldi, Pergolesi, Boccherini, Stamitz, Clementi, and J. C. Bach (J. S. Bach’s youngest son). The 6500 volumes that Jefferson sold to the government which formed the nucleus of the Library of Congress, in addition to work of the above composers, contained sheet music by lesser known composers such as Padre Martini, Gaetano Pugnani, Ignaz Pleyel and Italianized German composer, Giovanni Adolfo Hass. Thomas Jefferson fell in love with a patrician beauty, a rich young widow, Martha Wayles Skelton whose favour he won in a competitive race with two other suitors by playing his violin when he courted her. Jefferson continued to practice daily and play his violin which Martha thoroughly enjoyed. He wanted to commission a piece to honor his beloved wife after her death. He was aware that Mr. Goldberg paid JS Bach to compose the Goldberg Variation. He even had a brief meeting with Mozart to discuss the matter, but somehow the commissioning never materialized. Jefferson’s not being fond of Mozart, because of Mozart’s “conduct” may have had something to do with the project not materializing. However, Jefferson recognized Mozart’s genius and loved his music.

Also, Jefferson liked Handel’s Messiah, Hayden’s solo cantatas, John Gay’s “the Beggar’s Opera” and many American folk songs and music of emerging American composers such as his fellow Declaration signer, Francis Hopkinson. In the writings of Jefferson’s grand daughter, Ellen Coolidge, who lived in Monticello, there are many references to Jefferson’s love for music. As the former president became older, he wrote more about music and spent more time collecting, humming and playing his various favorite composers.

Happy 4th to All. There is no place on earth like America, where the beacon of freedom continues to shine, where the flame of liberty continues to illuminate the landscape of humanity, where the rule of law and not the whim of Shahs, Mullahs and dictators is supreme. God Bless America.

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*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine(1995-2012). He is a dramaturge. Received Raleigh Medal of Art in 2001, inducted to Raleigh Hall of Fame 2013, elected Lifetime Trustee, North Carolina Symphony in 2015, and 2016 recipient of NC Award, Fine Arts.

 

 

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On Washington’s Ancestral Home…

Monday Musings for June 24, 2019
Volume IX, No, 25/442

big-3-9-2010105030A499280Manor-logo-photo-(2)

Sulgrave Manor, a Source of Pride or Shame

By Assad Meymandi, MD PhD, ScD (Hon), DLFAPA*

To me, George Washington was a holy person and his ancestral home the Sulgrave Manor is a sacred space. GW’s gift to limiting his appetite for power is considered by many including Goethe as a “remarkable and rather rare attribute.” Washington Is admired by all nations friends ad foes. After fathering America, serving two terms as President, like the famed Greek General, Cincinnatus, he returned to his farm. He liberated his slaves and worked and lived as an ordinary citizen. So, I am offering below as an overture to the stunning opera of the birth of our nation. Next Monday we will devote the space to July 4.

 

Around my house, we are purists. We celebrate and observe Lincoln’s birthday on February 12, and pay homage to the father of our country on his natal anniversary on February 22. Today’s “Monday Musings” was written on July 4, 1973 after a visit to Sulgrave Manor in Northampton, England, and has been reprinted every year since.

Sulgrave, a hamlet, population 58, houses one of the most significant pieces of American and British history, unbeknownst to many Americans and certainly British. Sulgrave Manor, the ancestral home of George Washington, the father of America, lies 14 miles southwest Northampton, a busy city of 120,000. No, you won’t find it in the Northampton city directory, nor does it appear on the county or “Shire” map. The Chamber of Commerce of Northampton politely said “We do not know, Sir” to my telephone inquiry as to the whereabouts of Sulgrave Manor. No place in London, including the eager to please Bureau of Tourism, acknowledged its existence. Like an in- house secret shrouded in mystery, it eluded my persuasive curiosity.

My host, Dr. Michael O’Brooke, a consultant psychiatrist at Saint Andrews Hospital in Northampton, almost changed the subject when I asked about Sulgrave. Somehow we ended up talking about the newly discovered oil off the Britain’s coast. Finally I pinpointed him, and demanded an answer. With his genuine English wit he snapped “Oh, yes, I will have my driver to take you there…” He made it clear in his elegant old Anglo-Saxon, non-verbal but piercing way, that he did not wish to discuss the matter any further.

