“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” ~Jalaluddin Rumi
I think it speaks to the universality of the human experience that a 13th century Persian poet can resonate with a 21st century Western audience.
I’m especially fond of the line, “Whoever brought me here will have to take me home.” It sounds like a line Robert Hunter would write, and the Grateful Dead would interpret.
Who Speaks With My Mouth?
by Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi
translated by Coleman Barks
All day I think about it, then at night I say it.
Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?
I have no idea.
My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that,
and I intend to end up there.
This drunkenness began in some other tavern.
When I get back around to that place,
I’ll be completely sober. Meanwhile,
I’m like a bird from another continent, sitting in this aviary.
The day is coming when I fly off,
but who is it now in my ear who hears my voice?
Who says words with my mouth?
Who looks out with my eyes? What is the soul?
I cannot stop asking.
If I could taste one sip of an answer,
I could break out of this prison for drunks.
I didn’t come here of my own accord, and I can’t leave that way.
Whoever brought me here will have to take me home.
This poetry, I never know what I’m going to say.
I don’t plan it.
When I’m outside the saying of it,
I get very quiet and rarely speak at all.
(It may help to know that in Rumi’s time and place, drunkenness was often used as a metaphor for spiritual ecstasy.)
The Mouse and the Camel
Translated by Coleman Barks
A mouse caught hold of a camel’s lead rope
in his two forelegs and walked off with it,
imitating the camel drivers.
The camel went along,
letting the mouse feel heroic.
he thought. “I have something to teach you, presently.”
They came to the edge of a great river.
The mouse was dumbfounded.
“What are you waiting for?
Step forward into the river. You are my leader.
Don’t stop here.”
“I’m afraid of being drowned.”
The camel walked into the water. “It’s only
just above the knee.”
“Your knee! Your knee
is a hundred times over my head!”
“Well, maybe you shouldn’t be
leading a camel. Stay with those like yourself.
A mouse has nothing really to say to a camel.”
“Would you help me get across?”
“Get up on my hump. I am made to take hundreds like you across.”
You are not a prophet, but go humbly on the way of the prophets
and you can arrive where they are. Don’t try to steer the boat.
Don’t open a shop by yourself. Listen. Keep silent.
You are not God’s mouthpiece. Try to be an ear;
and if you do speak, ask for explanations.
The source of your arrogance and anger is your lust
and the rootedness of that is in your habits.
Someone who makes a habit of eating clay
gets mad when you try to keep him from it.
Being a leader can also be a poisonous habit,
so that when someone questions your authority,
you think, “He’s trying to take over.”
You may respond courteously, but inside you rage.
Always check your inner state
with the Lord of your Heart.
Copper doesn’t know it’s copper,
until it’s changed to gold.
Your loving doesn’t know its majesty,
until it knows its helplessness.
Excerpt from The Dream That Must Be Interpreted by Rumi (1207-1273):
as a mineral. We emerged into plant life
and into animal state, and then into being human,
and always we have forgotten our former states,
except in early spring when we slightly recall
being green again.
That’s how a young person turns
toward a teacher. That’s how a baby leans
toward the breast, without knowing the secret
of its desire, yet turning instinctively.
Humankind is being led along an evolving course,
through this migration of intelligences,
and though we seem to be sleeping,
there is an inner wakefulness
that directs the dream,
and that will eventually startle us back
to the truth of who we are.
This is interesting to me for two reasons: First from the religious and spiritual aspect, and second because it predates the theory of evolution by six centuries.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
They’re in each other all along.
“All religions, all this singing, one song. The differences are just illusion and vanity. Sunlight looks a little different on this wall than it does on that wall and a lot different on this other one, but it is still one light.” ~Rumi
Excerpt from A Great Wagon by Rumi:
Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.