Saturday, February 11, 2006

a living bloom

A nightingale with a beautiful voice

Sang by a stream: 'You can make a flower

Of jewels and gold, even add perfume,

But it won't have a flower's true bloom.'

#1000: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

I decided to continue with the theme of artistic expression today since I visited art galleries yesterday and then, during the night, I dreamt about my own coming performance. I was most inspired and encouraged yesterday by an exhibition of art works by Nelson Mandela (originally launched back in 2003). He is, of course, a major symbol of triumph over hardship and adversity, after spending those 17 years at the Robben Island prison. However, what moved me most was his entry into the world of artists at such an advanced age (of 85 years in 2003). This gives hope to a "youngster" like myself who hasn't yet hit the 60 mark.

mandela hands

Nelson Mandela: Impressions of Africa @

I agree with Rumi's nightingale that there is nothing like a flower in bloom. Because I've been discussing religion and Sufic gnosticism of late, I'm happy to compare these using this metaphor. It is likely that it was indeed Rumi's own intent to do so.

An established religion is a concretization of a lived religious experience. It is usually a primary founder's followers who do this work, while the founder is the one living through communion with God (or the Goddess or the gods or the nature spirits, etc, as the case may be). Because the founder's experience is entirely natural and immediate, it is like the flower in bloom. The beauty is tied to a living soul and when that soul leaves it can seem that the flower goes too. In their grief the followers try to "capture" the flower initially in writings that become the core of sacred texts. Typically they collect together and revere sayings of their beloved saintly founder. Then they may add iconography, sacred music and songs, and perhaps eventually the grander forms of architecture. These are like the flower re-created in jewels and gold with perfume added. They can but recall the direct experience of God or of the Holy Person.

All of our current great heroes and artists (and Mandela is both) are like the flower in bloom. Each will die eventually (however hard it may be to believe that of either Mandela or yesterday's Jagger, still so youthful in his advanced years). They are our living channels to divinity. I'm not sure we can reach divinity without them for it is in our attraction to each that we can come to know ourselves. One will appeal, another will not. By following the guidance of that appeal, we follow a path to our own self-realization.

The path is so different for each of us that there is no way that a single concretized flower can be put forth as the one to revere. I'm sure that the Quran appealed to Cat Stevens when he transformed into Yusuf Islam. I accept that it led to the divine for him. However, to think that it is a pathway to the divine that can work for all or most is foolishness. To imagine that it has or ever could have a universal appeal is foolishness. That time is well and truly past for Islam has received so much bad press of late that I cannot imagine it ever recovering. I'm sure that God does care about His image and would seek other ways to manifest.

As Rumi suggests, there is no need to browse the great libraries of the world anyway, it is good enough to smell the fresh roses in the garden and to follow Voltaire's advice of cultivating our own gardens, even if that is but a small pot plant on the window sill.


At Saturday, 11 February, 2006, Blogger Bob Hoeppner said...

Started reading Rumi's Masnavi last night. Translator is Mojadeddi(?), or something like that. Good so far.

At Sunday, 12 February, 2006, Blogger Arizona said...

I think you have the Jawid Mojaddedi translation, Oxford World's Classics. I'd love any feedback on how his version might differ from ones I refer to.


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