Muslim mystics on the power of pain
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We're hoping these thinkers can help us wide our. And maybe even find something meaningful or in this whole experience. My guest today is owned Steffi. A professor of Islamic studies at Duke University. He specializes in Islam mystics or Sufis like the well known poet Rumi. Omit comes from an Iranian Muslim family, but he's left in the American south for many many years now, and he feels a deep affinity with leaders of the civil rights movement like Martin King. In fact, he sees certain parallels between their views and Sufi views on love and justice. In this conversation immed- explains the Sufi tradition of radical love, which involves both love for the divine and for our fellow humans. And what it would look like to be guided by that tradition today, what would roomy do in a pandemic? We also discussed how we might be able to lean into our suffering and isolation how we can actually use it to our benefit rather than just trying in vain to escape it, so here's my conversation with Omid Safi. Professor Saffy. Thank you so much for joining us on this podcast. It's lovely to have you and I'm really excited to have you in particular because you're a professor of Islamic Studies in particular you study misses them including the mysticism of Rumi the famous beloved Sufi Poet. And I love these texts. So I'm really excited to get to chat with you and I wonder if we could start by having you tell me a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? How did you become interested in Sufism the mystical dimension of Islam? Thank you and it's a really wonderful joy to to be with you I have that. Kind of somebody, unique background of both being born in the US, which gives me a lot of unearned privilege, and also of having grown up overseas, so I was born in Florida, but then my family both my mother and my Father Ali and Peron are Iranians and they decided that Iran was a great place to raise children so we went to Iran when I was one, and we lived there until I was about fifteen years old at which time we moved back to the United States. I have the experience of being both a born US citizen and an immigrant and sort of dabble perspective. kind of in some ways is always shaped. A lot of my outlook and Iran was a wonderful place. You had lots of family, very. Close tight knit family. And I was surrounded in the way that so much. Persian culture tends to be in this world of music and poetry, and in particular Sufi poetry, which is really the backbone of Persian culture, so figures like Rumi and Hafiz are the anchors of but most Iranians think of as as their cultural background and My parents instilled a great love for these teachings in us. It's nice that you said you know you have both the double perspective of being American born an immigrant. Almost like you're kind of translating between both worlds, and you have gone on to translate and publish. Some of the poems of Rumi so it's sort of you know you. It sounds like you grew up really having a foot in each world and translating between them I love that wider perspective that you bring, and that's actually the threat. I would like to sort of start with. For me personally, my favorite Sufi is in the lower be twelfth century Spanish Sufi who I grew up studying with my dad. My Dad is a former professor of mysticism. Well, it was very interesting upbringing. Let me tell you. So I wanted to just open up this conversation for the listener, who, maybe as not coming from a Muslim background, maybe has not heard Sufi words before just to give a taste and to say there's something very universal here. There's a universalist spirit which makes these teachings really open to everyone so everyone no matter their background should feel free to kind of common, listen and feel welcomed into the conversation so I'll read just a short. PARAGRAPH FROM IGNORE BE. This is my favorite poem of his, he says. My heart has become capable of every form. It is a pasture for Gazelles and convent for Christian monks and Temple idols, and the pilgrims, Kaaba, and the tables of the Torah and the book of Koran. I follow the religion of love. Whatever way loves camels take. That is my religion and my faith. So I love that I love that poem. It's I. Find It really beautiful and for me. It picks up on this threat of universalism that I see in Sufism. In the sort of mystical strain of Islam, but I wonder if you were introducing Sufism to someone who's totally new to it. What would you wanNA tell them about it? Yes I'm I'm so glad that you shared a that particular poem, which is also one of my favorite ones when Edna, rb says I followed the religion of love, the scrolls of the Torah and the pilgrims around the Kaaba in the temple. Part of what he's doing is that he is going deep into the roots of the Islamic tradition. And they're the word for heart is FAB which means transformation? And the idea that if the Arab he plays with is that it is not the head, a reason that can perceive God. The heart. And any understanding of the divine has to be perpetually dynamic. And in need of transformation. So, what some other mystics might call the ideal. Should never be frozen should never be static and the