sail on silver bird
Earlier today I went out with camera to get some pictures of the greenery at its peak, locusts in bloom, mountain laurel blooms coming on, multiflora in flower, the varieties of green seemingly more luscious greens this year than I remember in the past. Maybe it's the wetness. I'm most inclined to say it's my memory. The green things this year appear to be happy. I was looking around, some locusts in a stand of trees that favored trees in African wildlife documentaries that giraffes eat from. The varieties of green were interesting, but not. Unsatisfied, I looked upward at the clouds. That's where the action was. The sky was such variety of clouds it was overwhelming. I saw a straight line in the midst of a sky full of curved lines. One of the reasons I think the human mind has such a difficult time comprehending "nature" is that God creates with curved lines. The human mind in civilization creates with straight lines.
I was told at lunch today that grief is an expression of ego. What could I say? Of course. It was my friend Jim Winfield. He approached it gently, not wanting to make me think he's judging, because he wasn't. It was a legitimate concern. But, hell, I've known that for a lot of years. In Dr. Jim Jones's American lit class, it was the subject of John Crowe Ransom's poem about the chicken, Clucky, dying and the little girl crying. She cried for herself. Then, it was a new concept I had a difficult time grasping. I'd cried over pets dying, thinking it was about the pet, not about me. Then John Ransom told me it's about me. Good insight. I've grieved the loss of friends and pets since then. Knowing it's about me doesn't ease the anguish for me. And I don't believe that knowing it's about me is good reason to make myself feel nothing. I miss my friends. Friends are valuable to me, the most valuable. My friends occupy big places in my heart. When one drops out, for me, it's a serious loss. Sure it's ego. So what. Ego motivates everything. I didn't want to start the game I-know-more-than-you-do, so I didn't say something like, Getting a haircut is ego. Talking is ego. Eating is ego. And that's what we were doing, talking, eating and both of us had recent haircuts. Ego was everywhere. Everybody coming and going was motivated by ego, just like me. He's become hyper-aware of ego in this phase of his spiritual path. I've had my time of worrying over ego in this and ego in that, until I saw there's no way out of it. It may grow less demanding over time, but it doesn't go away, that is until Enlightenment, which I'm not holding my breath for. After Enlightenment you're not fit for anything in this world, so might as well go on and leave the body, be done with it. In this world, there's ego.
My response was that I'm not denying my feelings. So my feelings aren't educated about ego. I believe my feelings are too reliable a guide to regard them irrelevant because ego sets them in motion. Writing this blog is the biggest ego event of all. I thought about bringing that up, but didn't want to talk about it. We have different ways of seeing things, as is natural for individual egos. We both accept that. Therefore, we can talk at length about anything that comes up without getting mad. Gerald Leftwich and Gary Joines passed our booth on their way out. Leftwich said to Joines, "Everything's all right. These 2 got it all worked out." Jim asked about Gary Joines, what he did. I said he plays fiddle and bass. He also works at the bank. That's where Jim knew him from, the bank. I told Jim I said first of Gary that he plays the fiddle, because that's what he does. The bank job is making a living. Both of them, Gerald and Gary, have an ongoing sense of humor that is wide open, in the old-time mountain tradition. Humor is another aspect of mountain culture taken over by television the way Walmart took over small businesses throughout the country. Both of them keep me laughing all the time when I'm around them.
So ego has been on my mind all afternoon. Thinking mainly about how casual I've become about it when I remember a period of time I was thinking like Winfield. Early on the spiritual path, it's very serious business, when farther along one finds it's not serious at all. There's nothing serious about it. Serious logjams the flow. If God wants me to have less ego, God knows how to diminish it. I've had several diminishments along the way, for which I'm grateful. I like not believing I'm the most important, and I like not demanding that I always be first, that my will be done, that you pay attention to me because I know what's best for you. NOT. Not me. Though I cannot say there wasn't a time in my life when I thought like that. It didn't get anywhere. Not a very cooperative mind.
I have chosen out here in the world for my spiritual path, which is where I believe it's really about. Every kind of experience anyone could want is available somewhere in the world, from the highs to the lows, everything in between. I take my path in the Christian world as that is my own personal heritage, among the people of the mountains, again my own personal heritage, surrounded by the green world for harmony and clarity of spirit. I have to allow God to guide me, because I don't have a clue. I have to let God take care of the ego. When I came to the mountains I made it a point to myself that I would meet people as God gave them to me. I would seek to meet no one for any reason. I have to say I'm happy with the people God mixed me up with. Very happy. It keeps growing, like welling up in the heart at the thought of how happy I am with the people I know. I've learned to know people as who they are, not what they are. I've found people of such great inner stature they leave me in awe. I've known people who have convinced me by their very being that old-time mountain Baptist religion is a very real path. Two names I can give who come to mind instantly, Bessie Brooks and Tom Pruitt. There are others. Both of these people had a brilliant inner light. In my sight, Bessie glowed. I have seen Tom with light radiating out of him, his face baby pink, talking about his Savior. I was drawn to Sister Bessie's light. We had a special rapport, like friends who hadn't seen each other for a very long time.
And there was Sabe Choate. Black farmer, spiritual man, lived in the sight of God. I felt I had a special rapport with Sabe too. We always stopped and talked as friends when we saw each other. I mowed the lawn at the church for several years that was surrounded on 2 sides by his meadow. When he'd be out on the tractor, he'd ride over to the fence, I'd turn off the mower and we'd talk. Every time, he said to me, 'The Lord's gonna bless you for what you're doin." Sabe was as humble a man as I've ever known. Jr Maxwell was a good example of real humility, but old man Sabe was humble down on his knees, a man with only good will in his heart. I couldn't help but honor Sabe whenever I was around him by speaking up to him like I'm speaking to a man I respect, because that's what I was doing. He and his wife both came down with "old-timers," she taken away first to the nursing home.
One Sunday morning Sabe appeared at the open door of the church, standing at the threshold holding his hat down in front with both hands. This was the church Sabe grew up in. It was sold to white people after he was grown. I could hardly stand it. Elder Millard Pruitt, Tom's brother, said, "Come on in, Sabe." Sabe stepped delicately to the very same seat I sat in my first time inside that door. I could see that he was gone. It was tremendously sad for me. I spent the whole time praying for him. During handshaking time, no one shook Sabe's hand. I did. I was actually stunned that no one shook Sabe's hand. They all knew him. These were the people I loved and they didn't have it to shake Sabe Choate's hand and it so obvious his innocent condition. I threw it off at the time, but it didn't go away. After the meeting, Sabe's car wouldn't start. He cranked it and cranked it. Nothing happened.
I went to see if I could help in any way, not being a mechanic, but to offer support. A preacher and a deacon were standing talking about 15 feet away, not offering any kind of assistance, not even offering notice. I didn't want to let it, but the experience amounted to a knife in my heart. I couldn't understand that all of them were able to deny this humble man who grew up in this church house, whose family was buried across the road, who lived in sight of the church house. He was the church's nearest neighbor. Something inside me died that day despite telling myself not to let it be a bother. This is their world. I was ok with them doing what they had to do. I wasn't comfortable with them any more. It wasn't about politics and civil rights. It was about basic humanity. Or so I thought. I can see now I had come up on a wall in Southern mountains culture I didn't know was there. That's all it was. They were ok with me doing what I did.