Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Most Great Festival: We must risk delight.

Every year at Ridvan I repost this poem by Jack Gilbert.  It seems to me to be the perfect summation of  this Most Great Festival, even though it has flies in the nostrils.  We do live in a sorrowful world.  God sent His Best Beloved to us to give us Glad Tidings of Great Joy and we put Him in prison and exiled Him, because that's just what we do.  "Moreover, consider the hardships and the bitterness of the lives of those Revealers of the divine Beauty.  Reflect, how single-handed and alone they faced the world and all its peoples, and promulgated the Law of God!  No matter how severe the persecutions inflicted upon those holy, those precious, and tender Souls, they still remained, in the plentitude of their power, patient, and despite their ascendency, they suffered and endured."    Baha'u'llah DID suffer, and yet our Most Great Festival celebrates the 12 days of His life when roses were piled high on an island in the river Tigris, and nightingales sang louder than the music of the river itself.  His family and friends knew He was full to the brim with Beauty, and their eyes, their beautiful eyes, saw only that Beauty.  Those 12 days, which started and ended with a rowboat crossing the Tigris, contained enough joy and beauty to sustain Him, and us,  through many lifetimes of sorrow.  
A Brief for the Defense

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

— Jack Gilbert

"Ridván" means paradise, and is named for the Garden of Ridván, outside Baghdad where Bahá'u'lláh stayed for twelve days after the Ottoman Empire exiled him from Baghdad and before commencing his journey to Constantinople.[2] It is the most holy Bahá'í festival, and is also referred to as the "Most Great Festival" and the "King of Festivals". (from Wikipedia)

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