Sunday, November 04, 2007

the music, the dance

Rumi quotes in bold arabesque (orange).

Mawlānā Jalāl-ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, or just Rumi. I met his writing a couple of years ago. You can find a link to his poems on my sidebar. I had heard about him in Istanbul when we lived there in the late 1980s.

You picked up a handful of earth, I was in that handful.

Rumi was born in present day Afghanistan September 30, 1207. Apparently 2007 is the year of Rumi, celebrating his birth year 800 years ago. He died in Konya, Turkey, December 17, 1273. This carpet in our guest room is from Konya, where Rumi died and is buried.

Not until a person dissolves, can
he or she know what union is.

There is a descent into emptiness.
A lie will not change to truth

with just talking about it.

I’ve read that he’s the most popular poet in the U.S. (best selling). I find this surprising. I’m guessing 10 years ago not many had heard of him here. Is it surprising to you that an 800-year-old Persian poet is the most popular in the United States of America, more popular than Robert Frost or Maya Angelou? But if you pay attention to the boom in Eastern philosophy in this country, maybe it isn’t too surprising.

A lover wants only to be in love’s presence, an ocean whose depth will never be known.


Love’s work looks absurd, but trying to find a
meaning will hide it more. Silence.

And isn’t it a little ironic that a mystical Muslim is our poet, when our government has demonized Muslims? I am tired of being around such blindness. Oh, the beauty of poetry to bridge this gap.

Blessed is one who sees his weakness, and blessed is one who, when
he sees a flaw in someone

else, takes responsibility for it. Because, half of any person
is wrong and weak and off

the path. Half! The other half is dancing and swimming and
flying in the invisible joy.

Last night Coleman Barks, translator of Rumi in the volume I own, came to my University, and Inge and I went to hear him, and also to see the Whirling Dervishes after his reading.

Barks’ voice is deep and just a tad southern. (He was born in Tennessee and now lives in Atlanta.) For an hour and a half, he recited from memory or read Rumi on the mysteries and perplexities of love and life, accompanied by Glen Velez, drummer (please go to his link and see how amazing his playing is), and David Darling, cellist. Barks' strong voice supported by the beats of the drum and the pluck of the cello melded into a very easy-to-listen-to rhythmic cadence. Each artist alone would have forced my eyes closed in delight. But hearing the trio together, I simply sat in stunned bliss. Actually, it was a quartet, Rumi in the lead. Every moment the sunlight is totally empty and totally full.

Rumi asks, What is the heart? What is it to be a true human being? What is in the human exchange?

After Rumi’s death, the Mevlevi Sufi Order was founded, they are the Whirling Dervishes.

Following Barks’ reading, Velez’ drumming and Darling’s cello playing, two Whirling Dervishes whirled in a performance. Dervishes believe their ecstasy from union with God culminates in this dance.

I was a little troubled, even beforehand, by the prospect of watching this practice, because it felt as if I would be watching something intimate, and I wondered how this could be conjured for a show?

Be a clear and rational lunatic.

So mostly I just closed my eyes and listened to the Sufi musical foursome from Chicago play for the Dervishes. They too were earnest, and I appreciated their devotion, all of them.

The two dancers walked in ceremoniously, dressed in white gowns covered by black robes. It’s now time to live naked.

But the event for me was about listening to the words of a man who thought he
could find a way through fire, expressed through the artistry of three men whose gifts and skills match the depths of a poet’s words still alive after 800 years.
You’ve been walking the ocean’s edge,
holding up your robes to keep them dry. You

must dive naked under and deeper under, a thousand
times deeper! Love flows down. The ground

submits to the sky and suffers what comes. Tell
me, is the earth worse for giving in like that?


JoAnn - NL "My digital eyes" :) said...

Hi Ruth,
The real Ruth, thoughtfull, informative, surprising, and a wonderfull person, thanks for sharing this great information and photo's I loved reading it!

What do you eat in the morning?
Look at my blog and see my Dutch(part of ) breakfast:)

Greetings JoAnn:)

mystic rose said...


Thank you for this. All the poems and quotes you chose are beautiful!! Each one to be silently felt and melt into.

