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#5067 - Thursday, October 10, 2013 - Editor: Gloria Lee

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  • Gloria Lee
    #5067 - Thursday, October 10, 2013 - Editor: Gloria Lee The Nonduality Highlights http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NDhighlights/ Something Missing In My Heart
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 10, 2013
      #5067 - Thursday, October 10, 2013 - Editor: Gloria Lee
      Something Missing In My Heart
      Daniel Ladinsky On The God-Intoxicated Poetry Of Hafiz
      by Andrew Lawler
      One of his close friends told me that Ladinsky wakes up spouting poetry, and in
      conversation, when prose fails, he begins reciting verses by heart, growing still and
      closing his eyes. “Someone asked me why I close my eyes when I read my poems,” he
      told me. “I said, ‘Who makes love with their eyes open?’” There is an untamed
      quality to Ladinsky, a feral shyness. He is not a scholar, has trouble spelling, and is
      self-conscious about a slight stutter. He is clearly wounded by criticism of his
      work and was hesitant at first to speak to me at length. The interview was on and
      then off and then on again. Occasionally he will drive solo into the country in his
      Land Rover, hiking by day and sleeping in the car at night.
      His once-black hair is still long but graying, and he has a beard that, with his kind
      eyes, gives him the look of a Santa Claus in Carhartts. He can swing abruptly from
      reserved and solitary to gregarious and giving. Before our first chat, at a coffee
      shop following his Mardi Gras reading, he apologized to three teenagers for
      inadvertently cutting in line. Though they protested that he hadn’t, he pressed a
      few dollars into their hands and later inscribed two of his books to them as gifts,
      chatting affably, asking their birthdays, and reading each one the appropriate
      poem from A Year with Hafiz.
      Lawler: Do you always engage the world like that?
      Ladinsky: Rumi and Hafiz can have a great effect on the young. They can safeguard
      them and point them in the right direction. They are like that Emmylou Harris song:
      “I would swim the sea for to ease your pain.” They are pain eaters. I see fine
      poems, whether by Rumi or Hafiz or Mary Oliver or [Rainer Maria] Rilke or Walt
      Whitman, as baby salvations.
      I think so many people in the West are fragmented, and if I hadn’t been so
      fragmented when I was young, I would have felt the miracle of all this beauty that
      we are immersed in. The average person suffers all day long, and it is a rare
      moment when I’m not doing battle. If I have thirty minutes of peace in a day, that’s
      a lot. And even then it comes in snatches of five minutes here and five minutes
      there. All creatures are doing everything they can to have a sense of well-being.
      Rumi and Hafiz can help you in those battles.
      Lawler: What do you mean by “battles”?
      Ladinsky: Rumi says:
      Great lions can find peace in a cage. But we should only do that as a last resort.
      So those bars I see that restrain your wings, I guess you won’t mind if I pry them
      Every single poem by Rumi and Hafiz offers people more freedom. What is
      freedom? It is not suffering from the tyranny of the past or the future, from the
      anxiety about tomorrow or the unresolved things of yesterday. It is seeing
      something of the wonder of this moment. It is not a dull experience. The freer one
      becomes, the more magical the world. And if there is any sanity in us, all we care
      about is love. We want to be in love, because that is the greatest freedom in this
      mad, mad, mad world.
      Lawler: So what is the obstacle to freedom?
      Ladinsky: People are bruised from events in their lives, and bruises, whether
      physical or emotional, take time to heal. A serious bruise can impair the way you
      walk, talk, and feel. But you can use, say, a broken heart as a way to be present.
      Or you can be afraid to give up that heartache, because then the present will seem
      Lawler: Has your heart been broken?
      Ladinsky: Yes, by two events. I lost two creatures I was closest to: a woman I was
      with for ten years, and my dog. I don’t want to lose the memory of that which I
      love most. Who wants that, even if it causes heartache? Once you love something,
      you can’t forget about it. And it might transform you. Hafiz says:
      How did the rose ever open its heart and
      give to the world all of its beauty?
      It felt the encouragement of light against its being,
      otherwise we all remain too
      Lawler: How do you reconcile your commercial success with your spiritual
      Ladinsky: I have to be balanced. I sometimes have a couple of books in the top ten
      in Germany or Australia or the United States. It is amazing how Coleman [Barks,
      renderer of Rumi] has changed things. For fifty years The Prophet, by Khalil
      Gibran, was the king on the throne of spiritual classics, but recently Hafiz and
      Rumi — especially Rumi — are often at the top of the inspirational-and-religious
      category. And it’s a tough category.
      Lawler: So how is your ego doing?
      Ladinsky: I don’t think I have too much of a problem with it. My house is falling
      apart, my body is starting to fall apart, I have a broken heart, and I’m
      overwhelmed — though it’s a fortunate problem to have — with opportunities I
      can’t really manage. The books get rushed, and there are poems that aren’t perfect.
      I have an ego. I can get nuts sometimes, and other times I can find equilibrium.
      Just today I went to get milk and lay there in the Land Rover and looked up at the
      sky and said, “I don’t give a damn about this poetry reading tonight. I just want to
      lie here and look up at the sky. I don’t want to be Danny. I’m glad the books are
      there, but it doesn’t matter that my name is on them.”
      The six years I spent at Meherabad in India have been a fantastic aid. I had
      remarkable intimate contact with Eruch Jessawala [one of Meher Baba’s disciples,
      who died in 2001]. I considered him a living saint, and he still affects my every
      hour. He was a genuine teacher. He was so profoundly, naturally humble. He’s a part
      of me. He used to quote an ancient poet, saying that a person’s pride and ego can be
      so hidden that it is like trying to see the black foot of an ant on a mountain a mile
      away. That is how careful one should be about saying one has no ego and pride,
