In every moment we make a choice.
On the one hand, we can choose to give ourselves to the world, to fuse our identity with the objects and people we see around us. This is the first option. In doing so, we become small people in a big world, a world filled with countless dangers and problems which must be overcome. Form confuses us, entrances us, and we fall into the embrace of fantasy and delusion. Though painful, this brings us comfort, to know that we belong in a world and that we are a part of the reality we see before us.
The second option is far more daunting. To stray from the well-trodden path in any situation is terrifying, but to question the very nature of our existence is beyond insanity. If we choose to break off from the path, to sink our minds into a silence where thoughts cannot reach us, we live in state of unknowing and uncertainty. In this silence, the shackles around our heart become looser, and with every second that we spend in this thoughtless place, we pull further and further away from the web of pain and suffering which most call life.
In the final moment, when the last chain is burnt, we exist in pure silence, a place where no thought will ever arise and no suffering can be felt. It is living beyond the boundaries of form and limitation, living unbound and free. There is no greater goal than this. It is through sacrificing everything that we know and love that the Final Gateway appears. When you walk, walk with faith in the unknown, and you will pass into the silent paradise beyond.
‘Quietness is the surest sign
that you’ve died.
Your old life was a frantic running
The speechless full moon
comes out now.’
A renowned mystic and poet, Rumi was born on the border between modern day Afghanistan and Tajikistan in the early 13th century. The Persian culture in which he was raised had a great influence on him, especially the mystic sect of Islam known as ‘Sufism’. His father was a theologian and mystic, and Rumi was raised to follow in his father’s footsteps.
After the Mongols invaded the Middle East, Rumi’s family travelled further west to escape the advancing hoard. He lived much of his life in the city Konya, a part of the Sultanate of Rum. It was there that he met Shams, a mystic and friend of Rumi’s who is often alluded to in his poetry. He often refers to Shams as the ‘friend’ who taught him the truth of his nature.
Rumi emphasised a sense of playfulness and delight in one’s being, and taught that it was through the stupor of emptiness that we can find bliss in life. This was reflected in the practice of the Whirling Dervishes, who would spin in circles to evoke this detachment. He uses various forms of imagery in his poems to convey a sense of the delights of our being, and to encourage us to surrender ourselves to that bliss.
Mirrors are such interesting objects. When we stare into them, the environment around us is reflected in their perfect face, creating a whole new world beyond their icy surface. Just as these objects reflect the physical world, the physical world itself can reflect our own inner feelings and emotions, a guide to those who can read its subtle signs.
Now let’s take the highly relevant example of the Muslim woman in the photo. An Islamophobe will have a lot to say about her clothing, interpreting her secrecy as the sign of a terrorist or a security threat to society. Such an opinion is based in fear, the fear of Islam and of terrorism. Those without the a terror of Islam would respect her right to wear the clothes of her religion without suspicion or worry. Fear within creates aggression without, and whole scores of people can succumb to such simplistic and animistic emotions.
By observing our own interpretations and prejudices towards others and to the society which we live in, our inner environment is revealed. Just as the mirror reveals the face of our body, the world reveals the face of our soul, along with all of our worries and deepest fears. Looking at the face of another, the kindness we see in their eyes is a reflection of the love which we feel in our hearts. By changing our inner environment, the whole world changes with it, turning from a dirty and fearful place into perfection.
It takes a lot of courage to face these issues and to acknowledge their existence. To confront one’s inner demons is something which most people would rather avoid. Run all you want, you can never escape the devil inside of you. Only by confronting him can he be defeated, and while it is so easy to hide, suffering and dying within our hearts, lasting happiness is born out of the bravery to look within ourselves through the mirror of the world.
Don’t be afraid. Just look.