Spiritual and sensual, ascetic and ecstatic, Rumi’s poetry has provided me an island of tranquility since my college years. Two of his quatrains, in particular, had a profound influence on my development as a young adult:
For years, copying other people, I tried to know myself.
From within, I couldn’t decide what to do.
Unable to see, I heard my name being called.
Then I walked outside.
Take someone who doesn’t keep score,
who’s not looking to be richer, or afraid of losing,
who has not the slightest interest even
in his own personality: he’s free.
Hildegard von Bingen once wrote, “When the inner and outer are wedded, revelation occurs.” That sums up why I’ve had a fascination with this Persian poet, philosopher, and prophet from the 13th century.
The annual “Shebi-Arus” festival happened on December 7-17, 2012 in the place of Rumi’s death, Konya, Turkey. This Whirling Dervish festival has been held 739 years in a row ever since Rumi had his “wedding night” passing at sunset December 17, 1273. Quite honestly, my fascination with the Sufi order of Islam had been growing the past couple of years due to my friendship with my athletic trainer who’s a Sufi. He’s often said, “Our only purpose in life is love.” This form of Islam sounded so Rumi-esque and at odds with how Muslims are portrayed on American television.
So, I packed my bags full of 5 Rumi books on his life and poetry and made my way to this central Turkey town that feels like an ancient Rumi theme park.