Holy Shit! I'm going to die! Like a tree, I'm going to fall! This is an absolute certainty! Ah, but so are you! Hah! Not one of us is going to get out of our life alive!
With awareness of that certainty, isn't the most important question then, how am we going to live? The best-selling poet in the United States, for years now, is a MUSLIM: or rather, a dead Muslim (he too fell like a tree). Rumi was a scholar and teacher, known by one and all in his adopted city of Konya, as a brilliant religious leader... that is, until he came under the influence of a wandering Sufi Dervish, a man by the name of "Shams of Tabriz"... Rumi gave up his good name to follow one whom he believed could reveal to him the Face of God...
After the death of Shams, Rumi completely surrendered his mind, heart, and soul to the longing that filled his heart: a longing for the bliss of Oneness with the Divine Beloved: but here's the thing, Rumi came to see the Beloved in every person he met, in the creatures, and all about in nature: in short, he came to understand that true and lasting wisdom was precisely within every existent being and thing: and he sang, and whirled in ecstasy, and taught any who would listen, and cherished his friends, and made love to his wife: and the poetry that flowed from his mouth is still manifesting Light upon this precious blue Planet...
Why is this important? How does this relate to my (our) certainty of death? The point of acknowledging our mortality is really about committing to living now! Confronted with the certitude of death, we have the gift and grace of deciding how we are going to live in the moments or days remaining to us. Especially right now: there are those who give their days over to inflicting suffering and terror upon others: there are those who attempt to gin up fear to their political advantage: there are those who profit from the guns, bullets, and explosives used by terrorists: and there are nation-states who think it in their interest to cultivate hate, distrust, and violence... And there are those who choose to forget the Sacred Teachings of their Prophets and who succumb to fear and hate and offer only an eye for an eye as the most sacred of all religious teachings and doings...
We have before us an absolute reality: death and life. And we have the power of our choice: which do we choose? Every breath of ours is as sacred as it's going to get: with this breath, do we choose compassion or hate? Do we choose mercy or fear? Do we choose justice or exploitation? Do we choose equality and hope or inequality and separation? Do we choose the voices of privilege and profit and power, or do we choose instead to seek out and listen to the voices of kindness and cooperation and our essential human dignity? In the certainty of death, it is precisely in how we choose to think, speak, and act that is the meaning of our life... If we, like Rumi, choose to attune ourselves to Oneness and sing and dance and write poetry and make love and create just communities: then all will be well, and all manner of things very well indeed...
Holy holy holy! We are alive with the rip-roaring opportunity to expand our love into endless circles of bliss and justice: holy shit! I'm going to live! Like a bird, I'm going to soar!
"My lover, my bride!
Say I am Your companion still!
I have followed Your scent on the wild wind."
The Song of Songs: I've said, perhaps too often, that if there were only one Holy Scripture in all the world, the "Song of Songs" in the Hebrew Scriptures, would be my choice. It has been described by mystics as the "Holy of Holies", while others of a more modest persuasion have sought to remove it from the Bible altogether for its eroticism -- and still others bury the eroticism by explaining it as a "spiritual" treatise on Christ's love for the Church... And yet a number of lines in the Song are straight out of far more ancient Egyptian religious rites...
I have long adored this sacred scripture because it is many things at once: like a crystal that shines in the sun with new reflections each way it is turned: can there possibly be a Being more erotic than the Holy One? Pause to consider: the Holy One first imagined the stunning possibility of Creation and answered that "What if?" with an enthusiastic "Why not?" We are made from That! Star shine is in our soul, blood, bones, flesh, and skin! Atoms from That star-burst are in each one of us yet: with the additional holy-moly of "being made in the very image of That One"! All of the fascination and eroticism of touch, sight, smell, taste, kiss, vagina, and penis of human beings is "as a mirror" of the Grand Intention of the Holy One: we didn't evolve out of the blue, rather, we have evolved as lovers seeking a return and remembrance of our seeming lost divinity by becoming ever-more conscious of our Oneness in Love... This is the Song of Songs...
While I have followed the example of St. John of the Cross and re-written the Song of Songs into "my own" version of the Song, I think the most essential point of the Song is this: we are invited to write our own verse and add it to the Song! This is the thing about Holy Scripture and this Scripture in particular, (and which most folks choose to ignore): no Scripture is a "done deal": you read and understand it wrong if you think so! No, we are supposed to take scripture and "re-write" it by inserting it into us and us into it: so that every person then becomes a living translation of scripture... Of course, there are those who want front-row seats to their version of the "real" New Creation so they will try to lead the parade to get to those chairs first... These particular folks are much more interested in privilege, profit, and power than in identification with the Beauty, Compassion, and Overwhelming Kindness of the Divine: and they are, so obviously, in every religion, church, mosque, temple, etc. But for the rest of us, let's make our experience of our religion about remembrance of our Oneness in Love: we can become the Song of Songs: this is the great mystic secret! Every line of the Song is an expression of the mutual yearning of our Being and the Divine Consciousness for the Bliss of an awakening, each into the Other...
Just imagine a world where "religion" was a source of unity-in-diversity -- and actively pursued "love-in-action" over differences of dogma and belief! Whew! Can you imagine this seemingly far-distant possibility?
For many who feel themselves as "religiously convicted", the mere thought of "unity-in-diversity" is enough to cause a fit of apoplexy -- and yet, as the recent "Parliament of the World's Religions" held in Salt Lake City proved, the absolute opposite is most definitely possible. There, thousands of people from all around the world gathered to celebrate, pray, discuss, present, and plan appropriate responses to many of the fundamental crisis of our time -- and we, none of us, required weapons to argue or defend our positions! Security guards were nearly always seated with auras of drowsy blessing upon them...
Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Pagans, Humanists, Buddhists, and others were present and deliberately so. A "Women's Assembly" gave voice to the spiritual grace and wisdom of the world's women -- who are very often still excluded from their faith tradition's priesthoods and leadership. Wonderful words emanated from the Parliament:
"Working with dirt is the highest level of our humanity." -- Dr. Vandana Shiva
"The pain pushes until the vision pulls." -- Rev. Michael Bernard Beckwith
"Scripture is not a text: it is an activity." -- Karen Armstrong
Workshops and presentations included "Trekking Through the Spiritual and Ethical Implications of Quantum Science", an "Introduction to Gender Reconciliation", and a "Cosmic Mass" with Rev. Matthew Fox. I urge everyone to dedicate personal time exploring the website and posted videos of the Parliament of the World's Religions": this precious blue Planet is not meant to be destroyed by the folly of men in endless pursuit of privilege, profit, and power. Rather, we are supposed to be vigorous in building a paradise for everyone's happiness -- leaving no one out or behind. There really is enough love for everyone -- It only needs our sacred activation!
Robert Daniel Smith was privileged to serve the homeless and marginalized for 30 years in Salinas, California. Together with his wife, Michelle, they founded an intentional community called the 'Companions of the Way', also in Salinas. Robert and Michelle are community organizers, Catholic Worker renegades, sacred activists, writers, poets, artists, Divine Mother devotees, and practitioners of Kriya Yoga as taught by Rev. Ellen Grace O'Brian of the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment. Michelle is also a Montessori public school teacher. Robert is also an ordained Interfaith Minister.