Our adventure in the Persian paradise with Sam Wood continues. Have a listen to this wonderful audio story. Read the full story on our blog.
Hello. My name's Sam Wood. I'm an English teacher in Montreal, but my greatest happiness is to be found when I'm lost in stacks of a good library. Montreal was spoiled. We have five. Today, Egle has invited me to speak about a different kind of paradise, paradise found in Persian art.
Firstly, it's vividness. This is an art that celebrates the world we live in, whether it be created by the divine, humanity, or both, and it's celebrated all with brilliant colors and vibrant detail. Secondly, it's dynamism. This is not a static vision of paradise. Instead, it is inseparable from the books and stories which it illuminates. Sometimes this is the story of empires, and we meet figures like Alexander the Great, Darius, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, and Sultan Husayn Mirza, or patrons of the art. Other works illustrate epic poetry and the celebration of the world in verse. This is a paradise that coexists with love, war, and personal tragedy.
Thirdly, it's familiarity, strangeness, and immediacy. These ancient warlords and builders of empires are familiar to both east and west. The cities they conquered are familiar to us today, notably Kabul and Baghdad. As a religious world, it too was a world of jihadis and crusaders. It is familiar in a different way. Paradise is a garden, creation of nature, the divine and humanity. There is the Garden of Eden with its trees of knowledge and of life shared by Christians, Muslims, and Jews. But for me, at least, they are also strange. What, for example, is this tree with prophetic heads that speaks to Alexander?
We are a far cry from the genesis of my school days or the triumphant Varanasi scene in London. The art here seems to insist that we are all, emperors and ordinary people alike, caught in a web of stories and events, a mystical force linking time and place under a brilliant blue sky or the shade of a vivid green tree. It is this combination of the eternal and the dynamic that I find most exciting. Paradise, the art seems to say, is not some far off place, but here and now. I hope you enjoy the article and the art, and that they give you inspiration of your own vision of paradise.