Rumi’s Elemental Wisdom

Ocean Drop

An Alternative Outlook

Some profound insight from Rumi, a 13th Century Persian poet, who offers up another perspective when appreciating our smallness. As he describes it, “you are not just a drop in the ocean, you are the entire ocean in a drop.” I thought this was a pretty cool revelation in the grand scheme of things. Especially for those of us concerned with sustainability, climate change, and the dangers of an eroding environment.

These are all big issues, and it’s easy to consider that our individual contribution may not amount to all that much. For instance, when contemplating whether to donate to a cause, volunteer, vote, or maybe just use disposables. We might justify to ourselves that it won’t make that much of a difference in the big picture. Rather, Rumi reminds us that we are each of us a small reflection of the big picture.

Cloud Atlas

A Collection of Drops

Rumi’s message is also well reflected in the book/film Cloud Atlas (excerpt above), where the protagonists feel compelled to act upon their actions in the hopes of realizing the change they envision. It’s a sweet line; “What is the ocean but a multitude of drops?” It does drive the message that change is possible and worthy of your efforts and sacrifice (see A Fierce Green Fire).

The Big Picture

What I find additionally poignant about Rumi’s observation, is that it has withstood the test of time, and is in fact complimentary to our present day scientific understanding of the universe. Although Rumi wrote this centuries ago, he was nonetheless a scholar and demonstrated through his poetry his understanding of our simultaneously simple and complex world. Before space shuttles or the electron microscope, he was able to make the connection that we are each a reflection of the universe. Something that has since been confirmed by physicists, astronomers (see below), and biologists. Truly an amazing recognition!

We Are Made of Stardust


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