Tag Archives: E. E. Cummings

Water Has a Good Attitude

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Lud Dimpfl’s Sufi Mureeds (Initiated 1973)

New Start–171

Something From the North Star

“Spring is like a perhaps hand . . .”
–E. E. Cummings

I keep telling myself
Be like flowing water easily
Engulfing even boulders in its path

Or in another guise as perhaps glaciers
With their little known habitat of flowing too
Like slow tears

Which also abrade a channel
Taking something from the North Star
And heading south to an eternal spring

~.~.~

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,
Here where I live in Guatemala (para precisar, Panajachel*) the electricity is out again. It’s lately been a too frequent thing. But I philosophize saying well there is a price for everything. And I do have a wonderful apartment surrounded by a beautiful garden with roses other suchlike flowers and a persimmon tree, lawn you could play croquet on, etc. all for $350 a month. But lately electricity has occasionally been a problem. The scuttlebutt is that it gets shut down for repairs to the lines. And so there is if so hope for the future. And it only has happened say three times in three months, and it only lasts a day at a time, usually back on for the evening thus not interfering with my free cable tv (comes with the rent) and the classic movie channel, etc.

And nuisances like this do train me to be like water which simply flows around a jutting rock in the stream (water has a good attitude). And too it does break my internet habit a bit.

But it was out again last night and I had to make do (for illumination) with candles and a fire in my fireplace. (Yup, have that too) And my computer batteries allowed me to view movies from my impressive dvd collection (to pass the time). I saw Tender Mercies in which Robert Duvall showed he could sing, playing the role of a (for alcoholism) washed up erst famous country music singer a la Loretta Lynn or Emmy Lou Harris. And the night being still young, I also saw the Clint Eastwood movie, “Unforgiven.” It got a lot of Oscars as I recall.

Tender Mercies was more “spiritual.” The title phrase referred to what the leading lady Duvall’s new wife, was grateful for, from God. Which though happy in the present was oddly contrasted with the fate of her first husband who had been killed in Vietnam. And we also see a young and sweet Ellen Barkin, as Duvall’s daughter from an earlier disaster marriage, who chose wrong (another alcoholic) and died in a car crash when her new husband was drunk driving. Which mightily upset Duvall, saying he was the one who should have died instead, being an alcoholic like her drunk driving husband.

Yes these things can look complicated. It does help to believe in reincarnation, a thing of importance in the brand of Sufism I was initiated into.**

Her second husband the one in the movie was as I say Robert Duvall who played a washed up and sloshed up alcoholic. But the Tender Mercies lady threw Duvall a rope and was the winch that then pulled him out of his quicksand of despond, giving him a job around the gas station she ran, with the proviso that he had to give up drinking. Which he did, falling in love with her hence doing it for the proverbial “some dame” of Guys and Dolls fame.

As for Unforgiven, it was an odd title considering that to forgive someone it’s likely necessary they ask for forgiveness or at least show some repentance, which was the farthest thing from the minds of this movie’s villains. But then I guess that justifies the title.

Speaking of Clint Eastwood, if you look to the right you will see something titled my favorite quote, also from a Clint Eastwood movie (For a Fistful of Dollars): “Things always look different from higher up.”

Which Hazrat Inayat Khan (the founder of my Sufi order) often stressed as perhaps the most important Sufi truth. (rhymes with ruth***)

But back to Guatemala, the electricity is still out the day after, being Sunday, and the electricians not working on Sunday.

So I console myself with sunlight and chai and home made cookies. Thanks to my maid or really more like my all purposely useful butler person Adelina. (Yes I can afford that too, two days a week) relaxing in the garden reading Margaret Atwood’s (she of the Handmaid’s Tale) novel, “Cat’s Eye.” It’s about a lady painter. (Interesting story how she got there. As Shakespeare would say, “Thereby hangs a tale.”)

Not so much there in the way of tender mercies. As I say, this life stuff is complicated. But it makes for an interesting story that helps one grapple with pain and sorrow.****

And all I have to do is get to the bottom of my first rate frustration from a bout of electricity scarcity. (Life is best with a challenge)

This reminds me of an oft told story of my Murshida (denombre Ivy Duce) of her master, Meher Baba, who upon her complaining of the myriad disasters in her life*****held up his hand two fingers almost together saying “Can’t you take this much?”

I now refer you to the photo shown above of my Sufi class. Notice the sign on the wall, whose letters are too small to read from here. It’s an old Jewish proverb that says, “God forbid that we should ever have to bear all that we are capable of bearing.” I am the dark haired guy in the back row partially blocking out the white left door jamb. The man in front and center was Lud Dimpfl, my beloved preceptor. (We Sufis were divided up into smaller groups (300 Sufis being too much for Murshida Duce to juggle all at once). I was fortunate to have been in his class of thirtyish.

And then there’s the issue of premature judgment. For instance my hit-by-a-car episode at age 15. Compound fracture (bones splintered and open to the air) of tibia and fibula (the two calf bones) which though it resulted in a shorter left leg and nine months in a cast, yet kept me out of the war in Vietnam (better than bone spurs!)

I don’t know how hip you gentle folk are to the Vietnam War, but in my opinion I was thus saved from likely emerging either dead or hugely insane brought on by My Lai massacre sightings and such.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Panajachel lies on the shore of world famous Lake Atitlan which I read in Yahoo travel was number nine in an article titled “The Ten Most Sacred Spots on the Planet.” In 1932 Aldous Huxley declared Aritlan as the second best lake in the world, losing out to Lake Como in Italy because “Atitlan was too much of a good thing.” Of course I bet they hadn’t cut down the trees then.
See
https://www.foxnews.com/travel/10-most-sacred-spots-on-earth
(I guess it was picked up by Yahoo)

**Founded circa 1920 by Hazrat Inayat Khan who while never addressing reincarnation directly, certainly connoted that given the long span of time perforce implied as the course of the development of spiritual awareness. Indeed, the order later was turned over by Inayat Khan’s chosen successor Murshida Martin, to a Parsi mystic named Meher Baba, who she said was the “Qutub” (Sufi lingo for the highest spiritual authority on the planet). And Meher Baba quite explicitly talked of reincarnation, describing how it worked.

***Ruth is an archaic word which means pity, compassion, remorse. Famously a line from Milton’s poem Lycidas, (alluded to in the famous Thomas Wolfe novel, “Look Homeward, Angel”) The line went, “Look homeward, angel, and melt with ruth.”

****Are you hip to the Kahlil Gibran book “The Prophet?” In it (just like in the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu) A holy man wants to go away, seeking solitude, but before he does is prevailed upon to address some pressing spiritual questions, among which was “Speak to us of pain and sorrow.” As I recall he said these things excavated a reservoir which would define our capacity for joy.

***** As told in Murshida Duce’s book, “How a Master Works.” In which the said “this much” referred to the true tale of the myriad “one damned thing after another” stories she related in the book.

Rachmaninoff’s Huge Hands*

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Mystery Lady

Mystery Lady

 

PR5–5

Night Skies Finish Last

“The heavenly bodies, in their courses,
have it in their power to move human
minds to unknown heights of delight.”
–Isak Dinesen (Out of Africa)

E. E. Cummings wrote:
“Thy fingers make early flowers of all things”
I know this because the phrase has stalked me
All these years you see

I read him a lot in high school where I needed help
And I am a romantic
But I guess that’s what poetry means
It sticks with you in the teeth of forgetfulness

And yes literally
God knows why
Robert Frost said poetry is at its best
With a tantalizing ambiguity

And I still dream of “early” flowers
Though I know not what they may be
It clearly predates the sunset
Hence the stars are not yet out

Yet it does make me dream
And I guess as poet Jesus said
By their fruits shall ye know them
And this is a fruit

That has left stains on my lips
All these years
I guess then there is hope
Always hope

For a sudden romance that personifies the stars
Because I still have faith somehow
In the night sky
Even if it does finish last

~.~.~

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,

This post I think, though a segue from the romantic theme of last time yet is of the same silk ilk (pardon my romantic bias).

