If You Listen

The first official week of 2009 ⎯ back to work, openings, and all the rest. It was great to receive a wonderful poem by Rumi from my friend Steve. The poem, translated by Coleman Barks, is entitled Chinese Art and Greek Art. It’s a good read for everyone, but especially for artists. I just loved it, thanks Steve!

Also, my friend Lynne, who knows how much I like birds, introduced me to the album, You Are My Little Bird by Elizabeth Mitchell. Although the album is for children, I think adults can enjoy it as well. It has really wonderful interpretations of songs by Bob Marley, Velvet Underground and many others. My favorite song so far is: If You Listen. The album explains that the song was “originally recorded by French singer Francoise Hardy, and is all about how listening can be a magical experience”.

I agree…and hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Chinese Art and Greek Art

by Rumi translated by Coleman Barks

The Prophet said, “There are some who see me

by the same light in which I am seeing them.

Our natures are one.

Without reference to any strands

of lineage, without reference to texts or traditions,

we drink the life-water together.”

Here’s a story

about that hidden mystery:

The Chinese and the Greeks

were arguing as to who were the better artists.

The king said,

“We’ll settle this matter with a debate.”

The Chinese began talking,

but the Greeks wouldn’t say anything.

They left.

The Chinese suggested then

that they each be given a room to work on

with their artistry, two rooms facing each other

and divided by a curtain.

The Chinese asked the king

for a hundred colors, all the variations,

and each morning they came to where

the dyes were kept and took them all.

The Greeks took no colors.

“They’re not part of our work.”

They went to their room

and began cleaning and polishing the walls. All day

every day they made those walls as pure and clear

as an open sky.

There is a way that leads from all-colors

to colorlessness. Know that the magnificent variety

of the clouds and the weather comes from

the total simplicity of the sun and the moon.

The Chinese finished, and they were so happy.

They beat the drums in the joy of completion.

The king entered their room,

astonished by the gorgeous color and detail.

The Greeks then pulled the curtain dividing the rooms.

The Chinese figures and images shimmeringly reflected

on the clear Greek walls. They lived there,

even more beautifully, and always

changing in the light.

The Greek art is the Sufi way.

They don’t study books of philosophical thought.

They make their loving clearer and clearer.

No wantings, no anger. In that purity

they receive and reflect the images of every moment,

from here, from the stars, from the void.

They take them in

as though they were seeing

with the lighted clarity

that sees them.


If You Listen

By Francoise Hardy

If you listen you can hear

birds sing and flowers grow

If you listen you can hear

my love for you just grow

In the silence that’s around

deep peace and love are found

In the days that will be here

my love will call you loud and clear

And in the silent place

where loneliness is found

I’ll wander through the open door

to look for you

There in that magic land

that lies beyond the clouds

floating on the sea of dreams

I’ll sing to you

Image: One of my favorite birds, the bowerbird, working on his blue monochrome nest.

About Rossana Martinez 222 Articles
I am an artist, a runner, a yogi and a glowing new mom of an endearing baby boy living in New York City attempting to balance it all. My goal is to keep it simple and enjoy the process. art & life is where I share my experiences and hope to connect with people interested in art and the simple things in life.

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