Sleeping with Rumi: Two Kinds of Resilience
It is true. I slept with Rumi last night.
Yes. It is true too that he wears a beard and that after a January’s week of being alone in a remote mountain cabin, I now sprout one too. But that doesn’t stop him from climbing into bed with me. No.
I love women, yes; but still he whispers into my ear at 2 AM and wakes me with his scratchy beard. Then he starts pushing with his feet against my back as he says, “Get out’a bed and write! Don’t mind the cold. You don’t need to restart the fire in the old cook stove. Let the fire inside you burn hot for the lover that awaits you… there.”
I confess that I have been doing my best to roll over and go back to sleep. Still, he keeps tickling me with his beard and whispering these lines in my ear:
“There are two kind of intelligence…,” he begins.
Maybe that’s what gets my attention so fired up, cause I hear, “There are two kinds of resilience…,” and my mind is off running and looking for my spirit which is wrapped up in a wool blanket with a spirit pen and journal. Lot of good that ‘spirit writing’ does me now that my body has finally faced the snowbound cabin’s morning chill, hours later.
Rumi’s poetic Two Kinds of Intelligence is still playing with me however:
There are two kinds of resilience: one acquired,
as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts
from books and from what the teacher says,
collecting information from the traditional sciences
as well as from the new sciences.
With such resilience you rise in the world.
You get ranked ahead or behind others
in regard to your competence in retaining
information. You stroll with this resilience
in and out of fields of knowledge, getting always more
marks on your preserving tablets.
There is another kind of tablet, one
already completed and preserved inside you.
A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness
in the center of the chest. This other resilience
does not turn yellow or stagnate. It’s fluid,
and it doesn’t move from outside to inside
through the conduits of plumbing-learning.
This second knowing is a fountainhead
from within you, moving out. 1
“Scientists have defined resilience in different ways. One definition refers to stability-how quickly a system returns to a prior state after a disturbance. This is called engineering resilience… The second definition is called ecological resilience and assumes that ecosystems can exist in different states or regimes…. Ecological resilience has been defined as follows:
- the amount of disturbance a system can absorb and still remain within the same state or regime;
- the degree to which the system can learn and adapt to changing environments.
We now know that the property of ecological resilience is universal to ecosystems…. Because humans have preferences for one ecological state over another, it is important to understand what mediates the transition among the states. Understanding transitions is key to managing systems around a desired state.” 2
A quick survey of the literature on human resilience reveals numerous models and references to individuals and human systems using the ‘bounce back’ or engineering frame of resilience. I think of this as our ‘domesticated resilience’, ‘Slinky™ resilience’, or as the ‘shadow side’ of resiliency.
This domesticated resiliency serves useful purposes and has its place in our lives. It does however keep us managing nations, businesses, schools, environments and ourselves… around desired states that can cease to serve our interest. It is formulaic and its loyalty is to comfort and familiarity, to power and hierarchy and… “the way we do things here” kinds of mentality. It is the resilience of bureaucracies and addictions against flexibility, change and transformation.
“For a time, at least, the Soviet Union was an immensely resilient ‘dictatorship of the bureaucracy’…. Its very resilience preserved a maladaptive system. What this suggests for social systems, as well as ecological ones, is that resilience is not an ideal in itself… Resilience can be the enemy of adaptive change…. (Emphasis added)
The challenge, rather, is to conserve the ability to adapt to change, to be able to respond in a flexible way to uncertainty and surprises. And even to create the kind of surprises that open opportunity.” 3
These capacities to flexibly and creatively respond to change are characteristic of what we think of as healthy ecosystems. In line with this, ecological resilience modeling views humans as living systems and as inseparable from the environments we inhabit. It thus moves us closer to understanding our world and our selves and informs what I think of as our wild resiliency.
Wild Resiliency I define most simply as, our love of Life. As such, it is also our highest potentiality and our willingness to transform…in service of Life.
Wild Resiliency however will not be understood or confined certainly by any models that do not also take into account the human spirit in the wholeness of who we are, which also includes our propensity to accommodate ourselves to our shadowed resilience, our affinity for comfort and denial, our domesticity.
Our wild resilience can in truth no more be contained or modeled than can words describe the Tao; we can only point at it with such tools, which accounts for the human incorporation of poetry, mythology and the arts to help us more fully appreciate and experience the entangled complexity and mystery of who we are.
But point toward this mystery with awe and wonder we must, for this need to point, to create and to locate ourselves on a worldview map is also part of who we are. And in these turbulent times of uncertainty, visionary pointing is as vital to our thrivability as ever it were to any set of pilgrims on a journey to their heart’s desires.
For this journey we require our ecological resilience and our wild-creative resiliency…. We require our capacity to dream and to be drawn into a new future, a future coherent with our innate and cultivated lover’s love of life.
I think this is what Rumi is trying to tell me in the middle of the night: to listen to and to trust that spring in my chest that flows over with Life’s love of itself, with the love of wonder and beauty and mystery, that fountainhead of wild resiliency already residing within.
“Cultivate that,” he says. “Therein lays your capacity for transformation that these times of transition require of you.” He whispers in my ear through the long wild hair of his damn beard.
“There must be as many forms and kinds of resilience as there are people,” I tell him. “Now go back to sleep.”
Adapted from: The Essential Rumi. translations by Colman Barks with John Moyne. Harper, San Francisco, 1995, pg. 178
“Expecting the Unexpected: Why Resilience Matters to People and the Planet”. Lance Gunderson; The Quivira Coalition Journal, #33, October 2008, pg 5
Panarchy: Understanding Transformation in Human and Natural Systems; edited by Lance H. Gunderson and C.S. Holling, Island Press, Washington, DC, 2002, pg. 31