In a wise film, Bab’Aziz, there’s a parable about two brothers. One falls in love with a girl – but they’re not destined to be together, and they can’t bear to be apart, so he asks his brother to bury him alive with his beloved. Horrified, the brother refuses, trying to talk him out of such a senseless move. Then the lovers take their request to a wandering dervish, who carries it out with no hesitation.
Deep in grief and thirsting for revenge, the second brother rushes out into the desert in search of the dervish. When he finally finds the dervish, he sinks to his knees, exhausted, and asks him tearfully: “Why did you kill my brother? I loved him so much.” And the dervish replies: “I loved him more – I did as he asked.”
Before this parable took root inside me, I lived in full certainty of how one should live. I was accustomed to being right, and being the court of last appeal when it came to truth. My mother idolized me; all our home needed was icons bearing my image. She had me believing that no one in the whole wide world could be better than her son. At preschool and at school, I was a star.
As a star should, I got into the best college in the country. That’s where my starbeams got plucked. I stopped being a star, but the firm conviction that I knew best turned me into a missionary. As they say, new missionaries are the most fervent. I started handing out advice. To my father, to my friends, to my women. I was sure they needed my help and my words of wisdom, even if they hadn’t asked for it. This was my way of showing I cared; showing my love, as I saw it.
Over the years, I came to realize that I couldn’t save the world, and the world was getting by on its own anyway, so my fervor died down. I’d made a whole heap of mistakes, but I still reserved the right to lecture others, if only my nearest and dearest. If I didn’t like a friend’s lifestyle, I’d sit down with him – alone or in like-minded company – and start the “healing”. I’d use missionary tools for “favorable” impacts on a lost soul: putdowns, sarcasm, boycotts, right up to complete “excommunication.”
I’d never have believed that I was driven by selfishness, intolerance, and the wish to settle my own scores with life. On the contrary, the righteous flame of compassion for my neighbor made these sessions my sacred duty. I called it love.
Yet the dervish in that parable has lodged in my heart like a splinter, subtly altering it, resewing it with tiny stitches. And now when I see a situation where someone seems to be wrong, my mouth suddenly slams shut and swallows my “wise advice,” while my eyes wish that person a good journey.
I don’t know more than others. I live, just like anyone else. I share only what I hold in my hands: my experience. Take it, if you find it useful. I don’t know best, so I refrain from “wreaking good,” as my teacher used to say.
If you’re on your journey, I’ll support you, even if you’re heading for a cliff. Because I’ve got no right to interfere. Because once you’re past the cliff, you might fly – how would I know? And I don’t want to be the one who halts your flight.
I’ll do as you ask. I love you.