In Baghdad Dreaming of Cairo, In Cairo Dreaming of Baghdad: Rumi and the Traveler
Either this deep desire of mine
will be found on this journey,
or when I get back home!
It may be that the satisfaction I need
depends on my going away, so that when I’ve gone
and come back, I’ll find it at home.
I will search for the Friend with all my passion
and all my energy, until I learn
that I don’t need to search.
The real truth of existence is sealed,
until after many twists and turns of the road.
As in the algebraical method of “the two errors,”
the correct answer comes only after two substitutions,
after two mistakes. Then the seeker says,
“If I had known the real way it was,
I would have stopped all the looking around.”
But that knowing depends
on the time spent looking!
~Rumi, excerpt from ‘In Baghdad dreaming of Cairo: In Cairo dreaming of Baghdad’
A few nights ago I read this poem by Rumi and it was as if this 13th century Sufi mystic reached through the centuries to converse with my soul. For a long time, I have been fascinated by the relationship between the external act of travel and the inward act of seeking. Why do I travel? Sometimes for work, to study, or vacation. Usually, however, I travel because I feel compelled to search without an exact notion of what it is that I am searching for. I am discovering that what I am seeking cannot be found in the streets of Medellin, seascapes of Ireland, or forests of New York. Consequently, it also cannot be found in the “right” job or opportunity either. What I am seeking does not exist out there somewhere but right here with me–and it always has. The beauty is that knowing this depended on “the time spent looking”, as the poem says. I will continue to travel because even with this new-found understanding, “the satisfaction I need depends on my going away.”