The Cure for Alone
I was a lonely child
But I loved Christmas:
It was a distraction attraction
From no friends
I loved the red candles and the songs
Connoting Jesus though as a baby
And I’d no affinity for babies then
But that didn’t matter
I had an affinity for holy
For the music that evoked that
Lit a candle to love which always
Has been the cure for alone
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.”
Yes this is a Sufi blog, in keeping with a Sufi website named after the most popular Sufi in the Western world, Rumi (as in rumi-nations.com).
But the blog posts, quotes, stories, and quotes, if they have one overriding common theme, is that it is in daily life (or should be) that we gradually hone ourselves to that “Razor’s Edge” Somerset Maugham referred to in his famous eponymous novel.
And that is why so much of my poetry is personal, derived from life experience. And interestingly (along these lines) my poetry these days, universally deals with what I call metaphysical issues. Chief among which is (have I mentioned this?) the search for happiness. Yes, Sufism is (as per the title of one of my blog posts) “The Science of Happiness.”
And this blog, as in my poetry, has no other touchstone but my own experience.
Pardon my roundabout way of justifying what I will now do. I will fill you gentlefolk (reader-wise) in on some biographical recollections which perforce have shaped my own personal search for happiness. Not to mention that I have lately embarked on the project of writing my memoirs. And dear readers, (aka guinea pigs) I do confess I plan to practice (here and there) on you all. And since I have often been assured that I have led an “interesting life,” I trust it will not bore you, and that I won’t stray much from metaphysical themes. Since this is a metaphysical (read Sufi) blog and website.
And so, like Charles Dickens did, I will begin with my childhood.
As for the tale of my childhood, I wish I could make it more of a swashbuckling narrative like the chapter in Huckleberry Finn, “We Ambuscade the A-rabs.” But that would be too protagonist for a situation like mine which was more passive as in, “I didn’t know the pie was bait and had a hook in it.”
I remember I went with my mother one day to buy me a little rug for me to sleep upon at nap time in kindergarten. For some reason I was excited about that rug, a little red riding thing like Santa’s suit. And afterward my mother asked me if I would like to meet her friend, a Mrs. Murray. I was a friendly kid (my mother used to call me her little dolphin because I was so playful), and so naturally I said sure. And it even turned out there was pie involved. And at that age, I could be bought with pie.
And after my pie and milk, my mother asked if I wanted to spend the night at Mrs. Murray’s. Of course I was also an adventurous boy who liked new things, and who thought maybe in the morning there would be more pie and so I said, sure!
And it was five years before I slept again under my mother’s roof.
This Mrs. Murray was a paid foster mother. Paid by the state of California to provide my room and board. Because, behind the scenes my mother had petitioned for me to be put in state custody and as such referred to as a “ward of the court.” If I had cleverly invested a dollar for every time in those years I heard those words, I’d have a secure retirement nest egg now.
I was too young to have explained to me the necessity for this, but in retrospect it is clear that my mother was going nuts trying to keep afloat financially with meager employment, and raise four rowdy boys, all without child support.
Boys like Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer.
Rambunctious boys, whom my mother was ill equipped to train.
I used to joke when people congratulated me for some mental feat. I would reply, “My mommy didn’t raise no dummies!” And then I would add, “Of course, my mommy never raised anybody.”
You see my mother had converted to Catholicism briefly in her youth, and apparently the rumors that the church encourages anti-Malthusian measures are true, such that my mother cranked out four boys in a span of six years. And one miscarriage! And who knows? Maybe down the lonesome road I’ll have some Hell-escaping advantage for having been baptized a Catholic! But this was too much for my Quaker father, who was no doubt aghast at the necessity to support and raise four children. (It would have entailed a job!) So first he got a vasectomy, and then to make double sure, got a divorce.
And though he never paid child support, to be fair, he often visited, and played his bagpipes, and shouted, “Hoot mon!.” (He had kilts and tassels and everything. He was taught by his Scottish stepfather.)
My mother was an only child. Her father had really wanted a son (to teach football and baseball to; he had been a star athlete in three sports in high school) and his wife hated sex,* which made problematic any prospects for more children, and so Grandpa Logan (affectionately referred to as Grambogie which name he may have suggested himself for his resemblance to Humphrey Bogart) took it out on his fat and only daughter, sneering at how she “waddled.” He no doubt had felt cheated, having waited patiently for marriage with his incredibly beautiful wife** only to discover that she hated sex. I imagine it was a surprise to her as well. I do remember her oft repeated refrain, as she got drunk at night, (after my grandfather’s death) that though she loved Logan for 39 years and missed him terribly, “Thank God I’ll never be bothered in bed by a man again!”
But back to Grambogie: I’m not sure how much abuse there was and of what exact nature, but I remember one story of her being abused physically while her mother sat in the corner cowed and afraid to intervene. So I once asked Mom if Grambogie had ever hit her and she didn’t answer, just started to cry.
She had only gotten married to escape her father.
I fear this has reached installment size. Story continues next week.
God be with you,
PS–I have a firm conviction that to understand my youth, you must know somewhat of the roots of it. It’s a “twig is bent” thing, you know.
*And thereby hangs a tale of no sexual desire caused by typical African genital mutilation, but performed by her doctor father in rural Michigan circa 1900. (He’d come across her at age three playing doctor with her six year old sister. The Calvinist thought to himself, if this is what’s going on at this tender age, by God they’ll be whores for sure, and took remedial surgical measures) I may or may not later go into this horrific tale. But it’s outside the drive chain of the story just now.
** At age seventeen I was perusing a wooden boxfull of old family photos and came across a picture of a seventeen year old girl of ravishing beauty. And that was in black and white, not showing her dynamic red hair. I had butterflies in my heart just looking at her. I asked who it was and someone said, “Oh, that’s Grandma Dorothy.” Join me in remembrance of the strange incestuous guilt twinge that inspired.