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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

THE BEST HE KNEW HOW

found installation


Hearing an old-time banjo picker from the eastern part of North Carolina, Walter Babson. The man can pick. This is one of the cds from Ray Alden's releases on the field recorders collective label, a labor of love he gave his life to, publishing more than 50 cds of old-time musicians of Southern old-time. This banjo man is from Brunswick County. I believe Andy Cahan did the recording and accompanied him on guitar. Babson also plays fiddle. One of Tommy Jarrell's albums is with Andy Cahan playing banjo and Chester McMillan guitar. Babson's style is quite different from mountain picking. It's not something I can name, maybe a folklorist could, that tells the difference between there and here. The difference is merely in personality as from one person to another. He's actually quite an amazing picker. This cd has sat here a year or two. My immediate concern was mountain pickers. That's relaxed now and I decided it was time to hear how a man picks from that part of the state. This is pickin I believe Lynn Worth would love. She's an old-time banjo picker and fiddler of the county. A good one, too.



Lunch today with Jim Winfield at Mis Arados where we discussed Buddhism and Christendom. A friend of his recently discovered Christians don't necessarily live "Christian" lives, love your neighbor, etc. I remember when I was discovering the same, how disappointing it was, how it twists one's own interpretation of reality into question. It's the same in all the world religions. Islam has its shyster zealots and its social mosque goers the same as we in Christendom do. It's the same in all the religions. We're human beings. We all have different interpretations of reality. We agreed that the core of all the religions is the same, like beads on a string, love God and the people around you. From there you get cultural customs shaping the teachings into what works best in a given group of people. Over several centuries the customs of a given religion become particular to the region and nowhere else. For an American to jump into Hinduism is a major cultural shift as well as faith shift. Ultimately the same, but from the core outward to the present day surface is a radical change.


I had to give up religion for several years to take a hard look at what I could find, such as reading about other religions. They all seemed so much better than Christendom, because it was writing. It wasn't the living. The living of religion is the same in Bangkok as it is in any American city. Winfield was in Thailand a few years ago and devout Buddhists there told him the people closest to the religion have left the cities and gone to country villages. The cities have become corrupt there like here with every kind of crime there is, people rushing headlong into the frivolous life of buy everything you can afford and then some, cheat everybody you can, take all you can get. That's not Buddhist living any more than the same here is Christian living. But, in both cases, it's ok if you're making money. Doesn't matter how you make it, how many people you give cancer to, how many people's lives you ruin if you're making money doing it. Money rules everywhere, not just America. After WW2 when the Europeans were in the poverty of reconstruction, they smiled and greeted Americans like their best friends, because Americans had money. Now that they have money equal to ours and better, they don't even see us, except to laugh at the cliches about us, like the way we waddle when we walk. It's called the American waddle.



I went through this period of time that lasted about 15 years of doubting a great deal of what I'd been taught growing up in church. I thought I was being an atheist or an agnostic, sometimes one, sometimes the other, until the day God put his hand on my shoulder and said, You're mine. It's then I realized I had shed the falseness that is in religion and had found the core of who the Christ is. I had shed my baggage of cultural beliefs attached to religion down to what's real. I hadn't realized that's what I'd been doing. I thought I was throwing it all out, but saw one day I had held to the core truths, the red letter words in the NT. When the Master said, Come with me, I was ready. Once I saw the Truth / Way / Life I couldn't do anything but go with it. In fact, I see now that He was watching all along and undoubtedly encouraging me in my search which I perceived as rebellion. One thing I love about the old-time mountain religion, Primitive Baptist in particular, Regular Baptist too, is the acceptance that an individual man's way of seeing is his own, and is respected as such. Another man might not agree with it, but they're held together by the core that each member is there for. I don't go much, but have found in the Primitive Baptist churches what in my experience for my own way of believing satisfies my inclination to worship with others. A lot of people believe the Primitive Baptists jump up and down, roll on the floor, holler and flop about. That's as far from what the old-time religions are about as can be thought up.



I'd been in the mountains a year when Tom Pruitt took me to Laurel Glenn Regular Baptist where his brother, Millard, was the preacher. I heard Millard preach and went back for more. A lot of people didn't like Millard, the man, but everyone who respected good preaching respected Millard. My attraction to his preaching was his only subject in the pulpit was love. His only subject. The only of several preachers I'd heard who touched the subject, the subject that God is. It's what I believe God is about, too, so I kept on going back, because his preaching was the tail end of the old-time tradition, giving me a peephole look into what it was. Thousands of hours of conversation with Brother Millard over several years taught me the history of the Regular Baptists and Primitive Baptists of the mountains. He had no problem with the Primitive Baptists. He talked of them with such praise it instilled into me confidence. I didn't want to switch over, because the difference was so little. But when it came to grace, I tended toward the Primitive.



I believe the Regulars split off from the Primitives after the Civil War. My feeling is the Regulars were Yankee sympathizers in that time. I don't know that. Just feel it. The primary difference between the two is the Regulars use notes in the songbooks and the Primitives do not. The Regulars go with free will, while the Primitives go with pre-destination, grace. I've never been able to say I could swear allegiance to either way of seeing. I tend to see it both. Brother Millard once confessed to me in conversation he believes it's both, but can't say it because it's against doctrine. As a preacher he was an upholder of doctrine. The only problem I have with going to church now is I'm in a time of my life when I don't like being expected of. Like if I want a drink, I'm going to have a drink. If I want to go to a biker roadside bar to hear a rock band a friend plays in, I'm going. It doesn't mean I'm out to commit mayhem and end up dead in the parking lot or converted to a life of sin. 2 beers, listen to the band, watch people dance. It's just folks to me. God is everyplace. One thing I know about people who frequent dance joints is when one is hurt or in trouble, the others are there to help out any way they can. When it comes to supportive of one another, they have Christians beat coming and going. And in such a place if somebody started making noise slandering and cussing Jesus Christ, he might not make it out the door in one piece. The disregard for so-called sinners was one of my problems with Christendom in my questioning years.



Anymore, I don't care what Christendom does or doesn't do, is right or wrong or anything. I'm on my own path, my concern is for my own footsteps, not somebody else's. I do the best I can in my own way and have learned to accept that's enough. I'm remembering when I was first knowing Bill Pruitt in my first year in the mountains. I worked with Bill on the farm. He told me when he dies he doesn't want the preacher saying he was a great guy who loved the Lord and all that. All he wanted the preacher to say was, He done the best he knew how. Bill died a year or more ago, and I didn't learn about it until after the funeral or I would have gone to see if that's what the preacher would say, knowing he would not, because Bill had been in the Sparta nursing home with old-timers, and wouldn't have been able to make such a request. If I'd gone, I might have spoken with the preacher to tell him what Bill said. Ultimately, it doesn't matter. But not necessarily. When Jr's mind was on its way to wherever it went he was entertaining fears Ross wouldn't be able to handle the tractor shop and would have to shut it down. I said it doesn't matter when he, Jr, is not here anymore. The immediate response, "Yes it does!" And I understood. In fact, it caused me to revise my own thinking, so quick to say something I really didn't know anything about, just automatic verbiage.

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