The Infinite Complexity of the World

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I have been rambling my way through Leslie Wine's small autobiography on Rumi as well as an excellent compilation of Rumi's poems (The Rumi Collection) but the following poem is featured in Czeslaw Milosz's A Book of Luminous Things.

A profound poem reveals itself in layers, sometimes it delivers a punch but the best poems unfold in subtleties and surprise, often containing multiple messages which make the second or third reading a delight. This poem was translated by Coleman Barks:

Little by little, wean yourself.

This is the gist of what I have to say.

From an embryo, whose nourishment comes in the blood, move to an infant drinking milk, to a child on solid food, to a searcher after wisdom, to a hunter of more invisible game.

Think how it is to have a conversation with an embryo. You might say, ‘The world outside is vast and intricate. There are wheat fields and mountain passes and orchards in bloom.

At night there are millions go galaxies, and in sunlight the beauty of friends dancing at a wedding.’

You ask the embryo why he, or she, stays cooped up in the dark with eyes closed.

Listen to the answer.

There is no ‘other world.’ I only know what I’ve experienced. You must be hallucinating.


In the intro to this poem, Czeslaw Milosz writes, ‘We know as much about … the infinite complexity of the world, as does an embryo locked in its mother’s womb.’

Photo taken near my house on one of my Beyond the Commonplace jaunts.