Tag Archives: Friendship

Reincarnation Is a Handy Tool

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Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

(Published in Umbrella Journal)

New Start–33

Like Picasso, Who Never Had to Pay for Anything

Einstein thought things were pretty mysterious
And he said that made him “religious”

You can’t handle coal without getting your hands black
So I guess he couldn’t touch the universe
Without some of its numinous dust sticking to him
Probably because it’s such a big place

For instance if it isn’t distance it’s time:
Think about the Jurassic if you will
I mean actually seeing dinosaurs
Whose genes and digestive juices

Were just like ours
Only in a different pattern

The style of the Artist is instantly recognizable

God I think is like Picasso
Who never had to pay for anything
He would just write a check which never got cashed

It was far more valuable as a collector’s item

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Gentle Readers,
I recommend a curious mind.

They say curiosity killed the cat but that got neutered down. It was (or should have been) curiosity skilled the cat. For instance I see out my window overlooking my garden my cat Dahlia like an Olympic athlete wending her way up a set of branches, such as had at a glance looked cat-impregnable.

Now I suppose they think Dahlia was born with that. I think not. I think it’s a finely honed skill, a product of long practice and longing. Yes longing is the mother of invention.

But, back to me (Remember, it’s my blog and I have no other than myself to craft it from).

I remember when I was four years old or so, and was wondering about things. Things like why when the conveyer belt-clawed ditch digger machine that was preparing a ditch for the sewer pipes, left a neat hole that was wider than the width of the iron claws? (I have since decided on a simple explanation: two or three inches of previously solid soil had been loosened and then fell into the hole, thus widening it)

And too, I wondered why it was when the driver got into the car and sat on the driver’s side, the car didn’t tip over to the left?

And I was curious about muffins, how they were made. I must have asked, (and flour must have been mentioned) because it had seemed a miracle. You see you take a muffin tin and put a flower (I think with a pinch of baking powder) in each slot and the next day there were newly transposed, fresh muffins. Which smelled good indeed. (Unsurprising, since the flowers had as well).

And what does this famous curiosity have to do with metaphysics? Y para precisar, with Sufism?

Well, in an earlier post I didn’t call Sufism “the science of happiness” for nothing.

Yes, and do you know what is the prime mover of scientific inquiry? Curiously, it is curiosity. Newton reportedly puzzled about what had made the apple fall on his head. Einstein puzzled about what was the interconnection between matter and energy and gravity?

His curiosity led to a shed light on the subject. Which light turned out to be pivotal, considering that in his final basic equation E=mc2 C referred to the speed of light.

Frustratingly though, Einstein couldn’t figure out how gravity fit into all this. He reminds me of a cat I once saw out the kitchen window, which gave onto my back yard, which cat was puzzled as to the nature of flowing water. You see I had a sump pump in my basement that after a rain drained the water out through a hose and onto my back yard, creating a gusher of water coming out of the hose. And as I looked out the window I saw a cat fascinated by the phenomenon. He would put his paw in, then pull it out. Paw in, paw out. Over and over. You see, it looked solid like something he could bat around like a toy mouse. But it just made his paw wet. And so there he was , transfixed for it seemed like an hour; paw in, paw out and each time a witness, staring at his paw, pondering it’s wetness.

And Einstein kept putting his version of a paw in, but never could pull out an equation explaining how gravity figured in. But he knew intuitively in his gut that there had to be an interconnection between gravity and electromagnetism. (Way down yonder in the paw-paw patch)

Which is why his long sought-after Unified Field Theory kept coming up short.

Oh well, maybe in his next life.

Yes reincarnation is a handy tool, because after all, clearly in this one life, we are only in first grade. Or maybe if we are saints, students at the university.

But the driving force is curiosity. Which is a curious thing. You might call it the other mother of invention (though both longing and curiosity might be termed a necessity).

and you might call it a gift from God.

And now I will give you a real life example. Those who have read all my posts (including those that have been vandalized, which I am gradually reintroducing from back up files), know that I had a challenging childhood, (e. g. put in an orphanage by a living mother) and suffered thereby (by the law of indirect consequences) for years from a paucity of friends.

Well, when later it was in vogue, I took LSD (I do not recommend it. It led for instance to the death of an older brother, but often there is a good by-product of a bad experiment). This was many years ago, a couple of years earlier than the miracle I describe in the ABOUT section atop my main webpage. (rumi-ations.com)

But I was curious why I had so few friends. Not that I hadn’t been trying to be popular. I even bought an au courant pea jacket and Beatles-style bell bottomed pants, but to no avail. No outward change was going to attract people. To paraphrase Professor Higgins, I had to clean up the mess that was inside.

