Tag Archives: Gratitude

I Became an Expert Fruit Pirate

Standard

This is a not-nearly-as-tall version of Scotch Broom (See below for the Scotch Broom reference.)

New Start–123
I Crossed the Rural Road to Brave the Creek

I crossed the rural road to brave the creek
With its terribly clawed crawdads
But barefoot feet wet I pressed on to a sandy
Stretch studded with cactus and yucca spears

And I toured towards the much taller than I
Scotch Broom patch of yellow flowered thicket
With the inner (for pow wows) clearing
Featuring fallen logs for Indians to sit upon

A wary warrior (It was scary at dusk)
I was thinking each clicking cricket
Was perhaps a rattlesnake
Yet Sir Bold Boy advanced

Until he chanced to glance under a rock:
Where there was hiding a horned toad
And I ran back to the road
Screaming that I’d seen a dinosaur

~.~.~

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 is a continuation in the saga of my youth, which turned me toward Sufism. Last time I was still describing the “orphanage” farm I was early relegated to. But as I hope you will see, it was a mighty interesting place, and experience.*

On this farm there was fruit growing everywhere but it was forbidden that any of the children should steal any. Foster children, that is. There were other children belonging to Mrs. Hunt’s family. I already mentioned Sandra Sue, the granddaughter, that I’d had a crush on. But, most notably, there was also younger and scrawny Donald Lee, another grand child. And of course Donald Lee had carte blanche to raid any tree, and eat the fruit in front of me to show what he could have and I could not.**

It was a small farm, but it was too big to police. So I always figured, let them prove it in court. Or even, let them find witnesses–so I became an expert fruit pirate! And the truth was, there was an incredible amount of fruit, and often in out of the way places, and daily available, was the cover of darkness. Actually, I think the rule was mostly designed to minimize thievery, forcing it underground.

There were upsides besides, to this abundance of fruit. And there was an exception to the child no eating fruit dictum, during harvest times. For instance finally we could roam marauding-free up and down the berry aisles, eating with impunity. Just so we returned regularly (albeit with massive purple stains around the lips) with our pots filled with ripe berries.

Another upside was Mrs Hunt set her female kitchen crew to prodigious canning exercises. There were stored row on row of mason jars full of pre-sugared fruit, ready to pour into a pie crust. It was mass production, and so every night we had desert, most memorably, berry pie.

Of course this surfeit of food didn’t stop me from getting a reputation, after dinner, for raiding the pigs’ slop bucket. What can I say? Pirates have no shame.

There was another upside to all that fruit. Perhaps you have heard the rumors that on a farm everyone eats well. Well, it at least was true out there, in Live Oak Acres. Every night there was roast beast, or (especially) fried rabbits. It was horrible to hear, but Mrs. Hunt regularly tied them up to a clothes line by their hind legs then sawed their heads off with a butcher knife. And once she put me in a pen with a flock of ironically-named ring neck doves, and told me I would be locked in there, until I’d wrung the neck of all the doves so she could freeze them (she had wall to wall freezers). I only remember my predicament. I don’t remember how it got resolved. I think it got repressed.

I don’t remember either (later story down the road) the moment when I began denying Jesus. Repressed again, I expect. But more on that later, if I stick with this mini-memoir. (I started out a fierce Jesus lover, but later fell under the fiercer influence of my atheist older brothers.)

Yes, we ate well. Though not so much as vegetarians. And not only because Mrs. Hunt raised her own meat, (pigs, the occasional Brahma steer, rabbits, chickens, Guinea fowl, pigeons and doves). But also she (who must be obeyed) had a Seventh Day Adventist brother (they are by rule vegetarians) who loved to hunt and because he couldn’t eat the deer himself, he donated his umpteen carcasses for his sister to freeze; and so we ate a lot of venison too.

(It was refreshing how her brother kept to the spirit of the Seventh Day thing . . .)

