The jets sound like a rushing typhoon when they skim over
you. Rick had suggested they meet, and forgetting the increasing noise, the
local park sounded great. Kewe’s been making rude comments.
His apartment is directly under the flight path and the jets were flying
overhead much more frequently, day and night. With the planes constantly
flying over, he has to wear earplugs to sleep. Now he’s realizing he cannot
even enjoy a walk. Strolling in the park as they’re doing, he’s not happy.
You had no chance hearing yourself speak. The oldest and prettiest part of
Seattle has been turned into an airstrip.
Despite this he does want to talk to Rick about Jake, and he wants to ask
about the Sufi Prayer Service which is coming up in a couple of days. Rick
had taken a class not long back on the Sufi.
As they’re walking, another plane flies over. Kewe looks up but Rick
interrupts. “You’re across the room and Jake is in your body?”
“I’d say,” Kewe replies quickly. “I’m staring and he’s laughing. As far
as I could tell, I had separated without a body. Don’t ask me how Jake could
see me, but I was there and he knew it. A strange pink glow filled the room.”
Another plane sweeps over and Kewe gives it the finger.
Rick laughs. “If only that would stop them.”
Kewe says, “Now I’m thinking Jake doesn’t want to take over the
physical body. That’s the message I’m getting. I thought it was my time, and
I had no idea what the future held.”
They start along the track that winds around the reservoir. “I’m figuring
now that there is much more to being a personality than I had imagined.
Many people think that you become a holy person or perhaps a devil when
you cross over. I think a new environment changes us, how we relate to
people for instance, it does that here, but we remain, we’re not lost.”
As they walk around the track, the geyser that aerates the water blows
over them. Rick runs off, stops to check out a bush covered with flowers.
Flowers bloom everywhere. The place is awash in color.
Kewe, remembering that the Sufi Prayer Service is in a couple of days,
remarks when he catches up. “You gave me some Persian mystic poetry
written by Rumi. It was after you took a class on the Sufi. Last night I
almost fell over the book. Guess the surprise when the first page I turned
to had a verse about a hidden self.”
Rick surprised, looks at him. “Really, I don’t remember the poem.”
Kewe has been carrying the thin book with him, and now he’s ruffling
through the pages. “Listen to this,” he says:
“You, who are the diver, whose clothes lie empty on the beach.
See the dark veins that grow in the ocean.
See where a piece of bright shell is lifted.
There, underneath, the hidden self rests.
The hidden self waits in these strange bloods.”
Rick stares at Kewe reading from the book. “I was wondering when I’d
be getting the book back.”
Kewe ignores him. “The poem made me curious. I began checking out
Rumi on the computer. As I understand, the Sufi are a limb of Islam. They
are people who attempt to achieve a state of mystical reality here. Most of
the Sufi sects, because of their perceived strange practices, are frowned
upon by other branches of the Islamic faith, such as the Sunni or Shi’ite.”
He continues, “During the 13th century, a university professor became
well known as a Sufi teacher. People called him Rumi, but that wasn’t his
name. They called him that because he came from an area known as Rum.”
“Jalalu’ddin Muhammed Ibn Muhammed was his name I think. He
was born in 1207 in Balkh, Khorassan region—then in Iran, now part of
northern Afghanistan. His father, who was also a mystic, moved the family
to Konya in Seljuk, Turkey in 1213.”
Rick smiles. “You have been busy.”
Kewe says, “I’m telling you because the flow of energy at the top of my
head was strong last night.”
Rick hears inner sounds. So do both Sue and Kewe at times. While at
college, they’d discovered the temporary sounds weren’t tinnitus, the
medical term for ‘ringing in the ears,’ but had a mystical origin. Kewe
after an initiation began to feel the opening of his upper chakras, the spot
on the forehead, where some people place a mark, and at the top of his
head. Other people have told him the inner flow manifests as physical
pressure in chakra areas such as the throat or stomach.
“These poems are translations of the works of the Persian mystic,” Rick
says smiling. “They’re not created from his clothing.”
“Last night,” Kewe says, placing the book back into his knapsack. “I
sensed as I read the poems that a high spirit was looking down on me.”
Rick is stretching his memory. “I remember one verse Rumi wrote.
There was a person named Majnun that he made up stories about. Camels
were considered part of the mundane reality of life, creatures of habit.
He begins quoting from memory:
“...as the story goes, Majnun is trying to reach his longed for Laila’s
house. Steering his camel works fine while he remains alert, only
as time passes Majnun more and more is absorbed in his passion
for Laila. The camel knowing Majnun is not watching, turns on
her track, saunters back to the village where her foal is kept.
