Rumi ~ My Soul Is From Elsewhere

This is a deeply reflective poem by Rumi (1207-1273) exploring the deep self of what some call the “soul”.

Above and Below was shot by Stefan Werc for the Bagong Silang documentary directed by Zena Merton and produced by Giselle Santos.

Setting: Navotas Cemetery, Manila, The Philippines.
Manila is one of the most overpopulated places on Earth.
There are over 2000 families living above the dead in the Navotas Cemetery. Babies are born and the dead are buried in the same place.
Life goes on.

“All day I think about it, then at night I say it.
Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?
I have no idea.
My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that,
And I intend to end up there.

This drunkenness began in some other tavern.
When I get back around to that place,
I’ll be completely sober. Meanwhile,
I’m like a bird from another continent, sitting in this aviary.
The day is coming when I fly off,
But who is it now in my ear who hears my voice?
Who says words with my mouth?

Who looks out with my eyes? What is the soul?
I cannot stop asking.
If I could taste one sip of an answer,
I could break out of this prison for drunks.
I didn’t come here of my own accord, and I can’t leave that way.
Whoever brought me here will have to take me home.

This poetry. I never know what I’m going to say.
I don’t plan it.
When I’m outside the saying of it, I get very quiet and rarely speak at all.

We have a huge barrel of wine, but no cups.
That’s fine with us. Every morning
We glow and in the evening we glow again.”

– Rumi


Rumi ~ The Inner Garment of Love


That spirit which does not wear
the inner garment of love
should never have been.
Its being is just shame.

Be drunken with Love,
For Love is all that exists.
Where is intimacy found,
If not in the give and take of Love?

If they ask what Love is,
Say, ‘the sacrifice of will.
If you have not left will behind,
You will have no will at all.’

The lover is a king of kings
With both worlds beneath him;
And a king does not regard
What lies at his feet.

Only Love and the lover
Can resurrect beyond time.
Give your heart to this –
The rest is second hand.

How long will you embrace
A lifeless beloved?
Embrace that entity
To which nothing can cling.

What sprouts up every spring
Will wither by autumn,
But the rose-garden of Love
Needs no special season.

Both the rose and the thorn
Appear together in spring,
And the wine of the grape
Is not without its headaches.

Do not be an impatient
Bystander on this path –
By God there is no death
Worse than expectancy.

Set your heart on hard cash
If you are not counterfeit,
And listen to my advice
If you are not a slave:

Don’t falter on the horse
Of the body – go lighter on foot.
God gives wings to those
Who are not content to ride an ass.

Let go of your worries
And be completely clear hearted,
Like the face of a mirror
That contains no images.

When it is empty of forms,
All forms are contained in it.
No face would be ashamed
To be so clear.

If you want a clear mirror,
Behold yourself,
And see the shameless truth
Which the mirror reflects.

If metal can be polished
To a mirror-like finish –
What polishing does the mirror
Of the heart require?

Between the mirror and the heart
Is this single difference:
The heart conceals secrets
While the mirror does not.

(Rumi. “The Ruins of the Heart”. Edmund Helminski. pp. 30-32)


Rumi ~ “The Laziest Son”


As a man is dying he tells the town judge to give all his inheritance to only one of his three sons – the one who is the laziest!  There is a fascinating dialog between each of the three sons and the judge to find who is laziest — in the form of a somewhat long Rumi poem … 

I share with you a segment – the judge’s encounter with the youngest :

The judge then asked the youngest brother,
“What if a man cannot be made to say anything?
How do you learn his hidden nature?”

”I sit in front of him in silence,
and set up a ladder made of patience,
and if in his presence a language from beyond joy
and beyond grief begins to pour from my chest,
I know that his soul is as deep and bright
as the star Canopus rising over Yemen.

And so when I start speaking a powerful right arm
of words sweeping down, I know him from what I say,
and how I say it, because there’s a window open
between us, mixing the night air of our beings.”

The youngest was, obviously,
the laziest. He won.

From The Essential Rumi, Translations by Coleman Barks with John Moyne