Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Come peaceful – a commentary

So what do we do when suffering from the private tempest and the heart's riot?

David's poem (see the post immediately below for the complete poem) describes the internal civil war and the war on the heart that follows from it:

Discharge the armies of my disarray
Which turn from civil forays on my hopes
To plunder purposes heart kept, and bray
Across my sleep their trumpets of dismay.

The poem goes on to suggest two ways out.

First, he hopes for a smile
A touch, or words to knit the mind’s torn ease

Sometimes sympathy is enough. In my experience this sympathy should try not to justify the sufferer's sufferings. I mean, if your friend is in a hole, don't climb in with them. Instead, offer the hand of friendship. You can offer a hand, but they must make some effort to climb out by themselves.

You might, for example, ask your friend, or yourself, 'What are you going to do next to improve things? What is the next step?'

The wrong kind of sympathy, even the wrong kind of listening, can make a person's problems more real than they deserve to be. The inner enemy in our internal civil war is often weaker than we imagine. Many (admittedly not all) of the things that are terrible today we laugh at or forget within a year.

It is even possible to recover from a broken heart. (You cannot in any case suffer from a broken heart unless you allow yourself to love in the first place – risking failure is a necessary precondition of success.)

The poet asks for a smile, a touch, or a few words only.

The poem offers us a second option.

... despatch that spirit by which I
Can set the eyes to search again
For lights within my stormy sky
And ears to hear some song behind its rain.

The medieval Sufi, Ibn 'Arabi (AD 1165-1240) wrote:

This noise is the noise of the wind and storm that your ego causes to be raised between the angelic influences and the world in which you live. The storm can only be quieted, and your heart find peace, through the remembrance of God.

It is the noise of our internal strife that plunder[s] purposes heart kept and clouds from us our true nature, which is the song behind its rain. That song, that peaceful place is you.

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