When I tell people that I’m writing a book about love, they think it’s a romance novel. Romance is beautiful, but it isn’t synonymous with love. The true experience of love, I think, is the annihilation of the self. It is a frightening journey of surrender that has very little in common with the romance of fairy tales.
Naturally, Rumi has been on my desk often as I write. I found this in Coleman Barks’ introduction to his book of Rumi translations, Rumi: The Book of Love –
Love poetry is meant to obliterate you. Rumi wants us to surrender … This is not Norman Vincent Peale urging cheerfulness, conventional morality, and soft-focus, white-light feel-good, nor is this New Age tantric energy exchange. This is giving your life to the one within that you know as Lord … if you’re not doing that, Rumi says, you are wasting your time here … I once told a greeting card company that wanted to put Rumi verses on a card, “Rumi’s poetry wants to dissolve the lovers. Annihilation is the point.”
I take great delight in meeting bright twelve-year-olds who love certain Rumi poems, they know the media and their community have lied to them about love, with all the fake love stories. They hear Rumi trying to tell them some truth about love, and they appreciate it.
Say we’re tiny blind cavefish swimming a gorgeous dark. We love the mountain the cave is inside, and somehow we love the sun, even though we haven’t seen it and maybe never will. That’s the love these poems sing.
Image Credit: ESO/A. Roquette