Tag Archives: Sufism

The Old Guy Has a Cast Iron Stomach

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J. R. R. Tolkien

 

New Start–68

Science Proves the Existence of Love

“At his right hand, holding a trumpet, stood Hussein,
his bodyguard, a giant Oriental, wicked as a monkey . . .”
–Nikos Kazantzakis (The Greek Passion)

Now hold on!
I must speak in defense
Of the essential goodness of monkeys
For instance an experiment I read about
In psychology class with monkeys charged

To keep safe their monkey friends
They had to push a button
When a red light appeared or their friend
Would receive an electric shock
But they could intervene

(They had their own countermanding button)
But guess who got the ulcer?
Not the victims being protected
Though they knew the risk they were under
No it was the undertow of monkey love

The left hand of their friend’s fervent
Yet ulcer-producing defense
That had cost the monkey friend
And I’m sorry about that ulcer business
Though in general I like it when science proves

The existence of love
Speaking of which you’d think
Poor God then would get an ulcer
But I hear the old Guy
Has a cast iron stomach

~.~.~

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, an apology if any recognize any of this post. Though it has been quite changed, it was cannibalized and adapted from pre-post records of an earlier post, that some hacker vandal erased from the archives; God knows why)

“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)

Something there is that doesn’t love a friend.*

Hell, something doesn’t love ceramics. Or so you could conclude by how often dishes break. Even valuable antique ones.

Not that I am suggesting paranoia.

No. it’s just like we look before we cross the street. So I think some “paranoia” is healthy. Indeed, some wise guys have suggested taking care, with reasonable precautions.

Yes, danger is there. That’s probably why with Jesus it wasn’t enough we be as gentle as lambs. It was good also to be wise as serpents. And sometimes the threat’s a spy behind our lines like some Wormtongue** within, whispering fear and/or 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 what you are doing) you are sick at heart, well, 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.”

We’ve been talking about friendship.

I say “we” because I am expecting company on this blog–why? Well I am just being here a good Sufi. Keeping an optimistic attitude. Because it is always sweet to find there are people who share our concerns. It can even come to feel like family, such sharing. I start with friendship, but soon perhaps I will segue to another form of love: family, for instance. Of course too, I also think of my friends as that and in the very best tradition of that.

So as you may have surmised, today I will talk about how careful we have to be with friendship. But whenever I can, I will 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. And gets to fall down a lot (on the job). But not in the other sense. It’s pulling teeth to get it to shut up. So my prose tends not to want to ever fall down (read: shut up).

Indeed.

Sometimes I think I became a poet as pure therapy for long-windedness.

And so without further ado, to the rescue.

I refer to a switch to poetry.

But for that you must see the above poem. It’s a poem about a true friendship that is a little off the beaten path of such poems, but to paraphrase James Thurber, “I think you will be amused by its presumption.” And speaking of poetry, I must digress to mention that just today I posted on Facebook two quotes about poetry. (FYI I am big on collecting interesting and/or inspiring quotes. As you will note if you check out the Quotes button up top. Along with Poems and Stories), Yes and though this is a pro-Sufi blog, suffice it to say it’s also a pro-poetry blog. Of course, that is tainted by my fierce belief that poetry is a very Sufi thing. Largely because it is therapeutic to the heart, and Sufism is the religion of the heart. So it’s hard to nail down stuff like connection/causation.)

“In the Eskimo language, the words for ‘to breathe’ and ‘to make a poem’ are the same.”
–Lyn Lifshin

“Poetry ought to be a by-product of living, and you can’t have a by-product unless you’ve got a product first.”
–Wallace Stegner, Crossing to Safety

So I am at my putative word limit and so time to say good-bye. Which customarily has been with this sign off: “God be with you.” But maybe it’s again time to explain how I came to that. I had an epiphany which helped me to choose. There is a line in a Bob Dylan song (Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right) that always puzzled me, “Good-bye’s too good a word, Babe, so I’ll just say fare thee well.” I remember 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. Hasta la proxima.
Eric Halliwell

*Full Disclosure: Robert Frost reference: (Mending Wall) “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall”

**Wormtongue was a weaselly advisor to the king of Rohan in the Lord of the Rings. (Happy to say, he got his comeuppance!)

