Culture

The Wisdom Of Saadi

By Bernie Bell

There are numerous documentaries about certain subjects, for example, Stonehenge – or Ancient Egypt – The Pyramids, and that poor lad, King Tutankhamun.  They tend to be a bit similar in content – so much so, that I’ve pretty much given up on watching them.  So, when I saw a series of three programmes entitled ‘The Art of Persia’, presented by Samira Ahmed  https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000k48j ,  that caught my interest, as I knew very little about Persia.

I was aware of Alexander’s fights with Darius. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darius_III#:~:text=The%20Battle%20of%20Gaugamela%2C%20in,the%20%22Battle%20of%20Arbela.%22

I know that Persia is now called Iran. I can remember when the last Shah https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohammad_Reza_Pahlavi#:~:text=Mohammad%20Reza%20Pahlavi%20(Persian%3A%20%D9%85%D8%AD%D9%85%D8%AF,Revolution%20on%2011%20February%201979.  was deposed, leaving the revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini and his supporters in power.  This was closely followed by the eight-year Iran–Iraq War, which I remember as being particularly destructive and venomous.  I’m afraid that that was about the sum of my knowledge of Persia/Iran.

So, we recorded all three programmes, and they turned out to be of great interest. I hope that Samira Ahmed will present more, as – well, presenters of documentaries can be a mixed bunch.  Some are over-emphatic – being emphatic, doesn’t make a subject interesting, if it isn’t – and can be distracting for the viewer, if it is.   Some talk to the public as though we are 4 years old, and so on and so on.  A good, straight forward presentation of information, is a gift – a refreshing gift!

There is much of interest in the series, and also of beauty – in architecture, art, and……the land itself.

In the last episode, Samira Ahmed spoke of the poetry of Saadi, and this piece of his poetry, in particular, caught my attention as a message for today’s world……

“Human beings are members of a whole
In creation of one essence and soul
If one member is afflicted with pain
Other members uneasy will remain
If you have no sympathy for human pain
The name of human you cannot retain”

― Saadi,  سعدی

The series illuminated todays Iran for me.   Here, in the West, I think we have an idea of life in Iran as being grim for many people, and it probably is, for some.  Life for certain groups, is grim in many countries.  But, the people in today’s Iran were shown as – living their lives.  Some women in full burka – maybe their own choice – some, like Samira herself,  just with a headscarf. A man, tenderly carrying his little child – not insisting that this is women’s work.  A different picture of life there.

It is a television series, and so, maybe the picture painted should be taken with some reservations.  For me, who knew very little indeed about today’s Iran, it lifted a veil, to some extent.

In countries which we, in our arrogance, see as not as ‘advanced’ as us, the repression of some groups in those societies is hard to countenance.   I was thinking, though – those repressions are here – there are laws to deal with those who mistreat or show negative bias toward others – but …..it still happens.

I think I’m trying to say, as Saadi said, that we are people – we are much the same, everywhere.  It’s with each of us, to be the best kind of human that we can be.

It’s easy to be judgemental, from a distance.  Samira was allowed to film there – she admired much of today’s Iran.  She probably has a clearer idea of it, than I do, or we do, here in Britain – or America.  But then – look what happens to some folk in those nations, if they don’t ‘fit in’.

“If you have no sympathy for human pain
The name of human you cannot retain”

Sadi Persian poet

calligraphic fragment from Sa’di’s Bustan (The Fruit Garden or The Orchard) Calligrapher: ‘Abd al-Rashid Daylami (attr.) / Public domain

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