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Ecstasy (and in the meantime…)

You have not danced so badly, my dear,
Trying to hold hands with the Beautiful One.
You have waltzed with great style,
My sweet, crushed angel,
To have ever neared God’s Heart at all.
Our Partner is notoriously difficult to follow,
And even His best musicians are not always easy to hear.
So what if the music has stopped for a while.
So what
If the price of admission to the Divine
Is out of reach tonight…

…Have patience,
For He will not be able to resist your longing
For long.
You have not danced so badly, my dear,
Trying to kiss the Beautiful One.
You have actually waltzed with tremendous style,
O my sweet,
O my sweet, crushed angel.

-Hafiz

My friend Chuck and I meet once a week to study for the GRE.  We know we wouldn’t glance at a single analogy this summer without the accountability.  Even then, our plans to plow through a few more drills during our time together are inevitably amended for the sake of rousing discussion about theology and our vocations as educator-artist-theologians.

Last week we were musing about good theology–about the nature of it, the courage and creativity of it. I confessed to him how badly I crave to write something honest and beautiful like our favorite scholars and theologians.  Like Foucault, or Simone Weil.

“There are these rare moments of ecstasy when I’m playing with my band–” Chuck told me. He is a musician, and you would know it by hearing him mention a few words on the subject; you can hear it in the reverent tone of his voice. “These moments of beauty and ecstasy–I think they’re like the beauty of theology you’re talking about.” I nodded, encouraging him. “When I’m with my band I can’t force that, you know? It’s a combination of too many things–it’s the way the musicians are playing together that night, it’s the space, it’s the crowd and their chemistry with us.”

Remembering the rush of a great concert, I affirmed, “Yes, that’s what I want, and I know it is about more than just me. When I write I am working so hard, but God doesn’t always show up, ya know?  That energy and beauty doesn’t always come.”  I paused, and then confided to him, “We’ve been working on these applications to doctoral programs, Chuck, and I feel like there is so much riding on this performance. It’s like a show with an audience full of the most brilliant musicians, all of them scrutinizing you, expecting to witness greatness…”

“I’ve been at shows when the ecstasy didn’t come.  When the performance never reached that perfection,”  he told me. “But you know, I could tell how much the band wanted it. And sometimes that’s enough for a great show. It’s not the ultimate; it not ecstasy, but sometimes it’s enough for audience to just witness that hunger within you.”

Hafiz says that even when we do not dance so badly, and even when we waltz with tremendous style, God does not always appear there on the dance floor. This does not mean that God is not watching the beautiful dance, I am sure. “So what?” Hafiz says, writing so affectionately of this angel as she dances. So what? So what?  Perhaps the performance can be beautiful, even as her partner still pauses at the edge of the dance floor.

Perhaps I can create something beautiful, whether or not perfection takes me for a waltz today…

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5 Comments

  1. JEN says:

    And you do write beautifully!

  2. chuck.kim says:

    what a beautiful poem by hafiz. and really… i’m honored that you would include me in this. and most importantly, you write wonderfully, imaginatively, rhythmically, and harmonically. keep on friend!

    here’s one of my favorites from hafiz:

    What is the difference between your experience of existence and that of a saint? The saint knows that the spiritual path is a sublime chess game with God and that the Beloved has just made such a fantastic move that the saint is now continually tripping over joy and bursting out in laughter and saying, I surrender! Whereas, my dear, I am afraid you still think you have a thousand serious moves.

  3. Jeff Coblentz says:

    You just did.

  4. Theresa says:

    Jess…just pulled out my Hafiz book :)….i love this. and you!

  5. Jake says:

    Thanks for these wonderful words. All the best in 2011.

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