Tag Archives: Atheism

It Makes Me Cry, Remembering Arden

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For Arden

PR–234

You Have To Believe

“…life was impossible like that, and that he must either
interpret life so that it would not present itself to him
as the evil jest of some devil, or shoot himself.”
–Leo Tolstoy (Anna Karenina)

There are caverns deep in the sun
Where people live on legends of earthlight:

To stay alive their hearts respond
To this perceived wholeness of things
And so they live in hope:

You have to believe
In what you would be dead without

~.~.~

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,
November 2 was Arden’s birthday. I sent her her annual happy birthday email:
Arden,
Happy birthday! As you probably have noticed, I seem to have this compulsion to remember you every November 7. Hopefully too, you have noticed that I am not otherwise intruding on your life, and so, not to worry if somebody remembers you and loves you. After all, it is flattering, verdad?
Un abrazo,
Eric
To which she replied, Eric, you are a gentleman with a big heart. Thank you for remembering and caring.
Fondly,
Arden.

I have since learned her email was sent about two weeks before she died.

And so, to honor the memory of Arden, I am dedicating my blog post for this November to her whose birthday is November 7.

I mean to do this by reprising the post from five years ago that talks about Arden, and how she fit into my life.

SO HERE IT IS

(Posted on July 8, 2013)

Gentle Reader,
What is romance, really? This perhaps is the central question.

(This is referring to events–circa 2000–discussed in just previous biographical posts, to explain how I ended up a metaphysical poet in Guatemala).

So, I sold my house and quit my job and then moved north to Ashland, Oregon, to be with my new love, Arden. I no longer had to spend half of my time 300 miles away fixing my house in California up to sell. And so I was now free to get dedicated to making a relationship work. Work being the operative word, as it turned out.*

But there were tragic flaws in the ointment. For one, I couldn’t get work as a teacher. (When I met Arden I was a first grade teacher). In Oregon they are so flush with teachers and for even a day of substitute teaching, you have to have a full fledged, active credential. (As opposed to California for instance where all you need is any type of bachelor’s degree and pass the Mickey Mouse CBEST exam) So the competition for full time teaching slots was intense. Unless of course, one could speak Spanish (for their army of Latino students). And thereby hangs a tale. (Have I mentioned yet how neatly events dovetail into destiny?)

But we were both sufficiently romantic (very much so) to try to fit hexagonal pegs into pentagonal holes. (So near, and yet so far! So close, but no cigar!)

So of course we were always fighting. And yet truly shocked when one or the other of us appeared to be giving up. And of course a lot of this if not all is quite personal–not just to me but to Arden, who would perhaps not be amused to have our issues publicly aired.

But I will mention one thing, which has been mentioned before, and so was opened the door.

I don’t think this is a common problem, but it sure was a lousy fit for us. Because as my Gentle Readers have no doubt noticed, I am a believer in “God.” In my conception of God, (The “Sufi” one–the most liberal in the world), it is far from a matter of priests and churches but rather exists in one’s own heart. But to Arden that was like dressing up my faery dolls in less controversial clothing. Since Arden on the other hand was not merely an atheist, but one who had no respect for those who believed in such obvious fairy tales. And (go figure) it turned out that respect was a sine qua non of a good romance.

In an earlier post ( https://rumi-nations.com/2013/05/06/the-unaccountable-opportunity-to-do-experiments-with-happiness-2/ ) I told about how that played out in Arden’s heart. As if it was always logic and science uber alles. What the depths of your soul cried out for was of secondary importance. Even, apparently, if it did undo the life is worth living part.

Oddly, there’s some stigma that often seems to attach to believers in God. At least, I personally have felt that pressure. You’d think that my history of stubborn atheism and only reluctantly and in desperate straits, coming to believe otherwise, would have vaccinated me from that, and even with atheists would have given my conversion some respectability.

But alas it was the bottom line of what I believed that mattered to Arden. Not my fig leaf of why. It was like she couldn’t respect anyone who could believe such a thing. I remember once she emphasized to me, “I don’t EVER want to hear any talk of your religion.”

But she ended creditably, when I then replied, “So the thing that’s closest to my heart, the consolation without which I might want to kill myself, this is something which you do not ever want to hear about?”

So of course she backed off that right away, because she has the best heart in the world. But I do think she then saw a revelatory glimpse of incompatibility.

So neither of us was happy. Both of us wanted things we felt were not negotiable, and which we were not getting.

