Here in Los Angeles, where I am visiting my family, a steady rain is falling on the landscape of my childhood. When I was little, and adulthood was as distant a concept as the stars obscured by the rain I adore so much, I would press my face against the windows of my home and watch water fall from the sky, watch how the branches and the leaves and the creatures of the world would crane their necks to receive succor from the upper atmosphere. In those moments my love affair with the world began. I longed to caress the breezes, to embrace the play of light and shadow, to dissolve in the mists that rainy days would bring to me.
As the years wore on and my knowledge of past, present and future deepened, I felt my love of things grow, mature, and change. I came to see a gaping wound throughout all of life, a kind of primordial sadness born of the pain of birth, the struggles of existence, and the terror of death, and tears would spill from my heart at the thought of how beautiful, how ugly, the world can be. These contradictions would elicit, not disdain, not disgust, but rather compassion and love–pure, unadulterated love for the whirling ball we call the Earth.
The more I learned about philosophy, science, religion, history, mythology, poetry, athletics, the more my heart pounded in my chest with a ferocious yearning. Sugary blood circulated through my veins. Greatness beckoned me like the archetype of a beautiful woman–greatness defined not by personal achievement and advancement, but rather a dogged pursuit of the themes that undergird humanity: the search for Truth, the struggle for goodness, the need for understanding, the fight against evil, and so on.
I am now a young man of 24. I have arrived at this point after much struggle, much doubt and much joy. I have become so completely enamored of every drop of existence that, though I often feel an immense and pervasive sadness, I viscerally understand the Arabic saying that “a sack of sugar must be sliced open that the sweetness may spill forth.” I delight in shirking my duties in order to luxuriate in the mystery and wonder that surrounds my skin like a shawl made of dew and sunlight, and I open my heart to the entire gradation of color and music that makes up a lifetime.
So despite the injustice and the global challenges that humanity faces, I refuse to despair. I believe the best way to evoke the best in others is to believe in the ability of others to be great. This is what made Gandhi successful where others failed. It is an unwavering belief in the fundamental goodness and kindness of people, a love for the world upon which so many varied and unique stories take place. I view it as my life’s mission to tend that stage, to make of my life a profound story about “the love that moves the sun, the moon and other stars.”
I conclude with a poem of mine, and then with several love poems from the great 13th century Sufi poet Rumi:
Love eternal cannot be had;
All things grasped will be unclasped
Like hands that lose their early might.
Love eternal cannot be seen;
All sunsets fade away
And even eyes, in death, decay.
Love eternal can only pass
Like a migrant bird: the trackless
Tracks upon the sky.
Wednesday, November 17th, 2002: 3:00 P.M.
Love is from the infinite, and will remain until eternity.
The seeker of love escapes the chains of birth and death.
Tomorrow, when resurrection comes,
The heart that is not in love will fail the test.
The minute I heard my first love story,
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere,
they’re in each other all along.