Tuesday, September 27, 2005

fear and trembling

I'm a slave to her, and fear of her delights me.

My better half, who stands alone, delights me.

They ask me, 'Do you enjoy her loyalty?'

I don't know; even so, her cruelty delights me.

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

Search word: fear

I have been using Rumi's verses a little like divination, a little like consulting the I Ching using a keyword rather than the chance of yarrow stalks or coins. In Islam, this kind of bibliomancy has been applied to the divan (book of poems) of Hafez, to the Koran itself, and to Rumi's Mathnawi. A Rumi deck of cards has been published that can be used much like the Tarot deck. Devised by Eryk Hanut and Michele Wetherbee, it is simply called The Card and Rumi Book Pack: Meditation, Inspiration, & Self-Discovery. A sample card is shown below.

fear card @ learntarot.com

The words worry and anxiety were on my mind this morning, neither of which Rumi uses in the first line index I search through. Both worry and anxiety are forms of fear and fear does appear more readily. I've also shown a fear card above with the message: "If it is love you are looking for, Take a knife and cut off the head of fear." This latter message is common wisdom: fear is something that must be overcome if we are to succeed in fulfilling our dreams. What I have often enjoyed in my study of Rumi's collection of quatrains named after Shams, the Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi, is the frequent surprise I experience, arising out of the originality of this thought. Today is no exception for although fear is commonly known as an adversary to love, here Rumi posits fear as something to be delighted in, perhaps even desired.

Of course, this is not just any fear, it is not the debilitating fear of worry and anxiety, but rather the fear of awesomeness, what is often referred to as the "fear of God" or mysterium tremens. An interesting Biblical example comes at the end of Mark's Gospel when the women visiting Jesus' tomb find Him gone and flee. All the usual translations represent the women as merely afraid but Marie Sabin, in an article at CrossCurrents, argues persuasively for an interpretation based on divine awe.

Mark 16:8

KJV: And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.

NIV: Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

NJB: And the women came out and ran away from the tomb because they were frightened out of their wits; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Sabin: And going out they fled the tomb, for trembling ["mysterium tremens"] and ecstasy possessed them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were filled with awe.

Today's study-divination, then, has given me some discrimination. There is a kind of fear (worry, anxiety) that I must set aside and a kind of fear (awe, reverence, wonderment) that I can delight in.


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