Tag Archives: Art Therapy

Instead of Despair, I Studied the Dancers

Standard

Me and Mehera atop Arc de Triomphe

PR3–427

In Lieu of Despair, I Studied the Dancers

Normally I am mildly traumatized
At parties I subtly panic
And yet things are moving right along
Like last night was Mardi Gras

Right?
And there was dancing and I watched the dancers
I wondered at the fact that they enjoyed that
But then they all could dance but I

Felt like the illiterate dunce
At the poetry contest but guess what?
Instead of despair over what I couldn’t do
I studied the dancers

With their hands outstretched hips snaking
I looked at their eyes
And I saw there how it’s done
(You dance with your 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,
Because I care about your happiness, I (from personal experience) write about and frankly push poetry production. And visual art. But if you are good at music or dance or even conversation is an art. So it expresses the heart, it’s therapy.

But I am dance challenged. When I was a Sufi (back in yore) I was a sufficient exhibitionist ham as to want to act in the annual Sufi play. But the Sufi Gods decreed that try for one you must try for all. Try for all three (singing, dancing and acting).

So I had too to audition to sing and then to dance.
Sigh.
No, my sigh is premature. Because first was the sing thing and that DID go okay because I chose the old spiritual Steal Away because at family Thanksgivings, etc. I used to sing the straight part of it–to be intermingled with the improvised harmonies of my musical genius older brother Jim (God rest him). The result was very nice. I am sure I must have talked about Jim. In some of the biographical blog posts. If not why not soon? He is very interesting. Yes and maybe a bit like the Chinese curse. (”May you live in interesting times!”)

Anyway to get the crabgrass out of my digress let’s get to my dancing audition.

I had the good fortune to have as my audition master my friend and fellow Sufi, Gail.

Kind Gail.

Patient Gail.

(Gail who could dance circles around a dervish)

Though it was a simple (I mean pathetically basic) choreographic instruction replete with several Sufis on either side none with any dance related troubles. All easily repeating it.

But I couldn’t repeat the basic steps. Oh, the humiliation.
The pressure.

And remember all this is with witnesses.

She had me go over the routine over and over, even after all the rest had left. Some kind of Sufi test I expect.

But I was ashamed. Especially when finally I had to throw in the towel.*

My point being I am scared of dancing. Except maybe in one sense because I am a clown exhbitionist (Boy did that piss off my first wife Judy! The dignified sedate quiet type, who was mortified to have God and everybody know she was married to dicho payaso.)

And that could cancel out the fear. I remember once when my old friend Ralph and I got roped into a party where there was dancing. I remember Ralph taking the safe route of sitting it out on the sidelines but watching me with arms flailing (well more exactly feet. I tended to imitate those clog dancers where all the action was below the hips.) but when I did it I remember I had friend Ralph almost on the floor from the belly laughs.

Or the time when my daughter Mehera graduated from medical school and I had to celebrate that so I invited her to a trip to Europe! See above–that’s us atop the Arc de Triomphe, over looking the also legendary Champs-Élysées (French for Elysian Fields—see Greek Mythology).

Not as expensive as it sounds because she had friends there (from having graduated from Cal Berkeley as a French Literature major, and for that having spent a year in France, largely with her host family, who came to declare Mehera was an honorary daughter for life.

Indeed as we left everyone there also declared me in the family and so whenever I am in France I have an invite to stay with them.

Of course they had a three foot in diameter cherry tree and we were there at prime ripe cherry time! I am a cook and got popular making cherry pie after cherry pie. They had a little handy apparatus that you punched by the palm of your hand forcing the pits in one direction and the cherry sans pit in the other. (Rhymes with cheery Sanskrit! Oops Pardon my “poetry!”)

But back to the dance theme. To prove her father was her puppet Mehera had me dance to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. (The Ode to Joy)

And Mehera too of course laughed her ass off. (Which made me dance funnier because I love Mehera’s laugh!)

And when in Paris we stayed with her old college roommate, Tina,** then a professor of French Literature in a Paris University. She had married a French photographer and they lived happily in an apartment on an island in the Seine not two blocks from Notre Dame Cathedral. Not as romantic a visit as it sounds though because it was under renovation at this time and so surrounded by scaffolding. I guess they had to tend to the row of gargoyles.

I have always heard impressive things about the medieval concept of religion and it IS said everyone down to the peasants believed in imminent miracles and the constant presence of God.*** But to “adorn” a such impressive cathedral with rows of hideous-aspected gargoyles, doesn’t seem in that vein, which is indeed hard to think runs on to the heart. I think I read somewhere that the gargoyles were there to be shown who’s boss or some such.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Which reminds me. I have all ready to go a chapbook of poems dedicated to and loosely about my surprisingly spiritual cat, Dahlia. It’s titled “The Cat Who Threw in the Tao.”

So many projects

So little time

Sigh

** This friend of Mehera’s was named Tina Chen, and yes, of Chinese extraction. But she had been fighting bouts of cancer since she was seven years old. Alas, she died a few years after our visit. She came to California for her final treatment which was unsuccessful. Mehera flew north to be with her as she died. It’s a perennial matter for contemplation why the sweetest among us so often die young. A person (like me) who had independent and impressive proof of the existence of God, might wonder how that fits in. (If this statement makes you wonder see the “about” button above, where it is all explained.)  I suspect it has something to do with reincarnation.

***An instructive example of that in those times is found in the short booklet recounting the philosophy of Brother Lawrence (a simple monk in the sixteenth century or such). The title gives a hint: The Practice of the Presence of God, with Whom Brother Lawrence constantly talked, asking for help in what he was doing for the monastery etc. chatting merrily saying (to God) stuff like, “You see what happens when I do things unattended!”

The Charm Bracelet of a Silly Song and Dance

Standard

 

Magic Roses

 

New PR–191

You at Least Write a Poem

“Failure never let anybody down.”
–Murshida Ivy Duce

Do you ever get that sad feeling there’s
A poem in the background and sure
You sketch out its outlines but tragic

You can’t cross some perhaps picket line
To those magic roses which maddeningly
You sniff out but cannot paint or draw

What shines like something preternatural
Atop the tower of truth and which after glows
Independently of anything we can understand:

You can’t quite reach across the abyss unless . . .
.
So you start with undermine depressing:
Remembering poetry is the art of the attempt
At expressing the inexpressible and so impossible

Becomes possible the intention becomes God
And if and as you fail you at least write a poem like this:
To the tomb of some unknown poem

~.~.~

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 Sufism, the issue arises of introspection.

Socrates famously said, “Know thyself.”

This is especially important for people who want to be happy. (Yes there are–alas–those who don’t. And they often take people with them.)

Sabes por que?

A while back I called a blog post, “Sufism, the Science of Happiness.” But lately (see last post, Geometric Theorems, and also this one) I am noticing some important mathematical considerations, as well.

And so here is some geometry stuff left over from last post, “Geometric Theorems”:

I believe Euclid called them corollaries. But before any corollaries, come axioms (things taken as truth without proof) Like this, for instance:

Axiom One:
A person is her own best doctor. (Why? Because it’s the doctor that sees the patient that has a leg up. And what we see in others is dwarfed by what we can see in ourselves. That’s to say we have the capacity to look inward. (Amazing stuff in there! Why am I excited? It’s because I’ve only just scratched the surface, and I’m into Pollyanna extrapolations.*)

Axiom Two: Different people need different things to be happy (either through differing tastes or capacities, experiences, etc)

As you can see, axioms are often just matters of common sense. Like the famous Euclidean one I mentioned last post, “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.”

