1. Aladdin and genies. Enchanting.
2. "I Dream of Jeannie," the TV show. Dumb but arousing,
3. An adult at one of my parent's cocktail parties in 1970 or 71 using the term 'Black Muslim' about the boxer formerly known as Cassius Clay. Worrisome somehow.
4. Coming across the name 'Malcolm X' in a newspaper or magazine. Frightening and puzzling.
5. Befriending Asif Agha, a brilliant student from Pakistan, at Princeton. The first human spirit and intellect I ever knew that I would call 'beautiful' in the richest sense of the word. Enlightening.
6. Visiting the Alhambra with a girlfriend in 1984. I had a peculiar and novel aesthetic experience midway through the guided tour: I sensed, very powerfully, that I was in the presence of ideal forms that I lacked the maturity and the depth of spirit to perceive properly. Haunting, frustrating, and humbling.
7. 9/11. Disorienting and terrifying.
8. Various post 9/11 readings, serious conversations and semi-organized attempts to educate myself on the topic of Islam. I come to understand the religion as a rather peculiar mixture of a cult of personality and a trippy eccentric version of late monotheism. I come to view the societies, by and large, as backward and medieval and peculiarly susceptible to oligarchical subjugation. Interesting, depressing.
9. Ongoing cable news coverage of Middle-eastern affairs. Distancing.
10. Sudden onset of revolutionary fervor in Egypt, Libya, etc. Inspiring.
11. I learn that a very chic English woman of rather high social standing who I knew at Oxford University has converted to Islam and has become publicly active, particularly in the arts and education spheres, in promoting her faith. Challenging.
12. General awareness of Sufism as a kind of psychedelic, mystical, all-involving practice that I feel spiritually attracted to despite my ignorance of its tenets, history, and so on. Intriguing.
Tentative Conclusion: Islam, let's talk. In person. Though you do scare me a little sometimes. I also suspect that you, at your best, are my superior in certain ways.