On the signature line of my work email, I have a quotation from the Persian poet and mystic Rumi: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.” Recently, I sent an email out to the entire faculty of my school, and a teacher whom I do not know responded to me–not about my email, but about my signature line. She told me that she really, really liked that quotation. She made me stop and think: I had placed that quotation in my signature line a long time ago (maybe three years ago). I had virtually forgotten about it.
I wrote the teacher back, thanked her for the comment and told her that while it is a favorite quotation of mine, that it had been there a long time. Perhaps it was time to change it. She wrote back: No. Don’t change it.
I have not changed it. I did look the quotation up, and I discovered or remembered that there is more to it. There is another line: “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.”
That last line reminds me of why I love this quotation. What is our world full of today if not fear and war, disease and hunger, pollution and over-consumption? These are all real problems that threaten to do us in. Our approaches to them are themselves filled with notions of wrongdoing and rightdoing that create too many times more obstacles than they help. There is a place, however, beyond “you are wrong and I am right” where we could meet. In that place, if we were to work with each other there, we could find a way to be in harmony and at peace. We might actually make a difference for the benefit of all.
Our lives are labyrinthine. What are the chances that a white boy who grew up in the rural South of the 20th century might come to know and love some words written by a Persian poet living in the 14th century, much less take guidance from them? What are the chances that a teacher unknown to me could reach out through email and remind me of those words? What are the chances that our world might just find a way to that place beyond wrongdoing and rightdoing–to meet and lie down in the grass? It looks like we will never get there, and sometimes I despair that we won’t. The Labyrinth calls. One more step. Just one more step. How does the beautiful and magnificent Labyrinth that is your life call to you today?