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.

Elizabeth’s Punk Piece Party

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Elizabeth Herron

PR4–61

I’d Been Invited by the Queen

“I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch,
he said to me, “You must not ask for so much.”
And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door,
she cried to me, “Hey, why not ask for more?”
–Leonard Cohen (Bird on a Wire)

Some guys like me
We talk big about no fear
Of death I tend to say
If my time were drawing near

(My theory goes)
I would wax wise and declare
It was like a dinner party:
I’d been invited by the queen

And then inevitably I’d had to go home
And yet there’s complaint anent which
A case could be made for it’s just ungrateful greed
Considering all the wonders I’ve seen

All the free dinners and theater tickets
To ask for more
Although these things are far from unarbitrary
(It’s a subjective soul thing)

And maybe it’s more like the Leonard Cohen thing
Above and even
(Lots of times)
There’s Oliver Twists to this

~.~.~

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,

In my youth my favorite TV show was Science Fiction Theater.

Every episode started out with the host saying, “Let me show you something interesting.”

And he would walk over to a sort of display which featured a scientific principle. Like how a phonograph works or radio signals or such. And then he would say something about how that tied in to the extrapolation which could be derived, allowing future scientists to do some amazing thing, but along the same lines.

I often try to do that with my poems, when I start off with a quote (to show you something interesting.)

Like the Leonard Cohen quote atop the above poem. And then I extrapolate from there. How amazing that is I do not claim except to say I tried, and to quote Emerson: “Hitch your wagon to a star.”

What got me started on this post, is a couple of quotes from a book I just finished reading. They are from Larry McMurtry’s Magnum opus, Lonesome Dove, which got him the Pulitzer Prize and whose screenplays of it (any other of his works) got him Emmys. And muchos Oscars.*

Apparently (by my standards) he is a metaphysically oriented kind of guy. Witness these (interesting) quotes from Lonesome Dove:

“ ‘When was you the happiest, Call?’ Augustus asked.
‘Happiest about what?’ Call asked.
‘Just about being a live human being, free on the earth,’ Augustus said.”

And

“He had known several men who blew their heads off, and he had pondered it much. It seemed to him it was probably because they could not take enough happiness just from the sky and the moon to carry them over the low feelings that came to all men.”

I hadn’t heard about him until many years ago when I got fortunate to have a writing teacher (Elizabeth Herron).**

Elizabeth (the professor at Sonoma State University) liked to tell us who her favorite writers were and high on her list was Larry McMurtry. This was before Lonesome Dove was written. I remember she especially recommended Somebody’s Darling, and All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers.

I had a crush on her. And even though she was married, a guy could dream, couldn’t he? But the upside of that was I was motivated to impress her and so I tried my damnedest. And I wrote a poetry collection for my final project. (She said ONE good poem would have sufficed but I wanted to show off, and even dedicated it to her; I titled it, Elizabeth’s Punk Piece Party and Other Poems.)

And guess what? Two of those sixtyish poems have been published (and one republished). Which gives me an excuse to put them in this blog post (which after all is also–apart from my concept of Sufism and mysticism in general–about poetry and poetry writing. And of course often some biographical stuff)

And so here they are:

(These journals below are now defunct, except for Tipton Poetry Journal)

Published in Word Catalyst and then republished in Tipton Poetry Review:

I Was a Prince

I was a prince who found you in a pond
Secure beneath a lily pad to hide
Your creamy body from the sun and me but
You squirmed out of my grasp and dived so deep
I dared not follow so I placed a net
Which looked quite like a lily pad and I
Disguised myself and sat on top a frog
As any fool could see–when you came up
I quickly kissed your lips and magic things
Occurred like in the fairy tales to wit
I did become a frog and it turned out
You really fancied frogs’ legs but I squirmed
Out of your grasp and dived down deeper than
You dared to follow so you placed a net
Which looked quite like a lily pad and when
I came back up again to sit on it
You kissed me back into a prince once more
And it turned out you fancied princes too
So you apologizing for the frogs’
Legs dinner episode said “Still it was
A lot of fun” And so we lived and dived
Quite happy ever after til one day
You were especially hungry and you knew
That when I was a frog you were supposed
To kiss me but you ate me and you said
“It was a boring game after a while”

Published in Umbrella Journal:

Einstein, God, and Picasso

Einstein thought things
Were pretty mysterious
And that made him “religious”

You can’t handle coal
Without getting your hands black
So I guess he couldn’t handle the universe
Without getting awestruck
It’s a pretty big place

If it isn’t distance it’s time so
Think about the Jurassic if you will
I mean actually seeing dinosaurs
Whose digestive juices and genes
Were just like ours

Only in a different pattern:
The style of the Artist
Is instantly recognizable

God I think is like Picasso
Who never had to pay for anything
He would just write a check
Which, of course, never got cashed
It was far more valuable as a collector’s item

And this has not been published but it was her favorite in the book of poems I wrote:

Trying to Write Something in the Air

Just come from visiting you
I wipe my eye
I wave good-bye

My hand lingers in the air
My finger pointing
Not to blame anyone

It is wet cool on one side
A secret moisture tells me
Which way the wind is blowing

My finger sways drunkenly
Trying to write something
In the air

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Larry McMurtry is an amazing guy who wrote lots of wonderful books and spin-off screenplays, many of which won Oscars and Emmys. For an interesting short bit about him and these, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_McMurtry

**For more about her see: http://www.elizabethherron.net/

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.”