This week will be the last of my first year of being on my own, and I’m being reminded of that anniversary in numerous ways – including my yearlong subscription to this daily dose of Rumi (with the running question of whether the translations are faithful). I signed up for this because of the Omer Project we did last year, and the daily ideas/suggestions from the Omer: A Counting. So, somehow, I ended up signing up for A Year of Rumi, and, for awhile, it seemed like Rumi was incredibly depressing – it seemed like it was all about death (or Death), and the being alone, grief and struggle.
Here’s an example of a poem that seemed particularly bleak (and not helpful to me at the time that I was feeling grief-stricken):
Lesson 221: Suffering
Suffering is a treasure, for it conceals mercies;
The almond becomes fresh when you peel off the rind.
O my brother, staying in a cold dark place
And bearing patiently the grief, weakness, and pain
Is the Source of Life and the cup of Abandon!
The heights are found only in the depths of abasement;
Spring is hidden in autumn, and autumn pregnant with spring.
Flee neither; be the friend of Grief, accept desolation,
Hunt for the life that springs from the death of yourself.
– Jalal-ud-Din Rumi
(Translated by Andrew Harvey from A Year of Rumi)
It seemed like an impossible suggestion – to be the friend of Grief, and accept desolation.
This impression/interpretation lasted while I was in the depths of struggling to figure out how to move forward, and then, almost miraculously, I felt as if I emerged, and the daily Rumi poems in my inbox started looking more cheerful, and freer. Maybe it was Rumi who helped me through – who knows?
Isn’t if funny how one’s internal state influences how one reads literature, or hears music, or takes in a movie. Art affects us, but we also affect Art. It makes me wonder how a critic or reviewer can maintain any kind of objectivity or fairness in critiquing any work.
So, this poem, The Endless Path, really speaks to me, and the truth of how we need to maintain forward momentum to be fully alive. It’s true in so many large and small ways. It’s true of most physical activity – I know that I was never an accomplished ice skater because I didn’t trust in forward momentum, and I became a better skier when I learned to allow myself to push forward, rather than holding back (until that unfortunate day when my forward momentum led to a torn ACL – oh well).
As a long-time swimmer, and now in my identity more and more as a runner, momentum is key, obviously. When you lose momentum, it feels harder to push on.
It’s true in music, and in singing – you can’t make a beautiful sound without letting go, with a relaxed throat and body, and almost letting the song sing you, rather than trying to control the pitch and the tone.
It’s even true in yoga – even when the action of being in a pose/asana, from the outside, appears to be a static pose, the balance and truth of the pose are achieved by a constant sense of movement, of extending freely, and committing to the fullest expression of the pose.
Don’t stay in any station you have won
Go on! Go on! Desire more and more!
There’s no point in living if you’re not moving forward. Nothing is gained by standing still. So, let’s all get up and move!