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The On Being Project

Out Beyond Ideas

I’m a great fan of thinking — thinking as clearly as I can, grounded in the most reliable facts I can find. Which is to say, I’m a great fan of sound ideas.
But when I look at the way our conflicting ideas of “what is” and “what ought to be” lead us to dismiss, demonize, and even destroy one another, I yearn for the “field” that Rumi points to in this well-known poem — a field that lies “out beyond ideas…”

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and righting,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.

I’m not making a case for the kind of anti-intellectualism that disdains facts and reason. That path, too, leads to ruin. I’m saying that it’s more important to be in right relationship than it is to be right.
Only when we are in right relationship can we hang in with one another long enough to come to a rough consensus about “what is” and “what ought to be.”
It’s part of the human condition that few of us will meet in Rumi’s field. But we must never stop working for the day when we understand that our fates are intertwined, that “We’re all in this together,” and that “even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make any sense.”

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