Tag Archives: Jesus

A Handy Houdini Escape Ploy

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Grandma Dorothy and the four grandsons (I am the one to her left)

 

New Start–146
(Published in Ascent Aspirations)

Opening Stone-Henged Doors

Open sesame speak friend and enter
Roll the stone from Jesus’ tomb

There is always a latch trick
To opening stone-henged doors

When they work the tricks
Are slap your head simple

And when they don’t work
It’s at least amusing excusing proof:

You’ve let the situation get
Complex on you

When you’d been warned
Not to get any on you

Complexity that is
The opposite of Zen

~.~.~

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,
As followers might know, lately I’ve been waxing biographical. But people always say, can you give me an example? And if I were asked the question, how do I account for my (lately, if yes, belatedly) happy state, well, I being an honest boy would reply, it was from my version of Sufism. Which begs the same question, wanting an example showing how those two things might be connected.

And the only example I have at hand is my own life. And it has struck me that (at least to me) the path through that thicket was damned interesting, and instructive, such that now I can make a few observations.

So you see I have come full circle and so let’s circle back to my childhood-acquired Sufi inklings.

The nice thing about childhood is you have nothing to compare it to. If you are in an orphanage, (Yo! I was, as you would know from the preceding blog posts) and other kids aren’t, it’s just like getting used to the fact that some other kids have rich families (Better Halloween costumes and all). And too, it’s like the Lillian Gish line in the movie Night of the Hunter (Four stars! Charles Laughton’s only and yet masterful directorial attempt!) where she tells what she most admires about children: “They abide.”

So back to the story:
I guess I could tell about when at age eight I dressed up as a girl for Halloween and couldn’t use any restroom. Mostly to please (the Wagnerian honcho lady) Mrs. Hunt’s nine year old grand daughter Sandra Sue, who dressed me like a girl doll. When I tried to go into the boys’ bathroom, a man stopped me and admonished that little girls weren’t allowed. Fortunately the Halloween party was at the country school house and there was, just outside, an assortment of hidden places to pee.

Or I could talk about my infatuation with Sandra Sue and how we played post office but just when we got to holding hands we went for a walk at dusk and she sat down on a cactus and we had to go right back where she was sequestered by fellow females gathered to pluck the quills from her butt. (I kid you not)

It seemed after that that either I had painful associations, or it was too cacti-infected anticlimactic, but the upshot was no more Sandra Sue for you know who.

I hope your romances end better . . .

But this is all high school. I guess I should just mention the heart stuff and move right along.

I hope I have not painted an incriminating picture of Mrs. Hunt, the very large and intimidating matriarch who ran things in those parts. In actual fact the main (Dickensian!) punishment was having to go to bed early and not watch television with all the other kids. Each night we would lie on our stomachs on the living room floor in front of the television and lick salted lemons, and raw potatoes too now I think on it. The punishment was extra draconian if it involved not seeing Disneyland on Sunday night.

No the sins there were not so much of commission. More of omission, I believe the Catholic church calls them.They weren’t even sins, as in tell me in what real world venue is a Mrs. Hunt going to be a mother? But she never even smiled sweetly at us, with the notable exception of an imitation of life when the welfare lady turned up. (More on that anon). Quite a contrast occurred however between her behavior with us ward of the court kids and her genuine and obvious affection for her own family’s children, who lived also in our midst.

As I implied, the county child welfare lady would came round to check up on us. Stupidly, she didn’t just drop in. No, she made it by appointment and in the few days before she showed, Mrs. Hunt put on a semi-sweet vaguely convincing sweetness facade. And she always smiled beamingly upon us in front of the lady. But we were hip to the threat behind her eyes, if we should tell any stories about peach tree switches or the rampant unfairness with which she treated us, especially compared to the kids in her own family. (Who could do what they wanted to us with an impunity bought of knowing they could lie and always be believed . . .)

And yet justice demands we not call it Dickensian. C’est trop fort.

But we had to get tough, fend for ourselves, and cry every night for our mothers.

As for any religious impulses, I was big on Jesus.* Just like the negro slaves turned that way. When you have nothing in this world, you hope for a good next. And say what you will, what with all this talk about God being love and its corollary that when you see love in action it does say “God is here!”

And if you really feel that in your blood and bones, it’s a handy Houdini escape ploy. I refer to the wonderful glow of gratitude that you have been granted such exalted company.

More on this anon, or as my beloved Grandma Dorothy used to say when she retired, “I’ll see you anonymous!” (If you’ve heard that before, sorry but I never tire of it.)
God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*I was always talking to Jesus. It was a regular, if one-sided conversation. (Especially there when I felt I needed to go faster on my bicycle. Maybe next time I will tell about how I got that for Christmas.)

And I’ve heard that’s a good thing. At least it seemed so to me while reading in the (to me) inspiring and very short book about and by Brother Lawrence, (A monk from five centuries ago) called The Practice of the Presence of God.

Of course, I also talked to my bicycle. (Hey, company is where you find it)

But for heaven’s sake I was just a child. I am reminded (in my defense) of C. S. Lewis who was very pleased when he asked a boy what he liked about Easter. The boy replied, “chocolate eggs and Jesus risen.” Lewis thought Jesus would be flattered to be put on a par with a child’s love for chocolate.

Geometric Theorems

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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

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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