I woke up at 3am today thinking about Babylon.
I like waking up early, when everyone — except the guilty — is sleeping. It is a time of muted presence, bar the quiet hum of the SSD of my new comp — presence in the sense that Sufis call hadra.
Once there was never any quiet in my life.
Like many who have — how shall I put this? — wrestled with their inner demons on the precipice of the malbolge, there was always some insane voice in my head that rarely shut up, that always wanted to push things a little further.
Drinking was the only way to stifle that voice, to dull it, if nothing else, until some fanciful picture of the world as it should be emerged, replacing the unacceptable realities of the present, not to mention the depredations of the past, far and near.
But it never lasted.
Always in the end I was Jack Lemon in some seedy big city motel room, with a huge Vacancy red neon sign flashing just outside the room’s window, left half open, with the curtains flapping in the breeze, and me sitting on the edge of a beat up, stained mattress covered by a filthy sheet, shiny from the sweats I had when I had passed out earlier, coming to with only one warm unopened can of beer left, and no place to go in the morning.
It is as such times that one can be cornered into making a choice, perhaps walking outside in the mist and rain in front of some house of worship, its doors locked, and standing alone at the bottom of its granite steps, begging the void, with tears streams down your cheeks, just for the ability to not have a drink that day, just this once, or if that be too much, just for the next hour, that looms before you like sixty impossibles before sunrise.
An aching soul such as this can feel no rest until it palpably senses — at long last! after so much suffering! — the presence of the Spirit that is invisible yet everywhere.
It happened to me, on the steps of the Cathedral of St. John Divine, on a terrible night in October of 1986.
It is not something one readily forgets.
These days, I am thinking a lot about Sufism.
Sufism has become very fashionable in America — complete with out-of-context Rumi quotations, self healing life styles, and ponderous New Age blather.
I am interested in Sufism because I am a Sunni Muslim, from Egypt, where Sufism is practiced by a large segment of the population — looked down upon by the country’s co-called élite and the government-appointed imams at Al Azhar.
When you are a Muslim, there is something intensely visceral and pleasing about hearing the call to prayer — not as it has become in Cairo today, with dueling loudspeakers on countless minarets harshly cutting down the dawn with ear splitting, droning harangues — but perhaps more along the lines of one given by a sweet-voiced youth standing barefoot on a hill in the desert calling the faithful to assemble before God.
But I am also half English — born of a Christian mother — and have experienced my share — despite the haunting pull of the Ayenbite of Inwyt, that which Joyce called the agenbite of inwit — conscience, dameer in Arabic — of sins of the body against that dominion of spirit, cavorting along with agnostic self-confidence in the allure of technocracy as a panacea, a substitute, for what we have all lost. (E.g.: this virtual prayer rug that I weaved on CodePen.)
Yom el Din.
The way I see it, every day is a potential day of judgement, on ourselves, others, and the world around us.
Is the ability to suspend that judgement part of the Sufi way?
Enough of this self-indulgent meandering.
Am I not the sort of person who has Chrome Canary on his desktop, rather than a would be Eckhartian influencer who traffics in unprovable imponderables?
Time make some ahwa, take in this presentation, and get on with the day.
Poochie will soon be demanding her morning walk!