Dear H and P,
I want to thank you very, very much for sharing the story of your long-term illness with me. Basically, I totally agree with you about the advantages are outweighing the disadvantages of being ill and I say that at a time when I am experiencing a severely sharp and decline in apparent wellness since about a couple of weeks ago for about four hours I was paralyzed from my neck to my hands. Apparently, something has gone awry with the arthritis in my spine that it is not operable; it will never be operable according to the physicians that are the very best available here and, indeed, who have people sent to them from even outside who are very good people. Basically I am going to be in one spot unless the Lord decides differently for me.
I have been waiting ever since Thursday last, which is over a week now, for some sort of instinctive rebellion, and anger, and negative feelings of all kinds, but this has not happened to me although I have been praying incessantly and in tears to be allowed to continue to sing sacred music—to worship and sing in my choir and to sing with the local Box Society. I don’t think there is any earthly food that I could possibly eat that feeds me the way these activities do and to have that opportunity removed would, indeed, be what I would consider the greatest loss I could ever conceive, much worse than losing an earthly mate or child or parent; worse than my dying myself. While I am living, I wish to live singing God’s praises and if I cannot, then there will be a great deal of learning for me to do.
Even that one plea, which I guess is, “Let this part of the cup pass from my lips, but not my will but thine,” is basically what I am saying over and over. I have had a really surprising upliftment, and blessing and peace about this. I can only think it is grace that is saying to me gently, not forcefully, not in such a way that I could stand up and pound my fist down and say, “This is what I am supposed to do,” but I am beginning to hear a call to a less personal life. The character of my life has always been pure, and honest, and open and anything I knew about myself was available to anyone who wished to know it.
I have led perhaps the most unguarded life of anyone I know. I have never considered myself vulnerable or felt the need to armor myself and what this boils down to is, as a child, if I could find anyone to play with at all because I was a very weird little child—I was always the banker at Monopoly. I was always the treasurer at clubs. I was the baby sitter that was the most trusted, that kind of thing—a very responsible child.
I grew up living a very responsible life during the sixties. I had no pull towards hippydom. I was working very hard and going to school in the evenings to support a hippy I had inadvertently married actually. We had married because for years we had been singing folk songs together, songs of our own writing. A good deal of it was translation of Irish verse, which I dearly love, but I didn’t think people were going to buy Gaelic and so I would do my best to write poetic English translations or to find somebody else who had done so. We would put them to music and had about sixty different songs, most of them air-on. Some of them the very Scottish border ballads, the child ballads, that had found their way into the Appalachians as collected by Sharp, a fellow named Sharp, earlier in the century, I believe.
My kidneys failed when I was thirteen and I had to spend months in bed and they failed again when I was fifteen and I had sung, and sung, and sung all of my life, and I had to find an outlet for singing. Before it became popular in the fifties, I was learning folk songs and writing down my favorites in notebooks, which I still have, although the paper is very, very old.
I met this fellow D when he was in high school and I was in my first year of college. I was engaged. He was too. There was never any suggestion of anything between us, but that we were unusually and eerily good singers together. As you can probably tell, I have a mezzo soprano voice; it has a fairly wide range and has almost no vibrato. It is a slightly lighter version of T’s voice, almost identical. T’s is richer and I have a little bit more silver and a little bit more top.
We were seen by Peter, Paul and Mary’s manager while he was staying over in Louisville at one of my parents’ neighbors who was a jazz horn player. My father was a jazz drummer so the two were best friends, one right across the street from each other. Peter, Paul and Mary’s manager saw D and me on television, and said, “I am tired of working with people who have already made a success. I want a new challenge. I want those two to open the Peter, Paul and Mary on their next tour.” Everything was all set up. It was going to be a grand Cinderella affair. We were going to be famous. We were going to be able to share our messages of love and light and then D said that he would not go on the road unless we were married.
We had known each other for four years by this time. I was no longer engaged, my fiancé having left me not quite at the altar, nine days before the wedding. D had broken up very painlessly with his girlfriend in high school as they went away to different colleges. She found somebody else, so we weren’t involved with anyone, either one of us. But we were not involved with each other either. The idea of getting married seemed very bizarre to me, but I truly did want to give that gift to the world that we had; that we were singing songs of love, and peace, and freedom and all of the idealistic things that we really did feel in the sixties, even though we did not take drugs and continued being regular people.