I have pushed poetry production on this blog. Here are three of the previous posts to prove that:

https://rumi-nations.com/2013/04/08/ambulance-therapy-territory/
and
https://rumi-nations.com/2013/04/15/a-big-blog-emphasis-on-poetry-production/

And in an ancillary fashion, this, my first post (from April Fool’s Day, 2013):

https://rumi-nations.com/2013/04/01/sufism-the-science-of-happiness/

This post, once again, is of the romantic ilk mostly for the psychological reparations. Because to me what romantic merely means is it appeals to the heart. And sometimes I generalize to the opinion that a good way to repair the heart is to express the heart through art. Because then the heart feels listened to.

But two things: first, these days my art form is poetry, though I have dabbled in drawing. And even there was one painting. For an example, see above. Can you guess whom it’s meant to represent? (Bonus points if you can guess. But I bet you didn’t know she was quite popular with the Anatolian Sufis! The answer will be in the next post) If so, my art may have succeeded, at least for starters.

And so I emphasize what I am best at, and I hope I am not off on some ego trip when I say I think it may help budding poets if I sometimes talk about how I do it or since I am not quite sure myself about that, at least, how I got the inspiration (My muse was knocking at my door, and I was profoundly amused). And second, I have a broad definition of “art.” I hope not as Cummings satirized (”O world, o art!). I mean one shouldn’t feel intimidated, and say for instance, “But I can’t paint . . . I can’t dance . . .”

But poetry is feeling. As Cummings said to the students:

“Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself. To be nobody-but-yourself–in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else–means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.”

Which reminds me of the wonderful line from Lily Tomlin’s Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe:

“I always had wanted to be someone. But now I realize I should have been more specific.”

What a simple key (Cummings’ heart business) to pick the lock of originality!

So it seems one surefire poetry trick is to write lines that make you cry. Or dance.
Or laugh. All the things then that good art (art from the heart) does is at your fingertips and then you have mastered the piano and in that, you even have Rachmaninoff’s huge hands.*

But I digress.

But first, before we leave Cummings, I suggest you check out on youtube, Cummings himself reading what to me is the greatest living love poem, “somewhere I have never traveled”:

Yes indeedy. Cummings was a romantic.

But back to therapy. Para precisar, (I love that useful Spanish phrase, which means “in order to explain exactly”) I do believe life itself is performance art. And conversation is an art as well, especially if you use it to express your heart.

And so once again, dear ones, my gentle readers, I will do a post a bit about poetry.

The poem above is an example (I wrote it three days ago, para precisar).

But first, I should elaborate on the background. In a recent series of posts (can two be a series?) I talked of the spiritual dimensions of romance.

Of course, if you look up the word romance in the dictionary, the love affair aspect is given but seventh shrift. (although we “romantics” may call that akin to the famous seventh heaven.”**) The other six definitions deal with derring-do tales, etc. And interestingly the French word for novel is “roman.” So you see that tradition comes from way back.

But as the poem says, in high school, I was lonely and sought refuge in the poetry of E. E. Cummings.

Also true is that I have had that line from his poetry floating through my head all these years,*** and when it came to mind I decided to use it as a springboard to the above poem. (As I do with any spontaneous charged line which comes to me. It’s one of the miracles that keep my happiness afloat that I can almost invariably assume that if I start a poem like that, the rest of the poem will ensue. And since I am a grateful sort, and perhaps solely on that account, a believer in God (but that’s another story probably at least a thrice-told tale in my series of blog posts), I consider it my sacred obligation, even my prayer practice, to stop everything when such a line appears. I do believe that faithfulness is a partial explanation for the fact that my muses rarely let me down, so I show fealty to that sacred impulse.

