“Now is the time for you to know that everything you do is sacred.”
I was young and not very smart when I was introduced to Hafiz. Much has changed, at least along the “young” lines. My friend Jenny told me that Hafiz was an enlightened being who came to earth and shared divine wisdom. And she would know as well as anyone, I figured, because she had a divine ass. So I checked him out. To my shock, he was entirely understandable. He broke down barriers between me and God that I did not know existed. Just by reading his poems, I grew closer to God. He says stuff like:
“The moon cannot hold a grudge.”
And I feel layers of protective New York cynicism melt down into the inky, swirling love force of his pen. I liked Hafiz. I liked that he was easy to read and brought me comfort. Turns out it wasn’t by accident. He wanted to challenge people’s suppositions about the divine force, smash through the walls we build for no reason, and in doing so, provide truckloads of comfort.
The Only Sin I know
If someone sits with me
And we talk about the Beloved,
If I cannot give his heart comfort,
If I cannot make him feel better
About himself and this world
Quickly run to the temple and pray-
For you have just committed
The only sin I know.
Hafiz was a teenager, the story tells, and fell in love with a genuine beauty, way out of his league. He was smitten, and wrote verses to her for years. Nada. So he undertook a 40-day ritual at a gravesite, spending all the night hours there, where according to legend, you would get your wish on day 40 if you were 100 percent about the process.
“The words you speak become the house you live in.”
Day 40 comes, boom, the archangel Gabriel appears, and our poet gets moonstruck. Asked for whatever his heart desired, and smitten by the beauty of the angel, he forgot all about the girl, and asked only to know God. He was told to go see a local wise man, Muhammad Attar, and did so. For the following 40 years, Hafiz studied at his feet. Enlightenment happened overnight. Well, one night 39 years and 364 days. So what is the poet’s message?
Hafiz informs us in no uncertain that sometimes, you do well to stand up to the fact that life is awesome.
“I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.”
His actions for discovering the awesomeness all around and in you are two.
1. Make friends with prayer and meditation by spending time with them.
2. Seek out the company of people who are sources of love, and assimilate.
That’s the plan, folks. And here’s the deal, just read his writing. These poems have a liberating, transformative effect. I cannot spend 20 minutes with “The Gift” without feeling a strong, uplifting influence, and I bet neither can you. The translation is important: get anything Ladinsky did. Take my word for it.
All your worry
Has proved such an
Find a better
Hafiz loves you, with head-over-heels, holy-shit-she’s-better-than-brown-rice, whoa look-out-I’ve-lost-all-my-marbles strength love. Feeling this repeatedly through his words, I’ve embraced Hafiz as my teacher. He keeps telling me that I’m perfect, and to keep on keeping on. It is a most welcome message.
“Fear is the cheapest room in the house.
I would like to see you living
In better conditions.”
What’s not to love? Try him out: he is seriously the balls.
Hafiz poems and excerpts are from Daniel Ladinsky’s Penguin publications The Gift, Poems by Hafiz © copyright 1999, and I Heard God Laughing, Poems of Hope and Joy © copyright 1996 & 2006. Reprinted by permission of the author.
Editor: Brianna Bemel