Rumi and Writing
I find Rumi’s widespread presence in America’s bookstores curious. In most of the anthologies, you read very little or nothing of the fact that Rumi was a Muslim scholar and amazing man of Islamic literature. I’ve always felt that Rumi became “Rumi Safe” because of the unconscionable disassociation between the poet and his spiritual motivation. Like others of his era (and those before and after), Rumi was informed by a dynamic literary tradition that is being swept away from popular awareness because of the effective radical Evangelical, Coulterized, al-Fox News, Talk Radio spook campaign of all things “Islamic.” Add to this the inexcusable quiet among America’s intelligentsia about the revisionist handling of Islamic civilization whose leadership for nearly a thousand years moved from a variety of “ethnic” and “linguistic” experiences: Arab, Swahili, Hindi, Turkish, Urdu, and more. What bound this civilization was the ideal of Islam and not some ephemeral geographical or political handshake.
What brought me to this subject is something that Rumi said about writing. He says: “There is an unseen sweetness in the stomach’s emptiness. . . . Be empty and write secrets.” What he means here by “secrets” are surprisingly profound insights that mysteriously come out of a writer—insights that were lodged somewhere within yet uninvited into the public realm. He then compares people to reed pens, wooden instruments that do not function unless first hollowed out.
I’ve read about some of the habits of writers that seem to be quirks, but are actually important preparatory and conditioning states that help a writer produce prose or poetry that is authentic and accessible. The habits range from clothing, diet, meditation, etc.
It is said that when Jalaluddin Rumi died (December 17, 1273) men of five religious traditions followed his bier. He is buried in Konya, Anatolia (Turkey) and his grave site is regularly visited by Muslims and folks of all faiths.
Well, here's the larger quote of Rumi (rahmatullahi alayhi) on writing. Don't get mad, but I had no choice but to get it from Barks, since my Farsi (Persian) does not exist.
There is an unseen sweetness in the stomach’s emptiness. We are lutes. When the soundbox is filled, no music can come forth. When the brain and the belly burn from fasting, every moment a new song rises out of the fire. The mists clear, and a new vitality makes you spring up the steps before you. Be empty and cry as a reed instrument. Be empty and write secrets with a reed pen. When satiated by food and drink, an unsightly metal statue is seated where your spirit should be. When fasting, good habits gather like helpful friends. Fasting is Solomon’s ring. Don’t give in to illusion and lose your power. But even when will and control have been lost, they will return when you fast, like soldiers appearing out of the ground, or pennants flying in the breeze.