Tirelessness (4): the Intellectual

I found  myself wading through acre upon acre of deadly newspaper/internet articles yesterday, as I endeavoured to gather material for a new project. In the process, I came across an article on Ariana Huffington’s wildly popular news blog, the Huffington Post, which, we are told, gets more ‘unique’ hits per month than the New York Times (but less than the Daily Mail). She’s not a woman I admire. I first brushed up against her tireless and truly ruthless self-promotion when I read the gossiped-centred biography of Maria Callas she wrote, way back when. I’ve since done my best to avoid her.

Yesterday, though, it was on her site that I came across a somewhat touchy-feely article from about a year go, entitled “Rumi and the Way of the Spiritual Lover”, which, I must admit, I didn’t really read at all. However my eye alighted on the author’s own translation of one of Rumi’s poems, which includes the line, “Intellectuals plan their repose; lovers are ashamed to rest.” I can’t say I’m much moved by the quality of Kabir Helminski’s English translation, but that particular line stopped me in my tracks. It’s so painful to recognize yourself in negative poetic examples.

Anyway, here’s the whole poem, which is quite thought-provoking in spite of its rather lumpy language—and my profound sympathies to fellow pseudo-intellectuals out there who recognize themselves in its imaginings. Plus a photo of the quintessential spiritual lover who also, miraculously, manages to embody all the most useful and brilliant qualities of an intellectual.

The intellectual is always showing off;
the lover is always getting lost.
The intellectual runs away, afraid of drowning;
the whole business of love is to drown in the sea.
Intellectuals plan their repose;
lovers are ashamed to rest.
The lover is always alone,
even surrounded with people;
like water and oil, he remains apart.
The man who goes to the trouble
of giving advice to a lover
get’s nothing. He’s mocked by passion.
Love is like musk. It attracts attention.
Love is a tree, and lovers are its shade.

(The Pocket Rumi by Kabir and Camille Hleminski)

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