“In Baghdad, Dreaming of Cairo; In Cairo, Dreaming of Baghdad”

A story from Rumi. Strange how all who ask questions are sent to Cairo.

No more muffled drums!
Uncover the drumheads!

Plant your flag in an open field!
No more timid peeking around.

Either you see the beloved,
or you lose your head!

If your throat’s not ready for that wine, cut it!
If your eyes don’t want the fullness of union,
let them turn white with disease.

Either this deep desire of mine
will be found on this journey,
or when I get back home!

It may be that the satisfaction I need
depends on my going away, so that when I’ve gone
and come back, I’ll find it at home.

I will search for the Friend with all my passion
and all my energy, until I learn
that I don’t need to search.

The real truth of existence is sealed,
until after many twists and turns of the road.

As in the algebraical method of “the two errors,”
the correct answer comes only after two substitutions,
after two mistakes. Then the seeker says,

“If I had known the real way it was,
I would have stopped all the looking around.”

But that knowing depends
on the time spent looking!

Just as the sheikh’s debt could not be paid
until the boy’s weeping, the story we told in Book II.

You fear losing a certain eminent position.
You hope to gain something from that, but it comes
from elsewhere. Existence does this switching trick,
giving you hope from one source, then
satisfaction from another.
It keeps you bewildered
and wondering, and lets your trust in the unseen grow.

You think to make your living from tailoring,
but then somehow money comes in
through goldsmithing,
which had never entered your mind.

I don’t know whether the union I want will come
through my effort, or my giving up effort,
or from something completely separate
from anything I do or don’t do.

I wait and fidget and flop about
as a decapitated chicken does, knowing that
the vital spirit has to escape this body
eventually, somehow!

This desire will find an opening.

There was once a man
who inherited a lot of money and land.

But he squandered it all too quickly. Those who inherit
wealth don’t know what work it took to get it.

In the same way, we don’t know the value of our souls,
which were given to us for nothing!

So the man was left alone without provisions,
an owl in the desert.
The prophet has said
that the true seeker must be completely empty like a lute
to make the sweet music of Lord, Lord.

When the emptiness starts to get filled with something,
the one who plays the lute puts it down
and picks up another.

There is nothing more subtle and delightful
than to make that music.
Stay empty and held
between those fingers, where where
gets drunk with nowhere.
This man was empty,
and the tears came. His habitual stubbornness
dissolved. This is the way with many seekers.

They moan in prayer, and the perfumed smoke of that
floats into heaven, and the angels say, “Answer
this prayer. This worshiper has only you
and nothing else to depend on. Why do you go first
to the prayers of those less devoted?”
God says,
“By deferring my generosity I am helping him.
His need dragged him by the hair into my presence.
If I satisfy that, he’ll go back to being absorbed
in some idle amusement. Listen how passionate he is!
That torn-open cry is the way he should live.”

Nightingales are put in cages
because their songs give pleasure.
Whoever heard of keeping a crow?

When two people, one decrepit and the other young
and handsome, come into a bakery where the baker
is an admirer of young men, and both of them
ask for bread, the baker will immediately
give what he has on hand to the old man.

But to the other he will say, “Sit down and wait awhile.
There’s fresh bread baking in the house. Almost ready!”

And when the hot bread is brought, the baker will say,
“Don’t leave. The halvah is coming!”

So he finds ways of detaining the young man with,
“Ah, there’s something important I want to tell you about.
Stay. I’ll be back in a moment. Something very important!”

This is how it is when true devotees
suffer disappointment
in the good they want to do,
or the bad they want to avoid.

So this man with nothing, who had inherited everything
and squandered it, kept weeping, Lord, Lord!

Finally in a dream he heard a voice, “Your wealth
is in Cairo. Go there to such and such a spot
and dig, and you’ll find what you need.”

So he left on the long journey,
and when he saw the towers of Cairo,
he felt his back grow warm with new courage.

