Monday, November 21, 2011

Sa'di

بنی آدم اعضای یک پیکرند
که در آفرينش ز یک گوهرند
چو عضوى به درد آورد روزگار
دگر عضو ها را نماند قرار
تو کز محنت دیگران بی غمی
نشاید که نامت نهند آدمی

This weekend was a perfect one: I accomplished more than I could have imagined doing, including all kinds of wonderful autumn activities like apple-picking (very wonderful), stacking firewood (somewhat less wonderful), planting close to 100 tulip bulbs (wonderful, but deferred until spring) and cooking, cooking, cooking (very, very, very wonderful).

All this, and still time for love and laughter with people I care about. What more can you ask of life, really?

So needless to say, I planned to blog in a state of relative bliss last night, but wouldn't you know it, I knocked my wine glass clear across the living room floor (luckily, I don't have carpet), so that required a major cleanup.

It actually spilled into my knitting basket prior to hitting the floor. Not good.

But I was still determined to blog, so I logged in and began an extended battle with html that I eventually won (of course), but by that point, I had a headache (of course) and no longer felt like blogging or even remembered what I had originally wanted to blog about.

Imagine my surprise when my html-induced headache wasn't gone this morning. I spent the day in a bit of a muddy head-fog, but I think I'm better now.

Still, I feel I should alert my gentle readers that, if my prose seems less crisp and clean than it usually does, it is, and that's why.

Anyway, when I wasn't being Miss Autumn-in-New-England, I was reading the Persian poet Sa'di, in preparation for the course on Central Eurasian literature that I'll be teaching in the spring.

Sa'di was a 13th century poet and writer who is best known for The Gulistan (The Rose Garden), written in 1258.

Sa'di traveled extensively for approximately thirty years of his life, a time that included many widespread changes in the Middle East and Central Eurasia, including the Mongols' sacking of the city of Baghdad in 1258 (the same year in which he wrote The Gulistan).

The Gulistan is a collection of short tales and pieces of advice--it's kind of like Machiavelli's The Prince, but with a soul. Although much of the advice involves rulers and leadership, there are also sections devoted to general life lessons, guidelines for interpersonal relationships, and exhortations of spirituality.

For example, Maxim #54 in the section, "Rules for Conduct in Life" notes,
The Imam Murshid Muhammad Ghazali, upon whom be the mercy of God, having been asked in what manner he had attained such a degree of knowledge, replied, "By not being ashamed to ask about things I did not know."
The conclusion Sa'di draws: "Ask what you know not; for the trouble of asking/ Will indicate to you the way to the dignity of knowledge."

My favorite piece of advice: "Either make no friends with elephant-keepers/ Or build a house suitable for elephants."

I mean, really. If you think about it, that pretty much says it all, doesn't it?

The quotation at the start of my entry tonight is Sa'di's most famous poem, "Bani Adam." It is inscribed on the entrance to the United Nations and, roughly translated, it reads,

The children of Adam are each others' limbs,
Created from one essence.
When the calamity of time affects one limb,
The others cannot rest.
If you have no sympathy for others' troubles,
You do not deserve to be called human.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."