Tag Archives: Aldous Huxley

How Long Has This Been Going On?

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eric-as-child

Me at age eight or nine

PR–329

A Wish Dash of Dignity

The baby speech was bad
A touch like Elmer Fudd
Or a duckling daffing

All aglower was his little face
From His Highness’ chair
From a store he’d had before

Of vestigial kingly air
Or some such mannish mime
Some earlier authority

As he cried
“Stop faffing!
I’m fighting mad!”

Which wish dash of dignity
A knock-off from a former race
Didn’t make it to the finish line

But held us helpless as the more
He tried the more we died
Faffing on the floor

~.~.~

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 fear last post may have left you with an unpleasantness from hearing the stories from my family. Especially one of them (to quote Gandalf, “Name it not!”) So I have this time decided to balance that out a bit with some amusing sometimes sweet family anecdotes.

But first, I am not sure how much more I will write about my beloved Aunt Edel, who starred in a recent post, and so I want to start off with an anecdote I forgot to tell of in my recent mention of her. To refresh this for new readers, recently I talked about having been rescued every summer for a week or two (rescued, for instance, from the “orphanage”) to hang with her and her husband, in their old Hollywood mansion (which later Aldous Huxley died in)

Her husband, a colorful native of Estonia, who had escaped from impressment (read cannon fodder) into the Czar’s army during World War One, and who stowed away on a steamer to San Francisco where he learned the tailor trade, ended up making suits in Beverly Hills, for the movie stars, as well as his Nobel Prize winner friend William Faulkner, then a Hollywood screenwriter, about whom he would tell us amusing stories. But I digress. To the meat of the anecdote:

I remember once when Aunt Edel said to me, “I don’t understand about you, Eric. People tell me you are unruly and resistant, and yet here with us you are so sweet and well behaved.”

I am not sure I had my wits about me then cause-and-effect-wise, but what I should have told her was the mere thought of displeasing her and possibly causing thereby a withdrawal of my annual invitation, was a horror I did not care to flirt with happening.

So, on to amusing family anecdotes!

Last post I already told my (brother) Mike anecdote (about his world class triple pun).

And so to segue, here’s one about Jim and Mike together. (Mike as usual representing the practical common sense side of discipline, Jim the dreamy poet musical type, not so much)

When Mike was six and Jim was five Grandma Dorothy said she had given them both a chance to learn about earning money, by raking leaves and putting them in boxes. She was to pay a nickel for each box they collected. Well, Mike set to in his industrious way, but Jim just sauntered about, whistling.

Finally when all the leaves were gone into boxes and it was time for payment, it turned out that Mike had done it all (and Jim not more than none). Grandma Dorothy was distressed telling Jim she felt bad that she could only give money to Mike, since Jim had done diddly squat. And Jim just smiled, she said, and put his arm around her waist (as far as he could reach) saying “Gamdorfy you don’t have to worry about things like that!”

I can’t resist one more Grandma Dorothy Jim story. She said when she had explained to a young Jim about the facts of life, he exclaimed, “How long has this been going on?”

And if you want a story about a young me (still in a high chair!) I refer you to the incident my father liked to tell. It is the story I covered in the poem at the top of this post.

I have no suitable amusing thing from Robin, perhaps because it would ring hollow here since he lived in tragedy all his short life (at least post age four) but I would feel bad leaving out about Robin, the one that killed himself. He just (I think)*did it because he had no friends, was socially inept, dressed like a scarecrow** and yet had a stubborn belligerent attitude. I and my older brothers should have been more careful with him, since because of his emergency tracheotomy at age four, he was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, He would say such stupid things, and we always seemed to think we could shame him out of them, with scathing words of how stupid what he said was. We decided he needed shock therapy. Which I think was his undoing, God help me and my older brothers. In a way I can’t seem to shake I feel responsibility for his death. I guess we should have humored him, but we ironically decided we had too much respect for him, too much hope he could pull out of it.

And here’s another bit from Grandma Dorothy:
She who often drank (but who believed in reincarnation) used to regularly tell us all (garrulous after a few shots of her cheap pale dry sherry) “Next time I’m gonna be a man!”

There. That should hold you.

But I want to acknowledge that I originally started this blog as a vehicle for Sufi-themed stuff. At least indirectly, with perhaps examples from life. My life in this case, mainly, because that’s the life whose inner working I have access to, which also is a Sufi thing, in which like Socrates had said, “Know thyself!” and in that analysis, I do go back to my roots (aka my biography).

And this of course has led to the inclusion here of biographical material. Hence my recent biographical posts. But my old friend Ralph has often said I have led an interesting life. And I do promise that even if I blend my life into this Sufi-themed discourse, I do hope to include only the interesting parts.