Of course, too, I often start a poem with a quote to start the ball rolling. But this time for some reason I decided to incorporate it into the poem proper. Which turned out a good thing when the Isak Dinesen quote turned up.

But again, I digress (hopefully not to any crabgrass degree). I had better hurry up and get to the point or this post will have to be a two parter.

So, yes, as you can surmise from the poem, I’d be in danger of being a lonely boy (for lack of an inspiring girlfriend) if it weren’t for having the stars at my back.

There. I think I have gotten to the point. I have the stars at my back.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Yes Rachmaninoff had veritably huge hands which drove the pianists nuts with his music having chords that only a person of his huge fingerspan could easily manage. Indeed an amusing comedy sketch based on that is hereby included:

** According to wikipedia.com, seventh heaven is “the abode of immortal beings, or the visible sky.” Which of course fits right in with my introductory poem, does it not?

***As well as the even better known ending. Here’s the whole poem:

Thy Fingers Make Early Flowers
–By E. E. Cummings

Thy fingers make early flowers
of all things.
thy hair mostly the hours love:
a smoothness which
sings,saying
(though love be a day)
do not fear,we will go amaying.

thy whitest feet crisply are straying.
Always
thy moist eyes are at kisses playing,
whose strangeness much
says;singing
(though love be a day)
for which girl art thou flowers bringing?

To be thy lips is a sweet thing
and small.
Death,thee i call rich beyond wishing
if this thou catch,
else missing.
(though love be a day
and life be nothing,it shall not stop kissing).

And for those who also like to hear the poem:


(Read by Christina Chu)

The Pantheism of Sufism

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Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday

Published in Wordcatalyst, then republished in Tipton Poetry Journal:

PR4–342

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”

~.~.~

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,
Last week I said this post would carry out my original intention (how romantic love fits in with mysticism) from an idea I’d had from a meeting in Los Angeles to celebrate the 124th birthday of the Parsi mystic, Meher Baba, who has been so pivotal in my odyssey of this lifetime. As I mentioned last week, the story behind my Meher Baba connection can be found above by pressing the “About” button.

I got the idea of linking romantic love to mysticism from one of the songs sung by the featured performer, cierta Adrienne Shamszad, who was (along with Brian Darnell) featured in my last post (of March 1–Here’s the url: https://rumi-nations.com/2016/03/01/happiness-has-a-small-door/). She included a song of romantic love early on in her concert, which was dedicated to the mystic Meher Baba, yet she explained that though the song from her past was about her love for a certain boy, it was a love for “the Baba in the boy.” This is a thing which corollarily follows from the pantheism of Sufism. And of course Meher Baba was the bull goose Sufi (to paraphrase Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), and this was exemplified in a favorite bit of Baba writing, titled, “God Alone Is.”

I suspect it may seem suspect (for being a non-mystical theme), my choice of the poem above. I feel justified by Ms Shamszad, who during her presentation as an aside mentioned the almost overriding need for humor. (She had forgotten some of her lines but I’d said she’d covered up for it by her funny faces)

Yes, it is a poem attempting to be funny. Apparently successfully so because it’s been published twice. First by the now defunct poetry journal Wordcatalyst, and then republished by Tipton Poetry Journal. In a further Sufi twist (or at least my brand of Sufism), it connotes reincarnation. Else how could the Prince narrator say the last line which postdates his demise?

