A few weeks ago an interesting email reached the CRS from Finnish theatre group, Ruska Ensemble. Inspired by the writings of Rumi, a famous actor, Jari Virman (https://www.facebook.com/ruskaensemble/), proposed to make a personal pilgrimage from Istanbul to Konya, following the Evliya Çelebi Way, then turning east to the city of Mevlana.

 

Jari began his journey at the end of April, and on 29 May was back in Istanbul to present the first version of a dramatic work based on his experiences. Jari’s stage-set comprised his tent, and the equipment he carried in his backpack—including a fly fishing rod, which was an object of interest to the people along his way. His performance was in the form of a monologue, in which he told the audience of students at the Istanbul International School (https://www.facebook.com/istanbulinternationalschool/) about his youth in the frozen Finnish countryside, and the feeling of emptiness in his core that Rumi’s poetry seemed to speak to and which led him to embark on his project.

 

Jari spoke of his different moods as he walked—from thinking of his journey as a sporting activity, and gritting his teeth with the determination to keep on despite rain and hailstorms, to insisting to carbound passers-by that he could not accept a lift with them but must walk, and marvelling at the great kindness of villagers, who had so little, but offered him food and a place to stay on numerous occasions. And all without a common language.

 

Jari told us he was deeply touched by the open-heartedness he met with as he went, and contrasted it with European disdain for, and lack of hospitality to, strangers such as, at present, the many migrants who have reached Finland. In the Anatolian countryside he found a world of love that he could not have imagined existed, and through this he began to understand Rumi’s poems more closely. Jari found the simple generosity of the local people a balm for his soul, and his former emptiness began to fade.

 

Jari’s ‘work in progress’ told his city-bound audience of a world that few of them knew. He and dramaturgue and director Ari-Pekka Lahti will now write a full-scale drama based on Jari’s  journey on the Evliya Çelebi Way, which will be premiered at the National Theatre of Finland in 2019 and, hopefully, also be performed in Turkey.

 

Meanwhile, the guide to the Sufi Trail (http://sufitrail.com) that runs from Istanbul to Konya more directly than Evliya’s circuitous pilgrimage route is now published—maybe we will see Jari back in Turkey soon, as he continues his personal pilgrimage.

 

As Rumi wrote, and Jari reminded us: “Out beyond the world of ideas of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field. I will meet you there.’

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