Handy Texts Helping Each Other

One of the great things about earning one’s keep via research that changes on a daily basis is being surprised by verses such as the following, from Rumi:

The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you,
not knowing how blind that was.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
They’re in each other all along.

Rumi’s been much touted by devotees of not-very-rigorous, “we’re all the same,” “all you need is love” sort of stuff. The poet seems to have been a pretty good guy, so I’m guessing he’d be compassionately tolerant of the holders of such sensibilities, maybe deciding that they weren’t in a place right then to think more critically, and just letting them go along and swim smilingly in their own delusions. So sure, you could read this thing as another bit of comfort we feed ourselves at the thought that “there’s some particular, destined someone out there for everyone”– but I’m not sure that’s all there is to it.

If nothing else, there’s a gentle insistence within these five lines to just calm the hell down, to cease with the panicked search for a soul mate– and there also seems to be, in the first part, a sort of disinvestment from the push into (finding) love that society so enjoys giving. In our own day, all you need to do is watch five minutes of cookie-cutter rom-com, and, if single, you suddenly feel as if you’re committing some sort of sin against the good life and yourself by not embracing adventure while chasing down a fat ring and daily declarations of true love.

There’s still something about the poem that’s eluding me, though, and it may have to do with a line from Mavis Gallant’s “Malcolm and Bea,” which I read on or about the same day on which I was confronted with Rumi’s assertion. Reacting to his wife’s description of a vision she has of walking toward her own self– of her self being her goal– husband Malcolm responds, “no one is a destination.”* Among other things (it’s a complicated scene), he’s refuting** the possibility that one can be a destination to oneself, and so the claim isn’t in line with where I’m going to take it, vis-à-vis Rumi.

But out of context, it may provide a form of agreement with the poem’s caution: this frantic search for love amounts to a blind hunt for someone-as-destination. And once you’ve reached your destination, there’s nowhere else to go, no growth or expansion to take place, no history to be made; you think you’ve been saved once and for all by your arrival– and been made stagnant. Reaching again, I want to see an admonition in the verse, via Gallant’s phrase, that no one can save you, no one can be that end-all-be-all destination we’re told to seek.***

That’s all the riffing I’ve got to offer on that particular tag-teaming of texts. But as a digressive conclusion to this little post, I will note that being able to have one passage speak to another gives me that warm, fuzzy feeling that’s always occurred when two unrelated pieces I happen to be reading simultaneously just up and address the same narrow topic, or make use of the same obscure word, etc. I was always surprised how something I’d encounter in one class’s reading would coincidentally show up in another form, via another author, for some entirely unrelated course. Maybe that phenomenon is one aspect of what Jung would call synchronicity. Whether there’s any meaning in such episodes is beyond me– but they are pretty neat.


* Mavis Gallant, “Malcolm and Bea,” in The Cost of Living: Early and Uncollected Stories (New York: New York Review of Books, 2009), 274.

** Contra Nietzsche, I’d say, who’s simply awesome on talk (which itself points back to Pindar) of “becoming who you are,” among other places, in The Gay Science.

*** Shout-outs again to Friedrich N., who was talking about something else, but who would probably not be totally uncomfortable with using his phrase, “What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end” (Thus Spoke Zarathustra) to point to what we shouldn’t be looking to get out of love.


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