Tag Archives: humor

How Long Has This Been Going On?

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eric-as-child

Me at age eight or nine

PR–329

A Wish Dash of Dignity

The baby speech was bad
A touch like Elmer Fudd
Or a duckling daffing

All aglower was his little face
From His Highness’ chair
From a store he’d had before

Of vestigial kingly air
Or some such mannish mime
Some earlier authority

As he cried
“Stop faffing!
I’m fighting mad!”

Which wish dash of dignity
A knock-off from a former race
Didn’t make it to the finish line

But held us helpless as the more
He tried the more we died
Faffing on the floor

~.~.~

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 fear last post may have left you with an unpleasantness from hearing the stories from my family. Especially one of them (to quote Gandalf, “Name it not!”) So I have this time decided to balance that out a bit with some amusing sometimes sweet family anecdotes.

But first, I am not sure how much more I will write about my beloved Aunt Edel, who starred in a recent post, and so I want to start off with an anecdote I forgot to tell of in my recent mention of her. To refresh this for new readers, recently I talked about having been rescued every summer for a week or two (rescued, for instance, from the “orphanage”) to hang with her and her husband, in their old Hollywood mansion (which later Aldous Huxley died in)

Her husband, a colorful native of Estonia, who had escaped from impressment (read cannon fodder) into the Czar’s army during World War One, and who stowed away on a steamer to San Francisco where he learned the tailor trade, ended up making suits in Beverly Hills, for the movie stars, as well as his Nobel Prize winner friend William Faulkner, then a Hollywood screenwriter, about whom he would tell us amusing stories. But I digress. To the meat of the anecdote:

I remember once when Aunt Edel said to me, “I don’t understand about you, Eric. People tell me you are unruly and resistant, and yet here with us you are so sweet and well behaved.”

I am not sure I had my wits about me then cause-and-effect-wise, but what I should have told her was the mere thought of displeasing her and possibly causing thereby a withdrawal of my annual invitation, was a horror I did not care to flirt with happening.

So, on to amusing family anecdotes!

Last post I already told my (brother) Mike anecdote (about his world class triple pun).

And so to segue, here’s one about Jim and Mike together. (Mike as usual representing the practical common sense side of discipline, Jim the dreamy poet musical type, not so much)

When Mike was six and Jim was five Grandma Dorothy said she had given them both a chance to learn about earning money, by raking leaves and putting them in boxes. She was to pay a nickel for each box they collected. Well, Mike set to in his industrious way, but Jim just sauntered about, whistling.

Finally when all the leaves were gone into boxes and it was time for payment, it turned out that Mike had done it all (and Jim not more than none). Grandma Dorothy was distressed telling Jim she felt bad that she could only give money to Mike, since Jim had done diddly squat. And Jim just smiled, she said, and put his arm around her waist (as far as he could reach) saying “Gamdorfy you don’t have to worry about things like that!”

I can’t resist one more Grandma Dorothy Jim story. She said when she had explained to a young Jim about the facts of life, he exclaimed, “How long has this been going on?”

And if you want a story about a young me (still in a high chair!) I refer you to the incident my father liked to tell. It is the story I covered in the poem at the top of this post.

I have no suitable amusing thing from Robin, perhaps because it would ring hollow here since he lived in tragedy all his short life (at least post age four) but I would feel bad leaving out about Robin, the one that killed himself. He just (I think)*did it because he had no friends, was socially inept, dressed like a scarecrow** and yet had a stubborn belligerent attitude. I and my older brothers should have been more careful with him, since because of his emergency tracheotomy at age four, he was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, He would say such stupid things, and we always seemed to think we could shame him out of them, with scathing words of how stupid what he said was. We decided he needed shock therapy. Which I think was his undoing, God help me and my older brothers. In a way I can’t seem to shake I feel responsibility for his death. I guess we should have humored him, but we ironically decided we had too much respect for him, too much hope he could pull out of it.

And here’s another bit from Grandma Dorothy:
She who often drank (but who believed in reincarnation) used to regularly tell us all (garrulous after a few shots of her cheap pale dry sherry) “Next time I’m gonna be a man!”

There. That should hold you.

But I want to acknowledge that I originally started this blog as a vehicle for Sufi-themed stuff. At least indirectly, with perhaps examples from life. My life in this case, mainly, because that’s the life whose inner working I have access to, which also is a Sufi thing, in which like Socrates had said, “Know thyself!” and in that analysis, I do go back to my roots (aka my biography).

And this of course has led to the inclusion here of biographical material. Hence my recent biographical posts. But my old friend Ralph has often said I have led an interesting life. And I do promise that even if I blend my life into this Sufi-themed discourse, I do hope to include only the interesting parts.

