Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A fable for today

This story goes back a long way, to the time of Francis of Assisi, who was born into a wealthy family, and who lived the life of a very privileged young man until one day he listened to the Spirit telling him to live in a very different way. He gave up the clothing, the web of aristocratic connections and paybacks that were common in Italy in the Middle Ages, the life of idleness and wealth he'd been born to, and ministered to the folks at the bottom, seeing that Spirit everywhere, in people, in the rain that soaked him and in the sun that dried him, in the birds of the air and the beasts of the field.

Around the same time, far away in Persia, there lived a very different man, named Jelal ud-Din Rumi, who was born the son of a mystic. When he was a boy, he was introduced to the most famous mystic of that age who pronounced a blessing on this boy. Rumi began to show that he, like his father, would be a mystic.

And one day, he met a man named Shams. His friendship and love for Shams became so intense that he called Shams his Beloved. And in learning to love Shams so unreservedly, he too came to love the Spirit of God moving in the world. One day, Shams was murdered, but by then the love between these two men was so great that the spirit of Shams did not leave Rumi, but taught him an even greater love, reflected in the poetry he has left us.

Now, there is a story that the followers of Rumi tell about a man who came to Rumi for healing. He was covered in sores and was naturally very upset about it. Rumi looked deep into the man's soul and told him, once you journeyed over the sea to the Christian countries, and there you saw a Christian mystic in the street. You kicked him, and it has left a mark on your soul that will continue to give you sores until you journey back there and reconcile with the man. Well, this fellow wasn't too happy about it, but he was amazed that Rumi could know about this, and so he set out to find the Christian beggar he had kicked. He found Francis and was amazed to find that Francis fully forgave him, so he stayed to learn from Francis for a time. Eventually, he returned to Persia, and became one of the followers of Rumi who said that these two shared a friendship that transcended space and time.

Don't you think it's time we caught up with the Middle Ages?

(Or even with my favorite Crusade, the one that never happened? Frederick II was commanded by Pope Innocent III to go out and smite the infidel... and well, Frederick interpreted this command as more of a guideline, shall we say. And achieved more by words than any Crusade achieved by force of arms.)

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