Thursday, July 14, 2005

clouds and sunshine

Excuse me if my cries fill the sky.

Excuse me if I flood the plains with tears.

You're my life, and I'm running for my life.

Excuse me if my life drags in the rear.


#1276: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

Search words: cloud, sky

I was preoccupied with dark wads of cloud in the sky this morning. I want to do a washload and hang the clothes out to dry. I need a fine and fairly sunny day for that. Searching under sky I find it filled with Rumi's cries and tears. This verse, or its translation, is extraordinary in the way the English words work so well. There is a playful, almost silly, tone that belies the grief being referred to. This dual tone is characteristic of Rumi but this is a verse where the English was found to match the original Persian more fortuitously than usual. Perhaps it is the most translatable verbalizations that have the most potential to be universally and timelessly true. That broad authenticity lies in the very translatability. All else is parochial, contingent on local circumstances. The sentence, "I want to do a washload and hang the clothes out to dry.", contains a part that makes more sense since washing machines were invented but the latter part would apply since human beings ever wished to dry their clothing in the sun.

I've been involved lately in discussion on the question Is Science a Religion? and I was referred to Ran Prieur's Science the Destroyer in which the author laments that: "Both mechanistic science and mechanistic Christianity were popularized by the philosopher Rene Descartes, who really believed that the scream of a tortured dog is no different from a bell ringing on a machine." Bells rang in my mind when I read Rumi's first line. Here are the cries of grief expressed in the lilting tones of a brief verse. There are several stories about how and why Shams disappeared from Rumi's life. One such story has it that Shams was flayed alive. So the theme of torture comes up again.

Descartes might sound ruthless when he points to the equivalence of a sound with emotional meaning and a sound with no special meaning. For science, there is no difference because the meaning is precisely what science must extract so that it can see more clearly what it wishes to see. Once that special scientific insight is achieved, the meaning can and should come pouring back in. Alternatively, the specialists of meaning can work alongside the specialists of science, much as advanced scientific knowledge and techniques are brought to bear in modern medicine while at the same time various "alternative" professionals (priests, psychotherapists, shamanic healers, and the like) also ply their trade. In Matthew 9:20 & 14:36, we learn that simply touching the hem of Jesus' robe is sufficient to make a diseased person whole. This faith, alone, does not avert tragedy or the continuing presence of disease. It is surely humane to seek other answers just as it is humane to subject an ill child to more than a faith healer's ministrations.

Yes, science distances, objectifies and deadens, but it reaches places you can only get to by doing that. The different kind of gnosis discovered in love is abundant with life as so clearly expressed in the joyfulness within Rumi's mourning. All of his energies are expended in trying to diminish the distance, to subjectify and enliven. However, curiously, he does not merely drown in his sorrow. He affirms his love, he affirms his grief, and in that very affirmation he disidentifies from both. This is the classic mystic's movement from ego to higher Self. But is it? In Rumi, I just don't think it is like this. He keeps his mysticism so down-to-earth and human that it's not so simple as that. If only science could get a touch of the divine into its own materialism, it might achieve a corresponding expression of completeness in truth.
 

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