Anyway, I spent the whole night (you don’t sleep on LSD) pondering the problem. And I hit upon a bold experiment.* A two-fold bold experiment. First, I would be nice to people, as opposed to my usual chip on the shoulder insult-prone behavior. And secondly, I would always wear the same clothes (to free me my from delusions that I could pass for “with it.”). I mean I always wore a blue work shirt and jeans. Multiple pairs of course to always be clean.

And just like Dahlia learned to climb trees, and just as a baby learns first to crawl, then to stand and finally, run, well, so I took the feedback of people smiling at me, to learn to be nice. And smiles coming from the heart are world class feedback, and a contagious thing. (Who knew?)

And all from being curious about what would happen if I followed my intuition. I know it sounds like a stupid thing to call wanting to be nice to people a product of intuition, but you would be underestimating the anti-intuitional power of a stubborn hurt ego.

God Be With You,

Eric Halliwell

*A favorite quote from the universe-class mystic Meher Baba is, “You must make bold experiments in life.”

Master the Perverse Impulse

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Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan

This poem was published in Berkeley Poetry Review:

Master the Perverse Impulse

“To make a friend, forgiveness is required
which burns up all things, leaving only beauty;
but to destroy friendship is easy.”
–Hazrat Inayat Khan

I don’t know . . . I think
It’s similarly easy
To throw oneself off a cliff

It’s true, and that’s probably why
I have always been
Supremely scared
To be on a ledge

I think I would visit
The Grand Canyon on my belly
With only my head
Projecting over the rim

I figure by the time
I got up to jump I could
Master the perverse impulse

So friend you’re pretty safe with me
I’ll take a lot
Lying down

~.~.~

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,

To start off, I wish to quote my daughter:

“Daddy! Daddy! I crossed the street all by myself, and I didn’t even get runned over!”
–Mehera Halliwell
(At age five, demonstrating proper gratitude for what she receives in life)

And then I will segue to this, paraphrasing Robert Frost: Something there is that doesn’t love a friend.

Hell, something doesn’t love ceramics. Or so one could conclude by how often dishes break. Even valuable antique ones. Not that I am suggesting paranoia. It’s just like we look before we cross the street. So I think some paranoia is healthy. Indeed often the wise have suggested taking care, with reasonable precautions.

A favorite quote comes from Mohammed. When asked if one should tie one’s camel, or trust in God, he replied, “Tie your camel, AND trust in God.”

Yes danger is there.

Skulking about.

That’s probably why with Jesus it wasn’t enough to be as gentle as lambs. It was good also to be wise as serpents.

And sometimes the threat’s behind our lines like some Wormtongue** within, whispering fear or Devil knows what other negativity.

But in Sufism, it’s kind of an echo of Jesus when he said “By their fruits shall ye know them.” If afterwards (or during) you are sick at heart, well that too is a fruit.

Of course, I believe in signs. But the scary times are when that is too late. Meher Baba, the co-founder of Sufism Reoriented (the other being Hazrat Inayat Khan) had a favorite song, Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine.” There’s a telling lyric there which refers to cursing “the chance that was wasted.”

As gentle readers probably have noticed, I’ve talked a lot about friendship. A big reason is this is a Sufi blog, and Inayat Khan often talked about friendship. Seemingly as an apprenticeship in the process of destiny. Your destiny being the stars.

I wouldn’t be surprised then if when Emerson said to “hitch your wagon to a star,” he was talking about friendship.

I should mention that in Sufism saints are referred to as friends of God. (Yes, they have friends in high places)

It is always sweet to find there are people who share our concerns. It can even come to feel like family, such sharing. Or perhaps I think it would best be stated in reverse, that sometimes family can come to seem like friendship.

So maybe you won’t be surprised, if today I will talk about how careful we have to be with friendship.

Which is he point of the poem I started off with (see above). I know these posts are perforce prose, even though whenever I can, I prefer to ditch the prose and rely on my poetry. If only because when a poem is any good it gets right to it and my prose likes to play Ring-around-the-Rosie. (Or as we say in Guatemala, andar por las ramas–not exactly beat around the bush–literally to walk through the branches)

Except my prose tends not to want to ever fall down. Sometimes I think I became a poet as pure therapy for long-windedness.

In case you have been wondering why I always sign off with God be with you, well here is why:

It’s from a favorite Bob Dylan song, Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.

There is a line in a that song that always puzzled me: “Good-bye’s too good a word, Babe, so I’ll just say fare thee well.” But then I remembered good-bye is a contraction for “God Be With You”; which is clearly a better word than a mere fare thee well.

