Tuesday, January 17, 2006

the lovely one

Not just her laugh and her face are lovely;

Her anger, her moods, her harsh words are too.

Like it or not, she demands my life.

Who cares for life? Her demand's lovely too.

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

During the night I don't so much as dream but rather spend time in a reverie in which the good battles it out with the evil: justice tries to overcome injustice, reality tries to triumph over delusion, and truth tries to gain ascendancy over lies. We all seem to be caught inside this perhaps illusory drama.

Rumi is in love with the lovely today and he sees it expressed in a sweet laugh and a pretty face (as anyone would) but also in the petty annoyances of shifting moods and in the hurt of angry words. Above all, it is Her demands that Rumi most appreciates even as he watches them consume the hours and the days of his life.

This lovely "She" that commands him is the divine presence that we call by various names: our calling, our vocation, our destiny, our fate. No doubt it is grounded in our genetic makeup, in our natural capacities and gifts. However, it presents itself to us as a personality and it demands to be experienced as such. It shuns intellectual categories like multiple intelligences or personality type, let alone the scientific pedantry of DNA clusters.

No, no, that's no way to communicate. She (or more often "He" for a woman) insists on arriving wrapped inside the longing for a beloved and She does become exactly like a wife, if accepted and committed to: annoying, demanding, sometimes even tedious. However, to love her deeply as Rumi did is to love one's own deepest self, the self we can never be fully aware of because so much of it is outside our conscious perception and control. Indeed, it may be truer to say that we spend our whole lives beside ourselves, never fully inside ourselves. Perhaps, as Rumi has suggested, only death delivers that most complete identification.

This is very individualistic thinking and Sufism has been characterized as such in stark contrast to orthodox Islam which would seem to insist that every good Muslim conform to a set mould. The underlying idea, no doubt as originally communicated to Mohammad through his own vocational muse, is that God moulds each of us to a particular design and it is that design that we should accept and indeed become slaves to. The processes of creating an Islamic empire, of compiling the core Islamic sacred text, of establishing rituals in the interest of social cohesion, of codifying Islam's complex system of justice, all of these conspired to losing track of this essentially individualistic message.

We, in the West, have also risked losing sight of it. The greatest dangers, as I see it, lie in the industrialized schooling system, now compounded by the administering of powerful drugs to kids whose divine calling does not sit comfortably inside this straight-jacket. There is no surer way to kill off God than to kill God's seed inside our children before it can even germinate. I suspect that this ongoing slaughter of the divine is what is behind the strong emotions of the anti-abortionists. In their minds they visualize a life inside a womb, a life being sucked out before it can even begin to develop. Surely this lost life is the lovely "She" that Rumi knew to recognize and nurture. I'm far from being convinced that the West does indeed see Her and protect Her any better than Muslim society does.

Thank God She lives, at least, through Rumi and shines through his example.


At Tuesday, 17 January, 2006, Blogger Bob Hoeppner said...

Yes, I would take a lover's rage and annoyance over her silence and apathy any day.


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