Monday, June 17, 2013

[Sunlight] Are you buying, or just looking?


Mathnawi VI: 831-45 -- a poetic version from Coleman Barks,
and a literal translation from Reynold A. Nicholson.


These spiritual windowshoppers,
who idly ask, "How much is that?" "Oh, I'm just looking."
They handle a hundred items and put them down,
shadows with no capital.

What is spent is love and two eyes wet with weeping.
But these walk into a shop,
and their whole lives pass suddenly in that moment,
in that shop.

Where did you go? "Nowhere."
What did you have to eat? "Nothing much."

Even if you don't know what you want,
buy something, to be part of the exchanging flow.

Start a huge, foolish, project,
like Noah.

It makes absolutely no difference
what people think of you.

-- Poetic version by Coleman Barks
"We Are Three"
Maypop, 1987


Ye (worldly folk) also (who are engaged) in commerce - how
should your hands move (to sell anything) when there is no
How should (idle) looking-on be capable of buying? The
fool's looking-on is (not for buying, but merely for) loitering.
(He strolls about) continually asking, "How much is this?"
and "How much is that?" for the sake of pastime and mockery.
('Tis only ) from boredom (that) he asks you (to show him)
your goods: that person is not a buyer and customer.
He inspects the article a hundred times and hands it back
(to you): when did he (ever) measure a piece of cloth? He
measured wind (and nothing else).
What a distance between the approach and bargaining of a
purchaser and the pleasantries of a silly joker?
Since there is not a mite in his possession, how should he seek
(to buy) a coat except in jest?
He has no capital for trading: what, then, is the difference
between his ill-favoured person and a shadow?
The capital (required) for the market of this world is gold;
there (in the next world) the capital is love and the two eyes wet
(with tears).
Whoever went to market without any capital, his life passed
and he speedily returned in disappointment.
"Oh, where hast thou been, brother?" "Nowhere." "Oh,
what hast thou cooked to eat?" "No (good) soup."
Become a buyer, that my hand may move (to sell to thee), and
that my pregnant mine may bring forth the ruby.
Though the buyer is slack and lukewarm, (yet) call (him) to
the (true) religion, for the (command to) call hath come down
(from God).
Let the falcon fly and catch the spiritual dove: in calling (to
God) take the way of Noah.
Perform an act of service for the Creator's sake; what hast
thou to do with being accepted or rejected by the people?

-- Translation by Reynold A. Nicholson
The Mathnawi of Jalalu'ddin Rumi
E.J. W. Gibb Memorial Trust, 1926, 1990.

* "That person is not a buyer and customer": "literally, "seeker of
* "What a distance between . . .": "literally, where is . . . and
where is ..."
* "the approach and bargaining": "literally, the advance and retreat"




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