But Cairo is a large city,
and before he could find the spot,
he had to wander about.

He had no money, of course, so he begged
among the townspeople, but he felt ashamed doing that.
He decided, “I will go out at night
and call like the night-mendicants that people
throw coins into the street for.”
Shame and dignity and hunger
were pushing him forward and backward and sideways!

Suddenly, he was seized by the night patrol.
It so happened that many had been robbed recently
in Cairo at night, and the caliph had told the police
to assume that anyone out roaming after dark
was a thief.
It’s best not to let offenders go unpunished.
Then they poison the whole body of society. Cut off
the snakebitten finger! Don’t be sympathetic
with thieves. Consider instead
the public suffering. in those days
robbers were expert, and numerous!

So the night patrol grabbed the man.
“Wait!
I can explain!”
“Tell me.”
“I am not a criminal.
I am new to Cairo. I live in Baghdad.” He told the story
of his dream and the buried treasure,
and he was so believable in the telling that
the night patrolman began to cry. Always,
the fragrance of truth has that effect.
Passion
can restore healing power, and prune the weary boughs
to new life. The energy of passion is everything!

There are fake satisfactions that simulate passion.
They taste cold and delicious,
but they just distract you and prevent you
from the search. They say,
“I will relieve your passion.
Take me. Take me!”
Run from false remedies
that dilute your energy. Keep it rich and musky.

The night patrol said, “I know you’re not a thief.
You’re a good man, but you’re kind of a fool.
I’ve had that dream before.
I was told, in my dream,
that there was a treasure for me in Baghdad,
buried in a certain quarter of the city
on such and such street.”
The name of the street
that he said was where this man lived!
“And the dream-
voice told me, ‘It’s in So-and-so’s house.
Go there and get it!'”
Without knowing,
he had described the exact house,
and mentioned this man’s name!
“But I didn’t do
what the dream said to do, and look at you,
who did, wandering the world, fatigued,
and begging in the streets!”
So it came quietly
to the seeker, though he didn’t say it out loud,
“What I’m longing for lived in my house in Baghdad!”

He filled with joy. He breathed continuous praise.
Finally he said,
“The water of life is here.
I’m drinking it. But I had to come
this long way to know it!”

-Rumi

Bold: On the Length of Romance

-How long are you staying?

-As long as you need me, and keep making excuses that you do, because somewhere down the line, though I won’t admit it, I’ll need you too.

-And then?

-And then when you’re out of excuses, and I’m out of denial, we’ll both realize it’s time for me to leave, and it will only be because I am a nomad, who can never settle for any home, who has not found a home, partly because real estate has gone up so much these years, and I can only afford rent.

-So that’s it? No exceptions?

-There is one exception, rarely if ever applied. It’s that if you can walk with me, as I wander off to crazy destinations, go with me as my soul wrestles to find its place, if somehow by sheer coincidence or fate our souls share the same destination, and if you will not lose your breath at all the travelling, we can make ourselves into some sort of nomadic alliance.
You see, darling, I enjoy my loneliness so much, that I can only be with you if we can somehow become one person, but that’s too much to ask of anyone, even you.

Homeward-Bound

image

“If light is in your heart, you will find your way home.”
-Rumi

This road keeps getting stranger and stranger. This path has gone through the pits of hell and the heights of heaven, thrown me into too many incredible people, broken me, mended me, stripped me of everything, given me everything, tossed me and turned me in all its own unimaginable ways, and it has made me.

Truth is, nothing has gone quite according to plan. I am not entirely the person I expected myself to become.

Somehow this path has twisted and turned so many times, and life has given me so many unnecessary, but essential, stops. It’s made me who I am, and I am somehow happy with that.

My only one certain truth, is that I am still walking this road, and wherever it takes me, I hope I’m heading home.

There is this energy greater than hope; something inside me knows I’m heading home.

We all carry this truth inside us.

