Thursday, February 02, 2006

the pen and the eyelash

When your love drives me crazy, that day

I dare things, madly, that demons would not.

Your eyelash alone does to my heart

What the pen of the scribe of fate cannot.

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

Search word: love

My computer crashed last night and has just been repaired so that I can get back to this blog, albeit a little later than usual.

Love and power have been on my mind lately. Also, science and religion and the messages each brings to us. I associate science with power because "might is right" is so much the reality of life where no religiously inspired moral system prevails. Love and compassion are not the norm in raw nature and this is what science limits itself to. On the other hand "love conquers" is a crazy idea that only a nutty mystic like Rumi could adhere to.

Rumi here contrasts the motivational force of a tiny hint of love's power to the deterministic effect of fate. Fate pushes us blindly forward from behind, while love leads us on toward an ideal. The basic message of science is also fatalistic: We are what we are as a result of the culminating forces of nature, of history and of evolution. There is no purpose, no grand deity, drawing us forward toward an ultimate goal. In religion, it is this purposeful aspect of our experience of life that is emphasized and elaborated.

Modern secular humanism doesn't ascribe to fate, however. It says that we are individuals who can make choices and determine our futures for ourselves. Not completely, of course, not 100% for we can't control everything around us. But we do have some control, we're not helpless or hapless victims of the forces of nature and the human environment. And yet science can only find empirical factors to determine our choices: each choice derives from our genetic makeup as it interacts with our environment. There is no real need for a soul in the mix, no real need for an ego, let alone a god. Even the mind (the mainly intellectual portion of soul) is denied empirical reality, dismissed as a mere fanciful ghost inside the machine of our brain.

Rumi was inspired to speak out in his day, to emphasize love and mystical experience over power and the prison of fear that allowed little or no religious interpretation outside what had been set down in the Quran. "What has been written" was so sacred to those early Muslims and even today, the power of the words of the Quran hold great sway on Muslim minds. It is amazing to think that such words, inscribed on the walls and panels of mosques and other grand architecture, could be seen as the ultimate decoration. I can't imagine English words, inscribed in stone using the standard stolid Roman alphabet, being a thing of beauty. There is a flow to the Arabic calligraphy that does allow for emotional expression. Rumi used a similar calligraphy for the Persian that he most usually wrote in. Many admirers of his also admire the beauty of his words as written in this script. Part of his message is surely lost without it.

And yet I'm discovering more and more that Rumi is translatable, much beauty and wisdom can survive the processes of transliteration and translation, as well as the great passage of time since he invented his verses. His was a communicative power far greater than that evident in the Quran. I think he also knew that he had this genius and that it would take centuries for it to mature.

With all the recent talk from Iran about the possible use of nuclear weapons and the blunt counter talk from Western nations, the tensions between the two cultures might come to a head. I only hope that the bridges, such as Rumi built, will be attended to and strengthened, thus allowing less brutality and bloodshed in determining the outcome. We all need our visionary poets more than ever now.

But more even than poets we need a lover's heart, such as Rumi expressed in his verses. We need a lover's consciousness and a lover's eye. They say the pen is mightier than the sword but the lover's eyelash is mightier still.


At Thursday, 02 February, 2006, Blogger Bob Hoeppner said...

I can't believe three posts have gone by already! I'll probably catch up tomorrow. Sorry!

At Friday, 03 February, 2006, Blogger Bob Hoeppner said...

I like that, about the lover's eyelash. He brought that up before, didn't he?

At Friday, 03 February, 2006, Blogger Arizona said...

I've been reading your own posts but finding nothing much to say in response, so I'm hardly in a position to complain!

I can't recall any other reference to eyelashes. Maybe you saw it elsewhere?


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