I rode through the bustling streets of Northampton. It belied that it was July 4. No picnic, no American flags and no Happy Birthday! Total oblivion of the importance of America’s birthday enveloped this industrial city which lies 70 miles southwest of London. Finally, we arrived at Sulgrave. It was a bright and sunny afternoon. A fairly short, thin gentleman whose bushy eyebrow literally covered his eyes, with graying full head of hair combed straight back giving ample space for a high forehead, looking like a character just stepped out of one of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novels, greeted me with a simple but eloquent Churchillian deep voice: “Good afternoon! I am Mr. David Robbins, your guide.” We talked a bit. I felt like he was genuinely happy to see me breaking his loneliness, somehow reminding me of the British version of the Maytag repairman commercial.

The layout of Sulgrave Manor was elegant. Eight courtyards, a vegetable garden, and immaculately kept manicured yards and shrubs took me back 350 years. Foxglove of several colors graced all sidewalks. A British and an American flag were flying on the sides of the building. Mr. Robbins gave me a quizzical look upon finding that I might write up the Sulgrave experience for my fellow Americans. He briefly disappeared, soon to reappear with brilliantly printed brochure. He wanted to be sure that the facts were accurately reported…As Mr. Robbins and the brochure have it: the main part of the house was built of stone and he made sure I understood that it was the original structure, and not like the wooden colonial houses which were burnt and re-constructed—a mere replica—this house was built by Lawrence Washington in 1560. General George Washington was the seventh descendant of Lawrence Washington, who incidentally, was the mayor of Northampton in 1539 and again in 1545. Mr. Robbins took me around the building with utmost care, explaining that the perpetual Board of Trustees of the manor consists of the British Ambassador to US and the American Ambassador to England. The manor and the grounds belong to both countries. The cost of maintenance, conservation and purchase of pieces of land are born directly by both countries.

There was an air of ambivalence inundated by moments of awkwardness as Mr. Robbins’ basic loyalty to his own country and crown saw George Washington as a rebellious rash soldier with poor manners who committed an act of treason by fathering America, along with the pride that he finally acknowledged for the American experience, offered twinges of cultural/patriotic schizophrenia. Here I stood, on a 4th of July, my country’s birthday, proud to be an American and concerned about my host’s mixed feelings. I empathically told him that if I were in his place I, too, would be most uncomfortable. There was a sudden glitter in Mr. Robbins’s eyes. After so many years of working there, he had found a person who looked at and talked with him as a person with feelings. He looked me in the eyes and invited me to the afternoon tea. As we were sipping the tea he asked me about my work. “Psychiatrist” I said. “Oh Lord, I should have known not to ask…” he said in reply. I saw not only the most proudly and secretly kept historical monument in England, but also had made a good friend in Mr. Robbins, the official host/guide of Sulgrave Manor.

Mr. Robbins and I kept in touch. He was scheduled to come to US for a visit but died of a sudden heart attack in the mid-eighties. He was 80 years old.

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*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine(1995-2012). He is a dramaturge. Received Raleigh Medal of Art in 2001, inducted to Raleigh Hall of Fame 2013, elected Lifetime Trustee, North Carolina Symphony in 2015, and 2016 recipient of NC Award, Fine Arts.

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On Pandit Bhimsen Joshi…

Monday Musings for Monday June 17, 2019
Volume IX, No. 24/441

Pandit_Bhimsen_Joshi_(cropped)

Pandit Bhimsen Joshi

By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, ScD (Hon), DLFAPA*

Faithful readers of this space remember the essay on Hazrat Inayat Khan, the Indian Sufi-musician and his mesmeric instrument, the Vina. Well, Let me bring you the sad news of the death of another Indian singer-musician-genius, very much of the same mold of Inayat Khan. He was Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, dead at 88. This illustrious Indian musician with charisma of Napoleon, genius of Bach, and improvisational gift of Mozart with the golden voice of Orfeo, has orphaned the multitude of music lovers. We mourn his passing. Pandit Bhimsen Joshi was given the title of “Singer of India”.

Every nation has its own music. Portugal has Fado; Spain, Fandango, Flaminco, Sardana, Bolero, and Zambro; Italian, using Richard Wagner’s (1813 -1883) term, Gesamtkunswerk of all musical art forms, the Opera; French, Jean Baptist Lully’s dotted rhythm overture to the majestic French Operas; German, Singspiel; Vienna, classical music; Persia, the Octatonic scale, harmonic implications, and unparalleled melisma. America, jazz and blue grass; and India, the taans, Ragas, abhangs or hymns, and the incomparable medieval Marathi saint-poets songs. Pandit Joshi was the consummate “Ostad“, master of all the Hindustani music.

The first time I saw Bhimsen sing in Mumbai, I thought he was having a convulsion on the stage. He did not. That was his all-consuming style.

