They say that Paradise will be perfect

12 07 2011

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.

You don’t have “bad” days and “good” days.
You don’t sometimes feel brilliant and sometimes dumb.
There’s no studying, no scholarly thinking
having to do with love,
but there is a great deal of puffing, and secret touching,
and nights you can’t remember at all.

When I die, lay out the corpse.
You may want to kiss my lips,
just beginning to decay.
Don’t be frightened
if I open my eyes.

They say that Paradise will be perfect
with lots of clear white wine
and all the beautiful women.
We hold on to times like this then,
since this is how it’s going to be.

We have a huge barrel of wine, but no cups.
That’s fine with us. Every morning
we glow and in the evening we glow again.
They say there’s no future for us.
They’re right.
Which is fine with us.

-Rumi, as translated by Coleman Barks





Souls cannot ascend without music

14 09 2010

‘Tis said, the pipe and lute that charm our ears
Derive their melody from rolling spheres;
But Faith, o’erpassing speculation’s bound,
Can see what sweetens every jangled sound.

We, who are parts of Adam, heard with him
The song of angels and of seraphim.
Our memory, though dull and sad, retains
Some echo still of those unearthly strains.

Oh, music is the meat of all who love,
Music uplifts the soul to realms above.
The ashes glow, the latent fires increase:
We listen and are fed with joy and peace.

-Rumi

as translated by R. A. Nicholson in ‘Persian Poems’, an Anthology of verse translations
edited by A.J.Arberry, Everyman’s Library, 1972





The story of the decline of many things

11 09 2009

Thus a Muslim holy man has said: “in the beginning Sufism was a reality without a name, today it is a name without reality.”

-Jean Borella, The Secret of the Christian Way





The Slave of the Koran

2 07 2009

I am the slave of the Koran
While I still have life.
I am the dust on the path of Muhammad,
The Chosen One.
If anyone interprets my words
In any other way,
I deplore that person,
And I deplore his words.

-Jalalu’ddin Rumi

The above text came as a bit of a surprise to me when I found it. After all, this is Rumi we are talking about; well-loved by poetry fans, spiritual seekers, and agnostics everywhere. This is not some closed-minded mullah who demands obedience to religious precepts, but someone who talks about love, mysticisim, and the ultimate inability to know God through human knowledge.

Read the rest of this entry »





Three posts on love – II

18 06 2009

Act I – A rustic village

Giselle, a weak-hearted young girl who is adored by her native villagers, lives with her watchful mother, Berthe. Hilarion, the village gamekeeper, is desperately in love with Giselle. Prince Albrecht, a nobleman who is already engaged to a noblewoman named Bathilde, is bored and lonely with his everyday existence. Captivated by Giselle’s frail beauty and innocence, Albrecht disguises himself as a peasant named Loys. After purchasing the cottage adjacent to Berthe’s, he proceeds to shower Giselle with his affections.

Hilarion, filled with suspicion and jealousy, becomes enraged when Giselle falls madly in love with Albrecht and believes that they are engaged.

Berthe has a vision that her daughter will one day become a Wili, a jilted maiden who dies before her wedding night. The Wilis emerge between midnight and dawn to vengefully trap any man who enters their domain by forcing him to dance to his death.

Hilarion exposes Albrecht’s disguise and proclaims that he is already betrothed to Bathilde. Overwhelmingly distraught and horrified, Giselle dies of a broken heart.

Act II – A forest clearing

Hilarion is discovered just before midnight keeping vigil by Giselle’s tomb. As midnight approaches, the Wilis appear with their leader, Queen Myrta. This is the night Giselle is to be initiated as a Wili.

Albrecht, laden with feelings of guilt and remorse, visits Giselle’s grave. He sees a vision of Giselle and follows it into the forest. At this point, Myrta discovers Hilarion in the forest and orders the Wilis to dance around him until he dies from exhaustion. She then discovers Albrecht and demands that he share the same fate as Hilarion but is unable to permeate the invisible bond of love that Giselle has for him.

