Translated by Daniel Ladinsky in The Gift: Poems by Hafiz, The Great Sufi Master
This poem by Hafiz is dedicated to the Mothers and Fathers brave enough to go into that private room with God, ready to be shaken for the sake of the children in your care, awakened to agape.
Love wants to reach out and manhandle us,
Break all our teacup talk of God.
If you had the courage and
Could give the Beloved His choice, some nights,
He would just drag you around the room
By our hair,
Ripping from your grip all those toys in the world
That bring you no joy.
Love sometimes gets tired of speaking sweetly
And wants to rip to shreds
All your erroneous notions of truth
That make you fight within yourself, dear one,
And with others,
Causing the world to weep
On too many fine days.
God wants to manhandle us,
Lock us inside of a tiny room with Himself
And practice His dropkick.
The Beloved sometimes wants
To do us a great favor:
Hold us upside down
And shake all the nonsense out.
But when we hear
He is in such a “playful drunken mood”
Most everyone I know
Quickly packs their bags and hightails it
Out of town.
“And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this” Mordecai said to Esther as she faced the critical crossroad that intersects with all of humanity. “In such a time as this” can you sense the wisdom energy held in the story of Esther and Vashti? calling you, in your position, whatever it may be, to wake into the movements of wisdom. Can you hear her rumbling and quaking above and below us all? The thunderous rumbling “No!” above us making the way for the quaking “Yes” in the ground below?
We can trace these holy yes’s and no’s throughout time and space, from the beginning. To trace these movements is to connect to the continuous and subtle movements of birth and death that are at first seemingly futile and meaningless but at last, breathtakingly beautiful to behold even a fragment of its’ light; the flickers of the golden ratio revealed in a mustard seed.
Emerson (1803 – 1882) writes: “….of progressive souls, all loves and friendships are momentary. Do you love me? means, Do you see the same truth? If you do, we are happy with the same happiness;”
This thread seems to be a dominant thread in “such a time as this.” Is it not? A rising concentration of new estrangements from family, friends, and community in recent times. Are we possibly entrained in the mythology of the Queen in Snow White, reading and listening to the news and social media for reflections of ourselves? to find happiness in the mirror? Such is the complex that Snow White circumambulates until her essence is awakened and the spell of sleep is broken.
Emerson continues, “but presently one of us passes into the perception of new truth;—we are divorced, and no tension in nature can hold us to each other.”
Divorced?! This word incites the tragic loss and emptiness that a broken love, a broken sacred vow, a broken family of two or more leaves behind. Is it such a grief stricken emptiness that he points? What does he mean when he says, “No tension in nature can hold us to each other?” Perhaps he is pointing to the absence of anything in God’s creation or of our own creation that can hold us up “in such a time as this.” Through the absence, is he pointing to the unceasing struggle with our Creator? The lifeline that supports us from that transpersonal realm, even in our denial?
Kierkegaard (1813-1855) reflects on the “one concentrated moment” between Abraham and God, his Beloved, on the mountain in the land of Moriah. He asks, “Who is it that snatches the staff from the old man? Who is it that demands he himself must break it? Who is it that makes a man’s grey hairs disconsolate? Who is it that demands he himself must do it?” Who is this other to whom Kierkegaard points? And is the space of “no tension” our personal Mount Moriah where the movements of Truth are revealed, faith is born? in the here-and-now?
Emerson is one of the many poets in time who have held the “Yes” and the “No” in their solar plexus and left their lipstick kiss on our cheeks, helping us wake up! and grow up! He tenderly goes on….
“I know how delicious is this cup of love,—I existing for you, you existing for me; but it is a child’s clinging to his toy; an attempt to eternize the fireside and nuptial chamber; to keep the picture-alphabet through which our first lessons are prettily conveyed.”
I turn my attention now to the film Melancholia (2011) where we peer into the specter of the nuptial chamber such as the one described by Emerson. Through stunningly haunting imagery we experience the power of the “No” manifesting pre-verbally, against the egoic will clinging to toys. One glimpse into this imagery renders the desire to return to the picture-alphabet altogether understandable.