And it does seem to be going over. Since I have been emphasizing stories from my life, the followers have been increasing much more rapidly than usual.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*I say I think he killed himself because he got no respect for his intellect (remember, he had choked on peanut butter at age four and no doubt thereby lost many brain cells waiting for his emergency tracheotomy) from his brothers, and he seemed to have no friends. Tragically, I cannot know for sure. You see just before he killed himself, he and I had quarreled. Maybe it was when he denied that the Indian Mystic Meher Baba (whom I followed) was the reincarnation of Krishna, as he had claimed. Which is a defensible view no doubt but Robin (who had joined the fundamentalist sect claiming to adore Krishna (aka “Krishna Consciousness) said he had seen the picture of Krishna in the temple and he had six arms and his skin was blue, something that could hardly be said of Meher Baba. So there!

And tragically, when Robin had come to see me just before he killed himself (He was seen undressing on the beach in San Francisco, leaving his clothes and driver’s license there. And witnesses says he swam out to the horizon and when hours later his body was washed ashore and linked to his ID, I received a weird phone call in the middle of the night, from the apparently weird coroner asking me to come and identify the body, which I did, next day. Horrible.) I was on the toilet and when done there I was curious as to the doorbell, and saw out the window that it was Robin departing. I wish I had called to him but we had just fought and it was unpleasant and so, not knowing Robin was in danger, I just let him go. And that was just the first of several futile attempts to find solace in family. I later learned he had called my mother and her stepson answered and to play a prank said she wasn’t at home. I forget the details but I remember that in retrospect he had tried for someone anyone to buck him up and stop him from his suicide plan.

He had committed himself just before to a psychological crisis clinic but as he had done it himself, he was also free to sign out, which he did just before his attempts at family contacts.

**Okay so now this does remind me of an amusing Robin story. Though tinged with the sadness of Robin seizing finally on something he could do better than his brothers.

You must know that we four brothers were a competitive bunch, always inventing ways to compete. Once we decided to see who could hold his arms extended like a scarecrow the longest. Try it and you will see it’s not that easy. After a while your arms ache and which happened and so we said to the keeping-going Robin, “Yep you win!”

But that wasn’t enough for Robin who wanted to humiliate us further and so he kept his arms up. Every so often we would look out the window and there was Robin, still doing his long-lasting scarecrow imitation. But when he finally figured he’d rubbed our noses in his victory enough, and decided to lower his arms, they wouldn’t stay down. They would keep flying up as if they indeed wanted to be his airplane wings. So even when he won, the poor guy ended up a laughing stock.

The Kaleidoscope of Her Candlelit Eyes

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Laura Archera and Aldous Huxley

Laura Archera and Aldous Huxley

(Published in wordcatalyst, a now defunct literary journal)
PR–490

The Kaleidoscope of Your Candlelit Eyes

(To Susan)

“One shade the more one ray the less
Had half impaired the nameless grace ”
–Lord Byron (She Walks in Beauty)

As if your beauty
Hangs on the photographer’s art
The good lighting

Instead and no
Rather she (you) transforms
The view

Since inherent bright
Gives its own light seizes
The camera says imperiously

Thus!

Hence blessed memory of that night
When those stars were in your hair
Though not alas your eyes

And mine?
They mined yours for
The translucent tumbling

Humbling dice
Of the kaleidoscope
Of your candlelit eyes

~.~.~

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,
Well, since this is the third installment of a three part post, on to ancillary Aldous Huxley themes.

Because my having read most of Huxley’s novels, and him buying my aunt’s house, (and dying there) was not the end of my Huxley connection. The rest of my tale though is so indirect I fear it is anticlimactic. (Sometime that’s the trouble when writers go in strict chronological order)

It’s indirect because it’s no longer about Aldous, per se, since we now segue to his wife and my life.

You must know that his second (and last) wife was Laura Archera Huxley, the educator, and author of You Are Not the Target.

I learned in my research for the last post, that she famously administered LSD to Huxley on his deathbed. (In my Aunt’s house!) At his request, of course; toward his last days, he got fascinated with the possible mystic realizations under LSD and mescaline etc. He even wrote a book based on that, called The Doors of Perception.

My connection to Ms Huxley was also quite indirect, in that it amounted to my becoming romantically involved with someone who had been a friend of hers. And who had been to the fabulous Spanish (Monterrey) mini-mansion I had talked about two posts ago. I got to visit two weeks a year in my boyhood.

And so join me in my house worship, which became a symbol of if not liberation from a challenging childhood in the orphanage, at least a glimpse that there were other realities in the world, and highly cherished cheery ones too!

For background on that, here is the url:

https://rumi-nations.com/2015/08/14/the-power-of-symbols-they-resound-like-cymbals/

This makes for an interesting story, and so here goes:

My dear friend Gail,*who died last year, initiated a connection between me and this woman, named Susan,**who was my long distance girlfriend (me in Guatemala, she in California) for three years, up in fact until about four years ago.

