Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Abou Ben Adhem

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said
"What writest thou?"—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered "The names of those who love the Lord."
"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still, and said "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men."

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.
~ James Henry Leigh Hunt

I remember first reading this when I was quite young. The poem thoughtfully opens the question of how someone might please God.  Is it a religious question or a life question.  Does one please Him by perfect faith and religious practice?  Or, might God encourage something more relevant to real life, a genuine reflection of His heart in those who hope to do what is right and good with the opportunity they have?

In today's widespread quasi-religious turmoil, much is revealed from the hearts of those who harm others while claiming God's approval.  While no political argument is pristine, that one is particularly toxic.  It has been twenty years since the Bosnian massacre, and the trouble continues today in Syria, in Afghanistan, and elsewhere.  Everywhere, actually.