The Irreverent Daniel Ladinsky
by Christina Carson
Daniel Ladinsky, an American born poet and writer, reminds me of a boy that sat behind me in Latin class in grade twelve. His name was Marshall, and he had as much use for Latin as a dog has for fleas. Let’s face it, Latin, for a bunch of seventeen-year-olds was not a riveting subject, and the Latin teacher, Mrs. Thomas, a tiny woman, reed-thin, was an archetypical schoolmarm. Marshall was squirming in his seat from day one. In fact, one day as Mrs. Thomas wrote yet another set of conjugations on the blackboard, Marshall, who was actually quite colorful with language, leaned forward and whispered in my ear, “Geez, if she gets any thinner she’ll fall through her ass and hang herself.” Marshall required a different view of Latin and Roman times to see its beauty, and who would have thought this skinny, wizened old lady (whom Marshall later suggested that if she turned sideways and stuck out her tongue you could mistake for a zipper) had a passion for Latin so deep and wild that Marshall left at the end of the year in love.
Daniel Ladinsky, brash enough to call his works translations while others refer to them as, (!#? cough,cough, sputter !#?) channeled or inspired or dreamed since they supposedly don’t reflect a single work Hafiz, for example, wrote, stayed true to his criteria: conveying and being “faithful to the living spirit” of Hafiz as well as other mystic poets. For as Mrs. Thomas also sagely understood, if you want the story to be heard, you have to tell it accordingly. The test as to its true legitimacy is does it inspire others. The fact that Ladinsky’s work is read and loved by those of all major religions, to me, suggests he’s telling those lessons of great beauty and truth the way the ancient sages would have wanted. Reverence is really only required by those who haven’t yet come to trust their own knowing, that part of them connected
to All-There-Is. When Daniel Ladinsky did precisely that, he began to produce the most marvelous “translations” of a whooping group of great sages. If you’re still a tad stuffy about religious matters, they may likely offend you. But it you’ll drop a titch of your self-importance, you’ll have a different experience. You’ll be engulfed by the spirit of joy your heart made light by your laughter.
In an article in The Huffington Post, Ladinsky suggests how to find the real voices of truth:
If I had a son or daughter who was shopping about for some kind of spiritual teacher to help with the “knowing” — to help catch the Buddha’s fantastic grin, and they happened to ask if I had any advice, I would say, “Yep.” And then if they said, “Well, spill the beans old man.” I would respond, “It is right there on page 217 [Love Poems from God], just open the book.” Then if they said, “I am too lazy.” “Alright then,” I would pipe back, “I will read it.” Here goes:
The word Guru, Swami, Super Swami, Master
Teacher, Yogi, Murshid, Priest — most of those
sporting such a title are just peacocks.
The litmus test is to hold them upside down
over a cliff for a few hours. If they don’t wet
their pants … maybe you found a real one.
Marshall, if you’re still out there, my friend, go grab one of Ladinsky’s tomes. I especially like Love Poems from God. Ladinsky is someone else who can take what I’ve often found as equally boring as Latin—our religious explanations— and reel you in just like Mrs. Thomas did, whom I sometimes felt, in the height of one of her passionate stories of Roman times, was going to throw a silk scarf about her neck and dance the tango like a modern-day Latino exciting us all once again with real stories of Love.