Though I despise religious institutions and the audacity of religions claiming they have the last word on all moral standings, seeing how it leads to hate among humankind of different faiths, I admit that much good also comes out of them. The good is often used as a means to proselytize, but it’s still a good when a person is given shelter, food, water, education and hope.
My reaction to Rumi when I was young was based on the reverence of my father reading Rumi’s poems in Farsi to me. How he cherished the wisdom in those words translated to me wanting to read and listen more. I didn’t understand much of the verses, but I read them anyway. Most of the time though, it was my dad who’d read and explain them to me. I loved those sessions of learning and intimacy with him.
I’ve avoided reading Rumi for most of my adult life, given he was the father of Sufism in Iran. That religious tie and start poisoned the well of his wisdom for me. I couldn’t bring myself to read any of his works anymore. I saw it as another tool to proselytize, and I don’t need to be. I doubt I’ll ever follow a religion and don’t mean to start now.
However, after reading a few of his excerpts and passages recently, I, once again, find beauty and wisdom in them. I also think I can enjoy the spirituality of it all, replacing “God” and “Holy” references with those to the cosmos and its inherent methods and ways that I could use to make sense of it all. I think I can divorce the religious faith from the wisdom and still get much value from his words. Who knows, if Rumi was alive today, though he would likely still be a mystic, maybe one divorced from religion, in awe of the universe and its powers.
All of this makes me wonder. How else are my biases blinding me? What else do I dismiss that I shouldn’t? How am I blinded to others’ wisdom whose ideas may, on their face, revolt me or push me away? And how can I get past that immediate guttural reaction?