attended a wonderful event at RIT today. it started with the splendid shahin monshipour giving us some background on mevlana jalaluddin rumi’s early life and his mind-blowing encounter with shams-i tabrizi. she went on to play some “ney” (long reed flute which has existed for 5000 yrs) while she recited rumi’s poetry in farsi, one of the most melodious languages on earth. rumi used the metaphor of the ney to explain how god’s breath can pass through us if we are yielding enough. just like the ney longs to become one with the reed it came from, so do we long to go back to our source, our creator. shahin was followed by babak elahi who spoke about love-sickness and the healing powers of poetry. according to research, PET scans of people who are in love are v similar to people who are obsessive compulsive. he recounted the story of layla and majnun by nizami. majnun literally means possessed by jinns or demons. he became love-sick not only on account of layla’s sensual beauty but also because it was a reflection of her maker. he told the first story in rumi’s masnavi which is about heart sickness and healing thru the death of “nafs” or ego. there was more poetry reading by john roche and amelia fontanel. finally, we watched “fragments of light 6″, a short film by naho taruishi and zahra partovi. shown on a screen that meets at 90 degrees in the center, much like a giant open book, the film consists of light projection that mirrors the visual mood and feel of rumi’s poems. it’s like stepping into a different world, a different rhythm. lovely.
“The Song of the Reed”
1. Listen to the song of the reed,
How it wails with the pain of separation:
2. “Ever since I was taken from my reed bed
My woeful song has caused men and women to weep.
3. I seek out those whose hearts are torn by separation
For only they understand the pain of this longing.
4. Whoever is taken away from his homeland
Yearns for the day he will return.
5. In every gathering, among those who are happy or sad,
I cry with the same lament.
6. Everyone hears according to his own understanding,
None has searched for the secrets within me.
7. My secret is found in my lament‚
But an eye or ear without light cannot know it . . .”
9. The sound of the reed comes from fire, not wind‚
What use is one’s life without this fire?
10. It is the fire of love that brings music to the reed.
It is the ferment of love that gives taste to the wine.
11. The song of the reed soothes the pain of lost love.
Its melody sweeps the veils from the heart.
12. Can there be a poison so bitter or a sugar so sweet
As the song of the reed?
A. To hear the song of the reed
everything you have ever known must be left behind.
Version by Johathan Star. From “Rumi: In the Arms of the
Beloved.” (New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1997). [Lines indicated by a capital letter are invented and have no basis in the Persian text.]