There’s been snow and cancelled trains in Southern England. Yesterday we drank for 5 hours with people involved in the making of the honor-killing film, Banaz, A Love Story that I wrote about a while back and then despite difficult trains, we went home and watched YouTubes of radical Shariah-toting Islamists shouting and being shouted at by a reformed terrorist, who had been tortured in an Egyptian prison and thought better of the enterprise. It is very hard sometimes not to feel that one is walking around in an insane asylum, except that there doesn’t seem to be as much asylum as one hoped.
These murderous Islamists are so possessed by ghosts, so sure that the dead will save them, that I had to drag this out from Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts.
In Act 2: I almost think we’re all of us Ghosts. … It’s not only what we have invited from our father and mother that walks in us. It’s all sorts of dead ideas, and lifeless old beliefs, and so forth. They have no vitality, but they cling to us all the same, and we can’t get rid of them. Whenever I take up a newspaper, I seem to see Ghosts gliding between the lines. There must be Ghosts all the country over, as thick as the sand of the sea. And then we are, one and all, so pitifully afraid of the light.
We are ONE AND ALL, so pitifully afraid of the light, so pitifully afraid of seeing the light in others. Mythology captures the mind as nothing else does and it takes something extreme, like torture, to dislodge it once its gotten its glioma threads into your brain. There is so much wisdom, so much pure nourishment in myth that we cannot live without it, which is why it is so vital that we understand what it is and what it does to us and perhaps more than anything else, understand how we can be possessed by these voices of the dead. Maajid Nawaz became a recruiter for a terrorist organization at 19 years old. The story that he bought and sold was an archetypal tale of injustice, grief, revenge and power, not unlike Hitler’s, which also wove folk traditions and religious imagery into a weapon of mass destruction. In fact, the whole point is that the old stories are not exactly lifeless, but rather presently deflated or inflated forms. Anjem Choudary is in the process with his fundamentalist Islamist fellows, of inflating an ancient bag, blowing up part of his balloon animal and leaving other limbs flaccid so that it is a distortion of a more full-blown Islam – which you know might be fitting since he’s apparently all for chopping off hands and tongues and all. The eternal is not like a monument but like a river. It’s a problem to have the wrong metaphor.
Islam, mainly Sufism, is very dear to my heart in its ecstatic emphasis on finding the transcendent joy – and the jokes – of God. The poetry of Hafiz or Rumi is so full of ironic knowing. Not the pathetic sophomore ‘irony’ of sarcasm, but the rueful knowledge that everything we do calls in its opposite, that we are full to the brim with self-deception and one must be vigilant and compassionate to get through that. Or perhaps there is no getting through. We simply accept that we live inside the contradiction aware that only one thing can cut through the middle, only one thing holds the nameless and the named, only one thing isn’t a lie.
The subject tonight is love, And tomorrow night as well – Hafiz
And it is this love that gives us the flexibility and form to flow into the evolution of the eternal.
Rose petals let us scatter
And fill the cup with red wine
The firmaments let us shatter
And come with a new design