Tuesday, October 11, 2005

this life, this world

Tell me, life of this world, does anyone exist but you?

Without life, or this world, does anything exist but you?

I do wrong, and you inflict harsh punishment for wrong.

Then between us, is there really any difference, tell me?

#1545: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

Search word: life

I'm staying with the idea of life as I continue to feel more awake and alive, seeking out new possibilities. I'm struck with the realization that I don't really know what "life" is or means. Breathing is the basics but is there more to life and living? If so, then what? I can only think of it as a kind of freedom, a kind of letting go of usual restraints and letting oneself fly, imagine impossible things and then do them.

Today's verse has puzzled me more than usual probably because Rumi is making very global assertions. He addresses his beloved as "life of this world" and suggests that no one else matters or exists. In the second line, life and the world are removed and the question still raised as to whether anything else matters or exists. Even God as transcendental other-worldly Being is thus dismissed. Rumi then acknowledges his own wrong-doing or errors or sinfulness, perhaps. My own guess or feeling about this wrong-doing in this context is that it refers to identifying with the other and especially with the other as conceived as deity. This is a classic trap or delusion on the way to the mystic perception. Within Islam it was famously expressed by Mansur Al-Hallaj in his Ana al-Haqq - I am the Truth - which amounted to saying he was God. The trouble with this delusion, as Rumi then suggests on the last line, is that it contains more than a grain of truth. The little "I" or ego is but one enacting in the world of the greater "I" or self of God. Underlying all of our apparently separate lives and selves is one life and one self. This is the deepest conviction of the mystic.

In an objective or scientific or strictly intellectual sense, there is no way of knowing whether such an underlying unity is the real reality. However, really, that does not matter. It is the experience and its consequences that have undoubted reality. When we feel connected to this underlying unity or all-encompassing whole, we feel so much more alive and moreover, we have little concern for whether the "truth" label applies from outside. It is the truth from the inside that counts and the only one that can be known. I cannot know "you" unless I am there.

And yet, in the day-to-day world, we constantly lose that sense of unity, that sense of connectedness. We bump against each other and the world. The no-nonsense, anti-mysticism, down-to-earth bloke would say that this jolting and jarring is the real reality. Life's road is bumpy and Rumi's silken threads of mystical poetry have no place there. This is to forget or fail to realize that Rumi's beloved is precisely this rough and ready world we live in. This beloved, this love experience, is not some static thing, frozen in time and space. It is alive, it is the very life of the world, and if the world bumps along then it is because love does.

It is strange to walk through the park and see how seemingly safe and solid the trees and grass and ground seem and to think of what happened recently in Kashmir when the ground moved, shuddered and shook, devastating the lives of so many. Right now, it is so very hard for some to love this life, this world.

AFP photo

Pakistan survivor @ smh



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