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Blissful Suffering

19.75in x 27.5in

Inspired by an allegorical tale from the Persian poet Attar. The story goes: Shaykh San'an, an eminent ascetic spent fifty years practicing abstinence and penance with his 400 disciples.  He never transgressed any of the traditional moral codes and laws  until he embarked on a journey from Mecca to Rome. After a dream he falls in love with a beautiful girl,  converts out of his faith, and begins drinking wine, going to taverns, hearding swine, and wearing a zunnar (the belt which is an indicator of non-believers).  In so doing, he transgresses all the moral and religious boundaries. Shaykh San'an's conversion was blasphemous and punishable by death.  But, finally, due to the prayers of one of his most loyal disciples and divine intercession,  he regains his senses, converts back to his faith, and returns to Mecca.  

At this stage, the girl has fallen in love with the Shaykh.  She sees in her dream that she must follow her beloved to Mecca.  She meets him in a desert on the way, converts, and dies immediately.  By the end of the story, both Shaykh San'an and the girl have undergone outward and inward transformation.  The girl, portrayed as an earthly love object at the beginning  and whose only desire was to satisfy her own worldly urges,  turns into a symbol of heavenly love.  She helps her lover purify his soul from worldly desires. Attar's story demonstrates that sometimes earthly love functions as a bridge the lover has to cross to reach divine love.

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