i’m off to geoje for camping (in the rain?) this weekend. before i go, i thought i’d share one of my favorite bits of prose:
Moses heard a shepherd on the road praying, “God, where are you? I want to help you, to fix your shoes and comb your hair. I want to wash your clothes and pick the lice off. I want to bring you milk to kiss your little hands and feet when it’s time for you to go to bed. I want to sweep your room and keep it neat. God, my sheep and goats are yours. All I can say, remembering you, is ayyyy and ahhhhhhhhh.”
“Who are you talking to?” Moses could stand it no longer. “The one who made us, and made the earth and made the sky.” “Don’t talk about shoes and socks with God! And what’s this with your little hands and feet? Such blasphemous familiarity sounds like you’re chatting with your uncles. Only something that grows needs milk. Only some one with feet needs shoes. Not God! Even if you meant God’s human representatives, when God said, ‘I was sick, and you did not visit me,’ then this tone would be foolish and irreverent. Use appropriate terms. Fatima is a fine name a woman, but if you call a man Fatima, an insult. Body-and-birth language right for us on this side of the river; not for addressing the origin, not for Allah.”
The shepherd repented and tore his clothes and sighed and wandered out into the desert. A sudden revelation came then to Moses. God’s voice: You have separated me from one of my own. Did you come as a Prophet to unite, or to sever? I have given each being a separate and unique way of seeing and knowing and saying that knowledge. What seems wrong to you is right for him. What is poison to one is honey to someone else. Purity and impurity, sloth and diligence in worship, these mean nothing to me. I am apart from all that. Ways of worshiping are not to be ranked as better or worse than one another. Hindus do Hindu things. The Dravidian Muslims in India do what they do. It’s all praise, and it’s all right. It’s not me that’s glorified in acts of worship. It’s the worshipers! I don’t hear the words they say. I look inside at the humility. That broken-open lowliness is the reality, not the language! Forget phraseology. I want burning, burning. Be friends with your burning. Burn up your thinking and your forms of expression! Moses, those who pay attention to ways of behaving and speaking are one sort. Lovers who burn are another. Don’t impose a property tax on a burned-out village. Don’t scold the Lover. The “wrong” way he talks is better than a hundred “right” ways of others. Inside the Kaaba it doesn’t matter which direction you point your prayer rug! The ocean diver doesn’t need snowshoes! The love-religion has no code or doctrine. So the ruby has nothing engraved on it! It doesn’t need markings. Only God. God began speaking deeper mysteries to Moses. Vision and words, which cannot be recorded here, poured into and through him. He left himself and came back. He went to eternity and came back here. Many times this happened. It’s foolish of me to try and say this. If I did say it, it would uproot our human intelligences. It would shatter all writing pens. Moses ran after the shepherd.
He followed the bewildered footprints, in one place moving straight like a castle across a chessboard. In another; sideways, like a bishop. Now surging like a wave cresting, now sliding down like a fish, with always his feet making geomancy symbols in the sand, his wandering state. Moses finally caught up “I was wrong. God has revealed to me that there are no rules for worship. Say whatever and however your loving tells you to. Your sweet blasphemy is the truest devotion. Through you a whole world is freed. Loosen your tongue and don’t worry what comes out. It’s all the light of the spirit.” The shepherd replied, “Moses, Moses, I’ve gone beyond even that. You applied the whip and my horse shied and jumped out of itself. The divine nature and my human nature came together. Bless your scolding hand and your arm. I can’t say what has happened. What I’m saying now is not my real condition. It can’t be said.” The shepherd grew quiet.
When you look in a mirror, you see yourself, not the state of the mirror. The flute player puts breath into a flute, and who makes the music? Not the flute. The flute player! Whenever you speak praise or thanksgiving to God, it’s always like this dear shepherd’s simplicity. When you eventually see through the veils to how things really are, you will keep saying again and again, “This is certainly not like we thought it was!”
Jellaudin Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks