Category Archives: Poetry

A Reindeer Unto Caesar Thing

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Charley Brown

That Ironic Stem of Stunted Light

I have never liked the phrase
“The better angels of our nature” and now

I find it was coined by Abraham Lincoln
Who suspended habeus corpus–
So stuff gets complicated one could argue

Because it connotes there might be some
Rotten angels in the barrel . . .
Though come to think of it the name Lucifer

Has that ironic stem of stunted light
And then also of course you have Lucy
With her Charley Brown football ploy

Like I say
Things are complicated

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,
Up to now, except of course indirectly (and poetry which is the epitome of indirection, is also included as a possibly more extreme form of indirect) I haven’t (or have I?) dwelt overmuch on my personal Sufi philosophy which in a bombshell nutshell consists of an interest (at least as a favorite hobby) in the nuts and (sometimes) lightning bolts of adhering to the often curving (sometimes a bucking bronco ride) road which leads to being happy.

And so to start with, okay, yes I do have a self-serving personal philosophy in which I coddle myself, justifying it by saying one needs to negotiate a peace treaty with one’s lower self. Kind of a reindeer unto Caesar thing, if you get my Christian drift. (ho ho ho)

But to “bribe” (too strong a word, really) it the way I bribed my erst first grade students. Which was like* “A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.” (my picturesque way of presenting my personally-invented preventing boredom (the arch enemy of education) in the classroom ploy.

Yes, I would dance and make jokes and funny faces, sneak up behind to scare them (with the pretext of curing their hiccups) and, you know, your kiddie version bag of slapstick tricks. And Dani, my best friend (the nonpareil Venezuelan artist) in these parts has a nickname for me:”Payaso” (clown).

So I fancy myself suited to the role.

It kept the kids on their toes. They never knew if what’s next might be a pitiful (and thus amusing) teacher pratfall.

But in the meantime, in between time, I would be delivering reading lessons or a how-to-draw-nice-letters game which involved a contest between students which I called, “Pink Chalk Time!” Etc etc. (And there were much sought after gaudy prizes!)

But I digress (my guess though is that there’s more progress with more digress. But there I go again . . .(self-serving wise)

And I apply these same lessons to myself. Fortunately, half of my (aka my better angels**) personality is really of a “spiritual” bent. I mean things like I am (fortunately) fascinated by metaphysical speculation, just for instance, pondering the meanderings of the “spiritual” path. And suchlike ancillary Sufi fun. (Which interests do keep me on a sort of Sufi path)

But yup I have to admit there is another half that’s like first graders who need to be distracted to be attracted. So I have invented my own personal Gospel of Fun. (And yes, I do cheat a bit what with the head start of my as I say built-in fascination with for instance Al-Hallaj etc. *** in which I coddle myself but then I cleverly get away with it, justifying it by saying one needs to bribe the lower self with the pretext of fun and enjoyment (kiddie fashion). And yes I will stipulate that I am from a metaphysical school opposite those hair shirt lovers with their austerity artists (the whips and chain gang).

I have no such hair shirt philosophy.

Because it is just not fun. And I worship at the Gospel of Fun.

This may be the downside of believing in reincarnation. Meher Baba said we have over eight million lifetimes as a human being (before finally reaching god-realizatiion (aka nirvana, or as the Christians put it, the peace that passeth understanding) I refer to my lack of ambition as in “there’s plenty of time.” No hair shirt for me, not when I can just cultivate a situation in which spiritual progress is a fun thing. Even if arguably it takes longer. I guess I prefer what my erst dear friend Gail, the trance medium’s spiritual guide used to refer to as “the scenic route.”

But yes I do hear the self-accusing voice that says I have thus gone astray. But as I say, I was a first grade teacher (Just before I left for Guatemala twenty years ago) and too, thereby hangs a tale. (Which you can peruse in this post: https://rumi-nations.com/2013/07/01/the-fates-found-her/)

But I digress (like a fierce tigress!)

So here’s an example from today. (aka the kick in the pants that started this post): As some who have been paying attention know, I tend to live in Guatemala. And in these parts, now and again, the electricity gets shut off, Ostensibly for maintenance and repairs.

And when this recently happened I decided to console myself with some sophisticated fun. Para precisar, I decided to sit down on my veranda, make up a tea tray (with muffins!) and read from my current favorite novel, Middlemarch by George Eliot****

I decided it was high class fun. And like with teaching first graders, I thought to teach myself via fun. Anyway but then I spied my sweet cat Dahlia (frequently an inspiration to me*****) with her contented post-exploratory look. And I noticed that I was noticing her and not so much my usually absorbing book. You see, I love Dahlia, and merely liked the book. Which made Dahlia the more interesting object of study. Which reminded me of what Inayat Khan had said about meditation. He was drawing a dichotomy between the study of meditation, and the spontaneous meditation of a mother as she gazed upon her child. He said that such love taught a better meditation than any study could have done.

And I succumbed to comparing myself to that mother with my cat as the child. But it was a pleasant feeling, thinking that. And I decided that sort of spiritual pride was okay. At least in my case. Perhaps because I lack ambition.

But to me it could be classified as a “good fruit” (as in when Jesus said, “by their fruits shall you know them.”)

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*I cribbed this reference from the Emmy-winning episode of the Mary Tyler Moore (“Chuckles Bites the Dust”) Show)

**Which reference now gives me the excuse to include my rotten angels poem (see above)

***A very interesting story of a yes hair shirt lover. So you see, I do keep an open mind on that. Perhaps someday I may take to that, but I bet if I do it will be because I have found it to be “fun.”

Any who are interested in Al-Hallaj, can find somewhat about him in the thoiusand year old Hujwiri treatise on extant Sufi saints circa 1200 A.D. (Kashf al-Majub–(Revelation of the Mystery) But a more accessible bit of Al-Hallaj explanation can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Hallaj

****FYI (in case you need a heads up) George Eliot was really a woman denombre Mary Ann Evans. I think she did this because when she wrote 150 years ago, women writers were discriminated against, and so (also as did George Sand aka Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin) wrote under a man’s name. Of course in those days writers didn’t travel every which place doing readings for the public, to garner publicity to help book sales. In which case the sex cat would have gotten out of the bag.

And bye the bye Middlemarch in my opinion was overflowing with spiritual insight.

***** Dahlia, incidentally inspired my book of poems The Cat Who Threw in the Tao.

“I Too, Would Like to Weep”

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My Painting of Meher Baba

A Grudging Little Miracle

In Guatemala the water stops a lot
So it was foolishness baking bread
With no water to wash off my sticky fingers

So there I was with my hands
Fresh from the masa
Looking at the water faucet

Fully open but nary a drip
I had a choice of whine or risa:
I just laughed and an instant later

The water started again but only a trickle
Barely sufficient to clean my hands
And then it stopped again

It was a grudging little miracle
But instructive: We get what we need
(With the right attitude)

~.~.~

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 Reader,
(A rewrite reprise from 2013)

I will call you that, perhaps because (apart from apropos) Gentle Reader was the name of the (now defunct) magazine in England where my first published poem appeared. (See above)

Today I saw on You Tube a very short video of Kurt Vonnegutt’s advice to writers (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmVcIhnvSx8). A key suggestion/point was to get to the reader as much information as soon as possible. So I start the blog rolling with this short bio that appeared in Umbrella, alongside my poem:

(http://www.umbrellajournal.com/fall2009/science/LikePicassoWhoNeverHadtoP.html)

Eric Halliwell has spent many years as student, carpenter, flunked-out nursing student (thereby hangs a tale) and then a first grade school teacher.

Through a tragic romantic misadventure he ended up in Guatemala where he lives on Lake Atitlan, writing poetry. It keeps him off the streets, or, rather, since there are no streets where he lives, off a dirt trail above the lake.

So that’s how I got to Guatemala, on Lake Atitlan, and the peace here seems to have facilitated a late blooming life-of-the-poet trip. In fact, I was just online and found an article (http://travel.yahoo.com/ideas/10-most-sacred-spots-on-earth.html?page=9) including Lake Atitlan on a list of ten most sacred spots on the planet. (I like that they use “sacred” as if it were objective fact. Because it is)

As you now see, my view is skewed toward the “sacred.” And as you might expect, my poetry is from a metaphysical, para precisar, Sufi perspective.

