Tuesday, July 28, 2009
A Thousand and One Nights - or perhaps just one...
This afternoon, I began Reading Lolita in Tehran.
Powerful and engaging from the very first pages.
The author, Azar Nafisi, recounts her experiences of reading forbidden books in Iran. She describes the women she read the novels with. She writes about the food they ate and the drinks they shared. And she also summarizes the themes of the books they read.
One of which was A Thousand and One Nights. About the protagonist of that novel, Scheherazade, Nafisi writes:
"Scheherazade breaks the cycle of violence by choosing to embrace different terms of engagement. She fashions her universe not through physical force, as does the king, but through the imagination and reflection. This gives her the courage to risk her life and sets her apart from the other characters in the tale."
As I always do whenever I come across a quote that raises my eyebrows and stands my arm hairs on end, I copied that one into my journal and began to ponder its significance. As always, I came up with far more questions than answers. Here are a few:
* What cycles need to be broken in my life? Cycles of apathy, feigned ignorance, guilt, self-righteous indignation, prejudice, impatience?
* How can I break those cycles by embracing different terms of engagement than the ones I have most commonly embraced?
* How can my imagination and deeper reflection be brought to bear in the process?
* Do I have the courage to risk my life or even my comfort in order to break these cycles?
* Am I willing to set myself apart from the other characters in the tale of my life? To what end? For what purpose?
* What matters enough to me to dedicate 1,001 nights to its preservation, improvement, nourishment, or even deliberate meditation and consideration? Forget 1,001 nights; what about 101? Or 11???
* When am I going to find a copy of A Thousand and One Nights and read it here in Charlotte?