Doing Our Bewildered Best: Dispatches from the Pilgrim’s Path to Notoriety

Basho on the road


There are many guises for intelligence.
One part of you is gliding in a high windstream,
while your more ordinary notions
take little steps and peck at the ground.

Conventional knowledge is death to our souls,
and it is not really ours. It is laid on.
Yet we keep saying we find ‘rest’ in these ‘beliefs’.

We must become ignorant of what we have been taught
and be instead bewildered.

Run from what is profitable and comfortable.
Distrust anyone who praises you.
Give your investment money, and the interest
on the capital, to those who are actually destitute.

Forget safety. Live where you fear to live.
Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.
I have tried prudent planning long enough.
From now on, I’ll be mad.

– Rumi (transl. by Coleman Barks)

I’ve found that the stream of my life recently has been bringing me back, several times, to the poet Rumi, and it’s been wonderful, like getting back in touch with an old friend who – never mind the time that’s passed – still accepts you the way you are while compassionately challenging you to dream a little bigger, live a little more boldly, and love a little more fully.

Something nice about poetry in general – and perhaps about Rumi’s poetry in particular – is the ability it has of offering a place of comfort and solace in which to dwell for a little while, even amid life’s worst storms, trials, and agitations. Prose can do this too, surely, but there’s something about the nature of poetry that allows us, even if fleetingly, to get out of our own head and, what’s more, to get out of our own way.

For most of us – and I’m including myself here – we spend so much of our lives chasing after safety and security and assurances, all the while worrying about outward appearances and what other people think of us. It’s nice to take a moment to contemplate just running away from comfort, forgetting about safety, and throwing our reputation and outwardly determined sense of self-worth to the curb.

Of course, it’s one thing to contemplate all this, and quite another to act on it. It’s easier to imagine the beauty of faraway lands than to pack our bag and set off in search of a pilgrim road – or a road less traveled – to wander down. It’s easier to sit and think about generously sharing the abundance of our lives – monetary or otherwise – with others than it is to actually go out and look for ways to do it. And, if I’m honest, I don’t know if I’m ready to give up “prudent planning” altogether, much as a part of me – deep inside – awakens with pure joy at the very notion.

But I suppose we have to start where we’re at. We can only begin here and now, and that act of beginning – and beginning again, and again – means, on some level, accepting the present moment, the present situation, as the truth of our lives.

But that doesn’t mean we have to stay where we are. That’s important to remember, too.

I hope I can cultivate today a little bit of the passionate, holy restlessness that Rumi seems to be advocating. I hope I can remember that it’s okay, sometimes, to be a bit “bewildered,” to be somewhat “notorious,” even to be a little “mad,” at least in the world’s eyes.

As Rumi writes elsewhere, “The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you. Don’t go back to sleep!”

The road is calling. Don’t be afraid.

Posted in roundabout response to the WordPress Daily Prompt: Notorious

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One Response to Doing Our Bewildered Best: Dispatches from the Pilgrim’s Path to Notoriety

  1. Pingback: Author Interview – J.J. Reichenbach – The Nix Series (Dark Fiction/Horror/Thriller) | toofulltowrite (I've started so I'll finish)

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