Tag Archives: Happiness

I Could Be Bought with Pie

Standard

A Child’s Christmas

New PR-139

The Cure for Alone

I was a lonely child
But I loved Christmas:
It was a distraction attraction
From no friends

I loved the red candles and the songs
Connoting Jesus though as a baby
And I’d no affinity for babies then
But that didn’t matter

I had an affinity for holy
For the music that evoked that
Lit a candle to love which always
Has been the cure for alone

~.~.~

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,
Yes this is a Sufi blog, in keeping with a Sufi website named after the most popular Sufi in the Western world, Rumi (as in rumi-nations.com).
But the blog posts, quotes, stories, and quotes, if they have one overriding common theme, is that it is in daily life (or should be) that we gradually hone ourselves to that “Razor’s Edge” Somerset Maugham referred to in his famous eponymous novel.

And that is why so much of my poetry is personal, derived from life experience. And interestingly (along these lines) my poetry these days, universally deals with what I call metaphysical issues. Chief among which is (have I mentioned this?) the search for happiness. Yes, Sufism is (as per the title of one of my blog posts) “The Science of Happiness.”

And this blog, as in my poetry, has no other touchstone but my own experience.

Pardon my roundabout way of justifying what I will now do. I will fill you gentlefolk (reader-wise) in on some biographical recollections which perforce have shaped my own personal search for happiness. Not to mention that I have lately embarked on the project of writing my memoirs. And dear readers, (aka guinea pigs) I do confess I plan to practice (here and there) on you all. And since I have often been assured that I have led an “interesting life,” I trust it will not bore you, and that I won’t stray much from metaphysical themes. Since this is a metaphysical (read Sufi) blog and website.
And so, like Charles Dickens did, I will begin with my childhood.

As for the tale of my childhood, I wish I could make it more of a swashbuckling narrative like the chapter in Huckleberry Finn, “We Ambuscade the A-rabs.” But that would be too protagonist for a situation like mine which was more passive as in, “I didn’t know the pie was bait and had a hook in it.”

I remember I went with my mother one day to buy me a little rug for me to sleep upon at nap time in kindergarten. For some reason I was excited about that rug, a little red riding thing like Santa’s suit. And afterward my mother asked me if I would like to meet her friend, a Mrs. Murray. I was a friendly kid (my mother used to call me her little dolphin because I was so playful), and so naturally I said sure. And it even turned out there was pie involved. And at that age, I could be bought with pie.

And after my pie and milk, my mother asked if I wanted to spend the night at Mrs. Murray’s. Of course I was also an adventurous boy who liked new things, and who thought maybe in the morning there would be more pie and so I said, sure!

And it was five years before I slept again under my mother’s roof.

This Mrs. Murray was a paid foster mother. Paid by the state of California to provide my room and board. Because, behind the scenes my mother had petitioned for me to be put in state custody and as such referred to as a “ward of the court.” If I had cleverly invested a dollar for every time in those years I heard those words, I’d have a secure retirement nest egg now.

I was too young to have explained to me the necessity for this, but in retrospect it is clear that my mother was going nuts trying to keep afloat financially with meager employment, and raise four rowdy boys, all without child support.

Boys like Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer.

Independent boys.

Loud boys.

Rambunctious boys, whom my mother was ill equipped to train.

I used to joke when people congratulated me for some mental feat. I would reply, “My mommy didn’t raise no dummies!” And then I would add, “Of course, my mommy never raised anybody.”

You see my mother had converted to Catholicism briefly in her youth, and apparently the rumors that the church encourages anti-Malthusian measures are true, such that my mother cranked out four boys in a span of six years. And one miscarriage! And who knows? Maybe down the lonesome road I’ll have some Hell-escaping advantage for having been baptized a Catholic! But this was too much for my Quaker father, who was no doubt aghast at the necessity to support and raise four children. (It would have entailed a job!) So first he got a vasectomy, and then to make double sure, got a divorce.

And though he never paid child support, to be fair, he often visited, and played his bagpipes, and shouted, “Hoot mon!.” (He had kilts and tassels and everything. He was taught by his Scottish stepfather.)

My mother was an only child. Her father had really wanted a son (to teach football and baseball to; he had been a star athlete in three sports in high school) and his wife hated sex,* which made problematic any prospects for more children, and so Grandpa Logan (affectionately referred to as Grambogie which name he may have suggested himself for his resemblance to Humphrey Bogart) took it out on his fat and only daughter, sneering at how she “waddled.” He no doubt had felt cheated, having waited patiently for marriage with his incredibly beautiful wife** only to discover that she hated sex. I imagine it was a surprise to her as well. I do remember her oft repeated refrain, as she got drunk at night, (after my grandfather’s death) that though she loved Logan for 39 years and missed him terribly, “Thank God I’ll never be bothered in bed by a man again!”

But back to Grambogie: I’m not sure how much abuse there was and of what exact nature, but I remember one story of her being abused physically while her mother sat in the corner cowed and afraid to intervene. So I once asked Mom if Grambogie had ever hit her and she didn’t answer, just started to cry.

She had only gotten married to escape her father.

I fear this has reached installment size. Story continues next week.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

PS–I have a firm conviction that to understand my youth, you must know somewhat of the roots of it. It’s a “twig is bent” thing, you know.

*And thereby hangs a tale of no sexual desire caused by typical African genital mutilation, but performed by her doctor father in rural Michigan circa 1900. (He’d come across her at age three playing doctor with her six year old sister. The Calvinist thought to himself, if this is what’s going on at this tender age, by God they’ll be whores for sure, and took remedial surgical measures) I may or may not later go into this horrific tale. But it’s outside the drive chain of the story just now.

