The Reluctant Innkeeper

These days I find myself going back a lot to The Guest House, the Coleman Barks translation of a writing by Rumi.

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

It is difficult to think of myself as an innkeeper whose house/life is open to anyone, anything.  After all, I am the owner; I’m in charge here, aren’t I?  This is my place, my routine, my life.  Don’t I get to pick my guests?  It is more difficult to entertain the thought that I am to “welcome and entertain them all.”  I mean it is bad enough that they (whoever or whatever “they” are) just showed up unannounced and uninvited, but now they are imposing on me and what I had planned.  But most difficult of all is the thought that I am to be grateful for the interruption and inconvenience.   Grateful?

But of course the twist here is that whether I recognize it or not I am a one of “them,” a “they.”  And while you’d never know it from my incessant whining, I am a “guest” as much or more than I am the “homeowner.”  I mean the population of this earth, with one trifling exception, is made up of others.  What occurs to me here as somewhat of a sequel to The Guest House is this from Robert Louis Stevenson:

“Wherever we are, it is but a stage on the way to somewhere else, and whatever we do, however well we do it, it is only a preparation to do something else that shall be different.”

Which is of course where the “guests” come into play.  They are my guides to the somewhere or something else — if I let them be.

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