Lost in space

Soraya loves her new pillow. 

How a Persian Mystic Poet Changed My Life

Portrait of the 13th-century Persian poet and mystic Jalaluddin Muhammad Rumi.

By Melody Moezzi

The New York Times: Five years ago, in an act of creative desperation, I decided to immerse myself in the classical Persian poetry I grew up taking for granted. I aimed to learn it by heart and under the expert tutelage of my father, a physician by trade and a connoisseur of Sufi poetry by tradition. For my father, nothing is more sacred than poetry — specifically the mystical poetry of Rumi.

Jalaluddin Muhammad Rumi, known as Molana (an honorific meaning “our master”) to his fellow Persians like my father and me, was a renowned 13th-century Islamic scholar, theologian, poet and mystic. Born in what is now Afghanistan in 1207, Rumi grew up in an era of deep political turmoil packed with modern parallels, full of walls and bans and wars. As a result, he spent much of his life traveling extensively throughout the Middle East before settling in Konya, in present-day Turkey and then central Anatolia, formerly part of the Eastern Roman Empire. This accounts for the name Rumi, meaning “Roman” in Persian and Arabic.

My father, who grew up in Iran, recites Rumi’s verse with the same fervor and frequency most people reserve for food and oxygen. By all accounts, he is a tried-and-true Rumi addict. But like most children of addicts, I grew up resenting the object of my father’s addiction. An inescapable presence in our Ohio home, Rumi was the annoying elder who forever tested the limits of my Persian hospitality, challenging my limited Farsi with his antiquated medieval verse and dismissing my American hunger for brevity with his seemingly endless collections of rhyming couplets and quatrains.

But all my childhood resentment of Rumi dissolved after I lost my mind and found solace in his verse. Soon, Rumi’s poetry became a lifeline, allowing me to survive both my own personal insanity and the political insanity to come.

My manic, psychotic break from the rest of the world’s notion of reality was clinical and terrifying, but it started out soulful and electrifying. For a brief moment before the hallucinations, delusions, restraints, seclusion and hospitalization that ensued, an intense calm washed over me. Standing on my Atlanta balcony watching the sun rise over Stone Mountain, I felt a deep connection to every atom back to Adam and before, and to the divine spirit within each one of those atoms. However clumsily, I had stumbled into the land of mystics, the land of my father, the land of Rumi.

At long last, I was beginning to understand this poetry that had spoken to my father since he was a child in Shiraz. For what modern medicine lacked by way of explanation, Rumi provided through my father’s voice, visiting me on the locked psychiatric unit of the same hospital where he had performed thousands of surgeries and delivered hundreds of babies:

In love with insanity, I’m fed up with wisdom and rationality.

While Rumi considers insanity a mark of divine favor, he distinguishes between types. The madness he promotes is rooted in ecstatic love; the one he condemns, in petty fear. The former creates a mystic, the latter a lunatic.

When I first began studying Rumi with my father in late 2014, years after that psychiatric hospitalization, properly diagnosed and medicated for bipolar disorder and in recovery, I never expected that within a few short years my extended family in Iran would be barred from visiting us in the United States. Nor did I ever expect that our country would become so deeply divided.

But here we are, more isolated than ever, and as an Iranian-American Muslim feminist living with a mental health condition, I feel the weight of this isolation every day. Heavy with fear’s warped wisdom and rationality, crazier than anything mania ever induced in me, this weight is a reminder that clinical psychosis, even absent any mystical tendency, seems sensible compared with our current political reality. Thankfully, as a student of my father and Rumi, I have learned how to counter the toll of this weight. In Rumi’s words:

Become the sky and the clouds that create the rain, not the gutter that carries it to the drain.

Of course it’s easier to be the gutter than the sky, to imitate rather than to create, but imitation builds cults, not communities. It may seem counterintuitive, but true community demands originality, not conformity. I know this firsthand, because every time I write something new it helps me feel less alone, reminding me that we are all inextricably linked to and through a sacred spark within each of us.

It seems so obvious, but it’s also painfully easy to forget how deeply connected we are. More than any other factor, it’s ego that makes us forget, filling us with a sense of superiority. This false feeling of being somehow “better than” our fellow human beings allows us to forget the common source of our humanity and thus to disconnect from the divinity within ourselves and one another. This is why, for Rumi, ego is not only the worst of our natural and inescapable human afflictions but also the root of them all. His solution?

Quit keeping score if you want to be free. Love has ejected the referee.

Indeed, when it comes to the prison of our own ego, love is our only ticket out. When I first flew across the country to study Rumi’s poetry with my father, I did so brimming with hubris and ambition. I set aside a month to learn this poetry, perfect my rudimentary Farsi, overcome a brutal case of writer’s block and then research and ideally write a book about it. Naturally, nothing went according to plan.

Still, through all of it, I had my father to guide me and remind me that it didn’t matter how long it took to write this imagined book. What mattered was that I approached my poetic pilgrimage with patience and humility, recognizing every hardship as an invitation to step out of fear and into love in my own life:

Every storm the Beloved unfurls permits the sea to scatter pearls.

