Tag Archives: wisdom

A Secret Plan to Ask for a Bicycle for Christmas

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Lud Dimpfl with Parsi mystic, Meher Baba

New Start—243

Turn Around: Face the Sun

(To Lud)

It’s all done with desire wires
(Yes we’re marionettes)

But we can sing an along song
Just like an astronaut growing
Old and bold in his orbit

–Who can with his little jets
Turn around: face the sun–

(Like a cat for fun pounces)
Announces
“I’m flying this thing!”

~.~.~

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 am in the usual quandary of if I should continue with the autobiographical stories, or go back to the Sufi musing genre (in re my views on the sources of happiness). I used to have a preponderance of those posts which you can verify by browsing through the last five years of archives, which are shown just under the posts’ titles on the right (At least on the main page you get with dialing up rumi-nations.com).

Sir Naïve Moi Person originally planned to have regular conversations with readers via comments, or even devote an occasional post to use to respond to any issues arising in comments. But alas I am comment poor, and so am flying blind, needing to decide on my own how to get my blog themes ducks in a row.

But back to flying blind, you could say that about the poem above, inspired by my old beloved Sufi preceptor, Lud Dimpfl *(rhymes with blood). He talked about astronauts in orbit and so of course the route was fixed, although (with little side jets) they could turn this way or that, giving the illusion he was (as Lud said he said) “flying this thing!”

Whereas scientist (chemist) Lud informed us (his Sufi class of 30 mureeds–AKA Sufi students) it was just a matter of wheeling about on the axis of the astronaut’s center of gravity, which was fixed out there in the proverbial “bowl of night.”**

Which brings up the interesting Sufi question of how much we are really in charge of our lives. I like the quote from John Lennon: “Life is what happens while you are making other plans.” And I have been given examples of this in my own life, things out of my control like breaking my leg (okay I DID foolishly run in front of the car) or a wife leaving. Yes, at least in these cases at the time seemingly disastrous things, but as to my leg, I recently mentioned*** how the slightly shortened left leg kept me out of the Vietnam war? How the loss of the wife was in a few short years looked back on with relief, etc.

Though we do get feedback and that makes the art of living truly an art. Certainly if you think of improvisational acting as an art, (and I most certainly do). And all these things guarantee surprises. And we do love those. It’s for instance the popular kiss of death for a novel to have no surprises, and same goes for a movie.

And back to my just now complaint (was it a complaint? I am not supposed to do that) about no comments, hence no guidance from readers. I mention this because I do have some feedback lately and of another sort. Para precisar (my favorite Spanish phrase, meaning to make precisely clear) I refer to a recent seeming influx of new followers of this blog, and timed to my recent heavy emphasis on biographical stories. (Maybe people like more real life drama and less Sufi philosophizing? Go figure)

And here I am (in the teeth of evidence of its popularity) eschewing biography.

So, I will get us back on track with that, before I sign off.

Let’s see, we (me and my three brothers) had just been dumped again by dear old Mom.

So where next? Maybe I will just focus on Uncle Frank. That’s a bite-size chunk not readily mixed with other family stories, so let’s get it out of the way.

Uncle Frank was a rich banker. He married my great grand aunt (sister to the great grandmother I don’t write about much because it would all be negative and a violation of the mantra (see above).
To reprise:
“My thoughtful self, reproach no one, bear malice toward no one, hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite and kind to all.”

And the first thing was “Reproach no one.”

Oops.

Anyway this aunt Bessie was a sweet shy lady I never got to know very well. But I was young. I remember at some early age visiting her and Uncle Frank, (A white-haired Scotsman, proud of his Erskine plaid) getting scared to the nth degree by a stuffed bobcat that they had which was baring its fangs.

Hard by the heater!

Even in the orphanage I saw Uncle Frank at least for every Thanksgiving. He being the rich guy and his wife childless, sort of adopted us as their family and so every year Thanksgiving Dinner was on him. Always at the old Colonial House restaurant in Oxnard, California, featuring (just across the street from the entrance) a dressed-like-a-chef black man who was waving to the passersby to come on in and enjoy southern cooking.

So I knew he was rich.

So I asked what his address was, saying I wanted to write him a letter.

How nice they may have thought, “he wants to say thanks for Thanksgiving dinner!” But I had a secret plan to ask him for a bicycle for Christmas.

You must know that Uncle Frank had to know I was relegated to an orphanage, poor kid, and all I wanted was a bicycle for Christmas. And living in a country way with half a mile between houses, etc. But he got me an adult size one with built up wooden pedals, assuring I would never have to ask for another bike.

