On my town’s main street are three public toilets. They’re set back about 2.5 metres from the footpath, with a large square piece of concrete with sculptural taps on top providing a vague buffer between the sounds of you urinating and the good people of Belgrave going about their business. Whenever I use these toilets I always feel like I’m weeing on the street.
See? They’re a bit odd, don’t you reckon? To the left of them, you’ve got the Petal and Pot, a lovely-smelling cafe which also sells flowers. To the right you’ve got a Sushi Express that makes a nice don buri. In the middle you’ve got a faint waft of wee.
But I was busting this day, so I used them. As I tinkled my ablutions I noticed some graffiti on the otherwise clean door of the stall.
It said, What you are seeking after is seeking after you — Rumi.
But then, underneath, someone had struck through the What and written Who and the Rumi and written God.
I pondered this, then and in the days following my public urination. I was a little peeved. Not so much because the concept of god infuriates me (it doesn’t — as long as they’re the good version worthy of god status) but because this vandalising of someone’s graffiti is ultimately pedantic and also a little … well, violent. Now, I’m the Princess-and-the-Pea-pre-menopausal version of hypersensitive, so I don’t know if it would seem violent to others. But to me, it felt like right there in front of me was the reason for wars the world over. It felt like the whatever Rumi was pointing to — those experiences of exquisite flow, when it’s like the world speaks back to us, those events of synchronicity that make us stop and wonder how alive this universe actually is and indeed whether someone Other than ourselves is speaking back to us — had been with a few slashes squashed down into tediousness, into someone’s dogma, their own concept of a being who, if they exist, is not able to be seen or proven, the accounts of who vary somewhat the world over.
A perfectly lovely Rumi quote, which had wafted a slight breeze of freedom through a public dunny stall, had been killed, right there on the wall, in the same way a joke loses humour once you deconstruct it, or a butterfly its life once you impale it with a spike.
I felt like Rumi had sniffed the quantum field, where we are all included, and then someone with an urge to poo and a texta came along and turned it into the dull pulpit of a dry and dusty minister for whom God is not so much an experience as a set of dogmas to line up like toy soldiers in the correct order and only then will the far door open and the light shine in.
That’s what I felt — but really, how would I know what that second person’s conceptions were? To presume that just because they were annoyingly zealous with an irritating habit of correcting perceived wrongs that they therefore must have a really crappy, fundamentalist view of a god’s composition is presumptive. They could have quite as easily been driven by a beautiful urge to try (and fail) to point more clearly towards what they experienced as some sort of transformation. Trying to resonate how, when they had asked whether life has any point to it there came, days or decades later, an out-of-the-blue surprise answer somehow, like music set to starlight. Maybe their experience was incredibly intimate, a pervasive feeling of recognition — that they were looking at a Someone who was looking back at them. That it was somehow personal.
I could understand then that to have this someone referred to as a “what” could be insulting, could cheapen it somehow. It would be like being in love and someone saying that your lover is no different to any other person. Even though you know on the mundane level they’re right, you are not living in the mundane. Your lover is the only one for you, the only one you are in love with and ever want to be in love with, ever again. The exclusivity that comes with being in love would make you want to bop that person on the nose or pity them their Muggleness. It would be like saying to someone who flies in wonderment because the one they love also loves them back that what they are feeling is just a bunch of biology, a set of chemical reactions that occur every day and that you would do just as well being in love with that person over there. You would surmise from that statement that if the speaker had ever been in love, that they had surely forgotten the experience by now.
Their words would be as intrusive as, say, crossing out someone’s entirely fine Rumi quote to impose your particular worldview. It would be like saying, when someone has been dumped, that there are plenty more fish in the sea. I don’t have any quibbles with people framing the experience of that immeasurable space as God. For all we know, She could well be. Or perhaps what so many of us experience so profoundly is something less … personal ~ the quantum field, the morphic field, the cosmic consciousness, the Us, the Whatever.
Whatever or Whoever it is, it’s mysterious and it’s beautiful. Rumi was onto that. It’s why he resonates. It’s why you never need to mess with someone else’s words which are trying to pin down the unpinnable, that which can only be experienced. To do so is to piss into the wind.