We Speak The Language of Love
A Speech at Pen, New York, October 30, 1999
According to the Iranian Poet Rumi, this world echoes our works, our voices, back to us; voices, which had arisen from the inside. The world outside is a mirror, held before the beautiful garden of the human mind.
Iranian literature has an intuitive structure. The journey of the poet and writer often takes place in the internal territories, with deliberation in the spirit. In literature, this journey reflects itself in allegorical forms. Iranian architecture is a journey into the inside. The external appearance of building is made up of tall walls plastered merely with thatch, but the passageway and corridors lead to the enchantment of gardens, terraces, galleries, mirror-rooms and decorative stucco.
The Iranian Eden Garden blossoms in Persian carpet, and the geography of people's imagination reflects itself in ceramic and folk crafts. Iranian philosophy is concealed in poetry, and the mystery of Iranian life manifests itself in myth and legend. The Iranian being faces the inside. He internalizes the colorful world of the outside to re-project it in miniatures. The reflection is such that, not the transient events, but the spiritual realm and the national imagination are represented. The human spirit provides the paradigm, and the world, following that spirit, is a human interpretation. Man is a small world, the chiaroscuro of whose being molds the surrounding universe.
This is how we have lived for many millenniums. So, for us, it is the subject that is the paradigm, the genuine; and not the object facing us from outside. We have sought the realization of our subjective forms in the real world. This does not turn us into day-dreamers. On the contrary, it makes the material world humanly possible. The natural world becomes meaningful, because of humankind. The key to know the world is not in the surrounding world; it is in the human heart. This key, we have called "Love". It is through love that humanity reaches elation. So does existence.
When writing, we, poets and writers, are the explorers of our solitude and individuality; and the others and the world discover them in us and reveal themselves through our writing. We begin with ourselves and reach the others. We start from our own culture, and through a deep recognition of our own identity, recognize the cultures of other people, our world relatives. Thus, world cultures are united through the language of art. This is a world that had been unified in the beginning; and now, after many centuries, it is moving in the direction of an ineluctable unity.
All over the world, we speak the same language, the language of the cultural human being; but on the surface, we will not understand each other, unless we cross over conventional languages, established at geographic frontiers. The language of culture, the unique language of all of us, as writers, is the language of imagination. It is the language of peace and love, not the linguistic demarcations in the geography of power the words, of which are saturated in violence and poverty, war and ignorance.
In Iranian literature, the word "mehr" (meaning "Love"), has had greater usage than any other word from the time of the Mithraism inscriptions to the present. I have no doubt that this has been the case with your literature, or any other cultural work. Culture, like imagination, recognizes no boundaries. This endless sea sets the sail of The Noah's Ark of peace-seekers and lovers such as us; and the Ark inevitably passes through the storm of blind conflicts and hostilities. But, the ship of freedom-lovers neither gets marooned in mud, not does it allows the invasion of evil forces, because its wheel steers with the sun of the liberty of mind and the liberation of the humankind.
Art deals with the knowledge and structure of the inside. It deals with the architecture of the human mind and truth; science and technology, and their instruments apply themselves to the outside. They deal with the architecture of nature and reality. We, writers, are not negligent of the outside. But, we fell safer inside ourselves. We are the trustees of the essence of human memory. For us, culture is a process, from thousands of years ago to the present. The multi-millennial current of Iranian culture has always endeavored to gain fresh strength and become more comprehensive through relations with new and ancient cultural currents. Its aim has been to let the human voice, the whole of truth, be heard freely and fairly throughout the world.
Rulers, businessmen and politicians may lie to deceive the people. But culture, as historical evidence shows, has neither attempted to deceive the people, nor lied; it has neither created the war, nor has it sided with the humiliation and destruction of the humankind or the beautiful nature around him. Not that writers don't know how to lie. They have no need for it. But they have exposed, throughout history, the great lies in human relations. Writers have always speculated on this deceitful catastrophe with agonizing pain.
Literature oscillates us between the subject and the object; between others and us; between one culture and world cultures. Art and literature are the anchors of imagination among human being. We are always getting close to each other; and we are always getting away from each other, only to come closer again in a common space, in search of our lost human language.
Art in Iran, generally, stands beyond the realm of "Loss and Profit". It separates itself from the system of common materialistic values of the society. Here, art is looked upon as the spirit's sanctity and asceticism, or according to Nima, the founder of modern Persian poetry, it is a kind of martyrdom. From the standpoint of the artist, the reward of art lies in the art itself, the pleasure and ecstasy of creation. In a world, where everything is measured by the yardstick of loss and profit, art is created for the sake of peace and exultation, for the sake of humanity's pleasure and unity. The genuine artist blocks the road of prejudice and indignity, animosity and greed, and fight against them.
We are here with you, as the citizens of a mythical city, the megalopolis of a contemporary humanity both in pain and in ecstasy. He is in pain, because of his difficult conditions and unpleasant atmosphere; but, he is also brimming with a joyful creativity, which is the ecstasy of a god; ever searching for clues for the human condition, ever struggling for the happiness of human being, ever trying to make the world tolerable. It is a miracle of art and literature that we can still stand together here with the voices of Homer and Dante, Hafiz and Whitman, with that very essence of humanity that is love. We can work alongside each other, or away from each other, but with one heart, for ourselves, as well as for others; for a world that is faithless mother of all.