And it does seem to be going over. Since I have been emphasizing stories from my life, the followers have been increasing much more rapidly than usual.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*I say I think he killed himself because he got no respect for his intellect (remember, he had choked on peanut butter at age four and no doubt thereby lost many brain cells waiting for his emergency tracheotomy) from his brothers, and he seemed to have no friends. Tragically, I cannot know for sure. You see just before he killed himself, he and I had quarreled. Maybe it was when he denied that the Indian Mystic Meher Baba (whom I followed) was the reincarnation of Krishna, as he had claimed. Which is a defensible view no doubt but Robin (who had joined the fundamentalist sect claiming to adore Krishna (aka “Krishna Consciousness) said he had seen the picture of Krishna in the temple and he had six arms and his skin was blue, something that could hardly be said of Meher Baba. So there!

And tragically, when Robin had come to see me just before he killed himself (He was seen undressing on the beach in San Francisco, leaving his clothes and driver’s license there. And witnesses says he swam out to the horizon and when hours later his body was washed ashore and linked to his ID, I received a weird phone call in the middle of the night, from the apparently weird coroner asking me to come and identify the body, which I did, next day. Horrible.) I was on the toilet and when done there I was curious as to the doorbell, and saw out the window that it was Robin departing. I wish I had called to him but we had just fought and it was unpleasant and so, not knowing Robin was in danger, I just let him go. And that was just the first of several futile attempts to find solace in family. I later learned he had called my mother and her stepson answered and to play a prank said she wasn’t at home. I forget the details but I remember that in retrospect he had tried for someone anyone to buck him up and stop him from his suicide plan.

He had committed himself just before to a psychological crisis clinic but as he had done it himself, he was also free to sign out, which he did just before his attempts at family contacts.

**Okay so now this does remind me of an amusing Robin story. Though tinged with the sadness of Robin seizing finally on something he could do better than his brothers.

You must know that we four brothers were a competitive bunch, always inventing ways to compete. Once we decided to see who could hold his arms extended like a scarecrow the longest. Try it and you will see it’s not that easy. After a while your arms ache and which happened and so we said to the keeping-going Robin, “Yep you win!”

But that wasn’t enough for Robin who wanted to humiliate us further and so he kept his arms up. Every so often we would look out the window and there was Robin, still doing his long-lasting scarecrow imitation. But when he finally figured he’d rubbed our noses in his victory enough, and decided to lower his arms, they wouldn’t stay down. They would keep flying up as if they indeed wanted to be his airplane wings. So even when he won, the poor guy ended up a laughing stock.

The Heart Is an Infinite Thing

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George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw

PR4–272

When You Feel Alone In These Woods

It isn’t much
it’s just a hunch like an illumined
Yet apparently ill-omened over
Or undertone in those movies

You don’t know where it comes from
Yet you know something is up
(There is something in the line of the trees
Or how the breeze rattles the leaves)

Like in Wyeth’s painting that suddenly
Alert-to-danger dog
Beside the sleeping woman
So it’s got your attention

When you feel alone in these woods
But the ominous coloration
Like the deep red of turning rose petals
Turns back black lavender then on to

Cream then light steps out to your rescue
And says
Sorry I scared you like that
I had to get your attention

~.~.~

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 case you haven’t noticed, this is a personal blog, though also advertised as a poetry and Sufism thing.* But that’s to be expected since this stuff is personal to me, as a Sufi poet.

And so I tend to write about what is going on in my mind and heart. And a good thing too, or soon I would run out of material. But the heart is an infinite thing, much like how a kaleidoscope never runs out of different patterns (or snowflakes either, for that matter).

Which as I say tends and bends toward Sufi themes.

So too, this website and blog features “Sufi” poetry. I do have a plausible claim to that, since indeed I was officially initiated into a Sufi order founded in 1912 by the renowned mystic Sufi Murshid (and acclaimed musician from Hyderabad) Hazrat Inayat Khan. And I even lasted seven years there!

Which is why atop every post are two of my favorite Inayat Khan quotes, his invocation, and his prescribed daily mantra. See above–which is always good advice, because as my featured quote on my main page says, “Things always look different from higher up.” (Clint Eastwood–For a Fistful of Dollars)

But I digress.

I suspect this is never going to be a hugely popular blog, because it is so personal to me. And I tend to focus on what other people might think of as small beer stuff. For example (and indeed for what started this post) I was thinking about signs. Little tiny signs, perhaps, but if you got even a short note from a beloved in the mail, it tends to be cherished. And well, let me stop beating around the bush and come to the point.

I am referring to little whiffs of angst, little daily frustrations, and small disappointments, that (oddly) leave the heart feeling blemished.

I take these to be signs. In fact I just wrote a little poem about that:

Say Hi to Angels

What’s nice is when stuff goes awry
Especially when it’s unaccountably awry

Because then you know
That angels are playing with your head

That’s why it’s then your big chance
To say hi to angels

Sure, on one level this could be dismissed as trivial stuff, but to me it is a sign post. I think it’s not for nothing that these days I have a low tolerance for even traces of angst. Or rather a low tolerance for not exploring what’s going on, once I receive such a sign.

You know Jesus for instance prescribed a constant vigil never knowing, he said, at what hour he may appear. Well, I have come to see these whiffs of angst as a message from God. That is to say an anti-message, a sign that God had gone missing. Not AWOL, I mean it’s all on me. It’s like the bumper sticker said, “If you don’t feel close to God, guess who moved?”

And this angster stuff has a clear message, a kind of SOS, a sign of mayday.

I guess it’s to me like reading tea leaves is supposed to be. (if you know what to look for)**
And here’s a poem I wrote day before yesterday, which is along these lines:

The Rapt Gift of Second Sight

Perhaps you remember the old trick
Of opening a bible at random
And thus hitting upon a certain apt verse
Or the famous I Ching thing

Where you throw sticks of yarrow stalks
And then read the rede from those?
Or tarot cards too I suppose
Now I used to be a cynic but in everything

I am a cynic until I understand the reason behind
Even in math when my teacher was
A good woman who loved math
And could explain the truth behind the graph

Well I suddenly got the highest grades
And now I understand about tea leaves
Coins tossed and such:
It’s much more a matter of plausible deniability

See if angels sauntered down and spread around
Diamond wings and things and rang golden chimes
And sang bars from the music of the spheres
Well what would the common lot worship

Who love the warship rumpus of gaudy fireworks?
No–God (and all the seer stars)
Want you to worship the subtlety of cupid darts
That lurks embedded in our hearts

Not the detracting distracting of tinsel on the tree
Overlooking the Christmas glow below
The rapt gift of second sight
(Your compass in the night)

Anyway my point is angst is a good thing if you take it as a signal. Just as pain is nature’s way of telling you your body is in danger. And as we know, knowledge is power. And to quote Don Juan in Shaw’s Don Juan in Hell, “To be in hell is to drift. To be in heaven is to steer.”

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*As for the definition of Sufism, well, let’s just say it is the religion of the heart. If all the dogma or mystical theories, statements, et al of priests rabbis, gurus of all stripes were on one side, and what your heart told you were on the other, it’s a simple and always choice.

You go with your heart.

Indeed I remember once asking my beloved preceptor Lud (short for Ludwig, rhymes with blood) Dimpfl, what we should do if the advice of the Sufi Murshid or preceptor, was in conflict with our interpretation of what our heart told us. Lud said, you follow your heart. And he said we do ask however that you keep our advice handy on a shelf, and take it down from time to time, dust it off and see if it may make more sense this time.

Just that.

Which I thought was quite the reasonable request! One (among many) reasons I am so fiercely devoted to Sufism.

**Inayat Khan was always talking about how the wise could read the leaves in the trees. Maybe it’s something in the way of the wind that shook the branches or God knows what but the sages he said could read the word of God in such things.

Indeed I read I think it was in a book by Idries Shah that for the Sufis of old there was a convention in which the wind was a metaphor for a message from God.

Idries Shah devoted his life to bringing Sufism to life before the public, yes, even down to the amazing and amusing Nasrudin stories–of which you can find a sampling in this website’s main page Stories button, if you scroll down to Nasrudin. I recommend it. It’s a true kick, his sense of humor and how thereby mystical truths are revealed. Shah was an interesting man–for more info see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idries_Shah

One More Tears and Laughter Lud Thing

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Kate Wolf and Friends

Kate Wolf and Friends


 

PR5–45

Feeling Competitive Lately, Playing Scrabble

(In memory of Lud Dimpfl)

Feeling competitive lately
Playing scrabble and not exactly just for fun
And I need to tell you a story about my old
Sufi preceptor beloved Lud who had come

To one of our monthly Sufi
Games of charades; here’s the history:
You see I and my arch rival (one Doug)
Were in a blistery and blustery rules attack

Or some such unsightly or even uglier gaffe
But who can remember thirty years back?
What I do remember is Lud’s look
Which was the pure picture of puzzlement he

Couldn’t wrap mind around why our demented
Looking faces coursed with blood until truth like
Sun dawned on innocent Lud who (tho long in years)
Then belatedly burst into his hearty laugh

A sound I swear it seemed would never slack
And which perforce then led to rolling tears;
He’d finally unraveled the mystery:
We actually CARED about who won

 

And while we are on the subject of tears and laughter, I want to share this song, Give Yourself to Love, by the immortal Kate Wolf who lives on in hearts many years after her tragic death:
 

~.~.~

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.”

