Tending two shops


Don’t run around this world
looking for a hole to hide in.

There are wild beasts in every cave!
If you live with mice,
the cat claws will find you.

The only real rest comes
when you’re alone with God.

Live in the nowhere that you came from,
even though you have an address here.

That’s why you see things in two ways.
Sometimes you look at a person
and see a cynical snake.

Someone else sees a joyful lover,
and you’re both right!

Everyone is half and half,
like the black and white ox.

Joseph looked ugly to his brothers,
and most handsome to his father.

You have eyes that see from that nowhere,
and eyes that judge distances
how high and how low.

You own two shops,
and you run back and forth.

Try to close the one that’s a fearful trap,
getting always smaller. Checkmate,
this way. Checkmate that.

Keep open the shop
where you’re not selling fishhooks anymore.
You are the free-swimming fish.

~ Tending Two Shops, Rumi (Persian, 1207-1273), translated by Coleman Banks


Image: Ukiyo-e, woodblock print, 1833 by Utagawa Hiroshige


17 thoughts on “Tending two shops

    • I do love the idea, esp as one who lives in her mousehole when I can’t face things! And I can confirm the cat claws find me ONLY when I’m in there. I also love the idea of shutting the shop where one is selling fishhooks.


  1. @Solid Gold Creativity

    Don’t run around this world
    looking for a hole to hide in.
    There are wild beasts in *every* cave!
    If you live with mice,
    the cat claws will find you.
    The only real rest comes
    when you’re alone with God.

    Exactly, how true.

    Only, allow me to talk about myself Solid Gold (our host here), I arrived to our Christian God by studying the ancient religion(s) of Rome. In fact one could say that different paths – Persian Mazda before the Muslims arrived, Plato’s Good or Unum, Buddha’s path, this great Sufi mystic path etc. – lead to the same summit: God, Good, little matters.

    You might incidentally – dear host of ours – have read my comment over at Thomas. If you haven’t I always fantasized about ‘down under’ (New Zealand, Australia, Tasmania) since I had my first two daughters to whom, in order to teach her some (italianized, ok) English I narrated every night when they were in bed, before they went to sleep, a series called Il Coniglione (The Big Rabbit, a Kangaroo actually) who was a detective and had to solve cases in AU, elsewhere (and also here in Europe). My father was a big storyteller and narrated to us stories about Africa and India. Both daughters, one is 31, the youngest 26, now of course are in love with that part of the planet although one is an architect / engineer hired in London (after Barcelona and Shanghai), the other worked in the US and is now brand manager at Rome’s office of Unilever

    But in any case, as I told Thomas, I am here for another reason.

    There is a debate going on over at my blog about the future of Europe. It is a series:

    “Where is Europe going? Wide ranging dialogues at the Man of Roma’s cafe. 1
    “Where is Europe going? Piero Boitani’s letter to David Cameron (debate at the Man of Roma’s cafe). 2

    Professor Piero Boitani allowed me to publish his ‘open’ letter to the British PM David Cameron he just sent to the London’s daily The Independent.

    It is creating some strife, because Boitani’s voice is loud and clear, he’s a many-generations Roman like me only immensely more successful (Fellow of the British Academy, Honorary Member of the Dante Society of America together with Umberto Eco, just 2 out of a list successes that is mind-boggling, no kidding).

    Andreas Kluth, a friend of our slice of blogosphere you might well know – now Berlin Beaurau chief of the Economist – , Richard, Sledpress, Cheri, Andy, Christopher, Cyberquill, Paul le Canadien etc. are ALL there, debating debating.

    In short – I am never short – WE NEED YOU Solid Gold Creativity, our gentle host (and the rest of the bunch, it goes without saying), you as an echt voice from ‘Down Under’, a land that gave birth to Colleen McCullough and her mythical books on Caesar and Cleopatra, of you paying your tribute to the same Queen of Britain, incidentally.

    All the Best
    From Rome’s West



    • Hello Giovanni, so nice of you to call and issue a personal invite. I like that your daughters and you had a Kangaroo Dreaming. My father too used to tell me stories in bed and they were the happiest times.

      I’ll be over shortly to hear the dialogues at your cafe and read Professor Boitani. I know there are many great debaters among the people you mention and our old blogging buddies. I’m afraid I’ve given up debating and opinion myself but I can always provide an Antipodean ear. Best wishes from the south of the Great Southern Land. Nx


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