If you’ve heard of the revered mystic Rumi, you would have heard of Shams too. If you haven’t, have a read of this http://www.rumi.net/about_rumi_main.htm Whilst trailing through the mountains of Pakistan as one does, I had the pleasure of being hosted by a gracious family who I will call the Khans. One day, whilst soaking in the afternoon sun, the beautiful birds singing in the distance, Mr. Khan mentioned that his friend, Michael, who would be staying at his house. Upon arriving back from one of my escapades, I was introduced to Michael.
A professional mountaineer, Michael who hailed from Germany had been mountain trekking for the last 35 years in Pakistan. Michael had achieved legendary feats with those spiky nailed boots and a heart of steely determination that only people like him who could weather that storm carry. Having scaled to the summit of unconquered peaks, Michael would then arrive at the national geographic survey and provide the coordinates for his new achievement. He would then have his new mountain named. That’s like astronomers naming a new star. Only they haven’t trekked all the way!
Anyhow, when I came back from my epic journey following the silk route to china, I happened to meet him again. As I was recounting the many experiences in Kashgar and beyond with excitement, he happened to ask a question that made me halt in my tracks. In his German accent, he probed with great interest as he stroked his beard. “Young man, whilst you trailed down past Sost from the Chinese border, which way did you go to come back”. I replied “straight of course”. “Ah. Then you missed something worth stopping for, near a village not far from the trail” he replied. My mind raced as my heart dived south. “What did I miss and where was this place I exclaimed”.
And then Michael related the story like a grand story teller of old. What seemed like a few lines were worth a book. “There is a village called Shimshal. Legend has it that Shams of Tabriz used to meditate there in a cave. After Shams had left, the local villagers would make a visit to the cave each night to light a candle in his memory”. “Let the light flicker upon your soul I exclaimed under my breath”. I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. Here I was on a journey of discovery, meeting such legends and listening to such amazing stories that I felt so humbled. There was so much to discover. As the thought sunk in that I had missed the cave of Shams, my imagination wandered off to new heights of thought. Had Shams meditated there before or was it after meeting Rumi at which point Rumi’s life would be transformed forever making him one of the greatest poets that ever lived. It felt like an archeological nightmare. Something right under one’s nose, so close and yet so far away. Looking back, I pause in reflection. Sure, I would like to have discovered that cave on my route home. However, I felt a sense of contentment knowing that I had the great pleasure of being in the company of living legends that had lived many a lifetime. The legacy of Rumi and Shams would live on forever too. It is important that we pay homage to the living legends amongst us who spur us on to embark on unimaginable feats. As for the cave, everything has its appropriate time. Maybe next time i’ll visit the cave too.
And with that ladies and gentleman, I introduce you to an article of the people of Shimshal. Legends who absorb the storm of modernity and yet retain their ancient practices. There is so much we could learn.