You must know that Gail was a trance medium. She made much of her living giving “readings” from a spirit she said was self-identified as “Miraflores,” (Not sure of the connection but in Spanish that means, “Look at flowers.”) But, for short, she was always referred to as “Mira.” To facilitate this communication, Gail would enter a trance state, and by and by this spirit would start to talk, (in a completely different way of speaking than Gail had) and would answer questions whether about the client’s personal life, professional life, or (this was the spirit’s preference) spiritual life, one’s relation to “God.”

Well, there came an occasion when this Susan was told by Mira, that the “Dear One” (Mira’s name for Gail) had a friend, a poet, (moi) who lived in Guatemala. And Susan would benefit if she commenced exchanging poems with me.

Well, while Susan was an excellent poet, (but not prolific) soon she ran out of material, and we pretty much just became pen pals, exchanging photos and then talking on the phone. Finally it was agreed that Susan would use her upcoming two weeks vacation to visit me in Guatemala.

And now comes in the Huxley connection.

During the taxi ride from the airport to Antigua, where I lived at the time, the conversation mysteriously got to me talking about the wonders of Aunt Edel’s house, and how she’d sold it to Aldous Huxley, who died there. (As I mentioned in the last post).

Susan listened quietly and finally said, “I’ve been there.”

Turned out she’d been a friend of Laura Archera Huxley. They both were working together on some education project. (At least twenty years after Aldous’ death; Laura was much younger)

Susan said she’d visited her in that house many times.

Yup. It’s a small world. Of course that’s scarcely odd considering the mystical considerations . . .

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

P. S. Before leaving the Aldous Huxley theme, Did you guys know that Huxley was just one of an impressive family? Aldous’ brother, Sir Julian Huxley was a biologist. And his famous grandfather, Thomas Henry Huxley was a zoologist, as well as Britain’s foremost exponent of Darwin’s new theory of evolution. (circa 1875ish)

Aldous had several other siblings who had achieved a first rank of notice in academic journals, etc. Though I think Aldous was the lone literary figure in the family. I find it (incidentally) interesting when families have so many accomplished (even hasta famous) members. Take acting, for instance. Witness Henry Fonda and Jane. And, famously, Lionel and John and Ethel Barrymore.

Or how ‘bout them Huston folk? I refer to John Huston (the director and screenwriter of Bogart’s classic, Treasure of the Sierra Madre), who Wikipedia says “directed both his father, Walter Huston, and daughter, Anjelica Huston, to Oscar wins in different films.” Of course Walter, his father, won it for Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

It also mentions that John, in addition to his directing “wrote the screenplays for most of the 37 feature films he directed, many of which are today considered classics: The Maltese Falcon (1941), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), Key Largo (1948), The Asphalt Jungle (1950), The African Queen (1951), Moulin Rouge (1952), The Misfits (1961), and The Man Who Would Be King (1975).”

Or how about the musical Bachs? According to this interesting online article (http://www.notablebiographies.com/Ba-Be/Bach-Johann-Sebastian.html) Johann Sebastian Bach came from seven generations with a musician in the family. And of course they mentioned that four of his sons were noted composers (e. g. Karl Philip Emmanuel Bach and Johann Christian Bach)

Or even the father and son Buckleys who both died tragically young but left behind evidence of musical genius. Witness Jeff’s haunting rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

Which can be heard here:

 
 

*I wrote about Gail in the blog post of October 20, 2014. This was a bit of a panygyric to Gail, when she died. It was titled, “My Heart Comes Out to Hurt When the Chips Are Down.” Here’s the link:

https://rumi-nations.com/2014/10/20/my-heart-comes-out-to-hurt-when-the-chips-are-down/

**This Susan was I think out of my league, and it was a miracle we lasted three years (on and off, since I lived in Guatemala, and she in California).
But I really fell for her. See the poem above which I wrote when I could see the handwriting on the wall.

Your Heart’s Scope. Your Heart’s Hope

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Gautama the Buddha

Gautama the Buddha

PR–249

The Difficult Business of Watch Repair

“I cannot dream that this watch exists and has no watchmaker.”
–Voltaire

I am fascinated by Vipassana Buddhism
I believe in that one merely observes:
No worries about changing

About guilt about ought
Just be caught aware
Of what you are thinking

What you are doing
Maybe too with a little thought
About the projected payout

I said to myself how practical
How easy a first step:
Become aware

Then of course you can fix stuff kind
Of like getting a new pair of glasses before
The difficult business of watch repair

But I now believe it’s easier than that
If you watch it
The watch repairs itself

~.~.~

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,

For starters, I want to apologize for the lapse of what has it been? Two weeks? Three?

