It was a summer day year 2000(I think it was 2000). I was in NYC to visit some relatives and enjoyed the stay. A cousin of mine who was interested in Sufism told me about a Rumi conference that was going to be held in the Columbia University.
I have had read little about Rumi and remembered some famous lines of his poetry and his love for Shams Tabrizi, but I really did not know so much about him. Also, the only thing about sufism I knew was the paintings of old dervishes with their axe.
Back at my parental home we used to have a very elegant copy of the Omar Khayyams Rubaiyat. I enjoyed reading its poems so much that I made my high school special assignment about Khayyam. Khayyam made me intrested in Persian Poetry in general. So I accepted my cousins invitation to the Rumi Conference.
We arrived to the beautiful campus of Columbia university and entered the conference hall. It was filled with Persian speaking people (mostly Iranians). Soon there were these speakers talking about Rumi, and then finally the American writer who had translated his book entered and held his speech (it was not Coleman Barks). After a while it was time to stretch the legs, drink some tea, coffee and buy some books.
I exited the conference room and entered the cafeteria. It was a strange sight for a European-Iranian. We are not used to this you know. In Europe Iranians are more of a homogenous group. We are not either a religious group wearing chador or going around with "yaghe sheykhi" nor do we dress up as if we are going to meet his and her majesty.
The cafeteria was a rectangular room, the entrance was in the middle of one of its shorter sides. The room was very elegant like the rest of the buildings I saw in Columbia University. Looking at the left hand side of the room was like looking at old pictures of Iranian parties. All the men were dressed in dark suites and ties. The women were dressed in elegant dresses.
On the right hand side it felt as if I was in Iran today. Couple of Mullahs in their turban and abaa, some men dressed as if it still was the 70s (tight jackets, shirts with no ties and beards) and women in chador. I did not think so much more about this.
So some days a go I met a new Iranian friend. It is a custom for us Iranians that after first or at most second meeting discuss politics with a newly found countryman, and we come eventually to these questions: What went wrong? What is wrong? and how can it be better? We all look for a magical formula for the whole Iranian problem.
I had talked these talks before and was tired of repeating myself so I thought a little and came to think of that coffee room in Columbia University.
What makes a group successful? Is it that all of them are strong individualists? Is it that all of them think and act the same? I don't think so. I think that trust and unity makes a group successful. And the more different ideas, tastes and styles in a group makes it even more successful.
The people in that room were geographically in the same place, but they decided to split up because they did not feel like a group. What these two groups think and feel for each other is known to us so there is no need to discuss it. But for me that coffee room made everything so clear. To become a successful country we need trust and unity. And isn't it a bit of irony that one of Rumis most famous poems goes as:
Listen to the reed flute, it narrates
Complaining about seperations
بشنو از نی چون حکایت میکند
از جداییها شکایت میکند
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