Exclusive Interview with Rumi

John Paul – So, finally, Rumi. Some folks know you as a poet. Some know you as the guy who created the whirling dervishes. Some know you from little quotes on the Internet. Some know you as one of the top selling poets in the USA … Who are you?

Rumi – Well, I guess I am all of those things. I am a Sufi, from the 13th century. I was the dean, I guess, of a religious school.

JP – Dean?

Rumi – Well, I was the leader of an Islamic school, I had assistants, scribes and followers, fans and critics.

JP – Sufi?

Rumi – I am the head of an order of mystics known as the Mevlevi Order. The word Sufi is complicated. Idries Shah tried to clear that up, but in some ways he muddied the water even more and for us Sufi, that is great work!

JP – The Whirling Dervishes? How did that dance come about?

Rumi – Well, man that is a big question! We were a group of people caught in a time and place when lots of religions were competing for followers. Jesus and his people were still around and since we were in Persia, we had big celebrations and ceremony. The dance came about I guess over time to replicate the new found science of the stars. That is why we turn counter clockwise. To replicate the cosmos spinning. The dance is outlawed in my home town. I guess we we were pretty radical.

JP – People still do it? The dance?

Rumi – Yes. There is a person even in Louisville, Kentucky, Kabir Helminski. He is of my order of Sufi and they dance. There are Sufi all over the world. Not all are Mevlevi.

JP – Coleman Barks, can you speak about him?

Rumi – What can I say? Aww Man, He is just like Shams. Ha! Southern Man, wild ass nut case! He is the reason my poetry is so popular in the United States. See, Shams got my ass in trouble, so, this guy came along, he was just a regular old tradesman, redneck kinda, he challenged me in-front of all my students, called me onto the carpet. Sort of “called the question” so to say. Well, after our first meeting we became good friends, I could not believe he had the nerve to challenge me! But we became such good friends that my followers, students, my work at the school, it all suffered. Even my own son got pissed off at me, I was spending all my time with Shams. Staying up late, talking and arguing, being wild. Shams showed me a different way of life. He got my ass in trouble is what he did.

JP – What about Mr. Barks?

Rumi – Well, us mystics work in strange ways. I needed a voice for my work and his was the best I could find.

JP – Mr. Barks tells a story about a Sufi coming to him in a dream and then later meeting him sort of by chance. The dream sounds like a pretty mystical sort of guru thing, kinda like an acid trip. Did you have anything to do with that?

Rumi – No. But I did have something to do with Robert Bly.

JP– Robert Bly? The Iron John, men’s group poet?

Rumi – Yes, him, but there is way more to him than that, Vietnam protester, activist, I guess he was to become Coleman’s Shams, hell I don’t know, I, in a roundabout way, suggested to Robert to introduce Coleman to an idea. To give him a spark of inspiration. That Sufi coming to Coleman in a dream, that was all Coleman. Like I said, We Sufi work in mysterious ways, things get put into action, you have a saying, “Perfect Storm?”

JP – What was the spark of inspiration?

Rumi – To “breathe some life” into some literal translations of my work.

JP – Did he do that?

Rumi – Well, I am one of the top selling poets in the United States! I guess he did. (laughing hysterically)

JP – So, what about the whole Sufi coming to Coleman in a dream? Do you believe that part of Coleman’s story?

Rumi – Yes, but like I said, I didn’t have anything to do with that. That was all Bawa Muhaiyaddeen‘s work there.

JP – Bawa?

Rumi – Well, he is the founder of a Sufi Fellowship in Philadelphia. He is a different order of Sufi than me. He was the one who came to Coleman in a dream. I think Coleman manifested that experience out of a fear of making money and success from my work.

JP – Were you upset about his profiting from your poetry?

Rumi – No, not at all, us Sufi, or at least some of us, we give it all away anyway and get screwed more than not for what we do anyway. I was happy to see my work get the “New Breath of Life!” I think Coleman needed to find out from somebody, who was a Sufi, if what he was doing with my work was “authentic.” And I guess be respectful about his inspired work. Bawa is a very good example of what a Sufi community could be and about the best Coleman could have conjured. The Bawa fellowship is quite different than my school, we danced, they don’t do the whirling dervish thing. Bawa came for other work to the USA.

JP – What was that work?

Rumi – Well, Bawa came to the USA back when the whole Hippie Guru thing had gone out of control. The Beatles and the Merry Pranksters and that whole culture had “gone off the rails.” Bawa appealed to that crowd. And his message of love, understanding and community resonated. No drugs, no alcohol, and Islam. Bawa’s fellowship, was a perfect living example to get a look into what an Islamic Sufi School would look like. In some ways, that is why I choose Robert Bly to get the ball rolling. Bawa told the hippies, you don’t need LSD and drugs to find enlightenment. Robert was from that generation. I recently found out that there were “whirling dervish,” spinners at Grateful Dead concerts.

