It’s Not Mysterious, It’s Gratitude
Well you know
If I were to put it into words
I would explain it like this:
I am grateful
Maybe if I say why you will know
It’s not mysterious
It’s gratitude for this:
It wasn’t enough for God
(Aka The Powers That Be)
To inspire some feel-good sacrifice
That I would miraculously find charming
But my God! the Holy Chap
Goes way beyond that:
Because I have to say today to God
(In a personal way):
Oh Sweet Principle of Existence
You sure are making these lessons interesting
Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:
“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”
Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”
There is the question of mortality. Is this the end?
Of course we can go to a notion of reincarnation.
Or we can say hey this is all we’ve got, and yet it’s possible to make it count.
Does the artist mourn when his painting is finished?
Or does he exult that it has something of eternity in it?
What brings me to this? A friend (denombre Victoria) has died. She was not for me a close friend. Really a friend for just one night, fourish years earlier. But as in this second sense (or some call it second sight) perhaps all is a microcosm and if one can see truth in one evening then one can extrapolate truth to every where.
And of course the whole thing is fraught with the issue of I myself may die. Indeed, my daughter in California on hearing of my recent health problems now wants me to hie my way to California where her trusted MD friend (and mine) can put my health under the microscope.
I mention this mainly to emphasize that I have reasons besides Victoria’s recent fate, to consider mortality.
And a wise person will then segue to what is this life all about anyway?
I can certainly say that the whole experience with Victoria has brought to mind these issues.
Victoria recently died of Pancreatic cancer in Panajachel Guatemala where I live. (As I have often mentioned to Gentle Readers).
And in the course of her dying many of her friends banded together in a sort of fellowship of support.
Most were her close friends.
I was not. In fact to tell the truth I had reason to believe that Victoria did not like me. That she judged me harshly.
But I am a Sufi, (in my fashion) and my dharma is important to me. But it is a dharma of the will of the heart, not of mere duty.
And for me the whole business with joining the group on Victoria’s behalf was healing. I believe too it was healing to Victoria to see a man she didn’t much like come out of the woodwork when she needed it, to cheerfully and carefully try to help.
MY task was to help keep her fed. (Having been a life-long practitioner of culinary arts) Especially with homemade yogurt, wheat-free cookies and cornbread made in a special way; she had so many dietary restrictions, and so little appetite. Also, having been a carpenter, I was handy with a bit of that, when it was needed.
The night I bonded with Victoria happened a couple of years earlier.
We were acquaintances, not really friends, though I had wanted to be that. And even once she’d stayed overnight in my casita above Lake Atitlan, when she’d wanted to see a movie in my collection, (I think it was Antonia’s Line, the academy award winning “feminist fairytale” movie from Holland.) and it was too late to go home as travel there was in boats and the last lanchas had passed, it being nightfall.
But the night I mentioned when I bonded with Victoria was a couple of years later when I was in Antigua (a three hour drive from Panajachel), hanging with a girlfriend who lived there, a Peruvian artist of the first rank (painter, sculptress, and poet).
And when I met Victoria in the street, we were close enough friends to decide to have lunch together. It was a difficult conversation; when I am feeling judged, I can be difficult. But we both seemingly peered over the precipice and decided to make peace. And sometimes, after that, one does find a deeper friendship.
I told her about Claudia, my painter girlfriend. I told her how we were breaking up; it was Claudia’s decision. But it was amicable and indeed I was staying at her house in Antigua, with plans to move back to my casita on Atitlan in a few days. And I raved to Victoria about Claudia’s paintings and sculptures.
Victoria, you must know was an artist and photographer herself, and expressed such interest, that I invited her to Claudia’s to meet her and to see her art, which Victoria then adored. And we all hit it off, and decided to have dinner out together that night. And while Victoria was in the bathroom, Claudia told me her opinion that Victoria was perfect for me.
But Claudia got jealous when at dinner, Victoria and I sang to each other most of the songs from the musical My Fair Lady. You see, I was a poor child and my family had only a few vinyl records for music, one being the soundtrack for My Fair Lady, and so I’d listened to it so much, the songs were all memorized. I have no idea how Victoria had come by such knowledge herself. But I have since heard from people in the group to help her while she was dying, that she loved to sing. And so we spent much of the evening in duets from the musical.
Now Claudia knew English, though not nearly as well as I knew Spanish. But even so, she felt left out as we sang together with such obvious gusto. And she waxed powerful jealous. And when we got home she changed her mind about breaking up, thinking I was soon to be hanging with Victoria when we both imminently returned to Panajachel.