Somehow we all carry this memory of home. Something inside you reminds me of the home I’d left so long ago, maybe eighteen years ago, and maybe many years before. (Funny that we try to measure these things with our own blurred concept of time.)

Something inside us is walking towards the same destination; clear your road that I may find you there, and perhaps, with any luck, we can walk together.

“Universe”

I often find myself pondering at the meaning of words, their origins. I enjoy those philosophical/contemplative novel words, the things you won’t exactly find in a dictionary, words like wonderwall, sonder, pluviophile, nyctophile, philophobia, etc.

Still other words, literary or archaic, that also would not be so much used in everyday life, tend to my thought and attention, words like hamartia, pseudo-intellectual (yes, Woody Allen!), pedantic, etc.

And there is also a third category of words that I like. It is that which encompasses the words that mean one thing, but also a whole other, deeper, thing. And of those words to me, stems the “universe”.

I like to believe the word universe describes, aside from the mystery of our vast, complex, changing but constant world, the context of a single verse, that summarizes the world-universe. A uni-verse for the universe.

But then again, what words of wisdom so short as to not exceed a single verse, could wholly satisfy the cataclysm that is our world?

I do not know, and I do not pretend to.

But the thought of a uni-verse still drives my thoughts, knowing still, that though the truth is not found, it must exist.

The existense of truth is in itself, a truth. That will be my truth, that will be my justice, my solace until I find a fuller answer.

“For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.”
-Arthur O’Shaughnessy, excerpt “from Ode”

On Caring, a Little Too Much

I don’t know when it started, and I’m sure as the heavens I could never exactly pin-point it, but at some point in this short intense life of mine, I started caring, a little too much.

Here’s how it goes: it’s both universal and person-specific, both internally and externally displayed, though more internally devastating (but I can think of times where it really was physically devastating as well), and both fulfilling and depressing with res

ults ranging from “saving a fellow man” to simply scaring people off.(I bear-hug, a lot, for that matter, haha)

Universally, I’m a great believer in the power of good men (hence this blog’s name; if you’ve yet to notice that). I’m also a great believer in what I like to call social responsibility, wherein a person is inherently entitled to help and be kind to other people. That’s good I guess, it’s not that bad; makes me sound na├»ve to a bunch of moral indifferents but I never minded them.

I never minded anyone too much really. But there are people I do mind, and these are the ones I make the too-often-fatal mistake of individually caring for and loving.

See there’s a fine line here, a fine line between caring for people because that’s just what you do, and caring for people because somewhere inside, you’ve made an either intentional or unintentional link between your two souls, and tied a rope a little too tight around something that’s supposed to be sturdy enough to hold the bonding and breaking of a myriad lives’ courses in an endless cycle of love-and-leave or an undetermined and emotionally detached cycle of live-and-serve.

The problem is when you stumble upon a person, and you give in to the temptation of love. For a man of service, that indeed, is a tragedy, both dear and dire.

Perhaps it is that they expect a man of service to love without attachment, to offer of himself without holding to another. Perhaps it is that true care and love can only be expressed in their most raw sense, attachment.

But then, what is such a man to do when the love of one precludes the active service of another?

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On the Meaning of Humanity

“Non nobis solum nati sumus.”
(Not for ourselves alone are we born.)
-Cicero

We must first assert that man has a natural inclination to fulfill his purpose, that is, to help others, just as a mother has a natural inclination to protect and care for her young.

But when in the wake of human consciousness, man decides to smite his fellows, there dies within him a certain distinguishing characteristic, a certain longing for the beautiful, the righteous, and the compassionate.

Men go to war with themselves before war with others, and erode the perfection withheld by the innocent child they once were, so as not to preclude their acts of unkindness.

We are most human when humanitarian, but when all humanitarian aspects of the human heart and mind have been eroded, when man loses his soul and the charitable purpose of existence, can he still be deemed… human?