The short passage from the Song of the Dervish by Abdullah Ansari that was posted yesterday points energetically, with an uncompromising finger, toward the One, the perfection of Love. But it also says that happiness is: ‘to be concerned with loving God and to rid oneself of love for creation.’ Doesn’t this sound rather sour and life-denying? What about the infinite splendour of the night sky and the intricate mysteries of a forest? What about the smile on the innocent face of a child?
To understand the thought well, we must consider for a moment what is meant here by ‘love.’ To love is to desire union on some level, to let the beauty of the beloved penetrate us and fill us, and to the the exclusion of all else. If our horizon is the created world alone, then our view is limited and dual: some things are good, some are not; some beings are lovable, others hateful. We seek union with the beloved, but we flee from the ‘unlovely’ and because the material world is never stable, there is never any rest. It is like an equation, and when we cancel out all the ‘loves’ and ‘hates,’ we come to a sum of zero.
But the love of Creation can be a road to the love of God, if we travel wisely. It is very difficult for most people to love the Unseen; we are so accustomed to the world of form that we don’t know how to relate to the Unformed. We could begin, though, by taking the beauty of the formed world as a sign of the One who formed it. Many people keep mementos near them: some shells gathered during a special walk along the beach, or a child’s hand-drawn birthday card. The value of the memento is not so much in the object itself as in that of which it reminds us. If we would see the beauties of the world in this way, we could being to awaken to the Beauty of the Creator.
But this step demands a second step before we can touch the goal. If we only see the things we like as mementos of the Divine, we are – to some extent – fooling ourselves. We are, unwittingly, worshipping our own point of view. Perhaps we like chocolate, and we say, ‘Yes, I see God in this!’ But God also created things that we don’t like; if we don’t find the Creator there as well, in the bitter herbs and the discomforts, we are only glorifying our own personal preferences.
In other words, we can begin the journey to the Goal by seeing everything beautiful as a message – a love letter, if you like – from God. But we will not complete the journey until we also see the uncomfortable things as being love letters, too–and wise is the one who knows how to read them.