Friday, July 13, 2012

"You who wish to conquer pain...

you must learn, learn to serve me well." Leonard Cohen sang that. A man named Samuel Johnson once said, "He who makes a beast of himself, gets rid of the pain of being a man." What Johnson forgot to mention to those of us who choose to become Beasts to deal with our pain is the fact that it is only a temporary fix. The more one relies on transforming themselves into a Beast to alleviate the Pain, the man becomes more Beast and less Man.

I have to wonder if Johnson was advocating this method of Pain management, or merely making an observation? No matter, there is something at the Dark Heart of his statement that each person should examine when attempting to conquer pain: Is it really necessary to rid myself "of the pain of being a man?"

Pain is something that every human being encounters at some point in life. It may be a spiritual pain, a physical pain, a mental pain, an emotional pain or any combination of these and other forms that Pain can mold into itself. For some, the slightest discomfort becomes too much to bear. Some embrace the Pain and use it to fuel themselves towards their goals and desires. Still others become addicted to their Inner Beast, choosing to misuse it at any chance and for the flimsiest reasons.

The methods we use in a feeble attempt to alleviate our Pain does not come without side effects. It only takes one medication commercial to help one see that the side effects can be worse than the Pain.

Cohen goes on to sing, "You who wish to conquer pain, you must learn what makes me kind."

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Thought on Rumi, Dante, and Milton.

I have been reading a lot of poetry lately. Besides the occasional glimpse at "Paradise Lost" and "The Divine Comedy" I have been spending the majority of my time reading Rumi, a Persian poet from the 13th century. The common theme between the works I have been reading (in some cases re-reading) is that of man's relationship with God and religion. I don't wish to start a debate on religious issues here. I just wanted to take a minute to write about something that I think gets overlooked when these texts are discussed, especially in the part of the world where I live.

Religion is always a hot topic here. There are probably more misinformed and polarizing opinions around this little town than in any other place I have had the Cosmic Punishment of living. This often drowns out what, to me, is the more important and useful insight found in these texts. The idea that a Persian Muslim poet can encounter similar questions (whether they are from within himself or observed in others) about the nature of man's relationship with God and religion as Dante and Milton shows us that the questions surrounding the nature of those relationships in our time are not that dissimilar. The subjects and characters found in these poems relay the message that human beings have always struggled with the questions surrounding God, and they likely will continue to struggle with these questions. It's not the religious ideas that are in focus, it's the human ideas these poets address that can give one insights as to our own thoughts and the thoughts of those with whom we share this world.

"When you look in a mirror,
you see yourself, not the state of the
-Rumi's "Moses and the Shepherd"