Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Eternal-ness of Love

12th Century Poet Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Balkhī –also known as Rumi–once wrote these beautiful words about love and lovers:

Lovers don’t finally meet;

They’re with each other all along…

This is a statement about the absoluteness and the omnipresence of love. Aside from what we know of Rumi’s work (his “love” poems were not actually about romantic love of a mate, but of a religious believer’s love of God), these words seem to question whether or not we are predestined to meet our lovers, if that love has a beginning and an end, and (my take) if the lovers we take are just mates we fill voids with. I’ve thought about this, as one who has been married umpteen times. A question:  Do we just have love in us and are looking for someone to pour that love into? Or are we not in love until we meet a person who excites our spirit and it lights the spark that becomes the feeling of falling in love? Rumi seems to believe that we are born with this characteristic or desire. Our first love is always our parents and perhaps siblings. The way a child longs for his father when his father is away at work (or not living in the household), or the way he longs for his mother when she first sends him to daycare or school–we have this longing when away from “the one” we love. Some of us have these special relationships with our siblings; we are miserable when we do not have communication with brothers and sisters. We cry when they marry because we know life will never be the same for us. We get jealous when their spouse now receives all the attention. We mourn their death as a parent mourns the death of a gone-too-soon child. Sometimes the love we have transferred to a parent or sibling or child corrupts our ability to enjoy a normal, healthy love relationship with our spouses. We call these people “momma’s boys” and daddy’s princess”…

I believe that in order to understand the dynamics of relationship and marriage (including the stages leading up to marriage), we must understand the totality of love. It is not a phase, as some would consider it. It is not a foolish feeling that one must supress. Yet love is an incontrollable urge that can be a man’s downfall if he misprioritizes. If he is not careful he may fail to ensure that his worldly life is in order while pursuing the dreamy ecstasy that love can lead him to.

Love is a God-given gift that even the drunk in the gutter, the least fortunate of us, the least attractive, the wealthiest, the oldest, and the most naiive adolescent will all experience. Where you find a man or woman who does not allow themselves to experience–or deny it’s effect–you find a spiritually (or otherwise) unhealthy person. Perhaps that person has been hurt and does not want to feel that way again. Or he or she is addicted to sex and will self-sabotage any fruitful relationship they have potential to enjoy. Or–in the extreme–this person is a cruel manipulator who seduces and uses the feelings others develop for them, for their personal gain. And then you have those who long for a lifelong companion, but they lack the qualities that others find appealing. This is the person we have the most sympathy; the addage “someone for everybody” does not seem to apply in this case. These people die alone, in a convent somewhere–having devoted their life to chastity, or while taking care of an elderly relative all their lives until they were finally alone and never had the pleasure of a mate.

And love has no end. When you loved someone, only in the rare circumstance that your lover has hurt or angered you immensely would you be left without feelings for that person. We may understand that she is not the one for us, or that we have wronged her and therefore do not deserve her company–or any number of reasons–but the feelings of affection and concern will never leave. It is why, 20 years after divorce, the death of an ex spouse can leave an ex-wife crying at the funeral, although she is remarried and had moved on. God never intended for man to be without love of someone. It isn’t normal for us to be alone, and I would go so far as to state that it is impossible for a man to be alone, without an object of affection.

I’d like to introduce you to German poet Ranier Maria Rilke (he’s a guy, folks) is the Christian version of Rumi. Also a consummate love/religious poet, he explored the expanse subject of love and likens a man’s love of God for his love of his woman. Rilke agrees that love is an ever-flowing stream from the soul of a man and it reaches all who enters within its grasp, and those who receive it, “inherit” this love as a boy inherits his father’s fortune… only to bequeath it to his son. My favorite Rilke poem on this subject is Poem 10 from his “Book of the Pilgrimmage”. I’m sure you will agree that he paints a beautiful picture of the passing of love from one to another. The poem follows in it’s entirety. Enjoy!

Thank you for visiting my blog.

And you inherit the green

of vanished gardens

and the motionless blue of fallen skies,

dew of a thousand dawns, countless summers

the suns sang, and springtimes to break your heart

like a young woman’s letters.

You inherit the autumns, folded like festive clothing

in the memories of poets; and all the winters,

like abandoned fields, bequeath you their quietness.

You inherit Venice, Kazan, and Rome;

Florence will be yours, and Pisa’s cathedral,

Moscow with bells like memories,

and the Troiska convent, and that monastery

whose maze of tunnels lies swallowed under Kiev’s gardens.

Sound will be yours, of string and brass and reed,

and sometimes the songs will seem

to come from inside you.

For your sake poets sequester themselves,

gather images to churn the mind,

journey forth, ripending with metaphor,

and all their lives they are so alone…

And painters pain their pictures only

that the world, so transient as You made it,

can be given back to You,

to last forever.

 All becomes eternal. See:  In the Mona Lisa

some  woman has long since ripened like wine,

and the enduring feminine is held there

through all the ages.

Those who create are like You.

They long for the eternal.

They say, Stone, be forever!

And that means: be Yours.

And lovers also gather your inheritance.

They are the poets of one brief hour.

They kiss an expressionless mouth into a smile

as if creating it anew, more beautiful.

Awakening desire, they make a place

where pain can enter;

that’s how growing happens.

They bring suffering along with their laughter,

and longings that had slept and now awaken

to weep in a stranger’s arms.

They let the riddles pile up and then they die

the way animals die, without making sense of it.

