A poem for uncertainty – Zero Circle by Rumi

I thought I would try reading a poem to you and post it as a video clip, but unfortunately the file was too large to post here. I tried to save room by speaking a little more quickly but still no use! The two teenagers running the IT Helpdesk did their best to assist but ran out of options. I’ll post it on Facebook so you can see it there.

The poem is ‘Zero Circle’ by the Persian poet Rumi, who lived at the beginning of the 13th century.

I recently listened to a talk by Martha Beck, an American writer, who mentioned this poem and it reminded me that it’s one of ten poems in Roger Housden’s Ten poems to change your life. Housden has an insightful essay on all ten poems.

‘Zero Circle’ by Rumi

Be helpless, dumbfounded,
Unable to say yes or no.
Then a stretcher will come from grace
to gather us up.

We are too dull-eyed to see that beauty.
If we say we can, we’re lying.
If we say No, we don’t see it,
That No will behead us
And shut tight our window onto spirit.

So let us rather not be sure of anything,
Beside ourselves, and only that, so
Miraculous beings come running to help.
Crazed, lying in a zero circle, mute,
We shall be saying finally,
With tremendous eloquence, Lead us.
When we have totally surrendered to that beauty,
We shall be a mighty kindness.

While the poem has no doubt been read in many different ways since the thirteenth century when Rumi wrote it, it seems particularly apt now during COVID -19. To me, reading it now, it’s about uncertainty, being ‘dumbfounded, unable to say yes or no’. And even though we’re ‘mute’ or ‘crazed’, once we surrender to the unknowing, then ‘a stretcher will come from grace to gather us up’, and transform us into ‘a mighty kindness’.

This poem doesn’t rhyme not does it use any particularly complex vocabulary. Instead, it’s the combination of concrete words that stand out – mighty kindness, stretcher from grace, tremendous eloquence – that paints evocative pictures in our minds.

Let me know what you like about ‘Zero Circle’ by Rumi.

4 comments

  1. I have read this 4 times. The 1st to myself then 3 times out loud.
    The final time I understood it to mean that Rumi was saying be open to spirituality. Look beyond oneself and think of others.
    I don’t know if this was the purpose

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