WB Yates wrote that, in a sign of the coming Apocalypse, “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” I have just spent an hour with Suheil Bushrui, an 82 year-old poet, translator, scholar and teacher whose passionate intensity and goodness reassures me that the End of Days is not yet upon us.
Dr. Bushrui certainly does not lack conviction. He leans forward and speaks ardently of his belief that all faiths are one, that a love of God and of humanity is what will move the world forward, and that each person can and must reach God in his own way. Knowing that I came out of the Christian tradition, he quoted widely from the New Testament, while also reciting verses of the Qur’an, the poetry of TS Eliot, and other sources. He read to me from the writings of Khalil Jibran, whose work he has translated.
When I described my project to him, he paused for a while, then said, “It will be best to listen. With fanatics you cannot tell them what to think. You can only listen and learn, and if they ask, offer your experiences.” While I am optimistic that many who I encounter in my work will not be fanatical, I hope that with all of them I prove to be a good listener.