Saturday, October 22, 2005

a story without end

Last night I spent with a goddess who dabbles with slaves like me;

Again and again I begged; her answer still: "We'll see"

The night was gone, and left our story hanging.

The night was not to blame, no: our story has no ending.

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

Search word: god

I've been reminded, through a recent conversation with a friend, of the ancient goddess who ruled in that area of the Middle East where Rumi came to make his home. Konya in Turkey is famous for Rumi's mausoleum but nearby are the ruins of Catal Huyuk, an ancient and perhaps the very first city, dotted with shrines and temples to a powerful goddess clearly related to the Sumerian Inanna, Akkadian Ishtar and Semitic Astarte.

Leopard Goddess, 6000 BCE, Catal Huyuk @ anadolu_muzesi

Inanna had the reputation of luring new lovers to her bed and then abandoning them for a new lover. Thus did her son-lovers come and go in a birth-death-rebirth cycle.

Rumi may have been aware of local traditions concerning this ancient goddess and he would certainly have been acquainted with the old Persian collection of myths that formed the basis of The Book of One Thousand and One Nights. Since the frame-story of Shahrazad (or Scheherazade) was added only later, perhaps in the 14th century (according to the wikipedia article), it may not have been known in Rumi's time. And yet, surely today's verse is referring to a similar incident. When dawn arrives, a story is left hanging, just as Shahrazad left her tales at moments of suspense in order to tempt her husband, King Shahryar, into delaying her execution one more day. It is most likely that the frame-story had been in oral use perhaps for many centuries before being written up to bind together the many stories.

Books do come to an end, lives do come to an end, and all of our smaller stories do reach some kind of resolution. However, the love story between man and goddess has no ending for it is placed with one foot at least in eternity. For a man, it is She who holds the Final and Ultimate Truth and She will not yield it before the end of time.

In a practical way as well, we can say that Rumi extended the life of his love affair with life. If this verse is indeed his child, then he lives on even to this day.


At Monday, 24 October, 2005, Blogger none said...

Wonderful commentary, as usual. Such a pleasure reading Rumi with your commentary as companion. I will steal this one.

At Monday, 24 October, 2005, Blogger Arizona said...

Your comments, in turn, keep my writing a pleasure. You can't steal what belongs to you.


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