Music seemed to require him to use every part of his body. As one critic wrote, “From a slow, mesmerized, almost motionless start and his eyes would roll upwards, foreshadowing the ascent to the notes that emerged from his distended, gaping mouth. His hand flailed, as though reaching for some imagined object just out of his grasp. Perhaps Joshi was trying to bring back to earth a soaring note from one of his magnificent taans, the series of rapid melodic passages with which classical singers in the Hindustani tradition of Northern India demonstrate their skills.” Pandit Joshi had a very modest start, born to the Dharwad region, sate of Bombay in British India. He grew up on the devotional songs his mother sang inviting people to prayer. They are called Azaan, and the person who sings them from the Mosque’s minaret is called muaazen. But he had access to 788 rpm discs and was introduced to western and classical music. He studied under Abdul Karim Khan, the great master of Kirana School. He was an industrious fellow practicing his art as many as 12 hours a day. He also traveled extensively. He was a man of faith and overcame his addiction to alcohol through resolute abstinence. His favorite music which illustrates his faith in god Krishna was a rage named Krishna. In my view he was an Orfeo for the 21st century with Orfeo’s fabled magical and mystical voice capable of opening the doors to Hades, but without Orfeo’s vanity and narcissism. His music is available for you to enjoy.

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*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He is a dramaturge. Received Raleigh Medal of Art in 2001, inducted to Raleigh Hall of Fame 2013, elected Lifetime Trustee, North Carolina Symphony in 2015, and 2016 recipient of NC Award, Fine Arts.

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On Father’s Day

“Monday Musings” for Sunday June 16, 2019
Volume IX. No. 23/440

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Pieter Jozef Verhagen.   Hagar and Ishmael Banished by Abraham, (1781)

 

 Father’s Day

By: Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, ScD (Hon), DLFAPA*

 This coming Sunday, June 16, 2019 is Father’s Day. A few reflections:

Brief History

Arkansas has not only given us the Clintons and the perennial presidential contender, the Reverend/Governor/evangelist/guitar picking/author Mike Huckabee, but it has given us Sonora Smart Dodd who literally created Father’s Day back in 1910. She celebrated the first Father’s Day in Spokane, Washington to honor her father, the Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, a single parent who raised his six children single-handedly in Arkansas. Sonora was moved to recognize her father’s contribution by proposing a day to honor all fathers. However, it was not until 1972, 58 years after President Woodrow Wilson made Mother’s Day official, that the Father’s Day became a nationwide holiday in the United States.

Father vs. Dad

It is so easy to be a father. All it takes is a willing partner and nine months later a child is produced. But it takes a whole lot of preparation and commitment to be a dad. One of the main reasons we have more per capita prison/jail inmates than anywhere else in the industrial nations is this very simple notion: plenty of fathers who bring children to the world have no preparation or commitment to be or become a dad. Recent statistics point to the fact that the rate of imprisonment in the United States more than quadrupled during the last four decades. The U.S. penal population of 2.2 million adults is by far the largest in the world. Just under one-quarter of the world’s prisoners are held in American prisons. The U.S. rate of incarceration, with nearly 1 out of every 100 adults in prison or jail, is five to 10 times higher than the rates in countries of Western Europe and other democracies. The reason is simply too many men, like sex machines, reproduce and abandon. Most prisoners grew up without love, care and devotion of a dad. And our government seems to reward this delinquent behavior by giving incentive in expanding the welfare state. It is an abomination that so many single mothers of four or five, and so many children who have never met or known their fathers…

Dads love, care, provide, and offer moral leadership to, and role models for their children. Dads are selfless, giving and loving. Dads offer security, permanence, and they are there for their children forever. To be a dad is the most responsible job on earth. No, I am not suggesting to cut resources of, and services to, the children. On the contrary, we need to pump in love and all resources necessary to make sure the children who are already here have what it takes to become responsible citizens. I am saying that family planning should be emphasized and through education and information, sex machines dismantled. If we could spend the corrections budget on education, eventually we will decrease the prison population drastically.

Historically, the roots of the Arab Israeli conflict go back to the days of Abram (before he became Abraham–Genesis 17) of Ur. The two biographers of Abraham, Zakaria-ye- Massuyeh, and Honein Ibn Ishagh ably trace the origin of the Arab-Israeli conflict to Abraham and his two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. The two brothers were fighting as most children do. Ishmael gathered his friends in one camp which became the origin of Arabs, and Isaac doing the same, naming his camp and entourage/followers the Israelis. Two brothers and their progenies, blood related cousins, have been killing one another for more than three thousand years…I guess one might say that Abraham was a faithful and superb prophet, fathering Judaism, Christianity and Islam, but did not know how to be a daddy to his own sons.

