Kneel and Kiss the Ground (by Catherine Jones)

Kneel and Kiss the Ground (by Catherine Jones)

Catherine JonesKneel and Kiss the Ground (February 22, 2007)

» Catherine tells her story (mp3, 5:27)

I first heard of Rumi in the late 1980s from some people I met in a meditation group. His life story was told many times, including his being a scholar and meeting his teacher, Shams of Tabriz. I realize now his story may have been embellished, but it really moved me the way I heard it. In the story, he was a well-known scholar and was sitting by a fountain teaching. Shams came by and pushed his books into the fountain. Rumi began cursing Shams. Shams laughed at him and made some kind of esoteric statement to the effect that Rumi didn't understand any of what he taught because he had never experienced it, and he walked away. When Rumi reached into the fountain to retrieve his books, they were dry. Rumi knew then that Shams was his teacher and found him and begged him to teach him. They stayed together for a year, I think, barely having any other contact with others. Then Shams disappeared. There were rumors that jealous students had had him killed. Rumi searched everywhere and followed up tips on where Shams had been seen, etc. but never saw him again. His longing for Shams was to last for the rest of his life and his poetry of longing and love was for Shams, his teacher. I realize I may have a detail or two not quite right, but this was the gist of what I heard. This story really struck me in the heart because I, too, have had a few very choice, life-changing teachers in my life, and I know the pain I experienced when they were no longer there. I, too, can't imagine my life without them. So his story always struck me as tender and oh so human. I think my favorite lines from his poems are ones I first saw on a card and I followed up and found the poem from which they were taken. They make so much to me because that had been my experience — that there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground, to honor this life in the way that makes our own heart happy. Here is the way I found it quoted: Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don't open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument. Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground. Catherine Jones Atlanta, GA (WABE, 90.1 FM)

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is professor of Persian & Comparative Literature at Washington University in St. Louis, and the author of several books, including Reading Mystical Lyric: The Case of Jalal aI-Din Rumi.

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