Language, Light, and Intention

Shaharah Bridge, YemenThis is a fictional discussion on the nature of language that I wrote a few years ago. It’s part of a novel in progress that has been having rather a long holiday!

“Let’s look at language as an example.” Dan stood up, swivelled his chair around and sat astride with his elbow resting on the chair back. His excitement was obvious and Bridget could not resist a smile despite her hesitation about the risks they were about to embark on.

“Taking what we know about light, we can look at language in time and ask a few questions about the nature of knowledge acquisition. For example, who knows what is going to happen even within the next second?” He rose again and walked purposefully to the coffee machine talking as he went. “Do we really understand how we traverse this moment into the next? The spoken, or written word, for example, is it made of particles, an accumulation of moments added together that result in meaning, or is it like a wave, a continuous flow that contains an inherent teleology?”

Dan poured himself a coffee and added three spoonfuls of sugar. Gavin refilled the machine, switched it on, turned around and leant against the sink without once breaking his concentration on Dan’s words. Bridget noticed that Philip was fidgeting and frowning hard. Then Philip spoke up, “I think you mean the thought, dear boy. It’s the thought that makes the spoken, or written, sentence.”

“Ah, now that’s another matter. We are not talking origins at the moment. I want to keep this simple, Philip. Quantum physicists will tell you that what you find when you look at light depends on the observer. If you look for particles you find them, a world made of bits. If you look for a wave you find it, a world of continuity and unity. I prefer the latter. But what is happening if I speak or write, without pause, word-by-word? In one respect that seems like little more than particles randomly following one after the other. But there is teleology here, even though unthought. I can think it now as I speak without pause and it is called intention. That teleology is the desire to tap my creativity, to make room for that which otherwise might not emerge, a moment of inspiration that is uncensored and unformatted, simply allowed to transpire. What a great word, transpire, to breathe across. It reminds me of Blake, ‘He who kisses the joy as it flies…’”

“You do realise that you are coming very close to metaphysics, don’t you Dan?” Nanon had been so quiet during the past half hour, standing by the window, a little apart from the rest of the gathering, that her voice startled them all, coming calm and authoritative after the tense excitement of Dan’s narrative. While everyone participated in the breathless sense of wonder of Dan’s account, Nanon’s remarks moved them all to a level of grave attention that subtly altered the mood of the room to one that appeared to align itself with the changing weather. The room had darkened as storm clouds stretched above the peninsula. Through the window they could see the slate grey light that anticipated a storm. A little rain began to splatter against the pane and thunder could be heard in the distance. Nanon moved away from the window and came closer to the table. Gavin offered her a coffee, which she gratefully took.

“In the medieval universities of Baghdad and Cordoba there was no separation between physics and metaphysics. Philosophy was all about understanding the world in relation to humanity. The big questions, then, as now, were about our origins, our destiny, and the meaning of our lives, the ‘why’, ‘where’, and ‘how’. The difference between science then and science today is that up until the enlightenment that which is invisible, unknowable, and supratemporal, was not considered to be non-existent. The other significant difference is that some enlightened souls had some pretty stunning ideas on the matter of knowledge acquisition.”

“How do you mean?” queried Ben, looking as if he well knew the answer but that some of the others might be grateful for an explanation. Nanon remained silent for a moment, staring attentively at Ben.

“I’m hungry Ben. I’m sure we all are. I could also do with a change of scenery. Shall we go down to the Mermaid Inn and get a bite to eat?”

“Good idea.” Bridget slid off the table, “they’ve got a private room there. We can continue the conversation over supper, although to me it sounds more like a briefing. Am I right? Nanon? Daniel?”

Ocean of Being

You turned and pointed, and when I looked in the direction You were indicating I saw a vast horizon of which I was unaware before. We stood at a great height and from here the distant sea was visible with its sparkling reflections of light. On the shoreline I discerned a boat waiting to set sail. You waved your hand towards the boat, becoming impatient with my reluctance to leave. Finally I began the descent to the shore but as soon as I had taken a few steps the brambles and rocks around the mountain gathered force against me and I slipped and became entangled in their relentless power of impediment. Covered in scratches and bruises I stood once again and continued in my effort to reach that waiting vessel. Gradually a path became evident and the brambles no longer held me back and I climbed right over the rocks until I reached the shore.

The ship floats on the surface of the water, content in the gentle rocking of the waves. I board the navigator of the ocean of being and discover it is You who are the sea, and its vastness, and the lands beyond.

Shekinah and Sakinah: The Indwelling

The beginning of movement is stillness. The beginning of sound is silence. Within every dance of creation, the flutter of a bird’s wings, the explosion of a star, the hand that heals an injured child, is stillness at the core. Within every sound in this universe, the singing of a choir, the hammering of a nail, the cry of a gull at sea, there is silence at the centre of each utterance. The Shekinah, Sakinah, the Indwelling, God with us at the heart of all being and It’s manifestations. Ya Hayy!

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Layla and Majnun and the Soul’s Longing for the Real

In this beautiful miniature painting that illustrates a scene from Nizami’s telling of the folk story of Layla and Majnun we see Majnun in the wilderness longing for his beloved Layla who he is forbidden from seeing. With time however, he begins to see Layla in all things. This story of lovers serves as a wonderful metaphor for the soul and its longing for the Lord, the One Beloved in which all are united. The Names of Allah can be seen manifested through all creation and the sufi seeks to be constantly aware of this in the same way that Majnun sees Layla everywhere in the wilderness. Sometimes when this world appears to be a wilderness I try to remember that “All things pass except the Face of God”. It helps to remember and what better way is there than to do dhikr (or zikr), simply remembering all the time that we are all contained within the Mercy and Compassion of the One.

To read more on Layla and Majnun see this post here

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The Secret Heart

Image via Wikipedia

I recently put this in my Facebook notes and then thought that readers here might also enjoy it. Just a few thoughts on the experience of the dissolution of the nafs (ego matrix) that is the aim of the Sufi path.

The soul dwells amidst the utmost silence of total awe and the secret heart expands in space, knowing itself, knowing the Beloved. All is abandoned. Entirely. In savage nakedness veils are torn and slip noiselessly back into the created universe. Light pierces this being and excises every remaining trace of space and time. Stars, galaxies, universes are but sparkling jewels set in the dark mystery of the Unmanifest.

‘I was a hidden Treasure and desired to be known; therefore I created that I might be known’ (Hadith Qudsi)

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