Tuesday, June 8

Rumi antz for ruminants ...

As you may have noticed on the pillow's sidebar, I have added a permanent link to Rumi Days, the blog skippered by dear blog friend Ruth (see her main blog synch-ro-ni-zing), dedicated to daily excerpts from Coleman Barks's translations of Rumi (A Year With Rumi: Daily Readings, published by HarperOne, in the photo). Ruth deftly pairs the excerpts with images from her own exquisite collection of photographs (the photo in the sidebar is hers).

I know many of you are familiar with the 13th century Sufi mystic Jallaludin Rumi; in fact, he is now said to be the best-selling poet in America today. I, on the other hand, became aware of the Persian poet and philosopher only recently. Very recently. Yes, if "ignorance is bliss", then I can truly be said to be obeying Joseph Campbell's dictum "follow your bliss".

I think my first exposure to Rumi came a few short months ago when I started following Steven's always enriching blog, the golden fish, where the poet makes regular appearances, a perfect companion for the tender eye Steven gracefully brings to his poetic walks and rides through nature and the world of art. And a couple of weeks ago I began to read Ruth's daily dose of reverie from Rumi. I am delighted with the readings and wanted to share the experience and link with you here.

Some choice twigs and leaves from this tree that Ruth waters daily:

March 13th
Friends, we are traveling together.
Throw off your tiredness. Let me show you
one tiny spot of the beauty that cannot be spoken.
I am like an ant that has gotten into the granary,
ludicrously happy, and trying to lug out
a grain that is way too big.

Photo by Ruth Mowry

April 14th
One flake from the wall of a goldmine
does not give much idea
what it is like

when the sun shines in
and turns the air
and the workers golden

Coleman Barks

April 27th
One of the marvels of the world
is the sight of a soul sitting in prison
with the key in its hand.

Covered with dust,
with a cleansing waterfall an inch away.

A young man rolls from side to side,
though the bed is comfortable
and a pillow holds his head.

He has a living master, yet he wants more,
and there is more.

If a prisoner had not lived outside,
he would not detest the dungeon.

Desiring knows there is a satisfaction
beyond this. Straying maps the path.

A secret freedom opens
through a crevice you can barely see.

The awareness a wine drinker wants
cannot be tasted in wine, but that failure
brings his deep thirst closer.

Rumi from Library of Congress
There are so many others I could cite, but you can go see Rumi Days for more if you like. The image of the ant, 'ludicrously happy' as it tries to lug a grain that is too big, and the observation 'straying maps the path' have stayed in my mind since I first read them, richly capturing much of what I feel and find in my daily wanderings and wonderings. So I am grateful to Ruth and Steven's blogs for introducing me to Rumi. I am not sure how I failed to come across that trail earlier, but perhaps in life there are paths that go unnoticed until we are finally ready to explore them.

From Slate
So in the fond hope that I am, indeed, ready to stray down that path, ludicrously happy as I lug my grain, I will continue my ramblings with Rumi as guide. As one guide, that is. The truth is that there are others who also accompany me. I have lately come to think that I go through life with Rumi perched on one shoulder and Woody Allen on the other. Yes, the ecstatic eye whispering into one ear and the snickering spleen giggling into the other. But what does this mean to go through life with Rumi as one antenna and Woody as the other? Well, beside putting a fatal flaw in any notion of becoming a competitive cyclist, it gives me an odd sense of direction. It basically means I can feel enraptured by the intoxicating marvels I find in the garden of my life, but I am quick to laugh at my own comical interaction with them. I sneeze.

Hopefully by knowing how my peculiar internal navigation system is put together, it will be easier for you to bear with me. Yes, I still heed Mr. Campbell's call to "follow your bliss", but I know full well that I would not know what to do if I were ever to find bliss. Reverie, rapture, bliss ...  such lovely words, such enticing states of the eye and soul, but for how long? Eternity, presumably. Puh-leaze, I'm not sure I could do more than 10 minutes. I enjoy meditative cud-chewing as much as anyone, but end up biting my own tongue all too soon. Anguish I can do, nirvana I would find trying. And it would not be long before the pesky jester would be poking his finger into the ribs of the venerable shaman. Mystics may light my way, but the shadow I cast will inevitably be that of the clown. So be it. Maybe they are not all that incompatible. Perhaps I carry in me both the wistful dreamer Don Quijote, tilting and flailing at windmills, and his sceptical sidekick, Sancho Panza.

Don Quijote and Sancho Panza
by Pablo Picasso
So how to follow my bliss and maintain a healthy scepticism that does not fester into cynicism? How to strive for enlightenment without wandering into the vaporous mists of self-absorbed prattle or letting the jokester become too obnoxious? I really don't know, but I will have Rumi and Woody, Don Quijote and Sancho as my guides and fellow travellers. All I know is that for all its comical senselessness, I am so enjoying the journey and I would not give up any one of these companions.

And when it all must end, when the grim reaper comes to challenge me to a game of chess, as in Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal, I will probably try to convince him to make it checkers instead. Or hopscotch, so in a distracted moment I can sneak back into the granary for one more ludicrously overlarge grain.

The Seventh Seal


  1. checkers...i may actually stand a chance...smiles.

    i have recently found rumi as well in the last year...honestly prior to a year ago i paid little mind to poetry in general. my eyes have been opened.

  2. A wonderfully written post, Lorenzo. I follow Steven's blog and will now check out Ruth's. I too love the image of that ludicrously happy ant and doesn't the fact that he can't lug that oversized grain out of the granary testament to our shadow side.

    Thanks for the great rumi quotes.

