Excerpts from the INTERVIEW – Katherine Schimmel Baki: A Meeting in a Garden and a Mystic Pen:
by Joy Stocke
Q : In addition, you are the mother of three children. How does your role as a mother dovetail with your scholarship and work schedule. How do you envision the future?
Schimmel-Baki: Well, this is an interesting subject isn’t it? I am reminded of Khalil Gibran’s poem: “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.”
Raising three amazing souls who will go out into the world as conscientious, loving, meaningfully productive, happy beings is not unlike the Sufi path itself in which the believer (in this case the mother) works continuously at shedding the outer garment or material world so that she may enter the spiritual space of complete annihilation with the beloved (the children).
You often have to make profound adjustments and compromises to your way of being in order to accommodate others in a way that is beneficial to them. Not necessarily to you. Of course you could say this of marriage or any close relationship. However, the bond between a mother and a child departs markedly from other types of love, and this is where the Sufi-like aspect comes into play because the believer has an absolute, pure love, which does not want to be self-serving in any way, even though this is almost impossible to achieve.
All the motherly adjustments I have had to make along the way have only made me a much more flexible, forgiving and, I’d like to think, better person as I suddenly started to see people and the world through the eyes of a child again…which is so much more interesting and to the point I think.
WRR: So, is it a constant struggle between work and family?
Schimmel-Baki: Yes, because I am madly in love with my children and yet I am also compelled to do other things. Just as I can’t control the fact that I love them, I also can’t stop pursuing certain interests. But I’ve learned to seek balance in the imbalance and to try and always fine-tune everything…so what works today may not tomorrow. Some days, I feel just like the tragic Greek character, Sisyphus, who is stuck for an eternity slowly pushing a heavy boulder up a hill only to have it come crashing back down again when he finally manages to get it to the top. Those moments are truly, dark nights of the soul. And this is why I call this highly personal journey the Sufi path of motherhood. What really counts is the persistence of that soul in being aware of its inadequacies and on insisting on doing better next time. That’s all we can hope for from ourselves and from others and that should be enough, which brings me back to what is the most haunting, powerful part of the Gibran poem:
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable
In this case, for me, the bow that is stable is the mother and the environment that she has created.