A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread–and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness–
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow
-From the Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam
This is not the usual rant about the scientifically proven health benefits of wine and bread. So – all you gluten-free folks out there can put down the pitchforks, please.
No. Rather, this is a meditation on the #1 top search on this date in 2015: “What is health?” As a writer I’m always following my readers lead – what are you searching for? Why have you landed here? And finally, when you lay down at the end of the day, looking up at the ceiling, did you find what you were looking for? “What is health” is a delightful ice-breaker – especially with complete strangers.
If you really want to break it down, some folks classify “health” into six distinct categories: (you may or may not want to play this at full volume…)
But, for the purposes of my brief ruminations, I think Omar Khayyam truly touches upon the essence of health in the classic epic poem The Rubaiyat:
“Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring
Your Winter-garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way.
To flutter–and the Bird is on the Wing.”
This poem speaks differently to me than it did the first (and admittedly last time) I read it in High School. As we age, we lose our picture of health as youthful, energetic, flawless, ambitious. But don’t overlook your present grace – or the radiance of the next moment or the next – just because you don’t look like you did when you were twelve or twenty-something…and you certainly don’t feel that youthful, either.
In this present moment, I toast to health at 21, at 31 and 61 and at 91! Life is too short to count calories, to obsess over a few erroneous tics on the bathroom scale. A few extra creeks in the knees, and cracks in the hands, and of course it takes a little longer to get out of bed in the morning. And maybe that afternoon nap they made me take in preschool wasn’t such a bad idea.
“The Bird of Time…is on the Wing!” What is the “book of verses” but a book calling our spirits beyond our temporal cares? The “Thou” of Khayyam is the divine source of life – not literally the jug of wine, but represented as a spiritual character weaved throughout the verses of The Rubaiyat.
Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument
About it and about: but evermore
Came out by the same door where in I went.
And in his ongoing quest for wisdom, he continues his dialogue between “me” and “Thee” until he is beckoned beyond himself, intoxicated with the Great Spirit:
Then to the lip of this poor earthen Urn
I lean’d, the Secret of my Life to learn:
And Lip to Lip it murmur’d–“While you live
Drink!–for, once dead, you never shall return.”
Perhaps, finally, we can imbibe some truth, and saturate your searches with some sanity, albeit from a 12 century Perisan luminary. Do you understand? – here we have the secret to lifelong health and happiness. The object of your quest is henceforth obtained. May these words be like a big juicy steak: nourishing, rib-sticking, and requiring time and energy for proper digestion.