On Suffering and Remedy

Sinem Hürmeydan
9 minutes

I used to seek a cure to my suffering, but my suffering has been a cure to me,

I used to search a proof for my “self”, but my “self” has been proof to me

What was that “suffering” Niyazî-i Mısrî pointed out to in these verses? What would be his grief so that his remedy would be his grief and his grief would turn out to be his remedy?… Blessed is the one whose sorrow and desire is only God; blessed is the one whose remedy becomes one with his suffering… While the heart, which doesn’t experience the unity is occupied with troubles that are not its own, the trouble of the one who is united with everything until there is nothing left is a sign of tawhid, and his remedy is a sign of tawhid.

His Holiness aside, what about the suffering? Who is burdened with what kind of troubles that are indeed not troubles? Me… Mostly me… These sentences are a note to myself, and a note to my dream companions, to those who reside in oblivion like me, to those who travel a barley length and the birds eat the barley they spill in order not to lose their way, so they set off from scratch every time… Yes, that’s right, my dream is for them…

I’m a bit emotional today, you could say I’m grieving; come on, I don’t need to grieve, yet I can’t convince myself… Sometimes when the libra of my body’s climate dissipates, I cry out every word that comes out of my mouth, every word that I hold in my heart, every utterance that I am proud of that I hold in my heart until I can no longer hold in… I cry out to my friends, to my mother and father, to my brother and sister, to my children, every word I utter as if I spill on those that are most precious to me, turns into an old and familiar feeling that manifests in me as an implacable regret the moment my voice, which sounds to my own ear like the voice of a foaming mouth of a stranger, shaking the eardrums of its addressee. The feeling of guilt sharpens, sharpens, and sharpens as it is forged and crushed in the frying pan of sentences that are unpredictable, like an arrow shot from that crazy bow; it gives way to helplessness, to the helpless rage of irreversibility.

Finally the voices cease, the storm calms, the waters recede, another tide has completed its cycle.

As I lay there with these vague thoughts, I contemplate with boredom how incomplete life would be without “sorrow”. Indeed, whoever you ask has a complaint; whoever you bend down to has a problem; some have problems about how they appear; some have a problem with their height; some are in love, complaining about not being reciprocated by their lover; some are complaining about lack of money; some are mourning the loss of a loved one; some are in agony in the grip of a disease… It is unknown whether it turns out to be a consolation for the sufferer; however, sometimes the troubles of one are only the remedy for the other… Sometimes troubles chase troubles as if you are running away from the rain; sometimes, like the sun that appears among the clouds scattered by the blowing of a sweet wind from wherever it blows, like the blue face of the sky, you see that your troubles that you thought were huge have crumbled and the day has dawned on the ruins.

Every time has its own problems. The problems of the morning time are one thing, the troubles of the evening time are another; both are the redness of the sky, yet would they ever be the same thinking manifolding distress, heartache you feel during the redness of the dawn? It is as if your heart has been squeezed between two invisible hands and your heart has been seized until it finally cries out “hay!”. It is precisely with that cry of “hay!” that the burden of gloom that weighs heavily on the chest becomes lighter again… In a way, affliction is an intermediate path where constriction turns into pressure, narrowness into breadth, anxiety into joy; in a way, affliction is an isthmus where the hope of being addressed to the question “Did We not open and expand your chest?” flourishes. Yes, yes, suffering is mostly an isthmus; just like a human being, with one side of his face turned to the sky and the other to the earth, his self is between the divine and the corporeal, one side longing for a transcendent realm, one side caught up in the allure of the world in every shade and reflecting colours from both, like a prism, like an intermediate world… It is a realm of endless creativity, where poets whisper poignant verses into the ears of their poets, where the most unforgettable compositions are made, where painters’ brushstrokes spontaneously dance on canvases in a thousand different directions.

Just as I say that those who have no sorrow have no remedy, and those whose suffering is love cannot hold back from suffering, I remember one of my elders saying “a person is as much as his troubles”… It is one of those sayings I would not forget; so, every trouble needles its sufferer, but not all troubles are troubles… For example, is the state of the one whose problem is not being able to share even a glass of water the same as the state of the one whose problem is to be immersed in the ummah (ocean) and be from the ummah (ocean)? Both of them are concerned with water, but one wants to be the source of the water, the other wants to be the owner of the few sips he fills in the glass he calls “mine”… Who is the real owner of both the problem and the remedy? So there is a considerable distinction between being a prisoner of the problem and being a custodian to it, and presenting the problem to its owner. The subtlety of realizing that one is as much as one’s troubles underlies the fact that sincere humility is in acknowledging one’s own limitations, the limits of what one can do…

In other words, my dear sînem (my heart), all these words I utter, I utter for you, you are only as formidable as your sorrow; nonetheless you are not “formidable”. Do not let your sorrow has become so “formidable” that it has attempted to take on all the sorrows of the world, lest your heart has turned to “arrogance” when it was drunk with “sorrow”. What should it be? What do you want? Let there be love, let there be affection even if you are a beginner, let there be friendship, let there be a dervish-like grace even if you are not a dervish, let there be decency, let there be beauty. Let your all suffering be the “good”, which Plato, speaking from times that seem very distant now, whereas in fact are not so distant, describes as the supreme idea, let it be “goodness”. Indeed, let your troubles be platonic just like that of Abraham’s when he whispers: “I do not like things that sink away”. 

O my beautiful God, the owner of sorrow and relief! Be You both our sorrow and our relief! You, my sînem (heart) and you, my dream companion, my storyteller, be as if you are dyed in love from head to toe, be a relief as much as you are sorrow. Be a relief for whom? After raising your head to the sky, closing your eyes tightly and spreading your arms wide, as you spin around on your own axis like a child until you feel dizzy, be a relief, a cure for yourself first… Then be for everyone and everything within the circle drawn by your outstretched arms… Be the one who makes your friend smile for a moment as you chat over a cup of coffee with her who has her head in the palms of her hands and whose eyes are misty. Be the one who rings the phone of the aunt whose voice you have not heard for a long time, whom you keep postponing in the chaos of life, and just ask how she is doing. Be a child with a child; share their indescribable excitement as they play high above the ground, tag, tag, tag and hide and seek. Become the hero of the stories that old people you know and old people you don’t know tell with longing for their past; at least hold their trembling hands and see the twinkle in their eyes for a moment. Be the one who extends a branch to the honeybee when you realize at the last moment that it is fluttering in the puddle you are about to step on. Be and be…

As I complete my words, I feel like I am back where I started, only this time I am in a better mood than when I started. As I commiserate with you, my fellow companions, with those words spoken out from inside my soul, I flow, and start to feel calm. “To commiserate”: I feel like I want to say a final word with this word that winks at me where I say I am completing my words. “To commiserate”, my dream friend… First, to be sorrow from head to toe, to become sorrow, then to be a partner in suffering, to be a remedy for troubles that are not yours or that you perceive as such. “To share sorrow”… To share pain, that is, to establish a comradeship in which the troubles that seem big are crumbled together… Let’s finish as we started… What had Niyâzî-i Mısrî said:

Ask for the divine troubles and you will find a solution

Ask for the sorrow, and you will attain ease and peace

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