There is a poem that I love. And I mean love. When I read it, the rarest thing occurs: my mind stops talking, it sinks back to the salty waters of my heart, and there it floats, gazing skyward, and it smiles. It laughs. And its laughter cries.
But I don’t believe it – the poem, I mean. I believe it, but I disagree with it. I don’t want to go to the place it describes, not in my head, not in my gut. There are moments when the idea of it grips me, and there is nowhere else I could rather be; even so, these moments come only in reference to others who – to my mind – fall squarely on the “rightdoing” side of the fence, people I can admire. Yet for the sake of such moments, contrary to the poem though they might be, I must go back parfois and soak myself in this work by Jalal ad-Din Rumi, the 13th-century Sufi poet.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.
You see, it’s the absence of any idea of wrongdoing or rightdoing. I believe that I have been to this field, if only for a moment once or twice, and it is delightful in a way “delightful” can’t describe. It is “yes” (à la e.e. cummings). But I can’t meet anyone there who I have not seen walk by the river I call “good” – who does not place integrity above all, or who does not love his curiousity, or who can tell a lie without feeling that in doing so he has stabbed a knife into his own flesh. People I am drawn to, those I admire, those I respect, them I could meet in Rumi’s field.
I think there is a needful place for ideas of wrong and right, although I think those ideas need to be tempered by rational scrutiny and proper humility. We can’t live together in society without such boundaries and ideals.
Does Rumi mean to meet one specific person in his field: as in, one chosen, one whom he trusts, one who is already close to him? or anyone who will come? Or does he mean only to suspend ordinary normative judgments, to gain a different perspective on life or a relationship for a brief time, before returning? If he meets only a chosen one – to the exclusion of the unchosen or the chosen against – how can this be an escape from ideas of wrong and right, rather than a mere pretense of escape?
Methinks I am overanalysing, for such a beautiful poem. Read it slowly.