Author Archives: Eric Halliwell

About Eric Halliwell

I am the creator and sustainer of rumi-nations.com, 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, wordcatalyst.com (since defunct), Shine Journal, Ashé Journal, Berkeley Poetry Review, and Tipton Poetry Journal. I can be reached at estlin3@yahoo.com.

A Straw Man Field Day

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New Start—288

An Example of the Divine Consideration

I feel like a police detective
Just now I was pondering proofs
Of the existence of God

And along these lines . . .
Let’s presume that God has an interest
In leading us to look for the light in the right

Direction meaning we must forsake just now
Absolute meaning and settle for metaphors
That’s if we reasonably postulate that God

In “reality” could not be accurately presented
If only to protect us against incineration
Indeed here is an example of the divine consideration

That gave us the stars to light the night
Not to mention a flashlight of a heart
And so perceiving the light on each proper

Next step in the right direction
Is perforce the proof of progress
Well then if your heart is your compass

(Else you be non compass mentis)
Remember what it encompasses
(If you get my pantheistic drift)

~.~.~

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,

I read this a while back in Cosmos Magazine,

http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/news/5542/logical-thought-causes-less-religious-belief

Oops must have been quite a long time ago, since I got a 404 notice from trying it. Sorry to deprive you of the primary source.

which denigrates “religion” as being anti-logic.

I strongly disagree, at least insofar as any inherency applies. Sure, if you define “religion” as for instance an antipathy to established scientific fact such as evolution, one could have a strawman field day. But such science conveniently ignores Euclidian geometry, based on logic. Because the essence of that, in “proving” for instance, theorems, is the axioms. It’s almost as if the “scientists” are taking as a given the axiom that whatever can’t be observed scientifically, doesn’t exist, in the same way as the non-Euclidians take as their axiom that the shortest distance between two points is NOT a straight line. Given that, indeed one could “prove” a lot of interesting things. And they never even bother to explain why it should be so dismissed out of hand, the notion that love could be behind it all, that love could have power.

This in the teeth of empirical observation of otherwise unaccountable examples of self sacrifice, an extreme of which was shown in Bjork’s Oscar-winning film, Dancer in the Dark, in which a mother chooses to die as a means of saving her son.

People of this persuasion seem to take it as a given that if we cannot prove a negative, that proves the negative doesn’t exist.

I remember reading the Case for Christianity by C. S. Lewis. I’ve never seen anyone come so close to actually proving (as if in a court of law) the existence of God. Using Logic. Indeed though many years later, I trace back to this, the inspiration for my poem, “Logic Is the Mystic’s Best Friend” (published in 2009 in the now defunct literary journal, Wordcatalyst. (You can read the poem below)*

And the article, quite ironically, isn’t logical either. In fact, it gives this example of the poor power of intuition versus “analytical” thinking:

“To remedy this Gervais and his colleagues established a number of tasks that promoted analytical thinking, initially to establish a link and then see if there was a causal relationship with disbelief.
In the first experiment each person was given three puzzles where the intuitive and analytical answers differ. For example: A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total, the bat costs $1.00 more than the ball, so how much does the ball cost? The instinctive answer is 10 cents but the more analytical, correct answer is 5 cents. From these answers the prevalence of their intuitive or analytical thinking would be evident.”

But let’s examine their example. It’s a question of simple algebra. So let’s set up the problem, as in
Bat + ball = $1.10
Ball +$1.00 = $1.10
Subtract $1.00 from both sides of the equation leaves Ball = $.10, which they admit is the “intuitive” answer, but saying in actual fact the ball is worth five cents. I find it amusing that a left brain attack on the logic behind religious beliefs can’t even get its own logic right.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*And here is the poem:
Logic Is the Mystic’s Best Friend

Contrary to fascist rumor
Logic is the mystic’s best friend

I will now demonstrate in the streets
This interesting metaphysical truth

Let’s logically examine this world
And the hypothesis that it actually exists

If it exists I say that it then has to be measurable
Yes on its own solid terms
(Because internal contradictions at the core are a symptom of irreality.)

