Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Night Hides A World, But Reveals A Universe.

I love to read the proverbs of other cultures. I love how it reminds us we are all so much alike. To me there is something very compelling, very salt of the earth about the oral tradition of a phrase that has stood the test of so many generations, that has survived the revisionists and the post modernists and the younger generations chaffing under the disciplines of their elders, throwing off the shackles of tradition. It speaks of course to a proverb's practical wisdom that so many lips for so long have uttered the phrases and felt completely justified if not obligated to do so. Today I have been reading Iranian proverbs and poetry.

The main text of poster is an Iranian proverb means: "Our cow doesn't milk, but pisses plenty", that describing a person who tends to make mess of things, rather than making them right.

These Iranian proverbs range from the practical:

Habits are first cobwebs, then cables.

You can’t push on a rope.

The joy of finding something is often worth more than what is found.

The larger a man's roof the more snow it collects. 

Standard fare really, similar sentiments found in every language, every culture under the sun. A testament to their universal truth. Then the slightly more abstracted, at least if nothing else by the translations:

A drowning man is not troubled by rain.

Every man is the king of his own beard.

He who has been bitten by a snake fears a piece of string.

The lion (and the lioness fellas) is most handsome when looking for food.

But there are also the romantic ones. I like these best:

The loveliest of faces are to be seen by moonlight, when one sees half with the eye and half with the fancy. 

Only a heart can find the way to another heart.

A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous. 

A woman knows the face of the man she loves like a sailor knows the open sea. 

Then there are those that bridge the gap between proverb and poetry, where the best of Persian culture begins to bleed through:

This is love: to fly toward a secret sky... Finally, to take a step without feet.

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.

The minute I heard my first love story I started looking for you..

But it is the Persian poets that I believe really capture the essence of the heart of the Iranian people. Such passion and such reckless abandon to it. Hafiz has always been my favorite. He was a master of love poetry:

...Your love 
Should never be offered to the mouth of a 
Only to someone 
Who has the valor and daring 
To cut pieces of their soul off with a knife 
Then weave them into a blanket 
To protect you...


...One regret, dear, 
That I am determined not to have 
When I am lying on my deathbed 
Is that 
I did not kiss you enough.... 

and the sensuous and heady..

Lean your sweet neck and mouth 
Out of that dark nest where you hide, 
I will pour effulgence into your mind. 

Artist's rendering of the most famous Persian poet Hafiz.
Hafiz also wrote about our relationship to God with such unapologetic romance and passion. The way that relationship should be. Intoxicated by the Spirit:

I am a hole in a flute that the Christ's breath moves through.....listen to this music.

I am happy even before I have reason. I am full of light even before the sky can greet the sun or moon. Dear companions, we have been in love with God for so very, very long; what can we now do but forever dance?

This place where you are right now
God circled on a map for you
Wherever your eyes and arms and heart can move 
Against the earth and sky,
The Beloved has bowed there – 
Our Beloved has bowed there knowing 
You were coming

But my all time favorite has always been this one. To me it speaks about the surpassing joy that comes from knowing God, of resting in the finished work of Grace, of letting go and surrendering to the mysterious wonder of His sacrificial, unconditional, never ending love.

What is the difference between your experience of existence and that of a saint? The saint knows that the spiritual path is a sublime chess game with God and that the Beloved has just made such a fantastic move that the saint is now continually tripping over joy and bursting out in laughter and saying, I surrender! Whereas, my dear, I am afraid you still think you have a thousand serious moves.

I do not agree with some of Hafiz's philosophy, and he has certainly been mistranslated as have all poets. But he consistently touched this truth. That the heart of man and the heart of God have a gravity, a convergent trajectory. That we are made for this collision, and that we should stop resisting the pull. As Hafiz would say..

Just sit there 
Just sit there right now
Don't do a thing
Just rest
For your separation from God 
Is the hardest work in this world

For NKA...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I Wish I Was Superman.

She says "I want you to write a poem about the world through a child’s eyes, and then how it changes so much as that same child grows screwed up everything that seemed so magical and amazing becomes, how we don't see things the same way, how our innocence and purity fades as we get older... That is what I want please Mark."

I cannot say no to her....(Why would I ever want to?) But how do you write a poem for a girl who is a poem. It is like sitting in a garden full of flowers looking at a photo of flowers, well something like that. 

But I think she wants more than a poem. I think she wants Superman to fly backwards around the world and reset the whole damn thing. I think she wants a world full of kids to get to be happy for just one day. I think she wants more than a poem, but then a poem is possible, a poem is not too much to hope for. A poem is not too much to ask. I wish I was Superman. That words were super powers.

