You see flag-lions playing in the wind,
leaping about, but you don’t see wind.

You can say if it’s an east wind or a west,
healthy or destructive, but little else.

The body is like the lion of the banner.
Vital weather blows and makes it dance,

and then die down. The flag-lion
drops its haunches and looks up.

There is an invisible reality
the closed eye sees in dream,

a sun and a moon. Spirit, a perfection,
shines inside our nights and days.

Sleep is death’s brother, but there are
many varieties of sleep. Learn about them!

Some people behold, sleeping, representations
of an awareness they will not reach, awake,

for twenty years. They run to scholarly
dream-interpreters, more out of curiosity

than anything else. Stay in the root
of your dream.
Don’t climb out on

intellectual branches. We need robust elephants
who lay down lost in a vision of Hindustan.

Remember and return are not pulling everyone,
just those deep-desiring elephants.

Donkeys never dream of India. But you can become
an elephant, even if you’re a donkey now!

Unseen alchemists speak of this in your ear
every moment. Listen to them. Feel

their touchings. Discover the new healing
plants that come up at dawn. Study

the life of Ibrahim, who changed suddenly
because of what he saw in his sleep.

He cut the ropes that held him and began wandering,
as Muhammed said, somewhere between the sad

attachments of the senses and a pure
union with light. Your own transformation,

like the play of wind with a flag, moves
in you now, that near, that simple.

Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī, 1207-1273

28 September 2011, 18:20

Your Turn


The Mouse and The Cheese

A little more than a year ago, when The Republic moved to Chelsea, I was looking for supplies to make some Mechanicals.

I wandered into a small, impossibly cluttered stationary store around the corner called Boro Art. The place predates the influx of affluence and commerce to the area, and rests quietly beside one of the largest trees on the block. The owner was sitting at his desk, surrounded by papers, and beckoned me to come in and sit with him.

We (he, really) talked for an hour, and I was not at all prepared for such an intense encounter with wisdom. Beyond the fact that I was on a mission for double-sided tape, my worldview was such that I simply wasn’t available at all times. It pains me to type those words, and this marks them as true.

A lot of the conversation I took in a comical way; the fire in his eyes threw me off. But one story in particular stayed with me, a parable about a mouse. I repeated it to anyone that would listen in the days afterwards, so taken was I with it.

Today, I took a lunch break from packing the office (the shop is moving at the end of this week) to eat at La Taza de Oro, easily my favorite lunch spot in the neighborhood. Strolling back, I saw the green awning of Boro Art and flashed back to that conversation.

I considered the distance between then and now, and marveled at how long—and short—one year can be.

And for the life of me, I couldn’t remember how the parable went. I’d lost it. I looked in the open door of the shop, and through a narrow aisle between shelves bent and groaning under the weight of haphazardly stacked stationary supplies, sat the owner. Just as he was, a year prior.

The parable is still worth sharing. The rest of our conversation, I’ll keep within.

28 September 2011, 15:43

Your Turn