Your task is not to seek love, but simply to seek and find all the obstacles you have built against love.” Jalal al-dîn Rûmi
Djalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Balkhi (Persian: جلالالدین محمد بلخی) or Rûmî, who was born in Balkh (present-day Afghanistan) in Khorasan (a large region of Persian culture) on September 30, 1207, and died in Konya (in present-day Turkey) on December 17, 1273, was a Persian mystic poet who profoundly influenced Sufism
This quote was kindly suggested to me by Simin, a faithful reader of the blog. Thanks again to her!
What did Rumi want to tell us with this sentence? Perhaps that love is innate and that we learn to let go of it as we grow up. A child naturally loves everything that comes his way. The education we receive from a young age probably tends to build walls between us and others. Culture can be beautiful when it embellishes our intellect and our heart. The problem is that it sometimes has exclusive aspirations, which leads us to despise those who do not have this knowledge or who see the world differently. The purpose of culture is to create a common frame of reference for a group of individuals, whether it be through language, history or religion. The frame of reference confers a common identity, which gives both strength and homogeneity to the group. Culture progresses and grows through contact with others, but sometimes it becomes rigid and threatening because it feels threatened.
Our natural propensity to love should be preserved in the process of cultivation. Love is not the primary function of a culture, it is to create a united group that can be led. In itself, one can say that an important function of culture is political. When you control the imagination of a group, you can influence its choices and actions. Thus, we see that it is important to always keep love in mind and to make culture one’s servant and not one’s master. When we develop a fervor for culture, it must be subordinated to the nobility of our heart in order to amplify its qualities and not the opposite.
Use your vexations
The airplane flies because it uses the headwind to rise. The pitfalls we encounter along the way can play this role as well. Often, we react in a binary way: if someone is nice to us, then we will be nice in return and conversely, if they are unpleasant, we will be unpleasant to them. So, yes, this can be an efficient way to function in the short and medium term. But what about our emotional and even spiritual progress when we always act this way? The vexations that affect us should ideally serve as food for thought, otherwise they will end up becoming these walls that we build between ourselves and others as Rumi indicates. Of course, there are malicious people, and it is better to protect oneself from them if one does not find a healthy way to resolve a conflict. Nevertheless, in most cases, a vexation is actually an opportunity to deepen our relationship with someone since it is an invitation to empathize with oneself and the other person. If every vexation could be resolved through introspection and empathy we could actually create stronger bonds with others.
The importance of docility: not reinventing the wheel
In our process of empowerment (or individuation) from a parent or teacher, we sometimes tend to want to question everything, which can have a detrimental effect on our learning. The geniuses who have shone in the past have done so by their ability to assimilate existing knowledge in order to surpass or contradict it later on. The problem with having a rebellious and systematic attitude is that one cannot make the first step of the process of scientific overcoming or discovery possible. It is often only one finding, a small percentage that makes all the difference. This implies that there is 99% of already known knowledge that has already been assimilated. The same goes for the quest for love, at least the destruction of the obstacles that separate us from it. All the knowledge related to personal development has been for the most part produced during the last millennia, whether it be through philosophy or spirituality in particular. It is useless to try to invent new concepts if we have not assimilated the knowledge of yesteryear: it is possible that they have already existed under another name. Our salvation comes from going beyond the acquired knowledge, by a scrupulous and assiduous study and the associated reflections.
Stop pretending to be happy
To be happy, one must not wear the mask of happiness. It is healthy to accept the darker feelings that come over us. They are there to bring us a message that we might not otherwise understand. It is also good to make sense of them, but also to treat them like a physical wound: we heal it, then let it heal without being obsessed by it. Moral sufferings are often stepping stones to authentic happiness when we manage to understand and heal them. The same is true for the walls we build between ourselves and others: pretending that everything is fine when something is bothering you will only make things worse. Stopping and tearing down the walls we build in our minds and hearts is better even if it looks like we are distancing ourselves.