“Every thinking man — and by man I also mean woman —
MUST be occupied only by this interest: to develop a soul.”
G.I. Gurdjieff (as quoted in Solita Solano's diaries)
It may sound absurd that a nation born in the III millennium B.C., the one that was the first to proclaim Christianity as its state religion, one that has a very rich language and alphabet dating back to 405 A.D., one that printed its first book in 1512, has no words to distinguish between flesh and body.
If one knows Armenia and sees its palette, however, they would understand what is meant by this. An Armenian has a soul irrespective of his body’s shape and color. An Armenian puts his soul into everything he produces and perceives: monasteries, babies. An Armenian is bred as a part of a culture and mentality that is transferred from one generation to the other. An Armenian constructs buildings as a piece of architecture. From multi-colored natural stones that do not need artificial paint, an Armenian restores the Mother Armenia monument and pays attention to it in his thoughts, as it is a symbol of durability and respect to one’s motherland. Unlike the Statue of Liberty, which was a gift from France, Armenians constructed and reconstructed Mother Armenia themselves to keep the torch of hope, lost after the earthquake, alive.
Armenians are the ones that gave their lives to preserve their homeland. They did not escape to distant lands to save themselves. Armenians have deep and ancient roots as people, but lacked a state of their own from 1375 to 1918. They learned how to survive and flourish within multi-ethnic states, such as the Ottoman, Persian, Russian, and Soviet empires. Armenians managed to preserve Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, which was founded in 753 B.C. — 29 years before the foundation of Rome.
For an American like Mr. Guthrie it may be hard to comprehend how a person can ignore waste management or extinguish a cigarette into water because throughout his entire life he saw perfect roads, waste and litter designated containers, and everything in a normal shape that was taken for granted. He personally did not do anything for that. He was just born in a warm and comfortable maternity building, was taken to his comfortable house with running cold and hot water, then to a modern school, and later to a contemporary university, and an air-conditioned office.
When he enters a “Bath and Body Works” or a “Body Shop” and cannot decide which shower gel to choose — with a strawberry or raspberry flavor — it may never occurs to him that someone like him, born in Gyumri who has the same body, has no bath to sponge himself with the lotions. It never occurs to him that an Armenian who has two university degrees and is a son of physicians, has to go outside to carry in a bucket of water, heat it on a wood stove, pour it on his body to bath, and dry his hair on the diesel heater. An Armenian is so occupied with solving routine problems that he forgets to extinguish his cigarette in the litter. Allow him to take his time, as only 20 years passed after the natural ordeal and independence, whereas 200 years of American prosperity make Americans to forget what a world with a shortage of bread or electricity means.
The strength and durability allowed Armenians to produce brandy and beer that are not worse than Cognac or Heineken.
Let us not wear glasses when we visit other places and see the soul, the flesh and not just the body, which can be worn or outdated. It is better to have an old-fashioned coat than an ugly soul.
Links to Gyumri: