Short impressions of a book by Ahmad Shahvary on "The World Outlook of Rumi" and a book by Kenth Pederson named "A Strange American," two very different books with one theme in common.
Some time ago I received an email from someone I did not know, asking my permission to cite something from my website in a book he was writing.
“Sure,” I answered. Next thing I know I receive this book in the mail, with a very nice thank-you note.
The book is self published by the author (ADABSARA is his own company that sells on EBay-Canada). This was the latest place I found it, in a very long list: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=5619891948&category=3491
It is only available on E-Bay-Canada, and it has a very low price. No one is going to get rich off selling this book.
The author, Ahmad Shahvary, is a retired Iranian diplomat who moved to Seoul, South Korea, to obtain his second Masters’ degree, an MBA.
As you can see on his autobiographical statement on the back cover of the book, he is an accomplished diplomat and writer. He has published several books in his native Farsi, and several in English.
From reading his book, as well as from several email exchanges, I gather that one of his main motivations for writing this particular book is his perception that the world needs to become more aware of, and adopt more of, Rumi’s world outlook. I fully agree, hence my pleasure at having been cited (even though I am cited in turn citing someone else, but it is all for the cause –the cause of peace in hearts and nations--as we say).
Rumi was an amazingly open and accepting person who felt that the animosities (and outright violence) between the adherents of differing religious beliefs showed they were not experiencing the love that a true relationship with their God would cause them to have in their hearts.
One who is a Lover in a state of unity with the Beloved (drunk with divine Love, as a Sufi might describe it) is not of a mind to think badly, let alone harm, anyone. So it is to make the world more aware of Rumi and his peaceful outlook that Ahmad Shahvary has written his book.
On his page 19, Shahvary has this statement:
"There are many stories about the relation of Rumi and Shams. Bellow is what is wrote about this relationship by the eminent Australian writer, James Cowan, and interpretation of what he has wrote, by distinguished literary critic Abe Van Luik."
He is correct about James Cowan. Cowan is an eminent Australian writer, several of whose books I review on my web site.
The simple fact that my web site has so many book reviews, and that I am having many
‘hits’ on my site per day, caused Mr. Shahvary to call me a “distinguished” literary critic. I won’t quarrel with that, but I hope that Mr. Shahvary realizes he may be one among very, very few with that opinion.
With Mr. Shahvary joining me in that opinion, now there are at least two, if there are two more, I will be very pleased.
Going into my critical mode: Something you may see in the paragraph
from page 19 of the book that I copied above is that Mr. Shahvary ’s English is imperfect. This can be somewhat of a distraction, and can cause the English-speaking reader to have to really think about what is meant in some passages. This in turn causes slow reading, but that is not necessarily a bad thing if it leads to deeper understanding.
AN OFFER: If Mr. Shahvary sends me his manuscript I will edit it for English and let him see if he likes it better afterward or not. His book, his choice.
On a part of my web site not cited in this book I do cite others who describe the difficulty of translating from Farsi to English. Mr. Shahvary is doing his own translating, and one of the things I see in those translations is the need for expanding on what the literal translation gives you.
Hence the many English translations being done by poets and others with a real intuitive feel for the meaning of the poems, as contrasted with just the words of the poems. I believe that in Mr. Shahvary’s book you are getting some insight into the difficulty of making English out of a difficult language made much more difficult because it was not written to convey and communicate logically.
Instead, the language was chanted while the chanter was in constant motion, whirling in a state of ecstatic trance. Others sat nearby taking notes. That is how Rumi’s poetry was created. It was not scholarly, logical, linear thought being dictated. It was a series of notes taken by others of the ecstatic utterances of a man in a trance, a trance consisting of moments of unity with God, the Beloved. Unity with another means you are one with that other.
That powerful experience led to the revelator, Rumi, to several times make a plea, while in that state, for those listening (later reading) to also seek to obtain this one-ness, and thus recognize in that moment that you are both the Lover and the Beloved! Not that you have achieved that unity just momentarily, but that what you have achieved is a temporary awareness of something that is always so. And what is the outcome of carrying this awareness, or the knowledge of the profound unity that exists between our selves and the Divine? You know that all others are similarly at one with the Divine (but likely to be unaware).
And the outcome of this awareness and knowledge of the unity of the
human and the Divine? Peace within and without. You would no more think of hurting another than you would think of hurting God. You would, however, feel it in your heart to do good to all. I recall reading in one religious tradition’s scripture (the Book of Mormon) that when you are in the service of your fellow men, you are only in the service of your God. Rumi would fully agree.
Stepping away from Shahvary’s book, I realize that another recently ‘published’ book I just read (and reviewed, but not on this web site) illustrates this connection between having this inner revelation of unity with God and then feeling the urge very strongly to do good to ones fellow humans.
I told the author, Kenth Pedersen, (and anyone else reading his book) that his revelation of unity with God was impressive in part because he was not a student of the mystics and their revelations, making him a relative ‘innocent.’
Like Mr. Shahvary, he was also a business student, but unlike Mr. Shahvary, he was not a student of the mystical revelators of the Middle Ages (or of any other age), and this made the revelation of the unity the between human and the Divine that he described all that much more potent to me.
What I had not realized until now was the dramatic way in which this revelation, largely un-interpreted by the recipient, led to his making a very strong plea to help others in need. The book ends with this plea, seeks several times to get the reader into the correct mind-set by asking him or her to imagine your closest loved one in a situation of distress, danger, abuse, etc.
This is a feeling of empathy directly comparable with the feeling that accompanies feeling the unity between God and human, making all humans faces or aspects of the Divine. To the extent one loves the Divine, Love, one will then love ones fellow beings and feel joy for them in their joys and pain for them in their sufferings. The book’s accompanying web site seeks to promote taking action on those feelings by having a list of charities to which one can contribute.
So, in this one book we have a relatively innocent person, he has a profound, revelatory dream. He becomes highly motivated to do something to alleviate suffering in his fellow beings. As a student of business, he realizes that alone he can do something, but if he motivates others, much more will be accomplished. Hence his web site.
To read my review (and my comment on my own review) of this book, called A Strange American (by Kenth Pedersen), see the Forum located on this web site: http://www.astrangeamerican.com.
Kenth self-publishes and self distributes, as Mr. Shahvary does. Mr. Shahvary, however, sells physical copies of his book on E-Bay. Mr. Pedersen sells his book as a PDF download from his website.
Both use PayPal, so if you have bought one you can buy the other easily. Neither are expensive. Mr. Shahvary’s book is very close to being free, with the usual cost of shipping and handling bringing it pretty close to what Mr. Pedersen’s book costs (unless one buys multiple copies, then Shahvary’s book gets cheaper per copy).
Maybe Mr. Pedersen could take a leaf from Mr. Shahvary’s approach and have a volume discount? Or take something from a software company approach and sell a license to distribute a specified number of copies at a sliding cost per copy? After all, neither man is motivated to make money off their book, although that would not be an unwelcome outcome either, but both are strongly motivated to contribute to the world’s well-being.
If wider reading of either book contributes to the world’s well-being, then high-volume distribution is the right thing to do, and the two authors ought to study each other’s distribution methods. Mr. Shahvary’s costing approach is actually better suited to encourage mass distribution, but Mr. Pedersen’s approach (using a dedicated web site with follow-on activities and suggestions) is strongly encouraging taking positive action after reading.
Do I recommend both books? Yes.
Are they easy reading and entertaining? No.
In places, Pedersen’s book is quite entertaining. But on the whole? I would class both books as informative in terms of the human condition, in very different ways, and both are definitely worthwhile reading.
Return to Life in 2005