The new perception enters and is about to collide with the outworn on a global scale. Such is the handiwork of eternality.
In the story of Melancholia (2011) Justine utters the mysterious “No” amid her celebratory wedding banquet. No one understands but, clearly, everyone feels the weight of despair in the air nonetheless and defensively respond by leaning into propriety, tradition, complaining, begging, ritual of candlelight and cards, hubris and niceties, and wine while Justine becomes an object of escalating hate and ridicule, separate now from the herd. She becomes a burden, unable to eat, barely able to speak or walk. She is powerless and “too much,” the personification of frozen energy. Some might call her a nuisance, yet slowly she emerges anyway. No one can look at or see her meaning until …. they awake to the collective inescapable truth of their mortality. She meets them, without dogma or prescriptives, without complaint or ritual; rather, she merely leads them into the moment-to-moment “Yes” funeral walk into the “magnificence of nature” that is clearly not ours to command or possess, but to nurture and steward, eyes open to the end.
“I am not God” is the realization that breaks most, yet finds some. From this awareness I understand Emerson’s use of the short phrase “once abroad again” in the next lines to mean dis-identified from God, dis-identified from omnipotent control.
“The Eden of God is bare and grand: like the outdoor landscape, remembered from the evening fireside, it seems cold and desolate, whilst you cower over the coals; but, once abroad again, we pity those who can forego the magnificence of nature, for candle-light and cards.”
Yes, Emerson validates the “delicious cup of love” that is the “happiness with the same happiness” we find in particular sorts of kinship that mirror our likes and dislikes. However, he describes this sort of happiness as candle-light and cards compared to what lies beyond it.
Lying in the next chamber of the nautilus is a different sort of conversation with the true subject of “Conjugal Love.” Inside this real-time conversation eternality is revealed, isolation is broken, and a deep courage is claimed. If you have heard the gospel of John you might here the message of living water at the well: “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” Who is is that we are asking for water at “such a time as this?”
Emerson moves us away from the yolk of literalism and any confusion about what is sovereign, reminding us how easily we are compelled toward or tricked into following what is false, what is dead, what is escapist reverie, what is wrong. Why? Mostly because of what we have forgotten and what we have lost in false sincerity and broken vows. The finding of the sword wielded by Other that breaks literalism and hubris, ignorance and sentimentality, cowardice and greed, is through, only through.
“Perhaps the true subject of the “Conjugal Love” is conversation, whose laws are profoundly eliminated. It is false, if literally applied to marriage. For God is the bride or bridegroom of the soul. Heaven is not the pairing of two, but the communion of all souls. We meet, and dwell an instant under the temple of one thought, and part as though we parted not, to join another thought in other fellowships of joy. So far from there being anything divine in the low and proprietary sense of, Do you love me? it is only when you leave and lose me, by casting yourself on a sentiment which is higher than both of us, that I draw near, and find myself at your side; and I am repelled, if you fix your eye on me, and demand love.
In fact, in the spiritual world, we change sexes every moment. You love the worth in me; then I am your husband: but it is not me, but the worth, that fixes the love; and that worth is a drop of the ocean of worth that is beyond me. Meantime, I adore the greater worth in another, and so become his wife. He aspires to a higher worth in another spirit, and is wife of receiver of that influence.”
When we trace the divine “Yes” and “No” that we have been traveling on since the beginning of time, we notice how we “change sexes every moment,” we birth and die every moment, we shift from being a drop in the ocean to being the ocean …. continuously…. moment-to-moment. These continuous and subtle movements are at first seemingly futile and meaningless, frustratingly trying, but at last, breathtakingly beautiful to behold even a fragment of its’ light; the flickers of the golden ratio revealed.
“Emerson, Ralph Waldo; Carlyle, Thomas. The Complete Ralph Waldo Emerson: The Collected Works (p. 127). Bybliotech. Kindle Edition.