scientists, free thinkers and philosophers attempt to conquer the heavens using scientific innovations. Some writers of prose were no less affirmative in their critique of religion. A group of young intellectuals called the Sahifa group, especially novelist Mahmoud Ahmad al-Sayyid and socialist writer Husain al-Rahhal, called intellectuals to reformulate a rational legal system and referenced Friedrich Nietzsche, Gustave Le Bon and Charles Darwin in their writings. Jews were impacted by these discourses and reproduced them, especially in articles in the press. They further demanded that certain Jewish practices relating, for example, to marriage or butchering be modernized and changed.
Balbul did not adopt the position that argued that science could explain each and every phenomenon in our universe, as his poem underscored the fact that not everything in our universe was measurable, or in accordance to a well-defined route of progress and decline. Balbul was greatly influenced by Henri Bergson (1859-1941), and this influence found its expression in his verse. He had been introduced to Bergson’s thinking, in particular his book L’evolution créatrice (Creative Evolution), through his education at the Alliance school, as well as through Arabic newspapers and journals. Indeed, “My Wondrous World” speaks of the virtues of Bergsonian philosophy in placing the speaker at the centre while the universe is mediated through his questioning. Bergson critiqued the view that argued that nature was created to serve man. The poem itself shifts from nature and space, to manmade technology, to the most mundane.Yet it is not a paean to man’s powers or nature’s grand achievements; preference is given to the mysterious, the silent, and to nonhuman voices.What amazes the speaker is not the decipherable, but rather what is not perceptible by the speaker’s senses and his spiritual awareness, which shapes his perceptions of time and space. At the same time, however, the divine is not represented in any way as the cause of the marvelous phenomena of the universe.The wonderment of the speaker does not lead him to admire, or even to search for the Creator, or the power behind the mysteries of the world, but rather to celebrate mystery in itself.
THE SPONGE Motionlessly inert the sponge grew on his rock as if the rock gave him life, not knowing how he would live without it. His father,
178 BANIPAL 72 – AUTUMN/WINTER 2021