Whirling DervishPhoto by Meir Jacob/Flickr, cc by-nc-nd 2.0

There is no formula for our shows, no template. Each begins with the raw material of a conversation, and we shape its pace and sound and elements around that. I think great radio emerges when the whole feel of the experience seems at one with the words being spoken, taking the listener more deeply into the passion and intent of the voice being heard. Creating our show around the life and words of Rumi has felt a little like having magic to work with.

I take away many gems of idea and image from my conversation with one of Rumi’s delightful 21st-century interpreters and successors, Fatemeh Keshavarz. Rumi saw human life and love as the closest we come to tasting and touching transcendence, and he approached all experience with his whole mind, heart, and body.

Fatemeh Keshavarz describes Rumi’s “whirling” around a column as he recited poetry — a habit that inspired the Whirling Dervishes of the Mevlevi Sufi Order — as a way to “stay centered while moving.” He believed that, as searching and restlessness propel us to keep learning, plowing the ground beneath our feet, they are themselves a form of arrival. In Rumi’s way of seeing life, perplexity is a blessed state, sometimes a necessary state. This idea has special resonance, perhaps, in the 21st century when so many basic definitions and institutions of previous generations seem to be up for grabs.

But Rumi’s recent “discovery” in the West also holds no little irony. I found this best expressed in my research by a British journalist, William Dalrymple:

“It seems almost unbelievable in the world of 9/11, Bin Laden and the Clash of Civilizations, but the best-selling poet in the U.S. in the 1990s was not Robert Frost, Sylvia Plath, nor Shakespeare or Dante. … Instead, remarkably it was a classically trained Muslim cleric who taught Sharia law in a madrasa in what is now Turkey.”

Yet as Rumi has been translated and popularized in the modern West, the religious sensibility behind his beautiful, best-selling words has often been lost.

Fatemeh Keshavarz is adamant on this point: Rumi was steeped in Islam. He represents and speaks to “an adventurous and cosmopolitan Islam.” The generous, cross-cultural appeal of his words reflects ideas at the core of Islam that are muted by the extremists and headlines of our time. To the extent that Rumi would deny or subvert those, he does so through his grounding in Islamic tradition, and his profound love for it.

Fatemeh Keshavarz, who was born in Iran — the center of the vast civilization that spawned Rumi and where he remains to this day a household name — takes special solace in Rumi’s insistence that we can create worlds and possibilities by way of language itself.

Where that part of the world is now concerned, Fatemeh Keshavarz says, U.S. political culture has adopted a language of fear. Rumi champions and models a language of hope. This is not tepid and naive but full-blooded view of human reality, fully aware of the double-edged sword of the passions and pulls of real human experience. In this, Rumi speaks to those of us on both sides of a real or imagined “clash of civilizations.”

As we conclude this show, I hear Rumi as a perfect voice for the spiritual longing and energy of our time. With his vigorous and challenging language of the heart, he reminds us that we need poetry as much as we need science, alongside our politics and within our diplomacy. We need passionate searching words, not just logical decisive words, to tell the whole truth about what it means to be human, and about the past, present, and future of our world.

Here is one passage of many I’ve seen quoted of Rumi, which I’ll now hear with new layers of relevance:

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.


Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.

Share Your Reflection



His words allow and invite self-acceptance.

Thanks Krista. The West needs to understand that there was an Islamic Golden Age and that is contributed to the Western Renaissance

Any culture that coming up in the dark ages in comparación look like shinning like the gold. But Islam now coming up in Europe
look like the dark ages. We have the beautiful architecture and the influences
on our music and language here in Spain. But is  architecture, is music,
is language. ¡No have nothing to do with the religion! I have proud of my name ;-)


Saludos desde


My name is Juan José Matamoros. Is not Jujom50.

The "musical instrument" is our unique being. The "ideal reaction" to waking "up empty and frightened" is to play our instrument, to "reach out to the limits of our capacities, to others and to God". The consequence is the symphony of humanity. The rest of what we do, the "ideas, language, even the phrase each other [is noise that] doesn't make sense." http://www.thelastwhy.ca/poem/

is there A "spiritual longing and energy of our time", and if so why are the vast majority of people out of tune/step with it?

I think we all have the spiritual longing to return to our Creator. It is deep in our soul and many don't recognize it b/c we are moving too fast and don't realize it.  This is where meditation helps.  If we are all created by the Creator then we long or fill unfulfilled totally til we can return to the whole.

 thanks Sandi, that sounds a lot like the "perennial" (eternal) philosophy and so maybe not tied to our times per say, tho it does seem to be the house theology here, maybe you have shown us that there is formula in the show after all.

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there."

What beautiful words.

Rumi is beyond Islam or any religion and he saw  beyond our limited concept of God. Rumi is all about LOVE of GOD and that without LOVE we are NOTHING.
Unfortunately in some parts of the Islamic world he would be considered a heretic because as a Sufi he believed in the unity of religious ideals in which we each see God in the way we are ready to see Him/Her and it's LOVE that unites us and allows us to experience God , and intolerance that separates us and keeps us from God. If you have LOVE, it's all good and it's all that matters.
In one way or another the scriptures of all faiths say this but we are to blind to see.     

 this raises an interesting point that to be promoting a kind of universalism in a world of peoples largely committed to very particular/exclusive faith claims is not to transcend boundaries/cliques but to create a new set of boundaries and be part of a minority clique.

"...Don’t open the door to the study 
and begin reading."(feeding your fear, silencing the soaring impulse) "Take down a musical instrument."(be open to the wonder of you, your spirit- give it melody.) Rumi suggests I move as I am apt to do, not as instructed or taught as there are rules there that include fear of reproach if not done correctly.  His poetry suggests us entrance into what IS possible, something fearless in us emerges in that tender glow...Rumi beckons us to BE before we believe. To SEE before we accept blindly. 

The scriptures of all the faiths says: "only my sacred story is true; your story: is not sacred, is not true, is from devil etc." This is what we are to blind to see. Or, better said, do not want see or nor want understand. I think, may be, you have this problem; the lady who make the interview (speaking the best English) have this problem; gobernments have this problem, politicos have this problem.

My name is Juan José Matamoros. It is not Jujom50. My friends and of course the family say to me Juancho.