I think I came to Rumi through Ecclesiastes. Many of you may know the poetry to which I am referring: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die, etc.” The verses were popularized in the 60’s by Peter Seeger who wrote the lyrics to “Turn, Turn, Turn”.
I don’t know exactly how I came to Rumi. In fact, I only have a sophomoric understanding of him, if that. But, I say that I came to Rumi through Ecclesiastes because somewhere in the last ten to fifteen years, the lens through which I looked at the world began morphing into something new. I began seeing the world more through the lens of our Ecclesiastes poet.
I grew up believing that there were good experiences and bad experiences. That there were some things in life that were to be sought after and other things to be avoided at all costs. There was success and failure.
I am not sure exactly when it happened, but I am quite sure that the shift took place during the years that I worked as a hospice bereavement specialist. The easiest way to explain that period is that if I held any simplistic views of how the world worked, they were all challenged and shattered by this work.
Hospice simply dissolved away the lines that separated good experiences from bad experiences. Life and death got thrown into the same pot until I couldn’t distinguish between the two. Letting go became as rich as holding on. Saying goodbye at the end of life became as deeply profound as saying hello at the beginning of life. All of it seemed infused with a divine, sacred Presence.
No longer was life to be sought after and death to be avoided. No longer was acquiring things more important than letting go of things. No longer was happiness the preferred emotion to grief. No longer was there a hierarchy of laughter over tears.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.” The mystics will tell you and Rumi will confirm that God doesn’t just show up for the good stuff. In fact, the mystics will tell that what the Divine Presence is best at is just plain showing up. Period.