On Remembering Prose and Poetry

“Monday Musings” for Monday July 18, 2016
Volume VI. No. 29/289

Marcel_Proust_1900-2Nietzsche187aRumi Image

             Proust                          Nietsche                                   Rumi

Sacred Space for Prose and Poetry: Remembering the Past

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

 

From Marcel Proust

French Text:

As a young boy, I was extremely attracted to the writings of Pope Pius XII, Victor Hugo and Marcel Proust. I either had read or was in the process of reading Proust’s “A la recherche de temps perdu” (Remembrance of things Past.) The last few months, I have found myself re-reading this huge 3200 page volume, remembering my time past…I guess going past 80 and longing for temps perdu (time lost is a better and more apt translation) has something to do with it. Here is the translation of one of the paragraphs toward the end of the novel. But, first a word about Marcel Proust (b. July 10, 1871. d. Nov 18,1922) His father was a famous physician and epidemiologist who gave the world of medicine and science a deep understanding of the pathophysiology, spread and treatment of Cholera. Like many Jewish fathers he wanted his son Marcel to follow his footsteps and become a physician. But Marcel, tortured by the hidden demon of homosexuality, gravitated toward literature and became the greatest novelist of the 20th century.

“…In this vast dimension which I had not known myself to possess, the date I heard that distant noise…was nevertheless within me…And I felt, as I say, a sensation of weariness and almost of terror at the thought that all this length of Time has not only, without interruption, been lived, experienced, secreted by me, that it was my life, it was in fact me, but also I was compelled so long as I was alive to keep it attached to me, that it supported me, and that I perched on its giddy summit I could not myself make a movement displacing it…”

Many sages and critics refer to this paragraph as to Marcel’s belief that the anchor of his spirituality was firmly grounded in his selfness and not selfishness…

From Fredrick Nietzsche

German Text:

Nietzsche (1844-1904) was a brilliant philosopher. He was, like many of his contemporaries such as Freud and Ricard Wagner, an atheist. Then why are we to give him room if a column called “Sacred Space?”

Well, throughout the past few months some of my close friends have been hit by very difficult tragedies. In thinking about them and searching the best way to make some sense of their tragedies, I thought of the existing body of literature on tragedies which include the Greek Tragedies, Homer, Persian poets and writers, Shakespeare’s tragedies, etc., none came closer to the brilliant writings of Nietzsche on this subject. I recommended to my friends to read the first book of Frederick Nietzsche “The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music” “Die Geburt Der Tragodie Aus Dem Geist der Music.” Nietzsche was a fan of Zarathustra. “Thus Spake Zarathustra” is his book no. 12. It has deep connection with the Persian prophet, Zoroaster/Zarathustra and my hometown of Kerman (etymology of Kerman is German–just substitute K for Gor Germanic).

The message of the book is no matter how tragic life becomes, we still have music…In my personal life, music and the arts elevate the majesty of life and gets you to fly with the angels in he celestial cosmos of eternity…

Mowlana Jalal-Din Mohammad Balkhi Rumi (1207-1273)

Persian (Farsi) text:

From time to time I find myself a bit exercised, if not annoyed, at the myriad of phonies who are nothing but literary charlatans and pose as authorities on the most revered Persian Sufi and Poet, Rumi. There are more web pages marketing products about Rumi by people who do not know the first word in Farsi. Here is a bit about Rumi. It is not to be gulped down. It is to be savored. The story is from the writer’s childhood and youth:

“Once upon a time, in the late ’30s and early ’40s, there was a newspaper in the romantic city of Shiraz, Iran (we still prefer for it to be called Persia.) by the name of “PARS.” The ancient Pars, or today’s Shiraz was the capital sity of the Darius and Cyrus the Great’s Persian Empire 2600 years ago. Repeated references are made on the Bible (Esdras, Maccabees, etc.) and about the Rule of these two benevolent and democratic Kings.

Shiraz was a different sort of city. The air was fresh, the people gentle, courteous, hospitable and cultured. After all, the two most famous Persian poets Hafez (1337-1406) and Saadi (1210-1290), comparable to Homer and Shakespeare, grew up in Shiraz and are buried there. Shiraz had an abundance of water, rivers, falls, and streams. The city was also famous for its nightingales whose rhapsodic songs filled the air from dawn to dusk. Shiraz’ nickname is the city of nightingales and flowers

The roses of Shiraz were exceptionally beautiful with extraordinary fragrance of their own. Shiraz was the mecca for the literate, for the poet and for the world lover. After all, among prominent Persian poets buried there are the magical Hafez and cosmic Saadi. You know that you are in a different world the moment you enter their mausoleum located only blocks apart.

In Shiraz, the Governor’s seat of the Providence “Pars”, the local newspaper was also called “Pars,” the namesake of the province. It was a paper that not only reported the news in a most sober and responsible manner with headline never more than one half inch high, it also fed the readers’ appetite for delicious morsels of literature, poetry, and word symphony with unparalleled skill. It seemed that the writers of these columns and literary pieces of prose and poetry, much like a jeweler putting precious pieces of stones together, or a composer stringing musical notes in an unerring syntax of sounds sculpted to bring joy to the hearts and brains of the listeners, would stir the souls of their readers. To get a sense of their elegant use of syntax, here is a good example: The name of the publisher of the paper was Fazlollah (means knowledge of God) Sharghi. He had a son named Aziz (the Farsi word for dear) who served as the Executive Editor of the paper. His last name, of course was Sharghi also. On one anniversary of the paper, I was about four years old, and I really wanted to tell these people how much I liked and appreciated their publication. Playing on words I wrote, in Farsi, of course, “I appreciate Sharghi Aziz , referring to the publsiher, and Aziz Sharghi, referring to the son. One of the features of the beloved newspaper “Pars” was a column always appearing on the back page on Thursday night edition titled “Jazbehay-e- Ghalb-e-Molawi” or“The Attractions of the Heart of Mowlavi Rumi.” Each week, an expert in Rumi would take a line or two of Rumi’s poems and discuss and elaborate, in depth, the multifaceted meanings of the poem. The writer would draw some conclusion applicable to life, conduct and behavior. I remember people including myself, sitting by the mail box, waiting for the Thursday night edition of “Pars.” Some large families, including mine, would order two or three copies of the newspaper, so the children would not fight over who gets the paper first. In future editions of “Monday Musings”, I will attempt to translate some of Rumi’s poetry. I would love to see folks sitting by their inbox awaiting the arrival of “MM”

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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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