The only problem was that as soon as we got married, he hung up his guitar so that was it for the folk singing. At any rate, I was (how did I get off on that? Let me think. I was thinking about the loss of being able to sing at church and about the fact that I had felt at peace.) What I am trying to get at this point, that I was pretty much of a ham, to put it bluntly. I had no fear of performance. I didn’t have stage anxiety. I enjoyed being in front of a bunch of people. I loved sharing. I have always been not an extravert, but a genuine loving person. I just have a lot of love and a chance that I have to give it is, to me, a wonder, a miracle, and I don’t think I have ever felt differently than that.
In all of the things that have happened to me throughout a very adventurous half life (I’ll be 47), there has always seemed to me, as I look back on it, to be a good deal of Carla there, not just as the light, the love, the Christ, but Carla showing forth the love, light and the Christ. I am beginning to get visions at this point of an impersonal self, which shines forth as a hollow vessel through which comes the love, and the light, and the joy of Christ with Carla being only an impersonal earthen vessel, which contains this treasure.
There is a lot of Carla to get rid of and so instead of casting me down into doom and gloom, although I will admit that pain can get you down, philosophically I have been feeling excited because the Holy Spirit has touched me again and has turned me in a new way. I do not feel ill. I feel closer to wholeness and true wellness than I did before.
I very much appreciate your feeling of how much an illness like this can re-order our priorities, make complex-seeming things into simple things, make living in a clear and loving way with everyone, not just desirable, but necessary. I very much believe that my hand is in Jesus all the way; that I have never been without Him; that the Holy Spirit has guided my every footstep.
Of course, I do not intend to get up from this bed for the next month and half, which is what the doctor said was the minimum, before trying to move around because of the danger to the spinal cord. On the other hand, it does not scare me because the very simple truth of it is that any time I should have from this life would be wonderful, and it would not be sad because I would have completed what the Lord wanted me to do here as all I have ever cared about is just to do the will of the Lord.
I remember in my baby book, my mother asked me when I was a little thing, I was probably a little less than one year old, “Who are you?” Usually people say their names, or try to, and I said, “I am a child of God.” It has been a different incarnation than most people have had.
I really appreciate your sharing with me and especially these advantages. They are wonderful reminders that there is always the opportunity for praise and thanksgiving. There is never any excuse for anything less, never. Not that I would judge anybody who did less, but there is no need intrinsically in the nature of things for such a need to be there.
Let me answer the rest of this. It is an enormous blessing to me that you realize with P that K is in the hands of someone who loves her. I love her and I will not betray her. I had her pegged very early in the game as someone who wanted an excuse not to be as spiritual as she thought she was, and I simply made it possible for her to become accountable to herself and say, “No, no, I really am not ready for this amount of intensity of living. I need to move out.” I think at that point she expected me to say, “Well, fine, just be gone,” and be angry with her and, of course, I was not angry with her. I was rejoicing because she had owned up to her reality and that was where I had found my tongue (if you will pardon the weird metaphor) for many months to allow her to do. To evaluate herself so that there was no chance that she could say, “I really am a very highly spiritual person, but so and so betrayed me.” She didn’t have to do that this time.
She simply said, “I am not ready for this.”
I looked at her and said, “What relationship do you want to have with L/L?”
She was a very surprised young woman. Hope kindled in her eyes in a very beautiful way, and she said, “I want to come to all of the meditations and I want to give my free time on Sundays (which is one of her two days off) always to the transcription of your material and whenever I don’t have something else that I don’t have to do on my other day off, I can come over then too, but usually I have chores to do.”
I said, “Great. That is terrific. That is just wonderful,” and she really has been a marvelous help to us. Every once in a while you can catch her, if you want to, moving through some of baroque steps of the games that she plays with herself about purity and impurity, spending four hours fixing a rice dish that doesn’t take much and that kind of thing, while going at it and drinking a beer. I think that is very funny. Forgive me. I don’t think that what goes into the mouth of a person, it is what comes out of a mouth of a person, so I wasn’t a very good subject for her culinary arts in the first place. I rather wanted it to taste halfway good.