JP – Why do you think Coleman Barks was the voice for you work?

Rumi – He is a Southern Man. Southern people think and live in stories. They tell stories, they take a long time to trust, take a long time with saying hello and goodbye. Southern traditions are slower than some other folks in the United States. Sufi’s teach in stories. We are I guess “Long Winded.” His deep southern charm was what made my poetry come to life.

JP – Some folks say that all he did was take the ISLAM out of it.

Rumi – Well, that is what they said I did, in my time. Not to mention, the fundamentalists always say that. Even the Christians, Buddhists, all religions have their traditionalists. What Coleman did was inspired work and he tells people that from, what he would say, “git go.” I did mention that my “Whirling Dervish Dance” is outlawed in my country? See, Sufi work is inspired. People looking for the literal translation of the Bible and the Quran, well any traditionalists for that matter are stuck in time and place. If Coleman was reporting to be ISLAMIC in nature, then there would be critical problems and a reason to be very upset that he was trying to report to be something his work is not.

JP – Why do you think the USA is the place your work saw a new life?

Rumi. Hippies. Well, seriously, the United States is supposed to be a melting pot. My work is a melting pot of words, work, songs, traditions. It just was that perfect storm, I guess. Things put in place. Robert Bly’s generation of Beat Poets and Coleman’s Hippies needed it. I hear even Steven Gaskin’s folks down in Tennessee have a Sufi Circle.

JP – Well, let’s change gears. What American Music do you enjoy?

Rumi – Ha! The Blues and Jazz. Sun Ra, whoa, I really like his work. I really like Bluegrass Music. Appalachia Rising, that group is onto something. John Hartford.

JP – Bluegrass Music?

Rumi – Yes, because it comes from small working communities. Hard working farm small town people. That is what my Sufi school was. We were a small town of people who worked hard, played hard and danced in a sacred way, Ever seen a square dance? We danced in circles, that old time dancing is far from being in a square, people are whirling all over the place.

JP – thank you for your time.

Rumi – You bet!

JP – take care.

Rumi – See ya on the boat!

The Mule and The Donkey

Once upon a time there was a Donkey. She had a certain job she was responsible for. Her job was to look after the farmer’s prized breeding sheep. Protecting the sheep was an important job and she was trained her whole life to be the protector. The farmer knew this job was best suited for her type of donkey.

The farmer had a mule on the farm. This mule was a very stubborn yet a special kind of mule. The Mule also had a certain job in a certain place on the farm. The mule pulled the cart that took the farmer and his family to town when they sold vegetables and wool at the market. Everyday the mule would wait for just a glance of the donkey, as you might imagine, he was in love with the donkey. She had such a special job and was so beautiful and well taken care of. The Mule could not help but stare as she walked by his field every day on her way to her section of the farm.

The Donkey and the Mule started to make eyes at each other. Then, as you can imagine, they fell in love. Well, they slept in the same barn, worked on the same farm and basically did the same job for the farmer. They had so much in common that falling in love was bound to happen.

The donkey had a way of being a donkey the mule didn’t understand. When things got difficult in her field, she would stop doing the work, then bray and bray and bray. When she was not looking after the sheep, sometimes the farmer had her moving rocks, fallen trees and brush from his fields. She really didn’t like this work.

The mule would get to see her all day though. When general farm work was going on, the mule was always tied to a cart, waiting for the farmer to pile it high with whatever he and the Donkey had collected. The Donkey was amazed at how much the farmer could pile on the cart without the mule even making a sound when he pulled it away.

She was in love with how strong the Mule was. The mule didn’t understand why the farmer would make his prized protector Donkey work like she did. She was breed to be a protector of sheep. She came from some hard working Donkey stock however, part of her Donkey bloodline was from a rare Donkey breed that was known for absolute beauty.

One day, some terrible storms were brewing in the West. The Donkey was in her field protecting the sheep and the Mule was off in town with farmer’s boy selling wool and vegetables at the market. The Donkey looked up at the sky and saw that things were getting really Dark. The wind started to howl and blow. The Mule was only a couple of miles away and he noticed how violent the storms were that were coming from the West.

The mule was terribly worried. He knew the donkey was alone at the farm. He knew she would be locked out of the barn. He knew how scared she was of lightning and thunder. When storms came, the Donkey and the Mule would naturally seek shelter in the barn. When storms had come before, the Donkey would hide in her stall and cower down and jump at every little crash of thunder. The mule thought she was funny like that. Sometimes, much to the Donkey’s amazement, the Mule wouldn’t even come into the barn when it was storming outside.

