Reading About “Adab”

According to an essay in Parabola, “Adab: The Sufi Art of Conscious Relationship”, by Kabir Helminski, adab is “the ability to sense what is appropriate to each moment and to give to each its due — a continuing process of refining one’s speech and actions. To have adab is to be cultured.” Below is a passage from the beginning of the essay:

It has been said that the highest attainment of Sufism is nothing but good character. What is meant, however, is not a rigid moralism but a natural, spontaneous beauty of character that is the result of a long maturing process of transformation. The ripened fruit of this kind of practice is not an abstract and impersonal ideal, but a person with whom you would like to sit down and have a cup of tea.

At mention of “tea,” synapses start firing in self’s brain, and before she knows it, self has drawn up a list of authors she would most like to have a cup of tea with, people whose conversation self thinks would be so inspiring that she could live off the ideas for the rest of her life.

So, without further ado, dear blog readers, here are the authors, living or dead, famous or infamous, that self would most like “to have a cup of tea with”:

Carlos Bulosan, because self wants to ask him how he was able to write all those books while laboring in the fields all day, and how he was able to get into The New Yorker without an agent.

Doreen Fernandez, because we could talk endlessly about food, and life.

Jeffrey Eugenides, because self could ask him what the deal is with Berlin, and see if he remembered Riika.

Paul Theroux, because he is one of the bravest writers self knows.

Linh Dinh, because self has been in his presence before, and it is never enough.

Marcel Proust, because self wants to know how he did it.

Elizabeth Samet, because self would like to copy the reading list of the literature courses she taught at West Point.

Franz Kafka, because self wants to know how he endured what he did.

Ian McEwan, because self thinks he is just brilliant.

Jean Vengua, and any of the writers from Going Home to a Landscape, because of course self loves their work.

Nathaniel Philbrick, because self want to know how he does it.

Zhang Dai, because to self he represents the holy.

Joyce Carol Oates, because self wants to know if she is really as dark/ moody in person as self expects her to be after reading her writing.

Liesl Schillinger, so self can tell her to her face how much she loves every review she has written, even the ones where she doesn’t like the book.

Ann Packer, so self can ask her what Nancy Packer was like as a mother.

Samrat Uphadyay, Joan London, and J. M. Coetzee, so self can tell them how much she adores their books.

Clarice Lispector, Rosario Ferré, and Rosario Castellanos, because self feels we are all sisters under the skin.

And, since self’s fingers are getting a wee bit tired, will stop here and wish all good-night.

New Yorker Books: 12 November 2007

It’s been a very, very full and happy day. 4:43 PM, just back from Marina Food, great Asian supermarket in Foster City, where self ended up purchasing: a package of ox-tails for kare-kare ($12!! Isn’t that, like, so expensive for something considered to be a cheaper cut of meat?), cans of mandarin oranges (for Asian salad), and cans of coconut milk (for when she happens to feel like making curry).

Now, self’s ensconced on living room couch, watching re-runs of CSI: Miami and perusing Nov. 12 issue of The New Yorker. The Books section has a review of Clarence Thomas’ memoir, My Grandfather’s Son, and asks the question: Why is Clarence Thomas so angry?

Self is intrigued enough by the question to read a little bit, but loses interest soon after reading the following lines:

In his book, Thomas is clear about whom he blames for the pain of his confirmation hearings, when he had to defend himself against Anita Hill’s accusations. “In one climactic swipe of calumny,” Thomas writes, “America’s elites were arrogantly wreaking havoc on everything my grandparents had worked for and all I’d accomplished in forty-three years of struggle.”

Oh, poor baby. Next !!!

Self finds rather more appealing fare in the “Briefly Noted” section, where she finds three books (out of four reviewed) that she would really like to read:

Tom Perrotta’s The Abstinence Teacher

    Review begins: “Perrotta has made himself a specialist in suburban angst, peopling his novels with lonely daydreamers who are sexually dissatisfied and certain that their best days are over.” After such an opening, how can self resist?

Orlando Figes’ The Whisperers

    Review begins: “In this extraordinary study of a generation, Figes details the consequences of Stalin’s ideological campaign to reorganize the self as rigidly as he reorganized the streets of Moscow.” Fascinating, simply fascinating.

Brock Clarke’s An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England (Whacha say, dear blog readers — isn’t that a great title???)

    Review begins: “Sam Pulsifer, the bumbling narrator of this shambling, self-consciously comic novel, served ten years in prison after two people died when he accidentally burned down Emily Dickinson’s house.” ##@@!! More, more!

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