But maybe in those who come after,

their green life will ripen;

it’s then that you will inherit the love

to which they gave themselves so blindly, as in a sleep.

Thus the overflow from things

pours into you.

Just as a fountain’s higher basins

spill down like the strands of loosened hair

into the lower vessel,

so streams the fullness into You,

when things and thoughts cannot contain it.

Poem 10

Book of Pilgrimage

Maria Ranier Rilke (1875 – 1926)

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The Liberty Tax Opportunity

I am reminded of something I heard that was a version of something my mother often tried to instill in us:

It isn’t just low-paying, menial work. We call it opportunity.

Oh, how we tend to be ungrateful for what we have. In the Quran, God tells us that there are those who would settle for the crumbs that fall off the Master’s table, than to take a chance on the riches of heaven… When I see and hear my Black brothers put down and ridicule those who don “Lady Liberty” costumes to stand on street corners and dance for minimum wage, I cringe. I cringe for the Black man who is too prideful to “accept” work he deems unworthy of dirtying his hungry hands (are we ever really offered work?). I cringe for the Black men who pass up opportunities for “menial” work in order to “look” for jobs he will possibly never find, too proud to take whatever stepping stones line our path to success. I cringe for the children who must be fed by a government who finds them more valuable behind bars, feeding the extensive-but-lucrative Correctional/Penal system–or running behind a ball, or dancing and singing on a video, or making a fool of himself on some movie screen. I cringe for the Black men who would rather be unemployed than caught picking fruit or vegetables like a Mexican, or dancing on a street corner for Liberty Tax… but making money.

I cringe for the deaths of our uncles and fathers, and leaders, who died during the Civil Rights Movement, just so that it would illegal for a place like Liberty Tax to toss your resume in the trash, just because you’re a Black man. Yeah, a Black man too fucking proud to “take” work to feed yourself and your children. You call it humiliating; my mother called it opportunity. I cringe for the industries who make a fortune off our stupidity as a people: Liquor stores. Check Cashing places. Title loans. Bail Bondsmen. Auto detailing and tire rims. Pawn shops. Everything except tutoring centers and libraries. None of the industries feed our people; they only feed off us. And we make it so.

Our grandparents did whatever was necessary to feed our parents and send them to school. Our parents took low-paying jobs and made it work. To hell with the idea that back then housing prices were lower–our parents weren’t walking around with thousand dollar rims on their cars, living off of credit and trying to dress like celebrities. For some reason, OUR people have this idea that we should look good, whatever our budget. We will lie, cheat and steal–damn near–to buy these houses we can’t afford, to go on vacations we can’t afford, and dress nice along with our children–when we can’t afford it. We are the biggest people to live beyond our means and act like we are something we’re not. The Black man of yesterday, the REAL man, was something of a James Evans, of Good Times. He was a strong, but modest and loving man who tried his best to give his kids a good home. Even when that home was in the projects.  He did not dress fancy, but his clothes were clean and well taken care of. He took pride in himself and in his children. He stuck by his woman to keep the family together, even when they failed to see eye-to-eye. He held his hat in his hands when he lost his job, because he would hear nothing of his woman getting on County benefits to feed the family. His wife knew her place (if that phrase pisses you off, then we need to talk a little, because I’m sure you have relationship problems) as his wife. She was tough, but yielding. She made sure the kids were always taken care of and fed, and that her man felt like, well, a man. She did not degrade herself to her husband. But when she disagreed, they hashed it out, and sometimes her man got his way–and sometimes she got her way. Being a strong, domineering man does not mean you don’t listen to your woman.

I mean, come on. The man worked in a car wash. If you found a brother working in a car wash, you wouldn’t know it by the clothes he wears and the car he drives, can I get an “Amen”? And many of you sisters wouldn’t give him the time of day, anyway! Our fathers took whatever kind of work they could find and if it wasn’t enough–most of the time it wasn’t–they had a second, and maybe even third, job to make ends meet. Our Dads dressed up sometimes, but they had no problem going to the mall with a white T-shirt with a gravy stain on it… to buy US designer clothing (that they could barely afford either). Both my mother and father had second jobs, and they were so strong with it, we didn’t realize we were “poor”.

Oh, if we could just understand this concept today.

In my last job, I saw young men who have children they often do not pay child support for. They are being garnished, and I must sign off on garnishments when payroll receives notice. Each time I had to counsel the employee to get their acknowledgement, I speak to them about taking care of the responsibility so that they could avoid more action. I hear the sorriest reasons why these brothers do not pay:  “I can’t afford it” is the primary excuse. Ah, but you can afford a nice car, going to the club, weekly visits to the barber, your jewelry, etc. It’s a cop out. When you are looking at suffering and you’re a parent–it’s either the kids, or you. Guess who you chose.

We must do better. We have bills to pay, we have children to feed, we have families to support. We have to do whatever we must do to make that mission a success. If we can do that, and still manage to drive a nice car, purchase nice clothes and floss on Facebook–then do it. There are a plethora of reasons our people are not working:  The job market sucks, racism and discrimination, those silly ass tattoos and piercings that you can’t seem to cover for the interview. But if it’s because you feel you can’t do certain jobs, like work fast food or dance for liberty tax, because it’s beneath you, how wrong you area. Look around you, my family. We are at the bottom of the barrel. Nothing is beneath us. Regardless of what kind of work it is, that glass ceiling is a platform you push with the assistance of any job.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

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Filed under Message to the Black Man