Friday, September 09, 2005

the art of refusing

I will not tell the secret my Friend spoke.

That pearl, that precious trust, will not be pierced.

I have not slept these many nights for fear

That I might spill those words out in my sleep.

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

Search word: no

Today, I'm attending a different workplace from yesterday and it is work I'm not looking forward to. I will go because I said I would but I intend to make it my last. I don't want to spend time doing things I don't enjoy or don't believe in. Since I will be refusing or saying "no", I sought out where Rumi also refuses.

Rumi, here, is refusing to tell his secret, a secret shared with or received from his friend, a friend who sometimes takes on the form of his lost teacher-companion Shams but who also sometimes appears as a feminine divine presence or simply as God. At #347, this is a fairly early quatrain and it may speak of a genuine fear to keep his point of view to himself. It is abundantly clear that Rumi saw God in unseemly places from a strict Islamic perspective. He was charged with heresy and escaped death but it's possible that Shams' disappearance was arranged by people judging his own views as un-Islamic or heretical. I sense a raw relation to reality in this verse.

However, Rumi is never so straightforward to me. The pressures to conform to some social ideal is not exclusively present in strict Islam. They exist everywhere. The greatest danger to being true to oneself, true to the task that one's life demands, this greatest danger lies within, in one's own fears and doubts and inability to trust. Those without ears to hear will take Rumi at his literal word and try to follow this comic pattern of secrecy. The ear that hears can see that he is revealing his secret in this verse. He is revealing his own fears and thereby revealing his own inner reality. The valuing of precious things, the trust implied by intimacy, these are balanced by the piercing of dry analysis and the mistrust that drives our fears. The secret is pretty simple really and no spoken words can ever contain it completely.

I will remember this today as I face the potentially distasteful task of refusing. I will remember that what I don't say is as important as what I do.


Post a Comment

<< Home