minute that it does. It is no longer God. It is an idol. And yes, maybe we can read the Bible and the Koran and other accounts, and perhaps in a patronizing way. Shake heads in disapproval at the people who used to worship gods made out of wood and stone, if abby and rummy and the mystics of Islam. Are Teaching us that most people worship a God that is made up of IDs. That they worship God not as God the real, but rather the conceived constructed God of beneath. But they themselves have constructed at Roomy, comes out of the deep tradition that we tend to call the path of radical love. It is way beyond simply having fantastic spiritual experiences. The one will it is way beyond. Avoiding pain and torment, and perhaps even Hellfire though fleet. That's a nice side effect, and it's beyond the concern for Salvation in heaven. It is to be in love with the business of it. It is. Love the Gardner more than the garden. I that tradition radical love is not something. For the museums this is the living tradition that continues right down to our on H.. If sounds like there's just this real desire to become one with God to be so close with God, that you're almost indistinguishable and I think we'll come back to these ideas if it later of union with God of. The desire to avoid suffering. I want to for now. Bring us right down to Earth right into the present moment and concretize all this a little bit I like to do these sorts of thought experiments I like to think about historical figures and try to imagine what they would do today. If they were in my situation, so will you indulge me in a little thought experiment since you for you focus on Rumi? Let's imagine imagine if roomy were alive today in the US in two thousand, twenty, living through the pandemic and everything that we're living through. What do you think he would be doing right? This may be. We'll give us a little bit of a sense of. How these mystical ideas can be put in practice. Would he be engaging in petitionary prayer asking God to stop the virus. Would he be out in the street? Delivering supplies to people would be social distancing. Would he wear a mask well? I'm fairly certain that if he were to be in public that he would be wearing a mask first of all, it's just it's cruel and selfish to not wear masks when you're in public and it's not just for your own sake. It's also for the sake of everybody else, so let's just get out of the way. Look. We sometimes tend to have this dichotomy that we like to create. Would he be doing prayer, or would he be out on the street? Yes both, and above when where is it ever said that the life of the spirit and the life of bodies? Have to be divorced from one another The God that is the subject of wants petitions is sustained near of our bodies, hearts and souls. And if you love the folk, you care for the folk. What sets the path of radical love. Apart I think from so many other traditions is the very notion that if you claim to love God, you have to love God's creation. CanNot claim to be indifferent to the suffering of humanity, and indeed other since she and beings. If you claim to be on this path on this journey, so the question of suffering I, think is one of the most important ones. We are so uncomfortable. With our own pain, their own suffering. We don't know how to deal with their own pain. And as a result, sometimes our hearts become hardened and callous when we hear the cry of another person or another community. And then we go right into all the defense mechanisms that we have, and of course you see this nowadays, you have whole communities of color black communities in particular who are on the street, picking up on the cry of Eric, Garner and George. Floyd, talking about how we can't breathe. And you have people responding to that by saying I. Don't particularly like the anger in your voice when you're telling. Breeze, could you say it, but say it again a little bit? Could you say it in a way? That makes me feel a little bit less antagonized. And these are all the signs of callousness in our heart. We, are. In those instances. Not Unable but unwilling. To confront stuff right the path of Love Sufis. Would have been not talking. ACT The people. Who are hurting invulnerable, but standing in their midst. I. Think that's what the message of. An all these mystics be today to identify suffering to stand with those hurting and vulnerable love starts from there. This is not a very. Popular thing to say God does have a preferential treatment, but it is not for religion is not for a nation is not a race or ethnicity or gender. It's for the poor. God is on the side of the week and Devan ruble. And I think in the context of the current pandemic. What we see is that this pandemic is disproportionately taking black lives people who are low income people who are experiencing homelessness. So it would seem like you know. These are the people that an ethic of love would demand that we really do our utmost to protect. If, that means wearing a piece of cloth over your mouth when you go outside, you know the very small sacrifice to make presumably for achieving that somehow. Among all the countries of the earth, we seem to be. Almost uniquely unable to rise to this challenge, not because we lack the resources