Tuesday, July 26, 2005

joyous waves

What is sadness, that settles like dust

On hearts that are bitter and burdened?

The heart that holds God holds an ocean

Whose joyous waves make the earth turn.

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

Search words: reckoning, judgment, final, settle

Today feels like a Day of Reckoning, an archetypal Judgment Day or Final Day, when matters are settled once and for all. In Rumi's verse, it is dust that is settling as sadness settles on a sad heart. My own heart has been bitter and burdened for so long now, I would not want to count the years. Finally, I am emerging to a view of the ocean despite now living inland and far from the physical ocean shores.

Rumi's vision of God as an ocean making joyous waves that keep the earth turning is quite extraordinary and in such sharp contrast to the vision of Islam's founder as expressed in his writings. In the Koran, the most powerful image of ocean is used to describe the state of mind and heart of the unbeliever.

Qur'an 24:40 (Yusuf Ali)

Or (the Unbelievers' state) is like the depths of darkness in a vast deep ocean, overwhelmed with billow topped by billow, topped by (dark) clouds: depths of darkness, one above another: if a man stretches out his hands, he can hardly see it! for any to whom Allah giveth not light, there is no light!

The ocean is also summoned in the Koran's description of the final days.

Qur'an 52:1-16 (Yusuf Ali)

By the Mount (of Revelation);
By a Decree inscribed
In a Scroll unfolded;
By the much-frequented Fane;
By the Canopy Raised High;
And by the Ocean filled with Swell;-
Verily, the Doom of thy Lord will indeed come to pass;-
There is none can avert it;-
On the Day when the firmament will be in dreadful commotion.
And the mountains will fly hither and thither.
Then woe that Day to those that treat (Truth) as Falsehood;-
That play (and paddle) in shallow trifles.
That Day shall they be thrust down to the Fire of Hell, irresistibly.
"This:, it will be said, "Is the Fire,- which ye were wont to deny!
"Is this then a fake, or is it ye that do not see?
"Burn ye therein: the same is it to you whether ye bear it with patience, or not: Ye but receive the recompense of your (own) deeds."

Where Mohammad uses God as ocean to curse all those who disagree with him, Rumi uses God as ocean to invite others to share his joy. One uses the carrot, the other uses the stick. Religions and philosophies always have and no doubt always will contain examples of both carrot and stick persuasion. I don't respond well to threats so I've gravitated to Rumi and his gentle manner pointing the way to enduring dignity and joy.


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