Softening Our Hearts from Stone to Soil

Thursday, May 11, 2017 - 5:00 am

Softening Our Hearts from Stone to Soil

It was a simple picture that grabbed my attention.
It was a rock
   split open

Through the crack
a beautiful flower,

It is a picture I saved
returning again
   and again
to sit with it.

I don’t know what it was
but it haunted me.

Maybe it is
the resilience of life.

There are many science fiction movies about how life survives. Nature endures.
And if we could only step aside and trust in nature, life will find a way.

Life will find a way. May life find a way, beyond and through and around all the destruction.

There is something lovely about faith in life, faith in nature, in creation surviving.
Faith in life and love and nature… thriving.
Particularly at a time when we seem to be teetering on the very real possibility of demise.

Sure, God created the world to be good.
Is it still good?
Do we have faith in the goodness of the world?
This flower affirms my faith in that goodness.

And there’s more.

There is something about the way that these Muslim sages teach us to see the outside as the inside, the heavenly as the earthly. We live in an enchanted universe, with here and there all mingled.

The great Rumi reflected on this same theme:

Don’t claim in spring on stone some verdure grows
Be soft like soil to raise a lovely rose—
For years you’ve been a stony-hearted man
Try being like the soil now if you can!

So this flower is inside us
 We are the rock
 We are the splitting
 We are the flower blossoming through

It is all us
It is in us
It is from us

What if we came to see the rock 
as our own heart?
A heart that was once 
so hard

Perhaps it broke
Perhaps it broke open

And what was once just a crack
Became an opening

Yes, there is a crack 
in everything
in everyone
in every stone
in every heart
that’s how the light gets in
As Leonard told us
 As Rumi told us

But there is more:
The light gets in
 And the flower gets out

Sometimes the rock itself
becomes the soil 
the flower is rooted in

Even if your heart was once 
as a rock
May a thousand flowers 
blossom through its cracks

Blessed be these cracks
stones turning into soft soil

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is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Thursday.

He is Director of Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center. He is the past Chair for the Study of Islam, and the current Chair for Islamic Mysticism Group at the American Academy of Religion. In 2009, he was recognized by the University of North Carolina for mentoring minority students in 2009, and won the Sitterson Teaching Award for Professor of the Year in April of 2010.

Omid is the editor of the volume Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism, which offered an understanding of Islam rooted in social justice, gender equality, and religious and ethnic pluralism. His works Politics of Knowledge in Premodern Islam, dealing with medieval Islamic history and politics, and Voices of Islam: Voices of Change were published 2006. His last book, Memories of Muhammad, deals with the biography and legacy of the Prophet Muhammad. He has forthcoming volumes on the famed mystic Rumi, contemporary Islamic debates in Iran, and American Islam.

Omid has been among the most frequently sought speakers on Islam in popular media, appearing in The New York TimesNewsweekWashington Post, PBS, NPR, NBC, CNN and other international media. He leads educational tours every year to Turkey, Morocco, or other countries, to study the rich multiple religious traditions there. The trips are open to everyone, from every country. More information at Illuminated Tours.

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