or a lack, the funds or the expertise I wonder if we lack the care and the love. You know that reminds me of a really stark contrast that I see between. That you find in Sufi thought and a very prominent strand in American thought in Sufism just like in the mystical traditions of a lot of other faiths, Buddhism Judaism many others. We see a real emphasis on selflessness and I don't just mean by that Oh, you're being generous i. mean something much more radical, total ego annihilation, right getting rid of your notion that you have a bounded self that is separate from others separate from God. In, Sufism. We have this idea of fanatic. Right? Becoming completely absorbed in God. To me, this seems like the polar opposite of American individualism. I think we're in a country that has a very strong libertarian streak where we're almost obsessed with individual liberties and I wonder if you think that this emphasis on our personal freedom, personal autonomy actually is getting in the way of expressing solidarity with one another drink pandemic, which is really a situation that demands a more collectivist mindset. Yeah, that's a wonderful question I. I do think that something about you know. This rugged individualism is certainly. Both real and also at times like the over. Exaggerate it. I mean after all. We are the very people who. WHO FOUNDING DOCUMENT STARTS WITH WE THE PEOPLE. It doesn't start with I. The person. It's we the people. There's notion of the people hood. The we miss the US. which is so fundamental I always, you know I was. Blessed in my life to have been loved and Mentor D-, by the close friend of Dr King's Uncle Vincent Vincent harding. And he would always take me back to that document and reminds me that what the document says. Is We the people? In order to form a more perfect union establish justice. And he's he would always pause and say thank God. It never said in order to form a perfect union. because. We were not perfect when we committed genocide against indigenous people. We were not perfect during the years of Transatlantic Slavery and Jim Crow. We are not perfect now. The goal is to become just a little bit more perfect today than we were yesterday and to move towards the direction of Shaping Perfect Union tomorrow compared to today. And how do we do it? Establish Justice. And, of course, you know, justice is never individual. would there's a reason why they call it social justice. It's just as out in society. It's not I wanna get what I can for me. I hear you talking about two notions. There's an ocean of love. And there's a notion of justice that you brought up and I'm curious how you think can. How Sufi thinkers would say these two notions interrelate? Well. You're very student at picking that up except they're not to notions, there's one motion. And the way that the Sufis talk about it. It was it was almost fell out of my chair. The first time that I heard Uncle Vincent Vincent Harding Express this because in here. Was this eighty year old black Christian. Elder of the civil rights movement. It was as if he was reading something out of a Sufi texts. just as there is won- love. And that? The love of God has to flow into love of humanity. That same one love when it's unleashed onto this world right the Sufi say. That love is not an emotion. It's not a feeling it is the very being of God unleashed onto this round. Love that brought you here. It is love that sustains it here and if you can just get over your ego. And Merge, into this cosmic current of love. That same love is GonNa delivery back home. So. It's helpful to think of this love as an OC. Amick wave that pours through you. And when pours out of your heart out into the public? Square we're recognize. It as justice. Right, so you hear Cornell West. Say This you hear Minson harding and Dr. King say this Alabama Kerr and student for nonviolent Coordinating Committee members said this during the civil rights era. All that we mean by justice is love comes into the Public Square I love that your pointing out that love and justice are not actually two separate things, but are kind of part of one wave. There is this roomy quote that I read in a Coleman Barks translation, a caveat that by saying Coleman Barks. Translations are perhaps more interpretations. He takes a lot of liberties with the text, but with that caveat. There is this one part where says what sort of person says that he or she wants to be polished and pure, and then complains about being handled roughly. Love is a lawsuit where harsh evidence must be brought in. To settle the case. The judge must see evidence. I find there's an interesting relationship there between love and Justice Right Love for your fellow people isn't just saying to them. Yeah, whatever you're doing, it's great, you know. Universalism means like total relativism if you don't want to. Be kind to others, or if you WANNA. Be Racist or whatever? That's totally fine. There is this element of. Judgement there is this element of. Criticizing when you see something you think is wrong or is going to harm other people and being willing to criticize when you see that is is part of justice, but that's not separate from love. That's right. That's right. Let's talk about the massive pain and suffering