U2 Now Scrolls Rumi Poem Azadi in Solidarity With Artists 4 Freedom
The Irish rock band U2, during a concert for their new album No Line on the Horizon, bathed the concert hall in Barcelona in a rich green and scrolled what appeared to be Rumi's The Song of the Reed Flute or alternately titled in a translation by Philip Dunn, Manuela Dunn Mascetti and R.A. Nicholson - On Separation and Words. Video of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" with Rumi's poem can be seen at: U2 and Rumi
Krista Tippett writes that "In the Song of the Reed, Rumi reflects on the human spirit through the metaphor of the ancient reed flute or ney that is popular in Middle Eastern music. This poem opened the Masnavi, Rumi's compendium of rhyming couplets that explored issues of Sufi theology and the spiritual journey."
I post the poem in full in solidarity with the struggle in Iran:
( Please buy the book and Coleman Bark's heartfelt translations of Rumi also belong on your bookshelf.)
On Separation and Words
- Jalalu'ddin Rumi - 13th century Sufi
Listen to the reeds as they sway apart,
hear them speak of lost friends.
At birth, you were cut from your bed,
crying and grasping in separation.
Everyone listens, knowing your song.
You yearn for others who know your name,
and the words to your lament.
We are all the same, all the same longing to find our way back;
Back to the one, back to the only one.
Everywhere I told my story,
to the sad and the happy.
Everyone came close, but only
with their own secrets, never knowing mine.
My secret is hidden also from me,
for the light shines only outward.
The body and soul are intimate friends
but the soul remains secret from us all.
The sounds of the reed are like fire not wind,
and without the fire we are nothing.
The fire of the reed is the fire of Love,
the passion and heat of Love is in the wine.
This reed bends to spent lovers and friends,
its song and its word break the veil,
Both danger and delight, satyr and repletion,
the reed engorges and depletes, both.
The sensible are deaf, though the mindless listen,
the tongue wags only for the ear.
Our sadness spreads the days short, for time
walks hand-in-hand with painful thoughts and fears.
But let these loathsome days go by, who cares?
Stay in the moment, that holy moment,
your only moment, until the next-holier still.
We are thirsty fish in His blissful water,
like the starving buried in the feast of His sustenance.
So young our understanding, so mature
our surrounding-say less, learn more, depart.
And sons break free!
When will you let go your ambitions?
How much of the ocean fills your jar?
More than a day?
But the eye-never full-
yearns more than the heart-replete,
The oyster-shell forms the pearl only
when already filled.
Only the garment of love banishes desire and defect,
the panacea of ills,
As the garden-flowers fade, the bird's song dies.
The Beloved contains, the lover invades,
for the Beloved ignites the lover's pyre.
If love recalls, the lover swoops to the ground.
How blind my eyes when Her light is extinguished?
How will you see in the mirror
if the dust is so thick?
Love commands the word
for this is the marrow of your eyes.
From the Book of the Mathnawi by Rumi translated by Philip Dunn, Manuela Dunn Mascetti and R.A. Nicholson in their volume The Illustrated Rumi, published by Harper, San Francisco. The wonderful edition includes a forward by the brilliant religious scholar, Huston Smith.
Below is the transcript of a conversation between Rumi scholar Fatemeh Keshavarz and Krista Tippett, host of Speaking of Faith from American Public Media:
We’ve selected more of Rumi’s poems for you to hear and read on our Web site, speakingoffaith.org, along with images and explanations of the whirling dervishes. I’m Krista Tippett, and this is Speaking of Faith from American Public Media. Today, we’re dipping into the ideas and spiritual background of Rumi, a 13th-century Muslim mystic whose poetry is celebrated by an array of modern readers.
Ms. Keshavarz: (reciting) Listen to the story told by the reed of being separated. Since I was cut from the reed bed, I have made this crying sound. Anyone apart from someone he loves understands what I say. Anyone pulled from a source longs to go back. At any gathering, I'm there, lingering and laughing and grieving, a friend to each, but few will hear the secrets hidden within the notes. No ears for that. Body flowing out of spirit, spirit out from body, no concealing that mixing. But it's not given us to see, so the reed flute is fire, not wind. Leave that empty.
