Friday, March 10, 2006

blood money

Make peace with pain: I am your remedy.

No need for others' help, I am your friend.

If you are killed, don't moan, "Oh, I've been killed."

Be grateful, for I am your blood money.

#1168: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

Search word: pain

I continue to be haunted by thoughts of torture, especially since I have been exchanging views on a forum with a man who is obsessed with the cruelty of infant torture. This kind of thing rubs off on one. It's a delicate matter, this. Our capacity for empathy and care is heightened when we see a child. We're programmed to take care of our vulnerable young for much longer than any other animal species. A child in need (starving or abandoned) or in pain (injured or tortured) tears at our heart strings because we long to do something to help. It is a natural instinct that may become obsessive if we see images of unfortunate children on our news media while being unable directly to help or reach them. I've found that I needed to make a conscious effort to turn away, shrug off the hypnotic state induced, and make a determined effort to just get on with my life. I feel I serve humanity better that way in the long run. However, I know that this is also a determined indifference which supports the status quo.

Rumi's reply to my search for his advice on pain strikes me as odd. He tells me quite directly that he is the remedy. He, alone, with no other assistance, can heal me. It's odd because it sounds like a pretty big claim that is not characteristic of the Rumi I have been reading to date. Blood money is what a family receives as compensation for the killing or mutilation of one of its members. The compensation is paid by the murderer to the next of kin. If Rumi characterizes himself as blood money then he is saying that death by murder is a welcome blessing because it will bring him as the final product of the process.

The "I" in this quatrain has many layers. Rumi would have known that the hearer of this poem (or reader perhaps at a later time) looked up to him as a spiritual teacher, much as he looked up to Shams. He often identified Shams as the very author of these verses. So the "I" is Shams for Rumi, also. He knows that major adversity, major pain and grief, have resulted in him in a greater vision of life, and a greater reverence for it. He also took on Shams' role of teacher, of model of the perfect man, and even of carrier of divinity. In the latter role, Rumi is identifying in this verse with Jesus. I'm certain he is alluding to Jesus' resurrection here. In the role of model, Rumi is identifying with Mohammad, his "I" refers to Mohammad. I can even read in this verse a claim that the pain of Islamic terrorism, of all the lives lost, is not in vain, for Islam brought with it what Mohammad - and Rumi - represents. As a person of Christian background, I can comfortably accept the Jesus identification. I have far more trouble with the Mohammad one. However, the verse only alludes and so it can speak to the ears of Muslim and Christian alike.

Because of these many layers, this verse feels "deep". It feels almost like a concise summing up of what all the other verses are about. Since I am drawing very near now to the end of this verse set, I guess there is good timing in it.


At Saturday, 11 March, 2006, Blogger Bob Hoeppner said...

Don't know what to say about this. The verse seems more twisted than deep to me. But I'm very tired and don't know what to think about things right now.

At Saturday, 11 March, 2006, Blogger Arizona said...

Yes, I do see the twisted version of this verse. Those who hate Islam also hate Rumi for helping to spread it through his "preaching", through his seductive poetry. This verse does seem to justify the atrocities of war as leading to "him" (Rumi or Shams or Mohammad or Allah). This might be Rumi's dark side after all.

At Sunday, 12 March, 2006, Blogger Spiritual Emergency said...

I think it's worth noting that the verse specifies: [i]If you are killed... I am your blood money.[/i]

Pain is a great teacher. Those who have not felt their own pain often cannot feel the pain of others. The cost of empathy is pain. Perhaps this is what Rumi was referring to, particularly as it relates to identifying with the pain of others.

See also: Tonglen

At Sunday, 12 March, 2006, Blogger Arizona said...

Thank you, SE, that's a great link. It's true that we have a perhaps natural instinct to harden ourselves to pain, our own and that of others. What's hard is to empathize with ourselves, feel our own pain rather than defending ourselves from it.

Excellent connection, as ever. :)

At Sunday, 12 March, 2006, Blogger Spiritual Emergency said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Sunday, 12 March, 2006, Blogger Spiritual Emergency said...

Glad you enjoyed it. Meantime, lookie what I found...

Woman King - Iron & Wine

[My first attempt to post this had UBB code, not html.]

At Monday, 13 March, 2006, Blogger Arizona said...

Thanks, SE. I think you'd sent me the lyrics before but the sampler link hadn't worked. It's good to hear the song actually sung.

[I noticed the UBB code above. Unfortunately I have no power to edit, but I know what you meant.]


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