Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Transcending Cynicism: A Bit on Rumi before Marriage

I spent the better part of yesterday on a date with Rumi. You all know the Sufi Mystic, yes? Poet. Scholar. Teacher. Big souled, larger-than-any-one-faith gent who lived in the 13 century. The Beloved of Sham's. ---Shoot! I claim him as My beloved, after all of our dancing and screaming and giggling together! If you read his poetry, then you know what I'm speaking of. This fellow, Mr. Jelaluddin Rumi, has a capacity to engage. To nail a point on the head, to expand your breathing with a question, and invite your imagination into the realm of the truly inconceivable, impossible. Rumi's voice and words, (in my apartment: translated by Coleman Barks) make me think anything is possible. And when I fight what Rumi is saying, the way his words resonate deeply within me, still: he fights back. He sort of kicks back, in the gentlest of ways -- with each line of poetry or prose simply saying, "surrender."

I went looking for a simple poem to include in my wedding program. I ended up with fifteen. I of course whittled it down, but goodness, what a process!

The one I'm choosing to post here, and share with you all today, wasn't really a finalist for the wedding program, but rather: one I put a bookmark on as I thought of you. As I imagined the "other" in my own body, the visitor who shows up to read my thoughts, the contemplative friend who holds similar queries about the world and faith and poetry with me: I thought of you. I thought this poem fitting to extend to you.

In this poem, Rumi draws on Old Testament figures, while combining them with the mundane and contemporary. He speaks to the smallest being within each of us, and holds our fears and insecurities up before our critical, fleeing minds, and then asks us to hold still. He invites us to see our brokenness, but accept it humbly, and then courageously step forward. He identifies our darkest, cynical selves, and seemingly slaps us silly with a simple consideration: to have faith -- or to at least fake it. He invites us to consider our fullest sense of being, living, loving, honoring. Whew. I love him.

Read on! Enjoy! Let me know what you think!

The wilderness way Moses took
was pure need and desolation.

Remember how you cried when you were a child?

Joseph's path to the throne room of Egypt
where he distributed grain to his brothers
led through the pit his brothers left him in.

Don't look for new ways
to flee across the chessboard.
Listen to hear the checkmate
spoken directly to you.

Mice nibble. That's what they need
to be doing. What do you need?
How will you impress the one
who gave you life?

If all you can do is crawl,
start crawling.

You have a hundred cynical fantasies
about God. Make them ninety-nine!

If you can't pray a real prayer, pray
hypocritically, full of doubt
and dry-mouthed.

God accepts
as though
it were real!

- Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks in "The Illuminated Rumi"

Happy Contemplating!