I am starting to feel it was a rash promise, “New post every Monday.” (I really must amend that) Especially since some of them more than usually require research. (Like today’s). Also recently I’ve been ill, and the internet has been down. (Remember, this is Guatemala here, and we have regular power outages, etc. And when it rains I can’t see some of my favorite channels on television. Life is hard) But mostly it’s because this post is a victim of mission creep and now it looks like it may be a three parter, instead of the projected two (I refer to the current Aldous Huxley theme). Moreover, much more difficult to execute than my usual stuff I can at least do a good first draft of off the top of my head. But this is more like writing a paper for a literature class.

So I fear it’s a tattered flag I am saluting with this post-a-week promise. And I have noticed some other blogs which are far more intermittent than mine. And a wee voice talks about a happy balance between maintaining a schedule, and not having a nervous breakdown. If any are not into a faithful vigilance towards blogs, and yet would prefer not to miss one of these posts, remember, there is a follow button. Press that, enter your email, and one can relax and await notification by email when a new post arrives.

Now back to business:

This post might properly be titled, “My Aldous Huxley Angle, Part Two.” (Because the last post was part one)

But that sounds unpoetic and I usually at least try to be dramatic.

Which suggests what they always tell you in writer’s school: You need a “hook” atop your oeuvre to pique the reader’s interest.

So no doubt this will have a different title.*

Oh dear. Digression ataque de nuevo. Sigh.

But onward:

Back to Aldous Huxley. Even in high school I was fascinated by his work. I read almost every one of his novels including of course, his famous cautionary tale of a future dystopia, Brave New World, often paired with George Orwell’s 1984,** which provides a darker future of a Stalinist police state that can practically read minds. Huxley’s was less dark, but the point was, that even though they ruled more by drugs and hedonistic mind conditioning than by threats of pain and such negative feedback, yet the horror was achieved. The horror being what happens when you are denied your humanity, your heart’s scope. Your heart’s hope.

There. Maybe that’s my title!

Aside from Brave New World (which fyi is the less depressing read, of the dicho dystopias) there was Ape and Essence, Eyeless in Gaza, Time Must Have a Stop, Chrome Yellow, Antic Hay, Point Counterpoint, After Many a Summer Dies the Swan (another wry fantasy novel dealing with a “breakthrough” in the direction of human immortality), and importantly, his last novel, Island, which had a more mystical bent,*** and also featured a future alternate society, but this time beneficent.

Even if it was a Jesus parallel. In that this society got invaded and lost everything to their non-mystical neighbors. Kind of a crucifixion of innocence kind of thing.

I have always remembered Huxley’s Island, or at least the incident with the young boy being bitten by a large snake, which of course terrified him. The elders would not be content to let the boy who survived nicely, forget the incident. No, they made him relive it by constantly describing how it was, down to remembering all the details, so it would be a part of conscious memory instead of being forced underground into the subconscious where otherwise it would live and do its dirty work in dreams or a generalized sense of dread.

All of which showed a marvelous understanding of the human psyche and how to deal with it without doing any harm, and beyond that, to actually cure mental damage and maintain mental health.

It was essentially Buddhist philosophy.

To encapsulate, here’s a quote:
“Nobody needs to go anywhere else. We are all, if we only knew it, already there.” ****

I think I will add it to this websites quote collection (See “Quotes” button above)

I looked Island up online and found some interesting stuff (See below)*****

More next week.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*A ver cual. I usually pick titles the way I do for my poems. If you look at any of them, you will note that almost invariably the title is a verbatim extract from the body of the poem. It does solve a lot of the problems one has picking titles. There is in my poems usually a dramatic sequence or colorful bit or something which Samuel Johnson (the famous British man of letters immortalized in Boswell’s Life of Johnson–Which I intend to read someday) might have called “exceptionally fine.”

Even though what Doctor Johnson actually said was, “If you think you have written something exceptionally fine, strike it out!”

It’s best of course if this title eloquently encapsulates the idea of the poem.

If the poem doesn’t feature any such highlights perhaps it’s time to go back to the drawing board (poem-wise)

**By an interesting coincidence, when Huxley briefly taught writing, one of his students was George Orwell, whose also dystopian (plenty scary) cautionary tale, 1984, is usually paired with Huxley’s Brave New World. Such a small world. As this post also demonstrates when you get to the coincidences.

***In his later years, Huxley became focused on Eastern mystical ideas, such as mentioned above, Buddhism.

****smacks of Zen do it not?

*****I did some research for this post and found an article by Velma Lush who argues that it’s Buddhist stuff, giving these examples:

“Over a thousand birds inhabit the island mimicking the word, ‘Attention,’ reminding people to pay attention to everything they do.”

“From the beginning, children are taught to do things with ‘the minimum of strain and maximum of awareness’ “.

“By being fully aware of what you’re doing, work becomes the yoga of work, play becomes the yoga of play, everyday living becomes the yoga of everyday living.”

The article can be found here:
http://www.huxley.net/island/)