Let’s get Simorqanized!
عاقبت سی مرغشان سیمرغ شد
Persian (a.k.a. Iranian) mythology is filled with fantastical bird stories. These stories are elaborate metaphors that have transcendental, universal implications. The Simorq story is particularly transcendental. It is about spiritual awakening in an individual. It is also an excellent story about community organizing and coalition building.
- The Story of Simorq: Conference of the Birds
- Coalition Building, Simorq Style
- Coining a New Phrase
- Simorq-anizing in practice
- Simorq…kind of sounds like “Cyborg”
The Story of Simorq: Conference of the Birds
Simorq (transliterated by others as Simorgh, Simurgh, Simorg, Simurg) is a legendary bird in Persian mythology. The story is most famously told by the poet Farideddin Attar, in “Conference of the Birds”. Per Wikipedia:
In the poem, the birds of the world gather to decide who is to be their king, as they have none. The hoopoe, the wisest of them all, suggests that they should find the legendary Simorgh, a mythical Persian bird roughly equivalent to the western phoenix. The hoopoe leads the birds, each of whom represent a human fault which prevents man from attaining enlightenment. When the group of thirty birds finally reach the dwelling place of the Simorgh, all they find is a lake in which they see their own reflection.
The birds are identified as different facets of a fractured individual; pride, the yearning for immortality, love, that sort of thing. This makes it a story of spiritual self reflection.
Coalition Building, Simorq Style
The Simorq story can just as easily be about a fractured community coming together. It’s about diversity and collaboration: each bird represents a different ethnic or religious group or type of person. Individually they have their strengths and weaknesses. When they unite in a collaborative effort, they reach their highest good.
Simorq celebrates and leverages diversity and coalition building. Don’t flap around alone in the big bad world. Let’s get Simorg-anized!
Nations often use political myths to define themselves and to promote national unity. These are often done in a divisive way. An article in Iranian.com by Mohammad Jahan-Parvar, entitled “On the Aryan Trail” discusses this phenomenon. The article points out that the two dominant organizing myths for Iran are the somewhat racist “we’re Aryans” story which looks towards a monarchic past of glorious empire and excludes a considerable portion of the population who aren’t Indo-Iranian; and the religiously exclusive “we’re Muslims” story, which excludes religious minorities and secularists. Both of these approaches are also rather patriarchal.
More recently, check out this fascinating article from the Ajam Media Collective: A “Persian” Iran?: Challenging the Aryan Myth and Persian Ethnocentrism. To discuss this topic, check out our “Two-Veined دو رگه ” post.
In contrast, the handy “Simorq” myth includes all these groups and asks that they be the best whatever type of entity they are. Unity through diversity. Each group works to better itself in its own spiritual path, as the whole group of misfit birds migrates to a greater home, better future, more enlightenment.
This myth is also handy on a fractal, coalition building level:
- The individual simorqanizes the conflicting forces within themselves.
- The family simorqanizes so that each family member is supportive of the others and yet each one reaches their highest good.
- And you keep going: groups of friends, associations, ethnic groups, every possible group is a variation of the Simorq.
- And we move up to the country, to a region, to many countries.
It’s easy to visualize. Especially since most countries have a “national bird”. You can often see the American eagle, harassing Iran, and the Iranian homa, likewise harassing (Tu Quoque!). This is all part of the migration of national souls.
Once you start thinking in terms of a migration of diverse entities who all have something useful to contribute, it might free your mind to work on problem-solving from a more fluid, expansive and collaborative perspective. It’s not such a zero-sum-game anymore. All the people around you, no matter how different, are part of a larger movement. Might need to meditate on that for a while.
Coining a New Phrase
The word “simorq” is a play on words. This picture is of a mural near the shAh cherAq Mosque in shirAz, Iran. It shows a bird and the inscription says “Aqebat simorqeshAn simorq shod” which means “In the end, their thirty birds became Simorq.”
This is, of course, a reference to the Sufi story of a flock of thirty birds that set out in search of a mythic bird called “Simorq.” At the end of many adventures and spiritual steps, they discover that they themselves, collectively, are the “Simorq” which means, literally, “thirtybird”.
The word “simorq-anize” takes that play on words one step further, and in two languages. More on the steps we took to coin it in the sidebar.
Simorq-anizing in Practice
What does Simorqanizing look like in practice? Do we have to actually DO anything here?
The first part, of course, is awareness. We just start recognizing the people around us as fellow migrants in a larger spiritual, social, economic, environmental journey. We are already migrating, always have been, always will be. And let’s expand the awareness to include other entities, not just people. Things like other species, the environment, the oceans, the atmosphere, clouds of plasma and stardust.
All of life is a vibrant, interconnected collection of diverse entities, ever migrating throughout the universe in perpetuity. That’s just the reality of existence. Get in touch with it.
The next step is to start thinking about ways to improve the connections, the energies, to get things done that propel us all forward. Once we get in the practice of collaborating with one another (within families and homogenous groups and across diverse groups), we see how much less strain there is. Put another way, when you get in touch with the energy of many people and work it to your advantage, things become, paradoxically easier.
This sentiment is captured by the Dare to slack poster at Despair.com. Of course, what they call “laziness”, we call “transcendental laziness” and think of as a very good thing.
Assuming we all get aware and collaborative with each other, then what? What’s the point? Exactly! Where is this migration going? What is the greater home to which it aspires? Perhaps just getting in touch with one another and being supportive is an end in itself. This is just another thought in an ongoing conversation.
Simorq…kind of sounds like “Cyborg”
Yes, “Simorq” does sound like “cyborg”. A cyborg is a cybernetic organism. That means that, like Juju the Cage-Bird, it’s part biological and part cyber-mechanical-electronic. Our emergent Simorq is definitely a cyborg. After all, our communities are now all linked in cyberspace. It’s like an extension of our own nervous system connecting us to one another. The technical elements are all in place to empower this migration. That being said, we might want to regulate the drones among the flock.
These are the means, we are the actors, what is the end? Again, where is this migration going? Discuss!