  3. thank you for sharing this bit of your heart and soul with us , Lorenzo.
    Ruth is inspiring on so many levels.

    Rumi is , well, no words. Sometimes these things in life leave me stunned.

    I wonder sometimes how I survived for so many years without so much of the beauty that was out there, here, everywhere apparently. Or maybe that was just it, I survived. And now perhaps I am living.

  4. An inspiring post Lorenzo. Isn't it delightful that some treasures hold back in order to surprise us later in our journey? Love the image of you with Rumi on one shoulder and Woody on the other.

    Loved your words - "Mystics may light my way, but the shadow I cast will inevitably be that of the clown. So be it. Maybe they are not all that incompatible." I am always skeptical about anyone on the mystic path who does not have a sense of humour.

    Now you have me imagining Rumi and Woody Allen in a conversation together ... (thanks - I'm smiling!)

  5. The image of Rumi and Woody perched, like angel and devil, or two parakeets, seems just right for you, after reading your posts for just a short time now, but feeling the depths and the smiles in wedded bliss. And I really liked how you got in this post to following yours - bliss that is. Big smile. I get Woody-ish pleasure from knowing you didn't know something that I knew before you. One of the supreme values of your blog for me is education. So, this previous knowledge gives me a little satisfaction. :)

    From what I've read and heard Barks say shows that he, like you, has an imp on one shoulder, and I think that is necessary - or at least important - to channeling the depths the way spirituality is best conceived, through the question: "What is it to be a true human being?" (Barks' words in the introduction of The Soul of Rumi, another volume he translated). As Kathryn Hulme wrote in her book about her time with G.I. Gurdjieff, Undiscovered Country, ". . . I have not yet met all the strangers who inhabit me." I like that we hear you, Lorenzo, in seriousness and in fun!

    Thank you for this most excellent post that points an admirable finger toward RUMI DAYS. It's a luxury to type up Rumi every day, and it makes me super glad that you and others read him after these hundreds of years.

    BTW, did you hear that Robert Duvall has been approached to play Don Cuijote in a film?

  6. Another BTW, Lorenzo, I think you will get a kick out of tomorrow's reading (June 9), which I've just typed up, in light of what you've written in your post. :)

  7. Rumi is everywhere I look. I've recently become a fan of Tumblr, where Rumi is quoted and "tumbled" through other people requoting & reposting, quite often.

    Love the one about friendship & ants. Lugging is lighter when it is shared.

  8. I am familiar with Rumi, but not the other two lovely blogs, which make for good exploring. So, off to follow a bit of bliss..thanks as always for an interesting post

    (desti is my word verification today, could it be destiny?)

  9. I smile at your choice of guides. That is some team you have accompanying you on your journey. I would love to read a Rumi poem written in Woody style.

  10. Ruth sent me here.
    What a lovely blog you have.
    Edward and I will be back!

  11. I'm glad to visit Steven's golden fish and find another poet of the likes of you and Terresa, all of you different and enriching me with new eyesight. Let the beauty we love be . . . what we find in special blogs!

  12. superb post lorenzo. thanks for the mention although i've no doubt that rumi's poetry and that of other sufi writers would eventually make its way into your experience regardless!! have a peaceful day. steven

  13. As a lover of Sufi poetry and Rumi I just can great this post,wonderful!And thanks for that lovely vision of Don Quixote and Sancho together with Woody and Rumi,smiling right now! Thank you!

  14. Well, I have always heard of Rumi, but I really haven't read these, so thanks to both you and Steven for such a beautiful introduction. Beautiful! Rumi and Woody are two I would not have connected, so that brings a smile to this face.

  15. Hi Lorenzo, thanks for introducing me to Rumi and to your musings, words and pictures are good together and soothing, in this crazy world.

    Thanks also for your comment on my "mecanical fountain" painting, it's great that you know that fountain with it's sculptures!

    Have a good day,
    greetings from Paris

  16. Hello and thanks to all you kind and appreciated commenters. I have tried to reply to all comments individually via gmail. For some reason, this can be done with some comments and not with others; I assume it depends on whether the commenter has a google account and/or how it is configured. Whatever, a few thoughts in reply to the comments seen here:

    Brian: I am sure that many others will find it as heartening as I do to hear that you did not pay much attention to poetry until recently, as your poetry is consistently rewarding and stimulating to read.

    Deb: You wonder why so much time has gone by before your realized how much beauty is out there, a question a lot of us ask ourselves. Today's post on Solitary Walker's blog (http://solitary-walker.blogspot.com/) has a nice quote on this from Picasso: "It takes a long tome to become young".

    Ruth: I had not heard about the new Don Quijote film with Robert Duvall (remember him as Boo Radley in 'To Kill a Mockingbird"?). I'll have to keep an eye out for it. Out of the many film versions done so far, I do not believe any have been wholly up to the challenge.

    Andrea (of parisdreamtime): Your painting of that sculptures in that fountain is a real delight.

  17. i have read Rumi, he tests my ability to think within myself. i have however discovered, that when i think to deeply, nothing good emerges. but with Rumi, i have taught myself to glide over his words, like an ice skater. he is very enjoyable that way as well.

    i really enjoyed this post, thank you for sharing.

  18. I loved this post! As I watch my daughter tilt at windmills (almost literally - she's 7 months now and "cruising" as they call it here), I'm glad that most of us grow a Sancho Panza/Woody on our shoulders. But definitely important to keep Don Quijote/Rumi alive!

  19. my life had become too Woody, so I decided to include more Rumi.

    and once I did, I never missed Woody, not for a minute.


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