Sitting in a shopping centre cafe, I am reading A Year with Rumi. I am waiting for a back massage, sipping a coffee and listening to Sam Harris and Johann Hari speaking about addiction, depression and the loss of connection and control in our society. I woke this morning with the thought that I wanted to deepen the response of the Victorian Royal Commission into mental health from a service design frolic for health bureaucrats to engagement with the place of mental health/illness in culture.
I read from my book this poem from Rumi, written nearly 800 years ago
Muhammad went to visit a sick friend.
Such kindness brings more kindness,
And there is no knowing the proliferation from there.
The man was about to die.
Muhammad put his face close and kissed him.
His friend began to revive.
Muhammad’s visit re-created him.
He began to feel grateful for an illness
That brought such light.
And also for the backpain
That wakes him in the night.
No need to snore away like a buffalo
When this wonder is walking the world.
There are values in pain that are difficult
To see without the presence of a guest.
Don’t complain about autumn.
Walk with grief like a good friend.
Listen to what he says.
Sometimes the cold and dark of a cave
Give the opening we most want.
Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī