The Chance of Humming (Pearls from the Deep) by Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi

We are here with another post. This time, we are going to discuss the summary, analysis and questions of The Chance of Humming, a poem by Rumi, the illustrious literary and religious figure who has influenced readers worldwide. Before we begin reading the poem, I would want to introduce you to the author.

About the Poet

Jalal-ud-din Rumi, often known by the title Mawlānā, was a Persian poet and Sufi mystic who lived in the 13th century. He is best known for his poetry and the Didactic epic Masnavi-yi Manavi (“Spiritual Couplets”). This book, which is regarded as a magnum opus in Persian literature, played a significant role in the formation of the eastern philosophical thought. Rumi’s life was transformed when he met the Wandering Holy man Shams-Ud-Din of Tabriz. Romi’s encounter with Shams-Ud-Din, on the other hand, revealed to him mysteries of spiritual heights and beauty. Above all, his poetry presents us with the most humane expressions of mystical experiences and ordinary life depictions.

Text of the Poem

The Chance of Humming



Now we’ll move on to the summary of the poem.

Summary of The Chance of Humming

The poem doesn’t have any specific stanza or divisions, but for convenience I’m dividing it into three stanzas, and the first stanza goes like this.

Stanza 1

A man
standing on two logs in a river
might do all right floating with the current
while humming in the
now.

The poem is an allegory on the journey of life, and the poem presents a man standing on two logs in a river. Rumi says that the man’s downstream journey will be joyful if he is floating with the current while humming in the now. Floating in the current metaphorically means enjoying the present, and the two logs symbolize binaries or dualities confronted by the traveller. It can be life and death, passion and reason, then past and present, or else body and soul. Rather than understanding these binaries of dualities or opposites, life demands us to view them as a continuum and urges us to make a happy juxtaposition of these dualities for life to be successful. Moreover, we can assume that the humming here signifies the happiness and acceleration felt by the traveller.

So it is pertinent to realize that the present moment is all that we have, and Rumi stresses the importance of staying awake. This Maxim to stay awake acts as the foundation of the Eastern philosophical school called Zen spirituality. So the more we are carried away by the chaos of life, the lesser shall be the chance of harming.

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Stanza 2

Though
if one log is tied to a camel,
who is also heading south along the bank – at the same pace-
all could still be well
with the 
world
unless the camel
thinks he forgot something, and
abruptly turns upstream,
then
uh-oh.

In this particular stanza, the poet presents a hypothetical situation in which one of the logs is tied to a camel moving in the same direction along the bank. Everything would be fine unless the camel abruptly turns upstream, remembering that it had forgotten something. It shows that the camel is still stuck to the past. The ease of the journey is disturbed when humans are preoccupied either with the pangs of the past or the concerns for the future. The situation of the camel being tied to one of the logs can be comparable with the lives of human beings as well. Does it remind us of any of the Bible verses? Yes, it resembles with the Bible verse “thou shalt not be anxious about tomorrow.” So,  to live our life to the fullest we must acknowledge that means is as important as the end itself. Thus, we need to get away from the rat race of life and should learn to enjoy the trifles that make the journey more meaningful.

Stanza 3

Most minds
do not live in the present
and can stick to a reasonable plan; most minds abruptly turn
and undermine the
chance
of
humming. 

In the final stanza, the poet regrets that most people refuse or fail to live in the present moment and abruptly break away from the smooth flow of life. Thus they thwart the chance of humming in the present moment. Also, most people stick to a reasonable plan to lead a methodical and ordered life and refuses to see the loveliness of the present moment.

So to conclude, Rumi through this poem advises his readers to flow freely without any remorse of the past and anxiety of the future if they want to be happy.

Hope you all enjoyed this poem and I wish that the message of the poem would help you all to bring changes in your personal life by enabling you to enjoy the trifle of the lives and thus to live our lives to the fullest.

