The Seventh Annual Rumi Festival was held this year in the Anderson-Foothill Branch of the Salt Lake Public Libraries. Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, or Mevlana (Beloved Master), was a spiritual teacher and poet in 13th Century Persia and Turkey. His Masnavi is a collection of poetical allegories/parables he recited to his scribe, and is an exploration of the truths behind truth, or as he put it, religion behind religion. His writings teach insights applicable to every faith. I find his insights into the 99 Names remarkable and wonderful, and they help me approach understanding and appreciation of another faith while making me feel strengthened and sustained in my own.
One of Rumi’s heroes, and mine, was another Sufi poet named Farid ud-Din Attar who wrote an incredible poetical allegory of the journey of the soul, Parliament of Fowles or Bird Parliament. All the birds in the world desired to elect a king and in their gathering the Hoopoe announces they already have a king, the Simourgh or mighty Phoenix. Thirty birds are elected/volunteer to seek out the Simourgh, representing all the rest. The Hoopoe leads his fellows through a journey of seven valleys which, while leading physically to the abode of the Bird King, gives opportunity for all the quest participants to transform into beings worthy of grace and enlightenment.
Rasoul Shams, translator of Rumi: The Art of Loving, presented his article “Seven Valleys of the Soul’s Journey” from the Light of Consciousness Journal on Attar and the Bird Parliament. Amir Mohammadi, a master of the Ney flute, played while some truly remarkable voices read Rumi poetry. Florin R. Nielsen, a friend and remarkable contemporary poet, read some of his own work – it is one thing to “copy” the poetic style of another culture, I think that’s something akin to linguistic engineering, but what Florin does is get such a thing to work on a visceral, emotional level which is truly remarkable. And I was asked to share some of the work from the 99 Names project inspired by Rumi. Since Mevlana Rumi has subtly influenced my entire exploration of Islam, that was not a difficult selection to make.
Rasoul and I were interviewed for The Daily Universe and their reporter Annmarie Moore was very cool.
The librarians were totally cool, and we had a better turnout than anyone expected. All in all a wonderful Saturday.