Today I’m in Swanston Street Melbourne. And I’m surrounded by people, mainly men, mainly in racing colours. The Melbourne Grand Prix is in full swing.  Lots of energy, lots of machismo, etc, etc.

But I want some solitude from all of this. I’m headed for the State Library of Victoria to visit their exhibition of Persian poetry: Love and Devotion.

And why? One of my favourite writers, James Carse, has an uncanny habit of quoting Persian Sufi poets to illustrate his points. And one of those poems has affected me. So I am curious to find out more…

I enter the exhibition through the automatic sliding doors. And it is like entering a room where everyone has held their breath. Everyone is quiet, stopping and slowly examining the beautifully written and intricately illustrated manuscripts. I join them as well except I start to read each story that accompanies the manuscripts.

And slowly, I am taken into a new world. A world with stories like Romeo and Juliet (but a Persian version called Layla and Majnun), Omar Khayyam (of course) but stories that influenced Chaucer, Shakespeare and Goethe and even Eric Clapton (Layla).

What little I read speaks to me. I hear the voices of those poets and they echo even Donne and Keats whose poetry I still treasure. And occasionally, they whisper to me what I am trying to write for myself, albeit imperfectly.

And then I am reminded my copy of Joseph Campbell’s book, The Power of Myth, which says that all stories from all cultures have common themes. And today’s theme is the progress of the heart towards true love. And beyond that to the divine.

When I walk out, I catch my breath. And stop and recollect.

For just a short moment, I was in the company of my fellow travellers. A rare touch for me.