Friendship of the Highest Order

A friend introduced me to Rumi, and I am drawing no end of inspiration from his writings. These two poems struck me most keenly.

A Pilgrimage to a Person

When you are not with close friends,
you are not in the presence.

It’s sad to leave the people you travel with.
How much moreso those who remind you of God.
Hurry back to the ones protecting you.

On every trip, have only one objective,
to meet those who are friends
inside the presence.

Be a pilgrim to the kaaba inside a human being,
and Mecca will rise into view on its own.

This one says to me that the people in our lives with whom we have a spiritual connection are precious, and we cannot ever let them go. Ideally, we would never do anything to alienate them in the first place, or vice versa, but if something were to happen, it feels so necessary to return to them. I feel this has been played out for me over and over again, and the older I get, the less I feel I can do without the people who have touched me deeply. I hope I never have to until we say goodbye that final time.

A Sigh of Grieving

A certain man goes into the mosque
as others are coming out.

Why are you leaving so soon? he asks.
It’s over. The prophet has finished his time
of communion and given us blessings.

Oooooohhhhhhhhhhhhh . . . oohhhhh

His burning is almost visible.
You can smell the smoke of his hurt.

One of the congregation says,
If you will give me that sigh,
you can have my prayer and blessing.

I give you that
and accept the prayer you made with the prophet
and the blessing he gave you as my own.

The other takes within that ache toward God,
and at night when he’s asleep,
a voice comes,

Your swap was right.
You wanted true grief more than blessing.

Now all the people’s prayers have been accepted.

Again, this speaks to me about spiritual friendship, but in this case about being willing to take on the suffering of another – willingly, bodily, wholeheartedly – so that someone else can have the connection with God that you have found. And your sacrifice will ultimately be lifegiving for many more than the two of you. I know I have friends who have done this for me.

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