God’s Will: Greater Unity, Greater Love

While trying to process the U.S. presidential election results, I picked up a book of Hafiz poems. I closed my eyes, asked for what I needed to know, and opened at a random page.

Here’s what I got. If you’re like me, you’ll love the beginning and want to throw this blog across the room somewhere in the middle. Just keep reading.

There Could Be Holy Fallout

We are often in battle.
So often defending every side of the fort,
It may seem, all alone.

Sit down, my dear,
Take a few deep breaths,
Think about a loyal friend.
Where is your music,
Your pet, a brush?

Surely one who has lasted as long as you
Knows some avenue or place inside
That can give a sweet respite.

If you cannot slay your panic,
Then say within
As convincingly as you can,
“It is all God’s will!”

Now pick up your life again.
Let whatever is out there
Come charging in,

Laugh and spit into the air,
There could be holy fallout.

Throw those ladders like tiny match sticks
With “just” phantoms upon them
Who might be trying to scale your heart.

Your love has an eloquent tone.
The sky and I want to hear it!

If you still feel helpless
Give our battle cry again

Hafiz
Has shouted it a myriad times,

“It is all,
It is all the Beloved’s will!”

What is that luminous rain I see
All around you in the future

Sweeping in from the east plain?

It looks like, O it looks like
Holy fallout

Filling your mouth and palms
With Joy!

Let’s talk about God’s will for a minute because that was the part that made me think, you have got to be kidding, except in slightly stronger language. I tend to think about God’s will in human dimensions, which in election terms would translate to God picked a certain candidate to win. Given that political systems rarely if ever reflect the kind of justice that wisdom traditions describe—regardless of which group is in power—I think it’s safe to say this can’t possibly be what God’s will means.

This poem still speaks to us almost 700 years after it was written because God’s will is always the same. It is self-emptying love, as Richard Rohr would say, the manifestation of love in space and time. We are manifestations of that love, all of us—the people we agree and disagree with, the ones who love us and who hate us, the animals, insects, plants, planets, black holes, etc. “It is all the Beloved’s will!”

Hafiz isn’t recommending submission to situations that injure our hearts and souls. He is urging us to get a wider perspective, to remember that we are all in this together and that there is something larger than human choices and actions moving in and through creation. We can pick any issue we want to divide ourselves over, but in the end it won’t work.

God wills ever greater unity, ever greater love. That’s what we, collectively, are growing toward. We don’t have any choice. That’s what God does, and all of us are manifestations of God.

If we can get clear on this—individually and together—Hafiz tells us, and I agree, that our destination is joy. Bring on the holy fallout.

Partying with Hafiz

It has been my turn this week to host some of the viruses whose purpose appears to be to slow down human beings by making their heads stuffy, so please allow me to share a poem instead of a regular post. This is by the Sufi poet Hafiz and seems apropos for where we find ourselves these days. Printed in The Gift, translated by Daniel Ladinsky.

If God Invited You to a Party

If God
Invited you to a party
And said,

“Everyone
In the ballroom tonight
Will be my special
Guest.”

How would you then treat them
When you
Arrived?

Indeed, indeed!

And Hafiz knows
There is no one in this world

Who
Is not upon
His Jeweled Dance
Floor.

Blue Man Wow

You know how if someone asks you what a strawberry tastes like you can’t say because it only tastes like itself? The performance team Blue Man Group is equally unique.

After watching their show, I left the theater feeling anything was possible. So often we think that our creative ideas are impractical, uninteresting to others, or simply not that good. In the spirit of Bob Newhart’s tobacco sketch, here’s a possible description that Blue Man Group gave when first trying to sell their act:

“We’ll shave our heads and put solid blue makeup all over them. We’ll play drums covered with paint and put strange things in our mouths, chew them up, and spit them out. And it will be funny. Oh, and we won’t talk.”

They may have bankrolled the first few shows themselves.

I once heard a talk by a psychologist who explained how, because of the way our brains work, we can’t picture something we haven’t built any neural pathways for. After saying the word “apple” and asking everyone in the room to get a mental picture of it, she flashed up a slide showing a red apple, a green apple, and the current Apple logo and asked how many people had pictured each one. A third to half of the room raised their hands for the Apple logo. She pointed out that in 1980, that result wasn’t possible because the current apple logo didn’t exist.

Yet that’s what we do when we create—we picture things that have never been before. They might take flight from past events and experiences—certainly apples preceded Apple—or other people’s creations, but that doesn’t mean they’re not new. And they can transform the way we see things, even change what our language means.

As someone who sometimes doubts her own ability to change, I find that tremendously exciting, and I’m grateful to Blue Man Group for the brilliant reminder and for the laughs.

In keeping with the National Poetry Month theme, here is a poem by the fourteenth-century Sufi master Hafiz that I think speaks to the same topic.

We Have Not Come to Take Prisoners
By Hafiz

We have not come here to take prisoners
But to surrender ever more deeply
To freedom and joy.

We have not come into this exquisite world
To hold ourselves hostage from love.

Run my dear,
From anything
That may not strengthen
Your precious budding wings.

Run like hell my dear,
From anyone likely
To put a sharp knife
Into the sacred, tender vision
Of your beautiful heart.

We have a duty to befriend
Those aspects of obedience
That stand outside of our house
And shout to our reason
“O please, O please,
Come out and play.”

For we have not come here to take prisoners
Or to confine our wondrous spirits,

But to experience ever and ever more deeply
Our divine courage, freedom, and
Light!


From The Gift, translated by Daniel Ladinsky