At the dawn of civilization, Omar Khayyam said something to the effect of- a loaf of bread, a jug of wine and thou beside me – his portrayal of heaven on earth. We lapped it up.
But I ask you, does this scenario have merit today in a civilization when we all must rush about so?
Short, succinct and to the point, at first glance Omar’s idea does seem so very perfect: food for the body, food for the soul and even a bit of luxury in the form of wine – or maybe the water used to be undrinkable in those days. Whatever, we get the idea. We imagine Omar lounging under swaying palms, fanned by an invisible breeze, bubbling brook beside him, surrounded with sunshine in a peaceful desert oasis. No wonder it caught our imagination. Even today, I remember seeing artists’ renderings in my book of poems, sometimes in color, sometimes in black and white: 2 beautiful people, subscripted with couplets of rhyme.
But what if – just bear with me – what if the “Thou” in question here – didn’t go along with the idea? What if she (or he) said: It’s too hot here, or wine makes me dizzy, or I have laundry to do or hair to wash or heaven forbid, work or something along those lines?
In that case, being a man of the times, Omar could say – ok – then leave – and they would part.
No harm done you say, but I ask: did anybody get what they wanted? Where is heaven in this scenario?
Now if Omar had added a cup of restraint to his list of necessities the scenario might have gone differently.
From Thou’s perspective – go with the flow, bite your tongue, lounge around and accept the glass. A half a cup of restraint, in not speaking the first thing that comes to mind, may turn out to be a useful tactic. As for Omar, if Thou does not want wine, let it go; heaven is still there as long as the companion is there. Use the other half cup of restraint and don’t push it.
So maybe we can’t control our thoughts but we can control the tongue. Remember restraint and give heaven a chance to enter your life.
They say that the instinct for community is hardwired in humans but as we evolve further and further away from the fight-or-flight lifestyle of our ancestors, is the other person in our thoughts or are we getting too selfish? Community used to be about basic things like food and life but today it may not be safety or even financial security but we still need companionship, love, acceptance.
Two ears, two eyes and one mouth: speak once, look and listen twice, my mother used to say. While she did not quite have the impact Omar did in my childhood, I think I will keep that cup of restraint handy now.