He was generous but to a degree not to surpass an embarrassing frivolity!

Later on when Aunt Bessie died, this Frank had his eye on my Grandma Dorothy. You may recall when recently (https://rumi-nations.com/2018/04/16/the-grim-tale-of-the-first-domino/) I quoted her saying, “Thank God I will never be bothered in bed by a man again!”

Well, this was when the subject came up. So she refused him and he latched then on a twenty years younger lady named Zethal, (rhymes with lethal) who conned him into a phony marriage and dared him to denounce her when she claimed a wife’s share in a divorce. He was sensitive to what he figured would be public ridicule, and so let her have her way.

There. I have used up my uncle Frank stories. At least any suitable for a positive outlook blog like this purports to be. though what I could add reflected on my brother Jim, whose insanity was being shown by a selfish solipsism. And not at all Uncle Frank.

Fairly soon (August?) I will be traveling to California for a month or six weeks. Not sure if I may have to take a month off from blog writing. As we say here, “A ver!” (loosely translated, “to be seen.”)

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Lud, bye the bye was widely rumored to be the reincarnation of Hegel, the famous (and my favorite) philosopher aka the dialectic guy).

**A reference to Edmund Fitzgeralds’s ( (1809 – 1883) translation of (Sufi poet) Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, which opens with:

Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultán’s Turret in a Noose of Light.

Most famously quoted from The Rubáiyát is “a loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou.”

Which brings me to Sufi history. The big heyday of Sufi poetry was between 1000ish and 1200ish years A. D. Which was several hundredish years after the death of Mohammad. And with no Mohammad figure around except of course certain Sufi cognoscenti (Poets and like that) who were scarcely attended to by the extant religious authorities (Yes, giving organized religion a bad name) unless they dared to proclaim “heresy” in their poems. But wine women and song was okay! So it was a simple universal expedient in Sufi poetry that the apparently utterly charming love object was a woman, when it was in fact, God. And the wine? It was another metaphor for the intoxicating state to be found in a close study of God. (To be found within, not from the mouth of some priest. And you will not be surprised to hear that if this got out, this was offensive stuff to those who ruled the same kingdom formerly claimed by the Pharisees.)

But back to The Rubáiyát. My beloved Sufi preceptor, Lud, told us mureeds about this Edmund Fitzgerald guy and his translation of the The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. But Lud said, dissatisfied, Fitzgerald kept tinkering with it. Seven ensuing versions appeared, each one worse than the erst. And Lud said that what had been “a first rate mystical poem,” had tragically degenerated.

So. Caveat emptor!

******https://rumi-nations.com/2017/05/07/a-counter-offer-i-couldnt-defuse/

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.

Rachmaninoff’s Huge Hands*

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Mystery Lady

Mystery Lady

 

PR5–5

Night Skies Finish Last

“The heavenly bodies, in their courses,
have it in their power to move human
minds to unknown heights of delight.”
–Isak Dinesen (Out of Africa)

E. E. Cummings wrote:
“Thy fingers make early flowers of all things”
I know this because the phrase has stalked me
All these years you see

I read him a lot in high school where I needed help
And I am a romantic
But I guess that’s what poetry means
It sticks with you in the teeth of forgetfulness

And yes literally
God knows why
Robert Frost said poetry is at its best
With a tantalizing ambiguity

And I still dream of “early” flowers
Though I know not what they may be
It clearly predates the sunset
Hence the stars are not yet out

Yet it does make me dream
And I guess as poet Jesus said
By their fruits shall ye know them
And this is a fruit

That has left stains on my lips
All these years
I guess then there is hope
Always hope

For a sudden romance that personifies the stars
Because I still have faith somehow
In the night sky
Even if it does finish last

~.~.~

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 post I think, though a segue from the romantic theme of last time yet is of the same silk ilk (pardon my romantic bias).

I have pushed poetry production on this blog. Here are three of the previous posts to prove that:

https://rumi-nations.com/2013/04/08/ambulance-therapy-territory/
and
https://rumi-nations.com/2013/04/15/a-big-blog-emphasis-on-poetry-production/

And in an ancillary fashion, this, my first post (from April Fool’s Day, 2013):

https://rumi-nations.com/2013/04/01/sufism-the-science-of-happiness/

This post, once again, is of the romantic ilk mostly for the psychological reparations. Because to me what romantic merely means is it appeals to the heart. And sometimes I generalize to the opinion that a good way to repair the heart is to express the heart through art. Because then the heart feels listened to.

