Thursday, December 22, 2011

Now is the Time

"Now is the time to remember that all you do is sacred."--Hafiz

This month I've been reading Drunk on the Wine of the Beloved, by Persian poet Hafiz (1326-1390). Hafiz is one of the world’s most beloved poets, affectionately known as the “Tongue of the Invisible” for his poetic expression of spiritual experiences as a Sufi mystic, in love with his Beloved. For many in the Islamic world, Hafiz is the greatest poet of all time. If you get the opportunity to interact with someone from Iran, Iraq, Turkey, or India, you should know about Hafiz. It's a great point of contact.

The poetry of Hafiz is playful and enchanting, but was 'in your face' for his time--using highly sensual language in his trademark ghazals (from the Arabic "love song", lyrical poems recited or sung by minstrals in the royal courts of pre-Islamic Iran) to speak out against deceit and hypocrisy at all levels of society, "scathingly sarcastic if not downright confrontational...Although he was said to be a Sufi, his 'religion' was the love of God and the expression of that love. No spiritual institution could contain him" (from the Introduction).

Sufi master poets often compared love with wine, and Hafiz is no exception, using the metaphor in delightful ways, naming God as the Winebringer, the Winemaker, the Wineseller, selling on Wine Street, and entering the Winehouse.

Ralph Waldo Emerson called Hafiz a poet for poets. He is dazzling, and I suppose it's no accident that I'm reading Hafiz this season, as I try to keep from being dazzled by Western Civilisation's tinsel version of Christmas. I prefer a little poetic awe, and to drink whatever dazzling wine the Winebringer offers this season.

And so, as I exit the madness and turn off on Wine Street for my Christmas celebration, I offer you a toast: may your own experience of the holidays include a little Hafiz, and may you be drunk on the Wine of the Beloved!

Merry Christmas!

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