** At age seventeen I was perusing a wooden boxfull of old family photos and came across a picture of a seventeen year old girl of ravishing beauty. And that was in black and white, not showing her dynamic red hair. I had butterflies in my heart just looking at her. I asked who it was and someone said, “Oh, that’s Grandma Dorothy.” Join me in remembrance of the strange incestuous guilt twinge that inspired.

The Charm Bracelet of a Silly Song and Dance

Standard

 

Magic Roses

 

New PR–191

You at Least Write a Poem

“Failure never let anybody down.”
–Murshida Ivy Duce

Do you ever get that sad feeling there’s
A poem in the background and sure
You sketch out its outlines but tragic

You can’t cross some perhaps picket line
To those magic roses which maddeningly
You sniff out but cannot paint or draw

What shines like something preternatural
Atop the tower of truth and which after glows
Independently of anything we can understand:

You can’t quite reach across the abyss unless . . .
.
So you start with undermine depressing:
Remembering poetry is the art of the attempt
At expressing the inexpressible and so impossible

Becomes possible the intention becomes God
And if and as you fail you at least write a poem like this:
To the tomb of some unknown poem

~.~.~

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–
In Sufism, the issue arises of introspection.

Socrates famously said, “Know thyself.”

This is especially important for people who want to be happy. (Yes there are–alas–those who don’t. And they often take people with them.)

Sabes por que?

A while back I called a blog post, “Sufism, the Science of Happiness.” But lately (see last post, Geometric Theorems, and also this one) I am noticing some important mathematical considerations, as well.

And so here is some geometry stuff left over from last post, “Geometric Theorems”:

I believe Euclid called them corollaries. But before any corollaries, come axioms (things taken as truth without proof) Like this, for instance:

Axiom One:
A person is her own best doctor. (Why? Because it’s the doctor that sees the patient that has a leg up. And what we see in others is dwarfed by what we can see in ourselves. That’s to say we have the capacity to look inward. (Amazing stuff in there! Why am I excited? It’s because I’ve only just scratched the surface, and I’m into Pollyanna extrapolations.*)

Axiom Two: Different people need different things to be happy (either through differing tastes or capacities, experiences, etc)

As you can see, axioms are often just matters of common sense. Like the famous Euclidean one I mentioned last post, “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.”

Corollary (something that logically follows) :

It therefore behooves a sincere investigator to look within. And sure the mystics all warn about the ego that lurks inside. But you just have to get your ego to notice what is more fun. And fun is important because the ego is like a child. And I found during my stint as a first grade teacher (subsequent to my carpentry career), that first rate students occur when they are amused. Because it’s amazing what ancillary knowledge you can hang on the charm bracelet of a silly song and dance. And besides, you know where ego-centric comes in handy? By God then you know what you like. You know what’s (for you) fun. And with time what you like ripens into a fine wine. Or a finer one, at any rate. (Okay, it helps if you believe in reincarnation, and the fact of millions of lifetimes . . . ) But you always start with what your gut likes. Your gut knows it very well. And this is good training too, to “go with your gut.” Lud Dimpfl, my old Sufi preceptor, once said that to train your intuition (read: gut) you had to start to trust it. Sure there will be mistakes. But it’s like learning to walk. You don’t go gloomy on the fall downs.

But let’s cut to the chase, shall we?

Doesn’t it all come down to show don’t tell?

I mean all the small talk and banter on the platform about “looking within.” But isn’t that like saying a girl was beautiful instead of selling the sizzle of her discerning glance? The swizzle stick that got her to dance?

Because you are writing a story, and the neophyte writer would say, “He smiled a friendly smile.”

But you (the skilled artist) might say something more in this direction:

“He pushed out the result of an obvious struggle against whatever it is that doesn’t love a smile. And for that, it was a triumphant one–akin to the sun.”

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*I used to have a frustrating hobby. I wanted to be a cartoonist but I couldn’t draw, at least not cartoons. It didn’t stop me from dreaming up the captions though. And every morning when I was unemployed (Happens a lot to union carpenters) I’d deploy my coffee and my large anthology of New Yorker cartoons. No, it’s not what you think, that I was cribbing from them (stealing as you might say).

But in my defense I say, No. Because if the cartoon I saw started out in a skyscraper, perhaps it ended up about chickens in a hen house. (for instance as the farmer is collecting the eggs, one sitting chicken says to another, “I understand they are all going to good homes.”)

I say sure there’s a connection. But it’s like with this story I’ve always remembered. It was an interview with the famous cartoonist Unger. (Wrote the Herman series, as I recall). He said something like “Here’s the difference between a creative person and an uncreative one. If you do a word association test on an uncreative person, and you say “shoes,” he will say laces. But if you say shoes to a creative person, he’ll yell “Strawberry jam!” Because he once had spilled strawberry jam on his shoes.)

You can see where I am going with this. I mean we’re all only six degrees of separation. Are we then all plagiarists?

But to undigress, one of my cartoon ideas was of two bums, one of whom was all excited–he had found a dime in the street. And the caption was to be, “Yesterday I found a nickel, and day before that, a penny. And I’ve done an extrapolation. At this rate by Christmas I’ll be worth a fortune!”

But alas I can’t draw. Not cartoons anyway (I need the crutch of something in my face, to reproduce). So any of you gentle folk who can draw cartoons, hey we could partner up!

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.