This will be a new series of blog posts on Rumi’s selected works, selected by me only because there’s a little in them for me to connect too. Hopes you connect to them to.
What fascinates a native Persian speaker in their thirties is the fact that words are uncannily as bipolar as the some-thousand-year-old culture, and as some may argue, a large majority of its people. However, the bipolarity is also the very essence of creation of meaning beyond conventions and as I argue, in a more philosophical realm. Paradoxes are part of that bipolarity. Love and hate. Knowing and ignorance. Caring and not caring. Empathy and apathy. Take a look below at the few lines from a Rumi poem. (It’s ok not to know Rumi, so click on the name to know more about him.) The translations are intentionally “purely” literal just so I can take on them beyond their literality. So be patient, especially if you know Persian, and you know it well enough to suffer before you read on at the end.
ای عاشقــان ای عاشقـان پیمانه را گم كرده ام
O’ lovers! O’ lovers! I have lost the gauge
دركنج ویران مــــانده ام ، خمخــــانه را گم كرده ام
I am left abandoned in the corner of the ruins and have lost trace of the wine-house (even more literally: the vat storage)
Ok, back to the literality and the non-literary. Rumi’s poetry is so simple to read that it’s almost too difficult to understand while reading. It sets the pace easy but you’ll also find yourself lost in meaning if you go with the literal pace.
In the beginning here, “I have lost the gauge”. The gauge in Persian has two meanings: the literal gauge (a container) and the container (the container used by a drunken, mad, vagabond.) The second container here is a depiction of a struggle we face in a life time, from birth to death, searching for meaning. So, vagabond is not a person, although it is. It’s you and it’s me. If you think you’ve found the meaning, you’re probably not a vagabond. You’re staying in a hotel and you can afford it. But also here, gauge is the capacity. In Persian, if you lose the capacity (the gauge), you’re incapacitated. You’re debilitated. Debilitated by the search for a meaning you haven’t found yet, and that there’s a chance you won’t. But why lovers should know this? Because that’s what love does to you. It causes the incapacitation. But it’s also the cure for it because why would you even seek shelter from love in the first place?
Not only that, why would lovers understand the meaning of incapacitation? Are they incapacitated? (I’ll let you think about it next time you fall in love.)
Let’s move to the next line:
“I am left abandoned in the corner of the ruins and have lost trace of the wine-house” (even more literally: the vat storage)
It’s the self-inflicted abandonment he is talking about. It’s all ruins. Love doesn’t build. It ruins. And you just sit there and watch, well, I think only because you either sit afterwards, drink and cry, or gather all the hopes for building what love ruined for you. There’s a lot to build after love strikes. For Rumi, it’s the first choice, to sit, drink and perhaps watch. But he’s also lost trace of the wine-house. He’s doubly lost. So he probably has to only watch, sitting in the corner of the ruins. Oh, and for Rumi, and for all of us in the Persian language, “corner” is beyond an angular position. It’s loneliness. It’s abandonment, again. However, worth saying this here, he’s not cornered by the circumstances cause by love. He’s aware of the ruins love has left behind, but he only happens to have been cornered. Again, by self-infliction. You can’t ask anyone else to fall in love for you. It’s your job, your very own.
Alright, two lines for now. I’ve self-inflicted too much thinking on myself. And also time for you to think about all of this. If you’re in love, enjoy the ruins until next time I come back with more. If you’re not in love yet, don’t worry. No one waits for ruins. It must inflict itself upon you, and hopefully it will.
Listen to Learning to fly