~.~.~

September 14, 2016:
This is another blog post reinstated from those which mysteriously and suddenly went missing. There were over a hundred posts in all dating from April Fool’s Day, 2013, and as I have occasionally mentioned, the vast bulk of them were wiped out by some apparently malicious entity who got access to the inner workings of my website. And as I have promised, I am gradually (and laboriously) reintroducing them, from back-up files. This is one in a series of those. Also, I should add, this whole debacle explains the gaps you will see in the Archives section. This is a continuation promised from the backup posted two weeks ago, in a series about my old beloved Sufi preceptor, Lud Dimpfl. This repost is from the one for December 30, 2013.

Gentle Readers,
Last week, in connection with my old beloved Sufi preceptor Lud Dimpfl, I was talking about tears and laughter. And that’s the salient image of this wonderful Kate Wolf song. It’s already a classic. For those unfamiliar with Kate Wolf, she died many years ago though it seems like only yesterday we all loved the heart that we found in her music. And then tragically, she died young. That was twenty-five years ago. And still whenever I think of tears and laughter, I remember this song, and love itself. And like as not shortly after, I start to cry.

So in keeping with this theme, and as I promised last week, here’s one more tears and laughter Lud thing. But of course, again, these were the kind of tears that come from laughing too much. A loveable thing was that Lud had a sense of humor. Of course Lud was also relatively sane. And not to laugh is insane. Or at least bespeaks a lack of perspicacity, given the pretty funny stuff going on.

But it was useful too, because Lud admitted to having a scary Teutonic side. And it could be marvelously defused if only you made him laugh. (Kind of a miniature Scheherazade thing, perhaps) And Lud was always already ready to laugh. And as I’ve mentioned, at his peril, when it comes to tears. Because they could and did come and torrentially too when he found something really funny. But here’s the Lud story:

You must know that certain Sufis gathered every month or so to have a polite game of charades. (or that was the plan) But for some reason it always ended up with me on one team and an arch nemesis (In our bizarre quest for conquest) Sufi on the other. This fellow shall for multiple reasons remain unnamed. Not least of which is likely he’s not as willingly a clown as I, who live to serve. (Say the word, I’ll be absurd)

Especially it was sweet to have given Lud such amusement. And it wasn’t like I didn’t already know that I went for blood when there was competition. As some of you may have seen in the biographical bits (Press the tag “Biography”) that I was alone and friendless as a youth with only my genius older brothers for company and they were to be polite, avid competitors. If I ever operated at their level or even close, they were impressed. It was my “ticket to ride.” And so I had always practiced with a lead sword. And the most useful weapon I found (in these contests) is to care if you won or not. So, it was in my blood by the time Lud came along.

I don’t know the etiology of my Sufi friend’s competitive spirit, but just know that if possible his determination was more steel and mine merely hammered copper. Oh hell I can’t say I was any better. Anyway so we were in vigorous combat, and arguing over a minor point, the upshot of which would have given my side or his an advantage and so it was fiercely fought.

Though I of course had my heart in the outcome, so much did I love Lud that it didn’t escape me his reaction to this scene. His mounting perplexity as he played Sherlock Holmes trying in his mind to get to the bottom of this odd behavior on our parts. And it finally dawned on him. We actually cared who won. Not merely as a matter of preference but with no deference whatever to civilized behavior, just so one won.

And when Lud saw the magnitude of our egos, the recklessness with which we unaccountably courted avoidable disappointment, and why indeed there was any issue of a disappointment at all let alone sufficient to justify the ferocity of our arguments, suddenly he was overcome by the absurd incongruity. And he started to laugh his Lud laugh. And laugh and laugh until guess what? Tears again. And rolling down his cheeks, and the poor fellow had mislaid his handkerchief and we had to fetch kleenex.

But you know I’ve heard tears and laughter produce endorphins, which are the heart’s own medicine.

And boy did it feel good to give Lud such a healthy dose of those. I live to serve.

Not sure what I’ll talk about next week. By the by if any of you gentle folk have any ideas for a theme you’d like addressed, I am looking forward to hearing of them.
There is a comments section.
Or just email me at estlin3@yahoo.com
God be with you,
Eric Halliwell