The Power of Good Company
As we start another term of study in the wisdom traditions and we look ahead to the first fall term classes in UPR’s Undergraduate Completion Program, I am reminded of the poet Rumi’s poem entitled “Be With Those Who Help Your Being.” Here are words of wisdom from this great 13th- century Persian poet:
Be with those who help your being.
Don’t sit with indifferent people, whose breath comes cold out of their mouths.
Not these visible forms, your work is deeper.
A chunk of dirt thrown in the air breaks to pieces. If you don’t try to fly,
and so break yourself apart,
you will be broken open by death,
when it’s too late for all you could become.
Leaves get yellow. The tree puts out fresh roots
and makes them green.
Why are you so content with a love that turns you yellow?
His admonition not to sit with indifferent people strikes home when we consider those times and those people who care little or not at all about developing the inner being or of helping us in that important intellectual and spiritual journey.
As Rumi puts the matter so well, it is not the visible forms that matter, but rather that deeper work we do, and in that work it is the cold that comes from the mouths of indifferent people that shake us and prevent us from putting down the deep roots necessary for lasting progress. As he said, that cold breath turns us yellow.
Following Rumi’s teaching, here is how Ralph Waldo Emerson put the matter in his essay “The Over-Soul:”
“In groups where debate is earnest, and especially on high questions, the company become aware that the thought rises to an equal level in all bosoms, that all have a spiritual property in what was said, as well as the sayer. They all become wiser than they were. It arches over them like a temple, this unity of thought, in which every heart beats with nobler sense of power and duty, and thinks and acts with unusual solemnity. All are conscious of attaining to a higher self-possession. It shines for all.”
It is in good company that such wisdom emerges such as we need and deserve. In our online program, it is particularly in the forum discussions where good company arises most dramatically, and as we begin another term in one another’s good company, be resolved to take an active part in those important discussions with your classmates. As Emerson says, we all have a spiritual property in what is said and if we are fortunate, a unity of thought emerges that allows us to achieve a higher self-possession.
Richard Geldard, Ph.D.
PhD, Dramatic Literature and Classics, Stanford University Full time Professor at UPR, Adjunct Professor of Philosophy, Yeshiva University Doctoral Faculty, Pacifica Graduate Institute Author of ten books on Early Greek philosophy and the thought of Ralph Waldo Emerson [www.rgbooks.com]