Ampersand Gazette #26
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“On a recent windy Sunday, Mr. Sukul shared a teaching from the deity Hanuman, on the importance of appreciating God during the good times and the bad.
“‘If you use the name of God like medicine to get better, and then you leave it in the cabinet when you are not sick, it makes no sense,’ Pandit Vyaas said. ‘Hanumanji says when you have a problem, chant the name of God. But also when you are happy and don’t have a problem, chant the name of God.’”
from “A Look Inside New York’s Swirling Kaleidoscope of Faiths”
in The New York Times
December 16, 2022
Aside from the fact that this Times’ feature is accompanied by gorgeous photos and lovely explanatory text which is well worth your screen time, it also includes advice for the ages, as you can see from the quote.
I have been known to say, God is like Wil Parker, Ado Annie’s mercurial beau in Oklahoma!, whose featured number in the show is: “All Er Nuthin’.” Um, yeah, exactly. Not like a secret weapon that you hide except when you use it.
I’m with Rumi on the God front. Fall in love. Fall in love with the Beloved — whatever face of the Divine works for you right now. When you do, stay in love, attend to that love, nurture it, cherish it, treasure it. That’s what we do when we fall in love with an other, isn’t it?
Until the day comes, Beloved — and it will, I guarantee it — that you realize that you are a facet of that same Beloved. From then on, we have to take a page out of Ado Annie’s book. Her song, in defense of her own fickle nature, is “I Cain’t Say No.” She, of course, thinks she can’t say no to boys.
In our case, though, the no we cannot say is to the love and wisdom and wonder and beauty of the Divine in action in our lives. Why would we want to say no?
Ah, but so often we first encounter Divinity when we’re “sick,” as in Mr. Sukul’s example, or otherwise in need, and then, because of that very encounter, we are healed. The gratitude for that healing alone can keep us enthralled with the Divine.
Just remember the reason for that enchantment, the deepest, truest reason, is the image you see in your own loo mirror. You are, indeed, Divine, Beloved, and don’t you forget it. Not even for a minute.
“Musicals are mysterious. Even the best are games of Whac-a-Mole: Fix one problem and another pops up.”
Head Theatre Critic Jesse Green in his review
“‘Merrily We Roll Along’ Returns, the Way It Never Was”
in The New York Times
December 13, 2022
I agree with Jesse Green. Musicals are mysterious. I write mysteries based on musicals because they fascinate me.
The American musical theatre is one of the few truly indigenous artforms. My mom used to tell the story that she and Daddy went to see My Fair Lady when she was pregnant with me. At intermission, he bought her the cast album — the original one, with the Al Hirschfeld cartoon on the front. That might explain it.
At the least it explains why the first time I heard My Fair Lady — on that exact same album, I already knew the lyrics. Apparently, my mother wore out the grooves on that album waiting for me to arrive. For whatever reason, musicals caught my ear at a very young age, and the fascination never ceased.
Nowadays, with the perspective of more than six decades since I heard that score, I tend to view all artforms as mirrors for humankind. I truly believe that the purpose of art is to show us to ourselves. It doesn’t matter the medium either. The message is the same.
Look at yourselves. Think of what you’re doing. Consider the repercussions.
I think perhaps that’s why my Mex Mysteries treat musicals as ciphers, coded messages for Mex’s cases, yes, but also coded messages for all of us. What better than a native artform to instruct our kind about our choices, our behaviors, and our consequences?
As the year 2022 wanes to its final days, please, give yourself the gift of a message via some form of art. Who knows? It might set you on a whole new journey for 2023. Stranger things have happened … because of musicals.
“As this year’s unusually cold UK winter digs its fangs into the country, I’m reminded of just how many conflicting emotions we have to deal with on an everyday basis.
In this case, the entire country complains we never have a snowy Christmas. And then, when we get one, complains that the roads don’t work properly.
We love the snow, but we hate the snow. It’s a conflict. But feeling these two opposite things is perfectly normal.
In fact, the Germans have a single word for it: Hassliebe.
Which is a great step forward for normalising this particular psychological phenomenon — one that’s sorely missing from the English language.”
from a book marketing email by Nick Stephenson
December 16, 2022
This is the week that a lot of us decide to make New Year’s Resolutions. They usually boil down to two things: things we want and things we don’t want. I know that’s a little binary but … it’s true.
When I looked up hassliebe to make sure of the translation, Google and other sources defined it as a “love-hate relationship,” but, Beloved, look again at the word. It doesn’t actually say love-hate; it says hate-love.
Oh maybe because of how German words are structured? I’ll give you that. I don’t know enough about German to refute or accept that, but what I really wondered was if it held a message.
Why does hate come before love? Is it alphabetical? Favored nations billing? Or is the message a little more, uh, sinister. Does it say that hate is stronger than love? I hope not.
But as metaphysicians, we are trained to ask these questions. What I think it means is that hate does arise before love. Hate isn’t usually a quiet background hum. It’s a crashing pair of cymbals and tympani. It’s best for us if we get through our hates, eschew our hates, and relinquish our hates as our hatreds hurt only ourselves.
Then love brings up the rear, grabs the stragglers, helps those who are struggling, and gives its gentle glow to anyone who cultivates it. I think that’s why hate comes before love in this word — it’s so we’ll get it over and done with.
And so, back to resolutions. I’m not a wild one for making resolutions. I think most of them make us stretch too far too fast which is why there’s actually a holiday on the 17th of January called Ditch Your Resolutions Day. If you don’t believe me, Google it.
What I like better than resolutions is questions. What if I made a million dollars this year? What if I started a new series of books? What if I wrote two completely different books at the same time? What if … the two words are a beacon of possibility. They also encourage you to dream.
And that’s what resolutions — hate ’em or love ’em — are really all about: assessment. Is where I am right now making me happy. Are there things that would make me happier if they changed? What might those be? Is where I am right now making me unhappy? What if I changed something? Who would I need to become in order to receive that change — easily, gracefully, effortlessly?
I say, ditch the resolutions up front, Beloved, and ask deep, deeper, deepest questions. I think you’ll find a kind of peace there that sets you free to make of 2023 whatever you want.
This is always my wish for everyone, everywhere, and everywhen, forever. May your 2023 grant you peace beyond comprehension.
And, of course, be ampersand,