Personal Memories

 Speaking of children fighting, I remember as a small boy being the youngest in the family. I used to argue and fight all the time with my sister next in age to me. We used to go to my father with our stories as to how we were victimized, expecting father to intervene on our individual behalf. My father would sit patiently and dispassionately listen to us carefully one at a time. My sister and I would anxiously await a judgment and a disposition. My father would hold both of us in his arms and say something like “I see you two have a disagreement, and I have faith in both your abilities to resolve the disagreement by understanding and talking and not fighting…” He would kiss us and let us go. My father was an esthete. He was a poet and a calligrapher. He flooded our home with books, and books and books… We had music, poetry, and flowers…Next to God, love and family, education was most revered by our father.

What to Do?

What do we need to do to correct what Abraham failed to do? How do we bring peace and reconciliation to Jews and Muslims? All major religions and their Holy Books including Bhagavad Gita of Hindus, Avesta of Zoroastrians, Torah of Moses, Quran of Islam and Bible of Christians recommend forgiveness and conciliation. As one exposed to all these Holy writings, I am most impressed by Christian love and the Pauline theology of hope, possibilities, forgiveness, and redemption. It is the unique attribute of Christian teaching to transform one’s enemy through the act of love and turning the other cheek. What a magnanimous feat of humanity and Godliness. I am for establishing dialogue, learning the enemy’s language, pressing flesh and showing acts of love and mercy.

Happy Father’s Day to all.

The Meymandi touring Exhibition Gallery, North Carolina Museum of Art, is named for my late father, Farajollah Meymandi.

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*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association; Life Member, American Medical Association; Life Member, Southern Medical Association; and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He is a Raleigh, North Carolina writer and dramaturge.

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On Theatre…

Monday Musings for Monday June 3, 2019
Volume IX. No. 22/439

Globe

An Essay on Theatre

by Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, ScD (Hon). DLFAPA*

“I developed a passion for stage plays, with the mirror they held up to my
own miseries and the fuel they poured on my flame. How is it that a man
wants to be made sad by the sight of tragic sufferings that he could not bear
in his own person?”

Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Confessions, Book III, section 2.
Why Theatre?

More than sixteen centuries ago, during antiquity, long before Ludwig Wittgenstein, Fredrick Nietzsche, Freud and psychoanalysis, long before the existentialists Soren Kierkegaard, Martin Heidegger, Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camu, Saint Augustine of Hippo, having studied Cicero, the Greek playwrights, and the neo-Platonist philosophers, such as Plotinus and Porphyry, intuitively knew that theatre is a powerful medium of “turning inward” (introspection) and learning about one’s self. There are many other historical witnesses both in philosophy and theology who loved and use theatre in their writings and teaching. These include not only Socrates and the prophets, but also Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Origen, Aquinas, Maimonides, Luther, Calvin, Descartes, Leibniz, Locke, Hume, Schleiermacher, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Freud, Martin Buber, Karl Barth, and others. They have all written extensively on the value of theater in understanding and search of the self.

We now know that there are four powerful instruments used for introspection and research on self. One can learn about one’s self through psychoanalysis, which is usually very expensive and time consuming. The other tools are studying history, opera and poetry. The last but certainly not the least is theater.

Theatre, a combination of words, acting, and often music, offers us the most comprehensive and potent introspectoscope. Theatre and opera give the viewer an opportunity to become aware of one’s unconscious in dynamic gradation. Do we, as viewers, possess at least some of the evil and sexual identity confusion that eclipses Iago and Othello (in Shakespeare’s play Othello)? Are we endowed with passion that made Don Jose kill Carmen? Are we capable of transcendence that comes with the Zoroastrian parables in Wagner’s Ring Cycles? In order to get to know ourselves better, I believe theatre and opera should be an integral part of every citizen’s cultural and intellectual diet. It is much less expensive that psychoanalysis, and while being intellectually stimulating, it is more enjoyable and entertaining.

A Brief History of Theatre

Theatre has been with us since the Sumerians more than 7000 years ago. Scholars believe that the entire scene of Moses and the burning bush was a dramatic theatrical production for the Lord, Yahweh, to make a point to his chosen people, the Jews. However, at one point in history there was a dearth of theatre. Almost 2000 years separates Sophocles from Shakespeare. The middle ages did not produce much theatre. With Renaissance, there came a flowering of theatre. We have had the theatre of 19th century influenced by Darwinism, and the 20th century by theater of absurd (Le theatre de l’absurde), a term coined by Martin Esslin (in 1962 he wrote a book by this title) depicting the quest of Albert Camu and other playwrights to find the meaning of life. Toward the end of the 20th century and continuing into the 21st, we have seen powerful works by Tom Stoppard and others that closely examine social ethics.

