Saturday, January 05, 2008

God As a Friend

By Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad - NYU Livewire - NY, USA
Saturday, January 5, 2008

Rumi for Twentysomethings: a new generation finds meaning in the writings of a 13th century mystic poet

Eight centuries after he lived, the Persian mystic poet Jalal al-Din Rumi still fascinates readers, as the world’s bestselling spiritual poet.

His nonsectarian love for God and his passion for creation attract people of all ages, including Madonna and Deepak Chopra. But recently, younger people have been tuning in to his work, especially as UNESCO commemorated the poet’s 800th birthday in 2007.

“It’s just so relaxing and so calming to read his work,” said Bijan Roboubi, 20, a student at California State University at Pomona.

“We go through life in such a fast pace, especially here in America, and when you stop and read Rumi, you realize you have to live life, and not just go through it” he said.

“With his poems, he makes you realize that every moment is precious and it makes you love yourself, others around you and life in general” he added.

The 800th birthday’s celebration brought a string of events to universities, giving many college students their first taste of Rumi.

“Generally it’s the performance that seems to bring out the most students,” said Alan Godlas, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Georgia. They’ve heard of whirling dervishes, which “rings a far-off bell in their consciousness,” he said.

“Rumi is generally regarded as the hottest selling poet in the English translation,” Godlas said. “He’s made a mark in their minds and in their hearts.”

Although enduringly popular in the East, Rumi was little known in the West until the 1920s, when Cambridge University professor Reynold A. Nicholson* began translating his work into English.

In the 1970s, Rumi’s popularity leapt again, after American poet Coleman Barks produced a more accessible, free-verse translation.

Shahram Shiva, a performance poet, scholar and translator of Rumi books, has presided over crowded Rumi evenings at Yale, Columbia University, Iona College and New York University.

“Rumi is very timeless,” Shiva said. “Rumi deals with issues of humanity. They would be relevant 5,000 years ago and 5,000 years from now.”

“I never ever look at God as a power who wants us to just worship him and be afraid of him,” said Iman, 26, a student at the University of Windsor, in Ontario, Canada.

“I look at God as a friend, lover and someone who is always there to help you. I see the same meanings in Rumi’s poems, too” he said.

Groups like the Rumi Forum, founded in 1997 in Washington D.C., often sponsor interfaith gatherings at universities, which may include whirling dervish performances.

“It doesn’t surprise me that [Rumi] is appealing to [students], because his message of love and open-mindedness touches hearts and minds,” said Jena Luedtke, the Forum’s director of interfaith and cultural dialogue.

University of Utah professor Rasoul Sorkhabi recently started a Rumi Poetry Club at a Salt Lake City public library, where sessions increasingly draw a younger crowd.

“Rumi’s poetry is not directed toward any particular age,” he said. “But college students who have an interest in literature…they want to read Rumi.”

Rumi: Bridge to the Soul: Journeys into the Music and Silence of the Heart (as translated by Coleman Barks) was in late 2007 number one in the religious and spiritual poetry category on barnesandnoble.com.

But Godlas thinks Rumi will only turn into a mass phenomenon if American culture changes.

“In order for Rumi's popularity to increase, there will need to be a paradigm shift -he said- such as a greater emphasis on educating Americans to enhance their emotional intelligence. People will then be more receptive.”

[Photo by Leila Geramian]

[*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reynold_A._Nicholson ].

2 comments:

Paul said...

It is amazing that someone from that long ago remains so widely read and relevant.

Rupa Abdi said...

This world they say is an illusion....a dream. Our thoughts and actions are like threads of a net that we weave around ourselves. A veil has been drawn over our mind's eye and we live out our lives bound and blind folded. Life, they say is a play of shadows through which most of us sleep walk.Few have awakened from this sleep and have tried to show light to the rest of humanity. They succeeded only partly, passing away, leaving behind empty forms to be distorted and misused by their followers.Holy books, sacred messages, rites and rituals, they say, are mere shells. The spirit within, having long departed, along with the Messenger. These shells and forms are mere signposts for those who seek the formless.....and only the true seeker, they say, will find the Path.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

God As a Friend
By Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad - NYU Livewire - NY, USA
Saturday, January 5, 2008

Rumi for Twentysomethings: a new generation finds meaning in the writings of a 13th century mystic poet

Eight centuries after he lived, the Persian mystic poet Jalal al-Din Rumi still fascinates readers, as the world’s bestselling spiritual poet.