That must have been some amazing experience. Coleman Barks is a wonderful interpreter of Rumi, thought hte only true interpreter is our own spirit, the divine spark within us.

I think Ruth, more and more each of eveolves, and love is the evolving force. Just for the sake of love, till now love has been a one ot one thing, born of relations, friendships, family, and now sometimes we see that it exists for its own sake..between souls thousands of miles apart or eons away ..and it flows through us, about us, among us, perhaps we will all evolve that way. One would have to be just a simple soul to be there.

Anonymous said...

Oooo! I love the Dervishes' hats! I want to get me one!

Raw Kale said...

Very lovely. At first I was wondering if the blue and gold was for Michigan, and then I saw it next to your favorite scarf and understood:D

I have the Music Tribute to Rumi by artists like Deepak Chopra and Madonna. Have you seen it? Would you like a listen?

lesleyanne said...

i have never been as partial to poetry as you, but this moved me.

A lover wants only to be in love’s presence, an ocean whose depth will never be known.

all of his words are so heart-felt. i can see why you adore him so.

i love the photo of the book, with your necklace following the line under the title. what a graphic yet organic photo. i have so many memories of that necklace. i don't even think i've seen you wear since i was very young! ahh childhood.

(can you tell i've been watching P&P?) so inspiring! thank you for sharing. i'm so glad you got to stay up past your bedtime and hear and see something so beautiful.
i love you.

Britt-Arnhild said...

Thanks for this information. I have never heard about this poet, but now you have made me too curious. I will have to look for one of his books.

Ruth said...

Dear JoAnn, thank you for your kind words. I loved your egg photo! And my breakfast changes every day. Glad you're feeling better.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Mystic Rose. I'm glad you liked it.

As you describe this love evolution, I know it's true, because I feel it in my own heart, my own life. Sometimes I have so much of it I feel I will burst, and that must be what these dervishes feel in their ecstasy of God's love.

You manage to convey this through your blog, and I appreciate it with each post.

Ruth said...

Heather, I admire the hats too. They entire image is very easy to watch, mesmerizing actually. But still, I felt a little awkward.

Ruth said...

RK, I have not seen or heard about that music tribute to Rumi. I would be interested, yes.

Yes, I wore that scarf to the event, Inge had given it to me years ago. I associate this color with Rumi, because it's the color of my book. :) Interestingly, the speaker at the event, before Coleman Barks, she wore a jacket this color, and that pleased me.

Ruth said...

Yes, sweet Lesley, I can hear something special in your voice, but it didn't occur to me that it was P&P! :D

Thank you for noticing the necklace on the book! I arranged that just for you, hehe. I wore the necklace to the event, since it is Turkish, and you're right, I hadn't worn it in some time.

I think Rumi must be so popular here because he is so accessible. The speaker at the event, before Barks, talked about how an artist has the task of both surprising the audience, and connecting with what the audience already knows. That combination of surprise and universal understanding is, I think, what makes Rumi still alive after 800 years.

Thank you, sweet girl. I love you so much.

Ruth said...

Britt-arnhild, I'm excited that I introduced you to this poet! What a treasure. I only wish I understood Persian and could read it in the original language.

I recommend my book, The Soul of Rumi. The Essential Rumi is good too, but the Soul one has wonderful interludes by Coleman Barks, which have become just as valuable to me as Rumi's poems.

Catherine Mary said...

The evening sounds so "lush" filled with color, lovely words, and exotic sounds. I, too, couldn't have watched the dancers. It would have been like listening in on someone's private prayers.

Ruth said...

Catherine Mary, "lush" is a good word, yes it was lush. Almost more than I could take in.

Olivia Kroth said...

Hello Ruth,

I found your blog through Britt-Arnhild.
Rumi's poetry is wonderful, very mystical and philosophical.
I also saw the swirling derwish dancing at the Opera House in Frankfurt many years ago.
I meant to travel to Konya one day but have not made it there yet.

Ruth said...

Olivia, thank you for visiting and commenting. Yes, I had mixed feelings watching the dervishes. But the man especially was something to behold, very devout-looking.