Which reminds me of the classic film Sunset Boulevard (98% on rottentomatoes.com–Check it out!) which was narrated up to and beyond the narrator’s own death. Now if that doesn’t connote a life beyond the grave I do not know what does. And if you take that as a given it’s a mere short extrapolation to the concept of reincarnation.*

But back to Adrienne Shamszad and her talk of “the Baba in the boy.” (Yes it’s time to get back to a spiritual connection here) I felt I needed an explanation for my choice of the above poem, since generally, I favor those which seem to illustrate a Sufi principle. And as per Hazrat Inayat Khan, romantic love has its distinct place in the mystical life. (As evidenced by his book, Rasa Shastra) And there is even a wonderful Sufi legend of two lovers, Leila and Majnun.**

I wish I had a way to let you listen to Adrienne’s song. It was more than usually impressive. But alas, I do not. But you know, I checked youtube (what a wonderful thing!) and found this from her which is even more better. More subtly expressive of the dichotomy of the physical and the spiritual. If you listen to this song you can hear both sides (now) as Joanie Mitchell used to sing. Words like “when I’m tired of myself” and fall on your knees like in the Christmas carol. And yet it has powerful ambiguities suggesting physical love ( a la Robert Frost***)

Here’s the url:

I guess the focus of this talk of romantic love, then is tending toward either tragically separated, (which epitomizes the whole Sufi concept of the tragedy of separation from God) unrequited, or soon unrequited, or just plain outright unrequited or at least the possibility of a gradual change. Especially since who can control the will of another? As an example, Inayat Khan talked of how the wise react when their beloved turns on them and gives them “poison” to drink. Does the lover react with disgust, with recriminations, with rancor? No, but rather with kindness and a silent turning away, a resignation as if it had come from the hand of God. Inayat Khan said, “This is how the wise love.”

A wonderful poem by E. E. Cummings, epitomized this
(written to his lifelong mate, Marion Morehouse):

it may not always be so; and i say
that if your lips,which i have loved,should touch
another’s,and your dear strong fingers clutch
his heart,as mine in time not far away;
if on another’s face your sweet hair lay
in such silence as i know,or such
great writhing words as,uttering overmuch,
stand helplessly before the spirit at bay;

if this should be,i say if this should be—
you of my heart,send me a little word;
that i may go unto him,and take his hands,
saying,Accept all happiness from me.
Then shall i turn my face,and hear one bird
sing terribly afar in the lost land

And this reaction of the wise to rejection also reminds me of this old favorite Billie Holiday song:

I’ll Be Seeing You

I’ll be seeing you
In all the old familiar places
That this heart of mine embraces
All day and through

In that small cafe
The park across the way
The children’s carousel
The chestnut trees, the wishing well

I’ll be seeing you
In every lovely summer’s day
In everything that’s light and gay
I’ll always think of you that way

I’ll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I’ll be looking at the moon
But I’ll be seeing you

I’ll be seeing you
In every lovely summer’s day
In everything that’s light and gay
I’ll always think of you that way

I’ll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I’ll be looking at the moon
But I’ll be seeing you

And here’s an early poem of mine (written at age 17) which I wrote when a girlfriend broke up with me (because I wasn’t Jewish!):

I can’t remember how it was
How long ago it seems
When I was sure you loved me
And your smile was in my dreams

I can’t remember how I felt
Ago a little while
When my tenderness for you
Was reflected in your smile

Now all I can remember
Is your look of pure surprise
When I would have touched your lips
And looked into your eyes ****

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Hazrat Inayat Khan, the founder of Sufism in the West, who originally structured the Sufi order I was initiated into circa 1972, never explicitly addressed the issue of reincarnation. (Which I believe would have unnecessarily rocked Islamic boats. Sufism has Islamic roots, and Inayat Khan wasn’t big on boat-rocking, preferring to emphasize agreement. But it’s a very short logical extrapolation from so much of what he said. He for instance was always talking about young souls as if they were children playing with toys, whose later destiny was to be wise. A not bloody likely development in a single lifetime, especially in the many obvious cases which all too often we find in our faces.

**See this url for an interesting explanation of this legend
http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/sunrise/49-99-0/mi-jcok.htm

***I refer to Frost saying that poetry was at its best when there was “a tantalizing ambiguitiy.”

****Interestingly though, many many years later I got in touch with another old friend, the one who in high school actually had set me up with Eileen. And she said to me “Oh I have a message for you from Eileen. She said to say she was sorry.”