Sunday, November 6, 2011

Post #47 - Made in the Image of God

"…all the members of that one body, being many, are one body..." (I Corinthians 12:12)

Museum of Modern Art/ Edward Steichen

The idea that “our world” is the one, while “their world” is primitive, is at the root of many a bloody conflict through all the centuries of human history. Even worse is the idea that “we” are truly human, while “they” are subhuman. In addition to appreciating the features and traditions of each separate clan on our planet, we should acknowledge what is common to all of us. One such commonality is the impact that violence and brutality have on human beings. In works such as The Red Badge of Courage, All Quiet on the Western Front and Apocalypse Now, artists have attempted to emphasize how delicate the balance is between sanity and lunacy, humanity and callousness, for the individuals tossed into a bloody conflict, once the insidious divisions are embraced and the dogs of war unleashed. Either we are a "family of man" or we are little better than roving packs of raptors.

Physical Anthropology

People have inhabited the area we know as Iran for as many as 7,000 years. Many Americans are surprised to see the term “Aryan” to describe the Persian racial type. Though some will associate it with Third Reich racial theories, the term is derived from Sanskrit and Persian, and is used to refer to Proto-Indo-Iranians, a people that swept out of the Caucasus sometime prior to 2500 BC, populating northern India, Afghanistan, Iran, and parts of the European heartland. Aryans can also be said to be progenitors of some of the peoples of Tajikistan, Ukraine – even the Romani (so-called "gypsies"). The very name “Iran” is a cognate of the term, and so can be translated as “land of the Aryans.” The older “Persia” has its origin in the name of the area called “Fars” or “Pars” (now just one province of Iran), which was the seat of the Persian Empire at its height (similar to the way in which the Roman Empire was named for its imperial seat, the city of Rome).

Naqsh-a-Rostam, c. 1000 BC
In May 2006 I visited Naqsh-e-Rostam (outside Shiraz), where an inscription in the natural stone reads: "I am Darius the great King [who reigned 521-486 BC]… A Persian, son of a Persian, an Aryan, having Aryan lineage...."

Traveling across Iran, one sees a broad spectrum of humanity, from the occasional red-headed Kurd in the west, to the distinctly Asian Turkmen in the northeast, from Iranian Arabs in the southwest to the Baluchi tribesmen of the southeast. The largest group is comprised of those called “Persians,” dark of hair and eyes, generally slim, with a stature similar to that of Americans.

(My next post will deal with cultures of Iran.)

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