Every time Majnun travels over the hills, he falls into his reverie.
The camel always returns to her foal. For three months, back and
forth he is wandering, never getting any closer to his intent.
The heat, and the distance, and his yearning makes him decide.
He’s had enough of this back and forth. He jumps off the camel,
shouts, ‘This camel is the undoing of me.’
When the camel and him have parted, he wanders over the hills
‘My camel has her desire with her.
Mine’s up front.
It was our purposes that were crossed.
We should relate no more.’”
“That’s how I remember the verse,” Rick says. “The tale would have
been followed by a roar of approval from the crowd.”
They have walked away from the flight path of the planes. The
dwellings that surround them are mansions of a previous Seattle era, many
of the mansions now converted to apartments. The huge gardens remain,
and both Kewe and Rick love to walk in this district, where the trees tower
over the sidewalks. “Anything else you know about Rumi?” Kewe asks.
“I know Rumi was a professor of religion at the university in Konya,”
Rick answers. “After his first wife died he married a second time. There
were children from both marriages. Rumi’s writings made him extremely
popular. He would sit surrounded by a crowd, and talk throughout the
night. Many notables of the day came to visit.
“Rumi believed the teaching was in the story. Young people, students
from the university became his acolyte followers. He writes in his poem
‘Daylight’—‘Whatever the soul in human form attempts, the soul’s higher
authority watches and waits at the window.’
“The devotees of Rumi founded the Mevlevi brotherhood, a Sufi order
based on his teachings. Rumi wrote: ‘Fihi ma Fihi,’ ‘It is what it is.’ The
‘Divan,’ inspired by Shams. ‘Mathnawi,’ is a huge work of six biblical
books, with stories such as, The Oilman and his Parrot, The Chinese and
the Greek Artist, Ali’s Forbearance, The Sufi’s Beast.
“The Mathnawi is among other things a history of the world, as well as
a book of geography and politics. It was completed after Shams died.”
Kewe says, “I know about Shams. Tell me more about Shams.”
Rick looks at him, wondering how he’s managed to suddenly become
the educator. He searches for a phrase. “‘Shams of Tabriz - is light, a Sun
o’ he is, one of the beams of God!’ That’s how Rumi thought of the dervish
dancer. The dance was more than whirling rapidly. As a dervish twirled, a
spiritual ecstasy would descend that would spread from the dancer over
the crowd watching. Shamsuddin was a master. He could produce this
presence, this spiritual flow of ecstasy like no other. When Shams came to
the town on a visiting tour, Rumi was thirty-seven. It was said at the time
that Shams was burning and when Rumi met him, Rumi caught fire.
“Something occurred, some recognition of a soul identity that defined
the bond between the two. Rumi fell into an abyss of love. For fifteen months
Shams lived in a little house in Konya, Turkey. The ‘de Shams Mosque’ is
still the name they give to the house today.
Then Shams disappeared.
“Rumi’s disciples had not failed to notice the change in their Master
after he met Shams. They didn’t understand that Shams brought to Rumi,
Spirit, alive in all its mystery. The connection established between the two
men cut Rumi off from his disciples. It was because of jealously, because of
abuse and threats, that Sham’s fled the town not once but twice. Rumi sent
his son Veled to search for Shams, and Shams was persuaded to return to
Konya. The third time he was there only five weeks.”
Rick continues, “There are several stories about the disappearance.
Many believe some of the disciples of Rumi murdered Shams. No killer
was ever uncovered. After Shams’ death, Rumi devastated expressed his
love through odes. Shams he writes about in many of the later works. Even
today Rumi’s poetry is extremely popular. I’ve heard there are translations
in all major languages.”
Kewe who has been listening attentively, asks, “Do you think Rumi and
Shams had a relationship more than we accept as platonic? You think in the
13th century it was emotional and sexual love, as well as a spiritual love?”
Rick takes a moment to answer. “There are plenty of sexual overtones to
his poetry. Rumi thought of sex as an aspect of God, I’m sure. It’s difficult to
know the kind of love Rumi had for Shams. Does it matter?”
“Check that out.” Rick points to a tree shaped like a fox. Passing one of
the gardens, they see yew and several other types of trees cropped into the
shape of animals. The tree that Rick is pointing to, has not only been cut into
a fox shape, red berries grow around the mouth. The fading sun shining on
the berries makes the fox’s mouth look as if it’s holding a bleeding animal.
