Saturday, March 29, 2008

Poetry Night - Mar. 27th, 2008

Date: Thursday, March 27, 2008, 7:15 PM to 10:30 PM
Location: Cafe Borrone, Menlo Park , CA 94025
Attendees: Ray, Russel, Massoud, Zenne, Mojgan, Mitra, Maryam, Yousef, Houman, Sara, Leili


1- Continue reading شاهنامه (Shahnameh)
We continued the story of Zahaak (ضحاک) till the end of page 12. Late Jamsheed's daughters, Arnavaz (meaning the country and the land of Iran), and Shahnavaz(meaning the cities of Iran) reveal to Fereydoon that the only reason that they obeyed Zahaak was for the fear for their lives. Fereydoon promises them to free Iran from the cruel dynasty of Zahaak and kill him. After that promise, they disclose the location of Zahaak. Zahaak, with a hopeless attempt to revert his fortune, is traveling from city to city in Hendoostan (old India) and killing people and swim in their pool of blood to break the spell of bad luck. In the meantime, Zahaak's trusted partner and treasurer, Kandroo, surrenders to Fereydoon and agrees to collaborate with him to overthrown Zahaak.

2- Modern Poems:

Poems from Forough Farokhzad, Simin Behbehani and one current poet in Iran who may be less popular (but equally talented) was read.

3- Discussion: Future, Present, and Past and How They Intervene And Coincide.
At the end of the session, an interesting debate started between the participants regarding the best way of defining, understanding and improving the Iranian culture. Some members tend to think that the best way is to let go of the past, and focus on the future by learning from more successful cultures and societies. Their concern was that Iranians' pride for the glorious years of the Great Iran in the past was keeping them from seeing their shortcomings. On the other hand, some people thought that there were a lot of strong points in our culture and in the ways of our predecessors that we should hold on to. They claimed that in order to improve, we had to claim and own our strengths, to overcome and change our weak points.

The two points, however different, are complementary. For that, we have decided to do both: Review our history and praise and celebrate our past achievements and identity and be proud of them; and try to understand our current issues to accommodate and facilitate necessary changes in our culture and way of life.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Poetry Night - Feb 7th, 2008

Date: Thursday, February 07, 2008, 7:15 PM to 9:15 PM
Location: Cafe Borrone, Menlo Park , CA 94025
Attendees: Ray, Sima, Reza, Leili


1- Discussion: who is Zahaak?

In the previous session, we had left Fereydoon on his horse, riding towards Baghdad, to hit Zahaak on his head with a mallet, and put an end to his merciless dynasty. We left that session wondering, "who is Zahaak? Why Fereydoon is attacking him with a mallet? Who is Fereydoon? Why Ferdosi chose to narrate this story in that manner? Why..."

In our discussion this session, a very interesting question was raised:
"What does it mean, when Ferdosi narrates that "Jamsheed ruled for 700 years, and Zahaak ruled for 1000 years?"
A very insightful question, which helped us to obtain a better understanding of Shahnameh and its brilliant author, Ferdosi.

Ferdosi starts the book by praising "wisdom" and putting it above all the virtues and the creations in this world: the ability to analyze, to rationalize, and to weigh everything that we see and experience. Therefore, he must have intended for the readers of Shahnameh to look and think beyond the words and the fairytale. Then the concepts and the heroes in Shahnameh cannot be random. They must have been carefully chosen. So again, we ask ourselves, why 700 years, why 1000 years? Who is Zahaak? Who is Fereydoon?

After an hour of discussing the concepts from all different angles we reached at the following idea:

The 700 years of Jamsheed dynasty must refer to the Great Persian Empire before the Arabs invasion of Iran. The 1000 years of Zahaak's empire must refer to Iranian government after the Arab influence and suppression. (What is Ferdosi's message to the current reader?!!!! Is he reffering to something deeper than what you see on the surface? When can you claim that you are completely free and independent from something, or someone, or some idea?)

Zahaak has two snakes growing from his shoulders that feed on people's brains. That must refer to the Arabs prevention of Iranian language, art, science and culture to grow and spread. A very interesting twist in the story is the appearance of two cooks, who would free one person between the two captured by Zahaak's people to feed the snakes. They kill one man and mix his brain with the brain of a cow to make it look like two brains and help the other man to run away from Zahaak's empire. They gather somewhere, waiting for the opportunity to overthrown Zahaak. Ferdosi call them "kords" (Where are they hiding now? Are they running away still? who are those kords in current time? Should we call them Iranian-.... ?)

Another very interesting fact lies beneath Ferdosi's clever choice of Zahaak for the only ruler during the 1000 years: The concept of "Change and Time".
Yes my fellow Iranians, Persians, Sons and Daughter's of Jamsheed and the Great Land of Iran:
Change takes time. Big changes and improvements, specially for a country and a culture can take up to 1000 years and even more! There is light at the end of the tunnel, if we are patient, persistent and wise....

2- Continue reading شاهنامه (Shahnameh)
We continued the story of ضحاک till the end of page 11. Fereydoon broke Zahaak's dark spell in the name of the Almighty, and conquered his palace. In the palace, they found the beautiful daughters of the late king Jamsheed imprisoned for Zahaak's pleasure. He ordered to bathe them and nurture them. Once the fair daughters of Jamsheed felt the freedom and the love they were missing for many years, they started to cry and tell the stories of their misfortunes in Zahaak's regime. They praised Fereydoon for his wit and bravery to fight with Zahaak and win over his dark spell. "Many had attempted before you and were defeated" daughters of Jamsheed said. But Fereydoon corrected them by explaining that he was inspired and motivated by a cause much bigger than all the others who dared to fight Zahaak. "I'm the son of Abteen from the great land of Iran, who was cruelly murdered by Zahaak. I'm the boy whose nanny, the fairylike cow, was also murdered by Zahaak. Fame, money and power are fleeting, and can never be the drive, strong enough, to fight Zahaak"

What is Fereydoon's motive then? What gave him an upper hand to all the previous brave men who attempted to overthrown Zahaak? In "Shaahname", Ferdoosi wisely gives a hint to the readers with this line:

"کمر بسته​ام لاجرم جنگجوی"

What does it mean? Why Fereydoon had no other choice, but to fight??!! Is that the secret of his success? We have had some time to ponder this subtle point. I encourage people who want to join our next event to think about it as well. It will be an interesting discussion I'm sure.