Simurgh Image from Wikimedia Commons

Image from Wikimedia Commons

A very long time ago, 30 birds were selected from all the world to find enlightenment.  For years these birds traveled far beyond any known lands searching for the secret keys to holy knowledge.  Finally, they discovered a sacred meadow, and in the meadow they found a sacred pool.  Inside the pool, the saw a beautiful image – the visage of the Persian phoenix, or Simurgh.  Their journey had changed them – stripped them of all selfishness and hate, and infused them with all the finer traits.  The gorgeous creature each saw in the pool was the being each was intended to be, the enlightened creature each had become.

Farid ud-Din Attar‘s Parliament of Fowls is a beautifully complex poem written in the 12th century using birds to teach us, the readers, something about ourselves.  Each of us is the bird elected to quest for enlightenment, and it is only when our higher, holier selves are scoured free from our baser traits that we can become the creatures we were intended to be.  The Simurgh, or phoenix, is a bird of supernatural beauty and superlative wisdom, both unimaginably glorious and, because he represents each of us, ultimately attainable when we transform into our higher selves.  This creature represents mystical enlightenment and the promise of our better selves.

With these thoughts and others in mind, my good friend Malik Merchant founded, the online arts and humanities magazine, five years ago.  This magazine, named for the mystical bird of Divine wisdom and enlightenment, is dedicated to bringing uplifting stories of beauty, hope, and the higher aspirations of humanity to people across the globe, sharing positive stories of encouragement and creation in a media environment overflowing with negative news.  A remarkable online journal, Malik edits this entirely by himself.  Why?  Because he is on a quest of his own, to bring voice to stories of wisdom and enlightenment.

His work reminds me of a Sufi saying.  Of all the creatures on the planet our closest kin are birds, but our wings are wings of spirit.