I would like to see you living in better conditions.
There is some kiss we want
with our whole lives.
The touch of Spirit on the body.
We've had the privilege for the past two nights now to hear a muezzin from Seattle (a muezzin is the person who sings the call to prayer in a mosque). It's really quite beautiful. He and another representative of the interfaith community in Seattle came at the invitation of our local multi-faith choir.
Last night, the call to prayer was accompanied by readings of poems by the two Muslim poets Rumi and Hafiz. The second man told a story, a Muslim folk tale, that I've been thinking about. His accent was quite heavy and the acoustics in the room were not particularly good, so I probably don't have the details right, but I think this is the gist of it.
There once was a merchant who owned a beautiful parrot. The parrot was one of his prized possessions. When he was travelling to India, he asked all of his household, including the parrot, what they would like to receive from India. The parrot asked the merchant to seek out his wild brethren and to give them his greeting. The merchant knew this meant that the parrot wished to be free, but he could not bring himself to let he parrot go.
So the merchant did as the parrot asked and greeted the wild parrots he encountered in the name of his beloved caged friend. When the wild parrots heard of their caged brother, one of them fell to the ground dead. The merchant was shocked and mystified.
When he returned home, he told his parrot of the strange happening. The parrot immediately also fell down dead. The merchant was broken-hearted. He carefully removed the parrot from the cage and placed his body on the ground. Whereupon the parrot revived and flew up to the top of the garden wall.
I immediately understood the message of my brothers, the parrot told him. If you want to soar, sometimes you must play dead for awhile.The storyteller told us that the story has been applied to various different situations for centuries, including temptation (sometimes the best way to deal with temptation is to put your obsession to death--figuratively put it to death), success (sometimes the best way to get what you want is to give it up), and compromise (sometimes the best way to make your point is to give your ideas a rest). Interesting, yes?