All right let’s go for simple
We won’t measure the coastline of England
Let’s just measure a normal circular candle rim
Before it’s lit of course

So right off the batty
(Pardon the foreshadowing)
You have to decide at what level you want to measure
Or how small does your measuring tape have to be
Because things change direction on the way down

I refer of course to the obvious fact that under a magnifying glass
Or certainly a microscope
What looked either a straight line or a measureable gentle arc
(Reducible to an interesting equation)

Turns jagged edge on you and when you zero in
(More foreshadowing)
On a given surface to be measured it’s hard to resist
The temptation of a bigger blow up
(For more precise jaggedy measuring)

Okay the trouble is where do you stop?

At the molecular level?
Atomic?
Subatomic?

And here it gets really confusing because
On the sub-atomic level nothing holds still–
The electrons and leptons are zipping around
And one moment the measurement is from here to here
Or was it there?
And the next only God knows where it is

(Always assuming that God would bother
Knowing such a thing if as I suspect
It has less proximity to relevance than the sex of a stapler

So back to measurements–if it isn’t pinnable down
Down to the last lepton’s leprechaun leptons
Well then clearly it’s impossible to measure

It reminds me of the was it Hindu creation tale
Of the turtles stacked up on each other’s backs until finally
The last turtle holds up the earth and some wiseass asks

What’s holding up the bottom turtle?
And this angers the turtle priest Who impatiently insists
It’s turtles all the way down

So unless you fancy a hypothesis made of turtle down
Let’s just quite logically dismiss this creation
As anything to be confused with anything non-mystic scientific

Refract Hope Through the Rainbow Window

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Hazrat Inayat Khan, circa 1920

New Start—284

A Ploy Called Poetry

A word of explanation about my poetry
Or maybe it’s more a full disclosure bit:
I write poems about the issues in my face
Like the disgrace of poor meditation

Or breath control
But I defend myself with a ploy called poetry
Which works in place of my Sufi “meditation”
I qualify the word because I was never good

At meditation which in the Sufi ashram was de rigueur
For fifteen minutes a day (And on spiritual themes!)
My other bugaboo Waterloo was because the Sufis were
Big on the breath too for instance they have a thing

Called Fikr in which you imagine your breath being
A playground swing thing and as it swings
Back and forth you ponder a choice
To be decided in your life

And if all goes well
Well then that’s like fine wine
But if it’s a bad thing for you
Your breath will falter

Yet I could never get that far
You see my mind is a steel trap
And not in a good way
For instance if told to watch the swing

Go back and forth
My mind says “Watch this!”
And makes the swing come to a dead stop
But as I write a poem I meditate quite naturally

Because all meditation is is paying attention
And I love my little inchoate poem I do
Wouldn’t you? If only for gratitude
For somebody listening to your heart?

And this love breeds attention span so I can
Refract hope through the rainbow window
Of translucent colored pebbles in my heart
Like a Good Little Kaleidoscope

~.~.~

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,

While I am on the subject of my poetry (see above), perhaps you have noticed that often the poem is not so much for artistic expression but is rather my medium for expressing a thing of importance to me metaphysically (see above). I even use a poem instead of prose to express a metaphysical idea. What I am getting at is sometimes my poems are also a sort of essay, which you’d think is perforce a prose thing.

But I do suspect something is lost when writing poems whose primary function is to explain ideas and so is not as dynamic as a lyrical poem for instance.

I like to think of it as a musical in which there is a switch from exposition to exhibition.

In other words the prosaic ideas are sort of dressed up (like for when company comes for Sunday dinner) as poetry inspired from the heart.

I guess it’s then this simple:

A lot of my poems are about how I approach how-to Sufi questions, (like a woodworker may read or write a woodworking magazine).

Whereas other poems have a different purpose and if you asked what was the purpose? It would be a meaningless question like asking Beethoven what was the purpose of an arpeggio.*

I should emphasize once again that Sufism is not like other “religions” in which one is given rules and a dogma to study. No, Sufis start from scratch. Although this Sufi believes in reincarnation which make starting from scratch like the old saying that scientists have stood on the shoulders of previous scientists.

It’s all a matter of successive progress. But I digress.

Anyway, to further clarify, I am like Will Rogers, who denied belonging to any “organized political party” on the grounds he was a Democrat.

