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.
~ Hafiz, The Gift – versions of Hafiz by Daniel Ladinsky
Hafiz’s poem – my brilliant image – provides the perfect cue-in for a confession:
It all began with a killer migraine. My skull felt like a firebomb about to explode; the pain was so intense I wanted it to. I was retching and nothing would remain in my stomach. Painkillers weren’t an option. It was simply more than I could bear, and to my surprise (since I usually suffer in silence) I heard myself screaming, “Finish me off! I can’t stand it!”
It was instantaneous. Behind my closed eyelids a shimmer of white light washed over the blackness. Soft milky light – very different from the lights often associated with migraines.
The light brought instant calm, blissful relief from the panic. The pain was still there but in some inexplicable way it simply wasn’t a problem.
But then these words were somehow ‘heard’:
AND THIS LIGHT DOES KNOW ALL OTHER LIGHT AS ITS SHADOW
My hair stood on end. Where did that come from? What did it mean?
Those words were my koan for almost twenty years.
Those words led inevitably to the knowing of that “Astonishing Light” as my own Beingness.
My Brilliant Image
One day the sun admitted,
I am just a shadow.
I wish I could show you
the Infinite Incandescence
that has cast my brilliant image!
I wish I could show you,
when you are lonely or in darkness,
the Astonishing Light
of your own Being
I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy
translated by Daniel Ladinsky