Ms. Keshavarz: [Translating] When pain arrives side by side with your love, I promise not to flee. When you ask me for my life, I promise not to fight. I’m holding a cup in my hand, but God, if you do not come till the end of time, I promise not to pour out the wine nor to drink a sip. Your bright face is my day. Your dark curls bring the night. If you do not let me near you, I promise not to go to sleep nor rise. Your magnificence has made me a wonder. Your charm has taught me the way of love. I am the progeny of Abraham. I’ll find my way through fire.

Ms. Tippett: What do you hear in that? What do you reflect on in that?

Ms. Keshavarz: It’s about steadfastness, about staying centered and keeping your eye on the goal, but at the same time, very much being in love and allowing the ecstasy of love take over. You see, he is very aware of the fact that, as human beings, we are limited. We have our limits. We just are not able to do everything that we desire to do. Our rationality is there; it’s very helpful. It does its job in questioning things and showing the way, but that has its limits too. What opens the way beyond that is love. What enables us to feel the pain and still go forth in the face of all of that is experiencing that love. And if you look at our lives, you know, people who produce great works of art, who are creative, who do something that goes beyond day-to-day activities, have that kind of steadfastness, that kind of devotion that lets them go through. What I see in that poem is that I promise to have that, but that comes from you. It’s your magnificence, your love that gives me that energy, that power to stay, and I promise to hold onto it.

Ms. Tippett: And “you” is the beloved, is God, is Allah.

Ms. Keshavarz: Yes, and that’s where the ambiguity comes in, of course, because you should be able to relate to it as a human being in love with another human being. That would be your entry into the poem.

Ms. Tippett: It’s also probably important to note that Rumi had a great turning point with a friendship, with Shams, a Sufi master. I think it is actually helpful that the love relationship, out of which Rumi drew so many of his analogies, you know, is not a romantic love relationship. And what you’re saying to me is that love is the core, but to think about the many forms that love takes in our lives. I mean, there’s also the passionate love that we have for our children.

Ms. Keshavarz: Yes, and so they are a blessing and they all have their own place. And in the end, we don’t replace them with the divine. It’s like warming up, in a way. It’s like getting you ready for a major exercise, a physical activity. You warm up gradually. You get yourself to a state where you can do it, test your abilities, see your problems and issues, ask your questions, quarrel with yourself, and get ready for it. And I think all these forms of experience of attachment with other human beings are various ways of experiencing that.