And so, God be with you,

Eric Halliwell
**Wormtongue was the weaselly advisor to the king of Rohan in the Lord of the Rings.

She Called Me an Angel

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Our Victoria

Our Victoria

PR3–441

It’s Not Mysterious, It’s Gratitude

Well you know
If I were to put it into words
I would explain it like this:

I am grateful
So grateful
Maybe if I say why you will know

It’s not mysterious
It’s gratitude for this:
It wasn’t enough for God

(Aka The Powers That Be)
To inspire some feel-good sacrifice
That I would miraculously find charming

But my God! the Holy Chap
Goes way beyond that:
Because I have to say today to God

(In a personal way):
Oh Sweet Principle of Existence
You sure are making these lessons interesting

~.~.~

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,

There is the question of mortality. Is this the end?

Of course we can go to a notion of reincarnation.

Or we can say hey this is all we’ve got, and yet it’s possible to make it count.

Does the artist mourn when his painting is finished?

Or does he exult that it has something of eternity in it?

What brings me to this? A friend (denombre Victoria) has died. She was not for me a close friend. Really a friend for just one night, fourish years earlier. But as in this second sense (or some call it second sight) perhaps all is a microcosm and if one can see truth in one evening then one can extrapolate truth to every where.

And of course the whole thing is fraught with the issue of I myself may die. Indeed, my daughter in California on hearing of my recent health problems now wants me to hie my way to California where her trusted MD friend (and mine) can put my health under the microscope.

I mention this mainly to emphasize that I have reasons besides Victoria’s recent fate, to consider mortality.

And a wise person will then segue to what is this life all about anyway?

I can certainly say that the whole experience with Victoria has brought to mind these issues.

 

Victoria recently died of Pancreatic cancer in Panajachel Guatemala where I live. (As I have often mentioned to Gentle Readers).

And in the course of her dying many of her friends banded together in a sort of fellowship of support.

Most were her close friends.

I was not. In fact to tell the truth I had reason to believe that Victoria did not like me. That she judged me harshly.

But I am a Sufi, (in my fashion) and my dharma is important to me. But it is a dharma of the will of the heart, not of mere duty.

And for me the whole business with joining the group on Victoria’s behalf was healing. I believe too it was healing to Victoria to see a man she didn’t much like come out of the woodwork when she needed it, to cheerfully and carefully try to help.

MY task was to help keep her fed. (Having been a life-long practitioner of culinary arts) Especially with homemade yogurt, wheat-free cookies and cornbread made in a special way; she had so many dietary restrictions, and so little appetite. Also, having been a carpenter, I was handy with a bit of that, when it was needed.

~.~.~

The night I bonded with Victoria happened a couple of years earlier.

We were acquaintances, not really friends, though I had wanted to be that. And even once she’d stayed overnight in my casita above Lake Atitlan, when she’d wanted to see a movie in my collection, (I think it was Antonia’s Line, the academy award winning “feminist fairytale” movie from Holland.) and it was too late to go home as travel there was in boats and the last lanchas had passed, it being nightfall.

But the night I mentioned when I bonded with Victoria was a couple of years later when I was in Antigua (a three hour drive from Panajachel), hanging with a girlfriend who lived there, a Peruvian artist of the first rank (painter, sculptress, and poet).

And when I met Victoria in the street, we were close enough friends to decide to have lunch together. It was a difficult conversation; when I am feeling judged, I can be difficult. But we both seemingly peered over the precipice and decided to make peace. And sometimes, after that, one does find a deeper friendship.

I told her about Claudia, my painter girlfriend. I told her how we were breaking up; it was Claudia’s decision. But it was amicable and indeed I was staying at her house in Antigua, with plans to move back to my casita on Atitlan in a few days. And I raved to Victoria about Claudia’s paintings and sculptures.

Victoria, you must know was an artist and photographer herself, and expressed such interest, that I invited her to Claudia’s to meet her and to see her art, which Victoria then adored. And we all hit it off, and decided to have dinner out together that night. And while Victoria was in the bathroom, Claudia told me her opinion that Victoria was perfect for me.

But Claudia got jealous when at dinner, Victoria and I sang to each other most of the songs from the musical My Fair Lady. You see, I was a poor child and my family had only a few vinyl records for music, one being the soundtrack for My Fair Lady, and so I’d listened to it so much, the songs were all memorized. I have no idea how Victoria had come by such knowledge herself. But I have since heard from people in the group to help her while she was dying, that she loved to sing. And so we spent much of the evening in duets from the musical.

Now Claudia knew English, though not nearly as well as I knew Spanish. But even so, she felt left out as we sang together with such obvious gusto. And she waxed powerful jealous. And when we got home she changed her mind about breaking up, thinking I was soon to be hanging with Victoria when we both imminently returned to Panajachel.