Yup Sufis aren’t necessarily organized and if someone gathers a following it is on a case by case basis which depends on both the pupil’s interest and background but also his or her deepest longing which after millions of lifetimes well you add up the variables and then tell me how we should all just follow one size fits all rules.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

PS—I am imminently off to my annual California vacation, for a month or so (to visit family and old friends) and then a week or so back in Guatemala to visit my best friend here the nonpareil art restorer, Daniel Casimiro, who works for the Basilica in Esquipulas (home of world famous “Black Jesus”) as their art restorer for their cache of centuries old Christian art. And I just fell and broke my right arm, which may occasion a delay in my next post (Fortunately yhis post was about ready, and but it’s hard to type with only the left (non-dominant) hand.

PPS—Please forgive any typos. It’s hard to play copy editor with a broken dominant hand.

*Which brings to mind an amusing story about Robert Frost.

Once, when he was giving a reading, and during questions afterwards a lady asked him to explain what the poem meant.

He smiled and agreed to try, and proceeded to read the poem again.

When she still had the same question, he smiled encouragement and patiently read the poem again. And at some point she wised and shut up.

I will leave you to draw inferences as to how this applies to poems that are more like music or have that quality mixed and if you tried to dissect out which part was which and how it worked together, well now that reminds me of another story, this from E. B. White (author of Charlotte’s Web) who said “You can dissect a joke like you can dissect a frog. But it tends to die on you.”

Eric, Who Believes in Jesus

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My drawing of the Virgin Mary

*(see footnote below)

 

 

New Start—271

Jesus and My Bicycle Hiawatha

When I was eight
I went out for little league
The first day when it was my turn at bat

I couldn’t see the ball
Could and couldn’t
Because for something I couldn’t see

It sure was scary
Steerike one!
Steerike two!

Steerike three!
Yer out!
(You pathetic little wimp)

But when I played Lucy in right field
He went too far
He called me sleeping Jesus

I could no longer feel insulted
I was a Jesus fan
Jesus and my bicycle Hiawatha

~.~.~

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,

When I left off last time (in this series of biographical sketches) I was with my three brothers back with our father and his second wife. He’d never had a lot of independent desire to live with us (e. g. never fought for custody when my mother was having us declared wards of the court, on our way to orphanages and stuff like that) But later he married a couple of Aunt Pollys who were determined to civilize us.

The first time was better than the second.

Barbara was the first, an impressive lady who had the presence of Lauren Bacall. She was a bigshot in the Campfire Girls organization and every summer we were with them (two or three? My father had a high burn rate wife-wise.) we went with her to their deserted High Sierra camp Waswaygon. Or so it sounded phonetically. It was an old Indian name. I forget what for.

We didn’t get to meet any girls though. But Barbara did post in the dining hall a group photo of us volunteer boys shoring up a log bridge across a creek.

The principal trouble with Barbara was she had baggage. She had a son named Robby about Robin’s age (two years younger than I). He was spoiled rotten.**

Back to Barbara. She still took naked baths with Robby. ‘Nuff said.

Except for the time when we were to be punished from one of Robby’s lies, and so she took Robby out to dinner leaving our dad instructions that we were not to have any.

So when she left, we said to Dad, “You know don’t you that Robby is lying?”

He allowed that to be so.

So next question what’s there to eat in the fridge? And he said no he was honor bound to enforce Barbara’s rule.

But he wouldn’t have any either.

But he probably snuck down in the wee hors d’oeuvres hours and raided the fridge. Just like he had done with my tootsie roll from a neighbor lady when I was four.

Perhaps you are sensing a lack of filial respect. Yes, my father was hard to like. In this particular time, living with Barbara, one episode stands out as a reason for my filial distance.

Jim at this time was fifteen and only two years short of being a starting lineman for a league champion football team.

And Jim never jumped through anyone’s hoops (I could tell you such school stories!) and so when he refused to obey my father, the latter, soon finding the idea of a belt laughable, was reduced to fists. (And my father when he was seventy could still do one handed push-ups.)

So it was like two people in a prolonged attempt to murder someone with fists.

Call me old fashioned, but I say if punishment has to go that far the game isn’t worth the candle.

I adored Jim.

Not sure that I ever forgave my father.