At dawn, when the Wilis lose their power and must retreat to their dwelling place, Albrecht is saved and Giselle forgives him. Giselle returns with the Wilis and recognizes that now she will be one of them for the rest of time.

(Synopsis taken from this site.)

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Feminists would no doubt cringe at this story, and they would have good reason to do so. After all, a woman dying for love of a man, and then forgiving him to the point of saving his life from the souls of other broken-hearted women who would unleash their just wrath against him… no wonder they call Giselle one of the greatest of the romantic ballets (as opposed to the “classic” ones). Under of all of this emotional kitsch, however, there is a lost grammar buried, one where love counts not the cost of its own sacrifices, even if it leads to death or eternal damnation, as in the case of our own Giselle. Buried outside of God’s forgiveness, on unconsecrated ground, to haunt the night with all of the other souls in the outer darkness, she still finds it in herself to show love to the man who betrayed her. Melodrama? Yes. But can there be something more profound there? Absolutely.

This all didn’t sit well with part of me. Part of me is like all of you: it asks first of love: what’s in it for me? But there is still that childish voice of a St. Therese and others who would say: I would like to be in Hell so there would be someone even there who loves God. Love speaks like that, amour fou, love that loses itself in the other. It transcends ideology, and it transcends common sense, and part of me feels that we are less and less capable of even admiring such displays. Giselle, for all of its emotional cheesiness, at least gets that much across.

Wonderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.
It doesn’t matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow
a thousand times
Come, yet again, come, come.

-Rumi





Wholly soul

11 05 2009

primaverap

The springtime of Lovers has come,
that this dust bowl may become a garden;
the proclamation of heaven has come,
that the bird of the soul may rise in flight.
The sea becomes full of pearls,
the salt marsh becomes sweet as kauthar,
the stone becomes a ruby from the mine,
the body becomes wholly soul.

-Rumi





Unlettered

31 03 2009

siyer-i_nebi_5

The Prophet is not called ‘unlettered’ because he was unable to write. He was called that because his ‘letters’, his knowledge and wisdom were innate, not acquired. What can partial intellect have that universal intellect has not? The partial intellect is not capable of inventing anything it has not seen before. Recall the story of the raven: when Cain killed Abel and stood not knowing what to do with the body. One raven killed another, dug out the earth, buried the dead raven and scratched the earth over the body. From this Cain learned how to dig a grave and bury a body. All trades are like this. The possessor of partial intellect requires instruction while those who have united the partial with the universal intellect and become one are prophets and saints.

-Mevlana Jalalu’ddin Rumi





Some Absorbing Work

13 03 2009

I am part of the load
Not rightly balanced
I drop off in the grass,
like the old Cave-sleepers, to browse
wherever I fall.

For hundreds of thousands of years I have been dust-grains
floating and flying in the will of the air,
often forgetting ever being
in that state, but in sleep
I migrate back. I spring loose
from the four-branched, time -and-space cross,
this waiting room.

I walk into a huge pasture
I nurse the milk of millennia

Everyone does this in different ways.
Knowing that conscious decisions
and personal memory
are much too small a place to live,
every human being streams at night
into the loving nowhere, or during the day,
in some absorbing work.

-Rumi





The Spirit of the Saints

8 10 2008

There is a Water that flows down from Heaven
To cleanse the world of sin by grace Divine.
At last, its whole stock spent, its virtue gone.
Dark with pollution not its own, it speeds
Back to the Fountain of all purities;
Whence, freshly bathed, earthward it sweeps again,
Trailing a robe of glory bright and pure.

This Water is the Spirit of the Saints,
Which ever sheds, until itself is beggared,
God’s balm on the sick soul; and then returns
To Him who made the purest light of Heaven.

– Rumi, as translated by R. A. Nicholson in ‘Persian Poems’, an Anthology of verse translations edited by A.J.Arberry, Everyman’s Library, 1972, found on this site