Sunday, March 12, 2006

a trespass

Being alive is a trespass without you.

Without you, what life can this living be?

Light of my life, each lifetime that passes

Without you is death; that's living for me.

#1397: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

Key word: trespass

The word trespass caught my eye this morning. I can't say what the original Farsi (Persian) word used by Rumi is or means, beyond some general sense of sin, but in the English the etymology of trespass points to a passing beyond or across, such as the passing from life into death, from conformity into originality, from lawfulness into crime, from sleep into wakefulness. In each case the soul rests in the status quo but dares to cross a divide (or is pushed across if the daring is lacking).

I certainly have a sense of having done that in recent times. I have pushed the boundaries of language until a barrier was erected and a "no" declared. The specific sentence that marked the crossing of the boundary was this:

I spit on your Quran and I spit on your Mohammad.

If today's quatrain is read conventionally, it sounds like adolescent twaddle, pop song banalities. However, if one crosses over into a search for an underlying meaning, this little verse is really quite cute. A key, I believe, lies in Rumi's love of opposites, especially the laying of one idea over another. Paradox is the bread and butter of the mystic and Rumi likes to convey paradox through this verbal overlaying.

We know that "light of my life" refers to Shams and we know that Shams has been compared to Jesus with both god-men having died and having been resurrected. Shams crossed from life into death by being pushed by his murderers but I'm sure he also pushed them to it by his original ideas. He was undoubtedly pushing the boundaries of religious speculation and dragging Rumi along with him. So Shams, in a verse about sinning or straying from the straight-and-narrow, represents that very sinning. Rumi is saying, in fact: You can't be truly alive without sinning; and the greatest sin of all is to fail to be truly alive.

Now that message is not what your average lovelorn pop singer is trying to convey ... or is it? There is a revolutionary spirit even in the most benign or banal of pop songs. Even the Beatles' "I wanna hold your hand" conveys a yearning for simple relationship that challenged the norms, the conventional expectations of romance. The challenge became more evident with the Rolling Stones and the later "angry" or more deliberately provocative artists. In all cases where the art has moved us we have been challenged to move over a boundary line toward a fresh perspective.

My own spit statement was intended to be provocative but it only reached the moderator of the list where it was censored, pulled up short, denied passage. Now I understand why that list and others like it seem so dead to me. They don't let the "light of my life" through, they don't allow the sunlight to come through. This is because they see the sun in a childish, shallow way, rather resembling an inane smiley. No, the sunshine is more than that, far far more than that.

Marty Feldman

Marty Feldman @



At Monday, 13 March, 2006, Blogger Bob Hoeppner said...

Damn your eyes!

--Too late!


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