These Spiritual Windowshoppers by Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks

There are many Rumi poems I don’t get, but this is one I’d like to think that I do.

I take great comfort in this poem. I take great comfort that there is an exchanging flow. On my weaker days, I obsess of what people think of me. On my weaker days, I take great comfort in this poem’s advice of the relative non-importance of people’s opinions. On my stronger days, this poem inspires me to start a huge, foolish project.

There are quite a few people in the world who have not taken the second step of desire. There are quite a few people in the world who have waited a long time for the world to begin.  It is my resolve to not be one of them.

These spiritual window-shoppers,
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.

This translation of this poem can be found in many places, but it first appeared in the book “Rumi: We Are Three”

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3 thoughts on “These Spiritual Windowshoppers by Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks

  1. Thank you for this poem! I take great comfort in it too and in the same things as you do – in the exchanging flow and in the non-importance of other people’s opinions. My motto has always been “Go for it!”

    Also it was interesting to hear you read the poem, your interpretation of it and where and how you put the emphasis.

  2. These poems were not translated by Mr Barks, who never studied (nor did he claim to) old Persian or the other languages that Rumi sometimes wrote in: re-imagined is a better term. He used several existing translations, and spun them into his own thing, which is fine, but you will never get insight into Rumi through them. Rumi was a Muslim, a great scholar of his religion, and his poems are all explicitly about the Islamic god, and a Sufi student’s devotion to his spiritual teacher, which you rarely get more than a hint of in Mr Barks’ work. Many people, due to Mr Bark’s work, think that Rumi is writing about some general “follow your heart” spirituality, or even romantic love, which is pure nonsense.

    • Be that as it may, one can still apply how Rumi lived his life to other paths. I, too, recognize Rumi for what and who he was.

      For example, I could go and call Anu (or even some sense of a universal energy, for that matter) the supreme being behind everything, copy how Rumi did things, and it would still be in the *spirit*.

      You already knew this though, didn’t you? I get what you’re saying, but I think what he did is easily carried over into different contexts.

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