Thursday, July 10, 2008

THE PARADISE OF CHILDHOOD

Yesterday’s news carried a sinister headline about Iran firing missiles to “Show Their Might,” and I shuddered at the thought of how militant this ancient Mideastern culture has become since the reign and demise of the Shahanshah. Four years before the advent of the Islamic Revolution, I lived in Iran, and at that time, the only revolution going on must have been occurring underground because we who lived in the oil patch never saw evidences of this revolt. When I ponder the words of General Hossein Salami who said that Iran’s tactics this week “demonstrate our resolve and might against enemies who in recent weeks have threatened Iran with harsh language,” I’m deeply saddened.

I’ve written and published two books on Iran; one, a compilation of news columns I wrote called “In A Persian Market,” and another a children’s book entitled SOPHIE’S SOJOURN IN PERSIA, as well as an unpublished book of poetry entitled FARDA, THE NIGHTINGALES WILL SING. Yesterday, after reading the headlines, I thought about the same line that provoked the writing of IRAN: IN A PERSIAN MARKET – W. B. Yeats’ poem entitled “The Second Coming”: “Things fall apart/the center will not hold/mere anarchy is loosed upon the world/this blood dimmed tide is loosed…” In a hall closet, I found my boxes of unpublished manuscripts and discovered a novel about Iran I began in 1992 and never finished. It is called THE PARADISE OF CHILDHOOD. While reading through it, I chided myself about never being done with the subject of Iran; nevertheless, the story that I had woven brought back many memories. Here is an excerpt from THE PARADISE OF CHILDHOOD that provoked those memories:

“No shade of blue exceeds the blue sky over the desert of Iran. During the mornings a cloudless calm stretches overhead inviting you to alter it in some way – to sketch a story upon it, create a cloud, hurl a lightning bolt into its blankness, anything to scratch the implacable calm. The hogbacks of Khuzestan Province jut upward trying to break the calm and the faultless space, but these stunted attempts at mountains are only stalks on the landscape.

This morning the sky was bluer than usual. After awakening at 5 a.m., I went into the courtyard and looked up at the expanse stretching above my meager garden of bougainvillea and a few wispy mimosas. I sat down in a lawn chair under a small mimosa, sipped pale tea that I had made myself, and began reading Jung. Jung had once encountered the Arab culture, his Western mind meeting the Eastern mind with a jolt that revealed his true Self. I read: ‘Obviously my encounter with Arab culture had struck me with overwhelming force. The emotional nature of these unreflective people who are so much closer to life than we are exerts a strong suggestive influence upon those historical layers in ourselves which we have just overcome and left behind, or which we think we have overcome. It is like the paradise of childhood from which we imagine we have emerged, but which at the slightest provocation imposes fresh defeats upon us.’

I looked at the sky again. The paradise of childhood. Here in this province, the land of the Elamites. Persia. And wasn’t it the Persians who gave us the word ‘paradise’ to describe the private hunting ground of the Achaemenid King of Kings?

I thought of the rare times we’re captured, unreasonably, by a sudden peak moment in anticipation of something unknown to come. These moments signal a corner we turn, a jolt forward into new life that we know will be good but we don’t know why. The mind crowds out everything learned, everything that has trapped us for years, and some rapture of unknown source floods out reason. The feeling is that the truth and the reality beyond are about to be discovered. At such times we may receive revelations – meet God.”

This novel I was writing contained a “West meets East” theme and a great deal of psychological conflict, but it faltered and died because of rejections of the first 50 pages and a proposal for its completion by several publishers. Some days, like yesterday, I consider continuing the work on PARADISE OF CHILDHOOD but in these times of much animosity, who would read it?
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