Yes, I was in a Sufi order in Walnut Creek, California for seven years. This order was founded by Hazrat Inayat Khan, who died circa 1927. I will no doubt regularly regale you, my readers, with some favorite inspirations (quotes and stories) of his. Indeed I start each new post with both his invocation, and suggested daily mantra (see above)

I trust you will enjoy as much as I have, his lucid common sense and inspired ecumenical focus on what is, after all, the science of happiness.

So it’s no surprise that my poems have a Sufi (read very broad-based) theme. I’m not sure how familiar my readers may be with Sufism, which is best known by the writings of Sufi ecstatic poets such as Rumi, Hafiz, Kabir, Saadi, Farīd ud-Dīn Attar, Ibn Arabi, and Omar Khayyam (he of the Rubaiyat) .

I started out in Guatemala, hitching my wagon**to art (drawing, painting). But within a year, having read a book of poetry, Love Letters from God, by Daniel Ladinsky, I was inspired to try my hand at my own “ecstatic” poetry. It was ecstatic for sure in one sense: my intense happiness and gratitude to be given this sudden gift of a compulsion to listen to sweet stuff pouring out from my heart, and write it down and even presume to call it poetry. My touchstone for that is if it touches the heart. And we know that by the metaphor that we find in our salty tears, small miracles which are a microcosm of the ocean. We know by these small miracles when we’ve written a poem from the heart. And these small miracles keep coming regularly, like the lanchas on lake Atitlan.

Indeed the first poem I got published, (see above) dealt with such “small” miracles. (FYI that really happened)

In future/upcoming blog posts, I will muse (as it were) about metaphysical themes, about poetry writing, particularly proselytizing the art form, art in general, favorite heart stuff. The wonderful thing about Sufism is it has relevance to every interest. You know it doesn’t matter what pebbles you install in your kaleidoscope. So they be of translucent colors and you see to a light source.

As my late Grandma Dorothy used to say at bed time, “See you anonymous!”
God be with you,

Eric Halliwell

PS—In the original version of this post I was speaking of weeping, and though I seem to have edited that out, still this is worth mentioning: I am reminded of something from Jean Adriel’s memoir of Meher Baba **(Avatar). When she told her friend Princess Norina Matchabelli (yes of the perfume prince) that there was a holy man in the vicinity, and upon meeting him people would invariably weep. And Ms Matchabelli memorably replied, “I too, would like to weep.”

*Full disclosure: Ralph Waldo Emerson reference (“Hitch your wagon to a star”)
** Meher Baba, the silent Mystic, was co-founder (along with Hazrat Inayat Khan) of my erst Sufi order in Walnut Creek, CA (Sufism Reoriented) for a summary of the life of Meher Baba see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meher_Baba. For Hazrat Inayat Khan see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inayat_Khan

A Certain Case of Tunnel Vision

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Bob Dylan

 

PR–224

An Opal to Suddenly Remember

My holy man introduced me
To a friend whose name is Equipoise

He deserves more respect
I keep him in my pocket

A fine way to treat a friend!
Though he stays affably unflappably there

(A Steinway unplayed yet
Unoffended for unattended)

Equipoise and I we don’t go way back it’s
True as do I and alabaster

Turquoise moon or sapphire’s star
But I admire the unhand of mire

When I greet Equipoise like an old pal
An opal to suddenly remember

(Who somehow also forgets
About who treats whom how)

When things are scary disaster
He simply cuts through to the blue sky

Asking me why do I care?
Is the sky not still standing?

Aren’t amethysts still pretty purple
And banded agate geodes

Aren’t they still
(As in silence)

Hollow inside
And hallowed?

