Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sufi Wisdom

Some quotes I especially liked from a book I read recently (Edenborn, good if you like sci-fi and thinking about broad social issues):

pg. 61 -
Echoes of my father's words permeate my mind and my heart. Vividly, I remember him sitting me down when twin fears of death and failure twisted me in their coils. He sat me down, dried my tears, and armored me with the wisdom of Abu Sa'id ibn Abi'l Khayr, a Persian Sufi master who lived a thousand years ago. The master said:
'Whatever you have in your mind, forget it.
Whatever you have in your hand, give it.
Whatever is to be your fate, face it!'
They are freeing words.

pg. 160 -
"This is an old trick," he explained, while unloading [coconuts] from my copter. "The monkey reaches into the hole to grab the treat but cannot pull his paw free without letting go. Because he is unwilling to let go, he is trapped by the force of his greed."
Though they are low-tech contraptions, my nieces and I find them wonderfully resourceful, the kind of outdoor-savvy skill set Isaac's kids have inherited, and Vashti and Champagne's kids have not. And Mu'tazz is Isaac's son in another respect as well, using the event as an opportunity to teach. "We all carry coconuts," he told the curious girls. "They are our problems, our woes, and we drag them around, shortsighted, too proud to let go and welcome God into our lives."

pg. 232 -
We remember your lessons We embrace the future. We fight for life with every drop of blood in our veins, but the microbes that threaten us come from God, and with God what can we do but surrender completely to whatever fate He has prepared?

pg. 254 -
When I tell the story about the frogs, I never tell it the same way twice. Sometimes they are green frogs, and sometimes they're brown. Sometimes I describe them with warts and other times without. They could be your common bullfrogs or Okinawan green tree frogs. They might even be toads. There could be ten, twenty, or a whole army of them, but the core of the story is always the same.

A group of frogs was traveling together, when two suddenly fell into a pit. The others rushed to the edge to see how very deep it was, and they realized the pair would never be able to get out. Don't even bother, they croaked, but the two trapped frogs started hopping anyway. They jumped and they hopped but they couldn't quite reach the top. All the time the crowd kept yelling for them to quit suffering and just give up, lay down and die. Finally, one of the two did exactly that. But the other ignored his fellow frogs and kept jumping with all his might. Against all odds, he made it out.
The others were amazed. Why did you keep trying? they asked. Didn't you hear us yelling for you to quit?
Oh, is that what you were doing, said the bewildered frog. I'm afraid I'm going deaf. All the time I was down there I thought you were encouraging me.

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