Sunday, March 16, 2008

Palm Sunday

In honor of my dear tutor, I offer this poem from Rumi as I contemplate the various ways that wealth and my pursuit thereof -- even for good purpose -- has changed my thoughts on this noble day:

Jesus on the lean donkey,
this is an emblem of how the rational intellect
should control the animal-soul.

Let your spirit be strong like Jesus.
If that part becomes weak,
then the worn-our donkey grows to a dragon

Be grateful when what seems unkind
comes from a wise person.

Once, a holy man,
riding his donkey, saw a snake crawling into
a sleeping man’s mouth! He hurried, but he couldn’t
prevent it. He hit the man several blows with his club.

The man woke terrified and ran beneath an apple tree
With many rotten apples on the ground.
Eat! You miserable wretch! Eat.
Why are you doing this to me?
Eat more, you fool.
I’ve never seen you before!
Who are you? Do you have some inner quarrel with my soul?

The wise man kept forcing him to eat, and then he ran him.
For hours he whipped the poor man and made him run.
Finally, at nightfall, full of rotten apples,
fatigued, bleeding, he fell
and vomited everything,
the good and the bad, the apples and the snake.
When he saw that ugly snake
Come out of himself, he fell on his knees
before his assailant.
Are you Gabriel? Are you God?
I bless the moment you first noticed me. I was dead
and didn’t know it. You’ve given me a new life.
Everything I’ve said to you was stupid!
I didn’t know
If I had explained what I was doing,
you might have panicked and died of fear.

Muhammad said,
If I described the enemy that lives
Inside men, even the most courageous would be paralyzed. No one
would go out, or do any work. No one would pray or fast,
and all power to change would fade
from human beings

so I kept quiet
while I was beating you, that like David
I might shape iron, so that, impossibly,
I might put feathers back into a bird’s wing.
God’s silence is necessary, because of humankind’s
faintheartedness. If I had told you about the snake,
you wouldn’t have been able to eat, and if
you hadn’t eaten, you wouldn’t have vomited.

I saw your condition and drove my donkey hard
into the middle of it, saying always under my breath,
Lord, make it easy on him. I wasn’t permitted
to tell you, and I wasn’t permitted to stop beating you!

The healed man, still kneeling,
I have no way to thank you for the quickness
of your wisdom and the strength of your guidance.
God will thank you.


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