The Apt and A Priori Pristine Axiom of Love
This is reality: nothing exists for us
But the enchantment of what’s just beyond
Our gloved finger tips our lips the keen
Yet screened golden thing we stretch for:
The phosphor of our night
Our famous “zone of proximal development”
Which varies from person to person
From vantage to advantage point
Hence too beware of seem because bewitched
Judgments might dream in unaware to eclipse
The apt and a priori pristine
Axiom of love
Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:
“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”
Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”
In the news in the last week is a controversy about continuing to honor Woodrow Wilson by keeping Princeton’s buildings etc. (where he was president before becoming president of the US) named after him.
Because it turns out, he was a racist.
I mean full blown. He was a segregationist who showed in the White House, the infamous (Yet somehow mysteriously still on some lists of the greatest movies in the Americana archives) D. W Griffith “classic,” The Birth of a Nation.
It is an incredibly egregious example of a racist film. So much so that (when I was a student at U.C. Berkeley in my youth) my old American History professor, the wonderful Leon Litwack*, showed it to all his U. S. history students, in the cavernous (yet packed) Wheeler Auditorium. In the movie for instance, the “house nigger” little black girl was referred to in the caption (It is a silent movie) as “The little pet sister.” It has a scene in which a leering black would-be rapist causes the chaste white girl to hurl herself off a cliff to avoid the proverbial fate worse than death.
And there was claimed to be such an epidemic of such black-instigated injustice that the heroes donned white sheets and rode in on horseback to save the nation.
Now I am reading a recent and persuasive article by Matt Bai:
In it he makes a very good point. He says,
“But history is complicated, and so are the people who make it. The messy reality is that great people sometimes do terrible things, and terrible people sometimes do great things. To discard all the actors we find abhorrent, along with all the things they might have accomplished, is to deny the vexing contradictions of humanity–which is exactly what real knowledge is about.”
And then he asks where we should stop. Should we rename the Washington monument because founding father George had a slave plantation? (Of course, much of the recent to-do about Wilson has to do with the fact that he was much more racist than was extant at the time.)
And then you’ve got the case of the composer Wagner whose Lohengrin, for instance brings me to tears. Whose Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla makes me want to stand at attention, to honor the power of beauty. But he was a virulent anti-Semite. And so, it turns out was an old favorite of mine, H. L. Mencken. The man who famously said, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.” The newspaperman who chronicled the 1922 Scopes evolution trial in the movie, “Inherit the Wind.”
And there is the question of if Mencken were alive today, would he still be an anti-Semite? If he were, and showed it, he would be constant cannon fodder fuses, lit by the fire-starting withering stares from people who are modern enough to have a heart. And who have clout these days, and in the circles of the intelligentsia which Mencken was prominent among. (Sometimes peer pressure is a wonderful thing)
Say what you will about the horrors in the world today, but I do hear a drumbeat of undercurrent afoot in the land, that seems to take on the rhythm of a heartbeat.
Of course, it is one thing not to cast into the inner circles of hell those who in the past held abhorrent views, understanding the exigencies of having lived in that time, when it was considered respectable to utter Nazi slogans.
And it’s quite another to keep holding them up to be honored. Except perhaps as an object lesson in forgiveness, for they knew not what they did.
As for Wagner, I think although the anti-Semitism had infected his mind, the universe is such that there is what Humphrey Bogart exemplified once, in his movie, “The Left Hand of God.”
In which even in the midst of darkness and in the depths of the very hell hole of not really fire but rather the coldest dark, is to be found a gently warming flame that came straight from the dream of God, and it is a portable hearth, and if you tap into it, you miraculously have a taste of the restful relief to be found when you are truly at home. I think Wagner’s heart just didn’t let its left-handed ham-fisted mind know what the right hand of his heart was doing.
Of course (full disclosure) I am a Pollyanna type who prefers to put a good face on things. (Believing in reincarnation helps!)
So I choose to believe that even now, in a new incarnation, a reborn Wagner is about to revert to his former tricks but suddenly it comes to him the access he’d once had, to such a beauty as was his music, and the difference is that now it is embedded in his soul such that the soul cries out in rebellious pain if he should ever try that other crap again.
And too, his own music comes back not just to haunt him but also to make him smile.
So, I guess what I am saying is we should give only short rope to our desire to judge, and a very long rope to forgiveness, and understanding. If only for this: judgment is a pointless distraction from what we really do have some control over. The extreme makeover our heart bids us make in our own life. (But not to worry–there’s no hurry. That is what reincarnation is for. Of course too you have to make sure it’s not more a case of reincarceration)
But that doesn’t mean we have to honor these famous bigots. Forgiveness, forbearance, these are fine things. But as for naming buildings, why not one to Bernadette instead?**
Or Marian Anderson,*** the all-around wonderful world famous singer. I remember a story my old beloved Sufi preceptor Lud Dimpfl used to cite:
She was talking to someone, and hugged her good-bye. And then another “friend” came up to her and said, “Marian, don’t you remember what she said about you?”
To which Ms Anderson replied,
“I distinctly remember having forgotten about that.”
God be with you,
PS–I especially like her singing the song about God, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”
PPS–Remember two or three posts back, when I was talking about Karl Jung’s synchronicity concept? Well sincronicidad ataque de Nuevo! Tonight, just after I posted “The Left Hand of God” I was watching television, and guess what’s on the Turner Classic Movies channel? Guys and Dolls, with Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons. Got 90% rating on Rottentomatoes.com!
The synchronicity? Well! Talk about the left hand of God! The movie was a perfect example. And it was one of Murshida Duce’s favorites. She regularly had a movie night for her mureeds (student Sufis), and one of them was Guys and Dolls. Also I remember, the Bishops Wife, with Loretta Young and Cary Grant. And another was Bell, Book and Candle, with I think Kim Novak and Jack Lemmon. Oh and also To Sir with Love, with Sidney Poitier.
So, I add this addendum. (I can do that because it’s my blog).
*Go Professor Litwack! I liked him so much I just looked him up on wikipedia. Quite the guy, and still alive, though born in 1929. Here’s the url: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leon_Litwack
**Here’s a wonderful rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Song of Bernadette:
Or this version, sung by Jennifer Warnes:
***She was important in the civil rights struggle. An interesting thing happened in the course of that. She was denied by the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) the right to a desegregated concert in Constitution Hall. Then Eleanor Roosevelt and her husband the president arranged an alternate venue. She sang on the steps of the Lincoln memorial instead. Wikipedia reports: “She sang before a crowd of more than 75,000 people and a radio audience in the millions.”
Here she sings the spiritual, My Lord, What a Morning: