Monday, April 10, 2006

the divine kiss

Remembering your lips, I kiss the ruby on my ring;

One I cannot reach, I kiss the one I can.

My hand can't touch your distant sky,

And so I bow full low and kiss the land.

#1181: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

Key word: kiss

Last night I watched the second part of the Australian drama The Silence as it aired on the ABC. My son and I had nothing to do or read or watch while waiting for the program to come on. We waited in silence for the silence. At one point I started telling stories like the one about John Cage's silent piece.

4'33" was Cage's favorite work. Written in 1952, it came at the exact mid-point of his 80-year life of discovery and culminated his exploration of indeterminacy, music in which some elements are carefully scripted with others left to chance. [...] 4'33" was inspired by Cage's visit to Harvard's anechoic chamber, designed to eliminate all sound; but instead of promised silence Cage was amazed and delighted to hear the pulsing of his blood and the whistling of his nerves.

Most music is trivialized by attempts to describe it. ("The melody is announced by the flutes...") That's not a problem with 4'33". Here's how one performance went: A tuxedoed performer came on stage, sat at a grand piano, opened the lid, occasionally turned some music pages but otherwise sat as quietly as possible for 4 minutes and 33 seconds, then rose, bowed and left. And that was it.

Peter Gutmann: The Sounds of Silence

Finally, the program came on and it didn't disappoint despite having failed to impress us in the first half. This is, I think, because the major emotional theme emerged into clarity, a search for origins and identity. The hero, played by actor Richard Roxburgh, is an investigator into dark and ancient mysteries (an unsolved murder dating back almost 30 years). He is vulnerable, fragile, hurt by life's violence, and in need of his psychologist. However, he moves on, step by step, achieving a satisfying result in his investigation.

During the night, I dreamt of this actor/hero. He was to carry out an investigation for me but was notifying me, in a memo, of a change of address. I was puzzled because the place for the new address was blank. Just then, he arrived and I looked up, meaning to ask about this. However, he leaned forward and placed his face before me, close, and we kissed. It was very very sweet, that kiss. It is that first fateful kiss that signals that an important intimacy is unfolding.

I've noticed today's quatrain on the list quite often and knew it was the one for today. This verse distinguishes between what cannot and what can be reached or touched or kissed: the aspect of the whole that is transcendent and the aspect that is immanent. Some might call the first God and the second Life. If the second is also understood as God's presence, as the Shekhinah, then there is a deep identity of these two apparent opposites. I can't put my finger on why this is so, but I get a very strong sense in this Rumi quatrain that Rumi is expressing a deep love of life and a reverence for the earth, the daily ground we walk on. What is high and what is low are essentially just The One. (This is a mystic's insight and runs counter to orthodox Islamic teaching in which the earth is God's separate creation, not His dwelling place.)

It simply would not do to write of God's immanence without quoting that other most famous four-line verse excerpt:

To see a World in a grain of sand,
And a Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour

William Blake: Auguries of Innocence



At Tuesday, 11 April, 2006, Blogger Bob Hoeppner said...

I must admit I always found the Cage piece of silence to be pretentious, but congratulations on your dream!

At Tuesday, 11 April, 2006, Blogger Arizona said...

Thanks! I guess the Cage piece is a once off but some credit to him for being the one.


Post a Comment

<< Home