Monday, May 02, 2005

an owl staring

The stock of a man's wisdom is madness:

It's a wise man who loves till he's insane.

Who knows his own heart well on the road of pain

Is to himself a thousand ways a stranger.

#350: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

I woke to an owl staring, a wooden owl carved out to represent a god of seeing and wisdom. A god of seeing especially in the dark. In the classical (Greek polytheistic) and alchemical traditions that God was Hermes or Mercurius, the messenger who flits from light to dark and back again, from the human to the divine world and back again. However, the owl is the favourite bird or emblem of the goddess Athena. Her intelligence is usually associated with rationality or reason but perhaps her ability to see in the dark, like her owl mascot, has been somewhat overlooked.

The word owl itself yielded nothing but wisdom gave me this verse that seems to speak of the two worlds of consciousness (things known and understood) and unconsciousness (things unknown and mysterious). Modern psychoanalytic psychology describes madness as an overwhelming of consciousness by the unconscious and in Jung's worldview especially the unconscious is seen as a fount of potential insight about oneself or one's Self (the larger self). Through the eyes of this modern language, I have a sense of Rumi saying the same thing. It is out of the darkness of the unconscious (madness) that we attain to the light of wisdom. The more a man digs or delves into that darkness, the more he "loves till he's insane", the more new and strange aspects of himself he will discover. Pain especially drives us inward, there to find ourselves "a thousand ways a stranger", a thousand ways more capable or gifted than we might have thought.

In the above image of Athena's owl, the bird stands on an amphora, an earthenware vessel usually containing oil or wine. I like this juxtaposition of a natural source of wisdom with a technological artefact that can contain the resulting nourishing yield. I see the owl as the insight that comes to me from the night and I see this blog as my amphora.


Post a Comment

<< Home