Analysis of The Chance of Humming

“The Chance of Humming.” is a wonderful poem by Moulana Muhammad Rami that emphasises the importance of living in the present moment. The poem basically is an allegory on journey of life, and the poem presents a man standing on two logs in a river. If one is to embark on this journey, polarities must be reconciled. Human life is compared as floating down a river while standing on two logs. The logs are clearly symbolic of the duality that man meets on his journey, which might be life and death, time and space, the past and the present, the heart and the head, reason and emotion, or even the body and the soul. A happy juxtaposition of these dualities is required for life to be effective. Rather than seeing binaries as diametrically opposed, existence requires us to see them as elements of a continuum or as a harmonic whole. In other words, in order for life’s journey to begin, the two logs must be joined.

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Furthermore, for humans to stand on it, the two logs should remain parallel to each other, implying that both logs represent truths that require equal attention. A balanced perspective on life necessitates understanding and accepting that there is not always a single truth. Life, therefore, becomes a balancing act, bringing opposites together and finding harmony amid chaos.

The poem is also about enjoying the voyage without getting too caught up in the outcome. Rumi emphasises the significance of staying awake and living in the present moment. Life should not be lived as if it were a hundred-meter dash with only the finish line in sight. Rather, in order to enjoy life, we must recognise that the means are just as important, if not more than the end. Life must be lived in the spirit of a long-distance runner, taking in and appreciating the sights along the way. A clear mind is required for this to occur. The mind should not go off on its own with guilt or yearning for the past. It should also not stray too far into the future, mucking things up with concerns and anxieties. We must recognise that the current moment is all we have and that we must celebrate it as best we can.

The poem as a whole might be interpreted as an allegory on the path of human life. In the poem, a man stands on two logs in a river. Rumi claims that if the guy is “floating with the current,” his journey downstream will be joyous and exhilarating. The term current literally refers to the movement of river water downstream. Current can also be regarded metaphorically as the present moment, emphasising the significance of being in the present moment in order to live a good life. The man can hum “in the now” as he floats with the river. We might easily presume that humming here represents the traveller’s enjoyment and exhilaration. It could also be about being ‘carefree’ and ‘careless,’ because the more we get caught up in the cares of life, the less opportunity we have of relaxing and humming.

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The poem now shifts to a hypothetical circumstance. One of the logs may be connected to a camel. Everything would be great if the camel moved in the same direction and at the same speed as the river. If the camel feels he has forgotten something and immediately turns upstream, the situation will become dismal and chaotic. The river flows south, merging with the vast ocean. Human life progresses with the prospect of becoming one with God. If the human mind becomes preoccupied, whether, with regrets from the past or worries about the future, the spontaneity and ease of the voyage might be disrupted. In other words, if the mind rebels against the flow of time, or against the flow of human evolution, the species’ progress may be hampered. Travelling along the bank at the same pace can also be interpreted as the openness of the mind and heart to respond to and accept change. The faster the mind accepts and adapts to change, the smoother and easier life will be in the long run.

The final stanza is not about the traveller’s voyage. Rather, it elucidates the poem’s theme plainly. The poet laments the fact that most people refuse to live in the moment and become engrossed in some notion or emotion. Most people abruptly break away from the smooth flow of life, obviating the possibility of humming in the present. It is natural for people to become engrossed in either thought of sorrow and regret for the past or mixed emotions of hope and concern about the future. When we get stuck in life, it might get mundane.

Adhering to a “reasonable plan” may also refer to the meticulous and orderly existence of a rational person who refuses to perceive the beauty of the current moment. Rumi being the artist and mystic poet, he may be advocating for an aesthetic approach to life that loves change and refuses to become stagnant. Additionally, the poem is a strong indictment of the narrow-mindedness and obstinacy that people develop during their lives. Thus, the poet encourages us to embrace our diversity, adapt to changing times, and relish in the splendour of the present moment through the poem.

Questions and Answers

Note: Questions will be added soon.

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