Ms. Tippett: There's a theme that is part of that, that runs all the way through, about separation and longing as part of — well, not just the spiritual life, but being human, and also a kind of sense that the separation and the longing themselves are a kind of arrival.
Ms. Keshavarz: On one level, you have to get on the road. You have to get started, you know, just like the earth that, you know, have to plow the earth, you have to get moving. On another level, time and again he reminds us that the destination is the journey itself. So there isn't a point where you say, 'OK, I'm here, I've reached, I'm done, I'm perfect. I don't need to do anything anymore.' In the incompleteness of that, the need to move forward is inherent in that incompleteness, in the process of going forward that you make yourself better and better and you, in a way, never reach. So the separation is the powerful force that keeps you going. If you ever felt that I have arrived I've reached, this is it, then you wouldn't go any further.
Ms. Tippett: You know, and I think it is counterintuitive in our culture — not that we necessarily think this through very often, but we think of desires and longings as something that we need to find something to meet, right?
Ms. Keshavarz: Yes, yes. And we want to meet it really fast.
Ms. Tippett: Yes.
Ms. Keshavarz: Exactly.
Ms. Tippett: Because somehow the feeling of longing and separation from whatever it is, especially if we don't know what it is we want, that that is unsatisfying and there's something wrong with that. And yet what Rumi is saying is that, you know, the longing itself is redemptive and is progress, kind of.
Ms. Keshavarz: Yes. And the longing itself — and also not to understand exactly what that longing is, in itself, is very productive. I think one idea or major concept that the Sufi tradition and Rumi in particular have to contribute to our current culture is value in perplexity, the fact that not knowing is a source of learning, something that propels us forward into finding out. Longing, perplexity, these are all very valuable things. We want to unravel things and get answers and be done, but as far as he's concerned, it's a continual process. We can't be done. And that's good.
Ms. Tippett: I also have a feeling that Rumi is saying we also, though, at the same time need to be intentional about what we choose to be perplexed by. Does that make sense? I mean there's this poem: "Stay bewildered in God and only that. Those of you who are scattered, simplify your worrying lives. There is one righteousness. Water the fruit trees and don't water the thorns. Be generous to what nurtures the spirit and God's luminous reason-light. Don't honor what causes dysentery and knotted-up tumors. Don't feed both sides of yourself equally. The spirit and the body carry different loads and require different attentions."
Ms. Keshavarz: Yes. Yes. I think the energy can't go in all directions completely in control and you have to choose because you have one life. You have to spend it wisely. So absolutely, he would say choose, be selective, recognize your own value. At another point he says, 'You are an astrolabe to God, you know, don't use yourself for things that are not worthwhile.'
But I want to linger a little bit on that idea of being scattered because that's a key concept in Sufi thought. And actually it's something that the Buddhists also talk about a lot. And that is our mind just jumps from one thing to the other and, you know, the Sufis call it the onrush of ideas into our minds. And in some ways, if we allow it, it takes us over, you know. You know, what am I going to do about that credit card? You know, how am I going to — what do I do about this student paper, you know, whatever else is that you're concerned with, my family, my kids, my future. So it all invades your life and so in a way you're pulled in all directions. You're scattered. So one of the purposes of his poetry and one of the concepts the Sufis talk about is to collect that scatteredness.
More on Rumi at:
The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi
Buy the books at:
The Illustrated Rumi
A Year with Rumi: Daily Readings
by Coleman Barks
In digital form: Rumi: Bridge To the Soul
by Coleman Barks
"Rumi's poetry feels like it belongs to all. When Rumi died in 1273, members of all religions came to the funeral. Wherever you stand, his words deepen your connection to the mystery of being alive."
Much more at:
The Song of the Reed (part one)