I guess I should mention the wild quail we ate a lot of. They would land en masse in a field back of the main orchard, and Mrs. Hunt’s son loved to take his shotgun to that shooting quail in a barrel exercise.***

This (small) “farm” was set like a jewel in a frame across the street from a creek with crawdads in it and beyond that, desert-like sandy land with yucca everywhere and in the far corner of Mrs. Hunt’s property was a big cluster perhaps thirty yards across of six foot tall Scotch Broom, which we named “The Green Weeds.” This was penetrated by trailing entry points like milk canals in oatmeal, and had a central clearing with fallen logs to sit on and pretend we were Indians. The photo seen above is of Scotch Broom, though of a stubblier, shorter variety.

Yes, physically, it was a child’s paradise. Natural beauty everywhere, rural roads, few cars, five hundred yards between the houses, and if you hiked toward Sled Hill for fifteen minutes you could indulge in daredevil entertainment. It was a pretty steep hill with matted straw in the summertime, which was slick to the runners of sleds which could be made to go I guess thirty miles an hour hurtling downhill. You could just take your pick of the best sleds always waiting at the bottom because why take them home? There was no fear of theft as they were only useful on this hill, and too heavy to cart around, anyway. They were all hand made out of old lumber and the rails were nailed with tin strips to make them slick.

And there was nearby a dammed-up creek swimming hole and in heart of the summer Daddy Bill would put the kids in the back of his pickup and take us all screaming to the swimming hole.

And once over Sled Hill, it was a two mile walk down a rural lane (there was an apricot tree growing wild on the side of the road. What fun!) to the two room country school house I went to for first through third grade. I had the same teacher for the second and third grades, because there were only two classrooms, and three grades in this school.

This teacher, Mrs. Hicks, knew who I was ward-wise, (of the court) and she would often invite me to hang with her at her house, helping in the garden. She was a mother away from home to me and even now, I am crying with gratitude just remembering her fresh-from-the-garden tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches. Of course I am easy, when it comes to tears.

Well, again, times up. Mini-saga continues next time.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell
PS: Need I mention that I was terribly lonely?

* Interesting like the old Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” Just kidding. Sort of. And also bearing in mind a favorite Hazrat Inayat Khan quote, “For every loss, there is a hidden gain, and for every gain, a hidden loss.” Implicit in the context of this was the fact that the gain doesn’t necessarily equal the loss, and vice versa. In fact, there often are vast discrepancies.

The corollary to which reinforced frequent Sufi wisdom, which says best not to get too excited when you get a “gain” nor too depressed when you receive a loss. Hard to tell how you came out. A very useful thing for keeping an even keel. (Sufis are big on that)

** This is not the worst I received at the hand of the spoiled brat Donald Lee. We often went without shoes, and Donald Lee, for instance would follow close behind with a shovel in hand, which he used to jab violently down just behind my bare heels. Kind of like in the westerns when they would shoot at your feet and tell you to dance. Of course I was a year or two older and bigger than Donald Lee, and so sorely tempted to just punch him out and have an end on it. But if and when I did, he would run to the formidable Mrs. Hunt who of course believed her beloved grandson over me whom she used to regularly accuse of stuff, saying “Evidently it was Eric. He’s the ring leader!”

And then I was banished from television at night, a punishment I wished was a whipping instead, especially when Disneyland was on.

But there was a dénouement to this. Three years after leaving, to supposedly live with my mother again (wait til you hear about that one!) I came back for a visit, and Donald Lee had every aspect of being ashamed and apologetic for his erst treatment of me. Also interesting . . .

***He was drafted into the army, sent to Germany, but soon got a dishonorable discharge for having attacked a black man with a razor, and justifying it because he was “only a nigger.”

Geometric Theorems

Standard

Trojan Horse

New Start–94

Hiding the Corollary

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

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

Tries to make me feel small
And weepy

Carefully hiding the corollary
Pretending (to the throne)

That I should then
Put a blanket over

The light of
My intense gratitude

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:
“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”

~.~.~

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

~.~.~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

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

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

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

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

A Counter Offer I Couldn’t Defuse

Standard

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