Do we owe anyone anything?
Do we owe anyone — and this includes the animate and inanimate aspects — for our dreams? Do we owe anyone for our existence?
Of course, as our perceptions mature, and as our sensitivity and sensibility become more and more refined, we tend to move towards a view that holds that we owe everyone — and again, this includes the animate and inanimate aspects, for everything that we are or we have.
‘For My Mother’s Soul’ by Hassan al Matrooshi, the acclaimed Omani poet, is a poetic attempt at exploring the feelings of indebtedness and gratitude that well up in our hearts at some point or other.
The poem uses mother as a subtle metaphor for the universe itself.
He starts the poem with:
I owe her O God
I owe her
for the tales in our quarter,
for the remote morning loaf,
for her grieves,
for the departure
The tales we have grown up with are in fact not just tales, as we know. Those fairy tales our mothers and grandmothers narrated with an element of mystery are loaded with elements that have deep psychological relevance. But do we owe the mother for those tales? Of course, feels the poet. Now, beyond the mother in a human form as the narrator, our existence is filled with tales of existential bliss, dilemma, angst and what not, narrated by the cosmic principle.
Even the mother’s grief is something we owe for. Grief is the subtlest form of our comprehension of what our life is at a particular point of time. It may not necessarily be related to our own compartmentalised existence, rather grief can strike us from the angst of the collective unconscious as well. A sunset, a bird disappearing in the horizon, a song just ended, or even the degradation of the environment can all cause us grief. And if we are mature enough, we can learn a lot from our own or anyone’s grief. And what to speak of the grief of the mother, the universal mother? If we observe closely and with a highly receptive mind, the earth’s grief is a wake-up call for us to act in the larger interest of existence itself; to correct our course and atone for our sins.
Similarly, the departure of the mother. Any departure is painful. For we feel so attached to our own mental constructs, we feel totally out of gear once we are forced to say goodbye to them. Mother, or our concept of existence is one such mental construct. The real mother, the real truth of existence could be far, far away or different from what we manage to comprehend. But one thing is sure, every departure shakes our mind, and rehashes our entrenched ways of analysing or knowing. Every departure demands a new, and refined, framework for understanding. And the insights we get out of this reframing are amazing. Also, departure and grief are inseparable.
And why should we feel indebted for the morning loaf? A loaf (of bread) stands for what we enjoy in this human form. A loaf could be a song, a beautiful or saddening scene, or even a thought… Don’t we owe to the mother for that loaf? We do, for it is not created by us, it is given to us, by the mother or cosmos. And this daily gift leads us forward in time.
The poem moves on to:
I owe her –
the mother of this dew and these palm trees
Here, we clearly understand what the mother signifies.
The sense of gratitude expands to the cup of coffee, the rooster in the house, poverty, the infrastructure that forms the basis of our transactional engagement with the world, and finally for the death of the motherly principle. Death is the end, in a sense. And every death teaches us great lessons, as is the case with departures. Death is the most intense departure, we may say.
Finally, the poet is happy and feels he owes a great deal to the mother for the child he still is. This is of great significance, as if every one of us feels that we are still not ‘grown up” to control and overpower others and the environment, it brings a significant degree of humility, which in turn allows us to live in total harmony with nature. No more climate change, no more conflicts and wars. Only existence at its beautiful best!