04 February 2006

It takes skill...

My mother e-mailed me the other day. Here is some of what she said, and I have to say, I'm not sure she is too far off:

The news broke here last night about the tension in Denmark and there's a column in the AJC [Atlanta Journal-Constitution] about it today. What a bummer. Who would have thought Copenhagen, winter of 06, your semester abroad. Damn, Jonathan, promise you won't pick out my nursing home!!!!

I'm not sure how many of you have been keeping up with the news, but there are some serious tensions rising between much of the Muslim world and Denmark (which is increasingly becoming most of Europe). Today, things worsened as the Danish embassy was burned out of its building in Syria.

All of this began over cartoons published 3 or 4 months ago depicting Muhammad (first problem) with a bomb as a turban (2nd problem). Everything seemed fine, until, about a week and a half ago, poop hit the proverbial fan. Now, after other major European papers republished the cartoons, we are finding ourselves in the midst of a huge political debate--freedom of expression v. religious toleration.

Now, while I'm very much a proponent of freedom of expression, I must say that I would probably be pissed if someone mocked the central figure of my faith. So throw in two major human rights into the bowl, stir in some ignorance, a little misunderstanding and pop it in the oven of hot hatred...and what do you get? Something like the current tensions swelling currently. Oh, and when you take it out, sprinkle with dumb ass. Mmmm...tasty.

So, this evening, after another wonderful dinner and time with my dads, I turned my troubled heart to Rumi. Rumi, whom I've referenced before, was a 13th century Persian poet and the founder of Sufi mysticism. He was/is phenomenal. Once he wrote something along the lines of "When I walk into the Muslim mosque, the Christian church and the Jewish temple, I see the same God." I always like to read Rumi when I'm worried or scared or sad. I just open my copy of a very worn and used The Essential Rumi tranlated by Coleman Barks, and somehow I always flip to a relevant page.

Here's what I read this evening.

Only Breath

Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu,
Buddhist, sufi, or zen. Not any religion

or cultural system. I am not from the East
or the West, not out of the ocean or up

from the ground, not natural or etheral, not
composed of elements at all. I do not exist,

am not an entity in this world or the next,
did not descend from Adam and Eve or any

origin story. My place is placeless, a trace
of the traceless. Neither body or soul,

I belong to the beloved, have seen the two
worlds as one and that one call to and know,

first, last, outer, inner, only that
breath breathing human being.


There is a way between voice and presence
where information flows.

In disciplined silence it opens,
With wandering talk it closes.

A single breath unites us all. We just have to keep breathing.


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