The Mindful Bard – Without Shepherds

Books, Music, and Film to Wake Up Your Muse and Help You Change the World

Film: Without Shepherds

Directors: Cary McClelland, Imran Babur

Producer: Cary McClelland

Genre: Documentary

Forget Everything You Thought You Knew About Pakistan

“The path I’m on is right for me. There’s pleasure in the seeking. There is a joy in it. It has a sweetness. Yes, sometimes there is bitterness, but when you digest it, it has its own nectar. Your actions?That’s all that matters . . . I understand the poet Bulleh Shah when he says, ?I am neither devoted to the mosque, nor following in the ways of the unbeliever. I am neither clean nor unclean, neither Moses nor Pharaoh. Bulleh, I don’t know who I am.?”

Arieb Azhar

The Sufi Singer

Arieb has been singing to a group of men who appear to be from the Islamic brotherhood. they’re kind and non-judgmental, showing great appreciation for his deeply spiritual songs even though in many Muslim circles music is forbidden. But his response above is an answer to their invitation to spend three days in prayer with them at the mosque. They accept his refusal with grace.

Their conversation is interrupted by a waiter entering the train’s cabin with a metal tray. He casts a peeved glance at the camera and demands their dirty cups. As the cups are placed haphazardly onto his tray, he swiftly rearranges them into strict rows. His pointless anal-retentive act is an excellent illustration of the oppressive and fruitless micro-managing of dictatorial governments.

The film is rife with this kind of symbolism, and its singular accomplishment is how it has made such a powerful and effective statement with purely artistic as opposed to dialectical tools.

The Nation is the People?and What a People!

Without Shepherds comes at a crossroads in the history of a country that has seemed to have been at one crossroads or another from its beginnings. Pakistan’s current state is the aftermath of a series of empires and dynasties, conquests and colonizers, the most recent being the Sikh Empire followed by the occupation by Britain’s East India Company until independence in 1947. Though it now has a Muslim majority, Pakistan has a long history of religious diversity, including Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians, some of whom have tolerated each other with much goodwill and others not so much.

The film seems to be suggesting that leaders as such are rarely good—they can be just okay or neutral or diabolica—and that It’s the people who choose to live in a just society. It’s also only the people who can make it happen, despite the opposition of hubris-swollen figureheads and bureaucrats.

The enchanting soundtrack to this film is almost a character in itself, a truly enhancing background for these vivid moving images of a cross-section of Pakistan’s people, architecture, splendid interiors lined with brilliant mosaics, and gloriously rugged rural landscapes.

The Fashion Maven and the Journalist

Every person who graces this gorgeous and profound documentary is marvellous and amazing. Every scene moves the heart and every detail tells a story.
Two of the Pakistanis followed are women, one a fashion model turned socially conscious entrepreneur and another a journalist. Both of these women are awe-inspiring in their poise, assertiveness, intelligence, and self-confidence. They make one curious as to the kind of culture that spawned and nurtured such uninhibited feminine strength.

Let Them Roam Free

A former mujahedeen, while guiding us through a beautiful mountainside covered with green shrubs, crags, and crystal pools, talks of the day he realized that what they were doing in the Taliban was wrong: two prisoners had been captured, and even though they had done nothing and he and his friends begged for their lives to be spared, they were shot in cold blood. His face is overcome with sadness at this memory, but he soon returns to discussing the landscape.

“Sometimes you will see animals here without a shepherd,? he says. ?We let them roam free. And no matter how far the cows wander, they come home by dusk.”
Enough said.

Without Shepherds manifests 11 of the Mindful Bard’s criteria for films well worth seeing: 1) It’s authentic, original, and delightful; 2) it poses and admirably responds to questions that have a direct bearing on my view of existence; 3) it harmoniously unites art with social action, saving me from both seclusion in an ivory tower and slavery to someone else’s political agenda; 4) it provides respite from a sick and cruel world, a respite enabling me to renew myself for a return to mindful artistic endeavour; 5) It’s about attainment of the true self; 6) it inspires an awareness of the sanctity of creation; 7) it displays an engagement with and compassionate response to suffering; 8) it gives me artistic tools; 9) it makes me want to be a better artist; 10) it renews my enthusiasm for positive social action; and 11) it makes me appreciate that life is a complex and rare phenomenon, making living a unique opportunity.

Wanda also penned the poems for the artist book They Tell My Tale to Children Now to Help Them to be Good, a collection of meditations on fairy tales, illustrated by artist Susan Malmstrom.