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Why Wine Is Forbidden…

When the Prophet’s ray of intelligence
struck the dim-witted man he was with,
the man got very happy, and talkative.

Soon, he began unmannerly raving.
This is the problem with a selflessness
that comes quickly,

as with wine.

If the wine drinker has a great gentleness within him,
he will show that
when drunk.

But if he has hidden anger and arrogance,
those appear
and since most people do,

wine is forbidden to everyone.

– translated by Coleman Barks, “The Essential Rumi”

Many years ago I found when I drank wine with friends here (we drank a lot of wine) after midnight I would fly into a rage that led to my calling people in a manner that disturbed them deeply.

Anger expressed harms the person expressing more than it does those at whom it is expressed.

One of the benefits of the programs I do is that they bring interesting people into my life. One person gave me a collection of poems by Rumi. In it for the first time I read “WHY WINE IS FORBIDDEN.”

Talk about turning on a light bulb.

Now I did not care to stop drinking wine. I did care to stop calling people up across the country in the dead of their sleep to wake them up with my rage.

I should add that I had passed through a Hell the details of which are no different than the Hells many of us find ourselves passing through.

From that moment on when I felt the hidden anger raging to the surface I told it to take a seat in the back. I kept my hands firmly on the driver’s wheel.

It got so that after a time the hidden anger no longer surfaced.

I had just thought it had left me completely when it completely took me by surprise.

Tricky fellow, that.

In Place Of A Curse

“At the next vacancy for God, if I am elected…”

At the next vacancy for God, if I am elected,
I shall forgive last the delicately wounded who,
having been slugged no harder than anyone else,
never got up again, neither to fight back,
nor to finger their jaws in painful admiration.

They who are wholly broken, and they in whom mercy is understanding,
I shall embrace at once and lead to pillows in heaven.
But they who are the meek by trade, baiting the best of their betters with extortions of a mock-helplessness,
I shall take last to love, and never wholly.

Let them all in Heaven – I abolish Hell –
but let it be read over them as they enter:
Beware the calculations of the meek, who gambled nothing
gave nothing, and could never receive enough.

Underline that: Beware the calculations of the meek, who gambled nothing, gave nothing, and could never receive enough.

SELF PITY

I never saw a wild thing feel sorry for itself.
The small bird will drop frozen dead from the bough of the trees 
without ever once having felt sorry for itself.
–D. H. Lawrence.

It helps to know D. H. Lawrence died of tuberculosis and hunger at 48. His best works lay unpublished. They were viewed as blasphemous pornography.

We live in a time of weak men.

“The weak are more likely to make the strong weak than the strong are likely to make the weak strong.–Marlene Dietrich.

She’s right, of course but what choice do the truly strong have other than to attempt to shore up the men who resort to tears of the “delicately wounded who, having been slugged no harder than anyone else, never got up again, neither to fight back, nor to finger their jaws in painful admiration.”

One of the strongest people I have had the pleasure to know is Judith Merril http://www.judithmerril.com .

J. G. Ballard (author of Crash and Empire of the Sun) in 1992:

“Science fiction, I suspect, is now dead, and probably died about the time that Judy closed her anthology and left to found her memorial library to the genre in Toronto. I remember my last sight of her, surrounded by her friends and all the books she loved, shouting me down whenever I tried to argue with her, the strongest woman in a genre for the most part created by timid and weak men.

When Judy died suddenly in 1997 I sat Shiva with her family. From Judy’s daughter I learned that her father had killed himself; her brother had died young. Daily her mother had said to her, “Why did I have to lose the two I loved the most?”

It is a terrible thing to have a mother say she would prefer us dead.

Such a thing either cripples us or makes us a great human being.

At the memorial service for Judy at The Performing Arts Lodge the first people who spoke talked of how hard a person to love Judy was.

I love her deeply. I never found her hard to love.

Robert Sawyer, a Canadian writer, had written a piece which was published in THE GLOBE AND MAIL: http://www.sfwriter.com/merril.htm     .

Each person told of how they could be talking calmly to Judy only to have her roar at them, “GET OUT OF HERE!”

I reflected that in the years I had known her, from 1968 when I first met her at Rochdale College in Toronto (where she sponsored my film program) up to her death she had never once said that to me.

On the other hand I have said it to lots of other people. I know why she said it.

When my turn to speak came I began with these words from Rumi:

THE CORE OF MASCULINITY

The core of masculinity does not derive from
being male, nor friendliness from those who
console. Your old grandmother says, “Maybe
you shouldn’t go to school. You look a little
pale.” Run when you hear that. A father’s
stern slaps are better. Your bodily soul wants
comforting. The severe father wants spiritual
clarity. He scolds, but eventually leads you into
the open. Pray for a tough instructor to hear and
act and stay within you. We have been busy
accumulating solace. Make us afraid of how we were.
-Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks).

After I had spoken those words I said, “Judy was that tough instructor. I loved her for it.”

I looked into the faces of those who had spoken before me. They were gnashing their teeth. Their faces were livid.

Not so everyone else in the room. Tears were flowing down their faces.

After the folks in charge said, “We were told not to let you speak. We are glad that we did.”

“Pray for a tough instructor to hear and act and stay within you. We have been busy accumulating solace. Make us afraid of how we were.”

Yes, make us afraid of how we were.

People pray for blessings without knowing what they ask for.

The word “bless” comes from the French “blesser.” It means “bleed.”

The word means wound.

By our wounds we are made whole.

“Have you ever had your heart broken?” a young man asked.

“There is nothing left but glue. What do you think hearts are for?” I replied.

