“The Tavern: Whoever Brought Me Here Will Have to Take Me Home”
From the book “The Essential Rumi”, translated by Coleman Barks
On the Tavern
In the tavern there are many wines -the wine of delight in color and form and taste, the wine of the intellect’s agility, the fine port of stories, and the cabernet of soul singing. Being human means entering this place where entrancing varieties of desire are served. The grapeskin of ego breaks and a pouring beings. Fermentation is one of the oldest symbols for human transformation. When grapes combine their juice and are closed up together for a time in a dark place, the results are spectacular. This is what lets two drunks meet so that they don’t now who is who. Pronouns no longer apply in the tavern’s mud-worl of excited confusion and half-articulated wantings.
But after some time in the tavern, a point comes, a memory of elsewhere, a longing for the source, and the drunks must set off from the tavern and begin the return. The Qur’an says, “We are all returning.” The tavern is a kind of glorious hell that human beings enjoy and suffer and ten push off from in their search for truth. The tavern is a dangerous region where sometimes disguises are necessary, but never hide your heart, Rumi urges. Keep open there. A breaking apart, a crying out into the street, begins in the tavern, and the human soul turns to find its way home.
It’s 4 A.M. Nasruddin leaves the taverns and walks the town aimlessly. A policeman stops him. “Why are you wandering the streets in the middle of the night?” “Sir,” replies Nasruddin, “if I knew the answer to that question, I would have been home hours ago!”