Which was an intense relief to me, as Claudia was quite the catch. Out of my league really, but because of Victoria I had three more months of Claudia memories.
So, join me in my gratitude to Victoria, who that night saved my romantic ass. Which was at that time very important to me. I have since however been grateful for the transitory nature of that relation, as in looking back, I see how damaging it would have been to my poetry “career” had it been a permanent thing. Largely since Claudia took up so much space in my life, it was always me in service to her and her art. I even (with my knowledge of carpentry) was pivotal in how to make her life-size papier mache sculpture of a woman be able to free-stand without falling over. The secret to that was to embed short iron bars in the lower legs, giving them such weight, they hugged the floor. Kind of like a bottom-weighted helium-filled life-size doll. But I digress from my main point which is to explain my gratitude to Victoria. And even my gratitude for gratitude itself.
An important thing in Sufism.
Just as an example, when things go sour or I am disappointed or gloomy, it cheers me right up to think of the intense good fortune I have to have been a witness to this wonderful drama we call life. An interactive witness. They talk about three dimensional chess, but this life is three dimensional art.
It’s hard to feel gloomy when you are so full of thanks.
And gratitude goes so much further than just what you must feel to avoid the stigma of ingratitude.
Gratitude is a life jacket or in my case a hook I can fasten to my belt which has a winch at the other end, which pulls me out of a quicksand John Bunyan famously called the slough of despond.*
And even in the teeth (yes, seemingly teeth were involved) of Victoria’s later judgment of me, I held to that gratitude like an ancient mariner does his astrolabe. And it was actually an enjoyable challenge to shower Victoria with my love and concern as she was dying. I hope seeing the sincerity of that also touched Victoria’s heart, at the end. I think so, and there was a proof of it in a note she sent me three days before she died, in which she called me an angel.
I think that’s the true grail: the support of holy ground underfoot, the happiness to be found from impersonating an angel.
I will always remember Victoria for that.
This post is long in the tooth wordcount-wise. (Also, I hope, long in the truth) The next post will include contributions from other members of Victoria’s support group.
God be with you,
P. S. Are you hip to synchronicity?** It’s a Karl Jung concept. (He was a famous apostate acolyte of Freud) I confess to being too much a dilettante to really know much about him, though I have many reasons to respect him as a first rate metaphysician. Anyway, he has a concept known as synchronicity. A manifestation of this is when you are thinking or in this case writing about something and suddenly it’s in your face. Like if you are thinking of the old (or youthful when he died) pharaoh, King Tut, and suddenly there is on PBS a special about the King Tut collection of artifacts in some famous New York museum. And suddenly there is a Saturday Night Live reprise of Steve Martin’s classic song and dance thing about King Tut. Or if you are thinking of an old photo of the mystic Meher Baba when he visited Hollywood and the photo you’ve seen of him with Mary Pickford on a movie lot in Hollywood, circa 1933. And suddenly on the classic movie channel is a Mary Pickford retrospective. You get my drift. I’ve always been fascinated by this and have seen it in action countless times. I’ve never understood whether it was that my mind, once having thought of a thing, has suddenly rearranged the universe to bring forth a relevant reference from out of the blue. Or if it was that I was clairvoyant and saw it coming. The latter makes me seem less powerful and so is probably more likely. But in either case or in any case, it’s a fascinating concept.
But what does this have to do with Victoria? Well, tonight, just a day after having written about the above incident of me and Victoria singing to each other songs from a musical, I am watching Charley Rose interview Steve Martin (who it turns out is also a master banjo player) and his new musical sidekick Edie Brickell, and they are talking about how their Bluegrassish collaboration has resulted in their imminent Broadway musical, Bright Star, no doubt a reference to this famous John Keats poem:
“Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art”
Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art—
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—
No—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.
And here is a musical example, featured at the end of the interview:
And of course this song is fascinating, due to it’s love theme. Have you noticed? Love has a universal charm. Always has and always will. And this of course cannot be explained by science, or evolution, except as a proof of the existence of God, the Personification of love.
Post script de Nuevo:
Okay, I just finished this, and would have posted it, but my internet is suddenly out. And so I decided to watch television. (It’s 10:38 here in Panajchel).
So I am channel browsing, and there on Jimmy Fallon, is Steve Martin with banjo in tow, and Edie Brickell too, and their band behind.
Incroyable. (As they don’t say here–it’s more of a French thing)
*For a reference check:
**For a quick primer on the concept, I refer you to wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synchronicity