~.~.~

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,
Once again, my de tigueur announcement that this purports to be a “Sufi” blog. And Sufis by definition are interested in transcendent stuff. And so, forewarned

Here is an Inayat Khan quote applicable to today’s theme:

“There is a phrase in the Bible, “Knock, and it shall be opened unto you”. The Message of God is an answer to the cry of humanity. Now, as to the instrument of the message — in reality the whole universe is an instrument, and every object and every being in it is an instrument; through whichever instrument He chooses He gives His message. One sees in one’s life, and especially at times when one is deep down in depression and sorrow, some answer coming to the difficulty of that situation. It may come from a friend, from a brother, from parents, from a beloved; even from one’s enemy one may get what was necessary at the moment.”

There is a thing called variously “God Realisation,” Nirvana (or Nirvikalpa—let’s not quibble), or (in the Christian tradition) “The Peace That Passeth understanding, or mostly in Eastern mystical tradition, a combination of “Infinite Knowledge, Infinite Power, and Infinite Bliss.”

Someone said that this “infinite bliss” must be boring. And I see their point. Up to a point. Because this:

“Interesting” connotes the unknown, a fruitful line of inquiry. And this I see in spades and is why I write this blog or even feel qualified to, due to a lifetime of interest and inquiry along “spiritual” lines.

But yet remains the issue of how “interesting” can it be once the goal of all-knowing is reached, since by definition it leaves nothing further to unravel. And so we get to the irony of the quest (AKA “the path”) being more interesting than the end.

Now of course all this is from my shortsighted, perforce ignorant perspective.

Which connotes that we would be judging without seeing all the relevant evidence in the case (a prosecutorial no no). But it is a question right up there with the proverbial why does all-powerful God permit harm to innocent people (for instance)?* Or even (if your taste runs to espionage (a la Graham Greene ); Or adventure (H. Rider Haggard). But if we take the completion of all that to involve no further investigation, well how can that be any longer “interesting?”

But let’s be real (and honest). Aren’t we presupposing that there might not be other forms of “interesting” available only to those who have no blinders on (read ego) or at best a certain case of tunnel vision? Are we really so presumptuous as to declare as obvious fact that the life of an angel is boring? If only because an angel seeing this discussion would laugh and laughter is intrinsically entertaining. So right there we have (even with our limited scope) an example that disproves the case.

The unfoldment of all of which, as I say (or at least imply) above, is supremely interesting, making our lives a Tolstoy novel, at least.

You know, a wise Sufi** once said, “I am the pupil of a youth!” the reason being he thereby came to see God in a gratifying new perspective and all from a strutting young lad clad in finery!

Which brings me to my close. If you look on the frontispage of my (this here) blog, on the right it says: Favorite Quote. Which is also from an unlikely source (The movie “Fistful of Dollars” by Clint Eastwood). But ain’t it the truth nonetheless?:

“Things always look different from higher up.”

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

PS—and of course there is the famous old Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.”

*this issue by the bye is satisfied to me by the simple expedient of reincarnation. Heck, just study Nobel laureate Bob Dylan who famously said “. . . the wheel’s still in spin—there’s no telling who that it’s naming.” (The Times They Are A-Changin’) And as for the pain that was suffered, first remember it couldn’t have happened contrary to the laws of karma (which I believe are not for vengeance but rather as lessons in what leads to joy and what leads to pain. It’s an essential part of the point to free will.

Also (Bob Dylan again) my every time sign off of “God be with you” is derived from Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” Where he sings, “Good-bye is too good a word, so I’ll just say fare thee well.” And as I mentioned many posts ago, good-bye is a contraction derived from the old “God be with you.” Hence my habitual sign off.

**Ths is told by Sufi master Hujwiri, in his Kasfh al Mahjub (Revelation of the Mystery”) the twelfth century Sufi compilation of stuff about extant Sufi saints. A very interesting book by the way; full of many “interesting” anecdotes from the Sufi shaykhs of the time. Anyway, this certain (I forget which) famous Sufi guy was heard saying, “I am the pupil of a youth!” and when asked why, replied “I was in the market place and a strikingly well-dressed youth was bragging to all and sundry that his father was rich and would buy him anything that he needed!“ Which set our shaykh to thinking that it was certainly so for us all (referring to God as the father). And it amused him of course to admit he could learn from a vain and feckless youth in the marketplace.