The Vivid Colors of Real Life

Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 10:29 am

The Vivid Colors of Real Life

I love the writings of Rumi and Hafiz, Persian mystics and poets of the 13th and 14th centuries. I especially love the fact that they never get self-righteously pious, but portray their spirituality in the vivid colors of real life — from tears to laughter, from confusion to clarity, from the sublime to the outrageous.
Thomas Merton would have approved. When he was Novice Master at Gethsemani, he began a talk to the wannabe monks with these words: “Men, before you can have a spiritual life, you gotta get a life!”
Merton knew how many seekers think that the spiritual life requires a long face, a somber voice, and a downcast spirit of forced humility. Wrong! It requires a full range of fully-lived human experience.
So here’s an outrageous Hafiz poem about how the Divine wants to “Hold us upside down/And shake all the nonsense out” of us, wants to smash “all our teacup talk of God.”
There’s another image in the poem I will never be able to shake off, nor do I want to: God wants to “practice His dropkick” on us!
True confession: some days, a Divine Dropkick is exactly what I need to wake me up to the beauty and glory of simply being alive on the face of this amazing earth!

Tired of Speaking Sweetly
from “The Gift: Poems by Hafiz,” translated by Daniel Ladinsky

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 your 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.

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is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Wednesday.

He is a Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His books include Healing the Heart of Democracy, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, and Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation.

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