It is 6:00 am in Marrakech and there are five different minarets all calling the people nearby me to prayers. They seem to be competing- a cacophony of singing and calling from every direction in the Kasbah, an area (actually the garrison) next to the Palace of the Moroccan Royal family. I saw King Mohamed V go by last Wednesday. The palace windows can be seen from the roof of my road. Three generations of Moroccan royalty are being woken up right this minute.
Each call from each mosque has a different tone, a different voice, a different quality of grey speaker nailed to the towers. “Allahu aAbar” is how they begin. Calling. Calling. Calling. “Allah Akbar!” Calling. Calling. Calling. “God is Greater.” It’s not a fight call. It is a reminder than no matter what we are going through, God is greater. No matter what betrayal we experience, God is greater. No matter what trial we face, God is greater. I wish someone were to call that to my ear when I first awake and when I last go to sleep. I think that was why I entered a monastery. And perhaps why I left it.
It is now 6:00 am. The roosters began calling more than an hour ago and I heeded that call too. I wonder what would happen if a man’s voice, calling people to awake and attend to God, were to echo out every morning through the open windows of a suburb in The United States (let alone five times each day.) What would the people do? Well first off, they would not hear it because the windows and doors are all sealed and double-glazed. Second, they would riot.
What would we Christians be like if we stopped and prayed five times each day? Humble?
But though I do not see God quite the same way my new Muslim and Sufi friends see God, I am fully aware that we see a God who wants to be with us. This is a God who made the creation so as to see God’s reflected light in it and enjoy be warmed by it. I wonder if God was cold when it was just stars and suns and God in cold space?
I will admit that my study of whirling is not a stunning success. Twice on my first day I vomited. Another time I fell and hit the wall with the full force of my body and bruising my shoulder. Most of the time I cannot stay on the head of the nail and often I just stop and watch the brothers spin. I see them smiling. I see them in sensuality with God and that I recognize even if we do it differently. Then I spilled coffee on my white skirt and got yelled at. Oh well.
Everything in the cosmos spins. Planets spin. Even atoms spin. Everything spins.
The point to life is only one thing. God. The reason we exist: God. That which holds all of this together: God. The force which longs to be with us, needs to be needed and loved by us, needs to love us: God.
You may disagree and I am cool with you being wrong. Peaceful about it – no need for an inquisition or a crusade or the burning of a cross in your yard. I am sure of only one thing in this life; that God is passionate about us as a lover is passionate about his or her lover. God would devour us like a pomegranate. Our society has walled off sensuality because we are so terrified of the vulnerability of sex and sensuality and because we don’t get enough of it. Well. Most of us. So our sad little repressed selves scowls grumpily at anything physical or sensual or sexual as “dirty” and anything about God or church or holiness as “clean.” It’s preposterous. It’s ridiculous. It;’s insulting to a God whose creation is built on sexual activity for its very existence. And in the end, it is even dangerous – because our repression comes out – it seeps out the side like steam from a broken pressure cooker – and burns people.
This poem by Rumi is not about a human. It is about God. We want it to be about a human so that our little categories are in no way upset. But upset they must be. For God would lick our neck if God could. And I am not sure God cannot. Does not.
“I want to see you.
Know your voice.
Recognize you when you
first come ’round the corner.
Sense your scent when I come
into a room you’ve just left.
Know the lift of your heel,
the glide of your foot.
Become familiar with the way
you purse your lips
then let them part,
just the slightest bit,
when I lean in to your space
and kiss you.
I want to know the joy
of how you whisper
― Jalaluddin Rumi