Sunday, September 18, 2005

a simple wine

Saqi, I asked you for a simple wine;

Make it live; serve it to men who are free.

You said, 'A wind is stirring in the sky.'

Until it comes, my love, pour wine for me.

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

Search word: wine

We celebrated yesterday and I drank wine in plenty, so I can but return to Rumi's use of wine as metaphor for a kind of mystical enlightenment. I've had to research saqi as the name or word was unfamiliar. By comparing translations (Ghazal 2523), I've gathered that a saqi is a cupbearer and probably a servant specializing in serving drinks at meals. A review of a book on another Persian poet, Hafez, states specifically that: "The saqi is the handsome youth who pours out the wine at the drinking party." Because women were not present at these parties it was the saqi who took on the role of perceived beloved. These homosexual overtones are ever-present in Rumi and related poetry.

I recently read another book by John Shelby Spong, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism : A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture. In it, Spong makes a good case for explaining Paul's attraction to Jesus' teachings based on his own homosexuality. Paul knew he wasn't sexually "normal" and despised himself for that but Jesus' teachings lifted him out of that self-hate and taught him to accept himself as God made him. To my mind, homosexuality itself is a metaphor for the uniqueness of the Self which is not and never can be normalized. No universal description or prescription can reveal it to anyone for God creates each person as a unique variant of Her own perfection. Finding our own "lost sheep", our own abnormal variants, is the key to finding our own identity and is why Jesus so loves the lost sheep.
Gospel of Thomas Saying 107

Jesus said: The kingdom is like a shepherd who had a hundred sheep; one of them, the biggest, went astray; he left (the) ninety-nine (and) sought after the one until he found it. After he had laboured, he said to the sheep: I love you more than the ninety-nine.


As I see it, Rumi knew the winds of change would bring freedom to all men - and women - in the fullness of time. Until then, he needed to veil his insights with the metaphor of wine.


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