Which was an intense relief to me, as Claudia was quite the catch. Out of my league really, but because of Victoria I had three more months of Claudia memories.

So, join me in my gratitude to Victoria, who that night saved my romantic ass. Which was at that time very important to me. I have since however been grateful for the transitory nature of that relation, as in looking back, I see how damaging it would have been to my poetry “career” had it been a permanent thing. Largely since Claudia took up so much space in my life, it was always me in service to her and her art. I even (with my knowledge of carpentry) was pivotal in how to make her life-size papier mache sculpture of a woman be able to free-stand without falling over. The secret to that was to embed short iron bars in the lower legs, giving them such weight, they hugged the floor. Kind of like a bottom-weighted helium-filled life-size doll. But I digress from my main point which is to explain my gratitude to Victoria. And even my gratitude for gratitude itself.

Gratitude.

An important thing in Sufism.

Just as an example, when things go sour or I am disappointed or gloomy, it cheers me right up to think of the intense good fortune I have to have been a witness to this wonderful drama we call life. An interactive witness. They talk about three dimensional chess, but this life is three dimensional art.

It’s hard to feel gloomy when you are so full of thanks.

And gratitude goes so much further than just what you must feel to avoid the stigma of ingratitude.

No.

Gratitude is a life jacket or in my case a hook I can fasten to my belt which has a winch at the other end, which pulls me out of a quicksand John Bunyan famously called the slough of despond.*

And even in the teeth (yes, seemingly teeth were involved) of Victoria’s later judgment of me, I held to that gratitude like an ancient mariner does his astrolabe. And it was actually an enjoyable challenge to shower Victoria with my love and concern as she was dying. I hope seeing the sincerity of that also touched Victoria’s heart, at the end. I think so, and there was a proof of it in a note she sent me three days before she died, in which she called me an angel.

I think that’s the true grail: the support of holy ground underfoot, the happiness to be found from impersonating an angel.

I will always remember Victoria for that.

This post is long in the tooth wordcount-wise. (Also, I hope, long in the truth)  The next post will include contributions from other members of Victoria’s support group.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell
P. S. Are you hip to synchronicity?** It’s a Karl Jung concept. (He was a famous apostate acolyte of Freud) I confess to being too much a dilettante to really know much about him, though I have many reasons to respect him as a first rate metaphysician. Anyway, he has a concept known as synchronicity. A manifestation of this is when you are thinking or in this case writing about something and suddenly it’s in your face. Like if you are thinking of the old (or youthful when he died) pharaoh, King Tut, and suddenly there is on PBS a special about the King Tut collection of artifacts in some famous New York museum. And suddenly there is a Saturday Night Live reprise of Steve Martin’s classic song and dance thing about King Tut. Or if you are thinking of an old photo of the mystic Meher Baba when he visited Hollywood and the photo you’ve seen of him with Mary Pickford on a movie lot in Hollywood, circa 1933. And suddenly on the classic movie channel is a Mary Pickford retrospective. You get my drift. I’ve always been fascinated by this and have seen it in action countless times. I’ve never understood whether it was that my mind, once having thought of a thing, has suddenly rearranged the universe to bring forth a relevant reference from out of the blue. Or if it was that I was clairvoyant and saw it coming. The latter makes me seem less powerful and so is probably more likely. But in either case or in any case, it’s a fascinating concept.

But what does this have to do with Victoria? Well, tonight, just a day after having written about the above incident of me and Victoria singing to each other songs from a musical, I am watching Charley Rose interview Steve Martin (who it turns out is also a master banjo player) and his new musical sidekick Edie Brickell, and they are talking about how their Bluegrassish collaboration has resulted in their imminent Broadway musical, Bright Star, no doubt a reference to this famous John Keats poem:

“Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art”

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art—
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—
No—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.

And here is a musical example, featured at the end of the interview:

And of course this song is fascinating, due to it’s love theme. Have you noticed? Love has a universal charm. Always has and always will. And this of course cannot be explained by science, or evolution, except as a proof of the existence of God, the Personification of love.

Post script de Nuevo:
Okay, I just finished this, and would have posted it, but my internet is suddenly out. And so I decided to watch television. (It’s 10:38 here in Panajchel).

So I am channel browsing, and there on Jimmy Fallon, is Steve Martin with banjo in tow, and Edie Brickell too, and their band behind.

Incroyable. (As they don’t say here–it’s more of a French thing)

 

*For a reference check:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slough_of_Despond

**For a quick primer on the concept, I refer you to wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synchronicity