Monday, December 12, 2005

fleet of both feet

No one solves this problem for me, shows me:

Which way leads to water, which to mud?

Fear fills my heart with blood; the road splits here

And I must choose: Which way will take me home?

#1460: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

Key word: problem

Yesterday I discovered the small bird dead in its protective cage. It had finally succumbed to the injuries it incurred from our cat. In its small way it reminded us of the suffering in the world and of the cruelty of nature in the raw. I wasn't so sure we had really helped much. It may have been more merciful to let the cat finish it off rather than let it die "in peace" over a two day span. The cat continued to crouch at the aviary's edge, terrifying it still for it could not understand that it was safe. I think it died of fear in the end.

Yesterday I also read an interesting article by Shunya titled On Early Islam, which contains rich detail on some key figures like Omar Khayyam, Al-Farabi and Ibn Al-Arabi. The chapter on Sufism, The Mystic Tide, gave me some much needed background on the place of mysticism within Islam. It has been a much more popular and accessible current than I had thought and I can see strong similarities with pop music culture of today. The 25th anniversary of John Lennon's death (8dec80) was marked with loving reverence that closely resembles the way great saints are revered among mystic traditions, both Islamic and Hindu.

The mystic path is often contrasted with the rational. Mystics and rationalists tend to view each other with some disgust. Rumi is depicting that conflict here as one between clear water and cloudy mud. Both mystics and rationalists see their way as leading to clarity and the other as leading to confusion. Interestingly too, both rely on (perhaps even hope for) tragic events in the lives of their opponents so that s/he will see the limitations of the path chosen. I would not wholeheartedly classify Rumi as a mystic for its clear to me that he sees both ways. He understands that there is a problem here and, at least in this verse, he doesn't actually commit either way.

To my own mind, the fastest way home is to use both feet, one treading in the style of the rationalist (or pragmatist) and one treading in the style of the mystic (or the romantic idealist). There is plenty of evidence in Rumi's writings that he was fleet of both feet.


At Tuesday, 13 December, 2005, Blogger Bob Hoeppner said...

Yes, I've read that keeping a cat and bird together can be very stressful for the bird.

Heard there was some race-rioting down you way.

At Tuesday, 13 December, 2005, Blogger Arizona said...

It's questionable whether the "race" tag is applicable. There is a type of loud aggressive Lebanese male that collects into gangs and plays havoc with our simple suburban peace of mind. Ironically, this guy is more likely Christian than Muslim. The Lebanese Muslims are just one group among many from Indonesia, Pakistan and other Middle East countries. For some reason that isn't clear to me "Lebanese" has now become a bad tag. Most Australians call everyone Australian. It is, in my experience, only Lebanese people who call people "Australian" to distinguish them from "Lebanese". To my mind, that is where the racism lies, squarely in the Lebanese camp. There is a religious component to the tension but the loud ones, as I say, are the Christians. Yet it is the Muslims who are bearing much of the brunt as shown by a large crowd gathering menacingly outside the major mosque here last night. A strong police presence kept things in order but these are troubling times.

We do have a large Lebanese population here in Sydney but we've had large Greek and Italian populations and no comparably violent "racism".

At Monday, 27 March, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I was searching for some Rumi quote & found your excellent site.
Unfortunately, many of the quoted & commented by you "Rumi rubais" are known apocrypha.
Zara Houshmand took not "academic", but "commercial" edition of the "Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi" in one volume (instead of the authentic 10 volumes by prof. Furuzanfar) that not only has many erroneously attributed rubais, but also an antiquated enumeration.
E.g. this rubai # 1460 doesn't belong Rumi, it wasn't found in the earliest Rumi manuscripts, and excluded from the academic edition by prof. Furuzanfar himself.
You may learn more about it here:

Sergey Sechiv

At Monday, 27 March, 2006, Blogger Arizona said...

Thank you for your comment, Sergey. I am aware of the views expressed at the website you've mentioned.


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