that a lot of people are experiencing right now during this pandemic. Think a lot of religious leaders and spiritual leaders are responding by trying to offer comfort that aims to ease the suffering, but there's also this really rich tradition in a lot of religions and spirituality is about suffering actually being Ino-. Blaming if you hurt us it correctly, this idea that pain can actually lead to good things are good, internal development sometimes, and I see a lot of this attitude in Sufism, roomy in particular. Has I mean just? I tried to pull out one quote, but there were five million, so I kind of gave up. Because it's everywhere right he says brother to be a lover. You must have pain. Where's your pain? Elsewhere, he just says seek pain, pain pain. Increase your need right. He's always in calling upon us to increase our. Pain are suffering in some sense. So how would you invite us to think about this? In relation to the suffering in the pandemic? Some, kinds of suffering seem like they're useful. Some maybe not so useful. That's a great question so I mean I. Think here's again a part of where each of us have to be true. To our own traditions and I'm a Muslim boy. Am Muslim boy of Iran. I'm the south. Who is politically most at home in the Black Church? And spiritually most at home in roomy. And if some people find that contradictory, that's really they're probably not bind you know. I'm not a Christian so when I listen to Martin whom I love. A moved by an inspired by. An i. hear him talk about. redemptive suffering. Willingness to bear suffering, and to pick up your own cross, and that if we can do so with dignity, than nothing shall be more redemptive and transformative. About that. Because that tradition of redemptive suffering isn't my And I want to be true. To how my life of faith and my life of! Politics is too limiting of a word, but my life of being a citizen of a human mingled together. I, also being somebody who was med in a previous life. And spent so many years volunteering in cancer wards pediatric cancer awards one of the questions that I always about when I hear those kinds Kinda Rumi quotes. was. When you read Rumi, talking about pain. Or you hear Martin Talking redemptive suffering. I quit myself back in that situation of one of those young mothers at the hospital. Holding her six month old infants and imagining what I would say to the. Would I go to them and say. I know you're enduring pain on your babies enduring pain. I want you to know that this pain is redemptive. That if you knew how as Roomy at times says if you knew how precious does paint was? You would plead for it with got BECKFORD. No I wouldn't and I. Don't think any kind and tender human being would when you witness pain. Sometimes, the way of bearing witness is to actually be silent. Now what do I do with those traditions of Rumi talking about pain. To begin with I. Don't think we have to go looking for pain. There's already pain in this world. There's already suffering in this world. Romy begins his whole collection of poetry. Talking about this suffering that comes all the different types of separations. For some people nowadays you might be separated from your loved ones that you don't get to see. Having gotten to embrace my momma at my Baba for six months now. You might be separated from a place that feels like home either. Your birthplace or the place that spiritually and aesthetically feel most at home. You might be separated from your own dreams. That you thought you GONNA be somebody. And Life hasn't quite worked out that way and so there's pain in bed, but then he goes on to say. Every heart breaks. But not every heart breaks open. And there's a difference between a heart that merely breaks and a heart that breaks open. So first of all, thank you so much for saying that. When someone is in a cancer ward are suffering terribly due to pandemic, induce death, or whatever it is, we don't go up and say to them. Hey, everything happens for a reason. This is terrific. You're so lucky that your loved. One is dying right? That's no right. I would feel terrible if someone said that to me. I guess what I'm left wondering is how do we work with? Pain and heartbreak so that we become the person who as a result. We break open and don't just break right. How can we hold the suffering of the pandemic? In a way that could actually be ennobling, or we could actually turn it into something, meaningful or useful. Sufi tradition have any pointers as to how we might do that. Yeah. I think a lot of it comes down to this notion of. The idolatry. Of the finite. Ego! So many of us if you just look at her own body, we think that we end at the edge of our fingertips, or if I had hair at the tip of my head. But. Instead in a we use our a fluid being your your soul is extending and already emiss- with other people. That same finite ego. Has a tendency to think that it is the master of the universe, but you write. Your own destiny. And that's it's only a matter of figuring out the. Best choices for you here on the air and so much of the pain that we have. Is that realization that? Our ability is finite that we were unable to prevent pain for ourselves or for people that we love we care about. If instead. We didn't see ourselves as one bound itself. Moving through perhaps bumping up against other finite self. Really saw one life. One Soul. One year winning. One living. One love. then. The pain and the suffering there might witness in somebody else and our own pain and suffering, which resonate with one another and I think that's at least a key to a heart that breaks open. EGOTISTICAL PAIN Always turns, back, on itself. Right, yeah, yeah I! Hear you going on about your pain and your communities. What about my pay? Your knee my back. You know my first gut reaction when you are saying this was no. This sounds horrible because you're saying okay. Maybe a key to dealing with a suffering is to actually feel how I don't have this bounded ego, the separate self I'm actually. This thing that merges with all other beings, and so I share in everyone else's suffering. My first reaction is Oh my God. That sounds horribly overwhelming and terrible, because that multiplies my suffering a million fold. But then my second response internally when you said that was. Okay, maybe that would help me. Feel a sense of connection with all of these other beings, and there might be something in feeling connected with that larger stream of consciousness or being that actually is soothing, because it makes us feel that we're not alone. I think a big part of what. is so painful when we're suffering these days. Is that it has this isolating element to it? We feel alone in and there's something maybe. Soothing and psychologically calming and healing about feeling like. We're united with everyone else, even if the mode that we're united with them, in is a motive suffering exactly so know has it's wonderful line translated in my book, Radical Love You're clutching with both hands to dismiss of YOU and I. Are Whole broken. This is because of this. and. Part of this does go back to that notion of individuality and individualism that we were talking about a little bit ago, and you're right. Some parts of this are woven into. Strands of Western thoughts. The reason that you see me being a little skeptical is you know if you are so insistent on our individuality and individualism while you're on your phone that? While you texting and tweeting, grabbing on facebook, because you crave connection well, okay, that connection is an indication. Of the fact that you're never meant to the island, you're meant to be in community with other being and there's this wonderful room if I don't have a favorite bomb, but. Is Up there You and I should live as if you and I never heard. Of View and and I. I think that really speaks to. You know this idea in Sufi thought of. Getting rid of the notion of the bounded separate ego, and how we're all, we all already always are in connection with each other. And it is making me think a lot about our current situation whereas you mentioned. During the pandemic, a lot of us are just in physical isolation. Unable to hug the people we love and. Go to the places where we feel at home. I find that. In the, West definitely I see this a lot I see in us a lot of fear of isolation I think. A lot of us are so scared of being alone. There was a scientific study done a few years ago, where the gave people the choice between being alone with their own thoughts for fifteen minutes or getting electric shocks, getting mild electrocution, and a lot of people chose the electric shocks right, that is how. How horrified we in the US, are of being alone the Sufi. Tradition has a lot to say about the benefits of isolation of Hala. There's this idea that it can allow you to focus on meditation on spiritual development, and this goes all the way back to the Koran and the Bible, right you see Mohamed and Moses going for forty days to the mountain to commune with God, and then they get their big revelations. Is there some way in which we can use this pandemic to not run away from our `isolation and In a panic mode, constantly trying to text, someone or tweet or Communicate with someone, but instead to lean into that solitude, and somehow use it to our advantage. That's a wonderful insight and. You're right that Even when you think about how languages. and. If you talk about being alone with no one wants to be alone. But if you talk about solitude. As, some people would say oh. That sounds very nice, and this is again. One of the reminders that the would not all on the same boat when it comes to the pandemic that for many people there is. Very. Crushing economic hardship that has come the loss of jobs loss of portions of their job. Inability to move around freely. We're talking about economic. Are Chip medical hardship. and also not all in the same boat when it comes to some of us are extroverts, and some of us were introverts, and we all have aspects of those us. None of us are one hundred percent is. That I have the great fortune of being married to someone who is much more on the introvert side. And she was like we get to stay inside and spend time in the garden and go for one on one walks and read books and listen to podcasts than play sacred music. It would be okay if this lingered. You know for a few years. Living her best life. Yes, I mean. This is like you know not to have to have small talk, which is just. Painful. Painful painful and she would much rather just politely bow out of the conversation and go to the fiscal solitude. and know for me somebody who tends to get a lot of my energy by interacting with people and get charged up. By having a hard conversation. Chat, but the heart to heart by. My, hope is that this? Unplanned perhaps unwanted. Periods of retreat and give us an opportunity to examine around life to think about what is it that we've been prioritizing? What is an feeding our hearts and our souls so every one of us has some signs of the EGO My wife and I were laughing about this couple of days ago. One of my own ego attachments is I love cars. It's like the twelve year old boy in me. That has never entirely grown up and I love a little convertible. What's the point of having a convertible if you can go anywhere? Or if you're not going somewhere as often, it's interesting at least wasteful. You know what I would really love to see my momma. To say my Bubba and When you think about Moses Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and roomy Matt Harvey. All of whom did this practice allawas of? Moving like a wave to a cave to a mountain top to the inward. This wasn't a permanent calling. It wasn't that you would move to a cave. You would go inside to be alone with the one. And then like that wave, you would come back to the ocean and bring the fruits of that back into society. I think that's the part that I would love to see us as a community as a world community do this now and the invitation that I find is helpful for people to do at this point is examine your life. and see what is really feeding your soul. You know so many of us who are attached to our phone devices. We start to get really panicky when the battery lights on them comes on. Because it means you only have twenty percent left right, and then you like nervously. Start looking around like. Where's my charger worst outlet and if you in those days where you could fly if you're in an airport, you try to find with utter futility. The one outlet that is still working even if it's. Right near the bathroom on the floor. You would sit. There s so that you can recharged. I have been that person on the floor near the bathroom. We've all been that person and is by the airlines have against just pudding hundred these things like normal human places. But, what if your heart's? Had A red badly. Light. Would we even know where to go to recharge? And that's GONNA look different for every person. For some of bless. It might look like reading Rumi Poetry. Listening to a podcast. Sitting with your Mama. Embrace of friend making love to apart? Going for a walk in the woods gardening. Putting your feet in the coldstream. Listening to the tripping of the birds in the morning. Or going for a hike up on the mountains. Freyer or yoga. I, actually don't particularly care what that practice is rejuvenator soul. But I think it is really important to be asking ourselves. Do we know what it is? And do we know how to locate it? And do we know how to return to it again and again and again until it becomes a practice. Yes, I think that. particularly in the West, we are generally in the before times so busy with work with status tracing with a lot of these things that distract us from our internal world and that or even just for income reasons, make it really hard for us to have time to look at internal world and find things that will recharge us on a deeper level so in one way like you said I hope that this pandemic can give. Can give some of US I. Think it will be the privileged among us really. Who can afford it. Time to use this isolation as a moment where we can look inward and and reevaluate, you know my actually living in tune with my values are. There's some things I would want to change even when the pandemic over. So there is that period of Hallo of retreat, but I like that you pointed out there is this really dialectical relationship. In Sufi thought between Hallo and Jolla right retreating into yourself exactly exactly and going out back into society. Since he is, my favorite will read a quote from him. He says for him whom God has given understanding, Retreat and Society Hallo Angelo are the same. In fact it may be that society is more complete for a person and greater and benefit. Since threw it at every instant, one increases in knowledge of God. Right, so is there. Is this notion of YOU WANNA retreat? You want have this this period of isolation where you're looking inward, but that's not the end goal in itself. You don't want to just stay there forever. You WanNa, then ultimately use the wisdom. You've gained and the introspection. You've gained in that period of solitude. To then go back out to other people and. Be Able to see the divine in them and able to interact with them in a better way. That's exactly right. Ten hundred thinking of this notion of Holloway and a retreat is terrifying. To so many people yeah, because you know. Who knows what you're gonNA find if you start. Looking into those unexamined corners of your own soul. What if you don't like what you see you know there's a there's a great psychologist that has quote. It takes more courage for a person to examine the dark corners of their own soul than it does for a soldier to ride naked onto