Corollary (something that logically follows) :

It therefore behooves a sincere investigator to look within. And sure the mystics all warn about the ego that lurks inside. But you just have to get your ego to notice what is more fun. And fun is important because the ego is like a child. And I found during my stint as a first grade teacher (subsequent to my carpentry career), that first rate students occur when they are amused. Because it’s amazing what ancillary knowledge you can hang on the charm bracelet of a silly song and dance. And besides, you know where ego-centric comes in handy? By God then you know what you like. You know what’s (for you) fun. And with time what you like ripens into a fine wine. Or a finer one, at any rate. (Okay, it helps if you believe in reincarnation, and the fact of millions of lifetimes . . . ) But you always start with what your gut likes. Your gut knows it very well. And this is good training too, to “go with your gut.” Lud Dimpfl, my old Sufi preceptor, once said that to train your intuition (read: gut) you had to start to trust it. Sure there will be mistakes. But it’s like learning to walk. You don’t go gloomy on the fall downs.

But let’s cut to the chase, shall we?

Doesn’t it all come down to show don’t tell?

I mean all the small talk and banter on the platform about “looking within.” But isn’t that like saying a girl was beautiful instead of selling the sizzle of her discerning glance? The swizzle stick that got her to dance?

Because you are writing a story, and the neophyte writer would say, “He smiled a friendly smile.”

But you (the skilled artist) might say something more in this direction:

“He pushed out the result of an obvious struggle against whatever it is that doesn’t love a smile. And for that, it was a triumphant one–akin to the sun.”

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*I used to have a frustrating hobby. I wanted to be a cartoonist but I couldn’t draw, at least not cartoons. It didn’t stop me from dreaming up the captions though. And every morning when I was unemployed (Happens a lot to union carpenters) I’d deploy my coffee and my large anthology of New Yorker cartoons. No, it’s not what you think, that I was cribbing from them (stealing as you might say).

But in my defense I say, No. Because if the cartoon I saw started out in a skyscraper, perhaps it ended up about chickens in a hen house. (for instance as the farmer is collecting the eggs, one sitting chicken says to another, “I understand they are all going to good homes.”)

I say sure there’s a connection. But it’s like with this story I’ve always remembered. It was an interview with the famous cartoonist Unger. (Wrote the Herman series, as I recall). He said something like “Here’s the difference between a creative person and an uncreative one. If you do a word association test on an uncreative person, and you say “shoes,” he will say laces. But if you say shoes to a creative person, he’ll yell “Strawberry jam!” Because he once had spilled strawberry jam on his shoes.)

You can see where I am going with this. I mean we’re all only six degrees of separation. Are we then all plagiarists?

But to undigress, one of my cartoon ideas was of two bums, one of whom was all excited–he had found a dime in the street. And the caption was to be, “Yesterday I found a nickel, and day before that, a penny. And I’ve done an extrapolation. At this rate by Christmas I’ll be worth a fortune!”

But alas I can’t draw. Not cartoons anyway (I need the crutch of something in my face, to reproduce). So any of you gentle folk who can draw cartoons, hey we could partner up!

Geometric Theorems

Standard

Trojan Horse

New Start–94

Hiding the Corollary

Sometimes I don’t know how to react
To my own tears

Part of “me”
(A Trojan horse I’ve let in)

Tries to make me feel small
And weepy

Carefully hiding the corollary
Pretending (to the throne)

That I should then
Put a blanket over

The light of
My intense gratitude

~.~.~

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,
Okay, back to the grand finale (big finish!) of my (in this sequence anyway) five part attempt at proving the existence of God.*

A while back I was (IMHO) supporting my belief in the existence of God by proving the existence of gratitude.

Okay, perhaps you dispute that gratitude is a divine quality. But hey, one of my axioms is that all the good stuff comes from God (another axiom being of course that gratitude is good stuff). And I don’t wish to be dogmatic about it and can thus appreciate that you may have different axioms. But please at least recognize that all our “truths” are based on and derived from (as corollaries) our own set of axioms. Which are our a priori beliefs. We start with these because they are not subject to proof, as per Euclidian Geometry.And as all geometry guys know,** and indeed all honest scientists know, that is the basis we all perforce operate from.

Scientists (all the unreasonably skeptical ones, anyway) for instance, usually, if not always, have this secret axiom they are not honest enough to mention, which is this:

If something exists it is subject to the material laws, is observable, and ultimately reducible to scientific analysis.

