Wednesday, January 6, 2016

I Was Sleeping

I was sleeping, and being comforted
by a cool breeze, when suddenly a grey dove
from a thicket sang and sobbed with longing,
and reminded me of my own passion.

I had been away from my own soul so long,
so late-sleeping, but that dove's crying
woke me and made me cry. Praise
to all early-waking grievers!

- Adi al-Riga, as quoted by Jelaluddin Balkhi (Rumi)

* * *

The call can come from anywhere. The voice sounding in the wilderness could be a dove song from a thicket. The birth-cry of a new life could come from something mis-spoken, or spoken in anger. The alarm can be raised from the sound of rain. It does not matter where the call comes from, its source or its intention, only that you have the ears to hear it.

Really, anything will do.

Must you wait for the sound of a god thundering from on high? How many lessons must you repeat before you drop your guard and listen? What if the world that surrounds you - in its beauty and grim violence, its cacophony of voices and empty, quiet places - what if the world was ceaselessly calling you out of your sleep, calling you to remember yourself, your passion, your truest self? What if in the smallest gesture - a bird alighting on a branch - you could enter your life shorn of your fears? 

I'm not saying you can. 
What I'm saying is it is possible to be done with your awful half-life at any moment and the trigger to that moment can come from anywhere.

Even a grey dove written in a book 800 years ago.

* * *

Listen, the world is shit. It always has been. It always will be. Human beings are, in the end, motivated more by fear than hope and out of that fear comes the shitty, inequitable, unjust world we live in. Your life is fucked because there is a disconnect inside you between the fear and the hope. You want to resist the former, but fear the latter is foolish and you stand between them: neither hot nor cold. And it tears you up inside. Baby, this I know. And you'd give anything to move from that spot. Anything that is except actually moving. You wait on signs. You wait on occasions. Everything must be just so before you are ready to change: your mother has to apologize (and she's dead), the NRA has to be dis-banded, a white moth has to enter your room at midnight. Whatever. You promise to change when the world has changed to suit you. Not how it works and you are being called out of your dolor with everything that surrounds you - good or bad - but you refuse the message.

Because you have come to believe your identity is measured out in pain, suffering and longing. 

You're wrong, love. Please stop.

* * *

On one of my shelves is a four-volume set of Don Quixote published in 1820. There's some foxing on the end pages and the full Moroccan leather is a bit cracked in places. This is not, in the world of book collecting, a valuable set. But it means everything to me. I bought this set sometime around 1985. In four years it will pass the 200 year mark and once that happens I will give the books to my oldest child. I have taken it as my task to shepherd those books safely to 200. The point is those books call to me to care for them, to see them through while I can, to pass them on. Once upon a time I read passages of the books aloud to my girlfriend who briefly became my wife. When she and I were no more I was pushed out on a journey that took me to a Trappist monastery where one of the monks told me: "God is always calling us into our name. It is all around you. You just have to listen." And so a set of books bought secondhand, once charmingly read aloud to a once beloved, books that have traveled at my side, books I will let go of once my promise is kept, books that sit quietly waiting to be read again, these too are a call out of my cares and into my life because there is story and meaning there. Connections I wove to remind myself of the road I've been on.

And you? Look around you right now. What calls to you to wake the fuck up?

Really, anything will do.

You just have to allow yourself to choose it, to choose to listen for it.

* * *

After the poem by al-Riga, Rumi writes:

"Some go first, and others come long afterward. God blesses both and all in the line, and replaces what has been consumed, and provides for those who work the soil of helpfulness, and blesses Muhammad and Jesus and every other messenger and prophet. Amen, and may the Lord of all created beings bless you."

One needn't be a believer to know the truth of this: all prophets and messengers were once asleep and then one morning they heard a dove's song.

* * *



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