But two things: first, these days my art form is poetry, though I have dabbled in drawing. And even there was one painting. For an example, see above. Can you guess whom it’s meant to represent? (Bonus points if you can guess. But I bet you didn’t know she was quite popular with the Anatolian Sufis! The answer will be in the next post) If so, my art may have succeeded, at least for starters.

And so I emphasize what I am best at, and I hope I am not off on some ego trip when I say I think it may help budding poets if I sometimes talk about how I do it or since I am not quite sure myself about that, at least, how I got the inspiration (My muse was knocking at my door, and I was profoundly amused). And second, I have a broad definition of “art.” I hope not as Cummings satirized (”O world, o art!). I mean one shouldn’t feel intimidated, and say for instance, “But I can’t paint . . . I can’t dance . . .”

But poetry is feeling. As Cummings said to the students:

“Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself. To be nobody-but-yourself–in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else–means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.”

Which reminds me of the wonderful line from Lily Tomlin’s Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe:

“I always had wanted to be someone. But now I realize I should have been more specific.”

What a simple key (Cummings’ heart business) to pick the lock of originality!

So it seems one surefire poetry trick is to write lines that make you cry. Or dance.
Or laugh. All the things then that good art (art from the heart) does is at your fingertips and then you have mastered the piano and in that, you even have Rachmaninoff’s huge hands.*

But I digress.

But first, before we leave Cummings, I suggest you check out on youtube, Cummings himself reading what to me is the greatest living love poem, “somewhere I have never traveled”:

Yes indeedy. Cummings was a romantic.

But back to therapy. Para precisar, (I love that useful Spanish phrase, which means “in order to explain exactly”) I do believe life itself is performance art. And conversation is an art as well, especially if you use it to express your heart.

And so once again, dear ones, my gentle readers, I will do a post a bit about poetry.

The poem above is an example (I wrote it three days ago, para precisar).

But first, I should elaborate on the background. In a recent series of posts (can two be a series?) I talked of the spiritual dimensions of romance.

Of course, if you look up the word romance in the dictionary, the love affair aspect is given but seventh shrift. (although we “romantics” may call that akin to the famous seventh heaven.”**) The other six definitions deal with derring-do tales, etc. And interestingly the French word for novel is “roman.” So you see that tradition comes from way back.

But as the poem says, in high school, I was lonely and sought refuge in the poetry of E. E. Cummings.

Also true is that I have had that line from his poetry floating through my head all these years,*** and when it came to mind I decided to use it as a springboard to the above poem. (As I do with any spontaneous charged line which comes to me. It’s one of the miracles that keep my happiness afloat that I can almost invariably assume that if I start a poem like that, the rest of the poem will ensue. And since I am a grateful sort, and perhaps solely on that account, a believer in God (but that’s another story probably at least a thrice-told tale in my series of blog posts), I consider it my sacred obligation, even my prayer practice, to stop everything when such a line appears. I do believe that faithfulness is a partial explanation for the fact that my muses rarely let me down, so I show fealty to that sacred impulse.

Of course, too, I often start a poem with a quote to start the ball rolling. But this time for some reason I decided to incorporate it into the poem proper. Which turned out a good thing when the Isak Dinesen quote turned up.

But again, I digress (hopefully not to any crabgrass degree). I had better hurry up and get to the point or this post will have to be a two parter.

So, yes, as you can surmise from the poem, I’d be in danger of being a lonely boy (for lack of an inspiring girlfriend) if it weren’t for having the stars at my back.

There. I think I have gotten to the point. I have the stars at my back.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Yes Rachmaninoff had veritably huge hands which drove the pianists nuts with his music having chords that only a person of his huge fingerspan could easily manage. Indeed an amusing comedy sketch based on that is hereby included:

** According to wikipedia.com, seventh heaven is “the abode of immortal beings, or the visible sky.” Which of course fits right in with my introductory poem, does it not?

***As well as the even better known ending. Here’s the whole poem:

Thy Fingers Make Early Flowers
–By E. E. Cummings

Thy fingers make early flowers
of all things.
thy hair mostly the hours love:
a smoothness which
sings,saying
(though love be a day)
do not fear,we will go amaying.

thy whitest feet crisply are straying.
Always
thy moist eyes are at kisses playing,
whose strangeness much
says;singing
(though love be a day)
for which girl art thou flowers bringing?

To be thy lips is a sweet thing
and small.
Death,thee i call rich beyond wishing
if this thou catch,
else missing.
(though love be a day
and life be nothing,it shall not stop kissing).

And for those who also like to hear the poem:


(Read by Christina Chu)