Poet’s corner: A special appearance from 13th century Persia

Each Note 
(excerpted from the full poem)
Life freezes if it doesn’t get a taste
of this almond cake.
The stars come up spinning
every night, bewildered in love.
They’d grow tired with that revolving, if they weren’t.
They’d say, “How long do we have to Do this!”
God picks up the reed-flute world and blows.
Each note is a need coming through one of us,
a passion, a longing-pain.
Remember the lips
where the wind-breath originated,
and let your note be clear.
Don’t try to end it.
BE Your Note.
I’ll show you how it’s enough.
Go up on the roof at night
in the city of the soul.
Let Everyone climb on their roofs
and sing their notes!
Sing loud!
— Jelal al-Din Rumi, 13th c. Sufi poet
This poem has been following me around one way or another for close to 20 years, and every now and then I find certain of its lines coming to mind. Maybe it’s just me and being middle aged, or maybe it’s the times we are living in, but it seems life can freeze up way too easily and often these days. We can easily forget our joy and even what that feels like when life becomes too full of tasks, when we don’t take the time to pause and reflect. Am I well? Am I on a life path I want to be on? Am I being the note I was meant to be in this world? I think the ancient mystic poets like Rumi, Hafiz, Kabir are here to keep waking us up (and keep us defrosted).
Rumi’s language carries such an exquisiteness and beauty that it’s hard not to feel within them a connection to the divine within us, to the higher intelligence of the universe, to god, or whatever realm one relates to. Many poets have expressed similar ideas, but there is something unique, I think, about the ancient poets. Each note is a need coming through one of us, a passion, a longing pain. Who else has ever spoken that way? Who among us would even know how to?
Yet we can feel deeply what Rumi means, even if we can’t quite explain it. We might feel this way when a part of us stays unexpressed for too long, when we are disconnected from ourselves or others, and from the source that created us. Yet to feel such a longing pain is a step toward becoming unfrozen; a step toward love and fuller human expression. It is a line and a feeling well worth exploring within the particular context of our life.
Remember the lips where the wind-breath originated, and let your note be clear.
Philosophers, poets, and even some scientists have written over the ages about the connection between life callings and the soul. In his teachings about the soul and the body, Aristotle said, “We each embody our own idea.” The 20th century spiritual ecologist Thomas Berry went a step further and tied the concept more intricately to the physical, describing the soul as “a unifying principle” of a living being, allowing the genes to function in a coherent manner. He believed our genetic coding allows us to “establish our ecological niche for ourselves in partnership with other species, and most significantly, that it guides and inspires us and to do so sustainably, gracefully — perhaps even beautifully.”
So we each have our own particular niche to fill, shaped by our genes, our environment, and the soulful stuff of our being that came before all of that. But there can be a lot these days between us and that deeper awareness. Rumi didn’t have a formula, but he was big on surrounding himself with beauty. And he was an advocate of melting, of letting go, and of surrendering. To what? To love, in its many forms, including to what created us, to what turned us into the unique mix of atoms that created our particular DNA. And so, too, to the abilities and gifts we carry within us, especially those that bring us joy and energy. Most likely these are the same gifts that the world is needing from us right now.
Remember the lips
where the wind-breath originated,
and let your note be clear.
Don’t try to end it.
BE your Note.
I’ll show you how it’s enough.
Carry these lines around with you for a while. Memorize them until they live in your bones. Then see what happens.
Susan Jefts is a poet and educator living in Cornwall whose work has been published throughout the state and country. She is currently working on a book of poetry and will be offering workshops using the poetry of Rumi and other ancient poets to explore our lives and what we feel called to. For more info, contact her at s[email protected]. Her website is www.manyriverslifeguidance.com.

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