Friday, February 22, 2013

the birds' doubt

The hoopoe intones: 'So you must desire with your heart and more
Beyond the enticement of words and knowledge of the stars.
You must want with all your being, you must be sure
Of your substance, which first you have to find far
Within you, to mine your soul's gold to start on the Way.
If you cannot stomach a grain nor sip a simple glass
How do you think that you can sit at the Simurgh's table, pray?
If you drown in a drop, blotted out by a hand's pass,
You will never learn to plumb the depths nor rise 
To the heaven you say you seek, that waits for you.
You must learn to be bewildered, restore surprise
In your heart and eyes, and learn to know what's true.'
The birds consider his challenge with hooded eyes, let it burn
Their serried minds, then they reply: 'We are weak
And aimless atoms, we have no wit to seek and discern
Him who stands above and beyond yet within, we cannot seek
What we do not understand.  He is Solomon, the Ark
That contains us all, we are peripheral, mere ants
At the bottom of the pit scrabbling about in the dark.
We cannot see nor speak of the great Simurgh, we pant
With trepidation when we even begin to consider His being;
He is beyond all moral exchange, or the burden of seeing.'
The hoopoe hears these words with rising ire:
'You are without true aspiration, your hearts are 
Devoid of discrimination, you chatter as you enter the fire
Unwittingly, you fail to see that you can be within that far
And near mystery if only you would charter love and set out
With opened eyes, do not falter, discount your petty life here.
He is the light that ferries shadows which crave to live without
But always fail, His gaze turns them into fleeing birds where
All is form and substance erased; you are shadows of His word.
You must pierce this empty space with your shadowed mind
And if you speak with the discipline of love, you will sense
The Simurgh's shadow which is you, and in your desert find
The Way, that ocean in which you can immerse yourself, in His being
That resides in your heart and in the planted stars without you seeing.'

~ Farid ud-Din Attar
from The Conference of Birds
interpreted by Raficq Abdulla
photo of the Folger Shakespear Theatre's production
by Scott Suchman