***The Sufi order I was initiated into and which I belonged to from 1972–1979.

A Favorite Face of God

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Professor Josephine Miles

PR–72

A Favorite Face of God

–To Dani

If you don’t know where to start
(What to give someone
Who has everything)

Just do sweet things for God

Whose heart’s conveniently at hand:
Just pick like a flower
A favorite face of God

Just do sweet things for a friend

And speaking of friendship, here’s another. (Which was published in the Berkeley Poetry Review*):
New Start–162

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,
Perhaps some of you gentle folk would like a break from my autobiographical posts. If so, it’s good that I have decided to get (for a bit) a bit back to some more directly Sufi speculation. This post as you may have already surmised, is about friendship, a concept much talked about by the founder (Hazrat Inayat Khan**) of my erst Sufi order which I was lucky to be accepted in between 1972 and 1979.

However, I will still start with a biographical reference:

When I was young my favorite television show was Science Fiction Theater. At the beginning of the show, the emcee, with a dry wit sparkle in his eye, strolled onto the stage and said, “Let me show you something interesting.” He would then walk over to an experiment which demonstrated the scientific principle upon which the current episode was based.

I often like to do the same thing, in my poems. For instance today’s poems each feature an introductory quote from Hazrat Inayat Khan, about friendship. Kind of a springboard.

Why start with friendship? Friendship is a thing frequently addressed by Hazrat Inayat Khan, the founder of a Sufi order in the United States, circa 1920 (Yes, the one I was in for seven years). Indeed, in Sufism, their saints were called “friends of God.” I would summarize Inayat Khan’s approach then to friendship as a sort of “God Practise.”

There is a lot of controversy over what may or may not constitute “God.” But let’s escape from the “fundamentalists” by stipulating that at least for Inayat Khan’s brand of “God,” God is explicitly stated to be what you “imagine” Him/Her/Whom to be. Imagination, Inayat Khan says, is a holy thing. Reminds me of a favorite quote of the heroically tragic*** yet great, English poet, John Keats:

“I am convinced of only two things, the sanctity of the heart’s affections and the truth of the imagination.”

So Inayat Khan would say, whatever makes your life worth living, whatever to you is “holy,” then go ahead, imagine that as a manifestation of God. (And don’t be surprised when God again “appears” in that disguise.)

Yes, and the bit about the heart’s affections nicely leads back to friendship, does it not? Which is the theme of today’s blog post. (Que vivan las coincidencias!)

I love it when (as so often happens in Sufism) the spiritual practice called for is so much fun (Friendship is fun, verdad? E. g. who wants to go to the county fair alone?). And so it was easy to fall in love with my “religion.” What’s not to like about fun?

I want to say “more anon” but that sounds disconcertingly like the name of the black gate of Mordor.****
God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

PS–perhaps you’ve noticed a touch of pantheism in my poem. But fyi, that’s too a Sufi thing.

*which poetry journal by a strange coincidence was founded many years ago by my old Cal Berkeley poetry professor, Josephine Miles (see photo above). What an inspiration! She from childhood was confined to a wheel chair with crippling arthritis, and yet she went on to become a foremost academician of poetry, not to mention a noted poet herself. Here’s the Wikipedia article:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephine_Miles

**Hazrat Inayat Khan died in 1927, leaving behind a Sufi order whose mureeds (students) were drawn from the Western world (e. g. Europe and the United States). Here is a short and moving bio from Wikipedia:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inayat_Khan

 

***Tragic because he died of tuberculosis at age 25. But wait that’s not the time for your tears, which are occasioned by this:  He died from the contagion contraction of caring for his dying of tuberculosis brother.

****”Morrannon, though as the white wizard Gandalf used to say, “Name it not!” And for all youse non-Lord of the Rings fans, allow me to explicate. Morrannon was the name of the Black Gate of Mordor (the entrance), home of the (in)famous Dark Lord, Sauron.

Also the anon bit again, reminds me of my beloved yet oft drunk Grandma Dorothy who on retiring would call out “I’ll see you all anonymous!”

I Became an Expert Fruit Pirate

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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.”