“Ugh! Bizarre stuff!” Kewe makes a motion with his hand to brush the
Rick chuckles. “It’s all a part of nature.”
Kewe says, “I wanted to talk about the Sufi, the prayer service is Friday.
The Sufi musicians at the folk life festival gave me goose bumps with their
playing. There was a particular instrument used, a small carried drum they
shook and beat. A leaf-rustling sound came from metal rings on the fringe.
This sound I knew. I had such a feeling of being taken back in time.
“When the musician announced they would be playing at the service,
and it was at the college blocks from me, I thought I’d have to go. Now I
think it’s more than me taking a sudden interest. Some spirit wants me at
this place, and I think it is a ‘High Spirit.’”
“You should at least check it out,” Rick says. “I bet you’ll find it more
than interesting. I’d go with you if I didn’t have to work.”
They have been walking on a road Kewe is not familiar with even
though they walk a lot in this area. The large open gardens at the front
seem especially well decorated. One lawn has a border of pale-yellow
lemon gems, placed with velvety-leafed bronze coleus.
“You like the flowers?” Kewe asks, staring at the lawn, then at a Japanese
snowbell tree, the white, bell-shaped flowers giving off the slightest whiff
of fragrance. “Can you see the colored aura around the flowers? I’m getting
such a strong presence as we’re walking here tonight. Can you feel it, Rick?”
They stand for a moment as a couple of squirrels run across their path.
Both watch as the nut-gatherers clamber up a sprawling tree. Unexpectedly,
squirrel eyes peek out from the branches. Then a startled thrush flies away.
Kewe is brushing at a winged seed that has fallen onto his hair.
“Something is happening,” he says as he flicks the seed away. “The top of
my head feels completely open.”
Rick glances up at the darkening sky. “Venus will be bright tonight.”
As if the night were not magical enough.
They arrive at a partially walled garden massed with purple and white
lilac. The power of the place seems to draw them into it. The air, thick with
enwrapping fragrance, with lilac, with night honeysuckle, is intoxicating. A
shuffling in the leaves makes Kewe look around, but trickling water behind
the bushes is also getting his attention. In the sound of water running over
stone there is some dawning that the flow of energy he’s sure he feels
around him, wants them near the water.
Rick bends down to pick seed from a mass of feathery dill growing on
the ground. Crushing the seed inside the palm of his hand, he places the
oil to his face, smelling the pungent aroma. Suddenly Kewe tears off.
Surprised at the quick movement, Rick follows him along a path to a
small courtyard. Flowers are everywhere, magenta colored primulas, soft,
silvery-leafed caladium, sweet, strongly perfumed roses, the night-flower
pervading fragrance adding to the sense of an extra-unseen realness.
A stone fountain at the center of the courtyard has a circle of lanterns
surrounding it, and each lantern has a flower basket hanging underneath.
From the baskets, small, blossoms of pastel- apricot begonias cast delicate
reflecting images inside the cascading water.
In the dusky light, increasingly there’s a sense of the not-quite-physical,
and the trickling water, for a reason that Kewe cannot understand, has
within its sound a mysterious, ethereal quality. The sound is telling him the
presence is waiting here.
Rick reaches down, touches the edge of the fountain sculpture. A thin
veil of mist waters his hand. He is shaking.
“The trickle, the way the water falls,” Kewe shouts, pointing to the
fountain. “That’s the sound. We should be here.” In a flash, he turns,
begins wandering alone into the garden. Kewe thinks...it’s almost as if,
among the sweet, night shadows, that he can see a man standing.
A man is standing against the bushes. A man dressed in robes.
He stares at the man shouting words he cannot understand.
The sound is dissolving...words...unintelligible words.
Kewe looks at the man. He wants to ask!
Power pours through his head, through the crown of his skull.
He feels the energy as it courses through him, as it fogs his vision.
The spot above his eyes is boiling hot.
The man smiles, winks at him,
. . .
A note is fixed on Kewe’s refrigerator door. For the past few minutes
he’s been trying to overlook the note telling him the Sufi Meeting is tonight.
That he has to go out tonight. Staring, he groans. He’s exhausted. It’s been
a rough day. He wants to have his feet up, watch a movie.
But some energy is pushing. At the folk festival he’d been mesmerized
by the tones, by the odd cadence of the music as the musicians played. Why
not go, the college is only a two-minute walk away, he won’t stay long.
The theater-in-the-square, the main art hall of the campus, has a play
performing there that night. The ticket seller tells him the Sufi meeting is
across the street at the college’s sports center, in the basketball court.
