Rumi’s poetry: Seeing and seeing why

 This morning I’ve been reading a few of Rumi’s poems.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read them before.  The delight keeps growing.  The power of these verses is so great that I like to read just one or two at a time. Here are two quotations from today’s reading:

“An eye is meant to see things.

The soul is here for its own joy.”

 “Mysteries are not to be solved.  The eye goes blind

when it only wants to see why.”

 The poem that these two extracts come from is called ‘Someone digging in the ground’.  This title is a bit obscure but it does make sense.  Read the whole poem and you will see why. But do remember Rumi’s warning about what happens if you only want to see why.

The general theme of the poem is the danger that the richness of direct lived experience will be lost if the mind – or the soul, seeking its proper joy – is clogged and cluttered by too much thought.

T.S.Eliot writes in The Four Quartets about having the experience but missing the meaning. In the so-called ‘developed’ countries the risk of getting the meaning but missing the experience is greater.

All of this has clear relevance to the experience that’s offered to us by visual art at its finest: that is, deep delight that keeps on growing as you keep on looking.  However,if you let concepts dominate images, as conceptual art does, then you deny the eye its freedom to do what it is meant to do.  And you deny the soul its joy.

The quotations above are from the Penguin Classics edition of selected poems by Rumi. The translator is by Coleman Banks.  I think it’s brilliant.

The entire collection of Rumi’s works is vast.

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