On the Wonders of Flowers

Monday Musings: for Monday Jan 6, 2014

Volume !V, No. 1/157



By: Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

(Editor’s Note: Dedicated to all the family and friends who sent us flowers for the Holidays.  Our home is drenched in beauty and grace that only flowers may bring,)

I know this note should be handwritten, but legibility becomes a problem. I am writing to share with you the astonishing beauty, abundant grace, and transcendent warmth and friendship that were presented to our door in the form of a bouquet of off pink roses, arranged with lapidary care and exactness. Looking at the arrangement made me hear Bach’s complex fugue in E minor. Such is the miracle of synesthesia. I am grateful. For all this, “thank you” is not an adequate response. Permit me to indulge the imperative of flowers in Persian (Iranian) culture:

In the older Persian culture, under the guidance of the prophet Zoroaster, “Gol” or “Flowers”, were  as sanctified as fire, water and deity…  Zoroastrians keep flowers on the table and a fire burning in their home night and day…

The culture lingers on to this day. The Persians’ love for “Gol” is reflected in the work of Sheikh Mosleh-e-Din Saadi in his two volumes of “Golestan”, and “Boostan” both of which mean “The House of Flowers”. Every Persian child with classic education memorizes these two books before age ten.

March 21, vernal equinox, the first day of spring, with the passage of the sun over the equator creates the exquisite justice of allotting 12 hours to the day and 12 hours to the night. It is called Norooz, means new day. Everything including schools and government are closed for seven days. Children wear new clothes. Gifts are exchanged; love and flowers envelop houses, homes, offices and streets. Of all the flowers, the Persians have a weak spot for hyacinths. Indeed botanical literature tells us that hyacinths take their roots in old Persia whence they were exported to China. Hyacinths are intense and tendentious love objects of all Persians.  Persian poet, Sheikh Mosleh-Din-Saadi Shirazi (1210-1290), wrote: “If I had a coin, I’d give half of it to the poor and with the other half, I’d buy a loaf of bread to feed my hunger and a hyacinth to feed my soul…” 

We received many orchids. Orchid is not just a flower. It is an orchid.  As you know orchids have their roots in Eastern soil. Orchids are distinctly Eastern flowers. My late mother loved orchids and roses. She grew them both. Unlike roses known for their temporal beauty and evanescent charm, orchids, like friendship, Joy, and love, are lasting. Saadi, in his famous book “Gulistan” (Book of GUL or book of flowers) writes “Orchids manufacture beauty and grace and give them to us with abundance and without reservation…”

The orchids we received are mostly multi-bloom arrangement in shade of glorious red, each containing five petals. We know from the book of Deuteronomy and the Gospel of John that the number five is a symbol for mankind (two arms, two legs and a head.)

Five is also a combination of the number 2 which is the biblical allusion going back to Plato’s Republic denoting society (Adam and Eve; two witnesses, etc.) and the number 3 which is the symbol for deity, celestial Trinitarianism, making number five, a combination of 2 and 3 a spiritual society, a celestial society which Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-420) called the City of God(his last oeuvre, a one thousand page book by the same name.) So, as you see, the gift of orchids, delicate and well arranged majesteria of graceful individual five-petal blooms brought us not only emotional gratification, but intellectual joy. A mere proverbial “thank you” seems inadequate to be an ambassador of our good feelings of love and gratitude.

I spoke of Bach and his glorious music; should you, your children and grand children be interested in understanding the fundamentals of the architectural construct of classical music, you should read the magnificent work of the very talented journalist and dramaturge, Barrymore Lawrence Scherr. He has written extensively on Bach (born March 21, 1685; died July 28, 1750), in two epoch making compositions, “The Well Tempered Clavier, Book I,” and “The Well Tempered Clavier, Book II.”  Both books, 48 pieces altogether, give us the basics for minor and major notes, preludes, point and counterpoint, color, fugue, development, etc.

Daniel Barenboim, Emeritus Conductor of the Chicago Symphony, played all 48 pieces at Carnegie Hall in 2007. I was there and the memory of that splendid experience lingers on. It was a delightful academic performance of baroque music, wrapped in rich cosmic bouquets that only Bach can produce.Take your children and grandchildren to a concert hall. Children are natural opera composers. They conduct their conversation by singing the words wrapped in emotion, gesticulation and passion. Children not only love music, they are music. They should be exposed to music at a very early age. Please consider taking your children and grandchildren to a neighborhood concert hall and museum, and flower garden.


*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 serves as a Visiting Scholar and lecturer on Medicine, the Arts and Humanities at his alma mater the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health.


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