Tuesday, January 03, 2006


You are all held captive behind this veil,

But if you escape you will yet be kings.

The water of life speaks to all creatures:

'Die for me, die on the shore of my stream.'

#1651: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

Search word: all

All's well with the world. I've heard from my son and I know all's well with him, so now I can relax and enjoy my own holiday. The dreadful heat wave on Sunday was followed yesterday by an almost autumnal day, down to 22 C at midday. I was almost tempted to dig up my winter slippers. It looks like another cool and overcast day today.

This Rumi verse reminds us of the ephemeral veil-like qualities of day consciousness, the short story that our senses create for us each day: how strong the light, how hot or cold, how is my health, how are my loved ones? At night we leave a story thread open, unfinished, so that we'll wake next morning wanting to know what happened next. I feel addicted to the story of my life, helplessly clinging to the eternal question of just what is around the corner, a perpetual curiosity that feeds the gossipmonger in me.

Can I really escape from this? Can I really die at the edge of the water of life? And if I did die, precisely what - I have to ask - would happen next?

If the Koran has negative things to say about poets, it is especially devastating in its attack on gossipmongers, which takes up the meagre but potent 9 verses of the 104th surah, al-Humazah: The Slanderer (or Traducer or Gossipmonger or Backbiter). None of the translations of this chapter is entirely satisfactory, especially when confronted with the Arabic term El'Hutamah in 104:4, which has been variously translated as "That which Breaks to Pieces" (Yusufali), "the Consuming One" (Pickthall), "crushing disaster" (Shakir), "the Devastator" (Khalifa). I'll use a little of each in the following:

Woe to every slanderer, defamer, (S)
He hoards money and counts it. (K)
Thinking that his wealth would make him last for ever! (Y)
Nay! he shall most certainly be hurled into the crushing disaster, (S)
Do you know what the Devastator is? (K)
It is the fire kindled by Allah, (S)
It burns them inside out. (K)
Lo! it is closed in on them (P)
In extended columns. (S)


Now, if that's not a neat recipe for what happened on sep11 2001, I can't imagine a better. There stood the tall towers of the slanderous defamer, hoarding and counting his money at the stock exchange and thinking this makes him a God. Down comes the Devastator, crashing into him and bursting his very heart into flames, not in just one attack but several, from all directions of the compass and to each of his vital organs. This is El'Hutamah, Allah's Commander-in-Chief, realized by his humble servants here on earth and in the full glare of TV cameras.

If I am right and this surah was the inspiration for those events, then no one should discount poetry for, however one might judge this particular one, it is a rhyming verse in the original Arabic. It is technically a piece of poetry. Sadly too, it is easy enough to imagine how today's verse by Rumi - however lyrical and benign - could also have been part of the recipe.


At Tuesday, 03 January, 2006, Blogger Bob Hoeppner said...

I read that English poetry imported the concept of rhyme from Arabic poetry. Today I read "The Muses Among Us" by Kim Stafford, where he speaks about the necessity of poetry in democratic politics. I'll give more details on myspace.

At Tuesday, 03 January, 2006, Blogger Arizona said...

I'll look forward to that.

BTW, I'm not madly keen on the commenting system at myspace. They make me login which sends me to my own empty space from which I must return to your myspace and find the post I was trying to comment on in the first place. As a consequence I'm saving up commenting until I've got a few of them so as to make it all worthwhile. Not very spontaneous, so I thought I'd explain my behaviour.

At Wednesday, 04 January, 2006, Blogger Bob Hoeppner said...

And here I thought you were just snubbing me! ;-)


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