The Donkey, just as the mule feared, was locked out of the barn. A serious wind had come up on the farm. Lighting, thunder and hail. The mule could see from afar that it was storming, but had no idea that the storm was so violent at the farm. He was very concerned for the Donkey. The Donkey was hiding under a pine tree, alone and scared.

What the Mule also didn’t know was that a violent tornado had come with the storm and it was strong enough to knock the Farmer’s barn down. And whoa was the Donkey scared when that happened. She was so scared that all she could do was hide under the Pine tree and bray and bray and bray. She was wet and had been hit by some hail. She watched as the roof of the barn was ripped off and thrown across the field. She listened to the sound of the Tornado as it threw hay, feed and everything that was in the barn all about the farm.

When the farmer and his boy got back to the farm they were very concerned for their barn. The mule was very concerned about the Donkey. He called out for her with his Hee Haw and she brayed and brayed and brayed. The farmer and his son went in to the house and left the Mule tied to the cart. The mule wanted to go find the Donkey. So, he pulled and pulled and got the cart stuck on a tree stump and got free from the cart.

He was so worried about the Donkey. The farm looked terrible with everything scattered about. He was not concerned with the hay. He was not concerned that they would have nowhere to sleep that night. He was seriously concerned for the Donkey.

He could not find her. She would bray and bray, he searched and searched, however, she was hidden from view because a large blue tarp was stretched out over the pine tree that the Donkey was hiding under when the tornado violently tore through the farm.

The Donkey kept braying. The mule kept looking and eventually he found her but he couldn’t free her from the tree. A large section of the barn was stretched across the fence and was pressing the tarp up against the tree and that had the Donkey trapped. So the mule, using his strength, lifted the barn section and got his lead rope tied around a wood plank and pulled and pulled and pulled.

The Donkey brayed and brayed and brayed. All this commotion got the attention of the farmer and his son and they came running from the house. What they saw when they got to where the barn used to be, was something quite amazing. The Mule had freed the Donkey from her trap. The section of the barn that was causing the tarp to cover her from sight, had been pushed and then pulled off and sent falling down crashing across the fence.

The farmer and the boy knew the Mule was pretty strong, but were amazed. The mule had pulled one whole side of the barn away from the Donkey and as he did that, the pine tree snapped in half. The Donkey brayed and brayed and brayed. The Mule just looked at her. He was pretty proud of himself. The Farmer and the boy led the Donkey and the Mule up to the house and tied them to the back porch.

What the mule didn’t know, was that the reason she never left the shelter of the pine tree when the tornado was so close, was because she was holding the gate closed where the sheep were out to pasture. The gate had blown open in the winds and the lock that secured the gate was pulled off. She stayed because she was worried that if she left it open, the sheep would run off when the storm had passed.

What the mule did know was they were not going to have their place to sleep. What the Donkey knew was that her feed and her long afternoon hose down by the farmer’s boy was not going to happen. The mule knew his stall and his bed of hay was spread all about. The Donkey and the Mule were tied up and worried about what was going to happen now that the barn was all but destroyed. 

The mule had strained his back. The Donkey was still hurting from all the hail that had beat on her as the barn was destroyed. They were both tired, hungry and thirsty. The farmer and his son didn’t waste any time. Their house had missed the brunt of the storm, so they got busy taking care to get their work animals a place safe to rest. The darkness of night was close at hand so the farmer worked to get the lock on the gate fixed while the boy gathered hay for the Donkey and Mule.

The Donkey watched as the boy fixed the cart where the Mule had pulled himself free. The farmer rolled up the tarp that was draped over the fence and pine tree. The Mule, noticed the hose the farmer used to water his house garden was close to his head. He got an idea. He knew the Donkey loved it when the farmer’s boy hosed her down after a long day of protecting sheep. So, he freed the hose from the holder, kicked the end with his hoof and held it in his mouth. Turned on the hose and held it across the Donkey’s back. She jumped. She was relieved to find the Mule, smiling with the water dripping down his chin.

After the gate was fixed and the sheep were safe, the boy and the farmer took the tarp and made a makeshift stall for the Donkey and the Mule. They spread hay and placed a large can of feed in the stall. The farmer boy walked behind the house where the Donkey and Mule were and led them over to the stall for the night. The Donkey ate from the feed can and as she ate she thought about how hard the mule must have pulled to free her from her danger.

As the Mule fluffed the hay, he thought about how this stall was pretty small compared to their two separate stalls in the now destroyed barn. The Donkey got her fill of feed and nudged the Mule over to the can. The mule ate his portion and nudged the Donkey back over to the can to see that he had left a little in the bottom for her. The Donkey ate and laid down on the fluffed hay. The mule laid down next to her. He was happy. She was touching his back, her head was rested on the strong mussels he used to pull the barn from the pine tree. The Donkey brayed. The Mule hee hawed, and they slept together and whoa was the mule happy about that. And, they all lived happily ever after!

The End.

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