Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Longing is the Core of Mystery

Longing is the core of mystery
Longing itself brings the cure.
The only rule is: Suffer the pain.

Your desire must be disciplined,
and what you want to happen
In time, sacrificed.
Its been two weeks since my wife Paula and I were in Sitka for the Sitka Rumi Festival.  ( Due to the ferry schedule we  only made Day Three of the festival.  But we did have the chance to listen to Coleman Barks, Rumi's best known American translator/interpreter read from his poetry.  Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi-Mevlana or Rumi, was a 13th century Sufi mystic, Islamic scholar and poet. He lived and wrote during an amazing flowering of Christian, Jewish and Muslim mystical writing and poetry.  

In our own time, Rumi (in Bark"s modern translations) has reportedly become the most popular poet in the United States.  The increasing enthusiasm for this Persian mystical poet has been occurring during a marked decrease in religious observance/identification by Americans, as more and more people, especially millenials, identify as 'spiritual but not religious.'  It would be easy to dismiss the popularity of a mystic like Rumi as yet another example of the desire for individual mystical experience, for ecstatic experience without the demanding discipline and self-denial required of anyone serious about the spiritual life.

But I wonder if the compelling attraction of a mystical poet like Rumi can be attributed more to amazement that religion has a mystical dimension at all.  I wonder if for too many Christians, faith in Jesus has been presented more like a series of philosophical propositions or moral regulations than as a deep and unquenchable longing for friendship and communion with God filled with paradox, wonder, ecstatic joy and perplexing unknowing.  Unfortunately, our own rich and abundant mystical tradition embodied in the writings of mystics such as St, Bernard of Clairvaulx, St.Francis of Assisi, St.Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and many, many others is unknown to too many followers of Jesus.  

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