This month, Melbourne visual artist Arifa Asariah releases not one, but two books – A life Worth Living and Eve and Lucifer. They are both available from .lulu.com in print (and soon in electronic versions). Go to www.lulu.com and search Arifa Asariah's name or the titles of the books.
(Last week a scientist in Australia was awarded the Nobel Prize for proving that the universe is not only expanding, it is expanding at an accelerating rate. If there is one aspect of the universe that this is true of, it is in the production of books by Subud members. Not only expanding, but expanding at an accelerating rate. Every month, new ones. A flood, a veritable flood. One can hardly keep up.)
Arifa is one of those around me whom I see, as I said in my editorial, is reaping the harvest. Reaping the harvest of a long and often very difficult life. This woman has suffered. She has been visited by loss and grief more than once and recently she has struggled with life-threatening illness. But she has come thru! And all that struggle, all that suffering has paid off. It has produced fruit, flowers. (Arifa has not only produced these books but has a BIG painting exhibition is coming up at the start of next year.)
Arifa's two books are very different from each other. One is a love story, and the other is a love story, but what different LOVE stories. One is about the love of a mother for a child and the other is about the love between man and woman, sensual love, erotic love. And above all, COMPANIONSHIP, EQUALITY!
The Story of Rahman
Arifa had four children and then she had Rahman, her son born severely disabled. She was offered the option of abortion but chose not to. It was not thought that Rahman would live beyond birth, or at most for a year or two, but in fact he lived until the age of 19.
The heroism of mothers! Is it possible to ever say enough about it? The unsung heroism of mothers. Of every mother, but this particular mother is an extraordinary example of love and devotion.
We will never know Rahman as Arifa and her family knew him but we can know him through her account of him. We can see the cover photo, showing what a beautiful being he was. It shines through, even a feeling of profound peace and serenity. (The book has been beautifully designed by Marcus Bolt.)
Arifa says of the book...
A LIFE WORTH LIVING
The morning of my son's death I heard a voice in my head saying, clearly, "When I die, write my bookand call it "A Life Worth Living." I knew it was my son. What I didn't know was that he was in the process of dying.
Rachman was born profoundly disabled, not expected to survive birth. He lived a massive 19 years. If I'd known he was going to live when I was pregnant I would have been so worried that I couldn't cope with such a special needs child.
As it so happens I didn't know and I'm so glad I chose to have him. Yes, chose, because when an ultrasound showed his deformed head the doctor immediately offered me a 'termination'. Had I chosen the termination I would have missed knowing such a beautiful soul.
My life has been deeply enriched by our relationship and the journey we shared.
He taught me that all life is valid. This book goes out especially to those who have to make a choice to keep or not, an abnormal foetus and to those whose journey with a disabled child is beginning.
I feel that this is a book that could break through and become, if not a best seller, at very least a big seller. It will be an inspirational story for all parents who find themselves in a similar situation. I feel that Arifa will get not only many sales but many speaking engagements because of this book.
Eve and Lucifer
We might call Arifa's second book the first feminist tract in Subud. Well, not a tract, more a dissertation. A dissertation in the form of a story, a dialogue. She has retold the traditional Jewish creation story as a chat between Eve and Lucifer. She has turned the whole story on its head.
It is of course an attack (a loving attack! A gentle attack! An attack in the form of a story!) on the foundations of the patriarchy. And why not? Isn’t it about time we abandoned this rotting shell of the patriarchy? This system that has kept women abused, subservient, oppressed, repressed for thousands of years? That has turned them into chattels and denied them their full humanity? We are living in the age now (as Bapak said) in which men and women become equal partners in the enterprise of life. And about time, too. All that talent, all that capacity, which has been denied, dammed up. Release it! Arifa says of the book:
EVE & LUCIFER
Translated from the Original Manuscripts by Arifa Asariah
For most of us there is only one version of the happenings in The Garden of Eden. In it Eve betrays Adam with a snake by eating the forbidden fruit.
