78. Inspired up to the Eyeballs

Fancy that. No blogs for months then two come along at once, just like buses. The lovely – and no doubt totally self-indulgent – thing about keeping the blog going is that I can write about absolutely anything that crops up. Oh yes, the genie is well and truly out of the bottle. I now have a means of shouting, “Hey, look at this! No, REALLY look at this!” in a way which encourages people to take a bit more notice than your average Facebook post, which is gone and usually almost instantly forgotten as soon as you’ve hit that magic button. And this blog is inspired by a book just as the last one was, only in a very different way. Given that both Stephen and I work in publishing, I guess it isn’t surprising that we have an endless pile of reading material and probably more book cases in our flat than is decent. Stephen has made a kind of career out of topping up my reading pile every Christmas and birthday, a habit which started when I was in isolation after the stem cell transplant. Knowing how fast I get through books he brought me in a gigantic carrier bag full of them, and I had them all lined up on the windowsill – the nurses loved it and couldn’t wait to have a bit of a rifle through what was an astonishingly good selection of reading material. Trust me, he’s good. So the habit has stuck, and the standard has only got higher as he has honed his skills, with the result that this Christmas he excelled himself. He managed to find a book which combines what appeared to be top dollar chick lit with my beloved Rumi. Yes. How unlikely is that? As it turns out this book is very far from chick lit but it is absolutely un-put-downable, and judging by the reviews, men seem to like it just as much as women.

This is it.

Absolutely required reading for anyone interested in Sufism, Rumi, good writing, Turkey, the human condition, politics, feminism, you name it, it’s in there. The Forty Rules of Love has also completely changed my perception of Rumi, in a good way. Actually, that’s not strictly true as I hadn’t exactly studied him, more like stumbled on him, only being slightly aware of the back story in a bit of an academic way through some fairly dry books that didn’t really bring him to life. Not in a beautiful, poetic, heart-breaking, real-person-surrounded-by-real-people kind of a way, which is what Elif Shafak achieves in this beautiful and cleverly written book. Combining the story of a Jewish American housewife with the unfolding of the relationship between Rumi and Shams of Tabriz, it is also a journey of increasing awareness through Sufism, which has long fascinated me. She said in an interview given to The Guardian,

The more you read about Sufism, the more you have to listen. In time I became emotionally attached. When I was younger I wasn’t interested in understanding the world. I only wanted to change it, through feminism or nihilism or environmentalism. But the more I read about Sufism the more I unlearned. Because that is what Sufism does to you, it makes you erase what you know, what you are so sure of. And then start thinking again. Not with your mind this time, but with your heart.”

I love that. Anita Moorjani talks about the importance of coming from a place of love, not fear – whatever the circumstances – and it is good to be reminded of it after a fairly challenging week when at times I have fallen off that particular wagon.

And of course once I researched Elif Shafak a bit more I discovered what an incredibly talented woman she is in so many other areas. Stephen and I watched her 20 minute Ted Talk ‘Politics in Fiction’ on Youtube almost without blinking, partly because the subject matter is perfect as I’m writing my next book, but also because she is such an engaging and stimulating speaker. And 20 minutes without notes, and without pausing or repeating herself once. Wow.

So there you have it. All you Rumi lovers out there need to get this book, and become entranced and inspired by his relationship with Shams of Tabriz, and totally blown away by the beauty of the writing. Shall we finish with a bit of Rumi? It seems appropriate and it’s ages since I’ve quoted him, so I think we should. This is one of my favourites from an early blog I wrote while deep in the darkness of chemo. It was a huge inspiration at a difficult time:

The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you
Don’t go back to sleep!
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep!
People are going back and forth
across the doorsill where the two worlds touch,
The door is round and open
Don’t go back to sleep!

Wishing you good health in 2017

Margaret xx






About Margaret Cahill

After diagnosis of Mantle Cell Lymphoma in 2013, I started this blog to stay in touch with friends, family, and and an ever increasing network of lovely people who sent me healing. The readership increased and I ended up blogging for all I was worth to try and stay sane through the chemotherapy and stem cell transplant. Then after I went into remission (thankfully) I was enjoying the writing so much that I have carried on, and the blog seems to have become a bit of a resource for people, which is lovely. The original year of blogs have now been made into a book, Under Cover of Darkness: How I Blogged my Way Through Mantle Cell Lymphoma. It fills in a lot of the gaps between the blogs, and the tone falls somewhere between graveyard humour and explicit details of chemo treatments. I do hope you enjoy it :-) Mxx
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2 Responses to 78. Inspired up to the Eyeballs

  1. Dear Margaret – Thank you so much for your blog and the info it contained. I know Sufism and Rumi fairly well – as I do Khalil Gibran – and I have seen the TED-talk: it enlightens my day!
    Tanks again and warm wishes/Herman


    • Thank you so much for your comment. I think that Rumi and Khalil Gibran are usually enlightening, and definitely always challenging, which is the way it should be, I guess! Wishing you good health, Margaret


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