      because they are so deeply concealed.
      Lawler: You were born in the Midwest. How did you end up in India?
      Ladinsky: After fooling around at a couple of small colleges, I enrolled at the
      University of Arizona when I was about twenty. I tooled down there in a Jaguar
      XK Roadster — my father was a wealthy developer in St. Louis, Missouri. I wasn’t
      a serious student. I took nine hours of classes, smoked a little grass, and messed
      around in Mexico.
      I started to spend a lot of time alone. In the desert outside Tucson I heard a
      persistent voice — it was nothing weird — saying, “What do you really want?”
      Given a choice, I knew I wanted what gave me the greatest pleasure, and that was
      being in love. In high school being in love had given me a sense of life and
      enthusiasm. So I wanted to love someone or something deeply, and somehow God got
      factored into this. I became my idea of a good boy, a virtual monk, quite the
      opposite of how I had been living. And out in the desert I experienced sublime
      beauty for the first time in my life. Amazingly, when I stopped all chemical
      ingestion, the experience didn’t go away. It lasted continuously for more than two
      years. I was in a blessed state.
      At one point I came across the book God Speaks, by Meher Baba, as well as my
      first Rumi poems. I wanted to find a living teacher to integrate this feeling, to go
      deeper. On the back of God Speaks were the addresses of five centers. I sent
      letters to all of them but got only one reply, from a sweet woman in Australia. That
      was too far away, so instead I traded in my Jaguar for a Jeep and outfitted it
      with gas cans. I felt drawn to the Andes Mountains and planned to drive there. But
      first I thought I would take a little detour, a thousand miles or so out of my way,
      to visit the center listed in South Carolina.
      I pulled up at a motel in Myrtle and asked the guy behind the desk if he knew
      about a spiritual center, and he said it was just down the road. I parked on the
      highway outside the center and walked in the half mile or so. It’s a beautiful place
      — five hundred acres on the ocean. I arrived in the winter, and it seemed deserted.
      Finally a woman asked me what I was doing. I said I was looking for someone who
      knew about life, love, and God. “Oh,” she said, “you’d better talk to Kitty.” Kitty
      Davy was a woman in her seventies who had spent fifteen years in India with Baba.
      We talked on the phone for a minute, and she invited me to her office. When I was
      ten feet away from her, I felt a huge wave of love hit me. I knew this was a person
      who knew about life, love, and God. I began weeping and even got down on one knee;
      she let me kiss her hand. Then she told me to sit down, asked if I was hungry, and
      ordered cheese sandwiches. She told me to just watch her work until the food came,
      clearly as a way to ground me. I stayed for three or four months at the center and
      then got a place in town. She told the others that she had never seen someone in the
      West who was so God-intoxicated without any kind of meditation or other practice.
      But I didn’t become grounded, and after a few more months she called me in.
      Normally, she said, she would send someone like me, with no financial or emotional
      obligations, to India. “But you, Daniel, are in a rare state. The best thing you can
      do is go back to your family and get a job with your hands.” She wanted to bring
      me down into the world. So that is what I did. I went back to my crazy family. I
      told my father I wanted to become a carpenter, and he said fine, he’d get me into
      carpentry school.
      I got a job with a remarkable tyrant. I thought I could do this for the rest of my
      life: put me out on a subfloor, and I could nail forever. I had an enormous amount
      of endurance. One day I was nailing a huge roof that went on for what seemed a
      hundred yards, and I thought, What more could I want? I started whistling. My
      boss said, “This isn’t any hootenanny out here. You can’t whistle on the job!” And I
      thought, Boy, they are really trying to bring me down.
      Ladinsky: A few years after the carpentry job, I started working for my father in
      his investment company and living a very worldly life. I wasn’t angelic anymore.
      And for the first time I started to think that I wouldn’t care if I died. I wasn’t
      suicidal, but my life seemed empty. So I went back to the center in South Carolina.
      Kitty told me how good I looked, but I told her I wouldn’t care if the moon fell on
      me. She said, “Do you really feel like that?” I said yes. She said that I was now
      ready to go to India. So I went in 1978 and met Meher Baba’s sister and Eruch
      Jessawala, who became deeply significant to me. They changed my life. But though
      I’d planned to stay for months, I lasted only two weeks. It was like being locked in
      a room with [psychologist] Carl Jung, who wouldn’t let you get away with any
      bullshit. They didn’t do it consciously; it was just what happened when you were
      around them. And as soon as I got home, I knew I had to go back.
      Lawler: What was your relationship to your teacher?
      Ladinsky: Eruch was a low-key guy who wore baggy pants and a t-shirt. He never
      had private time outside his room or a small prayer hall, except when he went for a
      daily walk for an hour or two. He allowed me to walk with him hundreds of times,
      and he probably initiated conversation only twenty or thirty times. The first walk
      I took with him, he said, “Danny, I can’t really speak candidly to Westerners, since
      they would be hurt. But since you are going to be staying with us over the years, I
      will tell you something I don’t want you to forget: There is absolutely nothing I
      want to say and absolutely nothing I want to hear. If something stirs deep inside of
      you, and you need to spit it out, please make sure it comes from a sincere part of
      [...] later:
      Lawler: Hafiz is Iran’s most beloved poet. Have you had second thoughts, as an
      American, about putting your name together with his?
      Ladinsky: Twenty years ago I read my first Hafiz rendering to Eruch. He said,
      “Aren’t you from a Jewish family?” I said, “I have a Jewish name, and my father
      was Jewish.” He said, “Danny, you would be risking your life tampering with one of
      Islam’s literary treasures.” My response was that my life isn’t worth shit. I had the
      sense that this work was about more than me.