About 15 years ago Arifa Asariah uncovered a set of manuscripts written by Eve and Lucifer. She is, to this day unable to divulge the how and where of her findings, but the story, with some editing by herself, is laid out for you to read.
In it you will discover a very different story... a story of love not evil, of loss and pain, not rejection by an angry God. Through Eve's eyes we meet Lucifer as a beautiful, loving, compassionate Angel. Through Lucifer's eyes, Eve has grown up manipulated and bullied by Adam, who professes to know God, but for Lucifer it is Eve that shines with innocence, love and inner light.
But read on for yourself...Eve and Lucifer
The book is illustrated by Arifa's own line drawings. (And is again beautifully designed by Marcus Bolt. These covers should be winning awards!)
The illustrations are of naked people, mostly women, but also men and women in loving embrace. Shock! Horror! Can this be a Subud book? Hide it before the children see it.
Well, I expect the children have seen much worse these days with the Internet. And there is nothing pornographic about Arifa's work. It is beautiful, elegant.
Sex and Subud
Sex and Subud! There is a subject we could devote some time to. Despite all our years of doing the latihan, there is still a lot of squeamishness, embarrassment and inhibition around the subject of sex. Let's face it!
We have produced one set of very enlightening, dare one say penetrating, writings about sex. Sudarto's... as published in the collection of his writings, which you got as a bonus with September issue (download it here if you missed out!.
Extraordinary writings about the sublime, the ridiculous and the miraculous of sex.
And there are of course Bapak's passages in Susila Budhi Dharma.
But most of the writing I see in Subud about sex takes the form of “I did it, but you mustn’t”.
(Marcus Bolt tells me that he and Dirk Campbell once ran a workshop on sex and more people than could fit into the room turned up. This shows there is no lack of interest in the topic.)
The best discussion I ever heard about sex was at a Meeting of the Americas held in Brazil about ten years ago. This was when Daniel Cheiftetz was WSA chair and you may remember that one of his things was to encourage long open-ended talkfests.
So the young people got together to talk about sex. A few older ones (me!) sat in. One girl expressed the “problem of promiscuity” with a turn of phrase I will never forget. In a way she was saying exactly the same thing Bapak says in Susila Budhi Dharma but with her own particular salty flavour. This is how she summed up the inadvisability of promiscuity. “When I drink coffee,” she said, “I drink coffee. And when I drink coke, I drink coke. I do not mix the two!”
Bapak and the Patriarchy
Recently Arifa and I ran a workshop “Discovering your Destiny”. Many interesting things happened in it, but one in particular was this.
When we had all gathered there was one empty chair. Some asked, “Who is that chair for?”
I said, “That is Bapak's chair.” Because of course it has become a common practice at Subud gatherings to have an empty chair, Bapak's chair.
Arifa immediately objected, “No, that is Elijah's chair.”
She explained that it’s a Jewish myth that you always leave one chair empty for Elijah... who is called an Immanent... because he’s always present.
For some reason, the incident called to my mind that many of us, men and women, for our different reasons have “a problem with Bapak”.
I have a problem with Bapak. I have never found completely my right relationship with Bapak. I am sure that often it comes down to our relationships with our own fathers. My father died when I was five and before that I felt he did not approve of me. I still struggle with all that at the age of 69. And I am sure it influences my attitude towards Bapak. And then who knows what else comes into it. Nationality, ancestry...
For women in particular, it is of course that he represents the male principle and many of us, men and women, are having problems coming to terms with what the male principle means at this point in time. Many women are of course in the process of overthrowing the patriarchy and it can look like Bapak represents the patriarchy. He is of course a most paternal figure. His very name proclaims it. Bapak, father! And many have problems coming to terms with this.
So many women (at some level of their beings) are caught in a paradox, a conundrum, a tight place, a conflicting place. They want to devote their lives to overthrowing the patriarchy and they want to give their lives to a spiritual movement, which issued from a father.
An interesting discussion for another time...
For the present, get on your computer and order Arifa's books from www.lulu.com - available in print editions (and soon as ebooks).