Fall in Love the Rumi Way

Intimacy with other people and with the divine is more about friendship--and hard work--than romance.

Translator Coleman Barks' versions of Jelaluddin Rumi have made the 13th-century Sufi the best-selling poet in America. Beliefnet talked with Barks recently about his latest collection, "Rumi: The Book of Love."

Your new collection refers to Rumi as "the ultimate poet of love." In your introduction, you say that the media and popular culture have lied to people about love. What are they saying that doesn't ring true?

I don't focus so much on the lies as on the truths that Rumi is trying to open for us. But there are ideas that are out there for sentimental reasons. There's the idea that you can take the personal into a deep love. Rumi says you really have to empty out to be in the state he calls love.

It's akin to something like work. The lover and the worker are identical. It's rare that you have a love song in our culture that ends, as Rumi often does, in the admonition that you need to have a daily practice--something to remind you of the deepest part of your being which is beyond the emotions and beyond desire.

But there are all different stages of love, and Rumi affirms them all, no matter how shallow. All that emotion drawing together is from the movers, part of the action of the mystery.

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Rumi says the way that lovers are brought together, and why one person is drawn to one person rather than to another, is God's sweetest secret. It's a total mystery. Rumi says that in the motion from romance to friendship [we reach] a deeper level of connection.

Maybe that's what the popular culture is lying about. There's this idea of romance-that ache of separation and longing-you find in Dr. Zhivago or Romeo and Juliet. Lovers are always in a rush in train stations. That ache of unsatisfied passion is celebrated, and has been, in Western culture since the 12th century.

In one poem, Rumi says "Fall in love in such a way that it frees you from any connecting." This is unusual and counterintuitive in terms of what we're brought up with.

People who are together just

are

each other; they don't feel the phone call angst. [In another poem, Rumi says] "Lovers don't meet somewhere, they're in each other all along."

Love is an important part of all religions. Rumi's poems seem to break down the idea of organized religion and say that God is bigger than all that.

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Interview with Coleman Barks
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