Friday, June 3, 2016

Rumi, on the Subject of Fear

I was looking through my Rumi poetry collection and stumbled upon this beauty:
The Uses of Fear 
A Donkey turning a millstone is not trying
to press oil from sesame seed.  He is feeling the blow
that was just struck and hoping to avoid the next. 
For the same reason, the ox takes a load
of baggage wherever you want him to.
Shopkeepers work for themselves,
not for the flow of communal exchange. 
We look to ease our pain, and this keeps civilization
moving along.  Fear is the architect here.
Fear keeps us working near the ark. 
Some human beings are safe havens.
Be companions with them.  Others may seem to be friends,
but they are really consuming your essence
like donkeys lapping sherbet.  Detach from them,
and feel your flexibility returning.
The inner moisture that lets you bend
into a basket handle is a quickening inside
that no one is ever afraid of. 
Sometimes though, it is fear, a contracting,
that brings you into the presence.

This poem helped me realize a few things about my fears:

1) I am not like the donkey or the ox or the shopkeeper.  My fears do not drive my day-to-day existence.  Being a teacher is largely "the flow of communal exchange." I'm grateful for that.

2) I have surrounded myself with "safe-haven" sorts of human beings.  I don't have too many sherbet-lapping donkeys in my life.  Again, I am grateful.

3) The fears I have surrounding my daughter and all the dangers that may befall her do cause a sort of "contracting."  My fears for her arise when I let her go.  Will she stumble? Fall? Break? Or Soar? Perhaps when she soars, that is "the presence."

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