Be empty of worrying
Think of who created thought
Why do you stay in prison
When the door is wide open?
Move outside the tangle of fear thinking.
Live in silence.
Flow down and down in always
Widening rings of being.
A Rumi (Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī Maulana) classic from the ‘The Essential Rumi‘ collection, translated by Coleman Barks with John Moyne. I love how this man who lived so long ago (1207-1273) continues to inspire both with his (translated) words and with the story of his life. As a twenty-something I came across ‘The Love Poems by Rumi‘ (translated by Fereydoun Kia and edited by Deepak Chopra) and was deeply moved by them, and also enjoyed novels about his life such as ‘Rumi’s Daughter‘ and ‘The Forty Rules of Love‘.
These days, I’m more aware of the cultural appropriation criticism on many of the popular translations of his work (for example, see here), and how Western translators with little knowledge of the original language or Muslim context have been so very liberal with their ‘translations’ that little of the origins remain. And it raises questions about how much of what I enjoy is actually Rumi’s, and how can I – or is it even possible for me to – understand what the real Rumi wrote and meant, and is it “ok” for me to still enjoy the translations, even when I know they might come more from the heart and mind of the translator, inspired by their understanding of Rumi, many centuries later and on different continents, with different worldviews? Or am I then complicit in the erasing of Islam at a time in history where Islam gets so much bad press and Muslims are feared, oppressed and discriminated against in many parts of the world?
It’s an unresolved question for me, and I’m letting it rest here with the intention to stay curious around that, to explore it with others when the opportunity arises, and to look into other translations and further views on this topic in the future.
For now, I come back to the Coleman Bark’s words as they appear here, and let them in. ‘Be empty of worrying’ and allow myself to ‘move outside the tangle of fear thinking’… and I thank the thirteenth century Muslim mystic for inspiring this twentieth century Presbyterian-raised American to invite me to ‘live in the silence’.
In this moment.