For several years, a few decades ago, I became obsessed with the great Sufi poet, Rumi. I devoured every English translation of his writings I could find, also buying books that weren't literal translations, but were written in the spirit of Rumi.
Eventually I donated most of my Rumi books when my obsession abated. But I kept a few, including William C. Chittick's translation of Rumi, The Sufi Path of Love: The Spiritual Teachings of Rumi.
One reason I held on to that book was that it contained my favorite Rumi quotation, from his Masnavi.
Fear the existence in which you are now!
Your imagination is nothing, and you are nothing,
A nothing has fallen in love with a nothing,
a nothing-at-all has waylaid a nothing-at-all.
When these images have departed,
your misunderstanding will be clear to you.
I've memorized this passage. I ponder it fairly frequently.
It's become sort of a koan for me -- an intriguing bit of spiritual poetry that defies easy explanation, though it also has a seemingly clear meaning that is compatible with Zen and Buddhism in general.
I readily admit that different people will view this quotation in markedly different ways. All I can say is how it speaks to me.
Yes, there is reason to fear the existence in which I am now. However, this is the same existence that virtually everybody on this planet inhabits: an existence filled with imaginings of things that don't actually exist, of a past that is no more, of a future that is yet to be.
My imagination, though a wellspring of creativity and mental fascination, can lead me into dead ends, dark alleys, wasted cognition, detachment from the non-imaginary here and now.
Worse, I tend to believe that the being doing the imagining, me, possesses more inherent existence than is warranted. The self that I thought for much of my life was eternal, a soul drop of a divine ocean, actually is, as Rumi says, nothing.
Nothing, at least, that is independent, freestanding, immutable. Whoever or whatever I am, my strong suspicion is that I'm as insubstantial as the imaginings I so frequently engage in.
Yet as Rumi's poem observes, my imagination and me are in love with each other, though neither of us possesses any enduring substance. We are two nothings engaged in dancing together in a wispy ballroom of frothy existence.
Still, Rumi holds out hope for me. And for everybody in a similar situation. Who, again, is almost all of the eight billion people who cling to the dual delusions of barely-existent imagination and selfhood.
For if I were to be able to exist without imagining what isn't there, which includes the solid self that also is a nothing rather than a something, Rumi says that my current misunderstanding of what life is all about would be cleared up.
Is this a fantasy? Perhaps. Rumi's words just seem to me like they have a ring of truth, though I have no reason to assert that they are true. I simply am attracted to this bit of tantalizing Rumi poetry.