This song has been on my mind for a week.
I accidentally let myself get very dehydrated Sunday, so I’ve been fighting off a fever for a couple of days. This means when I do my daily “How Many Fingers Am I Holding Up?” even I know I’m wrong. Yet, a fever means I lie flat and think of thinking, which is great indoor-outdoor fun for me, and what I’ve been thinking about is presence and absence in life. I mean, of course I have. Dad died, and with my siblings and Darla in our separate homes, it’s as if I quit some substance I feel leaving my body.
I mean, fuck.
What courses through our bodies is every bit as interesting as what we do with them. Davening is a Jewish practice of praying with the whole body. It is a form of commitment to the moment, apart from all other moments, in which a person – usually a man but not always, anymore – is supposed to become entirely present during the Shema: Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheynu Adonai Echad..* I couldn’t put my finger on where the Torah described it, though Deuteronomy was a good bet. Siobhan, as surly a wildcat as ever put animal print lingerie to incendiary use, was a Biblical scholar in a previous life:
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (New International Version) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
*1. Deuteronomy 6:4 Or The LORD our God is one LORD; or The LORD is our God, the LORD is one; or The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.
The emphasis is mine, and it’s important; that word is sometimes translated as might. One’s body and vigor mean everything, which makes lovely sense, doesn’t it? Anyone who says you can’t dance with the cosmos is plain misguided. This reminds me of the Whirling Dervishes, described on YouTube as: The Whirling Dervishes are a sect of Islam taught to love everything. The ceremony is so beautiful I can barely breathe. Please go look at the dancers I can’t embed on PIC. I’ve watched this half a dozen times now and when they open their arms, my heart races. Once, I danced in an aisle as Coleman Barks read this poem by Rumi, the Whirling Dervishes’ sufi master, because I could do nothing else.
If anyone asks you
how the perfect satisfaction
of all our sexual wanting
will look, lift your face
When someone mentions the gracefulness
of the nightsky, climb up on the roof
and dance and say,
If anyone wants to know what “spirit” is,
or what “God’s fragrance” means,
lean your head toward him or her.
Keep your face there close.
When someone quotes the old poetic image
about clouds gradually uncovering the moon,
slowly loosen knot by knot the strings
of your robe.
If anyone wonders how Jesus raised the dead,
don’t try to explain the miracle.
Kiss me on the lips.
Like this. Like this.
When someone asks what it means
to “die for love,” point
If someone asks how tall I am, frown
and measure with your fingers the space
between the creases on your forehead.
The soul sometimes leaves the body, the returns.
When someone doesn’t believe that,
walk back into my house.
When lovers moan,
they’re telling our story.
I am a sky where spirits live.
Stare into this deepening blue,
while the breeze says a secret.
When someone asks what there is to do,
light the candle in his hand.
How did Joseph’s scent come to Jacob?
How did Jacob’s sight return?
A little wind cleans the eyes.
When Shams comes back from Tabriz,
he’ll put just his head around the edge
of the door to surprise us
From ‘The Essential Rumi’, Translations
by Coleman Barks with John Moyne
I’m not sure I believe in God, but I believe in the astonishing beauty of becoming completely present at the right moment. It’s not easy. Life appears to be long and it’s tempting to fall asleep and stay there. If I’ve slept, I don’t want to sleep anymore.
There are many ways to dance. Dance with me.