Theatre depends on conflict, agon, a Greek word that reflects tension and tug of war. Greek theatre dealt with myth, nature and the minor and major Gods. Renaissance theatre, especially in England the work of Marlowe and Shakespeare, centered around the theme of passing on power from generation to generation, king to king. Shakespeare’s four incomparable tragic plays, Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth and Othello, dealt with complex issues of changing guards, political hegemony and domestic disequilibrium. The theatre of Christian culture depicted and postulated love, charity, guilt, sin and redemption. With Renaissance, the Greco-Roman tradition of theatre was revived. Later, with the birth of Protestantism, reformation and counter-reformation, theatre was used by rulers like Elizabeth and James to make xenophobia an acceptable form of make believe patriotism, very much like what is happening today in America with the immigration issue. Moliere continued that trend in France under Louis XIV.

In modern days, we are dealing with issues that take innovation, courage and erudition that need to be brought on stage. In Raleigh, we have that in Burning Coal Theater which came to Raleigh in 1996. I am told that there were thirteen people in the audience of the first performance (no, I was not there.) It is always good to see a new work or a new artistic enterprise grow legs, even if at the beginning it seems unlikely to become a distant runner. It has been the delight of the region’s theatre lovers to see Burning Coal staging the work horses of theatre, such as Hamlet. In addition, the company also has produced provocative plays, such as David Edgar’s Pentecost, to packed houses. Burning Coal is proving to be a distant runner with huge influence in the artistic world.

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*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He received Raleigh Medal of Art in 2001, inducted to Raleigh Hall of Fame 2013, elected Lifetime Trustee, North Carolina Symphony in 2015, and 2016 recipient of NC Award, Fine Arts.

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On Memorial Day…

Monday Musings for Monday May 27, 2019
Volume IX, No. 21/438

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Memorial Day, Pericles, Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address

By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

Today is Memorial Day. Some reflections:

In so many great books and in so many great bodies of literature, we are told that “to die for one’s own country is the noblest deed.” The conceptual architectonics of this notion goes back to 5th century BC Athens and to mid-nineteen century AD America. The architects are two superb statesmen, Pericles of Athens and Abraham Lincoln of America separated by almost 2500 years. The occasion was the funeral oration by Pericles for the war dead in Athens 404 BC, and the funeral oration by Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg in 1865 AD for the America’s civil war dead.B oth speeches proclaim that democracy is worth sacrificing lives and spending the nation’s financial and material resources. In their speeches, Pericles and Lincoln forcefully and eloquently submit that “to die for the cause of democracy and national unity is the noblest act.”

Pericles and Lincoln, these two incomparable souls had qualities that set them apart as statesmen. They were not merely politicians. They both had bedrock principles and solid foundation of beliefs that did not change with public polls and political expedience. They both had a moral compass and had a sense of absolute right and wrong. They each had a vision for their nation as a model for the world and humankind, and they had the ability to build consensus. Pericles and Lincoln both led their respective nations, Greece and America, into civil wars. Pericles led his nation to war between Sparta and Athens (431 to 404 BC), and Lincoln led America to our Civil War (1861 to 1865). The Athenians and Spartans spoke the same language and worshipped the same gods. So did the Confederate soldiers and their brethren to the north. They spoke English (or according to H. L. Menken they all spoke ‘American’) and worshipped the same God. As an aside: you will enjoy reading H.L. Menken’s “American Language” which gives a deep analysis contrasting British English with American English.

The Origin of Memorial Day

The journey starts with Pericles and his funeral oration of 404 BC. Later Publius Vergilius Maro (70 BC to 19 BC to ), usually called Virgil or Vergil in English, the celebrated Roman poet in his famous epic poem in Latin, Aeneid, translated the words of Pericles from Greek to Latin. Lincoln, an intellectual and scholar, had read Aeneid as much as he had read the Bible. Aeneid is a poem about war. It spells out the conduct and the protocol of man at war. Virgil came to the conclusion that men who gave their lives to their country should be memorialized. Virgil popularized Pericles’ of views some 400 years earlier, laying down the roots of what we today know as Memorial Day.

Lincoln used Virgil’s concept of memorializing the dead soldiers. He also emulated Pericles who with unparalleled eloquence and clarity concluded that “to die for one’s nation is the noblest deed”. Almost 2500 years after Pericles, Abraham Lincoln, on November 19, 1863 in his funeral oration in 272 words Gettysburg Address told the nation why the war, where he was going with the war, and what the outcome of the war would be. He clearly articulated why 620,000 soldiers have given their lives. He told the nation that the ultimate goal was to ensure the unity of the nation and guarantee freedom for all Americans.

