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A few years ago I fell in love with an Iranian girl. Her name was Shabnam: it means Dew Drop. I met her in the lobby of our hotel in Naples, Italy, and in the evening we had dinner together with some friends. I fell in love with her that night when she recited for me a poem of Rumi – the mystical poet of the 13th century – in Persian. I had read Rumi’s poems before in English. His lyrics hold the power to bring you closer to God, but when Shabnam recited them in Persian, I jumped from white cloud to white cloud, and straight into Heaven:
بیتو شود، سر به همگانبی نمیشود سربه
دگر جای دلم، این دارد توداغ نمیشود
“Wow… what does it mean?” I asked her, trying to hide the puppy look beginning to show in my eyes.
“One could live without everyone else but not without you;
My heart bears the anguish of your love and cannot go anywhere else” she said. “Rumi.”
I was almost thirty, but there I was – a teenager once again, losing my head in the holy voice of this woman. We like to say that when we fall in love, we have butterflies in our stomach. On that evening I had the insectarium of butterflies from all continents, the encyclopedia of insects returning from the dead and flapping their wings in my heart. I had a zoo, to be more precise. Her voice sounded like angel-children reading a poem written by God. During the few seconds it took for her to recite the poem, I saw the two of us riding a camel in the desert at sunset with her gentle arms tight around my body. I saw us camping at night, just the two of us alone under the Milky Way in the vastness of the desert, holding hands by the fire, her head on my shoulder, and listening to her voice whispering Sufi poems in Persian about love and the Divine. The midnight hour found us making love in the tent, only our naked shadows, mingled and embraced, to be seen from outside, reflected by candle light. The night’s sky was the only witness to our love.
The first fantasy.
When she finished the poem, I was pulled back in Naples, with her, my friends and pizza left-overs around us. I didn’t say anything to her that evening, but we decided to stay in touch. The next morning we walked to the train station, I squeezed her in a hug that took longer than she expected and waved good-bye to her as the 8:10 train left for Rome.
A few days later I flew back to Bucharest, and she flew back to Iran. We stayed in touch for a few months.
I wrote her often, and she responded but not always. Some letters she wrote were long, allowing me to glance into her heart through a tiny crack in the wall she had built around it. Other letters were short, and reading them I felt as if I had just trod with my dirty boots all over her life. Other letters were, well… not at all.
She had a brilliant mind – she was a scientist and researcher, and she could think, reason and make connections I couldn’t even imagine.
But unlike the heart, the mind becomes a dangerous instrument when turned against oneself. The heart knows only love, but the mind can also know fear.
She reasoned with perfect logic why she feared to love, why she felt lost and alone, why she couldn’t trust anyone in this world anymore, why the future is dark. The mind is a wonderful servant when placed in the service of love, but a terrible master when rules us with the fist of fear. I wasn’t as smart as she was, and my brain couldn’t dismantle her reasoning in fear. I was in love, and nothing else matters. The second fantasy.
“Let’s just go together somewhere” I used to say to her, “Fly to Europe, or let’s move to the United States. Let’s just be together, and we will find a way.” I called her honey, she called me baby.
As months passed, her answer was still No, I don’t know…I would love to, but I don’t know…
Love lives beyond the mind, in a place of perfect stillness, inner peace and holy power. Love lives in the heart, and love lives in the now. But love must shine in the mind and through the mind, outside in the world. Unexpressed love becomes rotten on the inside, it decays and drags the heart down into the pits of darkness and despair. The wall around her heart was too thick for me to tear down and reach in. But my God, how I wanted to…
We made plans for me to travel to Iran. I would fly to Tehran, and from there we would sail together to an island in the Arabian Sea. We talked almost every day on the phone to organize the trip, and she would end every conversation with “I miss you.” In my mind, I had become the prince in the ancient Arabian tales – the poor peasant driven by a love from beyond this world, who saved the princess from the enemy’s dungeon and rode together with his girl into the sunset, where they lived happily ever after. The third fantasy.
Until one day when she disappeared. Just like that: no more replies to my emails, no more returned calls, no more answered text messages. Nothing. She had just disappeared. I hadn’t booked my flight to Iran yet, but I’d applied for the visa. I woke up at 5 A.M. one morning and found severe threats in my email from Iran about my visa and my travel documents. My friends tried to explain to me that her culture is different than ours, and I might get in serious trouble going to Iran. I’m in love with her. The butterflies, the constant thinking about her, the zoo in my stomach. I have to go see her, I thought. The fourth fantasy.
The reality was clear: she disappeared. Vanished. Gone. Dematerialized. She decided not to talk to me anymore. Only she will ever know the truth. I have no idea what happened in her mind and heart, but I know what happened in mine. One more time, I had to pick up the pieces of my broken heart, leave some bits in Italy, some fragments in Iran, and go on with my life in Romania with what’s left of my heart.
I had fallen in love with the illusion and the fantasies: the night in the desert, the poems in Persian by the fire under the Milky Way, the camels, making love in the tent, sailing the Arabian sea with a princess, running into the sunset with a brilliant and beautiful woman.
Spiritual traditions teach us that every person in our life is a mirror, reflecting to us and showing us a valuable part of who we are. Only by looking into the mirrors the others hold for us, we get to know ourselves, and to heal ourselves. When we fall in love, when the butterflies take off in our stomach and the zoo trumps wild through our heart, the other person is, in fact, showing us the parts of ourselves we have lost, given away, or were taken away from us in the process of life. When we fall in love, we unconsciously recognize in the other the fragments of ourselves we once had, and now miss so much: maybe our innocence, maybe our youth, our freedom, our confidence or our childhood joy. When we fall in love like crazy, a great question to ask ourselves is this: What do I love about this person? What is so attractive and magnetic about him or her? The answer will always be something we had and lost and we now see in the other. When we fall in love and the other suddenly decides to leave, we are shattered because we lose, one more time, the pieces of ourselves we held so dear but we no longer have. I had fallen in love with her brilliant mind. The rest was my fantasy.
I told this story to the Soul Mechanic in Hawaii, and after he laughed in tears, he said:
“All illusion leads to dis-illusion. Love is what remains after the falling-in-love is gone.
Love is what remains after the illusion is gone. And that my friend, is called reality.”
DR. DRAGOS – Internationally renowned scientist and filmmaker, director of the award winning documentary film, THE AMAZING YOU, featuring NASA legends, Rock stars, New York Times bestselling authors and the Angry Birds. Dragos spoke at conferences on five continents and his work has been translated in sixteen languages. Check out his new book: Sleepers. You can follow him on FB.
Image courtesy of Håkon Sataøen.