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...


  1. I need to immediately go look up and order some poems by Hafiz. It's incredible to have it translate as clear as it does! Resting in the finished work of grace...beautiful.

    "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"

    Fresh bread for today. Thanks.

  2. Aw shucks Emily. So glad you liked it. Hafiz has some great ones. As much as anything I love how he gives voice to the longing in everyone's be recklessly loved by God.

  3. proverbs are awesome.

    concise and poetic!