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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

We never learn, history and literature both fail us.

It seems we never learn, we as human beings even though we are the dominant species on the planet have a some what rigidity and resistance towards learning. At times I wonder if it is more rigidity towards learning or more our increased inclination towards selfish self serving pursuits in life? Is it a product of the changing world that we live in? Is it the product of limited resources that we all fight for as we embrace brutal survival-ism or is it that we have embarked on a journey of desensitizing ourselves from our human connection that is the making of who we are as human beings today. I am certain the moment of time that we are in, it is not the first instance in human civilization where human beings have started shedding human emotions by associating them with signs of weakness.

Lessons are all around us, yet we conveniently choose to overlook them or even give them the due attention that they deserve. The lessons on compassion, on empathy, on being human, on the bonds that bind us together and on what it means to be different. Be it cinema, be it theater, be it news media or be it popular literature. There are valuable lessons for life all around us, yet it seems those messages are striking blank walls. Such exposure, especially through reading has the power to change, so are people reading less or just ignoring the messages as they come?

Very recently on the suggestion of a friend, I managed to get myself a copy of French-Turkish writer Elif Shafak's much celebrated book 'Forty Rules of Love'. The title being a bit misleading, I decided to read comments and feedback by readers on Amazon before making the actual purchase of the book. Sometimes insight from fellow readers can provide what we might otherwise fail to grasp, might provide us with what we might be seeking out, even if we do not know off it.

The book reads kind of like a book within a book, there are two books, two stories simultaneously going on. The main back ground story is that off Ella, a suburban American housewife who has suspicions about her husband's infidelity from time to time. Upon nearing 40 feels that the essence of love is missing from her life as she initially made her marriage choice based on practicality instead of thinking too much on the idea of love. The second story within this book is about the bond and relationship between Maulana Rumi and his disciple the Shams of Tabriz, set in 12th or 13th Century Konya which is in modern day Turkey. How we come to the second story is that Ella has received a manuscript by a Scottish writer inspired by Sufism who has penned the story of Rumi and Shams.

Through out the book, we learn not only off Ella's struggles with domestic bliss and spouse infidelity, but also about the story of the bond that two extraordinary men had, and the very bond about the demise of Shams under very tragic circumstances. The two men, Shams and Maulana Rumi worked extensively to promote love, compassion, harmony and empathy for fellow human beings especially those labeled as heretics and outcasts in society such as a prostitute, the terminally ill beggar or the local drunkard. Yet there was no stopping the envy or hostility that Shams managed to attract towards himself. Some readers may feel, resentment towards Shams was out of envy, some may feel it was because he was different, some may feel that society was generally intolerant in that century.

 If he was the victim of being unique, it just makes it all the more tragic and the world that we live in today is not very different from one depicted from almost a 1000 years ago. We are still intolerant towards those that are different, we are still too quick to pass judgments and form opinions, we are still too quick to look for reasons to dislike other people, we are still too deeply consumed in envy and selfish pursuits. One can easily conclude, the world has not changed over the centuries, it is we as human beings who have failed to learn the lessons history has provided us, and the same lessons that literature tries to remind us off.

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