Tag Archives: Faith

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!”

The Brass Tacks of Simple Truth

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Joan of Arc by Mathieu Stern

Joan of Arc by Mathieu Stern

PR3–53

A Shy God Pinned Down

“Your faith was strong, but you needed proof.”
–Leonard Cohen (Hallelujah)

Scientists demanding evidence
Of God’s existence may be good at a lot
But they’re not so keen on irony:
Even in their favorite realm of observation

Their own guy Heisenberg
Famously showed that just the observing
Compromises the variables sending
Such a thing to beyond any certainty

And yet they expect to nail God down
Wings extended like insect specimens
Why if God were a mere atom
As we’ve seen they still would fail yet

They expect a shy God pinned down would
Not just haul out a Houdini of some pin-wheeled
Galaxy escape leaving the learned gentlefolk
Clutching either air or ether

~.~.~

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 post (December 5, as I recall) was dedicated to a binary fusion of two issues, the first being the passing of the Buddhist Leonard Cohen, a favorite musician and songwriter. This was juxtaposed with the issue of the existence of God and disputes or speculations about that, facilitated by the Buddhist comparison in that Buddha never suggested there was a God. But (forgive me if I am oversimplifying this even to the point of erroneous opinions, and if so, I plead ignorance). And I mentioned how I thought it was probably because Buddha saw this as superfluous to the necessary understanding, and fraught with misinterpretations (e. g. the crusades, the Spanish inquisition, etc). Not to mention hypocrisy.

God is a good and golden thing, and can be suitably focused on by as Jesus would say, His fruits, as opposed to actually naming Him. Or Her, though obviously any God worth his ether would be beyond sexuality which is a form of duality, and God by definition is infinite, and thus has no opposite. But I say Him for convenience sake.

But I digress. (I should scrawl lipstick on a mirror saying stop me before I digress again!)

So good-bye to Leonard Cohen. You will be remembered.

And now, back to what was originally intended to be the main issue, proofs of the existence of God.

A favorite writer of mine is C. S. Lewis, the author of the Chronicles of Narnia, the Perelandra trilogy, umpteen essays on metaphysics, and a close friend of J. R. R. Tolkien, of Lord of the Rings fame.

One of the main reasons I like him so much is he has presented a convincing proof of the existence of God. Which is a neat trick if indeed God would rather leave the matter up in the air. * It was read many years back, and so I can’t remember the exact work. I suspect either his God in the Dock, or The Case for Christianity. Though as I recall it wasn’t necessarily Christian-specific. (Which is a good thing, since though I tend to adore Lewis, I am put off by his Christian chauvinism. Especially annoying to a Sufi, Sufism having as it does, largely Islamic roots. I expect Lewis had no problem with Dante’s having put Mohammed in the innermost circle of hell. Which is ironic, because I heard a Sufi give a talk that claimed that in fact the Divine Comedy was largely lifted–read plagiarized–from a work of the Sufi poet Ibn Arabi, who of course, had placed Mohammed in Paradise.)

But as usual, I digress.

Of course Lewis’ proof was necessarily a matter of circumstantial evidence. I imagine not least because in all honesty I am having trouble imagining what God could offer (even if God unaccountably felt some necessity to kowtow to our presumptuously demanding, judging egos) to definitively prove the matter, a la in a court of law.

Eye witnesses? Not likely. God is famously invisible. Except of course by Joan of Arc,
(for a wonderful Leonard Cohen song about her, see this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtwUyDPXROQ)

and that was merely the Virgin Mary. (and even that was never explicitly declared to be her identity) And why? A hint is in the bible, in Exodus, “And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.” **

That is usually taken to mean the sight would stop your heart. Stuff like that. As if God is scary looking. Inayat Khan of course refers to the ego as the referred-to thing living. In other words you must lose your ego to see God.

But more to the practical point, the very demand for a proof that is of this world, falsely presupposes that God is of this world.*** Or at least is at all restricted by this world, and as such any physical etc. sort of proof, would be perforce highly misleading, and would from God’s point of view, who wishes to emphasize His love aspect, highly beside the point, and dangerously confusing the issue of love with a power which can only persuade via a shock and awe more reminiscent of fireworks dancing in the air, or levitating pianos, the irony of which is this: these things even if vouchsafed would be nothing compared alongside the stupendous circus tent of the night sky, just for instance. And we don’t seem to be convinced on account of that.

And so, no, this incredible spectacle is not enough for the skeptics who want cheap tricks instead. Voltaire was the wiser one, an honest-to-God skeptic, by inclination, who nevertheless famously said, referring to the universe, “I cannot believe there can be a watch, but no watchmaker.”

To be continued, next post.
God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

* Which is an interesting business. Because these naysayers and skeptics have forgotten one thing. What if God WANTS to keep people guessing, having a choice in whether to believe or not? What if God is leaving clues about which believers (like me) can and often do, point to. But always leaving some plausible deniability to satisfy skeptics if they were so inclined. Let’s put it this way. If we posit the existence of an all-powerful but modest God who wants to be seen only by those He can trust, don’t you think He could obfuscate the matter? Many clever criminals can cover their tracks, so isn’t it obvious a supremely clever God could cloud up all the evidence, leaving only the tell-tale smell of a divine rose? Something that would never stand up in a court whose judge was the left brain (as opposed to the heart)? Indeed, this was the point made by the Indian (Parsi, para precisar) mystic Meher Baba, in his interesting short essay, “God Is Shy of Strangers.”

**You can find this here: Exodus 33:20. But I believe in a sense this is true, and what inspired this poem (one of my most popular, apparently):

PR4–228
A Game God, Likes to Play

God reveals Himself out of the corner of your eye
Then when you turn and look
He’s gone

It’s a game God likes to play
Of plausible deniability
A game of stay away

Because if love could hurt it would not be love
And it’s not good for your eyes
To look into a welding torch

It’s not good for your body
To be in the center of the sun
It’s this distance that proves God’s love

And the sneaky game of teasing then disappearing?
It’s because God can’t help cheating a little
It hurts to be so far from one you love

***My favorite mystic, Meher Baba, (If you want to see why, read the About section at the top of my main page, which is accompanied by other choices, such as Poems–all mine, Stories, and Quotes) said that to expect to understand God with your mind is like expecting to see with your ears. The apt instrument for that, Baba said, is the heart.

Worship Something You Can See and Trust

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Leonard Cohen in Amsterdam, 1972

Leonard Cohen in Amsterdam, 1972

Worship Something You Can See and Trust

People laugh
When they don’t feel like laughing
But no one cries
When they don’t feel like crying

That should tell you something
I mean
(And mean is operative here)
Look in the eyes of people

While they are doing evil
People who take their own pain
And want to spread it around town
You will never find joy there

Unless of course just the unkind fake kind
And you know what all this tells me?
Worship something you can see and trust
Worship tears of joy

~.~.~

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,
Leonard Cohen just died. And thereby hangs a tale. He was a Jewish Buddhist. More of a Buddhist I believe, than Jewish, and an interesting sort of Buddhist.

I don’t know much about Buddhism, and it is an odd introduction to a post dedicated to a discussion about the existence of God (Which was the plan. Half written in fact. But then, as I say, the great man died). It is odd because Buddha never talked about a “God.”

I have a theory about why. It goes something like this:

People go funny on you when you bring “God” into the equation. (And often it is taken as a frightful invitation to hypocrisy or worse, an excuse for abuse.)

But I think Buddha wanted to go directly to the indisputable part of God, the joy that comes from eliminating fruitless desire. I tend to go that way myself. As you can see with the introductory poem above, though perhaps it stems as well from gratitude. Or from the feeling one is not after all, alone. That one has a powerful and loving protector, who just happens to see a bit further than we can.

But what else would you expect when you compare the infinite to the finite? Is it reasonable to expect that the finite is fit to judge the infinite? I think this is the main reason (among the wise) for the constant iteration of the need for faith.