a battlefield. Woo Him and I love how vivid that sort of is. In general I'm not. I'm not the Union psychologist. I don't tend to sort of get all excited about the talk of shadows and the shadowy places I. Love and Light Person but I have found that oftentimes we all carry these wounds. Carry this pain inside of us and just because you're not looking at it. It doesn't mean that it's healing so sometimes it can be very helpful, but it's not just wounds that you have in debt unexamined portion of your own soul. There's also wonder and beauty and the presence of the one whatever name you want to give to her or to him. Forgive me because I'm going to take you now into a shadowy place I just. I can't let you go from this conversation. During a pandemic without talking about what I think, is the undercurrent running through so much of our anxiety these days which just? Fear of death fear of our own mortality. which we're not very good at talking about I think as Americans, we really brush it aside as much as we possibly can, but for Sufis. Death is not something to be feared right? It's something they say. We should celebrate like a wedding like a wedding anniversary. Can you explain why that is? And how we can possibly move toward that view because I find that very hard to imagine the death of the people I love most and not just be totally fearful. That's right. That's right and it's one thing if you can somehow. The mystical insight about your own life. That is another thing. If you start to think about the life of the ones that you love the most in this world style also be. I, WANNA be sensitive towards that so I. Think on one hand you know yet, look if we. Look at the only existence that there is being the life of this world. And that the universe and the INS is tied to these finite beings, and that wind is finite, being dissipates. Cornell West whom I love so so much and I I we sometimes when he's talking, you talked about when my body becomes, the culinary delights of terrestrial warms. Unlike thank you for that image, which now it's like embedded inside a by so. But what if instead? You come to realize as the Sufis did. There's this wonderful saying. Been, North African Sufi I think this is staying number, thirty, seven or thirty, eight or something in his collection. In the beginning. Was Gone. And there was none with him. In the end there will be God and it would be not with him. And this is the part that just was your mind. And it is now. As it shall be then. What if In this very breath. Yes you exist. I exist in all of the listeners exist. And the. Multitude the mini ness of existence are like the drops of the notion. And the ocean is always there even if the waves come in under waves, go back out, and even if the water evaporates and falls back on the ocean is rain. It's still the ocean. So! If I can sort of come back to that notion of what if ending? Of Earthly cycle is not an end, but it is the lifting of the veil so that you come to see yourself as always having been inside the divine presence If I can again go back to room me, you know he, he talks one point about you. Spend your whole life knocking knocking knocking at God's store wondering when it will open my friend. You're knocking from the inside. The inside the divine presence, and you're knocking waiting for the door to open. This world this here and now you're already based in God. There is. No place. To Go, because nothing you just outside of God, but coming back to that much more vulnerable place that I think you're trying to have us go to. Your right, there is a sense of fear that is woven into so many of our expenses of death. Not so much about what will happen to me. But what will happen to my left, one's would provide for my left one's. This is why we need a basic guarantee of income and and universal healthcare by the way. It would alleviate some of that pain. Anxiety! But what if we came to thinking about not so much the duration of life? But the quality of our living. I was freaked out recently to realize that my twelve year old baby girl. Who is someone that I love as much as I have ever loved anyone on this earth? Has a bucket list bucket list for twelve year old right? An and contrasting that to conversation that I had with my Bubba was my father. was when he turned eighty. And may God give him. And made a years be filled with Joy Evan. I asked him Bubba for your eightieth birthday. What would you like to have done? And he said nothing. And I said. I mean you're turning eighty and this is a big deal and and said Let me Jen. Got His already given me. The most wonderful companion for life that I've been married to for fifty years at four. Great children have wonderful ranch have spent a life in service to humanity tried never to harm anyone. Is Nothing that I would? Wait for. There's nothing on a bucket list that I have because there's pure. Gratefulness. To live in that sense of gratefulness would certainly at least from me. Remove allowed fear. That is almost all encompassing. In this moment of dynamic, I do think it's true what you said about at least for me I find it way easier to. Come to some canes with the idea of my own death, but the idea of my family members dying is totally. Overwhelming to me, there