The Gettysburg Address, Lincoln’s marvelous use of words loaded with religious and Biblical symbolisms such as “fourscore, dedicate, consecrate, hallow, and sacred ground” invoked the spiritual dimensions of his persuasive message. And Lincoln did not have a team of speech writers and spin artist pollsters on his staff… In contrast, it is unclear to us why the ill-defined Iraq and Afghanistan wars now going on 14 years, at a cost of thousands of lives, and the expenditure of hundreds of billions dollars, continue. America is still waiting for an explanation of why we are there. Would not it be nice if we had a living Lincoln who could use 272 words to give us this reason?

Memorial Day as we know it today, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America. Memorial Day was born out of the Civil War and a desire to honor our dead. It was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed. Memorial Day is now observed in almost every state on the last Monday in May with Congressional passage of the National Holiday Act of 1971. This helped ensure a three day weekend for this Federal holiday, though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead.

Salute to the veterans for the noble act of sacrificing for America and condolences to their families of the deceased.

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*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He is a dramaturge. Received Raleigh Medal of Art in 2001, inducted to Raleigh Hall of Fame 2013, elected Lifetime Trustee, North Carolina Symphony in 2015, and 2016 recipient of NC Award, Fine Arts.

 

 

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On Wagner and Opera…

Monday Musings for Monday May 20, 2019
Volume IX, No. 20/437

E9 Bayreuth  Margravial Opera Stage

 Bayreuth Margravial Opera Stage

Happy Birthday to Richard Wagner: A Few Thoughts about Opera

By: Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, ScD (Hon), DLFAPA*

Wednesday is Richard Wagner’s 205th birthday (May 22, 1813- February 13, 1883). We celebrate his natal anniversary with joy and some added reflections: Wagner was a German musician, opera composer, and a disciple of the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, (Feb 22, 1788- September 12, 1860) with whom he split over the issue of “toleration”. Wagner was truly a genius. But he hated the Jews and the Italians, all of whom he called barbarians. He also hated the word opera because it is an Italian word and he thought Italians are of a lower race. Instead, he called his work “Music Drama“. Wagner was a contemporary of Verdi (October 10, 1813-Jan 27, 1901), the world famous and renowned Italian Opera Composer. Toward the end of his life, Wagner had a change of heart about Italians and had some good things to say about Verdi. But he remained a staunch anti-Semite.

Richard Wagner, the ruthless, racist and megalomaniacal genius not only composed his own opera but wrote the libretto (pleural, libretti), designed the stage, and conducted the work. His compositions are not just opera but an all-encompassing Gesamtkunstwerk, like the Super Bowl halftime show! In addition to writing the libretto, composing the music, and designing his sets, he was a brilliant prose writer. I recommend getting a hold of some 12 volumes of his original work and read them for the sheer power of their syntax and thematic composition.

He also architecturally created the Bayreuth Opera House where his work was produced and staged.  After 201 years, almost all of his operas including Flying Dutchman, Ride of Valkyries, Tannhauser, and Die Meistersinger Von Numbergare a steady diet of most opera houses and symphonies throughout the world. several years ago, the North Carolina Symphony played in the first half of the program, Prelude to Act I, Lohengrin. The second half featured the memorable performance of virtuoso violinist, Itzhach Perlman playing Violin Concerto in D Major, Opus 35, by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. As an aside, on May 12, 2015, the world renown violinist, Joshua Bell, played Jean Sibelius’ Concerto in D minor for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 27, with North Carolina Symphony to a standing room only crowd in Raleigh’s Meymandi Concert Hall. And there will be a special program of classical music with Conductor Grant Llewelyn featuring Joshua Bell this coming fall. Raleigh has an extraordinarily rich cultural life.

Back to Wagner:

Wagner’s writings and Teutonic operas tell us that he had a deep knowledge of history. His operas, especially Tristan and Isolde, and the “Ring Cycle” consisting of four operas, 18 hours, are full of Zoroastrian parables, Buddhist reference to “nothingness” before becoming “something” and the writings of Rumi, Shams Tabrizi, and Baba Taher Oryan. He loved Aryan Persians as much as he hated the Jews. He spoke of the Jews as inferior creatures preoccupied with usury, money changing, and nothing else. He made fun of Jewish cantorial music and ridiculed the religious tradition of the Jewish synagogue.