For as long as I can remember, my father has been scribbling these and other poems on his old prescription pads, signing them as though they were for any ordinary pharmaceutical and leaving them like pearls at my feet. For decades, I failed to fill them, too distracted and distraught by the struggles along the way to notice the treasures lighting my path.

But today, as the faith and ancestry I share with my father and Rumi have made me more of a target, more hated and unwelcome in my own home than ever before, I am grateful for this treasure trove of poetic prescriptions. Now I have a documented reservoir of timeless teachings from my own faith and culture that transcend both. Now I claim my inheritance; I fill my prescriptions, and I pass them along.

Melody Moezzi is a visiting professor of creative nonfiction at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and the author, most recently, of “The Rumi Prescription: How an Ancient Mystic Poet Changed My Modern Manic Life,” from which this essay is adapted.

Gazing at the city

Above Cusco.

"Most reliable source" for visas to US and Canada

Dr. Julia Ranjbar, the President and Founder of A2Z Concierge

ABNewsire: Amidst the heightened political tensions in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, most people assume that it is almost impossible for Iranians to acquire student visas to the United States, Canada as well as other European countries. On the contrary, several governments within America and Europe have shown their continued support to the Iranian students. In fact, during this time frame, the number of interviews and visa grants for Iranian students has increased as compared to the past years.

Dr. Julia Ranjbar, the President and Founder of A2Z Concierge, has been playing a vital role in helping Iranians apply for student visas abroad- especially in the United States and Canada. In 2018 and 2019, A2Z Concierge was very successful, ranked 1st in the U.S. in terms of the number of visas issued for Iranian clients and ranked 2nd in Canada and European countries.

“In 2020, our goal is to improve our facilities and resources to help more Iranian students achieve their dreams. Besides, we seek to maintain the company’s tremendous performance by producing the highest number of visas for Iranian students,” revealed Dr. Julia Ranjbar while talking about her company.

The administration of President Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada have been at the forefront in showing the world that the people of Iran are different from their government. This gesture has proved that most people around the globe are familiar with the hardworking and multi-talented traits of the Iranian students.

“Education allows building a foundation in which one can accomplish greatness. In this regard, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all authorities and embassies who have always supported Iranian students and facilitated the process of their visa issuance,” said the young CEO.

Notably, more than 98 percent of the cases of A2Z Concierge received their student visas for the U.S., Canada, and European countries, which is on the contrary of what most people might think and expect about visa issuance nowadays.

To learn more about A2Z Concierge, visit their website

Media Contact
Company Name: A2Z Concierge
Contact Person: Dr, Julia Ranjbar
Email: Send Email
Address:21515 Vanowen st suite 201
City: Canoga park
State: CA 91303
Country: United States

Neighborhood watch

In San Blas neighborhood.

Cat with a view

Valentino on the edge of the bedroom window.

Going to a picnic

On the Inkilltambo trail yesterday.

Gorgeous Day

On the Inkilltambo trail above Cusco today.

Iranians desperate for cash turn to selling their organs

Ali Rezaei, 42, stands beside the ad he placed for his kidney in Tehran in 2017

New York Post: Dozens of notes stuck to an abandoned building opposite a hospital in Tehran tell a devastating story: Iranians who have fallen on hard times are offering to sell their organs for cash.

“I’m a 37-year-old who is ready to sell my kidney because of debt and financial problems,” read one note, which included a phone number and blood type.

The author is Asghar, a 37-year-old textile worker who lives with his wife on the outskirts of Tehran.

“If I could avoid doing this, I would,” he told The Sunday Times of London, explaining that his factory job stopped paying his wages because the clothes they made weren’t selling.

Asghar has received a few bids for his kidney, the highest being about $1,950.

His plight reflects the desperation felt by many Iranians as living conditions deteriorate under US sanctions imposed after President Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal two years ago.

Trump’s “maximum pressure” strategy has weakened reformers led by Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, and dashed hopes of prosperity under the nuclear accord. Instead, the economic problems have strengthened hardliners, who contend their anti-western stance has been vindicated.

“Everyone is facing the same issues, particularly economic ones, ” Hajia Najafi, a 63-year-old housewife, told the Times. “These are because of the actions of the foreigners — the sanctions from the US.”

The assassination last month of Qassem Soleimani, commander of the elite Quds Force, helped generate support for the leadership.

But younger Iranians are less enthusiastic. Many complain about the government and the country’s economic issues.

“There aren’t enough jobs, and the jobs that there are don’t fulfill what we’re looking for,” said Nima, 21, who is studying insurance management.

The economic restrictions are even affecting the ultra-rich, because high-end foreign brands like Gucci and Versace have disappeared from stores.

In the Tehran Grand Bazaar, shopkeepers are also struggling to get by.

“Business has been terrible for a long time but every year the number of customers drops,” said Vahid, 40, whose grandparents bought the shoe shop where he works 60 years ago. “For 10 years it’s been bad, now it’s the worst it’s ever been.”

A few stores away, in a lace shop shining with pearl-encrusted tablecloths, Amir Hussein predicted more bad times.

“We’re the canary in the coal mine,” he said. “We’re suffering, and it’s getting worse. But we try to work hard in the hope that a good day might come.”

Mother & Child

On the steps of San Blas Church.