On Rumi

I crave her Moschino belt. It is one of the only things I’ve ever loved from Moschino, despite the brand reminding me of lipstick red and leopard patterns… which are distinctly not my cup of tea… Maybe its because Rumi Neely wears it in a way that is chic and surreal.

And Moschino slowly takes over the world… XD

I was so exhausted after work today – there was lots to finish on a put-up, and some changes at the end of the day. But at the same time, there are exciting developments. I only wish something would happen on the whole plc-Part B course affair. The way things are going, I might not be able to take leave as I want to to attend the course.

Read a few stories of Hercule Poirot. Oh how I love the little Belgian detective and his ‘little grey cells’! I am so captivated by his little mysteries and his world of characters who dread the bourgeoisie when they are in some ways more crafty and deadlier than them. I love the psychology and method Poirot speaks of, though yes, I can tell that AC improved her method for her novels, but what breathtaking first efforts of her work in The Sketch! She has my admiration, yes, and I will go to sleep dreaming of Prime Ministers and jewels and dead mistresses with white furs and electric blue dresses.

Of the two of course, I still have a greater affection for Miss Marple. Ah, Miss Marple!

Has anyone ever read Rumi? I have been in love with the this thirteenth century Sufi poet ever since I read Abandon…and the beauty of his clean, stark lines…the hidden images…

This is now.  Now is,
all there is.  Don’t wait for Then;
strike the spark, light the fire.

Sit at the Beloved’s table,
feast with gusto, drink your fill

then dance
the way branches
of jasmine and cypress
dance in a spring wind.

The green earth
is your cloth;
tailor your robe
with dignity and grace.

~ Rumi ~

I really recommend reading Abandon, by Pico Iyer. It is definitely one of the best books I have ever read, and perhaps the one which left me with the most longing. Some of the images of the lovers, the anagrams, are still left in my memory. It is an Iyer masterpiece, if not his best, one of his best books.

The synopsis from Publishers’ Weekly: “Framed by the conflict between Islamic and secular Western values, this novel from travel writer, critic and novelist Iyer (Cuba and the Night; The Global Soul; etc.) is part mystery, part spiritual coming-of-age tale and part romance. John Macmillan is a student at a Santa Barbara, Calif., university trying to finish his thesis on the lesser works of Sufi master Rumi. John begins searching the globe for a secret Islamic manuscript, reputedly smuggled out of Iran after the Shah’s downfall, that may contain lost poems by Rumi. He travels through Syria, Iran, Spain and India; though the search is mostly fruitless, along the way he finds himself drawn into a romance with the flighty, fragile, slightly New Agey Camilla Jensen. At first the affair seems a trifling distraction, but as Macmillan’s academic investigation stalls, he finds himself falling in love; Camilla, for her part, turns out to know much more about Sufism than John could have suspected. As he tries to get to the bottom of her connection with his field of study, she suddenly disappears. Iyer’s intellectual detective story evolves into a deeper probing of love, spirituality and the clash of two world views. Without being forced or didactic, Iyer explores American ideas and misconceptions about Islamic faith, while exposing the political corruption that continues to plague many Muslim countries. Though the book is obviously timely, it never feels as though Iyer is mining the headlines for material. Perhaps its greatest achievement is the evolution of the deep, passionate love between John and Camilla, which Iyer renders with grace and psychological acuity.”

I rather liked this one reader’s interpretation: Abandon is a novel that explores the results of mixing ancient mysticism with the rootless, multicultural modern world. This topic is also the subject of much of Pico Iyer’s nonfiction, such as Video Night in Kathmandu and The Global Soul (I have read and highly recommend the latter). Iyer chooses Sufism, and the poet Rumi in particular to represent tradition in this somewhat dialectical novel. The opposing force, which consists of perpetual newness and impermanence is represented mainly by California, which Iyer sees almost mythically (as do many who arrive there from far away places). Abandon, of course, is (according to the cover) a romance, not a sociological treatise. However, in many respects, the romance takes a back seat to the more abstract questions which the book pursues. The rather star-crossed lovers of the novel are John Macmillan, an English graduate student living in California to study Sufism and Camilla, an enigmatic young woman who appears and disappears from John’s life. Iyer makes a good choice in making Rumi John’s specialty. For this Persian mystical poet is, according to the book, currently America’s best selling poet; this is not hard to believe if you visit any large bookstore, not to mention any metaphysical or new age bookstore. This juxtapositioning of a mystical tradition that is steeped in introspection and mystery with modern mass culture is intrinsically bizarre, and Iyer takes this as his starting point for a rather bizarre love story. Camilla appears in John’s life apparently at random, drawing him in with her contradictory need for and fear of intimacy. I have to confess that at times I found this part of the story annoying. John and Camilla repeat virtually the same scenes over and over many times; they become close then they part; they come together again and then quarrel for no good reason. Then they make up until Camilla becomes frightened again and leaves…Of course, many unhealthy relationships follow this kind of pattern.

John and Camilla’s interactions, however, are supposed to convey something much deeper than a mere dysfunctional relationship; I assume that John’s ambivalent pursuit of Camilla is meant to mirror the Sufi’s longing for God. Towards the end, this is actually illustrated quite nicely. The presentation of Sufism, the mystical sect of Islam, is also quite informative and interesting. There are numerous examples of Sufi poetry.There is also much international travel to places as diverse as Damascus, India, Paris and, finally to the heart of Sufism, Iran. John is lured to these places in search of ancient Sufi manuscripts which may or may not actually exist. All of this is fascinating, as are Iyer’s ruminations on California as a place where people without roots seek new beginnings. What I most admired about this novel is what I perceived as a synthesis between the opposing forces of tradition and modernism (or postmodernism). At first, it seems that true Sufism is completely incompatible with modern life, and California in particular. John’s adviser, for example, is a severe Iranian named Sefadhi who seems to embody the conservatism of ancient traditions like Islam. Yet John discovers something Sefadhi had written in his youth which reveals another side to the man. John similarly learns more about Camilla that makes her more understandable. The novel may be suggesting that the true spirit of Sufism (which can also be considered the search for God or wholeness, however you may define it) can be found anywhere and perhaps especially in those places where it is least expected.

On another thought, I was going through some of my old photos and I found this:

I tried to remember where this was taken and couldn’t recall. Then I felt sad at that moment, for I felt my memories slowly seeping away, till I will only recall the most stranger streets and streets for the wrong reasons.

Where are you hiding, Beansprouts?


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