Master the Perverse Impulse

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan

This poem was published in Berkeley Poetry Review:

Master the Perverse Impulse

“To make a friend, forgiveness is required
which burns up all things, leaving only beauty;
but to destroy friendship is easy.”
–Hazrat Inayat Khan

I don’t know . . . I think
It’s similarly easy
To throw oneself off a cliff

It’s true, and that’s probably why
I have always been
Supremely scared
To be on a ledge

I think I would visit
The Grand Canyon on my belly
With only my head
Projecting over the rim

I figure by the time
I got up to jump I could
Master the perverse impulse

So friend you’re pretty safe with me
I’ll take a lot
Lying down


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.”


Gentle Readers,

To start off, I wish to quote my daughter:

“Daddy! Daddy! I crossed the street all by myself, and I didn’t even get runned over!”
–Mehera Halliwell
(At age five, demonstrating proper gratitude for what she receives in life)

And then I will segue to this, paraphrasing Robert Frost: Something there is that doesn’t love a friend.

Hell, something doesn’t love ceramics. Or so one could conclude by how often dishes break. Even valuable antique ones. Not that I am suggesting paranoia. It’s just like we look before we cross the street. So I think some paranoia is healthy. Indeed often the wise have suggested taking care, with reasonable precautions.

A favorite quote comes from Mohammed. When asked if one should tie one’s camel, or trust in God, he replied, “Tie your camel, AND trust in God.”

Yes danger is there.

Skulking about.

That’s probably why with Jesus it wasn’t enough to be as gentle as lambs. It was good also to be wise as serpents.

And sometimes the threat’s behind our lines like some Wormtongue** within, whispering fear or Devil knows what other negativity.

But in Sufism, it’s kind of an echo of Jesus when he said “By their fruits shall ye know them.” If afterwards (or during) you are sick at heart, well that too is a fruit.

Of course, I believe in signs. But the scary times are when that is too late. Meher Baba, the co-founder of Sufism Reoriented (the other being Hazrat Inayat Khan) had a favorite song, Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine.” There’s a telling lyric there which refers to cursing “the chance that was wasted.”

As gentle readers probably have noticed, I’ve talked a lot about friendship. A big reason is this is a Sufi blog, and Inayat Khan often talked about friendship. Seemingly as an apprenticeship in the process of destiny. Your destiny being the stars.

I wouldn’t be surprised then if when Emerson said to “hitch your wagon to a star,” he was talking about friendship.

I should mention that in Sufism saints are referred to as friends of God. (Yes, they have friends in high places)

It is always sweet to find there are people who share our concerns. It can even come to feel like family, such sharing. Or perhaps I think it would best be stated in reverse, that sometimes family can come to seem like friendship.

So maybe you won’t be surprised, if today I will talk about how careful we have to be with friendship.

Which is he point of the poem I started off with (see above). I know these posts are perforce prose, even though whenever I can, I prefer to ditch the prose and rely on my poetry. If only because when a poem is any good it gets right to it and my prose likes to play Ring-around-the-Rosie. (Or as we say in Guatemala, andar por las ramas–not exactly beat around the bush–literally to walk through the branches)

Except my prose tends not to want to ever fall down. Sometimes I think I became a poet as pure therapy for long-windedness.

In case you have been wondering why I always sign off with God be with you, well here is why:

It’s from a favorite Bob Dylan song, Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.

There is a line in a that song that always puzzled me: “Good-bye’s too good a word, Babe, so I’ll just say fare thee well.” But then I remembered good-bye is a contraction for “God Be With You”; which is clearly a better word than a mere fare thee well.

And so, God be with you,

Eric Halliwell
**Wormtongue was the weaselly advisor to the king of Rohan in the Lord of the Rings.

About Eric Halliwell

I am the creator and sustainer of, a website which features (among a few other things, like interesting and inspiring quotes, and Sufi stories) my poetry and illustrative blog posts, about one 1000 word essay a month. It is Sufi-themed, probably because for seven years I was an officially initiated Sufi mureed, in San Francisco circa 1970’s. My poetry has appeared in these publications: Penwood Review, Ascent Aspirations, Umbrella Journal, (since defunct), Shine Journal, Ashé Journal, Berkeley Poetry Review, and Tipton Poetry Journal. I can be reached at

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