K will be with L/L in the way she wants to be with L/L as long as she wants to be with us. She is part of us. She is, not that any of our names are on the stationery, but whenever we refer to L/L, we refer to Jim, K and Carla. It has given her an identity that she never has had before. She is proud of what we do here. She is proud of her part in it and when she gets a letter from somebody that includes her in the thanks for helping with their understanding, I know that it means a tremendous amount to a woman, who, for some reason, has developed some of the lowest self-esteem that I have encountered.
By refusing to treat her as if she was deserving of low self-esteem, by refusing to react to what comes out of low self-esteem, I am hoping that through the years, she will be strengthened to a knowledge of her own beauty. But I already see it and value it. I love her dearly.
She is settling in just fine. I haven’t been over there and I probably won’t be since this latest brush with being paralyzed. I will think long and hard before traveling anywhere. My guess is that she continues to express the chaos within her by having a fairly chaotic home environment, which apparently is very much in accordance with G’s feelings about the home environment. He is not a neat niche for a person who needs to have everything put away and they both feel very strongly about eating good food, etc., so they are very compatible and they seem to have a good time together. K’s relationship with the person, I can’t even remember the name of that, was at the beginning of this kaput. It is gone. She has not chosen another relationship.
She simply is having a good time as a single person on her own in the job that she really loves, working with people that she really loves, and as she thinks more of herself, she will be more of a housekeeper and her life will be in order. It just may take some time, that is all. I am not a bit worried about K any more, especially as long as G is there to be with her because it was very important she have someone to share with because her financial resources were too slim to support her by herself.
It was by sharing household expenses that she and G were able to live in this very nice section of the city that is getting fixed up, house by house, very close to the central part, lots of old trees and old brick streets that had never been paved, but the brick has been chapped. That kind of Victorian milieu so she is just doing fine and I extend our heartfelt thanks. I know that you have a heart full of thanks and that you were terribly worried about her. I think at this point she is as radiant now as she was miserable when she came here; that she has much more of a sense of joy, and confidence and being able to handle things, whereas before it was always, “I think I am on the verge of being sick enough to stay home today.” That kind of thing.
God bless you for finding the grace to allow a very heterodox mystic the comfort and consolation of her faith. We love the same Lord. We praise the same Jesus Christ, King of our lives. There is much more that we have in common than that which we do not have in common. I really understand what it costs you to stretch your mind to be able to accept that I could have a gift from God that led me into so variance a direction, but I think it led me in this direction for a simple reason. It is not hard to understand.
I could not speak to K or anybody like K if I thought in an orthodox manner. If I were not mystical and willing to use whatever abilities I had with vocabulary, word substitutions, etc., in getting across the story of Christ, I would never be able to help the people who depend on me. There is a wonderful hymn, “I love to tell the story, it’ll be my theme in glory to tell that old, old, story of Jesus and His love.” That is one of my favorites. I try to tell the story in as many different vocabularies as there are people who would run away from me like frightened deer if I used the normal, orthodox Christian vocabulary. I honestly think that is why this gift has been given to me. That is why I ended up where I am and perhaps, indeed, it is in my illness that I give the most glory to the Creator because it is quite obvious that I am not sad. That I have faith, and faith, and more faith and this influences people a great deal.
I couldn’t speak to K if I were in agreement with you. I know it is a ticklish subject before I say good-bye to you. I want you to realize what I mean by saying, “I will not let my intellect tear at my religion.”
Let me quote from you: “Numberless times the Bible professes to be the word of God.” Implicit in this concept are a number of others.
- It is true.
- It is authoritative.
- It should be received and believed by men.
- It should have practical meaning for man’s life, etc.
Now, the problem that I have as a person with far too much intellect is that before I get to No. 1, I know:
A. The Bible was written down from memory.
B. The Bible was copied.
C. The Bible was re-copied.
D. The Bible was re-re-copied.
E. The Bible was translated.
F. The Bible was copied in the translation.
And etc., etc., etc. At X, Y and Z, we get to all of the politicking of the church fathers, and the councils that arbitrarily took some to be holy gospel and some to be apocryphal. I cannot deny one word of the Bible. I am a Christian and it is not in me to do that. I can only say I do not allow my intellect to move towards the examination of that work, word or literal word, because I know that if you put twenty people in a line and say a simple sentence into the first person there, at the end of the line, the twentieth person will say something that has very little to do with the original sentence and this is what, in my opinion, has to some degree happened to even the cleanest and clearest of the scriptures.