Delving into his personal life, one discovers that he was an illegitimate child of a Jew, Ludwig Geyer. He was born in the Jewish quarter of Leipzig, the ninth child of Carl Friedrich Wagner who died six months after Richard’s birth, following which Wagner’s mother began living with the actor and playwright Ludwig Geyer with whom she had a longstanding relationship. Ludwig was a friend of Richard’s late father. Richard almost certainly suspected that Geyer was his natural father. He and Ludwig whom he publicly called “Dad” shared a love of theater, opera and language. Around age 14, however, Richard changed his name from Richard Geyer back to Richard Wagner.

In his early life, Wagner was heavily influenced by Shakespeare and Goethe. He was determined to set the writings of these two illustrious authors into music. In 1826, at age 13, he started to take music lessons. By 1827, the family had moved back to Leipzig. Wagner’s first lessons in harmony were taken in 1828-1831. In January 1828 he first heard Beethoven’s 7th Symphony and then, in March, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony performed in the Gewandhaus. Beethoven became his inspiration, and Wagner wrote a piano transcription of the 9th Symphony. Regarding his obscure genealogy, He often kiddingly said “May be Beethoven is my dad!”… Wagner was also greatly impressed by a performance of Mozart’s Requiem. From this period we have Wagner’s early piano sonatas and his first attempts at orchestral overtures. In 1829 he saw the dramatic soprano Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient on stage, and she became his ideal of the fusion of drama and music in opera. In his autobiography, Wagner wrote, “If I look back on my life as a whole, I can find no event that produced and left so profound an impression upon me.” He had an unsuccessful marriage to his second wife, Cosima, and had disastrous relationships with other women including Minna Wagner.

In Wagner lies an enigma. He was a truly brilliant artist with gifts in music composition, writing, poetry, and deep knowledge of history who was pathologically intolerant of others, especially Jews. Yet he was the son of a Jew and had Jewish DNA. His profound anti-Semitic rant has given to millions of words of psychobabble attempting to explain that his hatred of Jews was deeply rooted in self-hatred. As a person, he had no shred of decency and no touch of sublime humanity. He broke up with his idol and mentor, philosopher Schopenhauer, because of Wagner’s extreme hatred of Jews. Schopenhauer could not take Wagner’s extreme intolerance of the Jews. Personally, I take and enjoy Wagner’s rich and lasting contributions to the arts and literature, and merely ignore the rest of him.  Wagner was a superb writer and philosopher

On the local scene in Raleigh, the transfer of Dix property to the city of Raleigh was accomplished on May 5, 2015.  A group of citizens is working very hard to create a world class destination park on the 303 acres of land in the heart of downtown Raleigh for all to enjoy.  Personally, I am looking forward to the day we will have an opera house built on Dix Park, NC’s Central Park. With such a venue, we can not only do the more lavish and demanding Wagner operas, but stage some modern operas the list of which is approaching 90. I have noticed and admired the Met’s willingness to add some of the modern operas such as Cyrano de Bergerac with Placido Domingo as Cyrano, Sondra Radvanovsky (Roxanne), and librettist Henry Cain. I have yet to see any opera in America by Michael Tippett, Hans Verner Henze and Olivier Messiaen (I saw his Saint Francois D’Assie in Paris several years ago), and other composers.

Meantime, Happy 205th Birthday to Richard Wagner!

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*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He is a dramaturge. Received Raleigh Medal of Art in 2001, inducted to Raleigh Hall of Fame 2013, elected Lifetime Trustee, North Carolina Symphony in 2015, and 2016 recipient of NC Award, Fine Arts.

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On Moosa’s “Ghazali…”

Monday Musings for Monday May 13, 2019
Volume IX, No. 19/436

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Ghazali & The Poetics of Imaginations

by Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, ScD (Hon), DLFAPA*

A Book Review
Ghazali & The Poetics of Imaginations
by Ebrahim Moosa
Introduction: 32 pages, 289 pages of text, 28 pages of Notes
five pages of Glossary, 22 pages of Bibliography
and 12 pages of index
Publisher: UNC Press, 2005

Intellectual oxymoron

Of the eminent Persian poet and philosopher, Hamid Ghazali, we have spoken before. The faithful readers will recall that we discussed Ghazali’s devotion to seeking, learning, and discovering through his devotion to faith on the one hand and skepticism on the other, a true intellectual oxymoron. The issue of faith and skepticism, like many other confounding discourses, such as Saint Augustine of Hippo’s theory of predestination and will, present theological oxymoron, if not conundrums. We are keeping our promise by reviewing a most remarkable book about Al-Ghazali by Professor Ebrahim Moosa.

