Thursday, September 15, 2005

a room for fear

This earthen body is the heavens' light.

Its nimble ease, its speed, its purity

Are the angels' envy and delight.

The devil can't come near its lack of fear.

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

Search word: body

My physical health is improving and so is my state of mind. Do they go together? Healthy body, healthy mind. Happy soul, happy body. Having found what Rumi has to say on the matter, in this quite early numbered verse, I am startled. Rumi rarely fails to startle and even verses that seem like clichés have a subtle twist. (Or am I merely reading that into them?) In this instance, Rumi seems to turn the usual body-mind and earth-heaven clichés upside-down: It is the earth that gives light to the heavens. The sun might pour its physical light down onto us but it is we who see the sun and marvel and try to understand it. The light of consciousness comes from us.

Consciousness, in the form of knowledge, ideas, concepts and beliefs, is all spirit, all within the realm of the angels. Our bodies are our being and when we feel the sun on our skin, without any further analysis, we are much more purely conscious than when angels come to share in the experience. We breathe with ease, without even thinking about it, for breathing just happens. The body's speed is harder for me to understand for I am not swift of foot, my own speed lies more in the mind. However, my fingers brush lightly over the keyboard and I realise that different parts of my body are always busy, doing this or that job to keep my body alive and to keep this soul happy. No angel, of itself, can effect action.

Last of all, Rumi refers to the devil and I wonder what he means by that. What is the devil for him? Fear, like thoughts, is spiritual. It is all "in the mind". Fear, in this instance, is the devil itself and the body or being abides, fear or no fear. If we can identify with such a fundamental value - I am, I simply am - we can derive all the confidence we could ever need. So long as I am alive, I am. After that, who cares?

A voice within me says: I care! I care what will happen on the judgment day. "I am" is now and not eternal. Death is real, death is final. But death also is inevitable: why worry about it today? Death is what prompts us to action, it is what limits our being. Without death, we would simply be and never do. Whatever confidence we have would be undermined by inactivity.

No, not at all. "I am" is my home, my security, the mother of my soul. It is where I can return for sustenance. Death cannot diminish it, not in its pure essence. It is always there as my beloved and constant companion. Fear only ever enters when I forget but the room that fear enters is not the true one. It's up to me whether I stay there or leave it for the wedding chamber. It's up to me whether I allow fear to block the way. Rather, I would choose to embrace fear as the spur to action that it is. In that embrace, this room of fear is transformed into a room of love.


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