I think that fight was the death knell of our stay there. And indeed, the stars had gone dark in the skies of his wife’s eyes. And we got tired of these wives as well, especially the next one, the Nazi wife (not an exaggeration. I mean fire breathing John Bircher stuff). Stay tuned.

So after a year or so it was time to move on.

Fortunately by then Mom had hooked up with a Mormon lesbian lady***who was really into family and talked Mom into wanting us back. It IS interesting is it not, those times when just when you need it an earlier barred door opens, and leads on to a chain of adventures, the latest chapter of which leaves you smiling? Or at least, engrossed in interesting analysis. At least on a good day.

I call my life that, and in spades.

But can you imagine a good adventure story without danger and the struggle for hope?
 
 

It was a strange and not well remembered transition from friendly popular boy (I was class president in fifth grade) to chip on my shoulder atheist at age twelvish on. I would go up to people and ask if they believed in God and if they said yes, I would ridicule them mercilessly. Belittle their bird brains. Stuff like that. And I was pretty good at it. So good no one in high school ever crossed me, though I looked the nerd out of central casting.****

And just two years earlier I was begging my brothers to type me out stuff that Jesus had said in the bible and could they please use the red ink just like the bible did, for Jesus’ words?

You must remember these older brothers (three and four years older) were then my only friends. Especially if you define a friend as someone you might call to chat with after school, etc.

Nope.

No friends.

You know they say that military kids who are always moving from one fort to another, soon give up; they know any friends they make will soon rip their heart out again . . .

It used to drive me nuts every time I applied for a college (and I was fickle!) they would all want to know the dates and duration of every school I had ever attended. So I know. We moved just about every six months. At least between the orphanage and Grandma Dorothy (in high school)

So then atheist brothers start looking good. And it was a good mystical lesson, because it taught me a taste for challenge. I mean let’s see you try to keep the respect of older brothers who were eloquent and wielding rapiers of wit and they kept making fun of “Eric, who believes in Jesus.”

Funny I can’t remember the transition to atheism.

Or the transition from being nice.

Here’s my theory: betrayal and unkindness is just too ugly to look at. At least at first.

So it got it repressed.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*I wanted to put up an illustration on a Jesus theme, and Sufi-self-servingly I chose a photo of my drawing of the Virgin Mary. I say Sufi-servinglyn because the Anatolian Sufis (albeit from Muslim extraction) were noted for their fierce regard for Jesus’ mother.

**My mother always denied any lesbian connections, though she lived for years (sleeping in the same bed) with a six foot tall 200 pound woman with a mustache. And I once had found a box of lesbian novels in the garage. But I had naively never thought of that, though years later I was talking to my debate partner best friend Ralph, saying as a champion debater (We won the Los Angeles tournament) he could make a case for anything. Like I bet he could make a case that my mother was a lesbian. How so, what was the evidence? I told him about the large lady friend and the box of novels and also the butch other friends that never came with men. Rough ladies with names like “Hoxie.” Ralph’s response? Sarcasm. “Oh you think I might make a case, do you?”

*****Just like Donald Lee in the orphanage, who would follow me and shove a sharpened shovel down just behind my bare heels (in the orphanage they didn’t always issue you shoes). Just like in the westerns when the baddies shoot at your feet yelling, “Dance!” Of course I was older and bigger and so I punched him out but predictably he then went crying to Mrs. Hunt the Wagnerian shotgun wielder, his Catherine the Great grandmother saying that I had hit him and when he was only being polite. And so I was sent to bed without Disneyland, the most feared punishment in those days.

But as you can see I have forgiven and forgotten.

****My mother worked in a sanitarium for rich people, working as a masseuse and all purpose what not. One of her clients was a rich widow who, hearing she had sons, gave her her husband’s antique tuxedo. The old fashioned kind with tails and a top hat. And a black ribbon down the outsides of the legs. The top was for a guy with a pinched-in chest, but the pants fit me perfectly. I proudly wore them to school thinking that was high class. (I had enough sense not to wear the hat)

Now ordinarily a guy who dressed like that in school would be the object of ridicule. But nobody dared make fun of me or attack me in any way. I was a verbal attack dog. I would give them a nickname that would haunt them in the halls. As I have hinted at, in this atheist period, I wasn’t very nice.