Ata Servati, a noted Iranian/American filmmaker, poet, actor, author and activist, has produced a moving new book of poetry that came at a time of real pain when he went from a lavish lifestyle to being homeless on the streets of Los Angeles
Throughout his dramatic life, Iranian-born Ata Servati, a talented filmmaker, actor, poet and author, has always expressed himself by writing a poem or two when touched by an event that had occurred in his life and had “whispered a tone within me a with good voice.”
In an interview he explained, “It was my way of releasing what was churning up inside of me; to heal my soul.”
Ata would write on loose sheets of paper ripped from notebooks or occasionally type them on a computer and have them neatly printed and, although he never kept them, they fortunately always found there way into the hands of others who found them a great relief for their hardship. He never compiled them for himself.
Then, one day, he woke up and decided he was going to start saving his poems and then publish three books of poetry.
“There were so many poems spilling out of my mind that I knew they could not fit into just one book, or even two, so I settled on three,” he said.
The reason for this was unknown to him at the time.
“It could have been the constant reoccurring situation in Iran, the casual recommendations by friends, or a soul who rushed into my life and left just as quickly during the hardest of times,” Ata told me.
He went on to say that there are many times in a person’s life, like his own, when they question the existence of God, whether they are a believer or not.
“This is often caused after witnessing sin after sin, the unjust killing of innocents in Iran and also throughout the world,” he stated. “There is no power that can stop this madness except the power of the people, and love within their heart.”
Ata added. “Every voice counts and every tear should be wiped away. All hate must be washed from all heart and be replaced by love and the idea of peace.”
He said that the sadness he felt within himself while watching television or reading and discussing events that were unfolding in Iran, the land of his birth, were “indescribable” to him
Lost everything and lived in his car
Up until this period, Ata had been very successful in all that it did, but then one day, it all came crashing down.
He said that it was the traumatic changes in his own life that made it possible for him to “remove the shades” he had covered his eyes with, after having living a lavish lifestyle — the American dream — in his adopted homeland “with everything a man could ask for.” But they he suddenly lost everything and began living in his car on the streets of Los Angeles. After huge success and wealth, he became homeless and began hiding from all his friends and those he loved.
“You will soon find out who your real friends are when the hard time come. In fact, they were hardly any,” he told me. “I was reminded quickly that you are born alone and you will die alone.”
Ata said that, amazingly, he experienced the “most peaceful time of my life,” when he was sleeping in his car.
“Due to a broken business relationship and later a divorce, I lost just about everything. I had less than $85.00 to my name,” he said.
Ata recalled, “Sitting in my car, I watched the stars every night, lost between worlds.”
Having been well-known in Hollywood, he now found himself associating with other homeless people; having casual conversations around the fire or deep meaningful snippets that filled their conversations. Each one, he says, “was a philosopher in their own private world and spoke like one.”
One lady in particular, her name was Alexa, helped Ata realize something very important.
“I discovered from her that during all of my life, I had been running on empty, dreaming on empty, and living on emptiness,” Ata said. “I learned to thank and pray for the few people who had a role in drastically altering my life.”
What was interesting to him at that period was that he has visions or dreams of everything before they happened to him.
“This insight, or gift, was initially given to me at the age of four by the appearance of an older man when I was calling for God to help my mother during a difficult time in her life,” he said. “At this young age, I did not know who God was. I had just heard my mother calling out for God’s help.”
But, Ata said that, as always, he could not stop or change the course of his dream or destiny. He had no choice but go through with the event even if he knew the outcome, at times, was going to be painful.
But this latest experience of becoming homeless was different.
“As soon as the difficult times came, and the tables were turned around, all of my so-called friends — some of whom I had known for a lifetime — disappeared,” said Ata. “Still my continuous thanks and prayers go out for these people, for helping me reach the path that I was supposed to walk down.”
As a result of his homeless experience, and during a two month period while still sleeping in his car, Ata astonishingly wrote two novels called “In Search Of Love” and “In Search of Baba.”
“I would sleep in my car at night and then, during the day, I would go into a local Starbucks and begin typing on my laptop as fast as I could,” he told me. “This went on for days at a time, typing with one finger and sometimes, because I was so tired, I had problem in even spelling my own name.”
So in that short period, he produced over 900 pages of his books. He says that when he was in the last chapter of “In Search of Baba,” he was approached by Julie, a long time American friend, who with her partner gave him a place to stay. Within a year he was able to finish his third novel “In Search Of Peace,” also a short film called “Cellfish,” which he says is “in discussion for possibly becoming a TV sitcom,” two movie scripts and now his latest poetry book, “I am a Lotus – I am Neda.”
The back cover of this book features a picture of Neda Agha-Soltan, who drew international attention after she was killed on a Tehran street during the 2009 Iranian election. Her death became iconic in the struggle of Iranian protesters against what they said was the fraudulent election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. HBO has made a moving documentary on her life (and death) called “For Neda” — www.hbo.com/documentaries/for-neda/synopsis.html — which they are continuing to air.
At this point in time, Ata says that he is happy that he has completed the tasks that he was “trying to finish for the last twenty years.”
He went on, “I must thank the local Starbucks staff who adopted me and treated me like one of their own and even gave me lots of refills for free. Also Alexa, and other homeless friends, who encouraged me and sometimes fed me and shared their thoughts and ideas with me to help me finish my various works. You cannot fight destiny, only your reactions to situations that you have been put in.”
Through the many setbacks in his own life, Ata Servati says he has learned some important lessons. He discovered that when he was homeless, that life is not just “material,” but he believes it was God’s Will to allow him to go through this hard experience and find what is important in life, a peace that he had lost track of it or did not know before.
Ata says he has also learned to forgive the people who he believes “put me through this” and added that he now feels “they were tools for God to guide me in a right direction in life.”
Ata says that “I am a Lotus: Spiritual poems from the Heart,” is “dedicated to the brave young Iranian men and women whose courage have shocked the world and shaken the dictatorial regime of Iran.”
He added, “They have risked their lives and have even paid with their blood to gain their God-given right of freedom.”
All proceeds for his latest book will be donated to less fortunate children via the Ata Servati Children’s Foundation (ASCF) nonprofit organization, which he founded to help the needy and starving children of the world.
The idea for the foundation came to him, he told me, when he was homeless and met with an older homeless man who joined him one night by the fire “where I was trying to keep warm.”
He added, “I was sitting by myself thinking about my daughter and granddaughter and then, out of nowhere, this older man appeared. To start with there was just silence between us and it seemed to me that this man talking to himself, but in silence. It was then the idea just clicked in my mine to start this foundation.”
Ata said that he never saw the old man again, but it was later that he thought of the man, whom he said had the same face, that came to him in his visions at the tender age of four.
So please enjoy this wonderful book and, as you do, reflect on the lessons that Ata has learned and then apply them to your own life. You will never regret doing that for if you do, Ata says, “It too will bring you a peace that passes all understanding!”
For more information, go to www.iamalotus.net and learn more about Ata and his books.
Dan Wooding, Assist News Service