Saturday, November 26, 2005

the claims of friendship

I've trod in your path until I'm downtrodden.

I'm worn out from being worn out by your love.

I can't eat all day, I can't sleep all night.

Your friendship's the enemy I must fight.

#1444: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

Last night I re-watched on DVD the old movie The Elephant Man. I highly recommend it to anyone too young to have caught it when it originally came out and possibly put off by its apparently dreary plot. It tells the tale of John Merrick who suffered a terrible disfiguring disease. He was a hideous freak, exploited and abused and helpless. With a little help and much love from a kind doctor, he was rehabilitated as far as possible and eventually welcomed into Victorian society. At the end of the film the camera pans across a lovely painted cardboard cathedral that he has built. The strains of a lovely adagio accompany it. Great gifts of communication were brought to the making of this film, great love is shown in that. It deeply communicated to me that John Merrick had a rich inner life, that he could make his own great mansion to God. It didn't have the permanence or talented artistic input of a St Peter's basilica, but it was his own particular and poignant expression.

This cardboard cathedral, signed by him "John Merrick", can equally symbolize his own life, his own self, his own acceptance of the hidden beauty inside the hideous material house of his soul. The scene of this signing occurs as he approaches death with acceptance and even longing. We get the strong impression of a union of life and death, of God and ego, of man and soul mate.

And Rumi's first line here, as so many of his lines do, evokes that union. The "I" that treads the path of God is itself trodden on. For the traveller and the path are one. And yet the distinctions must be maintained, else an amorphous blob is the result. The union is also one of coming together and drawing apart, like breathing in and breathing out. Rumi's right here. We must find time to eat and time to sleep. And yet, as ever, he makes this sensible claim so unconvincingly.


At Saturday, 26 November, 2005, Blogger Bob Hoeppner said...

One of the reasons I like The Elephant Man is that it has Anthony Hopkins in it. I was an Anthony Hopkins fan since I saw him moderating in The Ascent of Man based on Jacob Bronowski's book. I first saw him when I was a kid in The Lion in Winter, and I really started liking his acting in Magic.

At Saturday, 26 November, 2005, Blogger Arizona said...

Yes, his performance was also a key to the movie's brilliance. A very difficult role to play, too.


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