To see Anis Mojgani perform live is an exercise in jaw control. It's the classic "I laughed, I cried, I was transformed" experience. Imagine the perfect artistic expression of mans timeless struggle to understand God—to make sense of this life. Then watch Anis' poetry. It's as if someone came into your dark, sleepy world of self and flung open the heavy velvet curtains to let the blinding light shine in.
Anis is one of those rare people who can talk about life in a real, accessible way. No fuss. No frills. No airy-fairy embellishments. Just BOOM! Your humanity, on stage, speaking to you. Even people who think poetry is well, lame, become transfixed by what they witness. So it's no wonder he has been the World Poetry Slam Champion as well as National Poetry Slam Champion (twice). It's also no surprise that he had so much to offer when SoulPancake recently asked him some of Life's Big Questions.
On spirituality, God, and (gulp) religion
SP: Is spirituality a trend?
AM: Sometimes I think it is. Our society is weird: Its a non-secular society that pretends its secular and is filled with a people that want the benefits of religion without recognizing religion as being something beneficial. We have all these things that supply us with what we hunger for—new clothes, tasty food, hot kicks, movies, television, music—but there are aspects of our make-up that dont get fulfilled. Weve created a society where its not even kosher or cool to discuss the emptiness, the unexplainable longing that passes in and out of all our lives. I feel that is connected to the spirit. There are these moments in all of us when we are inexplicably joyous or sorrowful, but weve boxed ourselves up so as not to talk about this as freely as we may discuss 30 Rock or Seinfeld.
Thats why spirituality becomes trendy. There is a hunger that many of us have for some divine and spiritual connection, but there is no arena to have that without committing to a religion, which a good number of us hold zero interest for. So what to do? Well, heres this thing spirituality. And it allows me to feed my soul and commune with my spirit without having to deal with the connotation of organized religion.
SP: Chanting, chakras, and chopras aside, what does being "spiritual" really mean?
AM: I believe it to refers to maintaining a connection, a communication, a relationship, with the inner mechanics of the world—the same mechanics that power us.
SP: Where does God play into all of this?
AM: God is the builder of those inner mechanics.
SP:Then why is talking about God so awkward?
AM: Cuz its abstract! We want to be right in our thoughts and our beliefs, and for many of us, the thought of discussing that could mean that we are wrong. And that would be bigger than being wrong about a math problem—its being wrong about our entire structure of being.
SP: Have you ever had a moment when you felt God?
AM: I was riding a bicycle in Savannah, Ga., and something clicked. Things made sense. The blades of grass and the size of them and how small and how big they are, and it felt like I was in the lap of something bigger than all of this. I started crying—just bawling—and then I started laughing at what a sight I must have been, crying and biking in the middle of the day, and the tears came down even more and the laughs came out even harder, and the whole time, I felt him.
SP: Do we need religion?
AM: We need a new definition of religion. I think ours is outdated? Maybe too small. I need what religion actually is, which is a way to reveal to humanity how to exist as strongly and nobly as we can—and how to maintain that.
SP: What gives 'religion' such a bad name?
SP: Would the world be better off without religion?
AM: Based on the results of what we have done in the name of religion, yes. But based on what I feel religion actually is and has the potential to be, no.