Thursday, May 26, 2005

a woman as true man

A dervish must know pain's reality

And from the depths of pain must rise, a man.

Yet again they build another monastery:

All earth's a monastery; it only needs true men.

#687: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

1585, from Turk. dervish, from Pers. darvesh, darvish "beggar, poor," hence "religious mendicant;" equivalent of Arabic faqir (cf. fakir). The "whirling dervishes" are just one order among many.

Because I've been discussing Sufism, I thought I'd frankly search for dervish among Rumi's first lines. Here he writes that knowing pain is what matures us. A monastery - or any shelter from life's turbulence - does not help us to grow. Life is the best teacher there.

This has come to me while I have been craving security, longing for more assurance of familiar patterns, longing especially for secure food supply and secure warmth and comfort as winter approaches. The end of autumn is a scary time, even in a place where winter is hardly severe at all.

The etymology for dervish shows its origin in Persian and in the notion of poverty as a condition of the religiously devout. It does not need to be taken literally (I hope) for Sufi dervishes are no longer beggars. In my neighbourhood there is a woman who carries a cassette player and sings along to it in the public thoroughfare. She is a bit of a Christian loony, singing her songs of praise of the Lord. She is surely in the tradition of the dervish, bringing her devotion out to the world to be aired. I smiled at her once and she seemed to really appreciate that. She often talks to the (mainly) Muslims in this area. She is tolerated, perhaps even gently loved. My smile was my alms, for this woman might simply be poor in supporting love and guidance. She's found what she needs within herself even if she seems to find it through her Bible. She stands in the streets, she doesn't closet herself at home like I do. She is "a man" as Rumi would say. Am I?


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