We are in Cappadocia, the land of Rumi, central Turkey, after a week in Istanbul. The incredible “fairy towers” are on every horizon, exotic tufa stone from ancient volcanoes, into which humans have carved caves, storage rooms, hermitages and lovely churches, complete with domes, arches and frescoes.
Last night we went to a whirling dervish ceremony in the chapel-like interior of an ancient caravansary. This was not a spectacle of dervishes as is often presented to tourists, but the actual sufi ceremony of five musicians and five dancers as they do in their own practice. This belief and whirling meditation are direct descendants of Jelaluddin Rumi in the early 13th century.
What We Hear in A Friend’s Voice
If you are my soul’s friend, what I say won’t be just an
assertion. You may hear me
at midnight, Come out of the dark, and don’t be afraid.
“Nearness” and “kinship” are
assertions, but the sound of a voice is not. The delight a
friend feels when he hears
a friend’s voice brings all that matters. There are those
who hear within a voice
the essence being said, and there are those who can’t. When
one who grew up speaking
Arabic says in Arabic, “Arabic is my mother tongue,” you
know it’s true. Or
someone writes in beautiful calligraphy, “I can read and
write.” The accomplished
script is that. A sufi might say, “Last night you saw me
carrying my prayer rug
on my shoulder. I explained something then about clairvoyance.
Let that guide you.” Your
dreaming soul says, “Yes!” Such confirmation is like
your lost camel. You
listen with interest when someone says he saw it, but you feel
differently if it’s there
in front of you. To a man dying of thirst you hand a cup of
spring water. Will he demand
a certificate saying “This liquid is of the aqueous variety?”
Does an infant ask his mother
to validate the breast? When a true human being appears
in a community thirsty for
the taste of soul, they immediately hear in the voice
the meaning of I am near.
Translated by Coleman Barks
in The Soul of Rumi, 2001, HarperOne