Sunday, September 7, 2014


Evening Landscape With Rising Moon
Van Gogh
Painted in Saint-Remy, France, 1889

                                                           by Rumi

                                      Inside this new love, die.
                                      Your way begins on the other side.
                                      Become the sky.
                                      Take an axe to the prison wall.
                                      Walk out like someone suddenly born into color.
                                      Do it now.
                                      You're covered with thick cloud.
                                      Slide out the side.  Die,
                                      and be quiet.  Quietness is the surest sign
                                      that you've died.
                                      Your old life was a frantic running 
                                      from silence.

                                      The speechless full moon 
                                      comes out now.

                                Translation from Persian by Coleman Barks


  1. "Your old life was a frantic running from silence." Rumi has described so well, "my old life." I have come to love and more fully understand the beauty of "the speechless moon."

    A lovely post with the perfect painting.

    1. Yes, Teresa, I think many of us can't relate to the old lives which were " a frantic running from silence." What a relief, when we find it, to know that a quiet life can be a completely full life, and how wonderful it is to get beyond the egotistical chatter of the world.

  2. Thank you so much, George. This post is perfectly timed for me.

    I have been working on 'sliding out the side' of my mind into my ever 'new love' of silence and stillness. Rumi's words affirm the practice. Mind can be slippery, however, and it does sometimes feel as if I am 'taking an axe to the prison wall'.

    There is a field of quietness - I'll meet you there. :)

  3. Thanks, Bonnie, and, yes, the mind is always slippery, which means, of course, that we must work daily with that axe. Culture and acquired habits can, indeed, be a kind of prison. Keep swinging (the axe, that is).

  4. One of my favourite painters and one of my favourite poets. Ceaseless chatter, endless noise, frantic running — all prisons of our own making. Let's live in colour; let's embrace 'the speechless full moon' (I think there was one last night)!

    1. I agree entirely, Robert. One of the great aspects of walks like the one you just made is remembering once again how toxic most of the noise is in our lives. Most of that noise is made in the projection or defense of egos, both individual and national. This is the prison we're in much of the time, but if we follow Rumi's advice and take an axe to the prison walls, we blissfully find the speechlessness and fullness of the moon. Great to have you back, Robert.

  5. Several years ago George, I stayed with friends at their home in Amsterdam. We went to the Van Gogh museum and I found the colour and movement in his paintings quite overwhelming. I love the one above. I do agree with Robert too. My life here out in the depths of the country has enabled me to have long periods of peace and tranquility - and I savour every moment.

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Pat. I love Van Gogh as well, but, sad to say, I have yet to visit Amsterdam and the highly regarded Van Gogh Museum. As for living in the country, I couldn't agree more. I begin and end each day sitting on my front porch watching and listening to the birds. It's a daily therapy that keeps my soul intact.

  6. This painting and poem are potently symbolic for me, especially together. When my mother died, my sister and I went to Paris for two weeks, and I see it now as a marked point ending a former life, when I took an axe to the prison wall. We visited the Orsay museum, and when I walked into the gallery of Van Gogh paintings, I felt like someone suddenly born into color. The blue from Starry Night, The Church at Auvers, his Bedroom at Arles, and the sky above the nappers in Rest from Work — that blue struck me in waves of clear beauty, felt as if for the first time. I simply turned, and turned, and turned, tears streaming. Anyone seeing me might have thought I had lost my mind, and in some way, I had.

    1. What a moving story — or poem, I should say. These epiphanies happen to us from time to time in life if we are open and receptive to them, but yours seems to have been especially intense and wonderful. As you turned and turned in the gallery of Van Gogh paintings, you were clearly "born into color," both literally and figuratively, and the fact that you lost your mind in some way is a testament to the authenticity of the transformation.

      I find that the axe is needed throughout life because little walls have a tendency to spring up where others have been torn down. Keep it nearby and handy.

  7. I'm reminded of that Kafka quote: 'A book should be an axe to break the frozen sea within us.' For book read painting or art or other things of transformational potential.

  8. Yes, I quite agree, Robert. The important point, as you recognize, is to seize the transformational axe, in whatever form it takes, and tear down the prison walls that stand between our fearful, false self and the more unified, true self that lies on the other side.