(This posting is meant to be a companion to the post of April 10.)
The poet Robert Bly was speaking with a then young Coleman Barks in 1976 and suggested that he study the Persian poet Rumi with an eye to translating his works. Thus began an enormous lifetime’s vocation and even more importantly a huge gift to Western Civilization. For it is to Coleman Barks that we owe the contemporary interest in one of the foremost mystics of human history.
So today I share this poem of Rumi with a few comments.
The longing of the mystic is its own reward. Our seeking itself is the inner voice of God inviting us to ascend, to climb the stairs not from a sense of lack but a sense we belong there. Our birth right is ascension. The longing is union. The ache in our heart is the voice of God speaking. Inviting us to climb the stairs, to move upward to exert the effort to mature.
One night a man was crying,
His lips grew sweet with the praising,
until a cynic said,
“So! I heard you
calling out, but have you ever
gotten any response?”
The man had no answer to that.
He quit praying and fell into a confused sleep.
He dreamed he saw Khidr, the guide of souls,
In a thick green foliage,
“Why did you stop praising?”
“Because I’ve never heard anything back.”
You express is the return message.”
The grief you cry out from
Draws you toward union.
Your pure sadness
that wants help
is the secret cup.
Listen to the moan of a dog for its master.
That whining is the connection.
There are love-dogs
No one knows the name of.
Give your life
to be one of them.
(in The Soul is Here For its Own Joy
Ed. By Robert Bly)
Rumi finds connection to the Divine in all ordinary events. He sees it watching animals, frivolity, music, dancing and even carousing in the local pub. When we long for connection we activate that which is within us. We embody the presence even when we despair of its reality in our lives. The One we call upon is the cup in the midst of all heart break.
There are many books of Rumi’s poetry translated by Barks available. My two personal favorites include The Essential Rumi and The Soul of Rumi. In addition, there are numerous you tube videos of Barks reading Rumi including Love Dogs. There is an especially sweet one of both Bly and Barks.