We have wonderful biblical scholars who spend their entire lives studying Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew and Aramaic and all of the cultural New Europe that this lingual language, which was almost neither Aramaic, nor Hebrew, nor anything, and how it might have affected things and what different people’s devices were and how they used the language, etc. The study goes on and on. I leave it to the scholars and I sit in rapt attention, and wonder and listen to the glorious information that these scholars have to give me. But I don’t take it into my heart because my heart is already full of faith.
I have absolute faith in Jesus Christ. He is my Savior. He does not need words. All I need to know about Jesus Christ is that on the cross, he turned to a convicted felon and said, “This day you shall be with me in Paradise.” I know that Jesus loves and that I am called to love. I know that Jesus did not judge and that I am called not to judge.
These are very simple things. I know and I have faith that day-by-day the living spirit of the living Christ directs my every footstep. And I am watching as much as I can every moment of the time. I spend all day every day, except my day off, flapping my gums into this tape recorder, talking to one person in Holland, and another person in Israel and another person in Wyoming. Let’s see what do we have for today? Washington D.C., Sullivan, Missouri, Sierra Madre, Hayward, California. I have just about gotten this week’s work cleaned up, which is good because tomorrow I have an incredibly daunting test.
At the same time two of my organs in my body have swollen to three times their normal size and the gynecologist will be working with one of them in a hospital at which they are doing what is called a D and C. The urologist is in charge of the other organ that is very infected and retaining large amounts of liquid. I look like a pregnant telephone pole because I am very thin and then there is this bulge in the middle. I have a hospital test tomorrow and then Friday is our day off so I really need to finish today.
Jim is over helping a friend with cancer finish his house. He will not be here this afternoon. He won’t spend too much time there, but when he does finish there, he is just going to stop by real quick and then go to a wells out support group because the poor boy has to just about pick me up and put me down these days.
I don’t really try to create God as anything. To me God is an utter and complete mystery. Jesus, his incarnation, I can grasp and it is a story that I never tire of, nor do I ever cease learning from. The God, which Jesus always said, “When you hear me speak, you are not hearing me, but the Father,” that is a mystery. I know that to me it will always be a mystery, but a mystery that I believe in so much that I willingly give up anything else in life to follow this mystery. That is pretty much all that I can say.
I am trying to make it clear that I do not wish to be any sort of stumbling block in your path. I recognize that I am ignorant and that I fall back on the most simplistic of questions, which is what would be in the mind of Christ now? Where would He be showing love here?
I guess I should say, “That’s all, folks. That’s me.” But you can be sure beyond any shadow of a doubt that as long as K wishes to take as part of her identity being a part of L/L Research, she will be a part of L/L Research and she will be cherished and supported as much as we can support her.
I wish both of you many, many blessings and lots of chuckles and merriment because I find that there is nothing more joyful or funny than looking at life through the eyes of Christ. It is sorrowful in many, many ways, and in a very deep way, Christ’s eyes are almost glazed over with the horror that we humans have been able to accomplish against each other. Yet at the same time, His Father set up the world to give us at least one belly laugh a day from the sheer nonsense of it all and I appreciate that and I treasure that. I find that being merry in the Lord is a wonderful thing to share together.
It is my deep desire that one day, my brother, who is a literal Christian, will be able to accept my ministry enough to begin working with me again on songs. I am going to send you the album that we made. If I already sent it to you, send it back and I will send you something else, but I don’t keep notes on what I have sent. I will send you another sample of our singing, which was actually done in a little bit more careful studio situation.
Perhaps one day he will find my writing Christian enough to put it to music, but right now he feels that unless it is a paraphrasing of the Bible, it is not worth while to put to tunes. That is why we haven’t done anything lately.
God bless you both and God bless your ministry. If you have any concerns or want to write about anything, please feel free to write and please know that K is valued and loved by us and has the freedom that she desires and I am sure in her own good time, many, many good things will happen for K and for all of us.
Lots of love,
Yours in Christ,