I ran after the three of them to the end of the path where the woods stopped. I tripped and he laughed. The girl winked and I felt my stomach lurch. The third person was slouched at the foot of a tree; on his form I saw my flesh, on his face I saw my features and in his eyes I saw fear. I could not stop staring at the other two, at their self-contained demeanors, their supremely confident movements. We reached a huge pasture and an abandoned caravan fire left to flare itself out. Beside it, Rumi sat with a ney flute and played,
Free of who I was, free of presence, free of dangerous fear, hope,
Free of mountainous wanting.
I moved where the melody took me, responded to what it told me, felt what it wanted me to feel. The two of them joined me in my dance, suffusing me with their warmth and energy -- facilitators of a shared trance. The third person regarded us from a distance.
I wasn’t sure which of us was me. I wasn’t sure when I depersonalized myself from the ecstatic, esoteric crowd. I looked at myself dancing with the other two and I knew fierce longing. I approached them but they remained at a fixed distance, aloof, happy and beckoning.
Come, come whoever you are,
Wonderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.
It doesn’t matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vows
a thousand times
Come, yet again, come, come.
I pleaded but Rumi merely smiled, a smile of compassion, not pity. He told me he was saving me by denying me. I yearned to believe him. I asked him who the other two people were and he said I had always known them.
Was it true that every craftsman searches for what’s not there to practice his craft? A voice counseled me from inside to live every moment with utter ignorance and sheer faith. I could then embrace and not seek, create and not stall, love and not fear. I was convinced that this was true but I was not ready. Not yet.
The flame had died and they had disappeared. Someday, I was certain, we would resume our song.