Friday, April 14, 2006

gentle cruelty

Gentle hearts, who scatter seeds of loyalty

And rain pure goodness down on this black earth:

You've heard, no matter where, the state I'm in;

Don't separate me from my love again.

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

Last night the second episode of South Park's "Cartoon Wars" was aired. It really had nothing to say and yet also everything to say. It is silly enough to be taken any which way one wants.

Bush on South Park

Bush on South Park @

President Bush arriving at Fox studios concerned to stop the airing of a cartoon depicting the prophet Mohamad.

In fact, there is controversy among today's blogs over whether the episode was genuinely self-censored (by cutting the brief scene in which Mohamad does actually appear) or whether this was a semi-serious joke. It's hard to tell where the serious lies and where the whimsical, the farcical, or the just plain inane.

I'm perplexed by today's quatrain and also by the latest Mathnawi excerpt from Sunlight:

  This world is a dream — don't be deluded;
if in a dream a hand is lost, it's no harm.
  In dreams, no real damage is done
if the body is maimed or torn in two hundred pieces.
  The Prophet said of this apparently substantial world
that it is but the sleeper's dream.
  You've accepted this as an idea,
but the spiritual traveler has beheld this truth with an open eye.
  You are asleep in the daytime; don't say this is not sleep.

Mathnawi III: 1729; 1732-1735), version by Camille and Kabir Helminski

Who are these "gentle hearts" who seem to spread good things around and yet are also asked not to separate Rumi from his love again? What is gentle about a heart that would be so cruel? I'm also disturbed by the implication in the Mathnawi excerpt that mutilation, maiming and dismemberment are somehow not "real" events. Because the body is damaged and not the soul, it somehow doesn't matter. Even if a person dreams of dismemberment, it matters for it shows the soul is disintegrating. This is a dangerous phase, not always followed by resurrection.

Today is Good Friday and probably the most serious theological difference of opinion between Christian and Muslim concerns what happened on the first Good Friday. The Quran claims Jesus did not die but was taken up to Allah instead. Tradition has it that Judas miraculously took Jesus' place on the cross, fooling the Jewish crowd and Roman executioners. This denial of Jesus' genuine suffering and genuine humanity seems to me to be echoed in Rumi's assertion that we are deluded if we believe our daytime senses. A big problem lies, I believe, in the fact that our daytime senses would confirm that Jesus did truly die but it requires the symbolic eyes of the dreaming state in order to detect and confirm Jesus' resurrection. The events lie in different planes of reality. In other words, both Muslims and (most) Christians have got it wrong. (An exception among the Christians, of course, is John Shelby Spong.)

See also, M. J. Fisher: A Topical Study of the Qur'an.

I am now left with just 10 quatrains on which to comment and I am wanting to come to a conclusion about Rumi. At present, I am undecided, not too sure that he has a substantial contribution to make to the world today. Anti-Islamists claim that he opened the door to Islamic conversion through his sweet words, only to hand converts over to the cruelties of the Islamic reality. I have to admit there is plausible evidence of this but still, the jury remains out.


At Friday, 14 April, 2006, Blogger Bob Hoeppner said...

Kinda looks like John Lennon standing next to George.

At Saturday, 15 April, 2006, Blogger Arizona said...

More like McCartney, I think, with Ringo on the other side. The only two left, in fact.


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