Thursday, July 28, 2011

Forty Rules of Love

Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?
Shams-i-Tabrizi, Sufi mystic (died c. 1248), 14th Rule of Love

Many moons ago, I joined friends at Cairo's Opera House, all of us entranced by the Mevlevi "whirling" dervishes from Turkey as they performed their remembrance of God ceremony with its mystical music and dance. Their performance exuded spirituality, felt throughout the audience, so unlike the "whirling dervish" shows on Cairo's dinner boats that are all about athletics and showmanship. Now, years later, on the recommendation of one of those same friends, I read Elif Shafak's The Forty Rules of Love: A Novel of Rumi that sets the origins of this ceremony in Konya, Anatolia, by the great Sufi poet Rumi and his beloved friend and spiritual guide Shams of Tabriz. The novel provides an introduction to Sufi philosophy of divine love's presence in each of us.

The novel weaves past and present together with two interlaced stories. I have to agree with many reviewers who comment that the story of the unfulfilled 21st century housewife lacks depth but I didn't read it with such a critical eye, rather as illustrative of how the principles expounded by a thirteenth century mystic remain as true and as exemplary today as they did in the time of Rumi. Shafak intersperses the namesake 'forty rules' throughout her novel and, realizing that each of these Sufi aphorisms deserves contemplation long after the public library's due date for my copy, I spent the day writing out each one; so don't be surprised if they feature in future blog posts. Stay tuned and, in the meantime, check out this book. ;-)

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