With the year near ending, I’ve been thinking about a goal for 2019.  A quote (“forget safety // live where you fear to live”) prompted me to re-read the full Rumi poem.


There are many guises for intelligence.
One part of you is gliding in a high windstream,
while your more ordinary notions
take little steps and peck at the ground.

Conventional knowledge is death to our souls,
and it is not really ours. It is laid on.
Yet we keep saying we find “rest” in these “beliefs.”

We must become ignorant of what we have been taught
and be instead bewildered.

Run from what is profitable and comfortable.
Distrust anyone who praises you.
Give your investment money, and the interest
on the capital, to those who are actually destitute.

Forget safety. Live where you fear to live.
Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.
I have tried prudent planning long enough.

From now on, I’ll be mad.

By Rumi, from “A Year With Rumi,” Edited by Coleman Barks


Although the near-last stanza is what is quoted most frequently, I am drawn today to “We must become ignorant of what we have been taught // and be instead bewildered”.  I’m noticing the word “bewildered” and how it has the word “wild” inside of it. Is it about the wild being brought out from inside?  Is it from the outside in?

Time for the OED! I have a hard copy condensed (itty bitty, need a magnifying glass print) OED.  Once I’ve toted it from the shelves to the kitchen island where the light is best today, I find the definition:

  1. to lose in pathless places; to confound for want of a plain road

What a lovely and apt definition. Thank you, Samuel Johnson.  I know this is the definition Rumi meant with his original word — not the more common, second definition: To confuse in mental perception, to perplex…  Since I can’t read Persian, I have to thank translator Coleman Barks, too.  I am awed by how one word can turn a poem.


I’m feeling bewildered this week while thinking about what (if anything) to set out to accomplish next year.  Thankfully, I live in the desert so it will be pretty easy to find that “pathless place” physically as well as metaphorically.

I just noticed the word right before “bewilder” is “bewig”.  How accurate is that?!



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