Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Forty Rules of Love: A Novel of Rumi

The Forty Rules of Love

The Forty Rules of Love, by Elif Shafak

Written by a Turkish author, this novel consists of two stories: one of Ella Rubenstein, an unhappily married American homemaker who's taken up a new job as a reader for a literary agent (this was my only quibble with this book: how unlikely is this prospect after not working outside the home for decades?) and who begins to edit Sweet Blasphemy, a novel about the Persian Sufi poet Rumi by a mysterious author, and the actual story about Rumi and his beloved friend Shams of Tabriz, a dervish.

I've long been fascinated by Rumi...his words capture my thoughts so much more often than most writers. For example, this is one of my favorites:

I'd heard the term "whirling dervish" before, but I didn't actually know it referred to a religious practice. Part of the dervish order is to dance or whirl about ecstatically.

Although the story of Ella and author Aziz Zahara was interesting enough, I found the story about Rumi and Shams to be the most fascinating part of this novel. How often do you find a story about a deep, abiding, and intimate friendship between men? Shams is Rumi's muse and shares with him the 40 lessons of love, based on an ancient philosophy uniting all people with love. Elif Sharak also lays out the difficulties of being a woman in Rumi's era--the most desperate figures in the story are the women.

This story was tragic and poignant, and I couldn't put it down.

Here are some lessons from the rules of love:

“If we are the same person before and after we loved, that means we haven't loved enough.”

“Whatever happens in your life, no matter how troubling things might seem, do not enter the neighborhood of despair. Even when all doors remain closed, God will open up a new path only for you. Be thankful!”

“Fret not where the road will take you. Instead concentrate on the first step. That's the hardest part and that's what you are responsible for. Once you take that step let everything do what it naturally does and the rest will follow. Do not go with the flow. Be the flow.”

“How can love be worthy of its name if one selects solely the pretty things and leaves out the hardships? It is easy to enjoy the good and dislike the bad. Anybody can do that. The real challenge is to love the good and the bad together, not because you need to take the rough with the smooth but because you need to go beyond such descriptions and accept love in its entirety.”

“How we see God is a direct reflection of how we see ourselves. If God brings to mind mostly fear and blame, it means there is too much fear and blame welled inside us. If we see God as full of love and compassion, so are we.”

“The words that come out of our mouths do not vanish but are perpetually stored in infinite space, and they will come back to us in due time.”

“Hell is in the here and now. So is heaven. Quit worrying about hell or dreaming about heaven, as they are both present inside this very moment. Every time we fall in love, we ascend to heaven. Every time we hate, envy, or fight someone, we tumble straight into the fires of hell.”

"The universe is one being. Everything and everyone is interconnected through an invisible web of stories. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all in a silent conversation. Do no harm. Practice compassion. And do not gossip behind anyone's back - not even seemingly innocent remark! The words that come out of our mouth do not vanish but are perpetually stored in infinite space, and they will come back to us in due time. One man's pain will hurt us all. One man's joy will make everyone smile.”

"Bountiful is your life, full and complete. Or so you think, until someone comes along and makes you realize what you have been missing all this time. Like a mirror that reflects what is absent rather than present, he shows you the void in your soul—the void you have resisted seeing. That person can be a lover, a friend, or a spiritual master. Sometimes it can be a child to look after. What matters is to find the soul that will complete yours. All the prophets have given the same advice: Find the one who will be your mirror!"

“Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?”