Now obviously something infinite cannot be put between their Procrustean microscopic slides and analyzed. Not at least by finite eyes. Remember my quote from (an earlier post, on this theme) the mahamystic Meher Baba, who when speaking of (and to) God, said “None can see You but with eyes divine.”

So they might just as well save their breath and say infinity is impossible. (Why not cop to that–It’s one of their axioms!) Interestingly though, modern physics is talking a lot these days about the infinite universes there may be, subject to infinite variations in their laws. Indeed, they are also coming around to debunking scientific observation itself, as a form of corrupting the evidence. (A la the Heisenberg principle that famously says that by merely observing something, you are influencing the result)

Although ironically, a tenet of mysticism is that merely on witnessing your own inner workings, you also influence the result. (Ironic because in this case, it’s a good thing) I believe this is the principle behind Vipassana Buddhism, which entails a useful practice: Just notice what you are thinking; notice what you are doing: notice all your subtle hopes and expectations. And as you get hip to yourself, you automatically change. Just as an example, when you are trying to get someone to bend to your will, and telling yourself it is to help them, when you notice the subtlety behind the fact that it’s your own bread you are really buttering thereby and not necessarily theirs, well, you start to stop doing it. Because you are too ashamed to continue, I expect. Which brings me to the single virtue behind my own personal salvation. I wouldn’t trust me further than I can spit except for this: I WILL NOT BE A HYPOCRITE. And when you really start to see yourself, this becomes a quite useful tool.

But back to my analysis, another of my axioms is that you know the value of something by if it (and to what extent) makes you happy. I believe it’s what Jesus meant by “By their fruits shall ye know them.”

Meher Baba said that the source of all unhappiness is posing as what we are not. (Pantheism strikes again!) An honest (and perspicacious!) person I think would admit that this is a path to misery. If for nothing else, because of the weight of the load we would then carry around. As it has famously been said, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive. And if nothing else, that produces complex stuff, which is a source of pain, which explains the wisdom behind the old Shaker hymn, “Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free . . .”

And also, as for me, why am I happy? My personal theory is it’s because I have found an art form through which to express my heart (Poetry). And yes, these blog posts. (For which I thank you gentle readers! It is so sweet to have an audience! It cures a kind of loneliness) Maybe good art, or no matter that, all art, which at least expresses the heart, is a way to cut the Gordian knot, and get down to (coming full circle from the title of the original of this cycle last December) “The Brass Tacks of Simple Truth.”

And of course the expression of any and all of the divine qualities is a major source of happiness. (For the above reason of thereby lessening the strain of your attempts at seeming what you inherently are not. It really is quite a strain.) And perhaps for that, gratitude is a major theme of my poetry, because it’s a major theme of my heart.***

Maybe I have been given this exemption to Leonard Cohen’s rule, (about the cracks in things, since gratitude is in itself, a form of light–see December 5 post)**** so that I will be grateful. Perhaps I should be grateful then for my own gratitude.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*To be honest, a lot of this isn’t so much proving the existence of God as it is in refuting the arguments which deny the existence of God. I do have a lot of respect for agnostics. At least as to the term, those who while not convinced of the existence of God, yet are not so rash as to think it proven that God does not exist. (Kind of like angels not wanting to rush in like fools)

**I don’t know how many of you are familiar with geometry but thing one with proving geometric theorems is choose your axioms. Like Euclid famously did with this one: “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” This seems obvious and yet a whole branch of mathematics, called non-Euclidian geometry, offers proofs bases on alternate axioms, famously including this: “The shortest distance between two points is NOT a straight line.” And just between you and me, (And I’ve heard rumors!) my guess is that comes up with some prima facie weird conclusions.

***I do not claim to be ANY sort of saint, not even a neophyte one. But I am a grateful person, and I do hate hypocrisy, which Meher Baba said was the bull goose sin. I think it’s these twin fibers (well maybe there are three, if you include hope) that make up the rope that pulls me out of the quicksand I would sink in otherwise. Fortunately any divine quality will make up that rope. (so many divine qualities, so little time!)

****
“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
–From Leonard Cohen’s poem, Anthem.