And then along came my daughter, Mehera, who was in medical school and had just taken advantage herself of a generously funded vaccine study by Johns Hopkins medical school, for travelers’ diarrhea. The catch was you had to go to Guatemala. (Please don’t throw me in the briar patch!)

And it paid enough for a round trip plane ticket. And the little wheels in Arden’s and my mind set to turning over the idea of me going to a Spanish school in Antigua and me supposedly being such a quick study, I would soon be back knowing Spanish, and thus employed. (As if my unemployment were the biggest problem.**)

But for all Arden’s disdain for fairy tales she bought this one, that I would just be gone a little while and come back to a rosy employed future. By that I do not mean to imply that Arden was more materialistic than romantic. Indeed if I hadn’t had the usual pride etc. she probably would have cheerfully installed me as house husband (I can cook!)

But it was just the fairy tale we needed to get me out of Dodge. (Just before High Noon, I think)

We both could hardly see to wave good-bye at the airport (for the tears).

Three months later reality dawned and Arden had a new boyfriend. So I found myself in Guatemala, with a small carpenter’s pension and $50,000 from the sale of my house in California, enough to last til I could take early social security. And then live nicely, with two incomes, if only I could find an occupation of some sort, as Lady Bracknell would say.

And I found in Guatemala something so much better than smoking! (see the Importance of Being Earnest)

So, the Guatemala saga starts next week.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

PS The photo above is of a magazine rack for a bathroom door, I made it (Remember, I was a carpenter also.) for Arden out of a rare purple African wood. With the heart cutout. Purple Heart seemed appropriate. Because asi es el amor.

We were in the midst of a bad fight and it seemed medicinal to choose that moment to give Arden the gift I had made in secret. Immediately the fight was over with Arden hugging me saying no one had ever made her anything before. And I send thanks to Jill, Arden’s friend who arranged to get the rack back to me, now that Arden has gone.

*I still have an old answering machine I keep to be able to hear Arden’s voice again and saying how much she appreciated the level of hard work I was prepared to undertake trying to keep us together. I listen sparingly though. Because it makes me cry, remembering Arden had so much wanted someone to love. And to my knowledge never found it.

**Unemployment is or should be just an economic problem. In my case of course, having quit my job, and unable to teach in Oregon, it would have been a severe and daunting one but for Arden’s generosity. She felt since I had renounced my job to be with her it was her job to feed me, etc. Case in point, when she gave me a copy of her ATM card, I asked, “You want me to have access to your money?” (asked in an incredulous tone) and she replied, “NO. I want you to have access to THE money!”

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.

A Counter Offer I Couldn’t Defuse

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Lunar Eclipse–
Photographer
Patrick McCullough

New Start–91

A Counter Offer I Couldn’t Defuse

In Sufism atheism doesn’t make sense
Unless our atheist has first tried God
(Tried the Sufi God)

Because fair is fairest of them all:
How can you judge a God you have denied
Before you even tried?

And here’s atheists thinking small thinking
They’ve got me in a cul de sac of argument:
They say with a clever entrapment smile

“Which God?”
And so I say to that well deny this:
The God that would be beautiful to you

Try to talk to that God
(In the walk-in closet of your heart)
Because in Sufism one picks one’s God

One chooses a God from the heart
A God specially designed closer than antibodies fit
With their locking ports which admit no strangers

Even my atheist friend
Said she wished she could believe
These reassuring fairy tales

But she never tried to talk to God
Not even the version of Whom
She’d have liked to believe in

Not even to present her terms of belief
She might be surprised
It worked for me in fact

God made me a counter offer
I couldn’t defuse: I was kissed
By a lunar eclipse

~.~.~

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,
First apologies for the lengthy lapse in posting. I have been travelling (each year I revert a few weeks worth to my erstwhile natural habitat. I refer to California, where I was born and raised. Well, raised is a loaded term in my case. I used to joke saying, (about some instance when I’d known what I was doing) “My mommy didn’t raise no dummies.” But then I would add, my mommy never raised anybody.

Indeed, she put me in a sort of orphanage at age five. There is a reference to that below, and the backstory of that will be dealt with in more detail by an upcoming blog post (s?), to replace one or some from an earlier set of biographical blog posts that were lost by some apparently malevolent hacker of my website (see asterisk below).

