|Our Tavern of Woods, Jan 17, 2018|
Concerning taste, this preoccupation with “word” came about, perhaps, due to the trouble stirred up by Hafiz choosing to feature “tavern” when “temple” is meant—isn’t it? Franklin Lewis, in his chapter in Hafiz and the Religion of Love (Ed. Leonard Lewisohn), comments:
“Thus the wine tavern becomes the locus—the ruins on the outskirts of town, where the non-Muslims drink clandestinely so as not to offend public morality, the liminal space outside society—while the dawn becomes the poetic moment when divine intervention arrives, allowing wine and relief, or mystical intoxication. [Lewis illustrates with the first line of Ghazal 479] ‘At dawn a call from the wine tavern, wishing good fortune/ It said come back, for you are an old haunter of this court.’” (pp. 274-5)
The next line from the ghazal extends the purpose of Hafiz playing the word “tavern.” In Peter Avery’s translation:
“A draught from us drink like Jamshid, so that of both worlds’ mystery/ The beam of light from the world-seeing cup might inform you.” (p. 580, Collected Lyrics of Hafiz of Shiraz)
Of course, in the spirit of good mythopoesis, Hafiz wants to shake us, to wake us, in order that we might search out hypocrisy, alert for hidden idols, finding the ones that continue to separate us from the Love of God; that we might come back to the source of inspiration, walking in the mystery of both worlds.
God invites us every moment to do this, to purify in order to live more cleanly. To help me enter the invitations, as explained earlier, I’m intending a year-long project that connects (A) David George Haskell’s study (The Forest Unseen) of his forest mandela with
(B) the woods that illumine our windows. We’re now on his second entry, the one for January 17. On this date, his woods like ours are filled with snow. We wonder how the snowflake reaches its essential uniqueness, turning through the spirit wind, glistening in the illuminating light.
Haskell’s meditation (pp. 8-11) flows back to Johannes Kepler (1611) who “wrote that snowflakes are showing us the spirit of the earth and God, the ‘formative soul’ that inhabits all being.” Yet Kepler was frustrated in not showing “a material explanation” and still his “musings on the snowflake…contributed to the development of our modern understanding of atoms.” Haskell brings our contemporary X-ray analysis to the design of matter: our woods, water, and us.
“The basic hexagonal shape of snowflakes is elaborated in varied ways as the ice crystal grows, with the temperature and humidity of the air determining the final shape… Other combinations of temperature and humidity cause the growth of hollow prisms, needles, or furrowed plates. As snowflakes fall, the wind tosses them through the air’s innumerable slight variations of temperature and humidity. No two flakes experience exactly the same sequence, and the particularities of these divergent histories are reflected in the uniqueness of the ice crystals that make up each snowflake.” pp. 9-10
As a side note, Kepler has also received recent attention in relation to his role in enlightening dark consciousness evident in witch hunts, including the one involving his own mother.*
The human defines the authenticity of word as the individual resonates uniquely back into the original promise, the timeless covenant between God and human, the affirmation of sovereignty. Humans also revolve through cultural drafts and shadows that challenge each of us to sound the authentic word that is true to the Source. Thus, again, the purpose of religion.
Sufis talk of this walking as the Path of Attraction. But life abounds with attractions, and so many are bewitchments from the impurities picked up in the currents of culture. The true calling is to discern, to follow, and to voice the Word. God is Everywhere. The purification back to the Source leads to and follows from entering more deeply into Beauty, Truth, Love, and the array of qualities endowed uniquely in each individual.
* Ulinka Rublack, The Astronomer and the Witch, Oxford, 2015.
James A. Conner, Kepler's Witch: An Astronomer's Discovery of Cosmic Order Amid Religious War, Political Intrigue, and the Heresy Trial of His Mother. Harper, 2005.