Kewe walks over to the brand new sport’s building, a three-level place
he’s been to once before. Inside the lobby a paper sign taped on the wall
has, ‘Sufi’ and an arrow pointing upwards. As Kewe climbs the stairs, he
begins to back away from going through with the service. Seriously, he
thinks to himself, he has no idea of the requirements of a Sufi prayer
meeting, all it will entail, and he is shy for one thing.
The wide stairway takes him to an upstairs foyer. One set of the double
doors that lead into the basketball court is open. A desk has been placed by
the open doors. A young woman sits behind the desk.
Overlooking the street, the far side of the foyer, is a large picture
window and Kewe, not ready to go inside, walks across, stares at the view
below. Thoughts are creeping in that maybe he should go home.
Through the reflection of the glass, he can see the basketball playing
area has a white canopy erected above it. People are sitting on mats around,
but just outside the perimeter of the large canopy. He hates meetings in a
circle, and people on the small mats are almost in a circle.
Kewe begins to stride back and forth. The idea of even going inside the
court is making him shake. Pacing on the plush new carpet he’s not ready
he tells himself to do this yet.
Each time he turns, he gets a better look of the inside of the gym. There
must be a hundred people on small mats. They sit making small talk,
waiting for the service to begin. Top end of the court, the musicians sit on
folding chairs, also waiting. Around them are speakers and various musical
instruments. All the instruments are laid down.
The young woman at the desk, and Kewe pacing, are alone in the foyer.
Just reaching the top stair, about to slip back down, the young woman calls
out to him.
Kewe says, “I’m sorry. Are you talking to me?”
“You have come for the devotion of the dervish?”
“Oh! Oh!” Kewe answers. “I think so. These are the Sufi?” He points
to the people in the gym. “Are all these people part of the Sufi ceremony?”
“These have come for the prayer service,” the young woman answers
in a foreign accent. “The practiced dervish are waiting with the sheikh for
the service to begin.”
“The sheikh?” Kewe looks at her. “There is a sheikh? I had no idea.
I’ve never been.”
She is laughing at the strange expression he is giving her. “I understand,”
she says. “Do not worry.”
Kewe is trying to find a way to excuse himself only the girl seems to
hold him in her eyes.
“I’m not sure of the procedures,” Kewe looks down at the table. “Is this
where people pray?”
In slightly broken English she informs him the service will begin with a
poem of praise to the Prophet. Poems of the Maulana will be read, and then
the practiced dervish will enter and the Sema will begin.
The first salaam will introduce the dance by the kissing of the hand of
the sheikh. The sheikh, she emphasizes, is the sun. The dervishes are the
orbiting planets. The solar system is the Maulana, the beloved Rumi.
The dervish as they encircle the sheikh, will create steps of the way to
union with the Divine will. As the whirling proceeds, the sheikh will call
Holy Spirit. The dervish will carry Spirit into the world.
“You will dance yourself perhaps?” She gives him a big smile. “After
the practiced dervish have completed their task, music will be for all to
dance. I know you will take the opportunity.”
Kewe can see himself twirling around. “I think I will observe this time,”
he says. From the doorway, he looks at the shining, new polished wood of
the gym floor. The area under the canopy is completely empty.
Not at all convinced he wants to proceed, he knows he cannot chicken
out now. On the table is a small wicker plate. A piece of cardboard is behind,
with ‘$10 donation’ handwritten on the folded cardboard. As he searches
his pocket for money, the young woman signals he should go inside.
“No, I want to pay,” Kewe insists, placing a ten-dollar bill on the plate.
She nods, folds the money into a box. She smiles. He smiles. With
nothing left to do, he steps inside.
The moment he does, the musicians start the music. They’d been talking
the last time he looked, now, instruments in their hands, they are at the
beginning of a lively jig. Why they would start playing just as he enters the
room, strikes him even at the time as peculiar. It was as if the service had
been waiting. As if some intelligence had been waiting.
Kewe stands watching a few feet inside the doorway. When the music
stops, a man walks up to a podium at the left of the stage reads a verse not
in English. Then music begins again. The musicians play a haunting piece.
Again these strange cadences, these rhythmic flows that hypnotize. In
the clouded feelings that sweep through his mind, Kewe’s remembering,
touching something he knows, something that’s old, from a past.
He needs a place to sit, but all the spaces on his side of the canopy are
taken; people are standing at the bottom end it’s so crowded. On the far
side of the room there are a few empty spots.
