One of my wisest friends in the world is a Turkish man named Zeki and likes to quote the poet Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī or as is better known, simply, Rumi. Rumi was a theologian, scholar, poet and mystic who lived in Persia (b. 1207 – d. 1273). He wrote in Persian, Arabic, Turkish and Greek.
When you read aloud his poems—or hear them read aloud—the sound is intoxicating. It is said that he chose the language based upon the sound of the words, much like the Psalms of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament often did. Onomatopoeia (the word sounds like the thing it describes) is a wonderful thing.
My friend Zeki has recently passed along two of Rumi’s passages and I cannot escape the thought of them. Rumi’s words are often simple but there is an incredible depth to his thinking.
One such passage was “I have learned that every mortal will taste death but only some will taste life.” One commentator, Imam Shaf’i, added, “Some people have passed away but their character has kept them alive. Others are alive but their character has killed them.”
I have met people—now gone—who remain alive because, indeed, their character allowed them to taste life and has kept their memories alive in the hearts of others. My beloved aunt and uncle were the dearest people on Earth to me. They tasted life well and shared it with everyone around them. Life with them was a feast of love and understanding.
And they are well-remembered. Their lives go on in the hearts and minds of others. My uncle lived to be almost 101 years old. My aunt had died about 12 years before. One day he was asked what was the most surprising thing about living to be one hundred.
His answer, “I didn’t know how hard it would be to live so long without my girlfriend.”
Yet, he lived on and shared life with everyone around him. He would go to the mall almost every day to walk and get his exercise. At the mall, he would meet up with other senior gentlemen and get their rounds in.
One day, his son went to pick him up and went inside to find him. What he found was a huge birthday party in the middle of the mall in my uncle’s honor. But it wasn’t just the other seniors who were in attendance. Oh, no. There were many young women who worked in the mall who were there with him. The old charmer.
But that was him and that was the life he and my aunt created together and shared with others.
Which brings me to the second Rumi quote from my friend Zeki. “Come, whoever you are…come. Our caravan is not a caravan of despair…Come, come again.”
This is the richness of life. To travel together in life and peace and understanding is the caravan in which I want to journey. The interesting thing about caravans—or wagon trains—is that not everyone begins at the same place and ends at the same place. Some people join along the way or drop off along the way. Everyone has their own journey and—for a time—we may travel together.
To those who join with us at whatever point, “Come, whoever you are…come. Our caravan is not a caravan of despair…Come, come again.”
Thank you, Zeki.