Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Lady Wisdom Goes Begging

Wisdom cries out in the street;
in the squares she raises her voice.
At the busiest corner she cries out;
at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
"How long, O simple ones,
will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
and fools hate knowledge?
Give heed to my reproof;
I will pour out my thoughts to you;
I will make my words known to you.
Proverbs 1:20-24

This is such a strange image: Lady Wisdom, out in the street calling out like a fishwife, "GETcher wisdom he--eere! GETcher wisDOM!" The idea of Wisdom... who, elsewhere in Proverbs, is described as participating with God in the very act of creation... going begging for adherents is poignant and strange. Imagine her bafflement. Imagine her frustration! Why would anyone turn up their nose at what this Lady is offering? This passage makes me think of our Commander in Chief, who is proud that he gets his information not from newspapers or other media but only from his hand-picked lackies, who only feed him what props up what he thinks he already knows. This makes my head and heart ache with anger and frustration. This president and his administration are scoffers, alright. They think "intellectual" is a dirty word, and so they embrace willful ignorance.

I think, too, there are different kinds of wisdom. Today I saw a young woman running in my neighborhood, and I saw such an ease in her stride and her beautifully coordinated breathing. There is a kind of body-wisdom at work there, as well as much discipline, of course. But isn't that one of Wisdom's points? That acquiring her requires effort, at the very least the effort of response and acknowledgement that we don't have all the answers?

Listen to what she says will happen to those who refuse her:

Because I have called and you refused,
have stretched out my hand and no one heeded,
and because you have ignored all my counsel
and would have none of my reproof,
I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when panic strikes you,
when panic strikes you like a storm,
and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
when distress and anguish come upon you.
Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;
they will seek me diligently, but will not find me.
Proverbs 1:25-28

As yet another anniversary of 9/11 recedes, those words are chilling. Panic has struck us like a storm, and instead of attempting true understanding and dialogue we are flailing about, throwing American lives and American billions at a problem we don't even fully understand yet.

Here, in honor of Lady Wisdom, I offer the 99 names of Allah:

The Beneficent
The Merciful
The Sovereign Lord
The Holy
The Source of Peace
The Guardian of Faith
The Protector
The Mighty
The Compeller
The Majestic
The Creator
The Evolver
The Fashioner
The Forgiver
The Subduer
The Bestower
The Provider
The Opener
The All-Knowing
The Constrictor
The Expander
The Abaser
The Exalter
The Honorer
The Dishonorer
The All Hearing
The All Seeing
The Judge
The Just One
The Subtle One
The Aware
The Forbearing One
The Great One
The All-Forgiving
The Appreciative
The Most High
The Most Great
The Preserver
The Maintainer
The Reckoner
The Sublime One
The Generous One
The Watchful
The Responsive
The All-Embracing
The Wise
The Loving
The Most Glorious One
The Resurrector
The Witness
The Truth
The Trustee
The Most Strong
The Firm One
The Protecting Friend
The Praiseworthy
The Numberer
The Originator
The Restorer
The Giver of Life
The Creator of Death
The Alive
The Self-Subsisting
The Finder
The Noble
The Unique
The Single One
The Eternal
The Able
The Powerful
The Expeditor
The Delayer
The First
The Last
The Manifest
The Hidden
The Governor
The Most Exalted
The Source of All Good
The Acceptor of Repentance
The Avenger
The Pardoner
The Compassionate
The Eternal Owner of Sovereignty
The Lord of Majesty and Bounty
The Equitable
The Gatherer
The Self-Sufficient
The Enricher
The Preventer
The Distresser
The Propitious
The Light
The Guide
The Incomparable
The Everlasting
The Supreme Inheritor
The Guide to the Right Path
The Patient

Patient One, give us patience to seek you.

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