I close my eyes. A fuzzy picture from Sunday school. Jesus with softness in his eyes, children on his lap. "Let the little children come to me for this is the Kingdom of Heaven." Jesus with fire flaring from his stare, better to tie a stone to your throat, he hisses, throw yourself into the sea, than to cause a child to lose faith in magic, to take their innocence. 

Poems are too hard to write, poems write themselves. Every poet knows that. The rest are liars. Give credit where it is due. Poems are their own muse. But I will do this. Anything for her. She deserves this and so much more. I will write her a poem.

But first I start with a list. A list of childhood:

The beetle king and queen and their kingdom of dirt.

Jack the cloud giant. 

The dog with his pillow saddle, a jump rope for reigns, a forked twig tucked into the elastic of underwear, the best six-shooter ever.

A sheet is always a cape. A scarf a secret identity. A limb is always a sword, except when it is a horse and usually both.

Cardboard rocketships. Couch cushion mission control.

Fresh cut grass and puddles upon puddles. Sloppy happy toe-soaking puddles.

Sticky tricky popsicles. Always popsicles.

But this is my childhood, not hers. Not the one that hundreds of thousands of children have. Wasting away in brothels and brick kilns. Innocence shattered. Magic a fools errand.

When we were young we preferred picture books, distrusted the thick volumes on the high shelves. Such unaffected vanity to tell us exactly how to feel, to not show us a picture and let us figure it out. And always some mothballed woolen mustached great aunt trying to kiss us. Well kisses are for turning frogs to princes, for dad to say he is sorry to mum, for last goodbyes. Kisses are not for yuck, nevermind. Girls are NOT allowed into the fort.

But if you feed us we grow. Children become adults. Play becomes work. War doesn't end at dinner time. The dead don't get dessert.

So I make another list. A responsible list. An adult one:

The beetle infestation in the yard. Call the exterminator. Monday will be fine. After 12.

These are the names of clouds. Cirrus, Cumulus, Stratus, Nimbus. Not Jack. Never Jack.

The dog is not a toy. The dog means this is the perfect life. The 2nd car, the dog, and the 401K. All on the list. All checked off.

Sheets and scarves are bought for their thread count. Twigs and limbs dull the lawnmower blades. They are for the burn pile. Only burn when there has been rain. Never on windy days.

Cardboard is to be recycled. Couch cushions go on the couch. 

You are tracking grass and mud and water onto the....WIPE YOUR FEET!

Eat more fiber. Be regular. Regular is the key. You should have a bowel movement twice a day. Anything less is irregular. Take two of these and call your doctor if the condition persists.

Truth is, adults like picture books too. Books that make them feel what they cannot feel, souls so callous from excess. Child porn is pandemic. Sex the currency of hearts. There is a reason why adultery has the word adult in it. Let the grown ups do their dirty deeds, but what about the flesh trade in innocence?? What the hell is that? They did not choose this life!

That brings us to another list. Another reality. A list without words to tell you how to feel.  Just images. Just a world where beetles are food for starving children. Where skies have the clouds of giant warplanes. Where guns are not pretend. Where if dinner even comes the dead don't un-die, bullets don't un-fire. Where dogs play in front of mansions built for them and homeless children play on garbage heaps. There are no capes or rockets to take the children from this. There is no escape. Not even in the magic mind of a child. Imagination does not, cannot exist, in the vacuum of hopelessness. There is only exploitation, rape, disease and death. 

Cambodian Sex-slaves

This is the reality for millions of children of our world. Unless we make a new list. A vow together, to each other. Not quite the poem she asked for, but maybe a start, maybe some beautiful words. Promises. 

Promise to adopt a child or ten of the 143 million orphans in the world before we have another of our own.

Promise not to buy a house in a world of 200 million homeless, a third of those children. 17 million homeless orphans in India alone. 

Promise to eat only what we need, and fast regularly in solidarity with the starving. In remembrance and honor for the 16,000 children that die everyday from hunger related disease.

Promise to never spend on an article of clothing what the average per capita income of a nation is. To never buy conflict jewels. Never buy jewels at all. To buy fairtrade, slave free products whenever we can. 

Promise to reduce consumption, reuse, recycle. And give what we save to the poor. To sell all we do not need and do the same. To divest ourselves from the economy of self and invest in the future of children.

Promise. Promise you will open your mouth every day with prayers and praise and awe and wonder. That you will pour good back into this dirty world. That you will be a little purer. A little more innocent. That you will make a little magic.

Promise to be a voice for the voiceless. To never be less committed to justice than evil men and women are committed to injustice. 

Promise to love until it hurts and then maybe just a little more.

But don't promise me. Promise yourself. Promise the children. Promise her. 

Daffodils...the flower of the first of spring...of new beginnings.