[The following was originally posted July 31, 2013. I re-post it here as part of this month's Ramadan features] I am using the holy month of Ramadan to celebrate interfaith connections. There are many examples of interfaith collaboration if we but take a moment to look. Twelfth century Spain saw a beautiful collaboration among Christians, Jews and Muslims as has been described in The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews,and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain by Maria Rosa Menocal. Richard Rubenstein has also written a delightful book, Aristotle’sChildren: How Christians, Muslims, and Jews Rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and Illuminated the Dark Ages. Rubenstein’s book captures the thrill and excitement of the rediscovery of Aristotle’s philosophy. He shows how the study of Aristotle revitalized European thought and at the same time gives us a glimpse into the interfaith collaboration that existed for a time in Medieval Europe. Menocal’s book demonstrates how interactions between Jews, Christians and Muslims in places like Toledo, Cordoba, and Seville resulted in a shared culture of art and architecture.
The Most Widely Read Poet in the United States
Poetry is another great medium for listening to voices from many avenues of faith and culture. Rumi was a Persian poet who lived in the thirteenth century, spending most of his life in what is known today as Turkey (his scholar father moved the family from Persia to avoid Ghengis Khan’s invasion). Although Rumi (known in Persia as Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī) was a Sufi within the Islamic tradition, he is today the most widely read poet in the United States. His poetry is a beautiful example of the ability to transcend one’s own tradition to speak people across many traditions and cultures. One of Rumi’s poems, “One One One” declares a truth that can indeed transcend all vessels of tradition. He proclaims that “The lamps are different, but the light is the same.” Listen to a recitation and commentary of this poem in English and then scroll down to read the words. May we take this moment to look beyond the barriers of fear and hate that continue to be constructed in our time.
One One One
The lamps are different.
But the Light is the same.
So many garish lamps in the dying brain's lamp shop,
Forget about them.
Concentrate on essence, concentrate on Light.
In lucid bliss, calmly smoking off its own hold fire,
The Light streams toward you from all things,
All people, all possible permutations of good,
evil, thought, passion.
The lamps are different,
But the Light is the same.
One matter, one energy, one Light, one Light-mind,
Endlessly emanating all things.
One turning and burning diamond,
One, one, one.
Ground yourself, strip yourself down,
To blind loving silence.
Stay there, until you see
You are gazing at the Light
With its own ageless eyes.
Mevlana Rumi (1207 - 1273)
Mevlevi Dervishes Perform (Sultanahmet - İstanbul - Turkey)
“The Mevlevi Order or the Mevleviye are a Sufi order founded by the followers of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi in 1273 in Konya (in Turkey at present). They are also known as the Whirling Dervishes due to their famous practice of whirling as a form of dhikr (remembrance of Allah). Dervish is a common term for an initiate of the Sufi Path.”
[While I'm involved in another project, I am re-posting some of my favorite essays. The following essay appeared on February 22, 2012. It is one that continues to get "hits" and remains on the Top Ten most read blog posts for Not Dark Yet.]
I clearly remember the catalystthat moved me to grant forgiveness in my heart. That catalyst came in a single day through two separate NPR broadcasts back in April of 1995. It was on a Good Friday. At noontime I was listening to a portion of a Good Friday service being broadcast on the radio while I was in my car while running some errands. Two of the people reading scripture and offering commentary were Martin Luther King, Jr.’s son (Martin Luther King III) and the Methodist minister from Piedmont, Alabama (Kelly Clem) whose young daughter had been killed in church the year before when a tornado struck. I don’t remember who said what, but I remember the message that came across – that there are times when we suffer losses and times when we must forgive those who have wronged us. At the forefront of my thoughts was my own need to forgive that person who had betrayed me some four years earlier.
Later that day, I was driving home, again listening to NPR – this time it was the “All Things Considered” news broadcast. Burl Ives had died and they were interviewing folk singer Pete Seeger, talking about Burl Ives’ life. Pete Seeger made the comment that when he thought of Burl Ives, he thought of that clear, strong, beautiful voice of his. The interviewer wanted to probe more deeply into Seeger’s thoughts. What about that time during the McCarty Red Scare, when there were hearings in Washington, D.C. before the House Committee on Un-American Activities? Burl Ives had testified before the committee, exonerating himself and implicating Pete Seeger, resulting in Seeger being blacklisted along with other folk singers of the day. Seeger’s career was severely affected by that awful reactionary time. Seeger’s response to the interviewer was, “Sometimes you just have to forgive and move on with your life.” He spoke with such conviction and serenity. I was moved by that interview. I said to myself, “If Pete Seeger can forgive Burl Ives, then I can forgive ______.”
It didn’t happen in an instant, but I made that my discipline for the Easter season that year. I know that my own health and well being were positively affected by my move to forgive and get on with my life. I should hasten to add that this lesson is not a one time thing. Since that day, there have been other occasions where I have struggled to forgive and move on.
I should also add that I have at times been the one who needed to be forgiven. Furthermore, I have no doubt that because of the nature of human interaction, there have been people who have had to forgive me for things I was not even aware of doing. Living with others always leads to hurt and offense. If we are aware, we sometimes realize the hurt we have inflicted and can ask forgiveness. Other times, we are not aware until it is brought to our attention. There are still other times when, just as we must forgive and move on, someone else finds the grace to forgive us and move on – even when we are too blind to realize the hurt that we caused.