Rumi’s Field

‘Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.’  – Rumi

Small talk can get you in trouble.

This past Friday, I attended an elegant dinner filled with people who, by many measures, have made many right decisions throughout their lives.

I told another guest the story of our coming to the UK, how we hemmed and hawed and finally decided to go for it.  I ended with my signature rhetorical question, ‘What is life, after all, if not a big adventure?’

He looked at me with bright blue eyes and a remarkably young-looking face and asked, ‘So was it the right decision?’

‘It was the decision we made.’

‘But was it the right decision?’ he insisted, his blue eyes becoming piercing.  For a moment, I felt like an undergraduate, trapped in the corner, not knowing the answer to something I was supposed to have learned for that week’s supervision.

I straightened my back, looked directly at him, and responded, ‘I don’t know.’

Soon dessert was served and we all changed conversation partners, much like at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.  I spent the rest of the meal heartily agreeing with another dinner guest about the beauty of Vancouver and our shared wisdom of choosing graduate schools based on geographic location (my choice: Boulder).

But over the weekend, the question rolled around in my brain, surfacing again and again.  Was it the right decision?

Because I couldn’t say ‘yes,’ I tried out the taste of ‘no.’   Could I say ‘No, I wish I hadn’t been here in the UK for the past 7 years.  No, the chance to visit many corners of Europe isn’t something I value.  No, it hasn’t been the right decision to meet people from so many countries, hear their stories, open my ears and heart to their perspectives.  No, I wouldn’t want the experience of living in a culture that is different from the one I grew up in.  No, I wouldn’t want my children to know in their bones that there are many ways and places to live.  No, challenging assumptions and expanding worldviews was not what I wanted or hoped for from my life, just a series of right answers?’  I couldn’t say any of these.

Was it the right decision?  I couldn’t say yes.  But even more than that, I couldn’t say no.

It took me a few days to realize that the question was faulty.  While grammatically and syntactically correct, it was fundamentally broken.  It’s like choosing between night and day, autumn and spring.  For some questions, we may be able to speak a resounding yes or a thundering no.   Not this one.

I believe ‘Was it the right decision?’ is an impossible question for decisions with existential gravity.  These decisions, instead of being right or wrong, are choices between paths.  Paths with varying views, different travellers, unexpected turns.  Perhaps those paths lead to Rumi’s field.  I’ll meet you there.

This entry was posted in Non-parabolic trajectory, teaching and learning, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Rumi’s Field

  1. Rory Green says:

    Melissa – you know that I am ALL OVER this post! It really resonated with me in so many ways and is so beautifully written with your customary insight, wit and attention to detail. Thank you for this!

    Like

  2. Rachael says:

    Oh, thank you!

    Because goodness I have made many wrong decisions. But there was no other way to get here.

    Like

  3. Jonathan says:

    Great point. As they said in the sixties, it’s the journey, not the destination.

    Like

  4. Marie says:

    Great post, Melissa.

    Like

  5. Lyn Haigh says:

    This was written for me. Thank you! I am a Canadian woman who moved to the UK in 1990 and lived there for 22 years and have now returned to Canada. I think you are absolutely right that its an “impossible question”. I don’t regret my 22 years living in the UK and the idea of a great adventure certainly played a big part on my decision to move there. I got married, raised three boys whilst I lived there, and met some wonderful people and had some great life experiences but for me, I had a longing/hankering to come back to my roots and it stayed with me to some degree for the entire time that I lived there. Sadly, that feeling and the homesickness that I endured cost me my marriage. But I am back here in Canada and have no regrets. Enjoy your time on the path you are on and who knows where the next path will lead for you. Thanks again for posting. 🙂

    Like

    • Melissa says:

      Hello Lyn – Thanks for reading and for sharing your story, too. So interesting to hear that your longing stayed with you all the time you were in the UK. Sometimes I feel like the sense of being a ‘stranger in a strange land’ grows deeper with time. It definitely changes at any rate. Glad to hear you look back with no regrets – that sounds like peace. Thanks again for your kind words- M

      Like

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