Thank You Peter

This is a letter from Shirin J. Mistry, circulated on a newsgroup which sums up the end to the controversey of the sculpture.

These are the views of the author, and not Parsi Khabar

Dear Mr Schipperheyn,

May I add my own small voice to that of the thousands of Zoroastrians who are grateful to find in you such strength of character as to be able to withdraw from causing any hurt to the sentiments and sensibilities of the tiny Zoroastrian community worldwide?

After the number of phone calls and messages via email that I received personally, specially yesterday, I can well understand the angst that such a naming of a fine piece of art/sculpture has caused my beloved co-religionists BUT I commend you on your being able to not just explain your reasoning behind the naming of your statue but also the fine decision to rescind it!

A word of explanation from my viewpoint may help you to understand where we stand. Lord Byron may have said, “We are all Greek” but the people he meant are his own. We Ancient Persians are NOT Greek in that sense at all! Nude sculptures of their Greek Gods, fine pieces of art may indeed glorify the human body and so it should for it is indeed God’s finest creation and we Zoroastrians are cultured enough to admire any such pieces BUT had you tried to extend your knowledge of Zoroastrianism just that little bit more you would have realised that we do not recommend anyone even go barefooted in this world and specially at prayer we would never be bareheaded! – so where’s the question of ‘going naked in the world’?!! Das Spake Zarathushtra makes a mockery of Zoroastrian tenets and traditions and it is always a bone of contention amongst us and those who cite it as a source of their knowledge of Zoroastrianism.

We have always dismissed FN as a lunatic who had latched on to a bit of exotica floating around in his times and then gone on to twist and turn it to suit his own demented brain. I think it was Stanley Kubrick who used Strauss’s wonderful score for his Space Odyessy – the music is soul stirring indeed and once more in the late 60s the world heard the name of our beloved Prophet – and seems to have latched on to it with great gusto – little realising that our ancient religion is NOT a Hollywood creation even if it does rate an Oscar for the influence it has exerted on all known monothiestic Faiths, as you yourself have well realised!

I who am a ‘classic’ buff and a great admirer of art as a reflection of Nature, respect your desire to stay away from whatever type of art form that does not best suit your own particular aspirations, whether it be Modernism or Secualrism or any other -ism. I only wish you had also stayed away from Zoroastrianism and you would have saved a lot of people from many sleepless nights! To-night at least they will sleep peacefully and some of us will even bless you for being able to take the high moral ground when faced with making the Right Choice! Be that as it may, I applaud your hard taken decision and even if it has been ultimately forced upon you by the Gallery, I am personally grateful that you have done so even if with a very heavy heart!

I realise that as an artist you are indeed very saddened to have to remove a name from your own work! It would be like having to rename a child to suit the world instead of being allowed to make your own personal choice for your own personal creation! I am sure in your mind it will ever remain what you have named it – but a most grateful Zoroastrian community will ever remember the magnanimity of your decision and the grace with which you have conceded to it!

May we ever meet in good times and if perchance you really want to extend your knowledge of Zoroastrianism, my doors as well as my personal library of books on the subject closest to my heart, besides my own family, will always be open to you! Please feel free to contact me at any time via my email address. As I live in Melbourne and am known for my staunch Zoroastrian stance throughout the world, the number of personal calls and emails to me probably outranked the ones sent to the others here! But all’s well that ends well!

I would never presume to give you ideas on what you could rename your masterpiece but seeing that you have already mentioned it, how about the struggle between good and evil – the essential Human drama? The words are yours as is the thought behind them! – yet they are also so Zoroastrian in the view that we also go for the Duality of the Spirit and the essential struggle that is a human life making Choices between what is Right and what is not-right to bring this world to a state of Perfection and thus Immortality!

I live probably not too far away from you – if the whitepages guide is correct! So please feel free to get in touch and I shall definitely make it a point to visit the Gallery and admire not just your art but the courage you have shown to rename it to keep from hurting people you have never met! From the bottom of my heart I thank you for it and therefore hope that we do indeed meet so that I may literally extend my hand in friendship to a kindred soul!

Just remember that it is not the name that empowers the viewer – it’s the fine art that created it! Your sculpture will speak for itself and does not need to guide the viewer via its name! May it grace Australia for many years to come and ever remain as a superb credit to the quality of its creator!

Ushta te always ~ May happiness ever be to you!

With deep admiration and not a little gratitude,

I remain,

Yours sincerely,

Shirin J Mistry.

  • Michael Mastrantuono

    Dear Mr Shirin J Mistry

    It may well be that we are not all Greek, but those who are not like many things about the West: moving there, reproduce, adopting the full rights of democracy – freedom of speech and religion included – marry a western lady without becoming real Greek or converting to Judeo-Christianity, even not necessarely complaining if the Greeks do not get the same in the original country where they come from, and if instead they get the opposite or the absolute contrast in terms of Law, tolerance, Rights and coexistence.

    I assumed the Zoroastrians would react in the issue of the sculpture of Peter as normally Jewish People and Christians would and do in similar circumstances, who normally and punctually share their views or disappointment, but they do not impose their views or decision.
    I think the Zoroastrians have the great opportunity for a positive performance in democracy and the chance to make their existence and identity well known in the Western World.
    One thing is required, which usually non-typically Western Spirituality doesn’t have: Grace, as the equivalent or propaedeutic essential element of Civic Western inclination.
    Westerns have their own theocratic tradition too, but they discovered long time ago that what is really needed for the Divine Order and Truth (Science or Religion regardless) to come is Grace in the civic shape of freedom and democracy: that’s why plenty of non Greeks are in the West in the assumption but inevitably imminent requirement of the rule of Reciprocity and Global Equal Opportunity.

    Dear Regards and Best Wishes for Coexistence and Prosperity.

    Michael Mastrantuono