Friday, August 19, 2005

keeping it real

Lover of truth, this morning bring pure wine

To break my fast, for life is death itself.

Keep watch over this burning heart, or else

Hear the moans of a song from which heart's gone.

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

Search word: truth

I've decided to stay with the theme of truth, following Renata's comment on Mansour and Rumi yesterday. She has rightly seen that I'm reading Rumi too superficially on this. I'm not digging deeply enough.

This verse today feels very poignant to me for it seems to describe a living death. The issue brought up yesterday seemed then to relate to an isolated event, a moment in time when one faces a crucial decision: lie and live, or tell the truth and die. I'm sure there are indeed many such major moments of truth in life but it is also true that every moment can have that quality. If lying to others is OK to save one's skin, then lying to oneself becomes OK so one can live in some fantasy world of one's own. The choice is ever present: express yourself truly or moan a song where heart is gone.

As often happens with Rumi, I find an intriguing ambivalence in his images, especially in this case in the pure wine. Approached from one angle, this wine is a soporific that can numb pain. The impression is of a drunk who drowns his sorrows in wine. And this is, indeed, a very sad possibility. On the other hand, the idea of pure wine is of something highly potent, stimulating and substantial, in marked contrast to mere water or baby's milk. It is a symbol of renewed courage and strength. Like many such symbols, it becomes dangerous only when approached idolatrously or literally, as when the tough guy literally downs a brandy every morning to get started with the day. That way lies plain alcoholism.

This was most notably the fate of Jack Kerouac who died quite young from the results of alcohol abuse. He embodies both the error and the enlightenment aspects of Rumi's image of pure wine. He was a passionate seeker after the truth and a hugely inspirational writer, but he never learned to say "no" to the drink.

Every morning, I start by drinking the pure wine of my own first thoughts and dreams. Then I turn to Rumi and drink from there. He is the current embodiment of my primary "other". He's a truthful teacher, not a mere romantic. I'm confident he'll keep me real but a little help from a currently alive "other" is also welcome.


At Friday, 19 August, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just found your blog - good one!

Have not read all yet so forgive me if this is covered already but sometimes (as you probably know) the wine metaphor is used by Rumi (and other Sufis such as Khayyam) as a stand-in for Sufism itself.

In some cases they contrast the wine with the 'grapes' (ie religion) which have a nutritional purpose but which do not intoxicate. Also this analogy implies that religion has to undergo a sort of 'fermentation' process if it is to turn into the 'wine'.

Jesus has some interesting parables that point to a similar conception.

At Saturday, 20 August, 2005, Blogger Arizona said...

Thanks, segovius, I'll look out for that use of the wine metaphor. Maybe wine-making could be seen as analogous to cultivating one's own inner life and dreams. The soul's contents (wishes, fears, thoughts, feelings) are like the grapes and poems or contemplative writings are the result of allowing these things to ferment and take form.

Symbols are wonderful things that can take on very different shapes depending on how you approach them.


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