is a poem that I. Love ads in Roomy in the barks. Translation that I'll just read a little part of it. It's called the sheriff who lost two sons. A great. Shave has lost two sons yet. He is not weeping. His family and his wife wonder at this lack of grief. Do, not think that I am cold and uncompetitive unit. I don't weep. Because for me, they are not gone. The eye of my heart sees them distinctly. They're outside of time, but very close by here, playing and coming to hug me. As people sometimes see dead relatives in dream. I see my son's constantly in this waking state I am even more deeply with them. When I hide for a moment from the world. When I let the sense, perception leaves dropped from the tree of my being. Some attend to individual mercies and some to universal grace. Try to let them merge pond. Water eventually arrives at the ocean. One St. Works and lingers in the lakes of personal life, another place without limits in the sea. So again we have that water imagery you talked about where it seems to be offering the speaker of the poem some comfort to imagine yes, we as individuals, we are individual drops of water, but we merge back into this bigger see. That's an idea that when I was younger, I really hated because I. Don't like the idea of my loved ones losing their particularity, and after death, being unable to advise me and speak to me with that particularity of their unique them nece, but as like an older I find myself a little bit more liking that idea actually because it can mean that. This sort of Condensation. Imagine becoming a missed that permeates my whole world, and then they're not just localized in one particular body in one particular city, but they can kind of be everywhere around me like this kind of watery mist and that is comforting. Every cell in your body is is being changed. So are your memories? Sore your thoughts or your emotions, so our whole being is always undergoing transformation anyway. Death is perhaps just a slightly more dramatic verse, Right Right I like the idea of transformation. Just reframing death is transformation. Romy says what is miserable seed when spring comes that it. Should not be annihilated for the sake of a tree. I like that image? Right the powerful. That's really powerful, and you know he, he says. Everything that you put in the soil grows. Why are you so afraid of when you're GonNa put me in this. Yeah. It's a point of view that I aspire to to hold in my I definitely do not always managed to have that point of view. Yes I'm very I'm mindful of your time and that we've been with you awhile. May I ask you one last question if you have a moment means okay. Just thinking of that wider perspective. What happens if we look at the pandemic from the point of view of being capital be. From a thirty thousand foot view. When we take. US! Wider perspective is all the DAF and suffering due to this pandemic. At some level meaningless, or is each individual one of US extremely precious still, or is it somehow both at the same time? What would? Your favorite Sufis say to that I don't know of any favorite Sufi who would ever. Say That from thirty thousand feet point in the air. That all of this meaningless and I don't know of a God I surely. Don't worship a God for who? Suffering and birth and death and joy in tears are meaningless the God, that I know is. Both end. Yes, to all the above gods. Yes the transcendent majestic Lord of the Infinite Cosmos says universes of the seen and unseen. And of the God who mangoes individuals of a child, and the opening up of a blossom, and the chirping of a bird, and the silence in the solitude so. I would hope to hang on to this notion that. The suffering and the hope and the realization that we can bring into this moment. Is deeply precious and dear to that one. Thank you so much that was beautifully put I. Really appreciate all that you've shared with us I found it very helpful for me personally I. Know Our listeners will too, and if you want to tell our listeners if they would like to find you more of your work, where can they find you? Oh, sure, it's quite easy to find some of these teachings so if they enjoy a listening to things or perhaps even watching them have set up an online platform that's called illuminated courses I'm. They can just go to www dot. ILLUMINATED COURSES DOT com. The first one is unruly, and the second one is on Martin. Luther, King, and I'll comex. And if they enjoy reading been, there's a book that I have of Rumi poetry as well as their teachings of some of these other Sufi stages called radical love fantastic. Thank you so much amid is listeners. Check those out, and it was a pleasure for me to talk to you I. Appreciate it. Listeners thanks so much for joining us. If you liked today's episode, make sure to catch the next one spy subscribing on apple podcasts or wherever you listen. And? Please share this with your friends and family. If you have feedback about this podcast. I'd love to hear from you. You can send me a message on twitter at Seagal, Samuel. Our producer is Jackson. Beer felt the show is edited by Albert Ventura. Our executive producer is Liz Nelson. And this show is part of the VOX media podcast network. visit vox dot com slash podcasts to find more of our shows.