Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Pleasures of Hassan: A 1000 year old Top Ten List.

I have been reading all this Abbasid poetry lately. Woweewoo, did those 10th century Arabs know how to party! Here's an example: Attending a dinner party, Hassan was asked what he liked most about being alive. I couldn't agree more with the list the rattled off.

The Pleasures of Hassan, a 10th century fool, as reported by wandering historian 'Ali ibn Muhammad Abu Hayyan al-Tawhidi

-feeling smooth, shiny and round forms
-scratching myself when I itch
-eating pomegranates in summer
-sleeping with wild women and beardless boys
-walking without trousers among people who have no shame
-seeking a quarrel with sullen people
-finding no resistance on the part of those I love
-associating with idiots
-frequenting faithful fellows like brothers and not seeking the company of vile souls

[This is quoted directly and in its entirety from Robert Irwin’s Night and Horses and the Desert (p173), which cites Abdelwahab Boudiba's Sexuality in Islam (London, 1985; translated from French by Alan Sheridan), p 128 as the source of this quote.  This isn't twitter. Here is a context that allows any reader to further their interest in this topic.]

The list moves from general conditions to simple bodily pleasures to a sense of the relational and intimate. Maybe it is an unfounded sense of importance or self-centeredness about the present that makes me marvel at how 1000 years hasn't changed a thing. Pomegranate drips from a chin in sunshine, pestering the pouty and somber to get a rise, a palmed pebble are all as satisfying to me as they were to Hassan.  I'm not trying to say there is some human condition that links us. (GAG) Rather, I am just impressed with Hassan's excellent selection of ideas. The variety of pleasures and the perfect icons that represent them are what makes this recipe for happiness so great. It's like he reached out from his tent near Baghdad to give a shaka.

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