He has no idea why—when looking back later—he decides to step
under the canopy, walk across where everyone would see him, but he steps
between the people sitting on the mats, people who have to shift slightly to
allow him through.
What happens next is a wall stops him dead.
His foot is in midair.
He’s taken a small, half step into the empty space under the canopy,
and a voice is roaring roughly inside his head:
The music ends that same moment.
The musicians, and the man who has been reading the verses at the
podium, are staring. People turn to check out where they are staring, and
now everyone turns to stare at him.
Kewe, his leg still stuck in the air, has no idea what he should do.
Then—as if pushed slightly—he’s withdrawn from the wall of air. He backs
into the people sitting on the mats.
The man at the podium, acting as if nothing untoward has happened,
stares down at his papers, begins to read:
“I Celâleddin of Rum.
Reality is like a musk’s pod,
the delights are in the scent.
To smell the scent,
to possess a fleeting instant
of that which soon passes,
most are satisfied.
But who is the one to seek the musk itself,
not served merely with the scent?
Happy is that one who finds the musk through the scent,
for the scent stays always with the musk.”
The reader, a tall, lean man, stops reading from his papers, scans the
room. Kewe, who has moved away and who is now slowly walking towards
the back of the room, stops. He glances towards the stage.
Noticing Kewe, the reader stares for a moment before he begins to read:
“The Amir said, ‘I have no time for God. My time is filled with
Rumi answers, ‘The work that God has disposed you towards, work
that provides peace and stability for many to live, is this not done
for God? What would happen if your work were to weaken?’
‘When water is made ready for a hot bath, it is heat from fuel that
is burned, from dung or dried hay. The energy you use is like fuel
heating that water for the bath. Your energy is a way to become pure.’
‘To outward appearances, that which we do might not seem as if we
do for God. But to not do, would be divine love disavowed.’
Someone asked, ‘Is there a better way to God than prayer?’
Rumi answers, ‘Yes, but that is also prayer. The heart of prayer has
no beginning or end, no words. Prayer, whatever form, is consumed
always in the light of God.’”
The high white canopy is triggering images of silken pillows and long
silken drapes for Kewe. The words he hears tears into ancient feelings.
Events that disappear quickly, before he can explore the familiarity they are.
“An angel’s wing is brought and tied to a donkey’s tail.
The reason, it is said, is so to raise the donkey,
that it might become an angel.
Man’s situation, you think, must be like this.”
Everyone is laughing. Kewe trying to negotiate past the crowd of
people standing at the back of the room cannot move through them.
Determined to get to the other side of the room—instinct tells him he
has to keep moving onwards—he steps in front of them. The only way to
get to the other side is to edge in front of where people stand.
“Some have taken a bigger sip of life.” The reader at the podium is
reciting a verse of Rumi’s love for Shams. “Such was Shamsuddin. He was
the spirit the darkness could not shame.”
Kewe has become stuck. Somehow, he has negotiated himself where
he cannot move any further without stepping under the canopy, and he’s
not about to try that again. Where he’s stuck, he is directly facing the
reader. Rustling through his papers, the reader seems to find a sheet of
verse he is searching for. He reads in a melancholy tone:
“It is late. It is starting to rain. I want to go home.
I know it would be well-reasoned to stay here with these blonde ones,
to spend the night with them....
But I have no home. There is no one to talk with,
No someone to take my breath with.
Shams, o’ sunny face. O’ awesome face.
While you shone, I laughed, I cried
We were eternal with the love.”
The body had never been found. When the knowledge came that
Shams this strange dervish had disappeared, how much release there had
been. Killed by a disciple had been the rumor.
Kewe this moment feels a great strength sweeping over him.
He sees the reader gaze directly into his eyes, hears the reader shout:
“I love you.”
And something happens. The reader and Kewe have locked eyes. A
clamp of energy grips them together.
A voice is talking to Kewe.
“This is me, Rumi. I am taking over.”
Suddenly a force zooms across the room. A shooting stream of light
passes through Kewe’s eyes, boors into the reader’s eyes.
As the energy sweeps across the room, completely vulnerable each feels
the stream make its contact.
Instinctively knowing the energy will return Kewe deflects his head,
and as he looks away, the returning charge covers him from head to toe.
A space opens then into the crowd.
Sensing the opening, Kewe before he dives into the space, glances
across the room. Bathed in an exquisite presence, he’s watching the reader
as he stumbles, as he tries to balance, tries to grab the podium base.
The man is clinging for dear life to that thin wooden stand.