Brand building through storytelling

The power of wanting and the death of Neda

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

With your one wild and precious life?-Mary Oliver 

Admit it: sometimes you just want more. You find yourself distracted and disheartened by the notion that life owes you something. After all, there’s so much stuff out there for the craving—and somehow other people have more of it than you.

Looking back on a lifetime of want-more moments, I confess to fierce desires for all of the following (and then some), none of it essential:

More miniature china for my dollhouse.

More madras. More mohair.

More chances to get stoned, with more soulful-looking guys.

More acceptance letters from colleges regarded as the best.

More money, so my husband and I could eat steak instead of hamburger stroganoff.

More promotions at the office.

More silk shirts. More designer pumps to match them.

More square footage, beautified by more hand-woven carpets.

More vacations to exotic places. More crystal wine glasses.

More pricey orthopedic sandals, the only kind I can still walk in.

More money (another whopping dental bill!).

It’s so easy to forget, on a want-more day, how little I really need of what eludes me. This past week I’ve been forced to remember by the news from Iran in the wake of an election that is widely and furiously regarded as a sham.

I’m thinking of green ribbons and arms upraised in solidarity, of people shouting from the rooftops of Tehran, “God is great!” Thousands upon thousands of people, the women throwing as many stones as the men in self-defense. A New York Times reporter, in a stirring on-the-ground dispatch, describes an elderly man protesting on crutches. When you want something urgently enough, you will not be deterred by age or infirmity. The protestors want the one thing that matters most of all—the freedom to live their lives while trusting their government to champion the common good.

It’s breathtaking, the power of this rage-stoked yearning. But it’s harrowing, too, because Iran’s Supreme Leader has threatened in no uncertain terms to unleash the wrath of the state upon the protestors. I keep scanning the reports from Iran for signs of a concession on high. Instead I read about people beaten with clubs and electric prods, about water cannons and tear gas, about brutal home invasions in the middle of the night. The other night I watched a painfully graphic video, shot at grave personal risk by a citizen journalist and then shared all over the Internet, in which a young woman bleeds to death on the sidewalk.

I thought of the yearning that had driven that young woman to the streets. Had the thought ever struck her that she might not return to the people who loved her? “Neda!” someone screams. That was her name: Neda Soltan, age 26.

At times like this I need the consolation of a song. The choice came to me in a flash: Bob Dylan’s anthem “Chimes of Freedom.” Online, I found Dylan performing it live in 1964, back when he still had those silky, boyish curls you wanted to muss. I remember that year for the the three civil rights workers lynched and slain in Mississippi—James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. I was turning 15 and couldn’t understand why, in the land of the free and the home of the brave, people could be killed for helping black Americans to vote. The song kindled my hopes in those days of burning crosses, when no one dared imagine a black President in the White House.

Dylan didn’t write “Chimes of Freedom” for the civil rights martyrs, or any other specific individual. He wrote it for “the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out-ones and worse” in every time and place. Because there’s nothing harder than to keep on believing that what you want with all your being—the most important, elemental thing—will one day be yours.

What I want right now is to know Neda’s story. I wonder what made her laugh and what she thought she’d do with her one wild and precious life. Was she in love? Did she have any secrets? Right now it would be a crime against the state for her survivors to tell that story. But there’s just no suppressing a story with the urgency of Neda’s. We will all know her, and what sparked her passion in those last hours. Maybe sooner than we dare imagine.


Posted by Rona

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