Just now, however I am committed to continuing with the current theme of the issue of the existence or not of God.
I am having trouble finding where I left off. There was a promised fourth part of a four-parter that dealt with the issue. I am having a difficult time organizing the fragments that were to make up that fourth one, and so I am giving myself a reprieve, since I came across an old post from August, 2013* which deals with this very issue. So, I will post this again, as a way of stalling for time vis a vis the fourth part mentioned above.

The good news is this one is largely ready to go, hence there will be less further delay in my long overdue postage due type derelict awol by our blog boy (Me).
And so here it is (or was):

Gentle Readers,
If you want, without further ado, an explanation for this poem (see above) being included here, best to go straight to the “About” section (see above) which deals with my miracle “conversion.”

At age twenty.

From a state of atheism.

The following stuff though deals with the roots of all that, which I do believe are relevant to my story of how I have dealt with the issue of if God or not.

For some reason I find it a fascinating issue, the one about the existence of God. I can’t remember if I’ve already done a post about that (You don’t post to be repetitive). But here’s a caveat; I do repetitive. But I hope each time it’s more like Cummings was repetitive always talking about spring, or John Donne, things that are rings.

So beware, there may be future posts as well on this theme (The existence of God). Come to think of it, my last (from August, 2013) post segues nicely into this issue since as I recall it ended talking about C. S. Lewis and his “proof” of the existence of God (i.e. The Case for Christianity and the radio commentaries that was based upon)

So, as a preamble to my no doubt subsequent posts on this subject, I may as well delve again into biographical hence explanatory (and to some, exculpatory) material. Even though some people might then say adversarily that I turned to God out of desperation rather than for any “good reason.” But the great mystic Meher Baba talked about a state of “divine desperation” which was given as the pretty universal explanation for these “conversions.”

I mean it’s even quite possible that what on the surface was a misfortunate orphanage situation, really was a roundabout long-way-around-is-the-shortest-way-home kind of thing. I mean it was a pretty useful desperation then if my happy now is rooted in it!**

Time for some backstory:
As a child, I adored Jesus. And Christmas, And not just for the gifts, more for the candles and the songs . . .

I wonder if I started out so pro-Jesus because I’d been “abandoned” by my mother. I put that in quotation marks because it was not a complete physical abandonment and in important respects, never an emotional one. But it makes sense doesn’t it? I mean to suspect a lonely child might sooner “turn to the Lord” than a happy child would. Every thing else being equal of course.

Honesty insists now that I tell you a bit of horrific sounding stuff but which wasn’t so bad (You had to be there) as abandonments go.***

Oops! Times up!

More next week . . .
God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Some of my faithful followers may remember that a while back my website was hacked and mysteriously all but a few most recent posts had been deleted. Now I am a neophyte techie and so I don’t understand how and why that could have happened. But the good news is I have kept a separate documentation of almost all of my blog posts, going back to the first one (On April Fool’s Day, 2013). And guess what? This is one of the missing ones. (I am gradually refilling out the online archives).

**This corroborates one of my favorite quotes from Hazrat Inayat Khan, the founder of the Sufi order I was initiated into: “For every loss, there’s a hidden gain. And for every gain, a hidden loss.” His point being since apparent “good news” has a hidden cost, which may exceed the apparent value, and vice versa concerning the apparent “bad news,” it’s best not to either get too excited about the “gain” or too depressed about the “loss.” I mean, I was put in an orphanage, which sounds bad. But if it made me unhappy and lonely such that I was desperate enough to successfully appeal to God, and then came out happy, it (the orphanage situation) was a great investment was it not? Another example is when I was fifteen I was hit by a car and suffered compound fractures, in a cast for nine months, resulting in a slightly short left leg, which kept me out of Vietnam! If it didn’t save my life I bet it at least saved my sanity! Goes to show you never can tell.

***Here I refer to the orphanage and how it came about, But that will be reposted after I finish with the existence of God theme. (Remember, there is a fourth part coming, though this does make it at least five.)

As for the orphanage, this poem shows the loss/gain thing also in perspective:

At the Orchard End of the Orphanage

I remember the sweet peach blossom breeze
At the orchard end of the orphanage
Where I would think endlessly and enviously
Of if no orphanage

Or of if again I felt
My mother’s fingers in my hair
(The mother who had abandoned me there
For a few years)

How it would be different then
In an unorphanaged situation
But now I think of when my mother
Finally did take me back

But struck me
(Through her tears)
With her fistful of wistful
For her lost true love:

She was earnest to explain
To show me in the mirror drain where
My now brown eyes this time
Would have been blue