Wednesday, August 12, 2009

It's Allowed To Ask

By James Saint Cloud

Rumi yawned as he awoke and stretched. Another glorious dawn came streaming in.

Then he moaned out loud, remembering he had no butter for his morning toast and tea.

Rumi put his hands across his eyes to block the growing light. Considered calling on the Friend for help. But why? The Friend didn’t run a dairy in the sky! And besides, it wasn’t right to use the Friend like that, as though some genie in a lamp.

“Go on,” he heard the Friend’s calm voice, “It’s allowed to ask.”

“Folks take you for a step and fetch-it servant!" Rumi said, "It’s not right, I'll not be doing it.”

“Why not? After all, we co-create. Asking is the way it starts. You have your role in it from there, and I have mine. I know my part, but you’ve forgotten yours. So I end up doing both."

"Oh dear."

"Yes. Not so efficient then; and people think that I don’t care.”

“I am amazed to simply be your friend," Rumi replied, "and quite content with that. Though I’ll be pleased to know my part in it, this co-creating art.”

“How do you suppose I am experiencing the world?”

The answer was an easy one. “You experience yourself as All, as everything that is. Every moment on its wing.”

“Yes. And therefore as you. Through you, if you please.”

"Like a camera?"

"Exactly so!"

“Ah. People are cameras you’ve set up, to have continual pictures of your creative work?”

That exquisite instrument you are! I’m there behind the lens, to see what’s being pictured on the other side --- wherever you are pointing it. I am the camera and the image it receives and the one enjoying seeing it. I hold it whole inside myself, no matter it seems separate. I-magining: I observe myself.”

“But why?”

“Because observation causes change.”

“It does?”

“Don’t you feel different when you’re with someone, than when you are alone?”


“My creation changes as it becomes aware I am observing it. There at the camera's lens --- change is accomplished as you co-create with me.

“So who decides?”

“Decides what?”

“What change occurs!” Rumi waved his arms about. “I mean, shall I have butter with my bread today, or bread only and no more than that? Who will decide?”

“Set what you intend. You decide where the camera points.”

“Beg pardon?”

“You may ‘intend’ the butter be there for the bread."

“Help me to understand.”

"That's your part in it, the function of the camera lens you are and what you point it toward. That is where intention’s work is done. Things get compressed as they pass through the lens in order for them to be . . .? Come on, in order for them to be . . .?

“For them to be observed!”

“Yes! For me to observe my creation as it flows though that small aperture you are. There observer and observed are one and their intentions meet. And there is change.”

A huge smile took hold of Rumi’s mind. “I have some say in it? Because I’m the co-observer, merged with you?”

“Yes, yes! You're getting it.” The One who spoke sat back into some galaxy-sized chair, content at being understood. "We are merged where your intention meets my own."

Pieces of the puzzle had begun to join. “So then, I intend there to be butter for my bread today. How do I proceed?”



“In-tend. TEND toward it INSIDE. Be the camera.
Observation’s dawn is imagination’s flame! Picture it, that butter you desire. Merge with me, there at the lens you are."

Rumi's eyes went wide, considering the possibilities.

“One thing more, Rumi. As images squeeze through the lens . . .”


“How does it feel, to have the butter you desire?”


Rumi's feeling apparatus lay unused in a room down deep inside. There was a lot of rust and nothing seemed to turn just as it might. And worse because he was a male, not up to speed with it like women are.


“I’m gaining on it.” Rumi worked to set the great wheels free.
Imagining butter as best he could, its milky hue, its dawn-fresh smell. The way it spread on a toasted crust of bread; its crunch, its taste, its crumbs.

Feelings began to flow. “Yum,” he said, and smacked his lips. There were sparks of gladness. A lump of gratitude. A blip or two of bliss.

“Keep at it. That’s the offering.”


It gets my attention. You know, like the offerings to deities in stories that you hear. For the butter to take shape, as storms do in the crystal clear of air."

"The dairy in the sky?"

“It's my curiosity, you see. Curious what you’ll do with it,
this fine apparatus you possess. How it plays out as you put it all to work."

Images and feelings came and went through Rumi's brain and heart. “How soon does the butter arrive?”

“As soon as your desire becomes my own, entangling us where our intentions merge, as the mechanism grinds and the shutter clicks. For me — us! — to desire a thing is to have it be.”

“You experience through me, truly so? Such an honor, if it's true.”

“Your wish becomes my own. And because we're such close friends it doesn't take too long.”

“So . . . Why do I feel so alone sometimes?”

“Lens cover.”


“Put your hands over your eyes.” Rumi did.

“Fear, doubt, contagion of despair. No inclination to experience; or else no knowledge of your part in it. So the light from way back here, where I observe, must reach down toward the lens, into the whir and clank of your rusty heart. Then one day when it’s been burning long enough you will call out to me, or wonder where I've been. We have a talk like this and light comes flooding in.”

"And if I'm slow to hear, with too much noise inside?"

"The camera claims the seeing as its own: 'I’m seeing this; it's mine.' Compiling past views into the little self's confines, piles and piles of them, until the memories assume a form like steel — the rust that is self-centeredness. The view constricts; the more the rust, the less I see through it.

"Now tell me, what am I to do, when seeing grows too thin? Shall I not set down that instrument, to take up another one?"

“And if I do my part . . ."

“Then what you ask for can take form.”

There was a sudden knocking at the door.

Rumi's neighbor stood there, suitcase by her side.

"I'm away for a few days," she said to him, "
and I've butter for you here, that would go to waste."

Rumi took it in his hands, too overwhelmed to speak.

"So early, I nearly didn’t knock lest I be waking you. Then heard you inside talking, so I did."


And from the poet himself:

This breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don't go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don't go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill where the two worlds touch. The door is round and open.
Don't go back to sleep.

(Open Secret, Versions of Rumi. Trans. by Moyne and Barks. 1999.)


Story by James Saint Cloud

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Cover illustration for the "A Knock at the Door" calendar for 2009 designed by Duirwaigh and published by Amber Lotus.

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