Tuesday, March 21, 2006

God only knows

What can I do, my love? I'm in love with your face.

Your beautiful eyes make me shy, what can I do?

Each and every moment, passion rises, peaks, flows,

And I haven't a clue about what to do, God knows.

#1342: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

Key word: face

I decided on today's verse because the idea of a face came up again. A lot of the sentiment in this poem is similar to the adolescent falling-in-love experience that is a favourite with pop singers targeting the audience caught up in that particular mess. I've been wondering whether this poem could work as a pop song and it just doesn't feel right. A male singer will admit to some helplessness but not to the extent that Rumi indulges in here. Today, a singer would sound silly connecting the passion to deity, suggesting that God is behind it all.

There is a story told about the great mystic poet Hafiz in which he kept a forty nights vigil at the tomb of an earlier great mystic poet in the hope of obtaining the hand of a beautiful woman named Shakh-e-Nabat (branch of sugarcane). When his vigil was almost complete he received a vision in which an angel asked what was his heart's desire. Hafiz was at first dumbstruck but eventually managed to blurt out: "I want God!" He then went on to find a spiritual teacher and become a great spiritual teacher in his turn. This story tries to explain how the love of a woman can be subtly driven by an underlying yearning for God.

The other greatest of mystic poets of Islam is Ibn Arabi who travelled a good deal but settled long enough in Anatolia to raise a family in the later part of his life. For the Sufi "God's call" is simply an inner call to develop and realize one's potential and that can mean, as in Hafiz's case, to accept the loss of a sweetheart and it can also mean, as in Ibn Arabi's case, to take on the joys and responsibilities of ordinary family life. It's never too clear, when one is in love, in which direction things will go. Neither direction - the living out or the sublimation - is universally right. It depends on each person, the truth is unique to each. In that sense, certainly, God only knows.


At Friday, 24 March, 2006, Blogger Bob Hoeppner said...

Yes, I read the same Hafiz story. I winced when I read what he did. I definitely would have chosen the woman!

At Saturday, 25 March, 2006, Blogger Arizona said...

You're quite right. Hafiz acted the perfect idiot in this story. It is stupid both to want to possess a woman and to want to possess God.


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