The Great Persian Poet Rumi on Spreading Your Wings

Rumi poetry

Described as the best-selling poet in the United States, Rumi’s work occupies a special place in the gamut of timeless spiritual writings.

Originally from Greater Khorasan in Greater Iran, Rumi (1207-1273 AD) – also regarded as an Islamic scholar and theologian – is otherwise known as the greatest Sufi mystic and Persian poet, famous for his 70,000-plus lyrical poems that continue to resonate with people of varying cultures, races, ethnicities, backgrounds, and religions today.

That his words transcend such boundaries is evidenced by his funeral in 1273, which was attended by representatives of every religion, including Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus. When questioned about their attendance, they reportedly replied: “He deepens us wherever we are.”

He continues to do just that nearly 800 years later. 

Rumi’s poem below, “Split the Sack”, is one such example of how he beckons us into the universal, inner realm of heart, soul and spirit. In the book, Rumi: Bridge to the Soul: Journeys into the Music and Silence of the Heart, Coleman Barks writes: “Rumi’s poetry is a bridge between the mystery of being human and the mystery of the divine.”

Ultimately, “Split the Sack” speaks to the agency we have in living out our potential and taking responsibility for our lives – a theme repeatedly touched upon by myriad spiritual thinkers, such as Thomas Merton, Marcus Aurelius, St. Augustine, Paulo Coelho, and many others.

rumi poetry
Photo by Katharine Rose

“Split the Sack”

Why does the soul not fly
when it hears the call?

Why does a fish, gasping on land,
but near the water,
not move back into the sea?

What keeps us from joining the dance
the dust particles do?

Look at their subtle motions
in sunlight.

We are out of our cages
with our wings spread,
yet we do not lift off.

We keep collecting rocks and broken bits
of pottery like children
pretending they are merchants.

We should split the sack
of this culture
and stick our heads out.

Look around.
Leave your childhood.

Reach your right hand up
and take this book from the air.
You do know right from left, don’t you?

A voice speaks to your clarity.
Move into the moment of your death.
Consider what you truly want.

Now call out commands yourself.
You are the king. Phrase your question,
and expect the grace of an answer.

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