What About Iran?

“Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,

A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse—and Thou

Beside me singing in the Wilderness—

And Wilderness is Paradise enow.”

Omar Khayyám d.1123

Standing by this poet’s tomb in the northeastern Iranian town of Nishapur on our last evening, I thought of this poem that I vaguely remembered from a reading in my youth. And I thought how different in mood today’s land of Iran is from when the Persian poet lived here a thousand years ago. Bread there still is, but sipping openly from a flask of wine is no longer possible in the Iran of today. In his poetry Khayyám celebrated worldly pleasures and didn’t believe in sacrificing what could be had then for the dubious promises of the hereafter.

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The Center of the World

February 2015

Among my photos from a recent trip is one of me standing beside a middle-aged Palestinian in the doorway of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. I’ll call him the doorkeeper since it is his job every morning to unlock the doors to the holiest Christian church in this city filled with churches and to lock them again at night. This is his life’s work as it has been for members of his family for six centuries. Six centuries! Imagine that! Of course, in times of war and unrest, there must have been interruptions to this routine, but still . . .

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Dubai, April 4, 2011

With my western background and outlook, spending two days in the Emirate of Dubai has been a strange experience. It was only this morning as I prepared to leave that I realized I hadn’t seen a single beggar anywhere in the city, nor had I seen any buskers like the street musicians I’m used to.

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