But I digress.

So I will attempt to blend these two subjects (Leonard Cohen, a Buddhist, and the question of the existence of God) into a coherent whole. (Wish me luck!)

There are ways, and then there are ways to approach the issue of God or not. Especially anent the matter of “proving” such a thing.

For instance, I remember watching a high class drama on television, in the course of which a visiting friend was told that the music being listened to was a proof of the existence of God. It was the third movement of Beethoven’s fifteenth string quartet. You can hear it here to decide for yourself about that:

And Leonard Cohen certainly approached the subject interestingly. Seeing the Divine also in sorrow and despair. This is a needed subject in this world of tears and doubt. A favorite example of mine is from Kahlil Gibran, in his wonderful book The Prophet. When the eponymous prophet was asked, “Speak to us of pain,” the prophet said something like this: The pain, the sorrow in our lives, digs a reservoir whose depth defines our capacity for joy.

Of course, I personally am a Pollyanna poet, in that I like to emphasize the bright side. But I do admit it needs to be done, some comment on the rationale for the other side. After all, this grand experiment we call creation had to be a perfect thing, a complete thing, and so it had to include pain and suffering. If only for the fulfillment of Hegel’s dialectic. For a chat with that in it see the post for September 1, 2014:

https://rumi-nations.com/2014/09/01/god-had-a-wee-problem/

And Leonard Cohen was big on recognizing that. In his poem, “Anthem,” he put it into perspective:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

And in his song “Hallelujah,*” which has struck a chord in so many hearts as to be in danger of trivialization . . .(It has been adopted into popular culture to the point almost of constant repetition, which can be a bad thing**)

Well, folks, this post is getting to have a super high word count. And so it looks like it will be a three-parter. And this seems like a good place to stop. Stay tuned for the next two installments which really get into the issue of the existence or not, of God. If you click on the follow button and enter your email address, you will be notified when parts two and three are published.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

* Available here (my favorite version, sung by the tragic Jeff Buckley):

**Here’s an example. Perhaps you gentle folk are familiar with the incredibly beautiful Canon in D, by Pachelbel. When I first heard about it, was years ago during my initiated Sufi days in the San Francisco ashram. A dear friend, Marianne Barnhart, came by with the record in hand, and played it for me and my then wife, Judy. And she told me I could get it for only a dollar due to a come on of an offer from some classical music society membership. So I ordered it and sat hour after hour, day after day, just listening to it. But do you what can happen from constant repetition? One gets dulled to it. It loses its magic. In fact just yesterday or the day before I wrote a poem about the danger of that, saying that was the trouble even with the moon and stars. Here is the poem:

New Start–45
The Trouble with the Moon and Stars

“If you really want to live in a rainbow
there is no reason why you shouldn’t.”
–Pollyanna’s father (PBS Masterpiece Theater)

Consider prisms if you will–All those colors
Now why was that necessary
In the evolution of the world?
But then why were tears necessary

Or a big hug?
But here I am back again to tears
Or have you never cried from receiving a hug?
Especially when you really needed it

And hadn’t seen it coming?
The trouble with the moon and stars
(Why we don’t cry every night just for that)
Is that it comes to be expected

In a way we would all be happier
With amnesia
Of course there is a precedent for that:
Witness reincarnation

As for Marianne, that later became a bit of a tragedy at least on my side, when I lost her friendship. I am just throwing that in, in case Marianne is reading this, so she will know that she was missed. You see, a lot of this blog’s followers are from that old Sufi group. For the record, I was tempted to include Cohen’s song, So Long, Marianne, except it would have been misleading since so much of it is not applying to Marianne’s and my situation. Oh hell, in at least an appreciation of Leonard Cohen, here is the apt url:

And while on the subject of lost loves, this is for Kate of Lowell high, who fancied herself Suzanne

And finally this, for a new friend, Hakima, whose favorite Cohen song was this: