Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Confrontation Between Bademus And Nersan

Gold inlaid with turquoise, Iran, Parthian period (Met Museum)

This Confrontation Goes On In Us In Our Life Everyday...

The Background
This is a story of three characters. Upon introspection, I find two of them to be fighting amongst themselves for supremacy even now; and they are within us. The third character is the circumstance that provokes and sparks the fight.

Shapur II, the only person in entire history to have been crowned king in utero. While he was still curled up blissfully in his mother's womb, the magnates placed the crown on his mother's belly. While he was washed and breastfed and clothed by maids and nannies, the government was run in his name. But when he came of age, boy! Did he make a name for himself!

Met Museum

It was under his reign that Persia consolidated itself and expanded its reach, and shrugged off the influence of Rome's Constantine's particular brand of religion.

Then we have Nersan, a satrap from Aria in Persia. Nersan followed the religion advocated by Constantine. A happy-go-lucky fellow, he any day preferred lolling around in the silky satins of his plush palace over the harsh discipline of abstention and frugal living.

two servants bearing food and drink, Achaemenid period

Finally, we have Bademus. The Saint from Bethlapeta, another village in Persia. The man who founded an abbey, and followed the same religion as Constantine. The man with strong self-discipline and iron willpower. An icon to look up to.

St Bademus

Faith Conversion - The Circumstance
One of the goals that Shapur II had set before him to accomplish in his lifetime was to eliminate Constantine's religion from his empire, and instead bring in and propagate his own brand of religion. Nersan and Bademus refused to change their faith. So Nersan and Bademus were enemies in Shapur II's eyes. He ordered both of them to be imprisoned, to be given a daily dose of tortures with the hope that they would change their mind.

Our friend, Nersan, weakling that he was - caved in soon. Not for him the daily flogging and the foot-roasting and the flesh grilling. Oh, he was not used to such discomforts and inconveniences at all! So he caved in, and supplanting himself at Shapur II's feet, agreed to apostatize.

CalResco Image

Not so, Bademus. He refused to be broken. For four long months, the henchmen of Shapur II's crack team worked on the Saint from Bethlapeta, sweated and slogged, busy applying their tools of the torture trade on him. But not a cry of repentance left Bademus' lips. A time came when the team had to give up, and they reported to the King that this was a nut that could not be cracked.

Shapur II's pride was at stake. If you can't beat them, kill them!... was his motto. So he decided to execute Bademus. And he plotted a devious plan for execution. Instead of ordering his own men to do the sordid job, he decided to give the task to Nersan, as a test to prove the latter's disdain for people who were not part of his new faith.

Nersan had been given a chamber in the royal palace instead of the usual dungeons allotted for the non-faithful. Bademus was sent to Nersan's chamber, and a sword was handed to Nersan to carry out the execution.

Sword, mid-1st century B.C.; Late Iron Age; Iron blade, copper alloy hilt and scabbard

The Execution - Who Finally Won?
So the scene was set. Nersan, the weakling, a lifetime spent in lolling in satin cushions and comfy beds, and generally enjoying the goodies of life, stood face to face with Bademus - the man with enormous spiritual strength.

Telisphere image

Bademus, as was his wont, was undeterred when his murderer came lurching towards him. He knew of course that his end was near. He had the option of falling on his knees, and cry for clemency. He had the option to fight Nersan, with whatever physical stamina left. But he didn't raise his little finger. Arms akimbo, he stood there, waiting for the inflictions to wound his body.

Surprisingly, it was Nersan who felt the guilt and the remorse and the shame at the act he was performing. But having agreed to perform, he couldn't go back, could he. So he lurched to the left and to the right, his shaking hand tearing the sword into the flesh of the body of Bademus. Finally, the blade hit the saint's neck. It took four hits to finally shear off the head.

It is said that Nersan himself committed harakiri later.

Jelena's pic

The Confrontation In Us
Bademus and Nersan are two opposite poles. Nersan is the quintessential human being - vacillating between moral high stands and tempting depths. Bademus is an icon that humans look forward to, but seldom achieve.

We all have strains of Nersan in us. We enjoy our little indulgences. And at the same time, we try to make a song-and-dance about our set of values - they are our own version of Bademus. Circumstances take on the form of Shapur II to pose a threat to our material comfort and convenience. So it is comfort versus values. And we - like Nersan - are too willing to chuck our values out the window. To hell with them values! And then we whack ourselves with guilt and remorse and shame. And try to justify our existence by killing the ghost of our values that, Bademus-like, stands before us.

Almost all the time, it is the Nersan in us who ends up killing the Bademus in us.

And after wishing our Bademus away from our eyes, we realize that our existence no longer has any meaning. And we commit spiritual hara-kiri. So though we continue to live, it is an empty life.

Is Bademus, perfection that is impossible to achieve?

Bust of Shapur II

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