Is longing already connectedness

Is longing already connectedness? I believe it is. The object of longing is not yet in the time and place where I am at the moment, but that can still change.

Is longing already connectedness

It is true that the object of longing is not yet in the time and place where I am at the moment, but that can still change. What is time? And what is space?

Omar Khayyam (1048-1131) says:

The drop laments: How far from the sea I am!
The world’s sea laughs:
In vain is your sorrow!
We are all one – we are God –
Only the tiny dot of “time” separates us. [1]

When you was once in love and you did not yet know what the other person felt, I sometimes felt such a deep pain of longing for the beloved. Yet at the same time I knew with absolute certainty: this longing is such a strong magnetic bond. It goes from my heart to his heart, even if he doesn’t know it. And the current of time pushes us towards each other, and you had the absolute certainty that we would be together someday. And so it was.

All those feelings you had then, I can transfer one-to-one to my relationship with God. There is this absolute longing for knowledge and the feeling of oneness with him.
And there is also this magnetic bond that connects me to him and gives the certainty that this oneness is already there, although you cannot always feel it. I am the drop on its journey to the ocean of the world, with the absolute certainty that only time separates us.

In the teachings of the Sufis, I have found comfort that there are many who feel this way. In their love lyrics and poetry you find the most wonderful descriptions of this state. The works of Rumi in particular always move me deeply in the soul. For example, he writes about the desperate search for God:

“O God,” cried one many nights,
and his lips became sweet with the praising.
“Thou callest much!” said Satan, full of derision:
“Where is the answer ‘Here I am’ from God?
No, no answer comes down from the throne!
How long wilt thou cry, ‘O God!’ – Desist!”

As he was saddened and silent, his head bowed,
he saw Khidr descend in a dream
who spoke to him: “Why do you not call him anymore?
What thou longest for, dost thou now regret?”
He said, “Never comes the answer: ‘I am here!’
So I fear he has shut the door on me!”

“Your cry: ‘O God!’ is My cry: ‘I am here!’
Your pain and supplication is a message from Me,
and all your striving to reach Me,
it’s a sign hat I draw you to Me!
Your pain of love is My grace for you –
In the cry ‘O God’ are a hundred ‘Here I am´s!'”[2]

Jalaluddin Rumi was a mystic, a sufi, who lived from 1207 to 1273. He spent most of his life in Konya, Turkey. There he founded the Mevlana order of dancing dervishes, known throughout the world for their spinning dance, the Sema.

Rumi wrote some of the most moving verses of Sufism. One of them is “The Song of the Reed Flute” from his most famous work, the Mathnawi.

Listen to the reed how it narrates a tale,
A tale of all the separations of which it complains.
Ever since they cut me from the reed-bed,
Men and women bemoaned my lament.
How I wish in separation, a bosom shred and shred,
So as to utter the description of the pain of longing.
Whoever becomes distanced from his roots,
Seeks to return to the days of his union.
I joined every gathering uttering my lament,
Consorting with the joyous and the sorrowful.
Everyone befriended me following his own opinion,
No one sought the secrets from within me.
My secret is not far away from my lament,
Yet, eye and ear do not possess that light.
Body is not hidden from soul, nor soul from body,
Yet, none has the license to see the soul.
The cry of the reed is fire, not wind,
Whoso does not possess this fire may he be naught.
‘Tis the fire of Love that befelled the reed,
‘Tis the fervent desire of Love that entered the wine.
(Translated by Seyyed Hossein Nasr)[3]

This flute is the soul of the original eternal man. It was cut off from its source and has acquired consciousness in material existence. It longs to return to its homeland and feels a deep sadness at its distance from the divine.

The Ney flute, which with its wistful tone expresses the deep longing for the Divine Beloved, is the soul instrument of the Sufis. Just as the dead bamboo reed of the flute is set in vibration by the breath of the musician through whose feelings the melody manifests, so God responds through the breath of His Spirit and in turn sets the soul in vibration and voices His thoughts in her.

