Saturday, September 17, 2005

the unnameable one

The names I gave her: wine; sometimes the cup;

At times she was raw silver, gold, refined;

A tiny seed; at times my prey, my trap.

All this because I could not say her name.

#1005: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

Search word: win

I woke this morning feeling so relieved after the tense burden of yesterday: the outcome has been as good as could be hoped for. Rumi doesn't write about success or winning as such: during these recent times of competition fever I've often used win as a keyword only to discover the many references to wine. I chose this one today because it is precisely about the act of giving names to things, especially to that thing which is unnameable. When I read a verse like this one, I can't help but wonder whether Rumi had some access to early gnostic writings similar to those found at Nag Hammadi and especially The Thunder, Perfect Mind, two excerpts from which follow:
For I am the first and the last.
I am the honored one and the scorned one.
I am the whore and the holy one.
I am the wife and the virgin.
I, I am godless,
and I am the one whose God is great.
I am the one whom you have reflected upon,
and you have scorned me.
I am unlearned,
and they learn from me.
I am the one that you have despised,
and you reflect upon me.
I am the one whom you have hidden from,
and you appear to me.
But whenever you hide yourselves,
I myself will appear.
For whenever you appear,
I myself will hide from you.

Whether writings were being circulated, secretly or otherwise, I'm certain at least an oral tradition survived and that Shams brought it to Rumi. The theme of opposites dancing in a complex interplay is so evident in his verses. It contrasts so strongly with the black-and-white division of the world into believers and non-believers that is characteristic of Islam. And yet it can also contain that kind of division as yet one more side of a pair of opposites: division and union. Only Islam could have created Rumi because only Islam is divisive enough, masculine enough, assertive enough, to have demanded the creative compensation of expressions of great love like Rumi and, on the architectural stage, the Taj Mahal (further stunning photos of which can be seen at the website of Gerald Brimacombe).


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