Adrienne Rich’s Twenty-One Love Poems are something to behold. Poem XX is the one that moved me, the one that shed a light on something within me I needed to understand, about what the soul is, what the soul is made of.
“That conversation we were always on the edge of having, runs on in my head”, what is this conversation? The internal monologue we have, that inner voice that gathers our intuition and hands it to us. I then read it over and over sharpening my understanding of the soul. Is it a mirror, reflecting the vulnerabilities of ourselves we hide? Not necessarily. We are so prone to continue this life ignoring ourselves for the sake of having a life people think is worth living. There comes a time though, a small moment, where we see ourselves, and the neglect that has caused our grief, “…drowning in secrets, fear wound round her throat”. This grief we try to set aside, throw whatever we can at it, but it’s still determined to creep up when we believe to have defeated it. Our soul is not a mirror, but it will show us what we have been neglecting, how we have been hurting. And then, the sudden realization that we can indeed have a hand at shaping our soul, to have a hand at expanding and growing by nourishing it, to realize it is ours, it is mine, “and soon I shall know I was talking to my own soul”.
This was my interpretation of it and sometimes I wonder if I’m right or wrong. But then again, even though the writer had a certain intention with it, how it is received is something entirely different. I like to think of poetry and other art forms like a road sign, something that highlights what you’ve been mulling over and over again in the palm of your hands, and at times medicine, an elixir that brings the understanding you need in order to continue on.
And now I ask, what has moved you on this Monday, or lately?
What does it mean to be moved? Moved to tears? to anger? to sadness? to happiness? Something within us stirs and is alive waiting for anything that has the capacity to brighten or dim, to enhance or mute, to grow or to shrink. As a creative person, as a writer, and as a human being I want to talk about what moves me, and what stays with me. So, I want to share pieces of work that has moved something within me, that has stirred my essence, and has eventually stained a bit of my existence.
In “Gabriel’s Wing”, Allama Iqbal’s constant questioning of “mine or Yours?” has stayed with me ever since I came across the poem five years ago. My own spiritual journey is holy at this moment, to the point that it feels a little difficult to fully share. I started this journey around the time I read this poem. “Mine or Yours?” the responsibility of life, of being, touching upon the idea of perfection and the faults. When some of us finally arrive to the threshold of our God, we have our arms wide open and in need of the embrace of the Divine. Our own notions of a pure love is sort of tainted a bit by the idea of mother and father, so we arrive here- ‘my maker’ and assign them the role of mother and father. I couldn’t help but to think of when a child has done something wrong, the father looks over to the mother to say, ‘that’s your child not mine’ when reading this poem. We somehow take it upon ourselves that this must be a collaborative work, me and God, God as the parent but also us creating our God and confusingly God creating us. We’re here wondering if everything we see is ours or God’s. When everything is not perfect as we think it should be, whose fault is that? We either think too much or too little of ourselves, so it’s natural that we think too much or too little of God.
No matter where one is on their spiritual journey, there’s always this sincere questioning of God. The God we are taught about, the God we don’t see, the God we do see, and the God we wish could be if only people try to believe enough. But here Iqbal questions everything we are aware of so far; if heaven is corrupted, is it God’s heaven or my heaven? If I’m ignorant of the world’s woes, is it God’s fault or mine? If all of life is truly meaningless, am I to blame or can I blame God for that? Should I know of Your faults God, how an angel dared to rebel at the moment of You showing Your magnificent powers of creation, will that make You weaker in my eyes, should it affect my devotion to you? Everything that is holy is Yours God but didn’t I, as a human being, had a hand in writing those words? And me, a human you made, am I still Yours God, will you still claim me God if I’m no longer perfect in your eyes or will I stand alone?
If we want to be skeptical, we could say all of this is ours. The reality here is ours and we should accept blame where blame is due. When a human being decides to harm others, God didn’t reach within them and move them to destroy another’s world the same way Satan did not move them to do the same. So, this God we question is the likeness we seek. We wish to put a mirror to our faults and yet we shy away at the last minute: ‘there must be something grand that can take all the blame, both good and bad, I don’t want the responsibility of all of that’.
For me, God is not a man in the sky, and we are not made in that man’s likeness. I’m confident I know for sure what God isn’t, but I still don’t fully know what God truly is. My own journey is still roving. I’m still trying to figure out what God is. I came across Simone Weil’s words today, “Love needs reality. What is more terrible than the discovery that through a bodily appearance we have been loving an imaginary being” (from “Love”, Simone Weil: An Anthology) and it stirs up that feeling again when I question my devotion to a God I chose to believe in; how could I love someone I don’t see? To be asked to take things on faith and faith alone is an exercise of the heart’s will, its capacity to love, and a test to our humanity. What makes us real,what makes us human? Hoping for an all-powerful being we can’t see to love us as we are is a ridiculous endeavor. It makes people angry and upset to say that, hell it makes me upset to even say it. So, when I read “Gabriel’s Wing”, it brought to my attention my creator and the responsibility of things whether they are perfect or not, and are these things perfect in the first place if they could change with perspective and blame?
I know what God is not through these questions. For now, I am content in the unraveling of this spiritual world as a new one blooms before me, with me before it, understanding everything from questioning everything I’ve been told about it.
“Gabriel’s Wing” is a piece of work that has stained me, not a day goes by where I don’t think about it. The line, “and man, that thing of dust, that star whose shining lights your world-” is a line that makes me smile. There’s always that residue left within us, like a child looking up at their parent, whether joyful or sad, how powerful are we to have that capacity to light up someone’s world, aren’t we something?