Who is Arman?
Academic life is only a part of who I am. When I entered University, I had a kind of romantic feeling towards the sciences. I was let down though, as I saw that the reductionist approach to science sucked the soul out of it. It created skills, not character. It did not use to be like this. For Greeks, science was a part of the search for the truth. For many, science was the means to know God’s act, as theology was the means to know God’s word. Science was looked upon with awe, with wonder, with spirituality. To Avicenna, or those in the House of Wisdom, studying medicine or chemistry was no less a fulfilling effort than pondering theological and philosophical questions, all of which they studied. In fact, these different fronts unite in one’s humanity and wholeness. Surely, there is an argument for specialization in sciences and for division of labor, but not to this suffocation that we see in our education today. What were once considered essential subjects of study for a person seeking liberation, i.e. the liberal arts, are no longer taken seriously.
Since I was 17 I became quite intrigued with philosophical questions. It is said that every child is a philosopher. I think that is true, but in a different sense. A child goes outward, seeking knowledge and discovery. He does not really see himself/herself, and is in harmony with reality. But as we grow up, and our “I”s are formed, and our fancies take shape, we actually lose contact with the real world. Then, something good comes knocking: “Who really am I?” “How am I linked with the outside world?” “Is there a more inner ‘I’ than the ‘I’ I am experiencing now?” In the words of Rumi, “Where have I come from? My arrival was for what purpose? Where am I going? Will You not reveal to me my Home?” So a large part of what I have devoted myself to is these questions. I also believe this should carry itself to one’s work. Two individuals can look outwardly very similar, devoting same number of hours at work, working on new problems, producing interesting work, etc., but they could be completely different people with different modes of being, intention, and orientation. The world within can be quite amazing, and hidden from the eyes.
I come from a very diverse background. My dad’s dad was a shaliach tzibbur (i.e. Jewish prayer leader) for his synagogue in Tehran; he was well versed in the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud. My mom’s dad was a devotional poet for the Household of Prophet Muhammad, some of whose poetry is very sublime and beautiful, and which I have had the pleasure to collect. I recall spending time in synagogues in Tehran and Shiraz, and one huge church in Tehran. I have found it necessary to read and ponder upon what is claimed to be holy scripture in different beliefs. How can I not? Pascal’s wager rings true with every one at some point: what if this is real and I am oblivious of it? And after a while, what happens is something deeper. Emerson beautifully said: “The divine bards are the friends of my virtue, of my intellect, of my strength. They admonish me, that the gleams which flash across my mind, are not mine, but God’s; that they had the like, and were not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” What happens is a surprising resonance, taking one to his core. The Quran itself expresses such a sentiment: “When they listen to that which has been revealed unto the Messenger, you see their eyes overflow with tears because of what they recognize of the Truth. They say: Our Lord, we believe. Inscribe us as among the witnesses.” (5:83)
I try to collect my thoughts and experiences in my writing. I hope to share some of them here. Keep in touch.