Please go to Konya. Turkey is a remarkable place to visit, and as amazing as Istanbul is, the eastern cities have a flavor of their own, of course.

Ginnie said...


Ruth said...

I think you would have loved it, Boots.

Rauf said...

Ruth, my name is rauf, but there are many raufs so people would call me rauf Madrasi, because i lived in Madras(now called Chennai)
But it would be wrong to call me just Madrasi. rauf is my name not Madrasi.

This chap was Jalaluddin, his mom would have yelled Hey JALAAL, go get some milk.
Jalaal - ud- din. Means pride of Religion, Islaam in this case. So he is the Pride of Islaam. Jalaal can be extreme of emotions. Extreme love extreme hatred extreme anger. Result of such extreme emotion is only burning himself.
for instance
JALAAL decended on him and he burnt the entire city. or JALAAL took hold of him and he took his own life in love of some one. A person turns red in JALAAL.

After the crusades, the entire Europe till gibralter was occupied by muslims (illegal occupation and spread of Islaam by sword, in the East till Indonesia there is no sword in spreading of Islaam.)
In Arabic Faarsi and Urdu, Rome was called Rume pronounced ROOM. Perhaps Jalaluddin's dad travelled there and settled in Rome for some time perhaps. So He is called Jalaaluddin RUMI, Rumi is not his name like Madrasi is not my name.
its just a person who lived in Rome. Luckily the spelling of ROME as RUME was maintained and Rumi could be marketed successfully in Europe and the US. No one would have touched or given a second look at Jalaaluddin's thoughts or poetry. Now Rumi is famous. No one knows Jalaluddin, the real name.

People think and behave differently under the influence of a medium. Alcohol drugs, like LAD marijuana hashish what is the chinese thing Ruth ? opium yes. Hashish was quite common in Islaamic world. Same is applied for extreme love, hatred jealousy or obsession. i would place Jimi Hendrix, jim morrison, Buddha and Rumi at the same level. Extrme emotion can lead you to think very differently. where as i rely only on thoughts emerging out of normal mental condition. hehehehe. i am no rumi or Hendrix Ruth. in other words, these guys were abi-normal.
i don't say being abnormal is something bad. It can be both good and bad. My friend Hitler was obsessed with the idea that he was a true Christian and he was a vegetarian too, believed he was a saint. look what the saint did, he shook the world. and still till 2007 the Church, the Vatican in particular hasn't condemned Hitler's actions. Hitler was abinormal too.

Rauf said...

LSD not LAD Ruth,

Ruth said...

Thank you, rauf, for the good explanation of the naming of Rumi.

I love Rumi's poetry. Full stop.

You're not abi-normal, rauf? What a disappointment. :(

~*~Magpie's Nest said...

thank you SO much for sending this link to me ... we were not allowed to take pics at Wash Cathedral, I certainly was tempted (w/o flash of course)
there were sixteen Mevlevi singer-musicians and whirling dervishes performing the ritual that we witnessed Oct 2008, Faruk Celebi Efendi, world leader of the Mevlevi Sufis and a descendent of Rumi (wow!) gave the opening remarks
there was a reader in English and another read Rumi in Farsi which was especially beautiful ... music upon music to the ears
it is an experience we will never forget
thank you for this wonderful post ... I never found words to do a post about it :)

Ruth said...

Patty, your dervishes must have been something, quite expert, and the leader descended from Rumi! I had no idea such a person existed.

Reading in Farsi must have been very beautiful, and as it should be. I have heard about readings of poetry in the original tongues, in many languages, and I think that would be quite musical.

deb said...

followed the link here.

I don't want to keep my hems dry. I have to remember this.

Louise Gallagher said...

I was in my twenties (just a handful of years ago... haha!) when I received my first book of Rumi poetry. He moved me then. He moves me now.

I am soooo envious of your night with Rumi Coleman Barks and the others! And I am sooo grateful you shared it here with us.

Thank you!

Beautiful words and images as always.

Achei, Gostei e Comprei said...

Amazing experience and words, loved to hear all the story.