Swooning Over Rumi

Rumi was a 13th Century Sufi Mystic. Until today, the most acquaintance I had with his work was the occasional meme on facebook. You know the type I’m talking about: there’s some sort of inspiring natural background-a fly over the Grand Canyon at sunrise perhaps, and then a poem or pronunciation about life that makes you feel smugly superior for having read it, or maybe completely insignificant. I was in Barnes and Noble, banished there by my husband to “buy a few books”, which sort of made my gut churn because we rarely have enough extra money for things like that, but right now we’re okay. So, I go and I’m aimlessly wandering around, resolving not to buy anything except maybe something for the kids—because that’s something I can justify to myself— and I get that tickle… that tickle in the back of my thought area that I generally associate with Loki, but well, maybe it was someone else. I’m not sure. I’m guessing it was probably Loki though. I find myself wandering near the Eastern Religion section when a song I deeply associate with Himself comes on the sound system (it was Take Me to Church by Hozier for anyone who cares), and I can’t take my eyes off this book of Rumi’s poetry. Then I get the shooing hand motion type urge rolling over me. The “go on, pick it up already”. Okay, okay. So I do. The first poem I flip to, of course:

In love, ask for madness

Give up reasoning, give up life

Look for dangerous adventuresI

In deserts filled with blood and fire!

Okay, thanks Loki. Yes, I’LL BUY THE DAMNED BOOK ALREADY, of course my Sweetest Friend, if you insist. I get home with it and begin to idly flip through, and as I’m reading the book—and I start with the forward because I can’t not read the forward even when it’s twenty pages of boring nonsense— I’m struck by the description of what the poems are from the scholar who was tapped to write it. They’re “intoxicated expressions of love and longing for unity with the immortal Beloved.” (Farzad, Rumi’s Little Book of Life) (Yes, beloved with a BIG B.)

…okay. Okay, so Loki (Maybe. I’m just not sure where that came from.) picked an interesting book. About four poems in it became clear that Rumi was at the very least a Beloved of a God and possibly, I would take it as far as a Godspouse. Here are a few poems that I took as support of that idea. (So, to be clear, yes, I’m talking about historical support for the idea of Godspouses, or at least devotion that is something like it outside of the Indian religious setting.)

These aremy main “proof poems” for the idea.

This first poem downright gave me chills. I so know these emotions.

All are satellites around You, the suns

And planets have entered your orbit.

Beloved, am I the seeker or the sought?

Until I am I, you are another.

There is no place for “You” and “I” in unity.

Let no feet remain that lead us to thorns

Let no heads remain that lead us to denial.

There is water flowing in the middle of the stream

And water frozen on the banks

One is swift, the other stagnant.

Be aware, swift one, or you too may freeze.

It is the sun that transforms stones into gems,

It is the sun of eternal love shining in your heart

That stirs it into service and leads it to mastery.

The king covers the falcon’s eyes so it can detach

From its own kind and gaze only at his face.

Misguided is the one who takes his gaze

Off the Beloved and turns toward another.

A food give up Christ to buy a donkey

The wise man sells his donkey to follow Christ.

Seek the light beyond the light of day and night

Beyond judgement, the light bestowed by God.

Leaving the darkness we are the moonlight

Returning to the moon, for the trust is

To Him we shall all return.

Now, of course, that is chock full of Jesus stuff, but I can read around that to see the core of the feelings there and I was deeply touched, but something a little more visceral is what convinced me that this “mystic” was a little more the brand of mystic I’m familiar with. Give me something that shows the Humanity of the Divine and the Divine in the Human and I’ll generally follow along and at least listen to what you have to say.

One day you will see me sprawled in the tavern

My turban pawned, my prayer rug stained with wine.

Intoxicated with the teasing kiss of my Beloved.

I see his curls dancing on the palm of my hand.

Rested, he is tempting me to stay awake

And fest with him till dawn.

How blessed I am that this charmer entices my spirit away from this world.

That last line got me. How many of us who have worked closely with divinity haven’t felt that way from time to time?

I was jumping around in the book, and this last poem gave me pause as it’s kind of the “mystic’s truth”.

Questioning cannot unravel the secret of truth

Nor giving away your wealth and position.

Mere words do not exalt the heart

Pain is the price that the heart has to pay.

There are so many more fantastic poems in this book. I’d like to honestly post the entire book (I rarely suggest books, but Rumi’s Little Book of Life is totally worth the buy, even if you just like good poetry.), but here’s another one that kind of slapped me upside the head.

Wordly goods and your body are like snow

Melting into nothing, but to you

The snow seems better because you doubt.

Your precious opinions thirsting for certainty

Cannot fly to the Garden of Truth.

As opinion acquires knowledge and progresses further

It begins to emanate the scent of certainty.

Fancy is born of opinion,

Vision and intuition from certainty.

Since I tasted the sweetness of the Beloved

I became a seer, my feet do not tremble,

I do not walk like the blind,

I step boldly toward my spiritual hoe.

What the Beloved whispered to the rose

Making her blossom, He said to my heart

And made it a hundred times

More beautiful.

Well, is it just me? I mean, I’m totally convinced that this mystic had some sort of extremely deep connection with his chosen divinity that seems more like an intense devotional practice that reminds me of nothing so much as Godspousery or…well, whatever the hell I do. I don’t have a good name for it. My practice is a living one, but I’m not traditionally monastic. Thoughts for another time, I suppose.