His nonsectarian love for God and his passion for creation attract people of all ages, including Madonna and Deepak Chopra. But recently, younger people have been tuning in to his work, especially as UNESCO commemorated the poet’s 800th birthday in 2007.

“It’s just so relaxing and so calming to read his work,” said Bijan Roboubi, 20, a student at California State University at Pomona.

“We go through life in such a fast pace, especially here in America, and when you stop and read Rumi, you realize you have to live life, and not just go through it” he said.

“With his poems, he makes you realize that every moment is precious and it makes you love yourself, others around you and life in general” he added.

The 800th birthday’s celebration brought a string of events to universities, giving many college students their first taste of Rumi.

“Generally it’s the performance that seems to bring out the most students,” said Alan Godlas, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Georgia. They’ve heard of whirling dervishes, which “rings a far-off bell in their consciousness,” he said.

“Rumi is generally regarded as the hottest selling poet in the English translation,” Godlas said. “He’s made a mark in their minds and in their hearts.”

Although enduringly popular in the East, Rumi was little known in the West until the 1920s, when Cambridge University professor Reynold A. Nicholson* began translating his work into English.

In the 1970s, Rumi’s popularity leapt again, after American poet Coleman Barks produced a more accessible, free-verse translation.

Shahram Shiva, a performance poet, scholar and translator of Rumi books, has presided over crowded Rumi evenings at Yale, Columbia University, Iona College and New York University.

“Rumi is very timeless,” Shiva said. “Rumi deals with issues of humanity. They would be relevant 5,000 years ago and 5,000 years from now.”

“I never ever look at God as a power who wants us to just worship him and be afraid of him,” said Iman, 26, a student at the University of Windsor, in Ontario, Canada.

“I look at God as a friend, lover and someone who is always there to help you. I see the same meanings in Rumi’s poems, too” he said.

Groups like the Rumi Forum, founded in 1997 in Washington D.C., often sponsor interfaith gatherings at universities, which may include whirling dervish performances.

“It doesn’t surprise me that [Rumi] is appealing to [students], because his message of love and open-mindedness touches hearts and minds,” said Jena Luedtke, the Forum’s director of interfaith and cultural dialogue.

University of Utah professor Rasoul Sorkhabi recently started a Rumi Poetry Club at a Salt Lake City public library, where sessions increasingly draw a younger crowd.

“Rumi’s poetry is not directed toward any particular age,” he said. “But college students who have an interest in literature…they want to read Rumi.”

Rumi: Bridge to the Soul: Journeys into the Music and Silence of the Heart (as translated by Coleman Barks) was in late 2007 number one in the religious and spiritual poetry category on barnesandnoble.com.

But Godlas thinks Rumi will only turn into a mass phenomenon if American culture changes.

“In order for Rumi's popularity to increase, there will need to be a paradigm shift -he said- such as a greater emphasis on educating Americans to enhance their emotional intelligence. People will then be more receptive.”

[Photo by Leila Geramian]

[*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reynold_A._Nicholson ].

2 comments:

Paul said...

It is amazing that someone from that long ago remains so widely read and relevant.

Rupa Abdi said...

This world they say is an illusion....a dream. Our thoughts and actions are like threads of a net that we weave around ourselves. A veil has been drawn over our mind's eye and we live out our lives bound and blind folded. Life, they say is a play of shadows through which most of us sleep walk.Few have awakened from this sleep and have tried to show light to the rest of humanity. They succeeded only partly, passing away, leaving behind empty forms to be distorted and misused by their followers.Holy books, sacred messages, rites and rituals, they say, are mere shells. The spirit within, having long departed, along with the Messenger. These shells and forms are mere signposts for those who seek the formless.....and only the true seeker, they say, will find the Path.