I had the great good fortune to take lessons in playing the ney from a Sufi. I remember that at first I could not produce a single sound. That was my first homework. Hour after hour I sat on the balcony trying to produce that one sound. The ney is a very unruly instrument and I had received only very vague instructions from my teacher on how to play it.

He had said to me: “You don’t play the Ney, the Ney plays you. You have to listen to her! She tells you exactly what to do.” And so I sat and listened and the sound came closer and closer – at first just a breath of wind, then the inkling of a sound that formed more and more into a tone and then after hours it suddenly and almost unexpectedly stood in the room: a tone so beautiful that I almost had to weep with awe.

It was then that I realised how to walk the spiritual path: a careful searching for the divine vibrations, which are present everywhere in space, but which – like the flute – need an instrument to reveal themselves in time and space. You feel by the intensity of these vibrations whether you are coming closer to the divine or moving away. Then, in the latter case, you have to correct my life in order to feel again the closeness that means everything to me. And then, every now and then, this wonderful sound comes from within that makes me forget everything else.

In Rumi’s life there was also a comparable event: the encounter with Shams-i-Tabrisi in 1244. Rumi later said about it:

Your dream image was in our chest!
From early dawn we foresaw the sun![4]

Shams was a wandering dervish about whose origins little is known. It is said that his sharp remarks and harsh words shocked and frightened people. But he possessed a tremendous inner richness of spirit. He kindled a flame in Rumi that became so intense that he neglected everything for six months.

“Day and night he sat with the friend in Salaheddin Zarkub’s cell without food, without drink, without any human needs.” This is how Ahmad Aflaki described it.

In his youth, according to legend, Shams had once said, “O God, is there not a single one of your creatures that can bear my presence?” And he received a vision in reply that he should search in Anatolia. And there he met Rumi.

Between these two developed such an intimate soul relationship as is probably rarely found in the world. Rumi writes about it:

Love went back and forth in my body
back and forth like blood.
Then my being became full of my friend
and empty of myself.

All the members of my body
are now under the spell of the friend.
All that remains of me is the name,
the rest is: “All HE!”[5]

Can there be a more intimate bond than this? And is there a more beautiful image for the divine presence in man than this?
Shams-i-Tabrisi, the Sun of Tabriz, was most probably killed by the ill-will of the people of Konya. Just as Jesus was handed over to the cross by the ignorance of the crowd.
Rumi was out of his mind after the disappearance of his friend. And yet this pain led him to write the most wonderful and heartfelt verses about love. He later said that it was only the physical separation from his beloved that resurrected him in his innermost being and that he was now eternally united with him.

Rumi’s son tells about this:

“He did not see Shams-i Tabrisi in Damascus,
He saw him within himself, clear as the moon.
He said: ‘Though I am physically far from him,
without body and soul, we are both one light.
See both him and me:
am he and he is I, O seeker.” [6]  

And is it not the same with man’s journey through matter? Is it not only through separation from God that we feel the burning pain of His absence, and at some point we are prepared to sacrifice our whole lives to receive Him back into ourselves?

Rumi summed up his life in the one sentence:

“And the result is only the three words:
Burnt am I, burnt am I and burnt am I.” [7] 

Here we find the highest essence of connectedness: surrendering one’s own being to love until it is consumed in the fire of longing and enters into oneness with the Beloved.

[1]    Omar Khayyam, Gedichte, Lehre XXIII, Verlag, Jahr
[2]    Annemarie Schimmel, Mystische Dimensionen des Islam, Insel Taschenbuch, 1995, S. 236/237
[3]    Mathnawi, 1. Buch, Rumi, Lied der Rohrflöte, Übersetzung von Annemarie Schimmel, Verlag, Jahr
[4]    Annemarie Schimmel, Rumi, Heinrich Hugendubel Verlag, 2003, S. 19
[5]    Dschallaludin Rumi, Traumbild des Herzens, Manesse Verlag, 2015, Seite
[6]    Annemarie Schimmel, Rumi, Hugendubel, 2003. S. 23
[7]    Annemarie Schimmel, Rumi, S. 457, Hugendubel, 2003

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Date: July 27, 2023
Author: Maria Amrhein (Germany)
Photo: Ney Sulox32 on Pixabay

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