Friday, January 20, 2012

The Frog and the Mouse

Again, the mouse,
"Friend, I'm made from the ground,
and for the ground.  You're of the water.
I'm always standing on the bank calling for you.
Have mercy.  I can't follow you into the water.
Isn't there some way we can be in touch?
A messenger? Some reminder?"

The two friends decided that the answer
was a long, a longing! string, with one end tied
to the mouse's foot and the other to the frog's,
so that by pulling on it their secret connection
might be remembered and the two could meet,
as the soul does with the body.

The frog like soul often escapes from the body
and soars into the happy water.  Then the mouse body
pulls on the string, and the soul thinks,

I have to go back on the riverbank and talk
with that scatterbrained mouse!
So the mouse and the frog tied the string,
even though the frog had a hunch some tangling
was to come.

Never ignore those intuitions.
When you feel some slight repugnance about doing something,
listen to it.  These premonitions come from God.
Suddenly a raven grips the mouse and flies off.  The frog too,
from the river bottom,
with one foot tangled in invisible string,
follows, suspended in the air.

Amazed faces ask,
"When did a raven ever go underwater
and catch a frog?"

The frog answers,
This is the force of friendship.
What draws friends together
does not conform to laws of nature.
Form doesn't know about spiritual closeness.
If a grain of barley approaches a grain of wheat,
an ant must be carrying it.  A black ant on black felt.
You can't see it, but if grains go toward each other,
it's there.
A hand shifts our birdcages around.
Some are brought closer together.  Some move apart.
Do not try to reason it out.  Be conscious
of who draws you and who not.


I interpret poetry one layer at a time or peel it like an onion.  I have read this poem over and over for the past few months, and I still have probably not reached the core or soul of the words themselves.  I think the poet can really be the only one who knows the true soul of a poem. When I used to write poetry, I tried to make it as symbolic as possible and not at all straight forward.  It was a secret code to what I was thinking, a secret code to my soul even.  I wouldn't want anyone to find out what was in it, so I absolutely attempted to confuse the reader as much as humanly possible. (Granted, let's get real.  No one really read it anyway, but just in case, I was fully prepared with metaphors that probably made NO sense.)

Rumi is a different type of poet though.  He has a clear spiritual message and conveys his teachings in simplistic stories and has an important message in each layer depending on how far you want to go. The first time I read this, I smiled.  Other times, I cried.  Most of the time, I giggle.  Sometimes I read this and just feel comfort.  Those days, I don't want to dive into the meaning.  Rather, the words just feel soothing almost like a lullaby. You only listen to it to calm down.

I'll compare myself to the mouse somedays and to the frog other days. Most of my friendships have been contemplated with this poem. Sometimes, I'll try to get to the bottom of it and dive into the spiritual core, and then I really laugh because I have often had my own inner dialogue where I indeed refer to myself as a scatterbrained mouse.

Some days, I wake up on the mouse's side of the bed, and other days, I am more in tune with the frog. The mouse's way of thinking sure does play a role in busy work and getting things done.  I would argue I try to keep the mouse as busy as possible just to keep it quiet so the frog can explore the water.

I have to say, it's comforting to know that when the mouse indeed gets in trouble, the frog is there no matter what connected by an invisible string even if it's in a knot.

Rumi reminds me of how beautiful the fluidity of relationships is.  It's comforting to be reminded that we're all just moving in and out of each other lives and that that's okay.  We move toward each other, and we move away from each other, and ultimately, we are only attached to the frog.  To me, the frog does not represent another person, but the soul.  This poem reminds me to be a friend to myself.  Be comforted by the fact that even if a raven comes and takes you away, you can actually be soothed by the frog who will always be there.  You can be calmed by your inner friend.

This is at times a frightening concept.  Wouldn't it just be easier to believe the frog is someone else?  Wouldn't it be easier to believe there will always be someone else to always be there when the raven comes to get us? Wouldn't it be easier for us to tie strings to our feet and expect others to reciprocate and tie it around their ankles too?  Is that what Rumi is saying? Possibly, but I think that might be the easy way out.  I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't connect with other people as we know that isolation kills, but we just need to recognize who is close and who is not and connect for the time being and remember the fluidity: awareness without attachment.

Regardless, the great thing about poetry is that it's up for anyone's interpretation. If a frog is merely a friend connected by an invisible tangled knot, I am going to give a shout-out to my frog, Amy, who donated to the cause.  

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