Remembering Ashley

I first met Ashley Alvis, I don’t know how – in that way things happen which are meant to happen. We spoke briefly over a few e-mails, and I recognized right away a soul who knew things by knowing them intimately. It was not enough for Ashley to ponder the depths of religious truth; his desire was to become truly and completely wet.

He was someone who knew ecstasy as a doorway to transformation: when the darkness of misery and despair must vanish before pure light. He became a beacon of joy, filling up with light until his very fullness became its own pain. For there were not many he could speak to, or share such states with. At such moments verse was his only companion, nodding its lines of assent beneath starred skies at his home in Georgia.

He wrote to me once that our Faith has need of a Hafez. Someone who will disregard all boundaries, and break all ties, that others may be prompted to do the same within themselves. There can be no room for stillness or movement, in the end, save the Beloved. And who can tread such impossibilities who has not courted the insanity of love, or been remade by knowledge, or been dissolved at once in the Divine Unity? Ashley was a trailblazer to such lands, who wrote of his travels. As he once wrote, “This is a sea of nothingness in which He cast His lure.”

Below are some lines I wrote to Ashley less than a week after we had created a mailing list together for our friends of the mystic persuasion. His passing brought an end to those discussions, and I have missed them – and him – ever since:

Open, my friend, your unseen lips
  to carol a thousand lover's songs
that time and fate may have wearied of --
  though not our lonesome throng.

We await your foolish words,
  that for fools are "full of meaning";
and anticipate a screeching rent
  in all these veils of seeming.

Like idiots, are minds are blanked
  of all "seen and heard and understood",
to gather in our Teacher's words
  in the form of you, my Robin Hood:

Steal from the angels, and gift we poor!
  Their heaven is too bright and dear,
not to spare some bauble for us,
  or the hope of drawing near.

  "No man that seeketh Us
     will We ever disappoint,
  neither shall he that hath set his face towards Us
     be denied access unto Our court...." (Bahá’u’lláh)