      Another time I read him this poem: 

      I know the one you are looking for.
      I call that man Muhammad’s twin.
      You once saw him, so now your eyes

      are weaving a great net of tenderness 

      that will one day capture God.


      Eruch playfully said that people weren’t going to like the suggestion that
      Muhammad had a twin. “They might kill you for that — but it would be worth it.”

      On the verge of my first book coming out — I Heard God Laughing: Renderings of
      Hafiz — I told Eruch it would create a stir. People would ask him why he’d allowed
      me to put Hafiz’s name on this book. I asked if he would stand behind me. He said a
      remarkable thing: “Danny, if someone comes to me and says you are crazy and asks
      why didn’t I stop you, I will say to them that all the poems have passed through the
      most discerning regions of your heart. I will say more than that — that all of
      Danny’s poems have come from my heart. You can say anything you want, and I will
      stand behind it.” That was a most remarkable statement. When he was dying, I
      called and said I would like to come and take care of him. He said no, I should stay
      in the U.S. and do the work that he’d given me. That was more than a decade ago,
      and I haven’t been back to India.


      more can be read here:
      There is more of the introduction to Ladinsky, more about his teacher Eruch, but even so
      this is less than half the full interview in The Sun Magazine.
      The entire interview is only available to online or print subscribers. The Sun Magazine
      may be found at some bookstores.
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