As a child, I recall my father encouraging us to read Al-Ghazali to strengthen the gift of doubt in his children. In a recent conversation with a learned friend about education, after a lengthy discussion, we agreed that in order to encourage our college students to adopt a more vigorous orientation and grounding in critical thinking, they should read Al-Ghazali and Abu Nasr Farabi (872-950, known to West as Alfarabius), Persian polymath, scientist, poet, philosopher and theologian. To strengthen their intellectual wherewithal.

Who was AL-Ghazali?

Abū Hāmid Muhammad ibn al-Ghazālī (1058-1111) was born and died in Tus, in the Khorasan province of Persia (modern day Iran). He was a Islamic theologian, jurist, philosopher, cosmologist, physician, psychologist and mystic of Persian origin, and remains one of the most celebrated scholars in the history of Sufi Islamic thought. He is considered a pioneer of the methods of doubt and skepticism, and in one of his major works, The Incoherence of the Philosophers, he changed the course of early Islamic philosophy, shifting it away from an Islamic metaphysics influenced by ancient Greek and Hellenistic philosophy, and towards an Islamic philosophy based on cause-and-effect that were determined by God or intermediate angels, a theory now known as “occasionalism.”

Ghazali and the Poetics of Imaginations starts with a 32 page comprehensive introduction, nine sections and a conclusion . The book is a symphonic rhapsody of the understanding of the “SELF.” It is very difficult to translate the Arabic word NAFS or NAFS-AL-EMAREH into a meaningful English word. The word “SELF” may asymptotically approach the true meaning of NAFS but never reaches the complexity, richness and centricity of its Arabic equivalent. This book is all about “SELF”.

”The first segment “Agnostics of the Self” pushing skepticism to its limit, the author acknowledges that Ghazali’s ethics are at time inseparable from his poetics (imagination.)

Section 2 has this book, author Ebrahim Moosa, devotes to the discourse to “Narrativity of the Self”, a brilliant exegesis of Ghazali’s ability to wed poetic imagination and rational ideas. He forwards the argument that Ghazali was skeptical toward “and took a dim view of the confabulations promoted by specialist raconteurs and story-tellers.” As a physician, I am acutely aware that confabulation is a symptom of systemic poisoning of certain parts of the brain, namely Para-median grey that is destroyed by too much alcohol and cannabis. The pseudo-Sufis of Ghazali’s time, one may conclude, did indulge heavily in both.

Section 3, “Poetics of Memory and Writings” reminded me of the book 11 of Saint Augustine of Hippo’s Confessions, devoted entirely to Memory. It combines Plato’s views on writing, some explanation of the origin of the myth of writing, and explore authoritatively, the contribution of Neo-Platonist to understanding memory and writing.

The subsequent six sections on “Liminality and Exile”, ”Grammar of the Self” which includes “Grammar of Religion”, “Metaphysics of Belief—Faith in a nutshell”, “Dilemma of anathema of Heresey”, ”Hermeneutics of the self” and “Technologies of the Self” complete the volume.

Who is Ebrahim Moosa?

Dr. Moosa is the former Associate Research Professor of religious studies and Director of The Center for the Study of Muslim Networks at Duke University. In my experience with languages, the humanities, and religious studies, I have found that these fields attract a disproportionate number of pretend-scholars, phonies, and pseudo-historians, if not downright charlatans. There are “experts” in Mowlana Masnavi Molavi Rumi who market distorted ideas and cleverly sell Rumi, while not knowing a word of Farsi, the language of Rumi. Edward Fitzgerald and Rubaiiat (quatrains) of Omar Khayyam is another example of clever marketing and exploitation of the most holy name in Sufism. For example, in one quatrain, where Khayyam speaks of a “14 year old beloved and a two year old wine….” he is not speaking of a lecherous pedophile who is a wine guzzler. Khayyam is speaking of Prophet Mohammad pbwh who at the age 40 (four ten or ‘fourteen’) was called upon by Angel Gabriel to found Islam, and it took two years (the fruit or the wine), the Holy Quoran, to be completed. These are but a few examples of the attraction of the fields of humanities and religious studies for the unwashed and uninitiated pseudo-scholars who exploit their subjects…

Professor Moosa is not a phony! He is an Arab, he knows the language, and has a deep understanding of the Arab and Persian cultures. His remarkable knowledge of the subject and brilliant exegesis of the life and writings of Al-Ghazali make reading of his book a sheer pleasure. For those who would like to gain a better understanding of the rich tapestry of Sufism, mysticism and witness the holy marriage of poetry, transcendent imagination and disciplined facts of the past (not history), this book is gold mine.

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*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association; Life Member, American Medical Association; Life Member, Southern Medical Association; and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He is a Raleigh, North Carolina writer and dramaturge and the 2016 winner of the NC Award in Fine Arts.

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