Oct 21 2008

Rumi-omancy (from October 1, 2008)

Published by at 8:18 pm under Minister's Musings

As We Build the Beloved Community …  

Rumi-omancy, or Finding Space “Between the Layers of Baklava” 

At our Committee on Ministries meeting, chair Michael Payne-Alex launched our gathering by opening the Tao Te Ching at random and reading a passage. I confess, I don’t remember what the passage said (sorry, Michael; sorry, Tao), but I do remember my delight at this reminder of the practice called “bibliomancy.”      

Bibliomancy—it means “divination by interpretation of a passage chosen at random from a book.” The word first shows up in the mid 18th century, but the practice goes way back. You may have heard about people using the Bible in this way: letting the Bible fall open where it will, then expecting to find in the passages on that page hints about the future or some special guidance for their life. In even earlier days, folks used the classical poets Homer and Virgil in just the same way.        

What is valuable about this history for us Unitarian Universalists? Simply this: that throughout time we human beings have craved more insight into the future; we have longed for inspiration and affirmation. We may go about it differently now, but we are all connected, through time, in these human longings. And that’s a good thing.    

I certainly don’t believe that these random passages, whatever their source, can predict our future. But I do find that when my mind and heart need a spiritual lift, this game of opening at random to a page from a well-loved source can provide something to puzzle over, can send my thoughts off in a new direction, or can simply give me a good laugh. Those are good things, too!      

The other night, I thought I’d give it a try. So I picked up The Soul of Rumi: A New Collection of Ecstatic Poems, translated by Coleman Barks, and opened it at random. This is what I found—this poem called “The Taste”: 

A walnut kernel shaken against its shell makesa

delicate sound, but

the walnut taste and the sweet oil inside makes

unstruck music. Mystics

call the shell rattling talk; the other, the taste

of silence. We’ve been speaking

poetry and opening so-called secrets of soul growth

long enough. After

days of feasting, fast; after days of sleeping, stay

awake one night; after these

times of bitter storytelling, joking, and serious

considerations, we should

give ourselves two days between layers of baklava

in the quiet seclusion wheresoul sweetens and thrives more than with language.      

After all we’ve been doing, let’s remember to give ourselves time “between layers of baklava” for a change. After all the talk, a silence. After all the worry, hope. After all the doing, being…. Those are good things, too!

With my love,       

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