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Sunday, June 22, 2014

CONTROL ISSUES

william blake

Today is race day. I'd like to see it, but this weekend my friends from Georgia are here and I feel like I'd rather spend time with them than the television this weekend. This will be the best race there ever was. Whenever I miss something, it was the best ever.  In my church going time of my own volition, every time I'd miss a meeting, I'd be told later I should a-been there, it was the best meeting there ever was. It was so consistent, it wasn't but the second time that I realized the statement was more about me not being there than the thrill of the preaching. The preaching was the same as usual. It's just an opportunity to make me feel guilt, a control device. Preacher told me it was my duty to go to church every meeting. I told him it was not my duty, clarifying, "I don't do duty." I'm s'posed to. No I'm not. It was the same as with my mother and with a three-year old: Is-is not-is-is not-is-is not, until somebody hollers, Stop it! I was a little too old and a little to independent-minded to be treated like I was ten. I finally had to leave the church over control. The preacher had a belief that the church house, itself, was God, and he, himself, was God's law enforcement officer. Another preacher had come in to replace Preacher Pruitt, and this old boy couldn't even "try to talk." The preaching was graded such that a preacher who really preached in the old-time way gasping for breath; preaching from the spirit was said to be "preaching." The ones who don't connect with the spirit and act like they do, it's said they're "trying to preach." When it's just talking and there's no spirit or "preaching" in it, it's called "talking." It was said of the ones like this old boy who replaced Millard Pruitt, he "tried to talk." I couldn't listen to it. I'd heard he said of his wife years before from the pulpit that she needed about ten inches cut off the end of her tongue. It meant she was a "long-tongued" woman, a gossiper, a woman who talked too much in his estimation. She divorced him. I looked at him as somebody who mistook big ego for the call to preach.
 
william blake
 
I felt I needed to be straight-forward and not hide my reasonings. I had to tell Preacher Pruitt I couldn't go to the church anymore for being unable to go out the door, drive for 25 minutes, listen to nonsense, turn around and drive for 25 minutes, walk in the door exhausted, day shot. I was told I could not stop going. I was bound by my duty to go every time because I'm a member. I was not given a choice or a consideration. Left to myself, I chose to withdraw my membership. I was told point blank that it is his responsibility to control me because I'm a member of his church. Easily solved. It tore everybody up, all half dozen of them, that I left. They asked if I was mad. No, I wasn't mad. Nobody takes control of my life without my permission. He knew that. I'd told him. But, my point of view meant nothing. Only his word had conviction, because God was behind him, not me. Whatever. God commanded you.... No he didn't. It's your duty. No it's not. He'd never known anybody who would stand up to a preacher like I did. I didn't want to, but he left me no options. I'd made it clear over several years of knowing him that nobody controls me without my permission. He had never asked permission and I'd never volunteered it. As I saw it, he was out of order. He saw me out of order; I said no to God's authority. I did not take him for authority. That's where our differences lay. His ego had him sitting on the right hand of God. His pronouncements were God's. I'm not exaggerating. It wasn't just him. It was the tradition. He liked his role for the authority in it. I have a fair idea of the difference between ego and the spirit. It's a big difference, not at all subtle. He'd never been around anybody who took him for just a man, instead of an authority, as he saw himself. He made it clear I could not leave the church and continue to know him. Ok.
 
william blake
 
He didn't want me around so I didn't go around. A couple years later he called me one day and asked me to come see him. I went, we had a good visit like usual, but he used it to drive home to me his authority is not something I can say no to. It's the same as a commandment from God. Its God's will. Ok. Whatever. Never went back. Nobody from the church would have anything to do with me. I'd see some in the grocery store and they'd look the other way. I'd think: Great, judgmental Christian, if that's how you are, I don't want to talk to you either; thanks for saving me the bother. I heard he was in the hospital and went to see him a few times. His wife and daughter in the hospital room made it clear without saying it I was not welcome, so I didn't go back. I saw daughter in post office and her nose went straight up. Saw wife in grocery store and her nose went straight up. He died and nobody let me know. The obituary always shows up in the paper after the funeral, and I didn't even see the obituary. I've never been to his grave. I've been to his brother Tom's in the same cemetery, but never took the few steps to stand at Millard's grave for a short spell. It wasn't a matter of purpose. I just didn't realize it until several years later when I noticed I'd never been to Millard's grave. And still have not. I don't feel compelled in any way to go. I go to Jr Maxwell's grave once a year, not because I believe the corpse has any meaning. It's more to be with the headstone, all that's left, a record of a memory. Fifty years from now, no one will remember who that was. It will be like when I walk through the cemetery seeing names of people on tombstones I never heard of. Junior periodically had a need to visit his mother and dad's graves. In his last years when he was unable to drive, he asked me to drive him around to the two cemeteries that would be in sight of each other but for trees. First we went to his dad's grave in Liberty Church's graveyard. I went with him to see the grave. The old man's tombstone was a rectangular block of polished black marble with no words, no numbers, nothing but the beauty in the stone. It stood on a small foundation, and in the foundation was Maxwell spelled in raised letters covered by the grass. I thought: there is the tombstone of a man of constant sorrow. His oldest boy had killed himself in middle fifties and made a terrible mess of things in the process, un crime passionnel. He wrecked the family name in the county.

william blake

Junior's mother's grave is in her family cemetery, the Whitehead Joineses. At both graves, Junior walked up to the grave, looked at the headstone, turned and walked back to the car. He saw no need to linger. Seeing the tombstone was his reason for going, paying his respects. Once he saw it, that was it. His brevity caught my attention. Twice I took him around to the graves; saw him do the same both times. I thought: this fits Junior's character like a latex glove. I see no importance in visiting a grave but for self, a memory. I find I'd rather remember my friends some other way besides a tombstone. I tend to see a mummified corpse just a couple feet below the grass. I don't like to walk on graves for its creepiness factor. My mind's eye sees rows and rows of mummified corpses, and their relatives believing something is important about it, leaving plastic flowers. I don't want to end up a mummy in a vault beneath a lawn people walk on and nobody puts plastic flowers on. I want to do better than that for my mortal frame. Not that it matters to me, one way or the other, except it's just plain gross to have my bag of shit mummified in a vault for however many centuries until even the steel casket and vault have returned to dust. I want cremation and the ashes (ground bone) strewn on the forest floor. Talking with Junior one day about such matters, I said, "I want to be fertilizer." He said, "Y'already are." I don't want a tombstone. The death record in the Register of Deeds tells everything a tombstone can. I don't have anything cool to put on a tombstone. Yeats did it the best. On his, it's carved in stone, Cast a cold eye on life, on death. Horseman pass by. I've seen a few clever quips on tombstones, clever the first time you see them. What Yeats had to say has some power in it with meaning every time I see it or think it. I feel like it's of relative importance to leave a record for genealogists of the future, which is taken care of by the county. I want soul completely free from body, nothing left for soul to cling to if it turns sentimental and wants to stay with a corpse and be a ghost suspended between above and below. I don't want to do that. I want to see what's next too much to risk lingering over wanting to see my baby friend Vada grow up. If I want to badly enough, I might return as her baby brother for the opportunity to sit with her in the back seat of the car, be picked on and adored by older sisters.

william blake
 
 
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