Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Hypnagogians

Are we not ourselves between waking and dreaming? Even asleep, do we not dream of the waking world? Even awake, are our thoughts not the coinage of vivid imagination? We are all hypnagogians. We possess both the apparatus of machines, rational and logical, and the spirit of the ancient gods, passionate and creative.

Yet beyond this, there is another intelligence. There is an elusive reality, glorious, overpowering, pervasive, changeless, and incorruptible. Al-Ganas possesses this insight; so too does al-Doushu, as you do, as all men do. From a single beam of light, through the prism of self, we describe different colors with different words. We assume certainty and finality imagining that red contradicts violet, that green opposes blue. How far this is from the truth of things.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I was contemplating the vagaries of life and the sweetness of death when a friend said to me, "Such cynical words are unworthy of you. Must you drag down the world with dreadful and morbid thoughts? It is no wonder you have so few friends."

I said, "I have few friends, this is true. But I tire of this accusation, which is founded on the conceit that a few words speak volumes. To accuse me of this fault is a misunderstanding.

"Is every day not the semblance of life? Each morning, you are born into the day. From the morning of youth, you rise up vigorously, embraced by the maturity of every afternoon. And in the evening, consider what you have done that day, and enter into the sweet death of sleep and dream. Wake in the morning with joy at this fresh birth. Welcome sleep each evening with no less joy. Both are joyous. This is how it is possible to love life as much as death, not as opposites, but as companions to one another, each giving meaning to the other together in the form of A, apart in the world, joined in the heavens. Where is the cynicism in this? What here is dreadful? What here is morbid? To accuse any man of this fault, is to accuse yourself.

"I seek shelter in the words of the Most High:

All beings fall into the night;
All beings are brought back to daylight.
No weapon can pierce the life that informs you;
No fire can burn it;
No water can drench it;
No wind can make it dry."

Sunday, April 4, 2010

What you have taken

Give more than you have taken.

Be grateful for what you are given.

No living man has attained to the summit of "deserve," nor reached the heaven of "earned," for mercy has shielded us from punishment and greed has locked away reward.

If asked for anything from another, whether friend or enemy, offer it freely, without expectation of reward, though it may be your last crumb of bread.

Be fair, always. Be just in your dealings with friends and enemies.

Vanquish anger. It is the fire you kindle that will most often burn you. Rage is a noose you have wrapped around your neck; it is a spear you have handed the envious. It is an enemy; do not befriend it. Be ashamed to shelter it and be afraid of it.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Die Before You Die

A friend told me of a man he knew who was still alive after 500 years, like the patriarchs of old. Incredulous at this claim, I asked for proof. I knew my friend was trustworthy, but I could not let go the reins of disbelief. Knowing I was skeptical, my friend told me at once where I might find him. He told me the name of the city, the precinct, the very street and said I’d find him there. When I set out, I journeyed to this city, and, after some wandering, discovered the street he had named, exactly as he described it. The road was in poor repair. On each side stood ancient crumbling houses, long abandoned, their skeletons of beams and planks bent toward the moon like unearthly flowers. I saw no one there, but heard ghostly sounds from a ravaged house. Into this house I ventured.

The noises stopped, and I saw a man, lit only by faltering candlelight. He was extremely old, bent over, his head drooping from his shoulders. I told him my name and that I sought a man who lived on this street. The man replied, “I am the only one here; there are no others.”

I said, “I have heard that you are 500 years old.”

The man paused, scratched his head and said, “I am very old, even ancient, but have not calculated the passage of years. It may be true, what you have heard.”

I said, “This is remarkable, your great age. Tell me something of what these hundreds of years have taught you.”

He thought awhile, and then said, “I was born into this house, many years ago. My family, my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, were tenants here. Here we lived, impoverished, always hungry. As I grew older and stronger, I left this place. I went into the service of a merchant, a proper station for one of low birth. On his ships and in his caravans I amassed some wealth, but was unsatisfied. I wondered, ‘Is this all? Is there nothing more?’

“Unhappy with this station in life, I left the merchant’s employ and the city of my birth. I established myself many miles away, investing my wealth in various ventures and I became exceedingly rich. And as wealth gathers more wealth upon itself as flies gather on carrion, I gathered riches which, in twenty lifetimes, I could never spend. Again, I wondered, ‘Is this all? Is there nothing more?’

“I took a wife who bore me two strong sons and two fair daughters. But the fires of love were quenched by the sea of years. My sons and daughters left home, and marriage seemed to me a tiresome chore. Again, I wondered, ‘Is this all? Is there nothing more?’

“I took a voyage by sea, and took a mistress in a faraway land. Yet I rekindled only a little of passion, and knew I was no longer young. Dissatisfied still, I gave away my wealth; but received a robe of honor and a large stipend from a prince who chose to praise charity. I set pen to paper and wrote treatises and histories. Many delighted in my work, but I found no delight in it. For this even I was loved and honored. Again, I wondered, ‘Is this all? Is there nothing more?’

“At last, I fled from life and wandered, penniless. I associated with thieves and brigands in whose company I was never safe. But having nothing myself, they wanted nothing from me. For a time I enjoyed their company, but at last tired of the repetition of tales of audacious theft. When the prince regained control over his highways, I was arrested with the rest of them. Though recognizing me, the prince took no pity. He imprisoned me, and I sought no clemency, for all joys had drained from the cup of my life.

“The prince attended my execution; as they sharpened the blade and forced me to my knees, he said, ‘Now you will die for your ingratitude.’

“But at that moment, and in deepest despair, my mind dilated and I took in, at last, the meaning of detachment. There was, indeed, nothing more. Yet now I did not long to find something more, and I had captured, with the snare of patience, the bird of contentment. This was all. There was nothing but this. The radiance of serenity washed over my face, and the veil of life had lifted. The prince was startled, and said, ‘Why are you smiling?’

“I opened my mouth and said, ‘The rewards I sought had shackled me. They were chains on my back. My eyes couldn’t turn to the heavens, when my gaze was on the dust at my feet. I’d unfurled every sail, and the wind was brisk. But the anchor of this world held me fast.

‘I dreamt that I was wealthy, and my possessions outnumbered the stars. Yet when I awoke, these possessions faded from my mind and the dream seems now absurd. I dreamt that a prince ordered my death and struck off my head. Yet when I awoke, my fear became as mist beneath a burning sun. To awake this way, while blood still flows through your veins, is an unparalleled blessing. To awake this way, to discover the world is a mirage not worth chasing, this is but one meaning of the words of the Prophet: Die before you die.’

“When the prince heard these words, he halted the execution. He kissed my cheek and bestowed upon me a robe of honor. He said, ‘Ask a gift from me, even to the half of my kingdom, and I will grant it to you.’

“I answered, ‘O generous prince, let me return to my ancient home unrewarded.’

“Puzzled at this, the prince granted my wish and I have resided here ever since.”