Saturday, June 09, 2012


Late last night I was contemplating the up-coming RIO+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. I was, realistically (I believe), not feeling hopeful about what might emerge from this global theater of leaders, agendas and postures. Indeed, I was feeling rather depressed about where the world seems to be heading.

In the midst of a mood plunging toward grief, I stumbled upon a wonderful film and concert about two great 13th Century Sufi poets -- Rumi from Iran/Persia and Amir Khusrau from India/Pakistan -- both of whom transformed their grief into a great love that endures in spiritual practice, in artistic performance and in personal inspiration to this day.


The film carried my memories back more than thirty years to my University of Illinois friendship with Giri Tikku -- an extraordinary poet and scholar from Kashmir whose poems danced upon three cultural roots -- the Sanskritic and Hindu, the Persio-Arabic and Indo-Islamic, and the English or Indo-Western -- traditions that often clash tragically in that volatile region.

A poem Giri wrote says:

In the anguish of joy
and be a witness
and see how one can
and be one and two . . .
and nothing
and all the thing
and beyond the form
and yet the form.

And speak with dance
dance of eyes.
and shape forms.
circles, squares;
and confuse shapes
geometry; and
call the bluff
for they say one can't
but in shape be.

Once, after hearing this poem and feeling in a cantankerous mood, I said, "Giri, what do you do in the anguish of despair?" I'll never forget his response. Laughingly, he offered, "If Karma says that you must fall, then you will fall. BUT, you can try to fall on a pillow rather than on a rock."

I think that's the expectation that we might hold for RIO+20. The world is crying for limits -- limits to the old exploitive ways. Perhaps, we (all of us) can find a softer way to walk the earth, to fall (or rise) on a pillow rather than a rock. I suspect that, stripped of arrogance, hubris or romantic idealism, that is what the search for sustainability is about.

 I hear again Giri's words,

 call the bluff
 for they say one can't
 but in shape be.

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