Robert Sawyer wrote, “In the early 1950s, Judy had belonged to The Hydra Club in New York, a group of young SF writers who provided networking and support for each other. She was asking us all to gather at Toronto’s Free Times Café to create “Hydra North.”

“Hydra North is still going strong 13 years later. But Judy only came to four meetings in all those years.

“That was typical Judy. She was a catalyst, a great starter of things: founder of Hydra North; founder of what’s now called The Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy, part of the Toronto Public Library; founder of the Tesseracts series of Canadian SF anthologies published out of Edmonton.

“She was, I think, always looking to recapture the past — perhaps an odd thing for a science-fiction writer to long for. Her Hydra Club in New York had included a lot more than just gossip about the publishing business: there’d been a fair bit of bed-hopping, as well, and Judy, right until the end, was a lusty woman.

“She made passes at more than one local SF author. Until declining health forced her to curtail her traveling, she wintered in Jamaica where, as she used to often observe with a twinkle of her piercing gray eyes and a lascivious grin, men don’t mind older women. Indeed, I remember being quite flustered interviewing her in 1985 for CBC Radio’s Ideas series; she kept making comments about the phallic nature of the microphone.”

That says a lot about Sawyer, modern science fiction and the inadequacy of those who write it.

Contrast that with this from Henry Miller’s AN OPEN LETTER TO SURREALISTS EVERYWHERE, “A real man unbuckles his belt and looks for trouble.

When Judy held that first meeting of HYDRA NORTH at The Free Times Cafe, she asked me to attend.

Robert Sawyer said to her, “Reg Hartt does not write science fiction. Why have you asked him to be part of this group?”

I had the same question. Judy, as you might gather, was not a person to lightly give praise. Her answer surprised me. She said, “Reg Hartt is the most creative person working in film in Canada.

Hardly anyone in the Canadian film community shares that view.

But then, they, like Sawyer, in the words of J. G. Ballard are timid and weak men.

I stopped going to Hydra North meetings long ago. The people I found there frighten way too easily.

I also, for the most part, stopped drinking.

I like to bicycle around the city posting flyers for my programs. I found alcohol weakens my legs. I like them strong.

Not that I don’t drink. When the occasion warrants it I gladly do.

The same year, 1968, that I met Judith Merril I also met Jane Jacobs, author of THE DEATH AND LIFE OF GREAT AMERICAN CITIES  http://plainfieldstuff.blogspot.com/2006/04/toronto-globe-and-mail-jane-jacobs.html    .

I took Jane to see the movie CHICAGO in 2002. When I first met her in 1968 she asked if I had seen ROXIE HART with Ginger Rogers. CHICAGO was the latest telling of that story.

By this time Jane rarely went out (she left us in 2006).

When I brought her home by taxi she invited me in a for a tea.

Inside she said, “I think you would prefer this.”

In her hand was a beer.

In front of her was one of this nation’s most important papers. She was often featured favorably in it. One of its editors lived across the street. He was proud of her friendship. At parties at his house Jane let people know she had a low opinion of them. She was not one to suffer fools.

Jane surprised me when she said, “I hate this paper.”

Then she gave me the whole back story of the events behind the films ROXIE HART and CHICAGO.

By this time we had had three, maybe four beers when, out of the blue she said, “The best part of what you offer is what you have to say.”

More than one person has told me in meeting on the street, “If only you would not speak before your movies I would go.”

One film writer in a piece on my work said, “When I go to his programs I bring a sandwich as I never know how long he is going to speak.”

Another wrote, “Reg Hartt talks and talks and talks and talks and talks…”

“What people criticize in your work, keep it,” said Jean Cocteau.

I’m with him.

“Hearing that from you is better than receiving an Academy Award,” I said to Jane.

She replied, “I would not say that.”

I replied, “I know the caliber of the people who vote on those things. I would.”

A few weeks ago I said to her son James, “What people who read THE DEATH AND LIFE OF GREAT AMERICAN CITIES fail to realize is that your mother wrote that book from the perspective of the dirt poor.”

James replied enthusiastically, “Yes! We were dirt poor when my mother wrote it.”

That real order she speaks of? It’s the folks trying to get on with the business of our lives while those who see themselves as mighty sunder them.

We have a lot to be angry about.

Let us express our anger quietly in ways that build. The first step is a willingness to turn the other cheek.

My high school principal told me loudly, “YOU HAVE THE WRONG ATTITUDE. LEAVE THIS SCHOOL TODAY AND YOU WILL STARVE IN TWO WEEKS!

Then as I walked out of his office he said, “I have not given you permission to leave. Where do you think you are going?”

I replied, “To see if you are right.”

That was a long time ago. I was younger than. I am still young. We only grow old when we whinge.

–Reg Hartt 2017/05/08.

 

Liora Lind wrote in 1992, “Reg Hartt’s Cineforum is everything Jane Jacobs wrote about in THE DEATH AND LIFE OF GREAT AMERICAN CITIES.” What makes that statement particularly true is that my work in this city has never been valued by the people who run this city. I have been under attack from the moment I started in 1968. Said David Beard in a Toronto Star piece from 1980, “Reg Hartt is overworked, under-financed and snubbed. We should be paying tribute to him”

Liora Lind wrote in 1992, “Reg Hartt’s Cineforum is everything Jane Jacobs wrote about in THE DEATH AND LIFE OF GREAT AMERICAN CITIES.” What makes that statement particularly true is that my work in this city has never been valued by the people who run this city. I have been under attack from the moment I started in 1968. Said David Beard in a Toronto Star piece from 1980, “Reg Hartt is overworked, under-financed and snubbed. We should be paying tribute to him”

That’s damned high praise. It does not get better.

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